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Chapter 1 Dead Men’s Things

 

“What the fuck?” Gabe muttered under his breath. His eyes scanned the paper in his hands. His honey-brown eyes tracked the words while the color in his face paled slightly then flushed, his hand clutching the paper so tightly it was folding, dropped to his side.

He vacantly stared at the floor. “Cassie.”

Cas was sitting in a leather wingback chair. His ankle perched on his knee and his mouth pressed against his closed fist.

He watched his brother, remembering vividly his own reaction to the will. He expected Gabe’s reaction to be, if nothing else, louder than his own.

His eyes ticked up as Gabe lifted his head, their eyes meeting. “What the fuck, Cassie?”

Castiel dropped his fist to his lap. “I don’t know what you want me to say Gabriel. We seem to have gotten the raw end of the deal here.”

Gabriel scoffed. “Aren’t you pissed? Why did Dad do this? What the hell IS this?” Gabriel was shaking the paper and pacing now. The paper was the hand written notes Castiel had taken during the meeting.

Castiel put his fist over his lips again, his eyes watching Gabriel pace.

“I didn’t want to BE a lawyer, Castiel. Not for one fucking class. Not for one fucking day. But I did.” His rage was fierce. It was not a look Castiel enjoyed seeing on his normally jovial brother. “I’m a lawyer. Because Dad wanted me to be. Because THAT’S what our family does! I had to ruin my life to make him happy! Now he leaves the entire firm to Michael and Hannah? We have zero say and zero money!”

Castiel sighed.

“What!” Gabe demanded, stalking closer, “You're fine with this?”

“No, Gabriel!” Castiel snapped. Gabriel wasn’t the only one with frayed nerves. But as per usual, he was the only one throwing a fucking tantrum. Castiel launched to his feet, taller than his older brother, and pinned him with a glare. Gabriel’s face was twisted and angry and Castiel knew he had to blow before he could move on. “I didn’t want to be a lawyer either. You know that.”

Gabriel spun, marching off across the room and coming back. His face was less red. His breathing was calming down. “He made me become a fucking lawyer. And now he’s taking everything away. Why?” He collapsed onto the formal sofa. His suit jacket was open and his shirt untucked. He looked wrecked.

Castiel loosened his own tie. Seeing his brother’s slight bit of freedom made him crave his own. His grey suit felt constricting all over. His pink tie loosened helped minimally. He tugged at the top two buttons until they were open as well.

“Marv says his will is signed and witnessed and there is no way out of it. But he says there’s more. I put a stop to the meeting because you were late.”

Gabriel sighed, closing his eyes with his head dropped to the back of the stiff, uncomfortable sofa.

“You were late to your own father’s will reading. You ass.”

Gabriel perked up at that. Some of his more typical bravado shining through. “Oh yeah. I shoulda dropped my case immediately, seeing how I was only gonna find out I NO LONGER HAVE A FUCKING JOB!”

Castiel pressed his mouth tight together, willing more patience. He lowered his chin, his gaze a steady hold on Gabriel.

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Don’t Terminator-face on me, Cassie. My life just got fucked.”

“Mine too, so shut up and get yourself together, damnit. We have the rest of the will reading to get back to. Besides, Michael and Hannah taking over might not mean they will fire us.”

Gabriel sat forward, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. “I can guarantee we’ll be fired before the end of the week.” Gabe stared at the floor, his eyebrows perching in thought. “So…Marv started reading the will and so far it says Novak Law Offices goes to Michael and Hannah. Fifty, fifty. That our childhood home and all its possessions go to Michael and Hannah. Fifty, fifty. The cars, the plane, the house in Italy, and the house in Vermont. They all go to Michael and Hannah. Fifty, fifty.”

Castiel licked his dry lips and sat forward, his own elbows resting heavily on his knees. “That’s everything so far.”

“And there’s more.”

Castiel sighed. “Michael and Hannah are waiting with Marv to finish the reading. There is more.”

Gabriel stood up. “What the fuck happened, Cassie?” The question was quiet this time with the tiniest tremble. “Why would Dad cut us out of everything? Did we disappoint him that much? I mean, he never SAID he was disappointed. But then again, he never really SAID anything.”

Castiel stood up, not wanting Gabriel to explode again. “I don’t know Gabriel. I’m just as blind-sided as you are. I…if he was so grandiosely unhappy with us…why didn’t he say something?”

Gabriel’s mouth was twisted and his eyes were sharp. He pulled Cas into what he could only describe as a fierce hug. “Fuck ‘em, Cas. Fuck them all. I mean, who cares. So…we won’t be lawyers. Or we can be lawyers wherever the fuck we want. All I know is…fuck Michael and Hannah. Fuck ‘em. We have each other, little bro.” Gabriel stepped back, squeezing Cas’ shoulder slightly. “You always got me.”

Castiel grinned lopsided at his brother. “I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse, Gabriel.”

Gabriel huffed a laugh. The pair buttoned their buttons and tightened their ties.

“Let’s get this over with,” Castiel said, feeling like he was marching to his own execution.

Gabriel, though a good four inches shorter than his own six foot frame, always had a bigger presence. He had a way of filling up a room. Of commanding an audience. He was loved or hated, with little in between. He was best taken in small doses. But Castiel loved him more than anyone on the planet.

Michael was the oldest of the four Novak children. The first son. The model student. The shining face of Novak Law Offices. He was handsome, suave, and cunning. He had Father’s ear.

Next came Gabriel. Wild. Privileged. Demanding. Gabriel kept their parents busy. There was always some sort of problem with Gabriel’s name on it. But they were pranks and messes and nonsense really. Gabriel was Castiel’s greatest ally. His cheerleader and his confidante. Without him, Castiel would have shattered long ago.

Hannah was next. She was Michael’s shadow. The pair of them teamed up and had turned the Novak Law Office into a cut-throat law firm.

Castiel was the youngest. By the time he came along, his parents were finished parenting. They were busy. And they seemed to have all they wanted with the success of Michael and Hannah. Leaving Gabriel and Castiel as “problems” and apparently not worth the effort.

While all this might be slightly tainted with resentment and anger at the reading of the will. In all actuality, Castiel was shocked with the seemingly disdain his father was showing he and Gabriel. While his father had always been aloof and busy, he often had a kind word for Castiel.

Their father’s current wife, Rebecca, who had died in the car accident with their dad, was completely hands-off. She had come into the picture when Castiel was thirteen. His own mother had lingered on for five years after Castiel was born. She battled cancer for years. All Castiel could remember was her dark brown hair, honey-brown eyes and soft touch. She was funny and quiet and sick. Her frailty meant they often weren’t allowed near her.

It was all over before he was old enough to really understand what was going on. And then she was just gone. For a few years, he and Gabriel were inseparable. Then Gabe hit puberty. And everything was different. And Gabriel was gone all the time. And Castiel found himself very alone.

It wasn’t really until Castiel was seventeen that he and Gabriel were cemented together again. It happened quite by accident.

It was a rare dinner with all four children, their father, and Rebecca in attendance. Castiel was nervous and figured this was as good a time as any to speak with his father.

He told him that he was asking Inias Angelman to the senior Prom.

“No,” his father had said, nervously. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. It won’t…look good.”

“Absolutely not!” Michael snapped indignantly and with disgust.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Gabriel said, fork clattering loudly to his plate. “Since when do you give two shits what Castiel is doing?”

“Since right now!” Michael snapped, looking as though Castiel had stolen something from him.

“Are we seriously gonna have a family dispute because you assholes are homophobes on top of your general doucheyness?”

“Gabriel!” At least four of them scolded. Castiel smiled.

“No,” Gabriel stood up. “I’ve been bi since I left for college. And no one gives me a hard time about it.”

“Maybe,” Michael said low and deadly, coming to a standing position at his seat, “Maybe that’s because we all know you are a lost cause. Castiel still has potential to-“

“To what? Not be an embarrassment to the family name?” Gabriel finished.

“That’s not true, you aren’t an embarrassment,” Castiel said.

“It is true,” Michael snapped. “Gabriel cares more about partying than finishing his law degree!”

“Enough!” Their father’s word was final. Everyone took their seats.

“Castiel, it is one dance. Find a nice young lady to take.”

Castiel looked away from his father and at Gabriel.

Gabriel smirked. “I say fuck ‘em. Do what you want, little bro. I got your back.”

And he did. Gabriel became his biggest protector. While Castiel did go to the prom with a group of guy friends, Inias turning out to be more than a friend, Gabriel was there to make sure his family didn’t crush him under their judgmental thumb.

Today was no different. They walked into Marv’s office confidently and together. They had each other’s backs at the Law Offices for years now. Otherwise, Hannah or Michael would have chewed them up and spit them out long ago.

“Michael, Hannah, Marv,” Gabriel nodded. “Miss me?”

“Oh marvelous,” Michael huffed flatly. “We’re all here. Proceed, Marv.”

“Sorry for your loss,” Marv said, standing and shaking Gabriel’s hand.

Castiel noted how Gabriel wiped his hand on his pants after the handshake. He and Gabriel never did care for their father’s lawyer.

“Alright,” Marv said, sliding his glasses back on and looking at the will on his desk. “I assume Castiel has you caught up thus far?”

“Yepper,” Gabriel grinned. “Carry on.”

Castiel did not miss the smirk on Michael’s face, mirrored by Hannah.

“Alright,” Marv cleared his voice. “We stopped with…the house in Vermont,” he mumbled. “Ah, here we go. All monies in all accounts with Sun National Trust go to Michael and Hannah…fifty, fifty.”

Michael smiled smugly. Hannah just nodded along.

That had been Cas’ final thought of gaining anything. Marv prattled on and on about cars, boats, bonds. All Michael and Hannah.

“Okay, now that’s it for Michael and Hannah. The rest refers to Gabriel and Castiel.”

The four exchanged loaded glances.

“To Gabriel and Castiel, I hearby leave you something with which I pray you both shall find peace and harmony with. While much has been left to your brother and sister, I think this will mean more to you both and provide you with a happy retirement.”

Castiel swallowed hard. Retirement. Obviously their father assumed they would all be older when this all came about.

“I leave all accounts with SPN International Bank for Gabriel and Castiel to share fifty percent of accounts to Gabriel. Fifty percent of accounts to Castiel. The account labeled Kripke Manor is to be used solely to improve upon the Estate named Kripke Manor. To Gabriel and Castiel, I bequeath all lands, titles, deeds, etc., etc, and buildings residing at Kripke Manor.”

“What the hell is that?” Gabriel asked blankly.

All four Novaks exchanged blank looks.

“It’s an old family estate Chuck bought ten years ago, which I cautioned him not to, and it’s just been sitting. The place is a money pit.”

“Why did he buy it?” Michael asked suspiciously.

“No idea really. Wild hair? Mid life crisis?” Marv said, flipping one hand out with his pretentious raised eyebrows. “All he ever did was save money toward it and pay taxes on it. It’s sitting there in ruins. In…” he flipped a few pages. “Virginia.”

“Virginia?” Michael asked.

“What do you care, Mikey?” Gabriel groused. “It’s not your problem.”

“Too true,” Michael sighed, exchanging an eye raise with Hannah.

“That’s everything,” Marv said. “Oh! The dogs!”

Their dad had always had guard dogs at the house.

“He says he leaves them to Castiel. Castiel may give/sell them to current employees if desired and in best interest of the dogs.”

Castiel blinked owlishly. He rarely interacted with the dogs since he hadn’t been to the house in…a long time.

“He currently has Rumsfeld, a blood hound and Buddy, a German Shepherd.” He looked up at Castiel and smiled.

Castiel nodded as if he were grateful and not surprised by this.

“That is the entirety of the will. I must say, it has been a pleasure doing business with the Novak family for the last thirty some years. I have copies of the will for each of you. There are other things Chuck left to employees. They're noted on page eight for your review.”

Gabriel and Castiel stood, thanked Marv and headed out of the large, stuffy office.

Gabriel was pulling on his tie as soon as his back was turned. Once out of the office, he pulled the tie the entire way off, winding it around one hand absently.

“Have you ever heard of this manor?” Castiel asked.

“No. I have no clue either.”

Michael and Hannah came through the door.

“Monday morning, you two can come in and clean out your offices.”

Castiel nodded. He assumed this would happen. But the speed and iciness of it was chilling.

“My stuff?” Gabriel asked. “Burn it. I don’t give a shit.” He walked out the door, leaving them all behind.

Castiel swallowed the acid burning up his throat and followed his siblings out of the building. Michael and Hannah hated him and Gabriel. The rift was long and old. But to lose everything he was used to in the span of one meeting, was staggering.

Michael and Hannah turned back to him just as he stepped off the last step to the lawyer’s office. Michael gave him that shitty pretend smile Castiel recognized in a nano-second as ‘you just lost, I just won’. “We feel it’s time for us to head our separate ways, Castiel. We want to improve and grow Novak Law. And at this time, you and Gabriel just don’t fit the bill.”

Fired.

No job.

No dad.

He wasn’t terribly surprised. Michael had talked about it before. He knew it was what Michael wanted more than anything. And their father had given him all the power.

“If that’s really the way you want things to be,” Castiel said quietly. As the words left his mouth, he knew they were empty. He wanted to leave the law firm as much as they wanted him out. But to leave on his own would have been kinder.

None said goodbye. Michael and Hannah turned their backs and walked to their cars.

Castiel pulled his car out of the lawyer’s office and headed toward home. He turned the car around and headed for the office. He wanted it over with.

He went into Gabriel’s first. He dumped a copy box full of files onto a chair and put three framed pictures into it carefully. He opened the drawers and pulled out anything personal looking and worth keeping. Gabe’s drawers were full of some odd shit. Fur lined cuffs and lube and condoms were in one of the bottom drawers, making him snicker. He left those. He called Gabriel to ask him if he wanted to get anything, but he wasn’t answering.

Castiel went through every cabinet and looked at every wall and still only walked out with half a box of items. So little of Gabriel was actually there.

He went to his own office next. His huge office on the 13th floor overlooking Washington D.C. It was posh and had the feel of a gentlemen’s lounge. He had ordered every piece of furniture. He had tried to create a feel. It never really fit him though. He plucked a few frames off his desk, putting them in Gabriel’s box. He took an award and his plants. He went through the drawers and realized hollowly that there was nothing in them he wanted. He cleared a few files on his computer and emailed a few more and opened rites to documents, forwarding them all to Michael and Hannah. He glanced around the room, flipping the light out. He pulled the award back out of the box and dropped it into the trash can. His father was dead. The mighty Chuck Novak had fallen. And his own brother had promptly fired him. He no longer had to be a lawyer.

He grinned a small, tired tilt to his lips and walked out of Novak Law Offices for the last time.

All he felt was relief.

 

***

Castiel and Gabriel met at Gabriel’s favorite bar in DC. It wasn’t as flashy as Castiel feared it might be. It was actually rather subdued.

Castiel slipped into the seat across from his brother. It had been a week since the will reading and ten days since they had lowered their father and stepmother into the ground.

Their deaths had been sudden and extremely stressful. Castiel felt a bit empty admitting that to himself, but it was true. Their family was just cold and distant.

Of course it was sad. But when that was the third reaction on the list, it made Castiel wonder about his entire childhood.

“How are you, Gabriel?”

“Alright. You?”

Castiel sighed. “I contacted my landlord and he let me out of my lease next month.”

Gabriel nodded, finishing his bourbon. “That’s good. Mine says I have to pay him for the next three month. Prick. Says I can’t have my security deposit back!”

Castiel blinked at him slowly. “Gabriel. You used your living room for a beach ball tournament. Sand, net, fifty people. Ring a bell?”

“It was February! What else was I supposed to do?”

“Not have 200 pounds of sand dumped into your apartment.”

“God, you're boring.” Gabriel huffed a sigh, a small smile smirking his lips. “Soo, anywho, I can leave next week if you still want to do this.”

Five days ago, Gabriel had shown up at Castiel’s apartment, trashed. He cried and said their father hated them and it was all because of Michael. Michael hated that he was gay. That it was Gabriel’s fault that Castiel was gay. That their dad never trusted him with the big cases because Michael said he could never handle them.

All Castiel could do was assure him that Hannah was just as hateful. But never thought their father bought into it that much. It was a well known fact that the best cases went to Michael and Hannah. That Castiel and Gabriel took the shit cases. Or just did the leg work on the big ones.

Castiel didn’t care. Everyone was off his back. He was a lawyer. Yippy-fucking-skippy. And that was all that seemed to matter.

The next morning, as they both recovered from a long tearful night and a wicked hang-over, they hatched a plan.

They had been left some weird house. And money to fix it with. They might as well go fix it. They didn’t have anything else to do.

And besides that, the accounts they were left at SPN International (which sounded like nothing at the time) were more than either of them had expected. There were four accounts besides the Kripke Manor account. The four that were there, totaled to over six million dollars.

Castiel had two credit cards and a car payment. And depressingly, nothing tying him to DC.

Why shouldn’t he leave DC? And who better to jump into a bizarre situation with than Gabriel Novak? It was so crazy that something about it seemed right.

“Yes, Gabriel. Let’s do it. We’re going to leave DC in the dust. But first, I need to stop by the house in Fredrick to get the two dogs.”

“You're gonna get the dogs?”

“Dad left them to me!”

“Yeah but…fine.”

Castiel looked over the quiet crowd in the bar. “You and me, moving to Virginia.”

“To fix some old, historic, piece of crap house.”

Castiel thought about digging into a project. Maybe helping a little. Learning how to fix window jams or replace flooring. It could be fun.

Note: Now that the plot is set, I can get to the good stuff! And the creepy stuff!

Chapter Text

Chapter 2. Virginia, Missouri, and 300 Years of History

 

Castiel was learning a lot of new things about his brother.
1. Gabriel never seemed to sleep.
2. He drank much more than Castiel had suspected.
3. The dogs made Gabriel nervous.
4. Everything gave Gabriel gas. Seriously. Everything. Water was even suspect.

He pulled the brown pick up truck into a parking space.

“I just think the truck is excessive, Cassie. Just because we have some piece of shit house somewhere doesn’t mean we have to have a piece of shit truck to match. It’s bad enough we look like a rolling humane society!”

“We have two dogs, Gabriel. Plenty of people have two dogs. More, even,” Castiel sighed, slamming the truck door shut behind him. Rumsfeld, the huge bloodhound, was spread out and sleeping on the back seat. But Buddy, the German Shepherd, looked at him with eyes that seemed too wise.

“I’ll be back in five minutes,” he said to Buddy.

“You talk to them now?” Gabriel laughed, slamming his door shut as well.

“Of course,” Castiel shrugged. “I talk to you, don’t I?”

Gabriel rolled his eyes.

“And we’re going to need a truck. Besides, I like it. So I got it.” He had gotten rid of his car and paid off his credit cards before leaving DC. He wanted no ties to that part of his life. With every mile they drove, he could feel the layers of years of Novak Law Offices peel away. If felt good.

They picked up several bags of groceries and got back in the truck to finish their long haul to Danville, Virginia.

Not a single word had been exchanged with their other siblings. While they had been pleasantly shocked by what they found in the SPN bank accounts, they shared none of that information with anyone from DC. If this was what their father gave them, they were going to take it and run with it.

Danville, Virginia was a small town. A historic town. And one Castiel thought sounded amazing.

“We’re gonna get purged here,” Gabriel said, eyes darting all along Main Street.

“What?”

“It’s a movie, dude. Watch it. It might save your life.”

Castiel frowned. Ninety percent of what Gabriel bitched about was just that. Bitching. But there was always that ten percent that just might bite Castiel in the ass.

“It’s a small town,” Castiel said quietly, watching people walk up one of the perfect sidewalks.

“It’s creepy.”

Castiel sighed. “It’s quaint. And picturesque. Only you would find it creepy, Gabriel.” He followed Main Street with its steady traffic, old-fashioned street lights, small trees, businesses, awnings, and flowers until he could turn right onto Ross Street.

“Small towns like this will hate people like us,” Gabriel said quietly. “Two gay brothers. From the big city. We’re gonna end up dead in a drainage ditch never to be heard from again!”

“Gabriel!” Castiel said, exhausted. “Who’s being judgmental now? You have the town crucifying us and we haven’t actually even stepped foot in it yet!”

He drove two blocks up Ross Street, the Main Street business vibe sliding away to big old homes and big businesses that weren’t storefront so much as set back off the road in beautiful old homes. The trees got thicker and a sense of old peaceful grandeur bled through.

He turned left onto Maury Street where the homes continued. Mature trees lined the road, blocking the view of some of them. After one block, Maury veered 90 degrees to the left and dead ended at Kripke Manor.

“Holy shit,” Gabriel whispered low, both brothers leaning forward and taking in the sight. Maury Street ended with an old, iron-gated driveway, framed by wrought iron fencing with tall brick pillars. Everything look immaculate. Trees thick and healthy, bushes trimmed and neat, edging perfect. The top of a black roof could barely be seen from where they sat.

A car sat outside the gate and a woman got out of the driver’s seat.

“That must be Missouri Mosley, the estate manager,” Castiel said, getting out of the truck.

“Mornin’!” She called in her high voice.

“Good morning, Ms. Mosley,” Castiel grinned, shaking her hand warmly. “It’s so nice to put a face with the name.”

He had been talked to Missouri twice over the past few weeks, trying to get a handle on what he and Gabriel were walking into.

“You as well! And this must be Gabriel.”

Gabriel shook her hand. “Don’t believe anything you’ve heard,” Gabriel grinned with a wink.

She hummed a melodic little note, eyeing him with an unreadable expression.

“Congratulations on the estate,” she said, turning to look at the gate. “This is Kripke Manor. It was built in the 1700’s and has been through many changes.”

The driveway wound just out of sight and large trees blocked most of the view.

“Your father bought the manor ten years ago. He had some work done to the outer walls back then, restoring and making it sound from the elements. Grounds keeping is handled by this company.” She handed Castiel a business card. “Their payment comes out of the account automatically twice a month. They handle all the mowing, trimming, sidewalk care, anything outside the home. No one has been inside the manor since your father purchased it. At least, not that I’m aware of.”

Even though the home was just two blocks off Main Street and within downtown limits, it was absolutely silent but for the soft tussle of leaves in the gentle breeze.

“Shall we go in?” Missouri asked. Was that a note of nervousness in her voice?

Gabriel let out a long, slow sigh. “Might as well.”

They got in their vehicles and Castiel followed Missouri’s shiny, black Honda through the gate.

“Holy shit,” Gabriel muttered.

As they pulled through the gate, the tree-lined perimeter opened to a massive home. It was grey stone with white and black trimmings and black shutters. It looked like something out of a movie.

“Oh my God,” Castiel breathed out. It was much larger than what Castiel had envisioned.

The lane curved gently to lead in a sweeping loop in front of the home. The lawn was mowed. Bushes were trimmed. There were no signs of weeds or disrepair. But the stone house radiated abandonment.

“This is…a fucking mansion!” Gabriel swore nervously.

The brothers got out of the truck and met Missouri on the driveway. An empty fountain sat in front of the driveway. It's rectangular, cement basin was chipped and flaking. A worn down statue of a woman stood on a pedestal in its center, looking blankly ahead toward the gate. Castiel got the notion the woman had been suddenly turned to stone and that if he could crack the facade, she would stumble out screaming in terror.

It was unpleasant.

“The home is five floors in the tallest section. According to the deed, there is a ballroom, servant quarters, and a solarium. There are four outbuildings. A stable, two storage buildings, and a pool house.”

“There’s a pool?” Gabriel asked.

“There was a pool. An outdoor pool that was enclosed at some point,” she nodded. “And there’s a family mausoleum at the far corner of the property.”

“A what, now?” Gabriel startled.

Castiel gave him a warning look.

“I know I’m not supposed to be creeped out in good old Americana, USA, but this whole fucking property is creepy as shit! Is it even legal to have a bunch of dead bodies on your property?!”

“Gabriel!” Castiel groaned.

Missouri hummed again, nodding in agreement. “I assure you it is all legal.” She gave the house a haunted look. “You are right to be apprehensive here. It’s the scariest place in town, Mr. Novak.” Her dark eyes took in the brothers with a wise and captivating gaze. “I hope you can change it. Many have tried. Your father just couldn’t seem to get past the front door. But maybe two brothers such as yourselves can make this a happy place. If nothing else…a peaceful place.” She looked back at the long stretch of stone frontage. “I sense a lot of unrest here.”

Castiel felt chills run down his spine. He tipped his head up, his gaze following hers and watching the windows for signs of movement inside.

“Good luck, gentlemen,” she said, snapping both brothers back to attention.

She went back to her car and pulled out a box from the back seat. “Keys, copies of the deeds, copies of the insurance plans, and some notes on the history. Please don’t hesitate to call me for anything.”

“Thank you,” they both said, Castiel taking the box.

“I put in a list of local numbers for some services I thought you might need some sooner than later. Like plumbing.”

“There’s no plumbing?” Gabriel squawked.

“Oh, there’s plumbing. But it’s ancient. There’s electricity to some parts of the house apparently, but not to all of it.”

She smiled and got into her car and drove away leaving them standing there motionless.

“Gabriel,” Castiel said quietly.

“Yeah?”

“Please don’t run off and leave me. Let’s walk through the house like two adults. Together.”

“Deal.”

Castiel walked up the three wide steps that made a half-circle porch at the front of the manor. He sat the box down at the front door and opened it. He dug until he pulled up three sets of keys. He handed Gabriel a set.

Gabriel tried three before there was a grating click and the front door creaked open. They exchanged a look and walked inside.

Stale air thick with dust assaulted their nostrils. A wide foyer opened to a sweeping staircase that started on the left corner of the giant foyer and spanned the width of the room like a grand flourish. White marble floors, thick with dust, dirt, and debris gave the room a cold and creepy feel. The stairs were thick mahogany. They were dull with dust and wide with a tattered runner that peeked around the corner of the elegant curve, making Castiel tip to the left to peek around the bend. The sheer size of it was breathtaking. Castiel sat the box down against the front wall as Gabriel shut the door with some reluctance. As if it might never open again.

Castiel squashed his instinct to reach for Gabriel’s hand. It was something he had not done since before he started school. When they were young and played for endless hours. When the grounds at their family home were transformed in their imaginations to jungles or battlefields or strange planets. When Gabriel was Gabe and he was the taller one.

“Ready?” Gabriel asked.

“Just a quick walk through so we know what we’re dealing with here,” Castiel said quietly.

“Yeah.”

They went right. The foyer opened into a large room. It was empty with two windows that were taller than Castiel. The glass was so dirty it gave the room a grey/brown hue. The floorboards were ten inch wide planks, the trim wider than he could spread his hand. Trim ran the edge of the ceilings with wood paneled ceilings. Two grand double doors stood ajar on the opposite side of the room.

They slowly crossed the room, pulling the doors open.

“We have a ballroom.”

Castiel almost choked on the laugh that sprung up in his chest. They owned a fucking ballroom.

The long hall stretched out to the end of the house. Windows lined both sides of the walls with giant pillars between them. The floor was hardwood parquet, warped, and there was a hole ten feet from where they stood. Sconces hung every five feet, high on the walls between the giant windows. Some dangled and some were only a cluster of wires sprouting out.

“Holy fucking wow,” Gabriel sighed.

There were at least twenty cots stacked in a heap at the far end with skinny, striped mattresses wound in.

“Why are there beds in here?” Castiel wondered aloud.

“Giant slumber party?” Gabriel smirked, shoving a stray sheaf of paper on the floor with the toe of his shoe.

They stepped out the door at the far end, giving the stack of beds a wide birth as they passed by. They wrenched open the doors and stood on a veranda. Chunks of concrete crumbled where a railing had once been. A large tree had fallen there at some point, taking out parts of some of the windows, which were now boarded.

They went back inside, pacing quickly back through the ballroom and coming into a hallway that led to a huge kitchen and another huge, empty room with two forlorn looking windows. Back to the foyer, they went under the arch of the sweeping staircase and into a huge room.

“Is this a living room?” Castiel asked. “Is there even a house here? Or is this like a business?”

“Well, there was a kitchen. The last room coulda been a big-ass dining room. So…this could be one of those big living rooms with fancy couches and a piano.”

Castiel looked at the shredded rugs on the floor. The broken windows boarded and the cold, broken fireplace that loomed at the head of the room. It was hard to picture nice things here. But if he stared a little while longer…he could almost see it.

Their steps echoed across the room as they passed through. They went back a hallway. Two large rooms finished the length of the front of the house. One looked like it had been a library at one time. There were rows and rows of shelves on the walls and a bricked-in fireplace. But no books. No curtains. It was cold, stark, and empty like the other rooms. They turned back the long length of the wing that gave the giant building an L shape. A long, dingy hallway held doors to four rooms on the right and three rooms on the left. One of which had three half bathrooms inside. These were toilets and sinks that looked like they were circa 1950. They were obviously add-ons, and their placement was off.

At a crossroads of sorts, two hallways crossed. The one they had come from continued on ahead. That hall led to a huge suite at the end of the wing, with a large bathroom and closets. The hall that crossed it led to another room and ended with double doors out to a patio. The other end of the hall took them to a solarium that looked like a Jurassic Park movie could be filmed inside. Overgrown and half dead plants all seemed to be at an odd stage of rot and dried to a crisp simultaneously. It all had a slimy feel.

They went back to the foyer.

“I need a drink,” Gabriel huffed.

“I don’t understand what Dad’s intentions were here. Did he mean to restore this? Make it a business? Start a museum?”

“I say we keep it as-is and have scared straight tours run through here.” Gabe warbled his voice to sound scary, “Be good to your parents! Or you too could be swallowed by the house of death and bankrupcyyyyyy!”

Castiel knelt down to the box and rifled through it. He pulled out the spec sheet. “It says there are five floors in the original structure, two in the addition, which is the ballroom, and four floors to the back wing. There are six fireplaces, three kitchens,”

“Three?” Gabriel scoffed.

“Ten bathrooms,”

“Holy Scrubbing Bubbles, Batman!”

“Eight half bathrooms,”

“That’s just ridiculous. How many people need to piss at the same time?”

Castiel laughed. “Get this. There are 22 bedrooms.”

“What the hell. I know! We can start a brothel!”

“Five of which are suites. Oh, that does not include the 13 bedrooms in the attic.”

“What the fuck was this place?” Gabriel scowled, looking around as if the walls might lash out and bite him. “Was it a brothel? Please, Cassie…please, please tell me Dad left us a whore house!”

Castiel laughed. “I have no idea. But there’s research in here to read through.”

“There’s time for that later, like never. Let’s go see the brothel. Onward, brother! There be whores behind these doors!”

They went up the wide, curving grand staircase. At the wide landing at the top, it looked like the railing was replaced with a metal rail, circa 1970. A large, open room greeted them with tall, gaping windows that were just as dingy as the downstairs ones. These too were taller than Castiel. Around the corner, a vent through the wall looked down onto the two story ballroom below. There was another strange door with a button on the wall just like one Castiel had noticed downstairs. He pulled on the handle.

“Christ on a Mars Bar,” Gabriel gasped. “Is that an elevator?”

“We own an ancient elevator. That takes you down to our ballroom,” Castiel answered flatly.

“I am NEVER getting in that. EVER.”

“I believe that would be wise,” Castiel agreed, looking down the shaft to see the elevator resting on what must be the bottom floor.

He shut the door carefully and they proceeded on. They crossed a wide hallway that was open to the foyer on one side and the huge living room on the other. Then they wandered around winding hallways, looking at room after room. There were two more staircases at this end of the house and a huge balcony that thankfully felt quite solid under foot. The balcony had stairs going up, but they went back inside instead, feeling safer where it was less weathered.

They took the back staircase to the third floor. The long side of the house got shorter on this floor. Wandering the rooms and halls, they found three more suites, large, haunting rooms, and a leak in a ceiling in the third kitchen. The three kitchens were all stacked on top of each other with their own staircase. The elevator sat near there and Castiel could imagine cooks and staff using it to serve huge parties in the ballroom.

“What the hell is this?” Gabriel asked, pushing two double doors open. It was the third floor above the ballroom. It ran almost the length, almost constructed entirely of windows on both sides, and was only about 8 feet wide but probably 60 feet long.

“Bowling alley?” Castiel snorted.

“Nice,” Gabriel laughed.

So far all the rooms were extremely vacant. Other than the pile of beds in the ballroom and occasional paper or trash, there had been very little furnishings.

As they went up the kitchen steps to the fourth floor, that all changed.

“Oh shit.”

Castiel had thought it, but Gabriel had said it. Boxes were stacked in piles. Mounds of curtains and fabrics flooded two corners. There were crates and chairs and furniture stacked so high that Castiel almost missed the hallway that led to the rest of the floor.

They picked their way across the room and Castiel froze in the entrance to the hallway.

In the middle of its narrow length stood a tricycle. It looked like a child could have stepped off of it just a moment ago.

Chills ran down Castiel’s body from scalp to spine to the quiver in his knees. Something shifted ahead and he dared not blink or think he was loosing his mind. He couldn’t even describe what he thought he might have seen, other than shifting wrinkles of grey.

“Did you see that?” Gabriel whispered.

“No.”

“Fucking liar,” Gabriel hissed.

“Fine. What was it?”

Gabriel stepped ahead of him slowly. “Anyone up here?” He shouted in a deep voice.

Castiel clenched his fists, feeling like he was being watched from behind. He turned, looking at the cluttered room carefully. Nothing moved. They worked down the hallway slowly. Each room was full of boxes, drape cloths and bulky looking furniture. Some looked very old. Others looked like they were from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Huge wardrobes filled one room from wall to wall. The room at the end of the hall made Castiel finally reach out and grab his brother’s sleeve.

A nauseating chill filled his gut at the sight. There was a bed along one wall. Made. An old stroller sat in front of the window with a doll nestled horrifically in it’s threadbare blanket. More dolls lined a shelf and other toys sat in a box. A small table held remnants of a tray with dishes on it. Food that had disintegrated to fine dust coated the bowl, cup, and plate.

“What the fuck?” Both brothers gasped. They stepped out of the room and into the hallway.

“Really hate that tricycle,” Gabriel squirmed.

They both got their nerves back in working order and started heading back toward the stairs.

Every floor of the house seemed to shrink as they had worked their way up. But there was something very off about this floor. There was a long length of hallway. But they had never even reached the long side.

“Wait,” Castiel said, stepping back and going into one of the cluttered rooms. “Gabriel…there’s more to this floor. Look, I can see it out the window.”

Gabriel looked, seeing the row of windows at a 90 degree turn, like all the other floors. He stepped into the hallway again. “But…this is it. There’s no where else to go.”

They looked around but could find no other connection to the rest of the floor. There was an entire wing they couldn’t seem to reach.

Back to the stairs, they started going down. “Wait,” Gabriel said, hesitating. “Where’s the fifth floor?”

They went back to the top of the steps. There was a door on the landing that was locked. “I left the keys in the foyer,” Gabriel groaned.

“We’ll look at it later,” Castiel shrugged. They went back down to the third floor. The air felt warmer and their nerves immediately relaxed.

“I think I saw more steps over here,” Gabriel said, heading for the long side. Back into one of the hallways they found a set of steps. “They only go down,” he said softly.

The house had them both creeped out by this point. They went further back, almost at one of the suites, finding another set of steps.

Castiel gave Gabriel a puzzled look. “They only go down as well.”

They circled around a bit, looking in each room several times, making sure closets and bathrooms weren’t a hidden set of steps.

Castiel pulled open an outer door at the end of one hallway. “Gabriel!” He called.

Gabriel was at his side in a second.

“I found steps.”

Out on the balcony, there were steps leading up. They exchanged a look and slowly ascended the stone spiral.

“I saw this balcony and steps on the second and third floor too,” Gabriel huffed.

As Castiel crested the steps, he found a balcony large enough to hold a table and a few chairs. A beautiful door stood locked, keeping them from that wing of the fourth floor.

“Well, at least we know we aren’t crazy,” Gabriel sighed, peering into the windows. These rooms were furnished and left. Some things had large covers thrown over them, grey with dust.

Castiel went around the corner of the house, looking into the back window to see into the next room better. But his eyes were caught on what lay in front of him.

A large, glass-enclosed room attached to the back wall of the house. Inside it lay the disgusting remains of what once had been a pool. It wasn’t easy to see through the scum that clung to the glass of the walls. The pool had been left to decompose on it’s own. Water still collected in its bottom looked a menacing shade of black.

“Gabe. I found the pool.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot we have a-“. Gabe’s sentence was cut off short as he almost walked into the glass wall. He looked into the glass with a look of horror on his face. “There’s a pool. On the fourth floor of our mansion.”

Castiel quirked a grin. “But we can’t figure out how to use the elevator to get from the pool to the ballroom. It’s a most inconvenient placement.” He snickered at his own dry humor. And the audacity of the situation.

“I’m all out of adventure for now, Cassie. Let’s go get a drink.”

Castiel nodded woodenly. What the hell were they going to do with this place? They went down the balcony’s spiraling steps all the way to the second floor. And that’s where they stopped. The door was locked.

“What floor did we come out here on?” Gabriel asked as they shuffled back up a flight.

“The third. In hopes of finding the fourth.”

At the third floor balcony, they went inside and took a staircase downstairs.

“I’m going to have nightmares about these staircases,” Castiel muttered.

“I’m going to require medication. And therapy,” Gabriel added.

Finally back to the first floor, they went through the front doors and onto the porch with a sigh of relief.

Castiel went to the truck, letting the dogs out. Windows down or not, that had taken way longer than expected.

Buddy ran a wide circle around the front lawn, not getting too close to the fences. Rumsfeld ran a short circle away from the truck, peed, and ambled his way back to the front porch, laying down on the cool cement.

“We gonna leave them here?” Gabriel asked, looking at the house with outright concern.

Castiel looked around. “We have to. The kitchen had doors. Let’s close them in there. We’ll only be gone an hour or so.”

“If they won’t go in the house,” Gabriel said, sliding his sunglasses on. “I say we burn the whole thing down and put us a pair of double-wides on here.”

Castiel knew he was joking. But the thought made him laugh. He whistled, Buddy coming at a run and Rumsfeld getting to his feet.

They went inside without issue, much to Gabe’s dismay. They skirted the elevator door and shied away from the ballroom in general. They both went into the kitchen without any qualms. Castiel put a pulled out drawer across the second step, blocking the stairs. He looked at both dogs and pointed to the steps. “No.”

He closed one door and told them both to sit. They sat, watching his every move. “Watch the house boys. I’ll be back soon.” He closed the door, effectively blocking them into one room.

He met Gabe at the truck, bringing the box with him.

“I need a drink,” Cas said.

“I need a liquor store,” Gabe added.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 Ingrates, Bastards, and Idjits

 

Castiel had learned a few new things about the house.
1. Plumbing was truly an overlooked miracle in society.
2. The dogs would not go to the fourth floor.
3. There were 31 windows on the first floor, not counting the ballroom.
4. The kitchen had a cellar. He had found a jar of something yellowish-brown from the early 1900’s. Ew.

Castiel had searched out his old friend from Stanford. He had hung out with Sam a lot his first year. He had a crush on the guy, but never enough nerve to ask him out.

That aside, he had a vague memory of Sam going into Architectural engineering after a year of pre-law. It had been a family thing, he remembered, and thought this property was going to be right up Sam’s alley. He had found him easily enough on the internet. His name was synonymous with Winchester Family Business.

He scrolled through the website as he sat on the back patio of the monstrous albatross that was his Dad’s gift to him and Gabe. According to the site, their motto was, ‘Saving Places, Restoring Things’. They specialized in reconstructing, restoring, and rehabilitating buildings.

It was as if it was meant to be. He called the number. He left a message with a man named Bobby two hours ago.

He was actually feeling rather nervous to talk to Sam. They had faded out of each other's circles, but always had a kind word whenever they saw each other.

He watched as Buddy circled the gazebo that sat out in the expanse of grass that stretched out behind the ballroom side of the house.

The dogs were settling in fairly well. Better than he and Gabe at this point. Plumbing was definitely an issue and a necessity. The electric was pretty weak as well.

At first, they tried to stay at the manor.

He could have cried when the second morning passed with a blown fuse from running the coffee pot.

After that, they got rooms at a nearby hotel. They slept there, but spent all their time at the manor.

His phone chimed a generic melody and he picked it up quickly.

“Hello?”

“Castiel? Sam Winchester here. How are you?”

“Good! And you?” Castiel grinned, standing to pace the patio. Sam’s voice was so rich and warm. Just like it used to be.

“I’m good, man! I gotta say, I’ve thought about you so many times over the years.”

Castiel flushed. Sam Winchester had thought about him?!

“You were like the yin to my yang,” Sam laughed. “Remember that night we hung out at that coffee shop? Man, I never wanted to trade places so bad with someone before.”

“I remember,” Cas nodded, remembering the hours they had spent together talking endlessly.

“I wanted to be a lawyer so bad. And my family just wasn’t having it. And your family was making you become a lawyer and you didn’t want to be one!”

“Mmm,” Castiel managed. “You were really angry about changing majors at the time.”

“Yeah. Anyway, did you change majors?” Sam asked, his voice taking on a softer tone.

“Oh no. I was stuck in that track. I was a practicing lawyer for Novak Law Offices for five years. And I never learned to love it. Or like it, for that matter.”

“Sorry to hear that Cas.”

“And I see you have become an Architectural Engineer? It sounds so interesting.” Castiel resumed pacing.

“Yeah. It has been pretty interesting. But the way my dad ran the company was just eating us alive. My brother and I bought him out two years ago. Things have been better since.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

The pair sat silent a moment digesting how each other's lives had faired.

“So,” Sam went on, lighter, “how’ve you been? Did you just come across my number or something?”

“No…um…I actually looked you up to find you. My father and stepmother died three weeks ago and left me and my brother a…house.”

“Really? I’m sorry to hear about your family, Cas.”

Castiel nodded. “Thank you.”

“So, you have a house you're thinking about restoring?” Sam asked, slipping slightly into his working tone.

Castiel sighed. “Sam…I am totally overwhelmed.” He turned, looking up at the five story section of house as it loomed in front of him. “My dad left everything I thought our family owned to my brother Michael and my sister Hannah. Our home, Novak Law Offices, our two vacation homes, all the money…. It was…shocking.”

“Man, Cas. I’m so sorry that happened.”

“We weren’t even out of the building before my brother Michael fired me and Gabe.”

“Whaaat?”

“Yes. Honestly, we both feel like a huge burden was lifted. Neither of us wanted to be there. We were doing it out of family obligation. Obligation does not make a good lawyer.”

“Wow.”

“But my father did leave Gabriel and I something…interesting. He left Gabriel and I an estate in Virginia. It’s a mansion from the 1700’s. And he left us money none of the family knew about. There is an account that is solely to be used to improve this estate.”

“Wow, Cas! That’s incredible! And it being a historic site, you can get government funding to assist you.”

“I know absolutely nothing about any of this, Sam. I’m in way over my head here. Way. Over. When I read your website, it just seemed a perfect fit.”

“Oh yeah!” Sam agreed. “I gotta ask, are you and Gabe going to restore it?”

“Yes. I think. I don’t know. It’s so massive, Sam. We haven’t even been able to get to the fifth floor yet! There are locked doors and water leaks and plumbing issues and it hardly has electricity-“

“Whoa, whoa,” Sam chuckled. “Sounds like he really dumped a number on you! I mean, if you want, I’ll fly out and check the place out with you. Give you some professional advice.”

“Please, Sam. I’m…overwhelmed.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, how much money did he leave you guys to restore?”

“I never had a hand in my father’s finances until now, but honestly, Gabriel and I were shocked at the amount of money he has sat aside just for this estate. It’s around 15 million dollars.”

Silence met his ear and Castiel’s stomach clenched.

“Is that even enough to fix this?” Castiel fretted. “There’s an elevator, a ballroom, a pool, fountains-“

“Take it easy there, Cas. It can be very overwhelming. I’m looking at my calendar now. I’m gonna be honest, that would be a really big job. When I come, I’m going to bring one or two of my crew along for assessment purposes. I promise I can at least get you on a path.”

Castiel sighed in relief, sitting on the step of the raised patio. “Thank you, Sam.”

“I can be there in…three days.”

Castiel’s head popped up. “Yes! That would be great!”

“Okay, so we’ll fly in Wednesday night and spend all day Thursday with you and Gabe. You should both be there if you are both on the deed.”

“We are. Fifty, fifty.”

“This is going to be okay, Cas.”

Castiel tipped his chin up to the sky. “Thank you, Sam. I hope we can do something here.”

“We will. And thank you for thinking of me, Cas.”

Castiel smiled warmly. He was thrilled to see Sam again. And the thought of them working together gave him a warm feeling inside. “See you Thursday, Sam.”

 

***

 

Per usual, Dean was hard at work. His earbuds were in and music was cranked high to hear over the saw running in his hands. Dean was lost in the guitar rifts of Stairway To Heaven. He was also lost in the crown molding he was working on. Or neither. Either way, he was in the zone.

His world teetered so suddenly he actually gasped a breath, coughing from the plaster shavings in the air. Sam had yanked his earbuds out, shattering Dean’s temporary oasis. Sam was babbling in his ear and all he could muster through his coughing was a wet and choked out ‘sonofabitch’.

Sam quit talking and waited. Dean coughed one last time and turned his watering eyes onto his brother. “I oughta chop your fucking hand off for that.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Did you hear me?”

“No, I was too busy coughing up plaster dust. What?”

Sam crossed his arms over his chest. “An old college buddy of mine called. Cas. His dad died-“

Dean squinted. “Cas. Did I meet him?”

Dean had visited Sam at school several times. He had met a lot of people. But he was usually drunk before too long and his memories of Stanford were always a little hazy. “Was he the…little guy, blue eyes, reeeal shy?”

“Well, he wasn’t little. But he was a quiet guy and had really blue eyes.”

Dean nodded. He remembered. Cas. Not a partier. Quiet. Sweet smile.

“Anyway,” Sam interrupted, “his dad died and left him a huge property in Virginia.”

“Cool.”

“And an account specifically for restoring.”

“Even cooler.”

“Dean. He said he has 15 million dollars to spend on the place.”

Dean’s eyes widened. They had never had a job that big. Not even close. It could be a life-changer. “Holy shit.”

“Yeah.” Sam grinned. “We fly out Wednesday night for an assessment. We can spend Thursday getting a tour and talking. I still have a lot of questions and Cas and his brother have no idea what they’re holding. They have no idea what to do with it. But they’re both smart. This would be…huge.”

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “15 million? Damn. How big is it? What kind of fixes are we talking about?”

Sam held a hand up. “Sounds like the place is in bad shape. Cas is totally snowed. I did hear him say ballroom and plumbing and electricity and elevator. I bet it’s a mess. He sounded so overwhelmed.”

Dean nodded again. “Okay. Sounds good.”

He slid his eye protectors back down and put his earbuds back in. A big project was exactly what they needed. They had been doing a lot of small jobs the last few years. Big enough to keep them running, but small enough to keep them worrying about where the next job would be.

 

***

 

Castiel anxiously waited at the gate to Kripke Manor Thursday morning. Buddy stood at his side with ears perked and tail still. The dogs had been quite useful so far. Buddy kept watch. He walked the perimeter like someone had trained him to do when he was at his father’s house. Both dogs had run off a family of opossums making a home under the gazebo.

He watched as a blue car turned down the short drive that ended at the gate.

Sam stepped out of the passenger side with a huge grin.

“Cas!”

“Sam!” Castiel walked over quickly to shake his hand, but Sam pulled him in for a hug. He hugged back belatedly and was slightly thrown off, as he always was, with Sam’s rugged good looks. The years had made him even more handsome.

“Th-thank you for coming so quickly!”

“Of course!” Sam grinned.

Castiel turned as the driver’s door opened and another man stepped out. “Hey, Cas.”

Castiel squinted. He knew him from somewhere. “Dean?”

Dean looked surprised. “I figured you wouldn’t remember me. Yeah. Sam’s brother.”

Castiel nodded. He remembered Dean. Sam’s brother. He came to visit several times at Stanford. He was loud. He was usually drunk. And he made Castiel uncomfortable. He had a flirtatious nature, and, in Castiel’s opinion, overly proved himself not to be gay. The manly man. But Cas knew more about Dean than Dean would ever know. After all, he and Sam had talked many times. When Sam came out, their dad had flipped out. He was a cruel man and said so many damaging things. But apparently this had not been the first of this type of situation. Dean had admitted to making out with a guy and their father had turned his life into a living hell. So when Sam came out five years later, their dad initially flipped out and then seemed to accept it of Sam and continue to blame Dean for it. It was so much worse than the dirty looks and occasional scathing comments he had suffered from Michael or his step mother. But he had Gabriel to defend him. It had made him wonder just how much shit Gabe had eaten in remittance for him.

Dean made him nervous. He gave the man what he hoped was a friendly enough wave.

“You guys can just follow the driveway to the house and park in front. I’ll walk up with the dog. Let you check the place out a bit.”

“Sure, sure,” Sam said, getting back in the car. Dean doing the same.

They drove slowly up the driveway. Probably seeing so much more than he and Gabriel could see. He caught up to them as they stood in front of the stone mansion talking quietly to each other. He was relieved to hear them talking about windows and stone and mortar and not where they were going to go drink. They were all adults now. He had to let go of the college images and see past what little he knew of them.

“What do you think?” Castiel asked.

“I’m ecstatic!” Sam’s face was lit up and his eyes darted knowingly all over the face of the home.

“From the outside this place is looking great!”

Dean was looking into one of the windows, but moved his gaze back to Castiel. “What were you thinking for the exterior?”

Castiel shrugged his shoulders. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it? I mean, if it’s good, I don’t want to mess with it. There’s so much more to do inside.”

Gabriel came out the front door with a doughnut in one hand and a box of them in the other. “Morning. Doughnuts?”

“Thanks,” the brothers said, Sam taking a cake one and Dean taking a powdered.

“You must be Gabriel?” Sam asked.

“The one and only,” Gabe smiled wide. “Winchesters, I assume.”

“Yes, I’m Sam, this is my brother, Dean.”

They all shook hands, Dean only nodding since his mouth was quite full.

They spent hours walking the grounds and then the house. He was surprised how many questions they had for them. Apparently they would be more immersed in this project than he had originally thought. Buddy stayed with them like a quiet shadow all day.

The five made their way from floor to floor, room to room. Sam wrote a lot. Dean pointed out a lot. Castiel understood little of what they talked about. Gabriel only shrugging.

Castiel’s personal favorite moment was when the brothers found the pool. Dean had lost all professionalism.

“What the fuck? A pool on the fourth floor? Are you fucking serious?” Castiel had wisely brought the keys along this time. He unlocked the glass room and they all stepped in. The smell of dank rot was heavy. “You wanna replace this? Or get rid of it?”

“I mean,” Gabriel snorted, “who doesn’t want a fourth floor pool? Of course I want it!”

Dean gave him a rye smile. But his eyes were quickly back on the walls. “It looks like Slimer ate a grenade in here. This is gonna be a bitch.”

Gabriel just grinned. But Castiel had to agree. “We can decide later if it’s really worth it.”

“Fuck that,” Gabe laughed. “If I’m sporting a mansion, I’m sporting a cool one.”

Dean laughed hard at that. It made something inside Castiel relax. The brothers were both extremely handsome. They didn’t even really look alike. They were just two very different shades of gorgeous.

The rooms were endless. The warm, fuzzy feeling he had, quickly disintegrated the further they went. Castiel remembered things Sam had confided in him. That Dean was worse than their dad was because he acted so tough but was just as gay as Sam was. That Dean and his dad associated gay people as weak and straight people as strong. The old memory wormed its way into Castiel’s mind and spread.

And every time Dean used a ‘manly’ mannerism, it rubbed Castiel the wrong way.

 

After the lengthy walk through, they went a few blocks over to a local bar that Castiel and Gabriel were spending a lot of time at, The Roadhouse.

“Didn’t peg you for a biker bar kinda guy, Cas,” Dean snickered as they sat down. “I’m kinda surprised this artsy town even has a bar like this.”

Castiel glanced across the table at Dean, seeing him eye up the waitress. “I figured it was your type of place.”

Dean looked at him, his look shifting quickly. “It is.”

As Jo stopped at their table, a wave of dislike toward Dean continued to grow in Castiel. “This is Jo,” Castiel said, directly to Dean. “She’s legal, but if you mess with her, her mother will skin you alive. And she owns the place. Besides that, Jo’s fully capable of taking care of herself.”

Dean took the nasty little challenge in stride. He looked up at Jo, giving her an apologetic grin. “Sorry about Cas, he flunked his people skills class.”

Jo grinned. Of course she grinned. What the hell wasn’t there to grin about when that face was looking up at you and flirting.

“I’m pretty sure Cas has my best interest at heart. But you…not too sure about you.” She grinned, just as flirty, but there was an edge of warning to it.

“So, you boys must be the fancy house fixers that flew in to meet our newest locals.”

“We are,” Sam cut in smoothly, shaking her hand. “I’m Sam, my brother, Dean.”

“What can I get you all?”

They ordered and when she was gone, Cas felt like an idiot. Why had he acted like that? Because why was Dean still acting like he wasn’t gay? Maybe he was bi. Maybe he really didn’t like men at all. Maybe it had been a phase. Whatever his proclivities were, it was NO business of Castiel’s. But he wasn’t apologizing. He could do his manly man act on someone besides Jo and Ellen. They were practically the only two people he knew here. And he wasn’t having Dean God’s-gift-to-women Winchester blowing through town and fucking up what little he had.

“There is a LOT to be done with Kripke Manor,” Sam said, eyes unfocused in thought. “There’s a bit of a process we need to take here. You two need to decide whether or not you want to restore the place or rehab the place.”

“What’s the difference?” Castiel asked, feeling heavy just talking about the giant, stone manor.

“Restore means taking it back to the best original state we can. For personal taste or using it as a museum…”. Sam leaned forward, obviously excited with what he was talking about. “Rehab means we restore what we can, but we upgrade, tastefully, like adding better plumbing, electricity, heat. Then you can live there, run a business, a museum, whatever you want.”

Castiel and Gabriel exchanged a look. “Rehab,” they both stated, grinning at each other.

“Okay,” Sam grinned excitedly. “So two things need to happen. You need to research the history of the home as well as you can. The second thing is, you need to decide what you want to do with it. What are we rehabbing the manor into?”

Sam sat back with a grin. He put his arm across the back of the booth, making Castiel’s eyes travel back to Dean. He was looking intently at his sweet tea. He looked as though he had been scolded.

Castiel felt terrible. What was wrong with him anyway? He needed to get his act together. He’d had no right to assume such things about Dean or to treat him bad publicly. His eyes dropped to his own tea.

“How long do we have to figure this out?” Gabriel asked.

“As long as it takes, man. It’s a monumental decision and a lot of money.”

Gabriel sighed. “Do we have enough money to fix the place up?”

Sam nodded, exchanging a look with Dean. “You have plenty. You can do a LOT with that much money. And I think we can really help you make the right decisions to get you where you want to go. Maybe you want to fix it and sell it. Or live there. Or turn it into a business of some kind. Museums don’t make money, I will warn you there. And there’s a lot of red tape to do any of it.”

Dean snorted. “There’s a lot of red tape to do anything with historic buildings. Everything has to be approved by the local historical society. And they can be pretty picky.”

“Dean’s right. There’s a lot of waiting involved.” He paused a moment. “If you decide to use our company, we will bring a crew here and work for three months at a time, five days a week.”

“Three months at a time?” Castiel asked in surprise. “How long will this take?”

Sam blew out a breath.

Dean smirked. “We’re not slapping siding on it, Cas. It’ll take a year or two.”

Castiel sat back with surprise. “I guess I should have figured that.”

Their meals came and they ate quietly, all of them heavy in thought.

Meals done, Sam sat forward again. “Thank you, for thinking of me to do this job, Cas. Get some other opinions too. It’ll make you feel better. Call me if you want to proceed with any of this.”

“I will,” Castiel smiled. “And thank you for coming so quickly, and explaining so much, and it was just really good to see you again.”

“Yes, it was,” Sam smiled. “We’re gonna go. Text or email any questions. I’d be glad to help you make an informed decision here.”

“Can you do it? All you saw. Can you take something like this on?” Castiel asked, trying to dislodge the last of his ‘old college friend’ mentality.

“We can do it,” Dean said confidently, with no smile. “Even the pool.”

His gaze was piercing. Castiel nodded. “I believe you. Thank you.”

The Winchesters slid out of the booth and left. Castiel slid around to the other side, facing Gabriel. Jo kept bringing them beers. They sipped them slowly, each in their own world.

They got in the truck late that evening. “You don’t like Dean very much, do you?”

“He’s arrogant,” Cas snapped.

“But I think you got the hots for Sam.”

“Gabriel,” Cas sighed.

“I thought so,” Gabe grinned. “He’s your type. Nerdy. Buff. Smart.”

“Maybe I’m not the only one with a crush,” Castiel grinned.

Gabe shrugged. “I know I don’t really want a second opinion. But I’ll get one if you want to.”

Castiel grinned. “No. Whatever we decide to do, we can use Winchesters.”

“I’m gonna use ‘em all right. Gonna have them soaked and scrubbed and on display for my brothel.”

“We are not turning Kripke Manor into a brothel.”

Gabe sighed. “Fine. Call it what it is. Daddy’s whore house.”

“Gabriel!”

They both laughed.

 

***

 

It had been four months since the brothers had met in Virginia. Dean knew Sam was still in contact with Cas and Gabe. He talked about answering their questions sometimes. It was a big job and they were all anxiously awaiting the final decision.

Dean dropped his pile of tiles in the back of a pick up truck. Sam dropped his next. They both wiped sweat off their brow and stopped for a drink.

“You shoulda given them a time limit.”

“Who?” Sam said, pulling his hair back into a tiny ponytail.

“The Novaks. At least we would know,” Dean said bitterly, sick of wondering about it.

“Well, I couldn’t push them too hard. Besides, you already had Cas on edge. What did you do to him anyway?” Sam demanded, just as touchy about the subject apparently.

“I didn’t do anything to him. He's a pretentious rich guy who doesn’t know what to do with all his money. Kinda hard to feel bad for that. Dude’s a snob. And you coulda pushed him as hard as you want.” Dean got a shitty grin. “I think he was looking forward to you doing some pushing.”

“Shut up,” Sam rolled his eyes. “He’s a great guy. He just doesn’t know what he’s doing. And you better be nice to him. If we lose a 15 million dollar account because you-“

“I didn’t DO anything, Sam!” Dean yelled, tossing his water back in the cooler. “Dude started snubbing me as soon as we got there. If you want me out on this one, just say it.” Dean leveled Sam with a look. He was tired of feeling like the one dropping the ball on this client. “I didn’t say anything to that guy to make him treat me like shit. He sized us both up at the gate and went from there. So maybe you need to get to the wooing. You're the only one here that’s gonna suck his dick to make this deal.”

It had been a long time since Sam had actually put his hands on Dean. Like, meaning it. Dean staggered back from a blow to the mouth that he never even saw coming. And yeah, that last comment had been a bit much. Sam looked pissed as hell. Apparently one hit and Dean’s hand filling with blood wasn’t enough to satiate him on this one. He wiped his hand on his jeans and spit blood on the ground.

He charged at Sam, knocking him on his ass. It was the only way to get anywhere when your brother was a fucking mountain. He landed two punches, taking another to his ribs when hands were pulling him off and away.

“What’sa matter with you two idjits?!” Bobby snapped, slapping them both with his hat like it was a 2x4. “We are on a job site!”

The brothers glared at each other, stretching out their sore bruises gingerly.

“He’s a fucking-“ Dean started.

“Are you ten, boy?” Bobby snapped, getting in his face. Bobby was shorter. Slower. Older. And technically Sam and his employee. But none of those things mattered when he was pissed and on a Papa Bobby Bear kick, as he and Sam like to call them. “You stow your shit right now and sort this mess out later. We got work to do.”

Dean walked away. “You too, Sam.” He heard Bobby snap. He walked back into the house they were taking tile out of. Benny looked up at him and froze.

“What the hell-“

Sam came in behind him. One look at Sam told Benny the brothers had been at it.

“Oh,” he said, pointedly looking elsewhere and going back to work. Years ago, Sam and Dean fought like cats and dogs. Under the brutal regime of John Winchester, they were always at each other’s throats.

Since they had bought John out, effectively removing him from Winchester Family Business, they rarely got into it too harsh.

They went back to work for another three hours, finally finishing for the day.

Back in the work truck, Sam just sat there several moments with the AC running. “I want you on the job, Dean. I can’t do it without you. And I wouldn’t want to anyway. If we get this…it’s gonna be huge. And I’m gonna need you, strategy to final walk through.”

Dean stared out the window, his swollen lip clamped closed. “Me too. But I’m tellin’ ya, I never did anything to that little twink.”

Sam sighed. “Don’t call him that. Ever.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Fine.”

“Look…maybe he was just being sensitive. You can be pretty harsh, Dean. You’re just going to have to be professional. He’s not that naive guy you teased in college. He’s a well-to-do lawyer who inherited a mess. He didn’t ask for this mess. And he’s not the type to assume he already knows everything, making everything harder to do. He’s willing. He’s open.”

“Fine,” Dean sighed. Empty.

“I’ll say something to him, okay? I don’t know why he snapped at you like that. Maybe…I don’t know. I’ll talk to him.”

“Just forget it Sam. If we get the house, I’ll just keep my distance. I wasn’t looking for friends when I went there. I’m not lookin’ to make any now.”

“It’s a long project,” Sam said, shaking his head. “Two years, maybe. There has to be respect or I won’t play ball.”

Dean huffed. “He’s the client.”

“And you're my brother. I’ll fix it,” Sam assured him, putting the truck in drive.

“Just leave it. If we get the house, I’ll keep a low profile.” Dean knew the words sounded flat. But that’s how he felt. Construction was a good job. Hard working, honest money. But he was 30. His knees ached. His back ached. And lately everything felt so hollow. He had trouble getting into what he was working on. He loved the detailed work. The bringing things back to life. The look on people’s faces when a room came alive again under his hands. He was good at what he did. It was in his genes. But so was a notion for self hatred and alcoholism. But those two things he kept at bay. But right now. It felt like they were circling him slowly. Like he might go down.

They were already back at their main office in Lawrence when he pulled himself out of his stupor. They got out of the truck, leaving the tiles and debris for Rufus to take care of.

Their business was a storefront in a strip mall. Dean hated the 80’s cookie-cutter box feel of the place. He hated the white tile floor and florescent lights. He always thought it gave a bad impression for the type of work they did. But it was easier than moving. Besides, for their best jobs, they relocated. They went where the work was. It was part of what made them so lucrative. They had grown up on the road, moving from job to job with their dad. But they always came back to Lawrence.

They went into their office in the back, a white walled room with shitty tile floors and old metal desks, piled with notes and samples from jobs.

Dean closed the door. “If we get this job.” Dean stopped, not meeting Sam’s eye. “If we get this job, I’ll sell you my half of the business. You can have it.”

Sam was at full attention now. “Dean…I’m not staying in this without you!” He paced in a circle. “If you're out, I’m out too.”

Dean nodded. “So…we sell it then?”

Sam sat on the corner of his desk. “I guess. I mean, we’re not getting rich from this job. Just steady work.”

“Man, if we get this Novak job, I’ll save it all. Buckle down and do something with it. I’m gonna need out of this racket, Sam. I need…” he sighed heavily. “I need to settle down somewhere.”

Sam raised his eyebrows. He started to say a few things but stopped. “If we get this deal…and we sell the business…we could buy a place of our own. A fixer-upper.”

Dean raised his eyes, smirking. Sam was stuck to his side like glue. Pretty much since birth. Their mom had died when Sam was a baby. John was suddenly stuck with either getting a new job or taking the kids with him. So they went.

Dean missed his mom as much as the next four year old would. But he had a baby to take care of. Most of the time in the confines of motels. Shitty ones. Because the less his dad spent on accommodations, the more he could spend on beer. Or prostitutes. Or gambling.

He loved and protected that little baby right into the big-ass shit-stomping boots he wore now. Their dad would poke at their relationship. Start fights. Instigate problems. But they were bullet-proof. That was, until Sam left for college.

Sam got to leave. Sam got to be gay. It was only because John was so disinterested and disgusted that Sam was flying under the radar like that. But per usual, Dean was under a microscope. He had to be there. Working. Being a man. Being drunk. Being promiscuous. Being the best.

But none of it was really good enough. And Sam was free. And still bitching and whining because he had to work for the family business. Because he would never be a lawyer. Well, fucking whaaa. Sam had five years away from John. And yes, Dean was jealous as fuck.

The first two years Sam was back in the fold, things were way past rocky. Dean’s anger at Sam was jealousy. Sam’s anger at their dad was all consuming. And Dean just wanted him to shut the fuck up already and fall in line. Be the big-shot engineer and start landing them some impressive jobs.

And then there was the fact that Sam could hook up with a guy. And that was when things really blew. John said too much. Too hurtful. Too hateful.

Dean slayed him with words and fists. Even Sam was shook up. John started taking jobs on his own. He was so rarely around and so drunk all the time that the boys finally were able to repair what they once had. Rehabbed, not restored. But it was better.

What came out of it, was Dean got over his self hatred (somewhat) and dated (not just hooked up with) several guys. In the open and in the hateful face of his father. He’d just grin at his dad and say, “Oh, have another shot, Dad.”

Self acceptance and Sam’s better understanding of just how brutal Dean’s time alone had been, forged a bond stronger than even the last one.

The relationships Dean had were short. He was a shit communicator. And the self hatred would sneak in like a burglar.

Dean would find himself single. But Sam stood by him all the same.

So it did not shock him that Sam wanted to make plans to live together. Most people would not want to make permanent plans with their sibling. But…they had been so much more. And honestly, the thought of living somewhere without Sam left him feeling hollow.

“Yeah, Sam. I’d like that. Somethin’ like that.”

Sam nodded. “Sorry. About your mouth.”

Dean huffed a laugh, trying not to smile. Because it fucking hurt. “Forget it.”

 

***

 

Sam jerked his head up when Dean walked into the office. “Dean! Gabe Novak called. He wants us to call when we have a minute.”

Dean flopped his gloves down on the corner of his desk, plaster dust puffing out and little shards sprinkling everywhere within five inches. “Okay. You think this is it?”

“Maybe?” Sam held his hands up. “You ready?”

“Shoot!” Dean grinned.

Sam laid his phone on the desk, dialing and putting it on speaker.

It rang. Three times.

“Samwise the Tall!” Gabe answered. “How are you?”

“I’m good!” Sam grinned. “I’ve got Dean here.”

“Hey, Gabe,” Dean said.

“Dean-O! Now it’s a party!”

Dean shook his head with a grin, glancing at Sam.

“Did you have a question for us, Gabe?” Sam asked, knowing he would have to keep Gabe on track.

“I do. Let me-“ the sound shifted and they could tell they too were on speaker, “-switch to speaker.”

“Hello, Sam, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas,” both brothers answered.

“Well, we wanted to let you know that Cassie and I have been throwing some ideas around and we think we have a half-assed plan of what we want to do with this beast.”

“Great!” Sam said. “Any particulars you want to share? Or?”

“We’re ready,” Castiel said, “to sit down and talk strategy and numbers. We have some ideas to hash out still, but we really want your hands-on expertise here. We will fly you here and pay for your stay.”

Sam and Dean exchanged charged looks. “So, it sounds like maybe you're ready to start making some moves here.”

“Yep,” Gabe answered. “We point and you move it, kind of moves. We are ready when you are.”

Sam pulled a fist down in victory with a grin so hard Dean had to cover his mouth from letting out a laugh.

Sam looked at their calendars. “We can be there…the earliest would be on the 12th.”

“Sold!” Gabe called.

They said their goodbyes and hung up. As soon as Sam had double checked to be sure he was hung up, the pair hollered and hugged and in general, did a fucking happy dance.

Dean wrenched the door open and ran down the short hall, hauling Bobby right off his feet and spinning him in a flailing circle.

“What the hell?” He laughed, looking at them both expectantly.

“We got it, Bobby!” Sam said.

“The Novak job?” Bobby asked, eyes widening.

“Yes!” Sam cheered.

Bobby staggered back a step. “Holy shit!”

The three did a flannel-clad, not too pretty happy dance right there in the little lobby.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 Ballrooms, Brothels, and Hospital Wards

 

Dean closed the door on the rental car and knelt for Buddy to smell his hand. He trotted off quickly to smell Sam and then came back to Dean’s side.

“Looks like you have a new friend,” Sam grinned.

“Good thing. I’m gonna need it here.” He patted the dog’s head. “Huh, Buddy? Dean needs a friend.”

He watched as Cas and Gabe made their way down to the car.

They exchanged pleasantries and headed into the huge stone mansion. The place was a fucking fortress. Literally, there were smaller castles built. He could see that work was being done. There was less dust and dirt. There were signs of work and life all around.

“We had an electrician out a month ago,” Cas said, leading them down a hall to the kitchen. “There is electricity in ten rooms on the bottom floor. Honestly, he said he had worked on historical sites before, but look what he did to the wall.”

Cas pointed at a spot on the wall by the door with such concern that Dean assumed it must be gouged to the studs.

A sloppy cut ran up and over toward a junction point. Sam looked at it closely. “It’s…that was a shitty way to do it, but we’ll take care of it.”

“You can?”

Dean had to laugh at the look of sheer relief on Cas’ face. “Dude, we’re gonna resurrect your pool on the fourth floor. You think we can’t fix some shoddy work by the electrician?”

Cas looked taken aback for a second, but had to at least grin at himself. “True,” he admitted, shrugging. “I guess I just…watched him do it and…”

“He freaked out,” Gabe clarified. “I told him with that new level of destruction in here, you two would probably turn tail and run.”

Dean laughed, Sam too, and Cas threw his hands up.

“Cas, I’m gonna warn you now,” Sam said, stifling his laughter, “you are going to see some terrifying shit while we’re going through all this. But I promise, you’ll be happy in the end.”

Cas relaxed his shoulders a bit. “Okay. I’ll try to get a handle on my freaking out.”

“So, do you want us to stay here, on site?” Sam asked, “Or-“

“No, man,” Gabe jumped in, shaking his head. “You two have rooms at a hotel in town. The same one we’re staying at.”

“You aren’t living here yet then?” Sam asked.

“It feels like it,” Gabe groused, “But no. We can’t get a plumber to help us.”

“Sam nodded. “Would you like that to be a priority. We call it sectioning. We can section a zone of the house to live in. It helps cut down on expenses.”

“Yes,” the Novaks nodded. “We would love it. But like I said-“

Sam held his hand up. “It’s okay. We have our own plumber. And electrician. And foreman. We…let me just call my plumber and get him on a plane.”

Cas and Gabe exchanged an impressed look. Dean grinned. Maybe these two wouldn’t be so awful to work for. After all, the house was cool as shit. And he had the undivided attention of a pretty cool dog.

Dean pulled a Slim Jim out of his pants pocket. Because, yeah, who doesn’t arm themselves with Slim Jims?

He tore the top open and took a bite, then tore off a bite for Buddy. The dog took it so carefully that Dean barely felt the soft fuzz of his lip.

“Shit,” Dean said, straightening up, “That was rude. I shoulda asked if I could give him a bite. Sorry.”

Gabriel looked clueless. Cas waved a hand. “I only feed them dog food. Mostly because my father was strict like that. But I don’t mind.”

Dean nodded. Hearing a clickety clack, he looked up to see the lanky bloodhound trot into the room. Dean gave Cas a sheepish look.

Cas grinned. “You gotta be fair.”

Dean smiled down at the drooped face looking at him. “Ha! The boss says okay, so there ya go, buddy.”

“The German Shepherd is Buddy,” Cas explained, grinning down at them as well. “The bloodhound is Rumsfeld.”

“I didn’t know either of their names. I just always call all dogs buddy.”

“We have a ton of plans to go through,” Sam interrupted. “And I have like a million questions for you guys.”

“We need a table!” Gabe said. “See, Cassie! I knew we needed that table!”

Cas rolled his eyes, but waved them to follow him to the next room over.

“We call this the dining room,” Cas said. “Gabriel picked up this monstrosity at a used furniture store two towns over.”

In the center of the large, boxy room, which he agreed was good placement for a dining room, sat a huge, mahogany table with a thick pedestal base made of four lions back to back. One facing each side of the table. It was…ridiculous. And fucking cool.

“Looks like something off Game of Thrones,” Dean grinned.

“Then my duty here is done,” Gabe said, sitting regally on a box that sat by the table. “Sadly, it had no matching chairs. Pull up a box fellas.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a grin. Gabe was a riot. Working for him was either going to be awesome or maddening. Either way, it was going to be interesting.

Sam pulled out the house plans and unrolled them on the table.

“That’s Kripke Manor!” Cas said in surprise, his eyes roving over the plans.

“It is. I have several copies.”

They labeled the ten rooms with electricity, then jumped into discussions.

“Last time we were together,” Sam said, “I asked you to research the history. You shared some key things with me, but didn’t get to the original owners?”

“No,” Cas said.

“Well, I have connections and know where to look,” Sam grinned, sliding a copy of a tattered looking deed across the table to Gabe and Cas. “I think I know why your father bought the property.”

“Charles and Naomi Novak?” Cas read aloud. Both brothers looked quite shocked.

“Charles and Naomi were the original builders. The home looked like,” Sam took the roll Dean handed him, “like this. That was in...1720.”

He unrolled the plans on top of the current ones. The house was rectangular in shape with one, skinny leg where there now stood a huge wing. The ballroom was not there. And the stables were closer.

“So, where we are sitting, this was here,” Gabe said quietly. “And it was three floors high.”

“Novak?” Cas said quietly, sitting back. “Dad bought back an old family property. Our ancestors built this.”

“Yes.” Sam grinned, letting it soak in for a minute. “The next big changes came when Lucifer Novak owned the property in 1805. He added the ballroom,”

Dean unrolled the next plan on top of the others.

“Then he added the fourth and fifth floors. Then the wing on the long side, making the house an L shape, moved the stable, and relocated the servants quarters to the fourth floor. He seemed to be an interesting character.”

“It was owned by Novaks until Lucifer, so, from 1720 until 1864. Then I’m not sure what happened to Lucifer, but Cas found the rest.”

Cas looked up from the plans. “Yes. In 1865 the house was taken over during the civil war and used as a prison. They once held as many as 487 men here. This went on from March of 1865 until November that year. It was given, by the mayor to the Kripke family in 1865. That family ran offices out of here and some sort of business. He was also an author of several horror novels. He died in 1910. The house sat empty from 1910 until 1942.”

“A wealthy businessman, A. Dabb, bought the place for $2,000 in 1943 and donated it to the state. The state turned it into a TB hospital from 1943 until 46.”

“The state gave the property back to the Dabb family, who never lived here and it sat empty for 25 years.”

In 1969, a man named Robert Singer ran some kind of civil war museum out of here.”

Sam and Dean laughed. “Sorry,” Sam explained, “that’s a friend of ours name. You’ll meet him.”

Castiel glanced at Gabe, who sighed and added, “Wrap it up. I nodded off at the Civil War.”

Castiel took a deep breath. “The museum closed and Singer lost the house by ’78. It sat empty and was sold in 1984 to…I forget who, but sat empty until 2007. Oh, Carver Edlund, another author. That’s when my father bought the property. In 2007. Now ten years of only managing the outside, it’s ours.”

“Gabe and I are pretty sure the house has been empty since 1978. And even then, it was only partially used as the museum. It’s been dormant a long time.”

Dean nodded. It was fascinating. Thoughts of war prisoners and a TB hospital gave him chills. Buddy had his head parked on Dean’s thigh, eyes closed and loved the methodical petting Dean was providing.

“So, this place was a prison. And a hospital. And a museum,” Dean wondered aloud. “No wonder it’s so…”

“Creepy?” Gabe finished. “Cassie, in all that time, which one of them was the brothel owner?”

“There was never a brothel here,” Cas said, rolling his eyes.

“There had to have been one hell of a brothel. This place has 35 bedrooms and a ballroom full of beds. I’m tellin’ you, one of those bastards, Kripke, Novak, Dabb, Edlund, one of those pricks was runnin’ a whore house outta here.”

Dean had started laughing at the first use of the word brothel. Now his eyes were watering and Buddy had sat up, blinking sleepily.

“I’m gonna get us some pizza and beer. Dean-O looks like he could use a break,” Gabe smirked.

“Sorry,” he waved, “it was a long drive from the airport and I hate flying. So, I guess I’m wiped. But I’ll perk up. I just need some coffee before my pizza.”

Cas got to his feet. “I’ll make it.” He left the dining room for the kitchen, Gabe gone as well.

“You good?” Sam asked.

“Yeah. I’m gonna take a quick walk and call Garth, see when he’ll be here.”

Dean headed through the foyer and out the front door. He walked around the creepy fountain statue. “You look like I feel, lady.” Both dogs joined him as he left, heading down the curve of the driveway to where another narrow road split off, leading to the ballroom side of the property.

He called Garth.

“Hey, Dean!”

“Hey, man. What’s the plan?”

“Well, I got a flight. I’ll be there tomorrow afternoon. But I’m going to have to rent everything I’m gonna need.”

“I know,” Dean said, picking up a stick and wiggling it for Buddy. “It’ll be fine. These guys are desperate but we don’t have any permits yet. If you can get them one running bathroom and a kitchen sink, they're gonna think you hung the moon.” He threw the stick far across the grass. Buddy turned his head, looking at Dean as if he were an idiot.

“Alright man. I’ll be there by noon.”

Dean hung the phone up and smirked at Buddy. “I knew you were too smart.”

The warm air had him more awake now. He stopped, realizing he could see the grounds from this little hill he was on top of.

The narrow road continued straight ahead with two shed buildings on the left of the road. They looked fairly new. A gravel parking area surrounded it. On the right side, a narrow lane went to a really decrepit looking stable. Old wooden fencing trimmed a nice pasture. He guessed the even row of high hedges backed by pine trees hid a wrought iron fence, marking the border of the property. It was hard to believe he was downtown.

He headed back for the house and walked in feeling much more awake. Gabe was on his phone, sitting on a box at the massive table.

“Sam and Cas went for a walk to look at the plumbing,” Gabe said.

“Have you photographed the place?” Dean asked, looking at the peeling wallpaper on the dining room wall.

“Yeah. Well, Cas did it. He spent a good two weeks wandering around taking weird pictures. My favorites are the fourth floor black lagoon and the creepy as fuck tricycle in the hallway up there.” He shivered loudly.

“Yeah. Did you get to the fifth floor yet?” Dean asked. “No. None of our keys unlock it and Cas wouldn’t let me break it down.”

Dean nodded. “You guys have been busy.”

“Yeah,” Gabe sighed, sitting his phone down. “Spent the first two weeks photographing and researching. Then the next 3 months cleaning. I fucking hate cleaning. Castiel and I scrubbed every window on the first floor and the second floor, third floor, and part of the fourth floor.”

“Castiel?” Dean asked, feeling the odd name. “I thought his name was Cassidy.”

“No,” Gabe snickered. “Castiel. Angel of Thursday.”

“And Gabriel. Your parents have a thing for angels?”

Gabe smirked. “Yep. We have another brother, Michael and a sister, Hannah. Angel names too. It’s an illness. Don’t be impressed.”

Dean laughed. He liked Gabe. He was way easier to be around than Cas. Castiel. Wonder boy of Thursdays and sticks up the ass.

“I gotta pick up the pizzas. Wanna come?”

“Sure,” Dean said, getting to his feet.

 

***

 

Castiel had learned some things lately.
1. Buddy was a traitor.
2. Slim Jims were good.
3. Good Will accepts suits and dress clothes by the bag full.
4. He could live forever on take-out food.

Castiel woke early that Thursday. You would think that since he was jobless, he would be lounging around and at least sleeping in. But no. Here he was, wetting his hair at 6:15am. But as he turned the shower water off and toweled his hair dry, he grinned. The old beast was getting plumbing today. The Winchesters never seemed to stop working. Since they swept into town four days ago, plans and progress were popping up everywhere.

Sam was amazing.

Dean was a hard worker too. And he kept Gabriel busy, so there was that. And he seemed a lot less cocky. Although, it still oozed out of him at random moments. For the most part, Dean seemed to avoid him, preferring his brother’s company. Like most people.

This gave him and Sam some time alone. They fell back into a very easy friendship. Sam seemed much more relaxed with who he had become and how his life had gone so far. Castiel wished the same were true for himself. Sam and Dean made a major move and bought their father out. They changed their stars.

Castiel had been handed something that wasn't his and was fired. Decisions made for him again. As much as he wanted to buck against the confines of his life, he just couldn’t. He liked Kripke Manor. He liked the history. He liked the Winchesters. He even liked spending day in and day out with Gabriel. He liked the dogs. And he liked not being a lawyer most of all.

He fixed his hair and pulled a t-shirt on. He realized for the first time since he was a child that he liked his life. He really liked it.

He grabbed the truck keys from Gabe when he got out to the parking lot. “You ride with Dean. I’m making a pit stop.”

Gabe nodded, only half awake and Cas headed into town and straight through it to the outskirts where there was a shopping center. A photography store in particular.

He knocked on the locked door, knowing Anna would be in there. She peeked around a corner, smiled and jogged over to the door to let him in.

“You’re early!”

“I have a lot going on today and was excited to see some of the prints.”

Anna grinned. “You are going to love them. I finished the last set last night.” She disappeared into her back room and came out with two large envelopes.

“This one has all your prints. Doubles if they have people in and if they were really cool.”

Castiel grinned. “Perfect.”

“But look at these, Castiel. I took the liberty of blowing these up. And in black and white. They are…you have to enter these somewhere. A magazine, a contest, something.”

She pulled out an 8x10 of the house in beautiful color. Then she slid out another. The long abandoned hall on the fourth floor with the tricycle. It gave him chills.

“Is that seriously in your house?” She whispered.

“Yes. Found just like that.”

She slid the next over. It was the stroller by the window. Just as chilling.

The dusty dinner. So. Creepy.

The last picture almost made Castiel vomit on the counter.

It was a picture of the messy entrance room on the fourth floor. It wasn’t the amazing angle of the furniture or the alluring mystery of the heaps of curtains. It was the man standing in the corner, next to the hallway door.

He was wearing an old suit and was looking right at the camera with a devilish grin on his face. He leaned nonchalantly on a shelf with a globe half covered on it.

“Oh yeah,” Anna said, turning the picture slightly. “I thought this was so cool. Is that a mannequin?”

Castiel’s tongue was so dry he could choke on it. He knew damn well there was no mannequin in that room. He racked his memory of taking the picture. He always felt so creeped out up there. Gabriel had even been with him. Behind him, on the stairs waiting.

“I don’t think we have a mannequin,” Castiel finally managed. “I don’t know that man,” he finished in a whisper.

Anna gave him a startled look. Her pale face paling even more. “Oh.”

They looked at it closer, Castiel’s heart pounding, and just around the edges, the man looked slightly translucent.

“Did you make this?” Castiel asked desperately. “Is this a joke?”

“Oh no, Castiel,” Anna said, shaking her head and pulling away from the photo. “I’m sorry. I had no idea. I just thought he was so…interesting. Standing there.” Her voice faded out and she took another step back.

Castiel swallowed hard. He slid the pictures back together and put them in the envelope. He took a deep breath and asked, “How much do I owe?”

He bought another memory card and some more film. And the two envelopes of pictures.

 

Back at the manor, he put the two envelopes in an empty kitchen drawer. The film, he put in his camera bag. He heard some noise coming from the back of the house. He went out the kitchen door to the back yard and saw a small machine digging a ditch up to the house. Garth stood close by, watching with Sam and Gabriel.

Dean saw him because Buddy barked and ran to Castiel’s side. He petted the dog, relaxing instantly at the now familiar smooth coat under his fingers.

He looked up to find Dean standing there with a small grin. “I have an idea about the fifth floor door,” he yelled over the noise of the digger.

Castiel straightened. “Should we get Sam and Gabe?”

Dean turned to look at them. “They didn’t seem too interested.”

Castiel looked at them as if they had lost their minds.

“My reaction exactly,” Dean laughed.

“They don’t want to see it?” Castiel asked in disbelief.

“Ask them. Maybe Sam will change his mind.”

Castiel headed over, tapping Sam’s elbow. “Do you want to see if we can get to the fifth floor?”

“Nah,” Sam said. “I wanna watch this.”

Gabe shook his head no.

He walked back over to Dean. “Just you, me, and Buddy.”

Dean grinned, patted Castiel on the shoulder and headed inside at a quick pace. Castiel followed him into the kitchen and up the four flights of steps. He hesitated, his breath catching in his chest as he looked around the cluttered room. He was equal parts horrified and relieved to see the spot next to the bookshelf empty. His chills ran hot and cold.

“You alright?” Dean asked, one step above him on the landing and giving him an odd look.

“Yes.” Castiel took a deep breath and his eyes fell onto what Dean had in his hand. “What is that? What are you doing?”

Dean gave him a guilty shrug. “Uh…it’s a lock picking kit. I uh…don’t ask.”

Castiel bit back a retort. There was an ease to the way Dean picked the lock that made Castiel wonder just what this man’s past was. Had he run background checks on them? No.

All other thoughts vanished as he heard the lock click.

“Yeah, baby,” Dean grinned.

The door swung open with a groan.

Dean pulled the door open, looking up a flight of steps. “After you, Cas.”

Cas’ eyebrows raised. He swallowed and looked down the steps where Buddy sat. “Come on, Buddy.”

“Good luck. He won’t ever come up here for me,” Dean said. “Follows me every other damn place. But won’t touch the fourth floor on this side.”

Castiel looked up at Dean. He nodded, stepping up and summoning his bravery.

He flipped a switch on the wall. No electricity. No surprise.

His eyes adjusted to the light. A set of keys hung on the wall next to the switch.

“Are these to the door?” Castiel asked, handing the slim ring to Dean, pulling a thick cobweb off of it and shaking it off his fingers.

Dean tried the key. “Yeah.”

Castiel furrowed his brow. “If the keys are locked inside…”

“I’m sure there were other sets,” Dean explained, handing the small set to Cas. He put them in his pocket and proceeded up the steps.

The stairs were steep and wound up into the attic with a handsome banister wrapping around the twist of the entrance.

It had the feel of an attic. So high and lofty. Top of the world.

Castiel’s eyes adjusted more to the light.

“Yay,” Dean said quietly. “More beds.”

Castiel smirked. There was a metal bed in the corner of the room. Two desks sat there with papers still sitting on them. “Oh my God. Is this from the TB hospital?”

Dean followed him closely. He carefully lifted a paper from the desk, blowing dust off of it.

“This is a list of…what is this?” Castiel mumbled out loud.

“Medications,” Dean said over his shoulder quietly.

“Yes. You're right.” Castiel set the paper down gently and looked at the other papers. They were pamphlets for a museum. Dean picked one up.

“Oh my God. This is Robert Singer’s museum, “ Castiel said, pointing at a slightly unfamiliar picture of Kripke Manor.

“This is so cool!” Dean turned the pamphlet over and handed it to Castiel.

“This is all…so amazing.”

Dean grinned and slowly stepped away, looking into all the nooks and crannies. One doorway stood open, leading to a hallway.

The pair walked slowly down the hallway. The first room on the right was a bathroom. On the left was a bedroom. The other 12 rooms were tiny with a bed in each one. Some had mattresses. Some were bare. And some had piles of cloth on top of the mattress.

“Check this out!” Dean said excitedly, stepping into the last room. Each room had an odd wooden rectangle on both walls. “This was definitely a TB ward. You could open the window on the end and open each of these.” He gently lowered the first board, a large opening showing between the two rooms.

“If you opened all of them and the window on the end, the cross breeze would have been great.”

Castiel nodded, following his thoughts. “Yes! That’s amazing!”

“Looks like they put in a house fan system…sometime in the 70’s. Probably to help cool down the house. They actually work really well.”

Castiel nodded. “You are very smart Dean. And creative.”

Dean looked at him. “Thanks.”

Castiel grinned.

 

***

 

That night, after a long day of plumbing and bathroom rehab, Dean took a walk to clear his mind. It was raining pretty steady, so he took his walk around the house. He ended up on the third floor, leaning in the double doors of the strange room that ran long and narrow above the ballroom.

His phone chirped. He pulled it out.

Cas: Hello, Dean. Where are you?

Dean: 3rd floor. Weird long skinny room. What’s up?

He got no reply and was just considering leaving when Cas came around the corner.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas. Whatcha doin?”

“I was wondering about your thoughts on what to use to clean the woodwork. I’m-“

“Murphy’s Oil. Don’t worry, I’ll do that. I massage it in the first time really well, but first I have to repair damaged spots, then it’s ready for step two. It’s a whole…process.”

“Oh,” Cas sighed. “I…keep looking for a project to get into.”

Dean grinned. “How about this room?”

Cas joined him in the double door entry.

“What are you going to do with this?” Dean asked, grinning.

Cas pulled his eyes away from Dean and looked down the long, odd room again. Windows lined both sides. It was getting dark outside and the rain had it even gloomier. Water running down the windows gave the room a watery look.

“No idea,” Cas sighed.

Dean called Sam. “Hey, bring all our pop-up LED’s and meet me on the 3rd floor skinny room.”

“Okay,” Sam said, not even questioning it. “Be there in ten.”

Dean grinned and slid his phone away.

“What are you thinking about?”

Dean looked at Cas quickly, his grin turning embarrassed. “Nothing. I mean, this room…it…” he decided to just let go of all his worry for the moment and just be his stupid self around Cas. So what if the guy didn’t like him. Screw it. “The way its so long and skinny…it makes me want to take off my shoes, run, and slide.”

Cas grinned slowly. He stared ahead, picturing it. A boyish playfulness that Dean had never seen softened Cas’ clenched jaw and stern eyes. He snorted a soft laugh. “Yes. Now that you mention it.”

Dean grinned. It would be fun to see Cas let go. It would be even more fun to get Gabe up here and get him going.

Cas turned the flashlight on his phone on. “Let’s check the floor. Then…I bet I can slide five feet further than you can.”

Dean scoffed a surprised laugh. “What? No way! I’m definitely sliding further than you.”

Cas gave him a challenging grin.

“Oh, it is so on,” Dean grinned slowly, shaking his head. He turned his flashlight on as well and they walked the length of the room, side by side, shining their lights on the floor.

“Got a rough spot here,” Dean said, both of them stopping to see a water damaged area in front of a window. They continued on, finding three other small spots that looked rough.

“We should get rollerblades,” Cas grinned.

“Yes!” Dean laughed.

They reached the end of the room. It stopped in a rounded, windowed end. The last six feet of the ceiling was a thick glass, making the end feel like a little bubble at the edge of the world. It was too dark now to see much. The slick, wet, black roof fell away at a steep pitch on all three sides, barely visible in the moonlight.

“I bet I can beat you back to the doors,” Cas grinned.

“Competitive much?” Dean laughed.

Cas shrugged, his grin slipping. Dean was not ready to see that playful look go away. “What’s the winner get?”

Cas’ grin resumed, his eyes twinkling. “Winner gets…Loser has to sleep here tonight!”

Dean’s brows shot up. “Here? Or the house in general?” Was he seriously negotiating terms for a race?

“The house. And every time you lose, I can get more specific about where.”

A thrill of anticipation and curiosity thrummed through Dean. This was a whole new side to Cas. “Alright, same for me.”

“Deal.” Cas grinned with a devilish mischief that reminded him of Gabe.

Dean laughed, shoving Cas over playfully to line up.

“Hello?” Sam called.

“Sammy!” Dean called, “Say, 3, 2, 1, go!”

Sam popped one of the lights on, looking confused. “Three, two, one, go?”

Dean sprinted with all his might, bumping elbows at least twice as they ran as fast as they could, almost crashing into a startled looking Sam.

“Ha! I won!” Cas danced around, huffing and grinning ear to ear.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean huffed, leaning on the wall. “You're fast.”

“And you're sleeping here tonight,” Cas chuckled.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean laughed. Cas was adorable.

“What did I miss?” Sam grinned.

Cas explained the bet, Sam laughing so hard that Dean had to think of something. “Where’s Gabe? Those two should race for the same thing. Loser has to sleep on a different floor though!”

Cas grinned, pulling his phone out and pointing at Dean. “It’s on!” He texted Gabe to get the hell up here and bring drinks. Pronto.

“Alright,” Dean said, shaking his arms out. “Sam, you gotta win this man. Can’t be lettin’ these Novaks mop the floor with us.”

Sam laughed, pulling his flannel shirt off. “I’m gonna race Gabe? I’m so gonna win.”

They set up the battery run LED lanterns. They had six, so they placed them every six or seven feet to really light the place up.

“This room kinda makes you wanna run,” Sam smiled.

“Or dance,” Cas laughed.

“Oh!” Dean hollered. “Moonwalk, ready?” He slid his feet backwards and ended his little streak with a quick spin and pose.

Sam and Cas clapped and whistled.

“What the hell? How did a party erupt without my knowing?” Gabe laughed, walking halfway down the room to meet them.

“Gabe!” All three of them yelled.

“I brought drinks!” He grinned wide.

“Oh, this is gonna be epic,” Sam laughed. “Come on, Gabe, you and I are racing. Loser has to sleep here.”

“What? No way.”

“Come on!” The other three jeered until Gabe was grinning like an idiot and heading for the end of the room.

They lined up. Dean laughed. “Ready, set, go!”

Right as Dean called ‘go’, Gabe shoved Sam to the side and got a head start. Sam was laughing so hard that Gabe beat him big time.

“You lost?” Dean laughed. “Dude, that should have been a gimme! Yer legs are so damn long you coulda been here in three strides!”

They all laughed.

“Alright, alright,” Cas reeled in his laugh. “Shots, then sock slides are on.”

“Sock slides?” Sam asked.

“That’s what started this whole mess!” Dean laughed. “I said the room made me feel like taking a run and sliding on my socks, then Mr. Type A here turned it into a competition!”

“Don’t be a sore loser, Dean,” Cas laughed, lording his win a little and pushing Dean over a step.

Gabe had poured four shots of Vodka. They touched their glasses together. “To Kripke! Whoever the fuck you were!” Gabe called. They downed the shots quickly and Gabe gave them half a shot for round two. “To Dad! We soooo got the better end of the will!” They all drank and sat the glasses against the wall with the bottle.

They took their shoes off and limbered up a bit. “Okay,” Dean said as serious as if this were the Olympics, “we run until we hit the fourth light, then slide.”

Cas studied the room. “Okay.”

Dean could feel the warmth of the vodka pumping through him. “Count us off, guys.”

They lined up, both serious and focused.

“Ready, set,”

Dean saw Cas’ hand twitch.

“Go!”

They both shoved at each other, bouncing off the wall and tried to run, Gabe and Sam yelling the whole time the pair jostled each other down the length. They attempted slides but were so off balance it was little more than a slip. They were both laughing so hard they were crying and there was no way the race could count.

“New rule!” Sam declared. “No touching during a race!”

They set up again, fighting to not laugh. Sam gave them the go and they ran, their socked feet thundering softly down the wood floor and they slid.

“YYYyyeeeeaaah! Dean yelled, Cas laughing.

As they slid to a stop, Dean lifted his arms in victory. “Looks like I got plenty of company tonight!”

Cas drooped his shoulders but laughed. “Damn it!”

The shots and games continued for so long that they were all completely trashed. At this point, Dean was to sleep on the fifth floor, second room on the right, head at the foot of the bed and light for no more than three minutes. Each detail being added on when they lost a round of whatever ridiculous challenge someone could think up. Cas was sleeping on a mattress from the ballroom, in the bedroom with the stool in it, on the first floor. No light.

Dean couldn’t even remember Sam and Gabe’s ridiculous sleeping rules. He had enough trouble keeping his and Cas’ straight.

Vodka gone, they agreed the drinking was over. Now, they were all laying on the floor at the end of the long room, watching the rain slide off the ceiling glass and fall away.

“I gotta pee,” Dean laughed.

“It’s sooo far away,” Gabe mumbled.

“Jus open a window,” Sam sighed.

Dean laughed at the thought. “No, no. I’ma go down. Then aaallll the way to the attic cuz Cas is a mean ass, no good bastard.”

Cas laughed. “I can’t help you lose all the time.”

Dean shoved him, the pair laughing again.

“I’m stayin’ here. Fuck sleepin’ in the terrarium,” Gabe huffed.

“That’s cheating,” Sam laughed, attempting to push him, but only managing to flop partially on him. “And isa solArium.”

The pair chuckled and quit moving all together.

“Aw, shit,” Dean giggled, sitting up. “They’re asleep!”

Cas sat up as well. “Come on. I gotta pee too.”

They stumbled and giggled down stairs and staggered through the halls.

“Where the fuck is that bathroom?” Dean laughed when they realized they were lost.

“I have a toilet!” Cas laughed.

“You have fifty toilets.”

“But I haf a toilet that flushes now. Dean. Like civilized folk.”

“I know, Thursday,” Dean laughed. “I bolted the bastard in! But where the fuck did we leave it?”

They dissolved into laughter and wound their way to the sweeping stairs overlooking the foyer.

Dean laughed hard. “We were on the wrong fucking floor!”

Cas laughed and started climbing onto the wide banister.

“What the hell?” Dean giggled. “No, no, no, Cas.” He pulled Cas’ wobbling frame off the banister by his waist.

“I’m gonna slide down!”

“No.”

“Dean!”

Dean kept a tight hold on him and the pair managed to go down the whole flight without falling.

At the foot of the stairs, Cas pouted. Dean shrugged. “You’da fallen over the edge.”

“Nu uh,” Cas said. His face lit up with obvious excitement of a brilliant plan. He giggled and turned quick to dart up the steps again.

Dean snatched him by the belt on the second step, reeling him into himself. “No way, you nut. No climbing. We’re going to pee.”

Cas’ face was a trail of slow realizations. He was elated at his escape, so dismayed with his capture, then adjusted to his new position, a different shade of excitement filling up his expression.

Dean knew the look. Drunken lust. A loud voice clambered in his mind. ‘He’s your client! Not okay! Not okay! Bad business!’ But his eyes were so inviting and his mouth was so close. ‘Really bad idea! Gonna regret it! Gonna get awkward! Might lose everything! 15 million dollar account with not just YOUR job on the line!’

Fuck.

That last one hit like cold water.

Cas’ hands slid down Dean’s biceps an inch and he angled his hips closer.

Oh shit. That wasn’t fair.

“Bathroom,” he blurted.

Cas lost the trance, grinning. “That way,” he pointed.

They fell apart and stumbled a little less, finally finding the bathroom.

They both peed, taking turns. Dean stood, leaning heavily on the wall outside the bathroom. When Cas came out, he looked at Dean quietly with a small grin.

“Piggy-back ride?”

Dean chuckled. When did Cas get so fucking cute? He was the uptight one. The no-fun one. The one that Dean couldn’t shake. He pulled himself forward, standing up straight. He knew right where he would take Cas. Sleepy-headed, cute as shit, Cas.

“Come on, Thursday.”

Cas giggled, hopping up, making Dean stagger forward.

“I’m too heavy,” Cas giggled right into Dean’s fucking ear.

“Stop!” He laughed, veering dangerously into the hall wall. “I’m just too drunk for this.”

Cas laughed and Dean felt like he was filled up inside with hot fudge. Warm, sweet, and silly.

He hiked Cas up a bit, his hands cupping Cas’ thighs a bit more than necessary. Cas was like a small bear wrapped around him.

He wound around the halls and into the large living room. It was the most used room in the house right now and there was a maze of supplies, boxes, chairs, and thankfully, one empty, comfy couch.

Dean turned his back to it and sat down, letting Cas flop back into it.

He huffed out a breath and was acutely aware of Cas’ legs wrapped around his waist. His hips snug against Dean’s and his hands, now settling gently just above his hips.

“Sleep with me.”

A cascade of cold water bathed Dean’s drink-addled mind. Cas did not just say that.

“Dean, just…stay here and sleep with me.”

‘With me?’ What did that mean? Sleep? Sex? Shit. He chuckled nervously. “I have to go the the fifth floor. Second room on the-“

Cas’ hand slid up his back. “Just…don’t go. I don’t want to sleep down here alone.”

Aw, fuck. The alone card. Damn it. And he did say sleep.

Dean hesitantly looked over his shoulder.

Sensing it, Cas lifted his head from where it lolled to the back of the couch. No grin this time. His hand slid a few inches across his back again as Cas looked at him, blinking slowly.

“I should…” Dean stopped. What was it he should do again? Everything turned mushy again. Where else could he possibly have to be right now?

Cas grinned slowly. “It’s okay,” he said softly.

What was okay? Leaving? Staying? Kissing him? Those were all okay?

Cas leaned forward, his chest pressing snuggly against Dean’s back and the bastard wrapped his legs around his waist tighter. His arms reached around and his chin sat right on Dean’s shoulder. He instinctively tipped his head back some.

“Gotta take our shoes off,” Cas said, undoing his laces and pushing his boots off, right over and around Dean.

Shoes. How could shoes be so fucking scintillating?

Both shoes off, he relaxed his legs and pulled away, sliding up to one end of the couch.

Dean watched, his mouth hanging open slightly and his back as cold as if it were exposed to a windy storm.

Cas scooted back into the cushions and just looked down at the pillow.

Shy. That was a shy look. That was the Cas he knew. Shy, not confident. Dean was confident. A grin crept up one side of his mouth as if he just remembered who he was. He was Dean Fucking Winchester. He wasn’t losing this job. Not after that little shoe display followed by that shy insecurity.

He shoved his shoes off, Cas looking up at him hopefully.

He glanced around. No blanket. He pulled his flannel shirt off, down to his t-shirt, jeans, and socks, like Cas.

He laid down, face to face, crowding into Cas’ space. He fluffed out his flannel and pulled it over both their shoulders, making a small blanket.

Cas grinned.

Dean grinned.

Dean moved Cas’ arm, putting his own in a more comfortable position and making Cas fit onto his chest. It was warmer and more comfortable. Dean closed his eyes. And it felt so good.

After a moment of barely breathing, Cas relaxed and snuggled in even more. His fingers would move on his chest and stop. And start. And it made Dean grin.

A few minutes passed. Rain fell against the windows and the huge house echoed and groaned and settled around them.

 

***

 

Cas woke the next morning with a nagging headache. His stomach growled hungrily and he needed to pee. The smell of leather tickled his senses. He opened his eyes and flexed his hands.

Dean.

He was wrapped around Dean Winchester on the couch.

Oooohhhh shit.

Dean slept soundly, little puffs of air softly blowing his hair and tickling him. He slid his arms away slowly and watched as Dean frowned softly. Cas moved slowly, coming up on one knee, which was pressing awfully close to Dean’s crotch. One hand on the back of the couch and one on the other side of Dean’s head, kept him upright.
He tilted to move a leg and Dean grinned. And chuckled.

His eyes were still closed and Cas realized he wasn’t quite awake.

Dean’s smile grew a tiny bit bigger. Cas grinned back.

He finished levering himself off the couch and waited.

Dean frowned and rolled over, one hand searching a little. Cas bit his lip and took off quietly for the bathroom. He peed and brushed his teeth. He had slept with Dean.

In the weak light of morning, the thought tripped around a bit more in his mind, he hesitated. What was he doing?

He walked back to the living room slowly. It was chilly in the huge house. He stopped at the foot of the couch. Rain still poured down and the day was dawning grey.

He looked back down to the couch and saw Dean was awake.

“Oh!” He said, startled.

Dean grinned crookedly. He got up yawning and stretching. He walked out of the room, looking like he was headed to the bathroom.

Castiel sat back on the couch. It was too early. And too complicated. Why Dean? They had all been together. There had been plenty of horseplay all around. But Dean was….

Cas reviewed the night in his mind. He had followed Dean more than once. Made excuses to touch him. Teased him.

When Dean had grabbed him at the foot of the stairs, it had alerted himself enough to know that there was more to the pair of them than…well, more than there was with Sam.

It made no sense. He liked Sam. Sam was good looking. Funny, smart, and much more like himself than Dean was.

Dean was…like hot velvet under Cas’ touch.

“Damn, that’s a good smile, Cas.”

Castiel’s eyes popped open and Dean was standing there, watching him. He had a flirtatious smile that quickly turned cold.

“I’m heading out. I’ll be back in about an hour with some breakfast.” He grabbed his shoes and headed out the foyer. The shutting of the front door was a heavy, dark, hateful thing.

Castiel scrubbed his hands over his face. Shit. Shit.

He frowned, clenching his jaw. That had been way too close. He sighed heavily. Too close.

 

***

 

The brothers all met in the dining room later that day at two in the afternoon. They had been in planning mode for days.

This was the hardest part for Dean. All the meetings. But he had to know what he was working with, what it used to be, and what the client wanted it to become. He had to have all three pieces before he could get his hands dirty.

Dean pulled up in the rental and greeted Buddy and Rumsfeld with a Slim Jim. They followed him into the dining room where he pulled a box over to the table to join the other three men and now Garth too.

They went floor by floor and idea after idea for hours. Cas and Gabe wanted to turn the place into a wedding and event venue. Their thoughts tracked well with the house.

The first floor would be for business and guests. The ballroom could hold 200 people seated or 175 in a reception style set up. Weddings could be held outside or inside the ballroom. The stack of kitchens were going to be plenty to cater in house. It was well thought out and manageable.

The first plan was to ‘section’ an apartment for Gabe, Cas, and whoever else they wanted to house, in the wing section of the third floor.

When this was done, they could really dig in to the ground floor. The sheer size of the job was overwhelming even to Sam and Dean at times. But they kept their shit together and got a good plan sketched out. And estimates.

Sam hesitated, but handed the stapled pack over to Cas. “This is the contract. There is no way we can foresee what costs or time constraints we could run into. But this is our best guess.”

“Six million dollars?” Gabe asked, having started to look through it. “That's way under budget.”

Sam grinned. “I can always find ways to spend money. And that leaves us plenty of room for unexpected costs.”

The table sat quiet. Dean stretched his sore back. They really needed chairs.

“Sign it when you're ready,” Sam said.

“How about by tomorrow,” Dean interrupted. “We gotta start moving on this.”

“These things take time, Dean,” Sam cautioned, giving him a warning look.

“I’m good,” Gabe said, signing it and sliding it over to Cas.

Sam and Dean both were surprised with that.

“I don’t know what the hell we are gonna go through here guys,” Gabe announced, standing, “but I can guarantee it’s gonna take more than 6 mil. And longer than 18 months. And I’m all in.”

Cas smiled, looking back down at the contract. “When the apartment section is done, how many of you would want to live on site?”

Sam blew a breath out. He looked at Dean. “Eight. Tops.”

Castiel flipped to all the pages that needed signed, signing them. He slid the contract over, standing.

Sam, Dean, and Garth got to their feet as well. They all shook hands and congratulated each other.

 

***

 

“We have two weeks until this place turns into a never-ending zoo. Are you ready?”

Castiel sighed. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

The Novak brothers stood on the half-circle porch of the manor, watching the rental cars drive away.

“They’re gonna do a great job. Right?” Cas asked, worried.

Gabe slapped his shoulder. “Yes! And at least it’ll be a pleasure watching them do it!”

The drunken foray in the ‘Running Room’ they had dubbed it, had left Sam and Gabe unfazed. Apparently all they did was sleep as well, much to Gabe’s dismay. They had both passed out completely.

Dean was back to his stiff, unfriendly manner. Cas was glad nothing more had happened. And he had Dean to thank for that. Because Castiel would have done so much more.

So. Much. More.

His crush on Sam was quite fizzled out. Sam was great. But they really were just friend material. Sam’s warm brown eyes and big hands made Cas feel comfortable and relaxed. Not fired up and shaky and nervous and fill your mind with filthy thoughts at the most random moments. No. For some damn reason…that was Dean.

Castiel headed inside. He didn’t want to like Dean. It was a bad idea. And no good for him. And…fuck.

Buddy wouldn’t come in. He stayed on the porch. “He’ll be back, Buddy. But not for a while.”

It was depressing. Seriously.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 Plumbing, Electricity, and Pie

 

Castiel was sure of several things.
1. Buddy was losing weight.
2. The house was losing heat.
3. Gabriel and his gas could still clear a room, even when they were drafty.
4. There was a sword on the fourth floor of his home.

 

It felt like forever, waiting for the return of the Winchesters. But finally, they were coming back. Gabriel had ordered a banner for the gate that read, ‘Welcome Winchester Family Business!’

Castiel thought it was a bit much, but Gabriel was tickled. There had been plenty to do before things could really get started. Insurance plans had to be updated, permits had to be secured, and the longest of all, the historical society had to have their monthly meeting and yea/nay the general plan for the estate.

It helped immensely that Castiel and Gabriel were both lawyers. When they had their suits on, they could walk the walk and talk the talk. No one was getting anything past them. Luckily for all involved, the town seemed quite eager for their business to get afloat. The townspeople had event ideas suddenly crawling out of the woodwork.

Some they considered, some they started contracts for, and others they kindly vetoed. Danville was excited.

Having historic rehabilitation done on a scale as large as this property required quite the ordeal. Sam, Dean, and a crew of six others would move here from their home base in Kansas for the duration of the project. The contract stipulated that the eight crew members would live and work for three months at a time, five days a week, then have a week off. Repeat until project complete. The eight crew members would stay at a hotel at Novak expense until the first ‘section’ was complete. Then the eight had the option to reside on site for free or reside at a place of their choosing at their own cost.

“They’re here!” Gabe yelled from the foyer. Castiel filled his coffee mug and headed toward the door.

When he got to the porch. There was a semicircle around Dean, who was laying on the ground.

Initially, Castiel panicked. What could have possibly happened? And why wasn’t anyone helping him? As Castiel jogged into the circle, he relaxed.

Dean lay flat on his back, arms full of crying, whining, Buddy. Broken laughter and garbled ‘I missed you too, boy’ could barely be made out. “Buddy!” Castiel called sharply. The dog stepped off Dean looking at them all sheepishly.

Dean sighed a laugh and tried to wipe off his face and ears the best he could with the sleeves of an olive green jacket.

“Somebody missed him some Dean!” Gabriel laughed, helping him to his feet. Buddy pinned himself to Dean’s leg, panting.

“Man! I never saw anything like that!” Dean said, petting the dog with assurance. “I feel bad for leaving!”

“Well, you might have to take him with you,” Gabe said, the group moving inside the foyer now. “He whined and cried and sulked when you left.”

“Yeah. Cas sent me a picture of him layin’ on the porch with Rum lookin’ abused and neglected!”

“I had to start buying Slim Jims,” Cas admitted, keeping his eyes more on the dog than Dean.

Dean laughed, pulling one out. “Jeez, I didn’t know I was causing such an issue.”

“Gabe, Cas,” Sam said, getting the group in some kind of order. “I want to introduce you to the crew. These guys will be regulars and here until the end. This is Bobby, he’s our foreman, researcher, and everyone’s boss. Even mine and Dean’s when we need it.”

A friendly looking man with a ball cap on and a brown beard stepped out and waved.

“This is Charlie, our master electrician.”

A petite red-head stepped out with a wave. “Hey!” She shook both their hands with a contagious grin. “This place is sooo cool!”

“This is Ash. He’s our detailer. You name it, he inspects it. Bugs, leaks, cracks, woodwork, plaster work, anything you can think of.”

Another red-head waved. Castiel could not help but wonder about him a little. He looked awfully tired.

“This is Rufus, head of machinery, digging, and laborers.”

“Nice ta meet ya,” Rufus grinned, shaking their hands hard.

His hair was dashed with salt and pepper but his eyes were bright and his hand shake very firm.

“Benny is our heat and AC guy.”

A dapper looking man with a trim beard stepped out, shaking their hands. “Glad to be here.”

He had an accent for sure, but Castiel could not place it yet. He seemed friendly.

“And you met Garth, our master plumber,” Sam added as Garth waved.

“Hey fellas! Good to be back!”

“It is so wonderful to have all of you here,” Castiel said, taking in the group. “I appreciate you working here, being away from your homes for so long. I feel as though I’ve drug you all out of your beds and off to war.”

“No way,” Gabe laughed. “This is gonna be awesome! More like…Freshman year than war!”

Some of them laughed but they all smiled.

“If you have ANY concerns,” Sam added. “Please tell me, Dean, or Bobby right away. If not the person themselves. We’re a tight-knit group and prefer to handle any issues before they get out of hand.”

Cas and Gabe nodded. Neither of them, rather, none of them, had ever been in charge of anything this huge.

 

And so it began.

That night they had a two hour meeting in the dining room, getting some details and paperwork out of the way. Tomorrow the first ‘section’ was to begin. The wing of the third floor. Ten rooms needed to be livable. Two bathrooms and a temporary kitchen.

For two weeks, they gutted carefully, dug carefully, and tore open carefully.

Castiel learned quickly that Charlie and Garth were the two most frightening people. They were always tearing open walls or digging trenches, smiling and assuring him he would never know they were there.

Castiel thought he may have a nervous breakdown when he saw Charlie remove an entire section of horsehair plaster. She just seemed so calm about it. He went to Bobby when she had assured him everything was fine. Bobby checked her work, saying the same thing. Sam said the same. Castiel was sure no one knew anything.

He considered getting medication for his anxiety.

He started small projects that inevitably were taken over by someone else. He did, however, ascertain all permits needed. Sam often accompanied him for this, but the owner being there made the processes go faster.

They left for a week at Thanksgiving, returned for two weeks and then went home for Christmas.

Castiel found it upsetting. Holes and dirt and ditches and he didn’t understand what was going where and how they were ever going to fix it.

“Take a chill pill, Cassie,” Gabriel would groan.

They had been staying at the manor since the night they first slept there after their drinking binge in the running room. Most of their time had been spent on the ground floor, where Garth had equipped them with plumbing for one bathroom and the main kitchen.

At least things were feeling more home-like with the near completion of the third floor wing.

When the crew went home, the manor became unbearably quiet.

Castiel found it irritating that Buddy was so attached to Dean. Rumsfeld was attached to the front porch, where he bugled on-comers and terrorized the gas man.

When everyone returned in January, things went into full swing. Virginia’s winters were much milder than winters in Washington DC, but this year there was a cold damp that clung to the air, making the house cold.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, sitting on a box at the dining room table.

Castiel looked up from the article he was reading about the use of ventilation systems in TB hospitals. “Hello, Dean.”

Even though he was constantly around all these people, Dean tended to be the one he spoke to least. Especially alone. If Dean wanted to play the dodge and cold-shoulder game, he could play. And besides that, they were truly busy. Castiel was trying to stay out of the way.

“The furnace is vented to these three rooms,” Dean said, pointing to the house plan that never left the dining room table. He touched the kitchen, dining room, living room, and a bathroom. “Now we’re working on routing to the third floor and I wanted to see what rooms you want heated.”

Castiel pulled the plan a little closer and looked all over the third floor wing. He pointed out and Dean made a note on one. “And here?” He added.

“That’s…no. I wouldn’t do that. It’s so big.” Dean said, eyes intent on the plan.

“Okay,” Castiel agreed. “The rest sound good?”

“Yep.” Dean grinned politely and nodded. He left the room and Castiel sighed. He was sick of feeling uncomfortable around Dean. So he had made a pass and Dean politely dodged it. Prior to that, he had more fun that night than he had in years. He resolved to be kinder and more polite to Dean. He could hear Dean in the kitchen laughing with Charlie. He wanted that. That ease.

He stood up, determined to…mingle.

He licked his lips, ran a hand through his hair and went into the kitchen.

“I’m gonna see what this little town has to offer. Cas! You should come too!” Charlie said, seeing him enter the kitchen.

“Come where?” Cas asked.

“The Roadhouse! It’s Friday night and some of us are going out tonight! Apparently they have a hot waitress there that I am dying to meet.”

Castiel furrowed his brow. “Jo?”

Charlie nodded and Dean grinned guiltily.

“Jo is…very pretty,” Castiel smiled, his resolve slipping a bit.

“Apparently she’s pretty feisty too,” Dean added. “Or so Cas tells me.”

“Oh! Feisty!” Charlie grinned. “I gotta get a move on. I might have to shave my legs for this.”

She flew out of the kitchen, the two of them left standing there grinning.

“Dean,” Cas asked, his grin sliding back to a flat line. “If I would come, would it make everyone uncomfortable?”

“Uncomfortable?” Dean repeated. “No, man. It’s no big deal. We’re just goin’ to relax. No heavy drinking or rowdy crowd bullshit. Come. It would be good for you.”

Castiel grinned again. “Okay. Thanks.” To his immense surprise, Buddy followed him. He did not tell Dean as much, but he had started keeping a Slim Jim in his pocket. He was not too proud to beg for his dog’s devotion.

 

***

 

They crowded around a table at The Roadhouse. “This is perfect timing for a celebration,” Sam announced when they all got their beers or drinks.

“We can move in to Kripke Manor tomorrow! The heat is pumping and we are good to go!”

Everyone cheered and Castiel and Gabriel were ecstatic to not have to pay for anymore hotel rooms. They patted Benny on the back and teased him as well.

They had eight rooms ready and with Cas and Gabe, there were ten people. There would have to be some sharing or two could stay at the hotel. Castiel left that for them to work out. He had learned to back off and let them function without his stressing about what they were doing. They were a trustworthy group.

 

***

Castiel was glad he went out with the group. He got to know Bobby a little better. The guy was quiet and a little hard to read. He came across as surly, but Castiel loved when he was with Sam or Dean. The chemistry was very endearing. He often worried when he was with Rufus. The pair seemed slightly toxic.

Garth was a charming and nice young man. Very kind. He did talk a lot.

Charlie was fantastic. She kept Dean laughing, which was always fun to see. And she made him laugh as well. She was so quick witted and smart.

Rufus was not so easy to approach. It was somewhat like approaching a stranger’s Rottweiler. But he wasn’t so bad once Dean smoothed things over and Sam lent his usual ease.

Ash seemed to disappear once they got there, but then Castiel had seen him behind the counter, possibly working with Ellen. It was hard to tell.

 

***

 

Sam and Dean arrived early at the manor the next day. The four met in the dining room.

With his coffee in hand and early morning frost still clinging to his jacket, Dean started talking.

“We need you to decide who is going where.”

Gabriel shrugged. “Can’t we all just pick rooms?”

“No. When you run an operation like this, decisions are best made for people when it comes to group shit like this. It keeps down any bullshit.”

Gabe nodded thoughtfully. “I want this room.” Gabe pointed to the large suite that was over the living room. It had a beautiful curved wall that looked to the back of the property.

Dean jotted Gabe’s name down in tiny pencil print in the corner. He pulled out a stack of post it notes and made a note.

“Cas?” Sam asked.

Castiel looked at the wing. “I don’t know. I can go wherever.”

“Corner suite in the back?” Dean pointed.

“Sure.”

“I’ll take this room at the top of the steps,” Dean noted.
“Sammy?”

Sam blew out a breath. “That suite will be good. We can keep office stuff in there too.”

“Good plan, good plan,” Dean mumbled. He filled in Charlie next to his room, Benny across from her, Ash and Garth in the front corner room and Bobby and Rufus in the next room.

“That’s not gonna work,” Dean grinned. “Bobby needs his own place.”

“Give them the suite,” Cas suggested, I can take that room.”

Dean looked up at him. “Cas. You're the boss. The owner. You get a big room. Trust me. It helps keep things in line.”

“But I don’t need a lot of space,” Castiel shrugged.

Dean huffed a laugh and Sam grinned.

“Cas,” Sam said encouragingly. “Dean’s right. It’s just better to keep things this way. The only way I would do that was if we put like four people in there. And they would hate that.”

“Oh,” Castiel said. “Well…whatever you think is best.” The information sunk in. He was the boss. He and Gabe. Of all these people. It was a bit overwhelming.

“This room is almost done,” Castiel pointed to the room across from Gabe’s suite. “It has heat and it won’t take Charlie long to get it electricity. Put Bobby in there and Rufus will have that room to himself.”

“Alright,” Dean grinned, noting it.

The rest of the day was spent moving everyone into the section of the third floor that had been renovated enough to be livable.

Dean had post-it notes on doors to mark the rooms and it did make things smooth.

The rooms were not pretty. But they were warm(ish) and had electricity.

Gabriel had gone and purchased ten queen size beds, knowing they would be used. Castiel had picked up ten sets of bedding and all the supplies for the bathrooms.

It reminded him of ‘move in day’ at the dorms when he was in college. It made him miss his band posters and lava lamp. They spent the day assembling bed frames, headboards, footboards, bedding, and other new purchases like lamps, night stands, and a particularly confusing bed to chair combo thing from Ikea Charlie had brought.

They went to the fourth floor to scavenge for wardrobes, desks, chairs, and dressers. They worked for hours moving the heavy furniture.

There was a living room and a kitchen for all of them to share. Gabriel said he would stock them tomorrow. It was a fun and exhausting day.

When Castiel went to bed that night, he felt like he was home. The place was really starting to grow on him. The dogs seemed more settled as well. Rumsfeld slept outside Bobby’s door. Buddy started out in his room. But an hour or so after he had been in bed, Buddy left.

Cas could guess where he went. Traitor. Well, at least he was gaining weight and eating better.

 

***

‘Section 2’, heavy duty reconstruction began for plumbing, heating, electrical, and air conditioning. These were the systems that were all-encompassing and hard to manage.

Ash also found termite damage, which slowed them down a few days to replace a beam and a section of wall. He also found one of the coolest things Castiel had yet to see.

Ash had come running to find either Cas or Gabe when he collided into Cas coming in a door.

“Dude, dude, dude, dude! You gotta come see!” Ash was more alert than Cas had ever seen him. He really wondered what could have caused such a reaction.

Ash brought him into the kitchen.

“Check this out, man!” He knelt down by the wall, next to the end of one of the counters. He pressed and slid a panel toward the floor on the wall, sliding it sideways and revealing a length of crawl space.

“What is that?” Castiel asked, shining his flashlight app inside.

“Dude! I think it’s a secret passageway!” Ash exclaimed.

Without any further prompting, Castiel crawled inside. Sure enough, a tunnel barely wide enough to hold him dropped down under the floor level.

It was brick lined and torture on the knees. It was not tall enough to stand in.

He crawled along the skinny tunnel. “I’m under the kitchen and I think I’m going to be under the dining room.”

He was so excited. He went slowly and the tunnel led further along. The brick under his hands turned to wood. “Yeah, this is probably the dining room!”

“Cool!” He heard Ash holler back.

The wood turned back to brick along a section and then back to wood.

“I might be in the-“

 

***

 

Ash came flying into the library.

“Dean! Dean! I can’t find him! He was crawling and now I can’t find him anywhere man!”

Ash was one of the most chilled out people Dean had ever met. To see him this upset was definitely alarming.

“Who?” Dean asked, climbing down from his ladder and joining Ash as they both ran down the hall.

“Cas! I found a secret passage and I lost him!”

Dean followed Ash down the hall, through the foyer, down another hall and into the big kitchen.

“See! There's this panel in the wall. It slides over and there’s a passage.”

“Maybe you just can’t hear him,” Dean said, trying to calm him down. He squatted in front of the open panel, looking down into the crawl space. “He just…went in?”

“Dude, he jumped right in,” Ash grinned with a nod. “I started to follow him. It goes under the kitchen floor and that way. He said he thought he was in the dining room, then he started to say something when I heard the crash.”

Dean stood up. All the blood drained from his face. “You heard a crash?”

“Yep. Kind of a…definitely a crash.”

“And you didn’t hear him after that?”

“No.” Ash frowned. “I woulda kept going…but I thought if something happened to me…well, no one would even know we were down there.”

Dean nodded. “That’s smart.” He felt sick. In a huge place like this, serious things could happen. He pulled his phone out, calling Sam.

“What?” Sam answered.

“We got a 911 in the first floor kitchen. It’s Cas.”

“Got it.”

Dean knew everything would stop within a minute. This was not their first rodeo. When something happened that could possibly be structural damage or involve the life of someone, the site went on an all-stop.

“I’m goin’ in, Ash,” Dean said, pulling his jacket off so he could move better.

“It’s brick-lined at first, then changes from brick to wood and varies. You can’t stand up. You gotta crawl.”

“If he’s not dead, I’m gonna put him on a fucking leash to keep him out of trouble,” Dean joked.

He got in the tunnel as Sam and Benny came in the kitchen.

“Wait, wait,” Sam snapped. “We’re doing this smart, Dean!” Sam’s frown went from severe to curious. “What the hell are you doing?”

Ash filled him in. “Okay,” Sam brainstormed quickly. “Benny, give me your phone.”

Sam dialed his own number with shaky hands and put it on speaker. “Put this in your pocket and keep talking to us. Got it?”

Dean took the phone, put it in his chest pocket and entered the tunnel.

“What’s going on?” He heard Gabe say over the phone as he crawled slowly along the brick tunnel.

Dean tuned them out as he used a mini Maglite in his mouth to light his way.

The bricked tunnel veered toward the back of the house and changed to a wooden one. “I think I’m under the dining room.” He announced.

He continued on, the tunnel changed back to brick. “I might be under the living room now.”

The tunnel stopped and the chute went straight up. A ladder was nailed into the wall. It was wooden and looked very brittle.

The light of the flashlight caught the jagged edges of broken wood at the foot of the ladder. A big hole had given way just before the ladder.

“Cas?” Dean called. He heard movement below him. The chalky tink of a brick falling maybe. “Cas?”

He got close enough to the hole to shine his light down into it. “I found a hole. Looks new. I think I’m on the outer wall past the fireplace in the living room. Or under it, I guess. But the tunnel stops here and goes up.”

“Can you see Cas?” Sam asked nervously.

Dean shined the light. “I see a room below me…it’s dirt or just really old…there’s a pile of wood and bricks. There he is.” The light illuminated a moving foot.

“He’s moving but not answering me,” Dean said nervously. “I gotta get down there.”

“Dean, wait. We’ll bring rope and-“

Dean tuned the rest out. “Cas!”

He heard coughing and wheezing. A notch of fear went away. He was breathing.

“Damn it, Cas, answer me!” Dean called. He knew if he dropped through the hole he would land right on top of Cas. He started pushing at the floor boards to see if he could break his own way down.

“Dean!” Sam yelled. “Just wait!”

“Pretty sure we’re gonna need an ambulance,” Dean blurted, trying to shut his brother up.

He heard something from below him and went to the edge again. Cas was moving now. He turned and pushed and shoved. Boards and bricks fell away and thick rivets of dirt and dust puffed and slid. Dean saw shoulders first, then the back of his head until his whole back was out and he was on all fours.

“Cas?” Dean yelled a little nicer this time. “I’m right here, man. You okay?”

Castiel turned a filthy and bewildered look up to Dean.

Dean’s heart clenched. Fucking hell.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Dean managed to squeeze out. “I’m gonna come down and get you.”

Cas’ head tipped down and he coughed so hard it made Dean grit his teeth.

“Can you move away from there?” Dean coached, shining the light off the side a little. “I’m gonna come down.”

Cas staggered on his knees off to the side, still coughing.

Dean hurried to shift around and get his feet into the hole and he jumped in.

He landed on the pile, lunging off of it and quickly finding his footing.

Cas, still on his knees, shook his head. “Why didn’t I think of that?” Cas laughed and spluttered and coughed.

“Hey,” Dean shrugged, “they can’t all be as cool as me!”

Cas hung his head, heaving in and out.

Dean quickly squatted down to him. “What hurts?”

Cas lifted a hand to his chest and slid it down to his sternum.

He coughed, covering his mouth with his hand.

Dean bit his lip when he saw blood. Cas was coughing up blood. That was bad. They needed out of here.

“Hello?”

Dean looked up to the hole above them. “Benny!”

“Hey brotha,” Benny grinned. He pulled a phone up to his mouth. “Tell Gabriel I’m lookin’-“ he paused. “Gabe, I’m lookin’ at yo brotha righ now. Can you give me a thumbs up, Castiel?”

Cas went up on his knees shakily and held up a bloody thumb.

“He gave me a thumbs up. He’s up and movin. Now put Sam back on the phone, brotha.” Benny grinned kindly.

“We need an ambulance,” Dean said as calmly as he could, putting himself between Benny and Cas with his back to Cas. “He’s coughing up blood and I think he has a concussion.”

Benny nodded.

Dean stepped back, squatting where Cas knelt. The poor guy teetered slightly on his knees.

“I found the basement,” Cas managed in a sleepy, raspy voice.

“Yes, you did,” Dean laughed, damn near wanting to cry.

For the first time, he shined the light around the room they were in. It was a storage room with shelves lining three walls. The floor was tile, but it was so old and dirty it took Dean wiping a spot clean to tell what it was.

There was a door. “Benny, there’s a door. Hold off on the wrecking ball just yet.”

“Alrigh,” Benny said, hanging there and relaying messages.

“I’m gonna check the door,” Dean said, looking Cas carefully in the face again. There was layers of dirt and splatters of blood. Tear tracks from coughing ran through the dirt giving it a muddy look. His artfully messy hair was thick with dust. “Do you hurt anywhere else, Cas?”

Cas got to his feet in a scrambling, awkward sort of way, Dean steadying him. “Hey, just sit, okay?”

“I’m okay,” Cas croaked, coughing. He looked at his bloody hand. “Oh. That’s not good.”

“I know,” Dean nodded, holding tightly onto his shoulder. “Cas, do you know where you are?”

Cas huffed a laugh. “Not really. I knew we had a cellar but this is some kind of basement. I’ve been in this house for months now. How did none of us not know there was a basement?”

Okay, so Cas knew where he was. But he felt he had to do a neuro check. “What’s your name?”

“My name?” Cas asked, looking at Dean with such confusion. “Castiel. You're Dean. And that’s…” Cas looked up at Benny. “That’s Sam.”

Dean frowned.

“That's not right,” Cas mumbled, coughing and wincing.

“Please just sit down, Cas.”

“Gabe is my brother. Michael and Hannah,” Cas continued mumbling and moving his limbs gently to check for broken parts. “Sam and Dean. Castiel. Novak!” He said smiling then frowning. “Shit. It’s bad when you don’t know that stuff.”

“You just hit your head,” Dean said, their eyes meeting. Castiel looked so worried. Dean tried to reassure him with a squeeze and a grin.

“Are we?” Cas gave him a searching look. “We…no.”

“Take it easy, okay,” Dean coached.

Cas headed for the door, pulling it open. “I’m Castiel Novak. And…” he turned his head, looking at Dean with clearer eyes. “You're Dean Winchester. I got it.”

“And the date?” Dean asked, following him through the door into a white tiled room.

“Tuesday. January something, 2017. 18. 2018.”

“Good,” Dean’s flashlight shined around the large room. It was white tiled on the floor and the walls. Spigots stuck out at odd places. There were pipes and tables that looked like ancient exam tables.

There was a giant drain in the floor.

“What the fuck is this room for?” Dean murmured.

“That’s not a fair assessment question,” Cas sighed, studying the room with bland curiosity.

“Who’s the president?”

Cas rolled his eyes. “I refuse to answer that question.”

Dean laughed. “I’d say you're comin’ around.”

The room was very tall with a metal stairwell that ran the curve of the wall. The whole thing gave Dean the sense that he was standing inside a giant paint can.

“Those are stretchers,”Cas said weakly. “They’re making me feel sick.”

“Hey,” Dean said, getting in front of him. His face looked pale and sweat beaded on his forehead. “I’m gonna see if that door at the top of the steps works. Okay?”

Cas looked up at him, one hand clutching his chest. “It hurts,” he whispered.

Dean put an arm around him. “Come sit down.” Dean sat him on the second step. He ran up the metal staircase and yanked open the door. He ran into the next room. It was a storage room. A door. He yanked it open and found a set of steps after running through several connected rooms. They were cluttered and full of furniture and other weird shit he couldn’t stop to look at. He ran up the wood steps and yanked on the door.

Locked.

Fuck.

He pounded on the door.

He pulled the phone out of his pocket.

“Sam!”

“Where are you?” Sam demanded.

“I’m pounding on a door. Please come find me. Cas needs help.” Dean continued to pound.

“The ambulance is here. We just can’t find you!”

Dean started slamming into the door. He could not get enough momentum to budge it.

He fisted both his hands in his hair. Nothing was working!

“Dean!”

Dean put the phone back on his ear and huffed angrily. “I’m at a door. Someone has to come find me. Now.”

“Keep pounding.”

Dean methodically pounded on the door, worried about how Cas was.

He heard an odd thumping. “Heeey!”

“Dean?” He heard muffled through the wall.

“YES!”

“You're in a bathroom. And the door must be tiled over.”

Dean could hear that it was Bobby. “Don’t get picky bout that shit Bobby! You rip that fucking wall down!”

“I’ll have this door down in ten minutes, boy.”

Dean heaved a breath of relief. “I’m gonna go get Cas. I’ll be back.”

Dean ran down the stairs, back through the rooms and into the storage room.

He blinked. It was just a storage room. No door inside.

“What the fuck?”

He turned around, leaving the room. There were no other storage rooms like this one though. He went back inside. Three walls were lined with shelves. The shelves were full of…paint, bottles, bins.

“WHAT THE FUCK!” He roared, knocking everything off the shelf next to him. “THIS GOD DAMNED HOUSE! WITH ITS FUCKING STAIRS AND HIDDEN DOORS AND-“

He froze. “Hidden doors.” He stepped up to the shelves on the far end of the room where he knew he had come out of. He grabbed the shelf at his chest and pulled.

The entire wall of shelves slid open. There was the white room. And there was Cas.

“I can’t take this fucking house,” he cried under his breath, tromping down the steps to Cas.

Cas stood up. His face radiated concern. “Dean, are you alright?”

“No,” Dean barked. “I’m…you look a little better.”

Cas grinned a little. “Sitting helped. You were right.”

Dean grinned. His heart rate calmed and his breathing evened out. “Come on, Bobby’s getting the door open.”

Cas climbed the stairs with Dean’s arm securely around him.

They went through the door at the top and through the rooms.

“How’s your chest?” Dean asked, walking slow to match Cas’ stride.

“Hurts.”

“I bet. We’re almost there. Got an ambulance all ready for you, Cas.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Cas.”

“Okay.” His head dropped to Dean’s shoulder and his steps were slowing to a meandering pace.

“Come on, Cas. Just a little further. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you are hereby banned from exploring alone.”

“Ash was wi me,” he whispered brokenly.

They were at the foot of the steps when he heard a thunderous bash against the door. The doorknob fell off, rolling down the stairs.
Cas got really heavy. Dean looked down and swept him up off his feet just in time as he passed out.

“Aw, Cas,” Dean said against his forehead. He held his limp form while more banging and rattling went on. “S gonna be okay. You hang in there.” He pressed his mouth against his forehead, squeezing his eyes shut. “Be okay. Please, be okay.”

The door burst open and Bobby stood at the top of the stairs like a fucking saint.

He came up the steps, Cas in his arms, and waded through the destruction that was the bathroom. He stepped into the hall where Charlie, Sam, and Gabe stood.

“Cassie,” Gabe gasped.

“Where the fuck am I?” Dean asked. His brain was scrambling.

“Straight ahead,” Charlie pointed. “They're waiting in the foyer.”

Dean put together where he was and walked the length of the long hall, turning to head into the foyer.

“Dean?” Cas said weakly.

“Hang on, baby. We’re out. You're okay. I got you.”

“Immokay,” Cas grinned sleepily.

Dean laid him gently on the stretcher. He stepped back as the medics crowded around. He answered their questions mechanically as an oxygen mask was put on him and an IV started. Cas’ eyes blinked a few times and then he wouldn’t respond.

“Breath sounds are normal,” one medic said. “Possible concussion. He's just passed out.” The medic gave Dean an encouraging nod.

He watched hollowly, Buddy at his side, as they loaded Cas into the ambulance.

Sam steered him into the backseat of a car. He stared numbly as Sam got in the driver’s seat and drove, Gabe up front with him.

The hospital was bright, white, sterile, dirty, modern, and smelled like antiseptic, metallic death.

Sam said lots of things. Gabe was rightfully worried, everyone trickled in to the hospital, and Dean was frozen.

They had been there forty-five minutes when Gabe came out to the waiting room. “He’s going to be okay. The blood was from his mouth, no internal bleeding.”

Bobby steered Dean out of the waiting room.

“You alright, boy?” He asked, real worry in his voice.

“I’m fine.”

“You ain’t fine. Are you hurt anywhere?” Bobby started feeling his head and Dean swatted him away.

“It’s that house! The fucking steps and creepy kids toys and beds and…”. Dean flopped onto a chair. “He coulda died.”

“He didn’t. And the house is what it is.” Bobby patted his shoulder awkwardly. “He’s gonna be okay.”

Dean nodded. He took a deep breath. “Jesus, Bobby. I hope this job is worth the pay.”

“It will be.”

 

An hour and a half later, the doctor came out. “He’s in room 516. The MRI came back with a small concussion and the CT scan came back with the fractured rib and a hairline fracture to his sternum. He has a lot of bruising, especially on his throat. He must have hit it on something when he fell. We’ll keep him overnight but he should be able to go home tomorrow or the next day.”

Everyone sighed with relief.

Cas was okay.

Cas was coming home.

Dean huffed at the thought. That place wasn’t anyone’s home. That place was a fucking soul collector.

 

***

 

Cas woke up slowly. He frowned. It hurt to breathe.

He started reaching for his chest but his hand was grabbed by Gabe.

“Hey,” he grinned tiredly. “No more pulling that IV.”

Castiel’s throat hurt but he tried to ask if everything was okay. Once the medics had oxygen on him, he had struggled to stay conscious.

“You have a good hard head, luckily,” Gabe grinned. “Everything is gonna be fine. You just lay back and rest, Cassie.”

Castiel wondered where the others were. And how long his chest was going to hurt.

He felt drowsy. He nodded off again.

The next day, he woke up feeling much better. It had been a long night of vital checks where nurses came and poked and prodded.

Early that morning, he was warmed to the core to see Sam and Dean walk in with coffee and smiles and their general air of brotherly fun. Gabe came as well and looked much more relaxed and back to his normal smiley self.

“Morning, Cassie!” He walked over and kissed him on top of the head. “You have an okay night?”

“Yes,” Cas managed.

“Still sore?” He frowned, pointing to his throat.

Cas nodded.

“Well, you look a lot better,” Sam grinned, sitting in a chair at the bottom of the bed.

Cas grinned. He eyed their cups of coffee. “Did you bring me coffee?”

“Yep,” Dean sprung back up to his feet, handing Cas his cup.

“No,” Cas grinned. “This is yours.”

“I gulped mine down on the way. That’s yours.”

Cas took the cup and took a sip. He strongly suspected this was Dean’s. It was soooo good.

“Drink up,” Dean grinned. “It’ll feel good on your throat. If your voice goes any deeper, you’ll be on a register no one can hear.”

They all chuckled at that. Cas had a deep voice before, but now it was so deep he thought he sounded ridiculous.

The doctor came in and did an exam. His neuro checks were all normal now. They would do vital checks for two hours, then he could go home if all was well.

They had all left when the doctor started his exam. And Sam was the first one in the door when the doctor left. He took the seat by the side of the bed.

“Gabe’s taking care of insurance stuff at the desk and Dean,” Sam grinned a little, “went to get some coffee.”

Cas grinned. “I knew this was his.” He turned the cup in his hand and took another drink. “He has changed a lot since you and I last knew each other.”

Sam laughed. “Man, we both have. My dad had me and Dean at each other’s throats so bad it was…well, it was bad. Dad wouldn’t let Dean go to college. Just beat him down all the time telling him he wasn’t smart enough and college was a waste of time. That he just needed to work. Like a man.” Sam watched the doorway with a haunted curl to his lip. “He was so jealous. And angry. And I was so angry I couldn’t get out of the family business. But once we got dad out of the picture, we were us again.”

Cas nodded and wondered just what all that meant. He had memories of stories of John. And Dean. How they made Sam’s life a living hell. And how Dean was so fake. Liking guys but putting Sam down for the same thing.

Sam snorted softly. “We got back to me and him, ya know? And now…I couldn’t do any of this without him. He’s my big brother. My biggest cheerleader in life. He was my mom when I needed one, my dad when I needed one…”. Sam bit his words off, looking down at his hands. “He’s a good guy. The best.”

Castiel’s image of Dean shifted. Sam had been so angry in college that year. Castiel had always thought of John and Dean as pretty much the same person. But they weren’t. Not at all. So Dean had some hang-ups. Who wouldn’t with a parent like that. He had always looked at things from Sam’s college point of view. But when he thought about it, Sam and Dean had a totally different relationship now than they did then.

Castiel needed to let that in. Let the old image go.

“You should have seen him drop down through the ceiling,” Cas grinned. “He was so bad-ass. He just dropped onto his feet and stood up like it was nothing.”

He and Sam chuckled. “I wanted to pummel him for his grace when I had used my chest to break the fall and could barely move.”

Dean walked into the room and took the seat at the end of the bed.

“Cas said you came down through the ceiling all bad-ass,” Sam laughed.

Dean looked at him with that cocky smile, winked, and said, “That’s because, I’m Batman.”

“Yeah!” Sam laughed. “You shoulda seen Bobby tear through that wall! You talk about a super hero. He Wreck-it Ralphed that wall like a machine!”

“What the hell, anyway?” Dean scowled. “Why was the door blocked off and tiled over? “Somebody wanted that place sealed up and forgotten about.”

“There’s a lot of creepy shit down there,” Sam said. “I went through there this morning. And what’s that round, white room?”

“I think it may have been a morgue,” Cas stated, like it was common place to find a morgue in your basement.

“The tables,” Dean wrinkled his nose. “And that big freaky drain in the floor. Man, that place…”

Cas nodded, the pair exchanging a haunted look.

Gabe came back in the room and sat on the foot of the bed. “You look good, Cassie. You scared the shit outta me yesterday. I…man. I can’t lose you, little bro. We’ve had enough loss this year.”

Cas took his brother’s hand and squeezed it. “I’m fine. I’m going to be fine.”

“Yeah, well, no more exploring on your own.”

“Agreed,” Dean huffed. “I’m gonna put a bell on him. A leash even.”

Gabe squeezed his hand and let it go, getting to his feet. “We gotta get you back to the brothel. We’ll get you set up in your suite and you can eat bon bons and fret over holes from in there.”

Cas laughed, holding his side. “I have the utmost assurance that the Winchester’s crew knows what they're doing. I was just exploring! It was so exciting! Gabe, we have a secret passage!”

Gabe turned to Sam. “I want that bitch bolted shut.”

Sam nodded.

“No way! Dean! Tell them! It is very interesting!”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “You're lucky you still have a house. I wanted to burn the whole damn thing down last night.”

Castiel thought back on Dean returning from finding the basement door. He had looked absolutely frantic when he came through the door. It was a bit of a blur once they got out of there. But he knew Dean had gotten him out. When they were above ground again, he had woken up and Dean was carrying him through the hallway.

He was Batman. Damn.

 

***

“I brought you something,” Dean announced, walking into Cas’ room with a box and a bag.

Cas stood up from his seat by the window. He had been confined to his room for two days now. Mostly because he was living in the midst of a filthy construction site. He had had enough. Tomorrow, he was finding something to do. Not in this room.

“What is it?” Cas grinned.

“I was hungry for something sweet. Figured you were bored out of your mind up here and needed a distraction.”

Cas grinned. He could handle some just-Dean time. The guy was endlessly busy. And always with people, it seemed.

“Don’t tell Cas,” Dean said, scrubbing behind Buddy’s ears and kissing the top of his head, “but I just came to see you!”

Buddy whined and licked Dean’s face, dancing on his feet.

“That dog loves you,” Cas marveled.

“I know,” Dean grinned, standing. “I miss my four-footed shadow following me everywhere.”

“I don’t make him stay,” Cas said quietly. “Ever since I got back from the hospital, he’s been staying right with me.”

Dean nodded. He opened the box he had sat on the desk. “Bobby said that’s how they found us. Buddy went nuts and came and found them. They were looking around the library. We were way back at the bathroom by the back stairs.”

“Wow. I didn’t know that.”

“You like pie? I wasn’t sure so I got a half apple, half cherry at the farmers market two blocks over.”

“Homemade pie?” Cas asked. “Cherry, but both sound perfect!”

“And…” Dean plated the pie and pulled out a coffee cup. “Coffee from that-“

“Heavenly Brew!” Cas elated, recognizing the cup right away.

“You're always a little extra happy when you have these.” Dean handed him the cup and plate of pie.

Cas sat at the desk. “Thank you, Dean!”

“It’s just pie,” Dean shrugged.

“Pie is…mmmm. That is so good,” he moaned around a bite. “Pie is everything. You weren’t here for Thanksgiving, but Gabe makes the best pies. Pumpkin, pecan, apple, you name it. We ate microwave dinners and then pigged-out on pie. It was…bachelor heaven.”

He looked up. Dean wore the most surprised look on his face.

“I know, it’s ridiculous,” Cas shrugged. “But it was fun.”

“I’m staying here for Thanksgiving this year! I love pie! That woulda been…perfect!”

The pair laughed and had seconds.

Charlie had come in toward the end, scoring a piece of cherry pie for herself. The three of them talked about their favorite TV shows and video games.

When Castiel woke up, his room was quiet. It was late. His lamp had been turned off, his shoes were off, the pie was neatly packed away on his desk, and Buddy was curled up at the foot of his bed. He hadn’t even remembered falling asleep. Or getting in bed for that matter. He sat up gingerly and slipped his shoes back on. He glanced at his clock. 3:15am. The last thing he remembered was he had been sitting behind his desk, Dean sat in the chair in front of it, and Charlie was on the bed. They had started talking about a video game he had never played and his eyes were getting heavy.

He snickered a laugh. Healing was taxing.

He went to the bathroom and then headed downstairs. The house was quiet. Buddy stayed by his side, so Cas went out to the back of the house. Buddy always made a bee-line for the gazebo. He walked slowly toward the gazebo, figuring he should check it for more signs of opossum activity. It was quiet with no signs of animals.

He headed back to the house but stopped to look up at it. It was a full moon and the house was bathed in soft white light. He noticed a light on in Gabe’s room. Sam had recently shown him how to dust and restore the wood furniture they were hauling out of the fourth floor.

Gabe had taken a liking to it. Or maybe he was taking a liking to Sam. The pair had an awful lot of meetings. Either way, everyone was getting gorgeous wardrobes, desks, and and chairs in their rooms as he made his rounds.

Movement caught his eye and he scanned up to the fourth floor. He swallowed hard as he could have sworn someone stepped away from a window, the curtain dropping back down.

Castiel looked at Buddy. Buddy was watching the tree line, not catching any of this. He looked up again and there was the definite frame of a person.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket. He was going to call Gabe but Gabe would just yell at him to go to bed. He called Dean.

“Cas?” Dean answered all sleepy and scratchy.

“Sorry to wake you,” Cas whispered. “But there is someone on the fourth floor.”

“What?” Dean’s voice was much sharper now. He glanced over, seeing Dean’s light turn on.

“There’s someone up there at the…eighth window over! Should I call the cops?”

“Where are you?”

“Out by the gazebo. Don’t go up there, Dean! Or don’t go alone. I should call the cops.”

“Cas, start walkin’ toward the house. Get in here. I’ll go check it out.”

He could hear Dean talking to Benny and then to Sam. The figure in the window walked away.

“They aren’t by the window anymore.”

“Get your ass inside the house, Cas,” Dean snapped.

Lights were popping on all over the third floor wing.

“Here,” he heard Dean say, the phone muffling.

“Cas?” Sam asked.

“Sam, don’t let Dean go up there alone.”

“Okay. He’s going up with Benny and Bobby.”

“Okay,” Cas sighed. He saw more movement in the next window over. “There might be more than one person up there!”

Cas heard the door from the living room open and Buddy was barking. Rumsfeld galloped out and he saw somebody petting them.

“Who’s out here?” Cas asked.

“Me,” Sam huffed.

Cas hung up the phone as Sam approached him.

“Look,” Cas said quietly. “Fourth floor.”

Sam seemed to check him out quickly, deciding he was at least safe enough to stay standing here a moment. He looked up at the house and swallowed. “I see them.”

He called Benny. “Cas is right. It looks like two, maybe three, people up there. But…that’s weird.”

“It’s a pattern,” Cas said quietly.

“Yeah. Guy at the window, looks like two people running by, third window pass, curtain moves. Repeat. What are they doing?”

A growing fear nagged at Cas’ stomach. It might not be people.

Sam looked at Cas. “They're going up the kitchen steps.”
Sam had the phone to his ear again, talking to Dean, he assumed.

Castiel watched sharply. Everything stopped. No person. No running. No curtain movement.

“He says they don’t see anything,” Sam relayed. “I’m tellin’ ya man, I saw them moving around the windows toward the back of the house. Yeah, I see your flashlights. But I’m not seeing anything else. As soon as you got up there they must have run. Yeah, here.” Sam handed the phone to Cas.

“Hello?”

“There is no one up here. And I’m taking this tricycle out to the trash bin. It’s too old for a kid to not get tetanus from playing on it and it’s creepin’ me the fuck out.”

“That’s fine,” Cas said distractedly. “I think…it sounds stupid, but I think I was seeing a ghost.”

Sam looked at him sharply. “Gabe says he hears noises upstairs at night a lot. They wake him up sometimes. But he didn’t want to tell anyone.”

Castiel had the chills. “Sorry, Dean. Get out of there. I don’t think it was a burglar.”

“That’s alright. We’ll do one more check then I’ll meet you at your room.”

“Okay. Sorry.”

He handed the phone back to Sam. “Sorry, Sam. I feel terrible for getting the whole house awake.”

“Dude, I saw it too. But the pattern thing was weird. Right? They just kept doing the same thing.”

Castiel nodded. It was creepy. They walked back inside, seeing no more activity at the windows.

They went inside and went up the steps. Dean, Gabe, Benny, Bobby, Charlie, and Garth were in the living room.

“I’m so sorry to have woken you all,” Castiel glanced around in concern.

They all muttered no’s and seemed more concerned with the worry that there had been a home invasion.

“Ash needs to get that security system in,” Dean said, jaw tight and…

“Do you have a gun?” Castiel asked in shock.

Dean slid the gun into the small of his back. “I do. Sorry. Habit.”

Castiel was not sure how to feel about that. He wished Dean had at least told him he had one.

“Does anyone else have a gun?” He asked, looking around the room.

“I do,” Benny admitted.

“I do too,” Bobby said, pointing to a shotgun leaning in the corner.

“What the hell?” Castiel was floored. “You should have told me!”

“Sorry,” Benny and Dean said nervously.

“This is a big house, Cas.” Bobby explained. “You gotta have some protection here. We shoulda told you. It’s just habit to us to have them.”

“Do you have permits for them?” Castiel was reeling with the legal aspect of things.

“We do,” Dean said, pointing to himself and Benny. “We have permits to carry. But Bobby bought his here. It’s registered.”

Castiel nodded. “I really don’t even care. I just wish I had known.”

Gabriel nodded agreement.

“So…no one was up there?” Charlie asked after a stalemate of silence.

“No,” Dean said quietly. And there’s only one set of steps to that section. I checked the fifth floor too. I checked everywhere.”

“I saw them too,” Sam swore adamantly. I think it was ghosts.”

“What?” Dean snorted. Bobby looked not too impressed, and Charlie sucked in a breath.

“I don’t know,” Sam shrugged. “It was weird.”

“We should go to bed,” Bobby suggested. “Get some shut-eye.”

Everyone nodded.

Gabriel, in true Gabriel fashion, had tricked out their living room area with four couches. They were all squashy, comfy, pleather in a warm, chocolate brown. He had red and tan rugs in the room and a huge TV hung with every game system, cable system, and every appliance hooked to it you could think of. He said the crew needed a good hang-out spot. They did end up there most evenings.

Charlie plopped down on a couch, giving Dean a pout. He sat down with her. Castiel and Gabriel took spots on the next couch. Sam stretched out on another, and Benny on the fourth.

Bobby smirked. “Don’t stay up all night. Morning still comes at 6am.”

Gabe turned the TV on to HBO. He played Secret Life of Bees quietly. They all settled in and were out before too long.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6. Friends, Frenemies, and Sneaks

 

Several days later, Cas had found his way back down to the basement out of boredom and curiosity. The bathroom had been cleaned out and a board nailed over the entrance. Cas had asked one of the many workers walking around to pull it down so he could go in.

They had obliged him nervously. He wasn't too surprised when he heard feet on the stairs after being in the basement for less than ten minutes. The guy had probably run straight to Dean to tell on him.

“Cas! Why are you down here?” Dean demanded.

“Why? I wanted to see my basement, Dean.”

The pair stared at each other a moment. It was very dark with no windows letting in light. Only their flashlight apps gave them light and partial images of each other.

Dean waved for him to continue his exploring. Seeing Dean was not leaving, he continued into the next room. The first room had some strange medical equipment in it.

This room had a woodworking area on one side and caged shelves that held equipment that he suspected was medical as well. The floor was stone and there was a mildew smell.

“We should put some dehumidifiers down here,” Cas noted, picking up a shoebox size machine of some sort. He turned it in his hands and put it back on the shelf.

“Look, there’s a shackle point on the floor in here,” Dean said, his light on a ring on the floor.

Cas nodded. “The walls too.”

“Damn. This must have been a prison cell during the war.” Cas could picture the room empty of furniture and full of men in uniforms. What a hell it must have been. The thought made him shiver.

They walked back through another room. Large glass jars sat empty. “What were these people doing, Cas? Who was playin’ doctor down here?”

“I don’t know.” The image of the man with the devilish smile crept into his mind. “This is too old to be from the TB hospital.”

“You should just sell all this shit. Get rid of it,” Dean shook his head with disgust. “Come on, Cas. Enough. This air isn’t good for you.”

Cas relented. He followed Dean back through the rooms. He remembered trying very hard to stay awake as Dean practically carried him through here when he fell.

“Thank you, Dean. For saving me.”

Dean turned around, stopping. “Cas…” whatever he was going to say died on his lips. “I woulda done it for anyone.”

While that was probably true, Cas knew that wasn’t his original thought. He sighed, following him up the steps.

 

He stayed out of the basement. Dean wanted to put the wall back up. Sam argued that it would be good storage. Gabe seemed unsure. Cas was unsure as well. They decided to fix the old door temporarily and come back to it later.

 

***

 

It had been three weeks since Cas’ fall. He was getting around much better. His scrapes and cuts were healed. His chest only seemed to hurt if he coughed, sneezed, or lifted something too heavy.

Dean was worrying more often. Cas had a way of being where he shouldn’t be. Dean felt like he had to keep the man busy. He was always getting into projects and causing more work than should have been. Everyone gave him odd jobs to do.

Cas liked to participate. He just didn’t have any skills to get the jobs done. Dean thought it was great when he was safe. But he would go back in that crawl space to ‘try to find where it leads’ or work up on ladders detailing crown molding, or repair walls in the decrepit and unsafe stable.

Dean found it comical most of the time. But when safety was an issue, he could get quite tight on the whole situation.

 

Dean walked into the first floor kitchen in desperate need of coffee.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas said.

“Hey, Cas.” He was less enthused than he would have been because Cas’ new little ‘friend’ Alfie was standing unnecessarily close to Cas, leaning against the counter.

“Cas, when you have some free time, come find me,” Dean said over his shoulder, refilling his cup with (thankfully) hot, fresh coffee.

“I’m free now,” Cas said.

Dean glanced over at Alfie. Back to Cas, he said, “When you don’t have company.”

“I can go!” Alfie offered, standing taller and smiling earnestly.

“No,” Cas said, a small frown for Dean. “You just got here and I haven’t seen you in weeks. It can wait. Let’s go up to my room. What you wanted can wait, right, Dean?”

Did Cas just smirk? Was he…teasing him?

“Sure can,” Dean grinned tightly. “We can do it tonight.” There. Alfie couldn’t say that!

Cas gave Dean a long look but didn’t bite. Dean grinned brazenly. Maybe he was ridiculous. But he didn’t like Cas’ ‘friend’ Alfie. And he hated Cas’ ‘friend’ Balthazar. What the hell kind of name was that anyway?

Alfie was younger than them. The kid was like 25. He and Cas were 30. And the guy was a local.

Apparently the two had struck up a friendship at the farmer’s market that ran on Friday and Saturday mornings two blocks over. ‘It was so funny, we both went for the same pineapple,’ Cas had giggled like a twelve year old school girl. Dean had charmingly snorted and snapped, ‘what were you getting a pineapple for? You don’t cook.’

Well, that had made Cas pout. Because apparently Cas ‘liked to smell them,’ or some shit like that.

Alfie was sniffing around Cas for the money. Dean was quite sure of it. Nope. Didn’t trust him.

Tomorrow was Tuesday. And every Tuesday afternoon, Balthazar came for a ‘visit’. He was a total slime-ball. He ran a similar type business than what Cas and Gabe were building. Balthazar’s was just out of town. A place where you could rent a room and hold your wedding or event. It was a modern building and nothing compared to the amazing property Cas and Gabe had.

Balthazar was totally there to scope out his competition and possibly sabotage it. But Cas insisted he was a ‘friend’ and wouldn’t do that.

It was maddening.

Dean had been so wrong to think Gabe might be a wild card. Cas was the maddening one.

Cas and Alfie left the kitchen. It irked Dean that they were going to Cas’ bedroom.

Not that it was anyone’s business who Cas took to his room or what they did there.

There was plenty to do in Cas’ room. I mean, there was the bed, obviously, there was a nice, comfy chair by the window. He had a desk and two chairs at it. To talk business. He had a small couch. So, it was like a small apartment within the megatropolis that was Kripke manor.

Things had been pretty…cozy between him and Cas after their adventure through the basement of doom. Then he had snapped at Cas for his unsafe climbing, unsafe exploring, and unsafe proximity to the stable. And maybe he had not been nice to Balthazar.

Okay, Sam would have called him out for being an asshole, Bobby would have congratulated him, Rufus would have just shot Balthazar on the spot, and the rest would have handled it way nicer. But the scuzzy dude was lavishly praising the house and suggesting ideas for decorating and how he could better run the business.

It was total bullshit and Cas was eating it up!

As he ranted about this to Charlie while she ran a length of Ethernet line and electric line through the length of wall in the odd room with three half baths, she paused in her work.

“So…have you two slept together?”

Dean wanted to say, ‘why yes, we did. On that couch you sit on in the first floor fancy-ass living room’. But instead, he rolled his eyes and said. “No. Come on, Charlie. No. And he’s my boss.”

She looked at him carefully from where she crouched on the floor. “Are you gonna?”

“What?” Dean stood up. “No. And if that’s all you got out of me telling you that a rich, British guy is angling to fuck up Cas’ business, then never mind.”

Charlie frowned. “All I heard was, Cas hurt my feelings. He doesn’t pay as much attention to me as he does Alfie and Balthazar, yada, yada, I’m so jealous, and…yep. I think I got it.” She grinned impishly.

“You bitch,” Dean swore. “You, Charlie Bradbury. My…person.”

“Dean, this is WHY I’m your person. I tell you like it is, not how you want me to see it.” She stood up, looking apologetic at least. “I tell you any other time you're being an asshole, what makes this different?”

“Because. I’m not being the asshole. Cas is. And, okay, Alfie’s just a nice guy, but come on. I…I don’t like Cas like that.”

“Like what?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Like…I’m not tryin’ to hook up with him. I’m his employee and I’m tryin’ to help him avoid a competitor.”

Charlie’s eyebrows raised gracefully. “Really?”

“Really.” Dean crossed his arms over his chest as well.

“Wow. Dean Winchester. I have seen you lie to plenty of people. But not to yourself. You are so full of shit your eyes are turning hazel.”

Dean’s jaw dropped.

“I only point these things out when you really need it.”

Dean closed his jaw.

“And…I love you.” She put her hands in her back pockets and gave him a sweet smile.

Dean nodded slowly. “And when Balthazar ruins the Novak’s dreams…I’m going to be the only one who was trying to warn everyone.”

Charlie nodded.

Dean walked away.

“Okay, okay,” Charlie followed him down the hall and into the Solarium. “I seriously just thought you were being…I thought you had a thing for him. I mean if someone was into me, I’d at least check them out.”

Dean stopped, watching the window guy cleaning the enormous windows in the mostly glass room. All the plants had been hauled out.

“What do you mean?” Dean asked, caught off guard.

“I mean he definitely likes you. So…I guess you're the one that’s just not that into him.”

Dean’s attention was fully on Charlie. “What are you talking about? What do you know?” Dean knew that Cas probably might like him. But how did anyone else know?

Charlie shrugged. “Oh, nothing. I didn’t mean to get unprofessional. So, this Balthazar needs watched?”

Dean frowned, looking at Charlie sharply. She knew too much. About everything. She knew more than anyone how shy he was to enter the guy scene. He could pick up a chick for fun but he couldn’t handle much with guys. He was too gun-shy. There were just too many voices that sounded like his father’s still rattling around in his head. But Charlie knew what buttons to push to egg him on.

“Yeah. Keep an eye on him.”

Charlie nodded. “Got it. I’ll start digging. Alfie too?”

“No,” Dean rolled his eyes. “He’s just a friend.”

Dean walked away. Charlie kept him grounded and centered. Between her, Bobby, and Sam, they kept him solid. But when things fractured…like that shitty conversation with Charlie, it did not take long to start really unraveling.

Charlie followed him for a bit, trying to back pedal. Trying to get him back to his usual mood, but it was too little, too late for right now. Dean was in no mood. He hiked all the way out to the fence to check it. He needed the air.

 

***

 

Dean walked into the kitchen at 7:45 that evening. He had kept himself quite busy all day. He had eaten dinner on his own and called it a day. He was headed straight to his room.

“Dean!” Sam said, looking concerned. “Where’ve you been? Charlie's worried. She said you two got in an argument and then no one could find you!”

“I texted you,” Dean defended, holding his hands out in irritation.

“You said, ‘goin’ out’. That could be anything!”

“What did you need me for?” Dean asked, dropping the entire argument about what he and Charlie had said.

“Nothing,” Sam shrugged. “I was just worried.”

“Well, I’m good. No worries.” Dean sighed and headed up the steps to the third floor.

He wound his way around to his room and shut the door. He just wanted to be alone.

He groaned when someone knocked on the door. “What?”

He opened the door roughly and actually grimaced, not that it was his fault.

“Hello, Dean. You wanted to see me?”

“It can wait until tomorrow,” he said dryly.

Cas gave him that tilted head with the confused look that made Dean simultaneously want to giggle and throttle him for being confused.

“It’s..it wasn’t important.” Dean started to shut the door.

“Dean,” Cas put a hand on the door. He had a bit of a grin that he was trying not to show. “Alfie and I are only friends. He’s a nice guy, but he’s…not my type.”

Dean stepped back, his arm firming on his door. “That’s none of my business. You do what you want with who you want.”

He meant to shut the door, but Cas’ hand held fast, keeping the door still. He grinned, something in his eyes going flat. “Oh, I do Dean. I do.” He lifted his hand, stepping back as the door shut harshly.

Dean jerked it open as Cas walked away. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Cas just smiled over his shoulder and went into his own room, the door thudding closed.

 

***

 

Castiel had learned several things.
1. Alfie had a girlfriend. Dean thought Alfie liked him. And Cas found it funny.
2. Balthazar had a crush on Cas. Dean knew as much. And Cas found it retribution for stealing the love of his dog.
3. After two weeks of waiting for Dean to figure shit out, Cas started an alluring game of hard to get.
4. That ladder in the passageway went to the second floor. Cas couldn’t find an opening anywhere on the second floor. And Cas found it infuriating.

 

Cas jogged down the sweeping steps from the second floor to the first floor foyer. Per usual, there was activity everywhere. He jogged into the dining room to check the spec sheet that hung on the wall. Each day, Sam and Dean and the six other lead crew members listed what they were working on. This kept things synchronized, organized, and helped you find where people might be.

Cas glanced down the list. No one was working in the kitchen today. He wanted back in that crawl space. It was cool. He and Ash and Charlie had repaired the hole he had fallen through, replacing that entire wood section of flooring with new wood. Ash said to stay off of it, but he was sure he would be fine. He had an hour before Balthazar was due to visit and he could finally get up that ladder to see where it went.

He went into the kitchen. It was empty.

Perfect.

He grinned at the panel of wall that would slide away to reveal the passageway. But the room had to be empty. Otherwise, they got very overprotective about him going in there. He felt sure it was secure now. People just needed to relax.

He pressed the panel, sliding it to the side.

“Whatcha doing, Cas?”

Sam stood large and in charge in the doorway of the kitchen.

Cas sighed and slid it back into place. He stood, facing his employee. “I am going to check the passageway that connects my kitchen to God-knows what.”

Sam crossed his arms over his chest. “Fine. Let’s go.”

He put his hands on his hips. “That is unnecessary.”

Sam grit his jaw. Cas was surprised to see how frustrated he became. “Do you…no, of course you wouldn’t. I have never seen my brother get so upset about anything since my dad was around. You scared him. You scared us all. And every time I turn around, you're trying to get back in there.”

“I’m curious!” Cas argued. He stepped away from the door and leaned against the counter. “And I remember how scared he was. I know how scared he STILL is.” He grit his own jaw. Dean is a coward. He won’t even admit that he likes me. He won’t let go.

The pair stood at a stalemate. “Fine,” Cas said crossly. “I’ll take someone with me if I go. I didn’t mean to cause a problem. In my own home.”

Sam sighed. He softened immediately. “I’m sorry, Cas. You're right. This is your home. I just…my brother is having a hard time…”

“Communicating? Expressing his feelings?”

“Yes,” Sam groaned. “He’s really bad at the feelings part.”

“I know, Sam.” It felt like admitting something big. Yes, he knew very well Dean was attracted to him. He caught quick glances when Dean didn’t know he could see him. Dean often found a reason to stand closer or even touch him. But he did it in a way that conveyed he was frustrated or helping him. But Cas was putting the puzzle together. The looks he caught and the rare moments of kind gestures or just talking (usually about the house) when Dean’s comfort level would rise, were what gave him away. Once Cas figured him out, he tried to be inviting, welcomed and encouraged opportunities to be close or ‘accidentally’ touch. Then he gave up on that angle. It seemed to chase Dean off. Intimidate him, perhaps. So, his newest tactic, hard to get, was proving more interesting.

What he did not know was what kind of relationship material Dean was. Could they really have a more physical relationship that lasted into something more? Or would it ruin everything?

And they worked together.

A look of understanding dawned on Sam’s face. “You do?”

Cas nodded, somewhat exasperated.

“It’s just that…Dean’s been so burned Cas. My dad really…really made things hard on him. He…he thinks he’s weak when he gives in to urges to be with men. My dad beat that into him. It’s wrong. He knows it’s wrong. But…it can take him a long time to come around to opening up to anyone, let alone a guy that he likes so much.”

Cas nodded. He figured as much. Dean was fretting because Cas needed taken care of. Like he was weak. Less than. It was a frustrating stereotype Castiel had dealt with before. And that was before his broken rib and passing out on the guy. Now Dean treated him like he was fragile.

He suspected he knew just how to deal with someone as cowardly-cocky as Dean Winchester.

“Cas, he’s not a bad guy. He’s…a bit complicated.”

Cas nodded. “What you do here, in this house, that’s complicated. Dean, I pretty much have figured out. I’m just biding my time. If I had to call it? I’d guess around 4:00 this afternoon.”

“What?” Sam burst out laughing. “Cas! You are so crazy. Just…if you're really interested, be patient. It’s going to take some time. Like…weeks. Not hours.”

Sam had finished in quite a sober tone and Castiel gave him a polite nod.

“Will you please have someone with you when you venture back into that passageway?” Sam pressed.

“Alright,” Cas nodded.

 

***

 

Castiel had slipped Dean’s notice all day so far. Now that it was 1:00 in the afternoon, he made himself much more convenient to come across.

He was freshly showered with his best ass-hugging jeans and a black and blue flannel with a black t-shirt under it that was just a bit snug.

Buddy seemed to be having a ‘Cas’ day, sticking mostly with him all day long. The pair came to check on the progress of restoring the floors in the three front rooms, which were going to be a large library in the corner room and two offices just off the foyer. These offices would be their main offices that they met with clients in. The library would be open to the ‘public’ first floor.

He quickly found Dean working with another man in the office. They were meticulously stripping the floor. Dean was on his knees, lost in the grain of the wood.

Buddy ran up to Dean, waiting for the on-coming petting.

“Hey, Buddy,” Dean said, stopping immediately to pet the dog and stretch his back.

As he stretched he caught sight of Cas leaning in the doorway, watching him.

“Hey,” Dean said, trying not to look startled.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Did you need something?” Dean asked, getting fully to his feet and stepping away from the guy running the sander.

Cas stood up tall, stepping into Dean’s space. “You said you wanted to see me yesterday.”

“I did,” Dean nodded, stepping back. “It’s, uh, in the other room.”

Cas grinned and followed Dean to the library.

“You been lookin’ for a project to get into,” Dean began.

“You mean you found something to keep me busy?” Cas grinned with amusement.

Dean turned to him with a rye grin. “Yes.”

They stood just inside the doorway to the room. Rows of cherry wood shelves lined the walls. A huge fireplace took up a third of one wall.

“You can detail the bookshelves,” Dean explained. “It’s time consuming, not too hard, and I can teach you how to do it.”

Cas walked up to the shelves, running a hand along a shelf. “Some of these are pretty rough.”

“Some. You can sand them with this,” Dean said, showing him how to sand it gently.

“May I try?” Cas asked.

“Yeah!” Dean handed him the sanding paper.

Cas put his hand on the paper and rubbed circles on the dull wood, not as quickly as Dean had.

“Like this,” Dean said quietly, pressing Cas’ hand down firmer and circling quick and smooth.

“I see,” Cas murmured.

“Well, look who’s working hard today.”

Cas heard the audible sigh from Dean. It did help that his mouth was only a few inches from his ear.

Cas turned to the doorway. “Hello, Balthazar.” Right on schedule.

“Cassie! What are you doing? Getting down in the dirt now, are we?”

The fresh press of Balthazar’s immaculate clothes told him he would never dream of doing something like this.

“Yes, well, I like to be involved.”

Balthazar gave a shrug and a grin. “Shall we take a walk and have a coffee?”

“You could sand shelves with me,” Cas grinned, offering the sandpaper.

“Oh no, no. I’ll pass.”

Cas turned back to Dean. “We’ll have to finish later. But thank you, Dean. I’m excited to do this.”

Dean nodded, uncomfortable the instant Balthazar showed up. “Yeah, sure.”

“Shall we?” Balthazar grinned. Cas joined him and they left the library behind. They went to the kitchen for coffee and Balthazar asked about the finish they were using on the floors of the two offices. They talked about it a few moments, filling and dressing their coffees.

They walked slowly all through the first floor. Balthazar loved talking about what the Novak’s would do with the property.

“Hey, Balthazar!” Gabe called, overly loud as he came down the stairs. “Scopin’ out the competition again?”

“Now, now, Gabriel,” he chuckled. “I enjoy our weekly meetings!”

Gabriel kept moving, heading back a hall with a smirk over one shoulder.

“I’ll show you the sealer they use,” Castiel said, interrupting the moment.

The two headed for the office, watching the process of how they stripped the wood and sealed it with a finish.

“So, you’ll bring the clients in here for your meetings?” Balthazar asked.

“That’s the plan,” Cas nodded. He envisioned people coming through the large foyer and walking into the office to plan the day of their dreams.

It filled him, as it did every time he stopped to dream about what could some day be, with a warm, satisfied glow.

His gaze landed on Dean, who was sweeping the floor slowly. Their eyes met a moment. The gaze broke and the spell that had swept over Cas and Dean ended. Dean looked down.

“It looks beautiful, Dean.”

“Yeah, really turning out nice,” Dean grinned proudly.

“A nice oriental rug,” Balthazar added with a hand sweeping over the room, “a big desk here and some nice wingback chairs for the couples to be, some lovely paintings..”. Cas nodded along as Dean made a discrete exit.

He was quick. That was for sure. Cas looked at his watch. It was 2:30.

“Would you and Gabriel like to go out for a nice dinner this evening?”

Castiel had to shake his head slightly to focus. “Oh, no. I’m planning on having a busy evening.”

“With the bookshelves?” Balthazar laughed.

“Yes,” Castiel laughed in agreement. And Dean. The time was right. He could feel it.

“Maybe Friday. There’s a movie coming out I’d rather enjoy seeing. Maybe we could go?”

Cas licked his lips in thought. “That would be nice, Balthazar. But I have to say, I’m already in a relationship.”

“Oh!” Balthazar said with a note of surprise quickly covered with a congratulatory tone. “That’s wonderful, then!”

Cas nodded, blushing slightly. He was in a relationship. He just wondered if his partner was aware or willing. Dean was tricky. But Castiel was sure.

Castiel walked Balthazar out. “Next Tuesday, then?” Balthazar asked cheerfully.

“Of course,” Castiel nodded.

As Balthazar drove away, a warm tingle surged through Castiel. This would not be his first attempt to break down the walls of Dean Winchester. So far, they might as well be the Great Wall of China. But Castiel was observant. And patient. And very determined.

He blew out a big breath and headed for the library. He liked the library. It was original to the home. It was always warm in there. And it felt peaceful, unlike the fourth floor with all it’s chill and ghostly knocking-about.

He grinned when he found Dean doing the final dust mop to the floor.

He was humming to himself and only looked up when Dean heard him start to sand the shelf they had started.

The humming stopped.

“Can you stay and help me finish one shelf? I want to be sure I do it right.”

“Yeah,” Dean nodded.

They worked side by side.

Dean taught him what to look for. How to massage the oils into the wood to bring them back to life. How to seal the wood to make it last. It was methodical and somewhat hypnotic. Cas was admiring Dean’s hands, forearms, profile, everything, while he worked. His voice was quiet and deep. Soothing. His arms and lean frame rippled with muscles while he moved about efficiently and gracefully.

They worked quietly for some time. Dean tended to ramble about the details of what chemicals were best and what they did. He wanted to listen and store it away so Dean knew he listened to him. But he would find himself lost in the timbre of his voice. The funny little jokes he laughed at.

They each finished a shelf, standing back, they admired their work.

“Everything you do is done with such care, Dean,” Castiel said softly.

“If you do it right, it’s easier to maintain,” Dean shrugged.

Cas could read his tranquil mood. He liked when Dean was like this. Happy and at ease.

The room was quiet and bathed in softening light as sunset approached. Though the winter was warmer than he was used to, it was still winter. The days were cool and shorter.

Buddy lay by the empty fireplace and Cas took a seat on a box that sat nearby. He stared into the fireplace, dreaming of the day a fire could crackle warmly inside.

“We have a guy coming in March to work on all the fireplaces,” Dean said quietly, standing next to him.

“Mmm,” Cas nodded. “Until then, the manor will have to stay cool. And drafty.”

An easy silence fell between them.

“I should finish the offices,” Dean grumbled.

“No,” Cas said, getting to his feet. “It can wait. I need to talk to you, Dean.”

He could watch the emotional wall stack silently between them. Built and manned by Dean.

“About?” Dean asked.

“About…Alfie.”

Dean sighed heavily.

“Alfie is a friend.”

Dean went to the far corner of the room to start collecting their supplies.

Castiel followed him. “He is a nice guy.”

“Yep,” Dean agreed, picking up two bottles of polish.

Castiel took them out of Dean’s hands and put them back on the shelf. Dean looked at him with surprised confusion.

“I’m not interested in Alfie.”

Dean shrugged, not meeting his eye. “Hey, whatever, man.”

“And Balthazar.”

Dean picked up a bottle of varnish.

Castiel took it, putting it back. Dean scowled at the replaced bottle.

“He asked me out.”

Dean grit his jaw and forced a bored look onto his face. “I figured he would.”

“Did you?” Cas asked, taking a step closer.

“Well, he’s been snoopin’ around here. Around you. I saw how…you two hung out.”

Cas nodded. “And you said nothing?”

“I..” Dean’s face went from pissed to embarrassed in a flash. “I told you he was trying to steal your ideas! That he was snooping into your business!”

“And I still don’t think that is true,” Cas said calmly. “But I’m not talking about Kripke Manor. I’m talking about me.”

Dean’s blush stayed furious as he started picking up the bottles again.

Cas took them again, sitting them on another shelf out of Dean’s reach.

“What are you doing, Cas?” Dean whispered roughly, eyes on the floor.

“I’m trying to figure out if I’m the only one aware of just what is going on between the two of us. I know you're shy.”

Dean scoffed sharply. “I’m not shy!”

Cas grinned. “You are also not very easy to read. My people skills have never been as good as my siblings. But I swear, Dean, we’ve had a few moments where I was sure there was more going on than what has been said.”

Dean sputtered a bit, crossed his arms over his chest and scowled harshly.

“So…” Cas said softly. “Was I wrong, Dean? Am I…overstepping my bounds here?” He took a small step back from Dean.

“I mean,” Dean stammered, “I had to carry you out of here. I…do you mean the night we got drunk? Because…I mean, you got pretty friendly but nothing happened. And…I-“

Cas held up his hand with a look of frustration he could not withhold. “I see. I may have misjudged the situations. My apologies.” He picked up the two bottles of polish and handed them back to Dean. “I won’t-“

Dean took the bottles, looking at them as if they were foreign. He put them on the shelf. “I mean, okay…I just think Alfie’s not good enough for you. And you can do so much better than Balthazar.”

“I’m not interested in Balthazar.”

Dean’s eyes snapped to his.

“You just need someone who’s going to take good care of you and help you and Gabe get this business going. Not drag it down.”

And there it was.

Cas stepped into Dean’s space fully. “I don’t need anyone to take care of me.” He said it with a snap of force that had Dean’s eyes open wide and all his attention. “I know what you think of me. You think I’m weak. I’m just the nice gay guy that can’t hammer a nail.”

Dean backed up a step. “No, Cas.”

Cas followed his step. “I assure you, Dean, I am not weak. And if I’m down on my knees, it’s because I damn well wanna be there. Not because I’m bowing down to anyone.”

Dean had gone slightly weak himself, backing into the shelves. “I never meant that.”

“Isn’t that what you were taught? Little, weak, gay men can’t do men’s work and can’t really be a man.”

Dean’s mouth was hanging wide open.

“Sam and I talked a lot in school. Even now. I heard plenty about John. And you.”

“I am not my father,” Dean said through gritted teeth. His blushing died down as anger straightened him to his full height and he looked down on Cas harshly.

“Of course you aren’t,” Cas said. “But the stereotypes are old and hard to forget. And I felt like you needed reminded.”

“I know damn well that you aren’t weak. But…”

“But?”

“Balthazar is bad news.”

Cas took a deep breath. “I need some good news.”

“I…”. Dean heaved a sigh as his blush crept back up. “I’m not good news either.”

Cas tilted his head. “Are you too proud to bend to get what you really want, Dean? Or, do you think I’m better than you?”

Dean looked like he wanted to run. He felt rather bad for pressing Dean so hard. But he knew what he saw and he had not been wrong so far. But he had been harsh.

“You're not better than me.”

“No, I am definitely not,” Cas agreed in a soft voice. It wasn’t until Dean looked at him with some belief that he went on.

“I’ve never thought that, Dean. Ever.”

Dean attempted to say something but could not seem to put any words together. Finally, he dropped his hands. His shoulders sagged. “I don’t think you're weak.”

Cas nodded. “But I still misjudged the situation?”

A long, chilly silence filled the room.

Cas took a step back, preparing to apologize.

Dean reached for him instantly, wrapping a hand around his bicep. He didn’t say anything, but Cas could see him fighting a war inside.

Castiel’s heart went out to him. Such a proud, strong, manly man who was taught that all added up to his self-worth. And Castiel wanted him to discard it all in one day.

“No.”

Castiel tilted his head slightly. “No…what?”

“You didn’t misjudge.” Dean closed his eyes, his grip softening slightly.

Cas was lost in the handsome face that flushed furiously. Dean looked more open than ever before. He reached up slowly, his palm gently cupping the side of his face. He feared if he touched him any harder, he might fly away.

Dean’s eyes opened. “It’s hard for me to…open up to guys. Or anyone.”

Cas nodded. “Okay. But I wasn’t wrong.”

“No, you were right,” Dean whispered.

Castiel’s blood was pumping so hard. He could see how Dean’s eyes dilated, his pulse was jumping, and he was clinging to Cas’ arm.

Cas’ thumb slid over Dean’s cheek softly. Dean melted under his touch. Castiel slid his hand into the back of Dean’s short, soft hair.

“I never thought you were weak,” Dean said softly.

Cas’ other hand gently rested on Dean’s side. “But you think I need someone to take care of me.”

“No…I…they just weren’t good enough and I knew I could do better. I could…take care of you.”

Cas sighed slightly. “I told you, I don’t need-“

“That’s not what I meant,” Dean said quickly. And to Castiel’s utter elation, Dean leaned forward and kissed him.

It was hesitant and Dean pulled back a fraction, Castiel chasing and taking his mouth by storm. He wrapped his arms around Dean and held him close, feeling the long lines of his body.

“You're strong enough,” Dean panted. “I meant…I can…”

“Shut up,” Cas whispered in his ear, biting it.

“Okay!” Dean huffed a laugh, his hips crashing into Cas’.

Castiel slid his hands down to Dean’s hips, clamping onto them. He slid his mouth back to Dean’s mouth and they stayed there weaving urgent waves with tender exploration.

Once Dean got past his hesitancy, his kissing was exhilarating. His hands were hot and strong. He was the first to slide a hand underneath a shirt to start exploring the smooth skin beneath. Craving the same, Cas slid under the Winchester Family Business t-shirt Dean wore and up Dean’s back, making him take in an unsteady breath.

Their kiss slowed, their chests rising and falling in rhythm with each other.

“Thank you,” Cas whispered, kissing him lightly, “for letting me in.”

Dean nodded. He had an odd look on his face. Suddenly hesitant.

“What is it?” Cas asked, his finger touching just under Dean’s chin.

“Should we…go somewhere? Ya know…more private?”

Castiel knew what he was asking. How far were they going. He wasn’t sure what the best answer for how far they were going was. Or the right answer. But either way, he took Dean by the hand and led him out of the room, Buddy following happily.

They had not had dinner yet and people would be looking for them before too long. They went up the back stairs to the third floor.

“Your room or mine?” Cas asked.

“Yours,” Dean grinned. “This is where you take all your friends, right?”

Cas gave him a playful shove through the doorway.

“My friends are restricted to sitting at the desk or on the couch,” Cas teased, closing his door and locking it.

“Yeah? Good. So, where do I get to go?” He took a few steps around the chair by the window, one hand holding the back of the chair.

“Wherever you want,” Cas grinned.

Dean nodded with a pleased grin. Cas went to sit on the couch, watching Dean pace.

Dean made his way over to the couch slowly. “I’m gonna be honest, Cas. I’m kinda a hook-up sort of guy. You don’t put me in mind of that sort. You seem more like a relationship kinda guy.”

Castiel looked down at his hands. “I’ve done it. Not often. But there are a lot of opportunities in DC for that kind of thing.” He looked up at Dean. “Is that what you want this to be?”

Dean started with a cocky grin but bit it back quickly. “I don’t know,” he said quietly. He came to where Cas sat on the couch.

Castiel raised an eyebrow when Dean went down on his knees in front of him. He slid his hands up Cas’ thighs and grinned up at him. “I wanted to be sure I was the first one on their knees.”

“Why?” Cas grinned, leaning forward to kiss him chastely.

“I…I have a hard time with this stuff. But…I was listening.”

Cas grinned. The gesture was immense. Dean was on his knees, fingers softly toying with the folds in Cas’ jeans. He had a hopeful look in his eye. Castiel wanted to take that hopeful look and make it bloom into something stronger.

“You are a good listener,” Cas grinned, kissing him and pulling him up.

Dean came willingly up to the couch and onto Cas’ lap. He had not expected Dean to be so responsive. He thought there would be a lot more hesitation. But right now, all he seemed was hungry for more.

Straddling Cas’ lap, Dean kissed him so intense that Cas was losing all sense of anything except skin, mouth, hair, hands, and more, more, more.

His hands were under Dean’s shirt again until he finally pulled it off. Dean kissed him so hard they were both moaning.

“Fuck,” Dean huffed, pulling Cas’ shirt over his head. “I’ve wanted you since I saw you standin’ in the driveway, waiting for me.” He kissed him in another wave of passion that had Cas pressing up into him to chase the warm press of his dick on his.

Dean’s hands spread across Cas’ chest and the pair groaned.

“That’s a lie,” Dean panted. “I wanted you when you were in college. That shy, nerdy kid with the blue back pack.” He launched an attack on Cas’ mouth that left Cas spinning in a lust-filled haze.

“Dean,” Cas managed, “my bed.”

Dean was off of him in a second, pulling Cas to his feet. They pushed their shoes off and pulled socks off as they crossed the room.

Beside the bed, Cas’ hand landed on Dean’s waistband. He stopped to look at Dean.

“Don’t stop,” Dean whispered, his warm mouth slipping onto Cas’ neck.

It made him weak in the knees. He quickly undid the button and zipper, hooked his thumbs in the waistbands of jeans and boxers and shoved them down.

He could feel Dean’s hands on his own zipper, sliding it down. Cas let out a breath as his thickened dick was suddenly free to fall forward and open to the air of the room.

The pair stepped back from each other, looking as they each stepped out of their jeans and boxers.

Cas turned, rummaging in his night stand. He pulled out lube, sticking it under the pillow on his bed. He shoved everything around, really digging and finally pulled out a strip of condoms. He put them under the pillow as well.

He stood up, facing Dean again. The interruption had left Dean standing there blinking.

“Just in case we need them,” Cas explained. “No pressure, or anything though.”

Dean huffed a laugh. “We need ‘em.”

Cas grinned. They were adults here. Experienced adults. They knew exactly what they were getting into.

Cas pulled Dean into him, their naked bodies touching and lining up for the first time. Cas took Dean by the hips with his hands and by the mouth with his own. He turned him and steered him back onto the bed. Under the covers, Cas laid on him, taking in how good it felt.

“If this is gonna be a thing,” Cas groaned, biting his way down Dean’s neck, “you need to get tested. And I will too.”

Dean gasped as Cas took his dick in his hand and stroked it. “Okaaay,” he sighed, eyes closed and head dropping back.

“I hate using condoms.”

Cas stroked him until Dean was groaning and bucking against him. “Ughh, Casss,” Dean moaned.

In Dean’s ear and in an equally wrecked voice, Cas said, “I had no idea you would be loud in bed.”

“I-I-I had no idea you’d be so take-charge!”

Cas slowed his stroking and Dean’s eyes opened again. “Tell me to stop at any time.”

Dean grinned. “Don’t stop, Cas.”

Cas slid down quickly and had Dean’s dick in his mouth so fast he arched his hips up in shock at the sensation of wet mouth.

“Fuuuuuuck,” Dean growled. Cas hummed in response and Dean fisted the sheets hard so he didn’t grab Cas’ head.

Cas pulled off and slid a condom on him. “Is this okay?”

“Yes. Anything is okay.”

A pained look of Cas’ quick work had Dean’s face pinched.

Cas slid back up to him, kissing him.

Hungrily, Dean kissed him back. His brow relaxed, his body relaxed, and he had Cas embraced in his arms again.

Cas sat up, rocking their hips together gently. Dean was more relaxed now. His mouth ticked up in one corner. “Feels so good.”

Cas grinned and leaned down to kiss him. “Sooo good,” Cas agreed.

“Please, Cas,” Dean squirmed.

Cas pulled away instantly and slid down to take Dean’s dick into his mouth. His tongue worked first and Dean was lost with lust. When he slid down so far and pulled up with a long, suctioned pull, Dean was squirming to hold still. As he repeated the movements, Dean turning to putty in his hands, he positioned himself more how he wanted to be. He got between Dean’s legs, gently working one leg up.

As he worked his dick into a fine frenzy, he lubed one finger and began massaging Dean’s cheeks in rhythm with the the strokes of his mouth.

Dean groaned loudly.

Cas slid a finger back and forth across his hole in time with his sucking.

“Cas,” Dean whined. “I’m not gonna last much longer.”

“Mmmm,” Cas hummed. He pressed a finger inside and swirled his tongue at the same time.

Dean bucked against him. He liked it. He had wondered if Dean wasn’t a bottom. His suspicions seemed to have been correct.

“More,” Dean whispered.

Cas grinned and slowed his ministrations to Dean’s dick so he could work a little longer with his hand. He added lube and pressed two fingers in.
Dean ground down on him in response and Cas took his time.

“Cas, fuck me. I want it so bad.”

Cas would not make him ask again. The fact that he said that much was a big deal.

He slid off Dean’s cock and licked it again. “I will. I will, Dean.”

He had thought maybe they would work up to that, but if Dean was ready, Cas was more than willing. His own cock lurched at the words when Dean had said it.

He continued sucking and working his fingers. Dean ground down on his hand in response and opened to him. Cas added a third finger and got on his knees. He worked him open as Dean panted and pushed and moaned little yeses. Cas worked a condom onto himself and covered it with plenty of lube.

“I’m ready,” Dean panted. “Cas, please.”

Cas pulled off of him and immediately moved to nudge his head at Dean’s hole.

He moved Dean’s hips into a better position and he pressed inside steady and slow.

He waited, kissing Dean’s neck, biting his ear lobes gently, and finally landing on his mouth.

Feeling Dean relax under him, Cas went up onto his hands. He slid halfway out and back in.

Dean’s face flushed and he rocked his hips.

Cas chuckled at Dean’s insistence. He wanted more.

“I’ve got more for you.” He kissed him soundly and began to move in and out in a more rhythmic manner.

Dean’s hands had gone from nervous, to gripping, to running over Cas’ back and braved their way to cup Cas’ ass.

He moaned in pleasure at that. “You feel so good, Dean.”

The praise hit Dean like a thunder bolt. His hips opened even more, his clench relaxed, his hands moved with more want. And he tipped his head up to kiss Cas voraciously.

“Mmm, so good,” Cas panted. His speed picked up in response and they were both moving into a more primal rhythm. “Dean, I need you to come soon.”

“Yeah?” Dean panted. He grinned, his own hand slipping between them to work his cock.

Cas changed angles and Dean jolted with pleasure. “Oh yeah. Again. There. Fuuuuck.”

Castiel had found what he wanted. Keeping his angle, he slid Dean’s hand away and took over. He stroked in rhythm with his thrusting. “I can feel you throbbing,” he grinned.

Dean groaned, his hands clawing at Cas’ back. “Harder,” he cried.

Cas thrusted hard and fast. “So good, so-“

Dean arched against him, coming and writhing. Cas was lost in a sensation of squeeze and throb and his own orgasm crashing into him forcefully.

He opened his eyes to Dean watching him, still coming down from his own high.

Cas leaned down and kissed him. His arms trembled with exertion. Their kiss was sloppier than earlier and Cas had to move. He pulled out, taking care of his condom, Dean taking care of his own.

Cas grabbed a hand towel and they both wiped off.

Cas flopped back onto his bed. “I’m hungry. But it’s gonna have to wait. You wore me out.”

Dean grinned. He laid back. “Same.”

“Dean, that was…so amazing. I wasn’t expecting so much so fast. I hope I didn’t rush you. You're just so…I’ve never kissed anyone that good before.”

“Shut up,” Dean laughed, blushing.

“I can’t!” Cas babbled, giddy with his high still thrumming through him.

Cas turned on his side. He could feel the tense coil in Dean’s body. He looked like he was thinking about getting up.

He turned on his side, looming over Dean again. “Let’s just relax a little, then we can eat. Okay?”

Dean grinned, reaching up to pull him down. “Yeah.”

Cas settled in to wrap around Dean’s warm body. He knew at that moment that he had never been more comfortable in all his life. Dean’s hand moved lightly across his shoulder. His eyes closed and he snuggled in tightly.

 

***

 

After a nap, which they woke from feeling incredibly hungry. It was late. They went into the small kitchen and found left over pizza.

“We missed dinner,” Cas grinned.

“I wonder if they missed us,” Dean said, looking worried.

Cas swallowed his bite, watching Dean carefully. This was the part that worried him the most. The part he had not been able to predict.

“It might not have been hard to figure out where you were.”

Dean swallowed his bite with a slow chew. “Yeah. I guess so.”

“Is that bad?” Cas asked, looking down at his plate.

“No, Cas. It’s just…I’ve never done this with someone all my friends knew. Kinda…”

“Gives you no separation?” Cas finished.

“Yeah. Is that…Am I a jerk for that?”

“No. It does put us under a bit of a microscope.”

Dean’s shoulders relaxed. “I’m glad you seem to have me so figured out. Saves me some explanations.” He grinned but it slipped.

“I have you somewhat figured out because I care, Dean. And I had struck out twice before that.”

Dean gave him a soft frown. “I didn’t mean to be a jerk, if I was one.”

“You weren’t to me. Alfie, maybe. Balthazar definitely.”

Dean laughed. He got to his feet as Cas did, cleaning up their late night dinner. “Well, sorry about Alfie. Not sorry about Balthazar.”

Castiel could not help but grin.

Before they stepped into the hall, Cas snagged Dean’s hand. “Are you tired?”

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “I’m goin’ to bed.”

“Stay with me,” Cas grinned.

“Uh…I better not.”

Cas kept the noncommittal look on his face the best he could. He had already done a lot of pushing. He did not want to do anymore.

He nodded his understanding and went to his room, Dean to his.

Castiel went to his room. His unmade bed brought back the flood of memories. It had been so good. He’d had him. He’d broken through. And now it was…over? Is that what his relationship with Dean would have boiled down to? He could have sworn there was more there. More than just a hook-up.

Maybe it would be a string of hook-ups.

Castiel looked down at his side. Buddy sat next to him. “Sorry, Buddy. I thought you might not have to pick sides anymore, but…”

Buddy jumped up on the bed, waiting for him.

“I don’t think I can do it, boy.” Cas grabbed a blanket and laid down on the couch. Buddy jumped down and laid on the floor next to him. Cas’ arm hung down and his hand stroked over the silky, soft coat.

 

***

 

When Castiel woke the next morning, Buddy was right there. No trading rooms in the middle of the night.

After breakfast, and a chilly, awkward moment in the kitchen with Dean, Cas texted Gabe.

 

Castiel: I’m taking Buddy to the park. Got to get out of here for a while.

Gabriel: want me to come?

Castiel: It’s okay. I’ll be fine.

Gabriel: is everything ok? Did I miss something?

Castiel: Everything is good.

 

In the foyer, Dean stopped him.

“Hey, I left that stuff in the library for you.”

Castiel tried to read the situation. Dean was chilly, yet still trying to talk to him. It was a contradiction his brain struggled to process.

“Are…are you okay?” Dean asked tightly.

Castiel had no idea how to answer that question. Suddenly the entire manor seemed overwhelming and not worth the effort.

“I’m…I guess I’ll be fine.”

Dean shoved his hands in his pockets. “Should I have stayed last night?”

Castiel looked away. How did you even answer that question. “You should do what you want.”

Dean, looking at his shoes, mumbled, “I did.”

“I’ll be out the whole day,” Castiel added bitterly. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable with me around. And you obviously are.”

Castiel walked out of the foyer and outside to his car without a backward look. He stopped, seeing Buddy sitting on the porch, his usual spot to watch him leave.

“Come on, Buddy,” he called.

The dog leaped off the porch and got in the truck.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7 Lions, Chili, and Scotch Tape, Oh My

 

Gabriel found a chair for the dining room table. It looked like a wooden throne. It was oak with large, ornate carvings of flowers. The seat itself was more like a box and reminded Castiel of an outhouse he had used once.

The reason it caught Gabriel’s eye was the lion head at the top. The back of the chair was solid, the carved lion head around five and half feet high, making the sitter look quite regal, if not ridiculous.

Large paws made the armrests. And the entire thing probably weighed a hundred pounds.

“How will you sit in it? You certainly can’t scoot in it,” Castiel complained as the delivery men left.

“I’ll just get it in the right spot,” he tugged and pushed until it seemed to be where he wanted it.

“Now, I’ll just,” he squirmed his way between the armrest and table, fitting into the seat with a flourish, “sit like this!”

“You look like a maniac,” Castiel complained, sitting on a box.

Sam and Dean came into the dining room for the meeting.

Both of them stopped dead in their tracks. It was rare that they looked like they were related, but at that moment, with their matching wide eyes and clamped jaws so they didn’t say whatever rude comment was on their tongue, they could have been twins.

“Wow,” Sam said, stepping forward to sit his mug on the table.

“What the fuck, Gabe?” Dean blurted.

“Dean!” Sam warned.

“That's the craziest thing I’ve seen since this table!” He laughed hard and Gabriel glowed with amusement.

“So they do match!” Gabriel threw his arms out in victory. He looked tiny in the mountain of a chair.

Even Castiel had to laugh.

“What can I say,” he sat back into the chair, lacing his fingers behind his head. “I like the things I’m surrounded with to be…big.”

Sam was fighting back a retort. Castiel glanced between the pair. Oh. There was something going on there. He would have to ask Gabe later.

Dean gave his brother a surprised smirk. He walked over to the throne, circling around it. “It’s oak.” He ran a hand down the straight back of it. “1800’s. This is an English Victorian Renaissance Revival Throne.”

“That’s what the tag said,” Gabe nodded, looking impressed.

“This is meant for a foyer or throne room, Gabe.”

“Go ahead and say it, Dean.” Gabe sat back, eyes closed as if waiting for a blessing.

“This thing is fucking cool,” Dean laughed.

“I knew it!” Gabe laughed.

“How much did you pay for it?” Dean asked, marveling at the lion feet and the detailed back as Gabe scooted over.

“$6,000.”

Dean jerked up. “Are you serious? This chair is worth twenty. Easy.”

“Well, he wanted rid of it,” Gabe grinned.

“It’s not a dining chair, Gabe,” Dean grinned, circling back to where he had been. “It should be in the foyer,”

“No,” Cas and Sam said.

“Or the library,” Dean suggested.

“No,” Cas frowned.

“Or, maybe it just deserves a room of its own,” Dean shrugged with a grin.

Gabe narrowed his eyes at the three of them. “My lions will not be caged.”

“Your room, perhaps,” Castiel grinned.

Gabe looked affronted for a second, but his eyes slid over to Sam. “Maybe.”

“Hey,” Dean snapped. “You keep your role playing props to yourself!”

Gabriel laughed and made himself comfortable in the monstrosity.

“Okay,” Sam cleared his voice. “Final spec sheet for January to March. First floor floors are finished except the ballroom’s, ceilings have been polished, repaired, and crown molding finished, except in the library. And you are still working on the shelves in the library. Baseboard trim is repaired, stained and replaced except in this room.” Sam pointed on the floor plan to the weird room with three half bathrooms. “Nothing is done in there until you decide on the bathrooms.”

Dean stepped in. “All broken first floor windows have been replaced, including the 16 panes of glass in the solarium. All second, third, and fourth floor wing windows that needed restored are done. And the guy that worked on the solarium is going to help us with the pool room.”

Castiel and Gabriel nodded.

“The elevator has been repaired and is safe to be used.”

“Yeah, right,” Gabe mumbled.

Dean grinned but went on. “The plumbing is in place for the first floor and second floor. Electrical to the first floor is complete. The sconces were all re-wired in the ballroom and we need you guys to shop for sconces and chandeliers. The foyer stairs are repaired, finished, and the new runner installed.”

There were so many other things the brothers had seen to so far as well. Wall repairs, door knob restoration, planning, shopping, fixing kitchen drawers, cabinets and appliances. The spec sheet left a lot out.

“What you have accomplished so far has been amazing,” Cas said fervently. “We could not be any happier with the crew or the work.”

“Thank you,” the brothers said quietly.

“So, we fly home in the morning and we’ll be back the following Saturday,” Sam smiled.

“We done talking business?” Gabriel asked eagerly.

Sam blushed and Dean put the spec sheet on the wall.

“Sure,” Dean said.

“Well, seeing as how everyone is leaving tomorrow, I thought we could have our farewell party in the running room! We have so many more of us now! And I’ve bought presents!”

The three men exchanged concerned raised brows.

“What sort of presents, Gabriel?” Castiel asked.

“It’s a surprise, silly,” Gabe winked. “Spread the word! Party in the running room at 9:00 tonight. I suggest you arrive sober. You sure as hell won’t be leaving that way if I can help it!”

 

***

 

“Gabe!” Castiel jogged up the hall to catch his brother. “Do you need help getting ready for the party?”

“Yes!” His face lit up. We need shot glasses, a notebook, a bar, like one of those cheap ones you get for out by the pool,”

“Gabriel!”

“What? We can afford it, Cassie! Besides, I need to blow off some steam.”

Castiel followed him into his huge bedroom. “This is a beautiful room, Gabe. One of the best in the house.”

“Yeah,” he said flatly, “I thought so too. Until I started sleeping in it.”

Castiel flopped onto Gabe’s bed. The room felt rather empty, especially considering it was Gabe that was living in it. He had a desk and chair, a couch, a wardrobe, dresser, and the bed. There was plenty of room for other things.

“What do you mean? You don’t like this room?” Castiel asked.

Gabriel walked around the bed and laid down next to his brother. It was rare that Gabe was quiet, so Cas waited.

“Every night at 2:56, right there,” he pointed to a spot at the other end of the room on the ceiling, “a door upstairs rattles so hard…so loud, that it wakes me up.”

They both sat quietly. Chills prickled Cas’ arms.

“Then the running starts,” Gabe said in a suppressed, haunted voice. “Over and over. They run out of here,” he pointed. “Then up the hall,” his finger drew a line heading toward his bed. “And then the screams.”

Castiel sat up, looking down at his brother. “Are you messing with me?”

Gabriel’s eyes pulled away from the ceiling and went to Cas. “I wish I was. I can’t sleep in here anymore.” His eyes went back to the end of the room. “It’s driving me crazy.”

“Gabe, why didn’t you say anything?” Cas asked, laying a hand on his forearm.

“Because, it sounds insane. And who would believe me? I knew you wouldn’t. Why would you? As many times as I messed with you when we were kids…hell, even as adults. It’s too…crazy.”

“But I’ve seen them, Gabe! I had the entire house up in the middle of the night because I saw a man up there at the window. And people running. Sam saw it too!”

“I know,” Gabe sighed. “And Sam believes me. But it’s just so…weird. Cassie, we have a haunted house.”

It wasn’t funny. And it wasn’t silly. They had a problem.

“What are we going to do?” Cas asked.

“No idea. It makes me want to walk away from the whole plan.” Gabe turned on his side and Cas could see just how tired his brother was. He had circles under his eyes and when Cas thought about it, Gabe had been very quiet lately. Busy. Not his usual self. And Cas had been too self absorbed with himself, the house, and Dean, that Gabe was suffering alone.

“You aren’t crazy, Gabe. And you aren't lying. I…I have some pictures…of a man here that…well, I’m quite sure it’s a ghost.”

Gabe’s face paled. “I want to see it. Why didn’t you say anything sooner?”

“I thought it was…”

“Crazy,” they both answered.

“Come on, I’ll show it to you.”

They went to the third floor original kitchen and down the stairs to the first floor kitchen. The house thumped and buzzed around them as everyone was busy with their Friday work. Cas went to a set of wide drawers at the counter. He pulled the bottom one open and pulled out the two Manila envelopes.

He pulled out the 8x10’s. Chills ran up his arms, knowing what he was going to see.

“I took this that first week we were here. Remember when you and I went up to the fourth floor so I could get pictures?”

“Yeah,” Gabe said, steeling himself.

Cas slid the picture to the top of the pile. He watched as Gabe’s eye went straight to the man.

“Who the fuck is that?” Gabe snapped.

“I don’t know,” Cas shrugged. “I went up there after I got this and there’s no mannequin, no man, nothing beside that shelf.”

Gabe looked pale. “We gotta fix this or ditch this, Cassie. I can’t keep living here with that kinda shit. And you should take more pictures.”

Cas nodded. He put the picture on the bottom of the pile and the tricycle picture slid partially out.

“That,” Gabe snapped. “Sometimes I think I can hear that going up and down the hallway. Back and forth. But not when the slamming, running, and screaming are going on. It’s more random.”

Chills ran down both their arms.

“Sometimes…” Gabe whispered, “sometimes I can hear a little girl singing.”

“Fuck,” Cas swore, staggering back a step and walking over to the door. He took a deep breath.

“Buddy won’t come in my room either. I tried to get Dean to bring him in. He won’t go in. And if he’s in that hallway, it’s usually at a run,” Gabe added.

Cas felt sick. He went back to the counter and shoved the pictures in the envelope and put them back in the drawer. He gripped the counter tight.

“Stay in my room,” Cas offered. “My room is huge. We can easily fit both our stuff in there.”

Gabe looked not too enthused about that. “We’ll see. I’m not talking about it anymore today. In fact, I don’t want to speak about it again until Monday. We have the joint to ourselves for a week, we can deal with it on our own.”

Castiel nodded.

“Today, you and I have a party to prepare for. Let’s go shopping!”

Castiel grinned. He’d go damn near anywhere that wasn’t under this roof at this point. He needed out.

 

***

 

Dean trudged up the three flights of steps at the back of the house. He had been working outside with Garth and his plumbing crew. Rufus had hit an old section of terra cotta pipe and the whole length had to be pulled out and replaced. The water had been shut off all day and they needed it fixed before they left. Otherwise, the main water would be shut off the entire week they were gone.

The job was done, but there was a gaping drainage ditch 200 feet long. He hated leaving a job 80% complete. And a gaping hazard in the yard.

He was freezing cold, tired, and filthy. And the bathroom was in use. Damnit.

He went into the small temporary kitchen and sat at the table.

“Dean!” Gabe called, walking into the kitchen with Cas on his tail. “Wow. You smell like shit.”

Dean grinned.

Cas was holding a stack of mini orange safety cones. Like something for a kid’s soccer practice.

“What’s with the cones?” Dean asked.

Cas sat them on the table. “I’m going to set them around you to warn people to stay away.”

Dean snorted. “The smell that bad?”

“Among other things,” Cas chuckled.

“Ouch!” Gabe flinched, looking between the pair with surprise. “Why, Castiel, that was not like you!”

“I can’t help myself,” Cas grinned. He filled his travel mug with coffee, grabbed the cones and headed out the door. “Dean brings out the asshole in me.”

“Damn!” Gabe laughed.

Dean just shut his eyes and took it. Tuesday night had been awesome. Okay, it had been earth shattering. And Dean quickly realized that he had fucked up by not staying the night.

And acting like nothing had happened.

Buddy had even stopped hanging around him.

He knew it was the wrong thing to do. But all those loud voices in his head were screaming for him to ‘shut it down’, ‘quit acting like a fag’, and ‘he’s gonna turn you into a little bitch’. They were ugly phrases that sounded like his father’s voice.

“I haven’t heard Cassie talk to anyone, besides our family, like that since-“. Gabe cut his laugh and smile off. He glanced around the room, seeing they were the only two in it. “Did you fuck my brother?”

Dean sighed.

Gabe sat down at the table. “What happened?”

“Are we really gonna do this?” Dean asked, wincing at the vulture-like scowl on Gabe’s face.

Dean sighed. His feet were ice cold and soaking wet from outside. His pants had been wet, dried, and wet again. They were stuck to his skin and wreaked of shit. And Gabe wanted to talk about something that was just supposed to be between him and Cas. It was a secret.

“Spill, Winchester.”

Dean sighed again. “I’m not talking about it. It’s none of your business.”

Gabe sat back in his chair, his face relaxing a bit. “I have a contract that says otherwise.”

An ice cold shower of dread spilled inside Dean, making him actually shiver. This was the biggest, scariest part of all this. He slept with his boss. They could lose everything.

“I won’t come back,” Dean said quietly. “Please don’t fire everyone.”

Gabe rolled his eyes. “You're too easy, Dean-O. I wouldn’t fire you. You sleeping with my brother is, believe it or not, not at the top of my worry list. I’m not firing anyone. Besides, genius, you’d have just as much clout to sue us.”

Dean lifted his hands with a look of pure annoyance. “Not a lawyer, asshole!”

Gabe waved him off. “Chill out. We’re all good here. Besides, there’s too much to gain from staying on. Now, moving on, when did this happen?”

“No, Gabe,” Dean growled.

“Fine.” Gabe tapped his fingers on the table. “Can I give you a word of advice?”

Dean nodded stiffly.

“Apologize. He’s a sucker for an apology. Trust me. He’s been so pissed at me that we once didn’t speak for three years. I said I was sorry, he mumbled something or other, and we were over it. That being said, all business aside, if you upset my brother, there will be hell to pay.”

Dean smirked. “It can’t be that easy.”

Gabe shrugged. “I don’t know what exactly is going on, but generally, yeah. He can’t stay mad long. Not with an apology.”

Gabe got up and left. Dean jumped up when he heard the bathroom door open. Benny came out in a towel. “Man,” he jerked, pulling away.

“I know,” Dean groaned, slamming the door shut, “I smell like shit.”

Dean stripped off the disgusting clothes. He opened the bathroom window and tossed all his clothes out. He had been the only one that got caught in the spurting eruption early into the situation. Those clothes were better off burned than put in anyone’s washing machine.

He got into the shower and washed his hair three times. He moved on, washing his face and neck three times. Then on to the rest. Three times. He was shivering by the time he got out, but he was clean.

He wrapped his towel around him and walked the short distance to his room. He pulled on a Henley, thick socks, boxers and jeans. His hair was dry by now but he was still freezing cold.

He went out to their communal living room and grabbed a blanket off one of the couches and curled up at one end.

“Oh, shit,” he heard Charlie say as she came into the living room. “Are you sick? You never do that.”

“What?” Dean groused. “Curl up because I’m fucking cold? Take a nap because I’m fucking tired?”

“Oh boy,” Charlie sat down next to him rubbing heat into his arm.

“Get off, Charlie,” he pouted.

“Oh shush. Let me be nice to you. God, you're so frustrating some times.”

He grinned slightly and she whacked his shoulder. “Brat,” she added.

“What’s wrong?” He heard Bobby ask.

“Oh my God,” Dean bitched. “I miss my living room.”

“Somebody’s cranky,” Bobby added, not bothered a bit.

“Let that boy alone!” Rufus snapped in his quick, short speech. “He’s tired! He got shot at and hit! He had shit from head to toe. People shit. It’s unsanitary! Garth and I had to hose him down. Then the idiot just kept workin. Give the boy a damn nap already. Go on, all of ya! Get out of here!”

Dean gave Charlie a raised brow. It wasn’t too often Rufus went off on people in defense of someone other than himself.

Charlie stifled a laugh and kissed Dean on the cheek. He laughed as she left.

 

He woke up two hours later. When he sat up, a slow grin crawled over his face. Bobby was stretched out on one couch, hat perched over his face, covered with a blanket and snoring softly.

Rufus was on another couch, covered up and snoring a bit louder. He found it endearing. And funny. Then it hit him that he was one of the old men in the room. Well hell, you get shit on, hosed off and work in the cold for eight hours. Any twenty year old would have been down for the count as well.

He sat up and stretched. The nap had helped, but he was still chilly. And that wasn’t like him. He went into the kitchen in search of dinner. A big pot of Bobby’s chili bubbled away on the stove. He settled in with a big bowl and some bread.

When he was done, he looked at his watch. It was 8:45. He might as well head over to the running room. Maybe moving around would help him warm up.

He followed the long hallways, passing everyone’s bedrooms. There were two large, empty rooms at the front of the house. The last one was where the doors to the running room were.

When he walked through the door, he had to laugh. Gabe had a Hawaiian shirt on, cargo pants, a grass hat, and was standing behind a bar that looked like it belonged beside a swimming pool.

“Poolside bar?” Dean laughed, sitting on one of the stools.

“Third floor bar, fourth floor pool, it’s the Novak way!” His grin was infectious. “What’ll it be, Dean-O?”

“Beer.”

Gabe slapped a straw hat on Dean’s head. “No beer. Island drinks tonight, sailor!”

Dean shook his head. “I don’t know. I don't drink fruity drinks.”

“Alright,” Gabe grinned. “I’ll get you started.” Gabe got busy. Charlie, Cas, Garth, and Benny came out of the running room laughing about something.

“Dean!” Benny slapped him on the back and sat next to him. “Feelin’ betta?”

“Yeah, I’m good.”

Gabe slid him a purple shot.

“What the hell is this?” Dean frowned.

“A purple Nirple.”

Dean made a face.

“If you don’t drink it, I will,” Benny grinned.

Dean drank it. It tasted like grape cool-aid.

“Good, wasn’t it?” Gabe grinned slyly.

“Yeah. Sweet.”

He made two more and he and Benny had a shot together.

Charlie had the music on and was talking a mile a minute how she could run lights and speakers in the room when they rehabbed it.

“I’m really not sure what to do with it, Cas shrugged. “It’s too narrow to do much with. But we had a lot of fun in here the last time we used it.”

Dean grinned. It had been fun. Tonight was gonna be fun too.

“Now that Dean’s here,” Charlie said with a wiggle, “can we have our presents?”

Dean looked past the bar and realized there was a large stack of boxes. Each one was wrapped with a name written on the side.

“What are those?” Dean wondered aloud.

“Alright!” Gabe clapped, getting everyone’s attention. “A round of shots and then present time!” Everyone was given a shot and the gathered around the little bar.

“Every party here starts with a salute to the past! To Kripke! Whoever the hell you were!” Gabe yelled.

Dean grinned, downing his shot.

Cas and Gabe did another shot, clinking glasses together. “To dad!” They said more quietly.

Gabe cleared his throat and grinned at the group. “Here’s the deal, you gotta use it at least once,” Gabe grinned. He rubbed his hands together vigorously. “Come play elf, Cassie, so I can Santa these bitches!”

He handed everyone a box, leaving Rufus and Bobby’s sitting there for when they came.

“Alright, dig in, kiddies!”

They opened the wrapping paper and Dean grinned. “Gabe, you're such a child.”

“This is awesome!” Sam laughed, pulling his roller blades out of the box.

Cas came out of the kitchen with a ramp. Holy shit. They were setting up an obstacle course. And there came the orange cones.

“You guys are crazy!” Dean laughed.

“They’re fucking awesome!” Ash laughed, chucking his sneakers and pulling on roller blades.

“How did you know all our sizes?” Charlie asked, getting to her wheeled feet.

“I stole a shoe from everyone’s closet this morning. Our first game this evening will be to find said shoes.”

Dean scowled. He had to put boots on because he couldn’t find his sneaker. Fucking Gabe.

Everyone made their way into the running room. Sam, Cas, Charlie, and Ash definitely knew what they were doing. Garth and Dean were slowly warming up to it.

He coasted by several windows and for some unknown reason, lost his balance and fell with a thud.

“Uhhh,” he groaned. Cas and Charlie came over quickly to help him up.

Once he was on his feet, wobbly as he was, Charlie skated off. Cas would have too, but he held onto him.

Cas turned, offering support and then realized Dean was fine.

“I wanted to say that I’m sorry about Tuesday night.”

Cas looked at him steadily. Some of the tightness in his face relaxed.

“I really don’t know what I’m doing Cas. I really suck at relationships.”

Cas nodded. Sad understanding curved his mouth.

“I hope you can help me figure it out, Cas, because I don’t just want a hook-up. I wish I would have stayed.” He could feel himself blushing. And his hands were sweating. He had no idea he was going to say any of this except that he was sorry. Now he had said so much. Way more than he should have. And too much to undo. ‘What a bitch you’re turning into!’

“Dean,” Cas said softly, breaking through everything.

“Yeah?” Dean gulped. “I’m sorry I left.”

“Okay,” Cas nodded. “Thank you.” His smile seemed sad and Dean knew that Cas was reading him like a book.

“I’m not panicking,” Dean defended.

Cas grinned, trying not to. “Is it okay if I say your panicking is cute?”

“No, definitely not,” Dean shook his head, meaning it.

Cas bit his lip. “Okay. All is forgiven. Now, let’s have some fun. I won’t do anything or say anything tonight. But I won’t stay that way for long. I’m not going to be anyone’s secret.”

Charlie and Sam whizzed by.

That old feeling of keeping this secret felt like pulling on a wet, wool blanket. He had had enough of wet material for one day.

“And if I don’t care?” Dean asked, sliding his hand so it fit into Cas’.

Cas chuckled low with a grin that went straight to Dean’s dick. “Then I would kiss you right now.”

“Do it,” Dean barely whispered. He couldn’t believe his own mouth.

They stopped their slow progression along the side and Cas pressed a hand into Dean’s chest, sliding him back against the wall. “Lift your toe on your brake foot.”

“My what?” Dean asked, looking down at his feet. Cas demonstrated with his own. “Oh.”

Dean tried it, almost slipped and got it.

“That’s your brake. Don’t put your toe down, or you are going to fall on the floor. And if you go down, I can’t promise I won’t strip you down and fuck you right here on the spot.”

Dean’s jaw dropped. “Jesus, Cas.”

Cas grinned. His eyes were black with thin rims of blue. He let him come right into his space and kiss him. There was very little tongue, but it had all the heat of a volcano behind it.

“Get a room!” Benny yelled.

Dean flipped them off and pulled Cas in a little harder, still closed mouth, but with all the promise of more for later.

Cas leaned back, in his own space again. He winked at Dean, drifting back a tiny bit. Dean forgot he was even on skates and promptly slid to the floor, flat on his back, Cas straddling over him.

The smile on Cas’ face was more than Dean could handle. He hollered, scrambling and scraping and Cas just wheeled away, laughing.

On his feet and clothes still on, Dean could hardly keep upright as his feet constantly betrayed him. He circled around the end slowly and Cas caught up to him again.

“Quit thinking about it,” he grinned.

“About what?”

Cas took his hand. “Quit thinking about skating and just skate.”

Dean licked his lips, his eyes darting to Cas’ mouth and back up. “Alright,” he nodded.

He relaxed and let go of Cas’ hand and sped up. He fell a few times when turning or stopping, but he had it figured out pretty quickly.

They had speed races to start things off. They were evenly matched and losers had to drink a shot.

Garth was trashed by 10:00.

About that time, Bobby and Rufus came in. Rufus freaked out about the damage the wheels would do to the floors. When no one cared, he shook his head.

“Get a drink guys!” Gabe shouted.

Dean fell over laughing when he watched Bobby and Rufus do Purple Nirple shots.

Gabe gave them their rollerblades.

“Yer outta yer mind, Gabriel,” Bobby said, eyes big. He shoved the box back.

“Oh hell no,” Rufus shook his head. He too pushed his box back toward Gabe.

“Okay, well, you have to put them on to get a picture taken. Cassie set it all up. We’re gonna get a group photo.”

“I’ll just keep my boots on,” Bobby nodded, taking a cup of something amber colored. “What is this?”

“Sex on the beach,” Gabe grinned.

“Oh, now those are good,” Rufus grinned, taking the drink. Bobby glared at him.

“Where’s my cherry?” Rufus asked indignantly. “I might look like I’ve been around, but I expect a cherry in my Sex On the Beach!”

Gabe laughed, shoving three into his drink. “There ya go, Rufus! Cherries for the Beach!”

There was a lot of drinking. A lot of contests and a lot of rollerblading places they had no business being.

It was mayhem.

Charlie won the obstacle course competition. That girl could weave cones backwards without looking where she was going!

Dean managed to stick the landing off the ramp three times out of at least fifty trials.

At 2am, they got their group picture. Everyone had rollerblades on. Everyone. It would forever hang in the room.

Rufus and Bobby were mid-fall, arms flailing and mouths wide open mid-holler. Garth was propped up on Sam’s knee like a rag doll, fully passed out. Sam had one arm snaked around Gabe’s leg. Gabe stood, one elbow on Sam’s broad shoulder, wearing a mustache that was one head-turn away from falling off. He was looking down at Sam with an adoring smile. Sam had a huge grin, looking right at the camera. Benny was bent over laughing, slapping his knee, Cas and Dean were hanging on each other. It was difficult to tell which one held the other one up, and they leaned precariously to the left. Dean was turned slightly, saying something in Cas’ ear and Cas was laughing hard. Ash was looking at Bobby with bulging eyes and a lit joint hanging out of his mouth. Charlie had her elbow propped on Garth’s sleeping face, smooshing it slightly. She sported a sloppily bandaged forearm, pig tails, a wide grin and a peace sign.

It was a photo that made every one of them laugh, every time they saw it. And what had Dean said that had Cas and Benny laughing so hard? Everyone had a different story for that one.

By 2:30am, Bobby and Rufus were being toted around the running room on their rollerblades. Rufus was stiff as a board and they moved him like a piece of furniture on skis.

“If ya drop me, I’ll kill ya!” Rufus kept hollering, eyes wide and mouth in perma-wince.

Bobby actually started skating slowly. Cas stayed behind him to break his falls and Charlie stayed in front of him to keep him moving. And laughing.

There was one scary moment. It could have ruined everything, but as alcohol often does, it was nothing but something to laugh about later.

It was the last speed race and it was down to Charlie and Sam. Everyone was hyping them up, taking bets, and cheering on their pick.

They went so fast, neither of them stopped well. Sam folded at the last second, crumpling and hitting the low wall with a solid thud.

Charlie braked and broke one of the windows at the end of the room, blocking her face with her arm.

Blood brought everyone to a stop. Cleaned and bandaged, Charlie was fine, but the group settled down a bit.

Charlie was declared the winner. Sam said she technically went further than he did.

They scotch taped wrapping paper over the broken window and all agreed the fresh air felt good anyway.

At 3:30, Dean found himself stumbling to bed with Cas. They had both skated there and found removing the skates both too difficult and too tiresome.

He knew he had said it a hundred times that night, but he said it again, kissing Cas’ smiling, sleepy face. “I’m sleepin’ in your room.”

“I know,” Cas hiccuped harshly and groaned. “Let’s sleep.”

“I didn’t just want to sleep,” Dean yawned.

“Me either. But I’m soooo tired.”

Dean giggled. “Hey, Cas.”

“Mmm,” Cas murmured wrapping himself around Dean’s chest.

“I’m sleeping in your room,” he whispered loudly.

“Mmm,” he chuckled.

 

***

 

Morning brought a lot of new information.

1. Unattended dogs will find things to get into.
2. Scotch tape does not hold up to rain.
3. Cameras left on record will record for as looooong as the battery lasts.
4. Rollerblades can withstand the microwave, but microwaves can not withstand rollerblades.

Castiel woke to a warm body under him. He felt heavy and tired and his head throbbed.

He was unable to move his legs. That’s what finally brought him to full consciousness. He was somewhat panicky with the notion that his legs were not working.

He drug himself off of Dean.

He turned back. Dean. Right here in his bed. He was starting to stir and Cas leaned down to kiss him.

“Morning,” he murmured against Dean’s mouth.

Dean wrapped his arms around him smiling and kissing him back. “God, your breath smells like mine tastes.”

They both laughed.

“I think I’m still drunk,” Castiel said with some amount of puzzlement.

“Makes sense. You drank…a lot,” Dean laughed.

“So did you,” Cas laughed sitting up.

“Dude, you drank…like…a whole fucking liquor store. What the fuck is wrong with my legs?”

Oh yeah, that’s right. Cas’ legs weren’t working. In fear of waking up a parapalegic, he turned to look at his feet.

Dean sat up.

“Oh,” they both said.

Cas, relieved, drug his leg up and promptly rolled off the side of the bed, landing on the flat of his back, both skates hitting the floor with two cracking thuds.

Dean laughed and laughed.

Cas flopped around, finally sitting up. Again. He pulled his foot up. Again. And flinched as if he might fall off the floor next. When the world stayed upright, he unlaced the boulderous skate and shoved it off.

Dean was still laughing hysterically.

“I’m fine, by the way,” he said, rolling his eyes. Yeah, that was a bad move. No more rolling the eyes. It hurt and everything teetered a few times.

Dean tried to breathe, pulling his own foot up to untie it.

Cas unlaced the next one and finally freed himself of the weight. He crawled back onto the bed.

“Untie my laces, Cas,” Dean wheezed.

He wanted to shove Dean’s feet off the bed, knowing his body would follow and flop to the floor like his own had. But instead he grinned and tugged at the lace.

“You're too good to me,” Dean huffed, as one rollerblade thudded to the floor. Then the next. “Come here, give me more stinky kisses.”

Cas smirked, “Why do I even like you?”

“I think I’m adorable.”

Cas straddled him and kissed him. No tongue. For both their sakes.

“I’m gonna go brush my teeth and then I’m going to attack you,” Dean grinned.

Cas looked at his watch. “Your flight leaves at what time?”

Dean’s smile vanished. “Shit.”

Cas grinned down at him. “Forgot you were going home?”

“Yeah.” He laced his fingers in Cas’, bringing them both to his mouth. “If I didn’t have things scheduled, I would cancel.”

“It’s okay,” Cas grinned softly. “I’ll see you in a week.”

Dean sighed, kissing his hands again.

Cas got up. “I’ll wake the others if you want to try and grab the first shower.”

“Yeah.”

Cas went into the hallway. It was chilly. He went into the living room first. Nobody crashed there. Dean went into the bathroom. Benny and Charlie’s rooms were empty and not slept in.

He banged on Sam’s door.

“Come in,” he heard Sam say very muffled. He opened the door hesitantly, peeking inside.

“Sam. It’s time to get up.”

“God, go away,” Gabe moaned from under Sam’s thick comforter.

Sam’s head popped up, hair crazy and wincing. “Okay. I’m up.”

Cas closed the door. Huh.

Down the hall he found Bobby, Rufus, Garth, and Ash’s rooms empty and unslept in.

He checked the empty room. Technically, the room wasn’t empty. There were three wardrobes Gabe had detailed in here that no one needed in their rooms.

What the hell.

He opened the first one. Empty.

He opened the second one. Empty.

He opened the third one.

“I found it!” Charlie stated, waking with a start.

“Found what?” Cas asked with a grin.

“Narnia,” she said, looking around confused. She crawled out slowly, Cas pulling her to her feet. “My neck.”

Cas rubbed her arm, making sure she was actually awake. “You guys will all be leaving soon for your flight.”

“Oh, God,” she winced. “I gotta get on a plane.” She wandered out of the room, headed in the direction of her own.

Cas went into the front corner room. This room and the running room had been the sight of their party. There was wrapping paper and solo cups everywhere. It smelled like sugary alcohol and it was really chilly in here.

He saw feet sticking out from behind the bar. Benny was stretched out behind the bar. What made Castiel’s eyes bulge, was the sight of Garth weaved into the shelf inside the bar. The shelf was wide enough to hold two bottles of alcohol. And apparently skinny Garth.

“Guys,” Cas said. He kicked Benny’s socked foot.

He grumbled and moved and winced. “Oh lawd have mercy. My-“ his eyes widened and he froze, staring at Garth wound into the shelf next to him. “What the?”

Cas looked at Benny. “Did you do that?”

“He kep snorin’,” Benny recalled slowly. “I wanted him ta stay on his side.”

Cas nodded slowly.

“Garth,” Benny said, the two eye to eye that low to the floor. “Garth.”

Garth blinked a few times. “Benny?” He tried to move and glanced down. “Ahh! I’m trapped! I’m stuck! Golly!” He started flailing enough that the bar rocked and three cups spilled, rolling off the bar and bouncing off Benny’s head, one bouncing onto Garth’s.

“I’m stuck fellas!”

“Just wait!” They both said, working fast to free him. A bottle of something fell off the top and crashed loudly to the floor.

“Fellas!”

“Almos,” Benny huffed, hauling Garth’s lanky frame free as Cas held onto the bar.

Like a hit deer on the road that springs to life and leaps away, when Benny set Garth on his feet, he went running for the door. Probably to pee. Poor Dean.

Benny gave him a slightly bewildered look. “Might not have been a good idea to put that boy in there. Sorry.” He glanced around the room. “And sorry for spillin’ yo bottle.”

Benny picked up the shattered bottle by its in tact stem and realized he couldn’t sit it on the bar. He handed it to Cas.

Cas watched as Benny quickly left. He tossed the stem back to the floor and went to the running room.

Ah. That’s where the cold was coming from. The broken window. Paper sat in a wet pile as rain came in.

He’d have to fix that.

He left, still needing to find Bobby, Rufus, and Ash. And come to think of it, where were the dogs?

He stopped in the third floor kitchen. Not the one they used. No one. He opened Gabe’s bedroom door. No one.

He went to the kitchen to start some coffee. The door was closed, which was strange.

He pushed it open to the strong stench of chili. He covered his nose with his arm. Ash was sleeping on the table. The pot on the floor and reddish brown stains all over the floor told him the dogs (who sat very still, as if they might blend in and Cas wouldn’t see them) had eaten an entire, huge pot of chili.

“Buddy! Rumsfeld!” Cas said in shock. They had never done something like this before. Rumsfeld’s ears were still tinged in it and Buddy had a huge smear of chili ground into his left side. “What a mess!”

Ash sat up, a plate falling off of him and flopping to the floor with a sticky dull thud. “Dude.”

“It’s time to get ready to go,” Cas said, pushing the door open.

“Right.” He hopped off the table and walked out of the room like it was any other day. “Thanks for the awesome party, man!”

Cas looked at the dogs. “Downstairs.”

They both got up and quietly slunk out of the room and headed down the stairs. Brown paw prints trailed them. Dryly he wondered if this part would be funny someday too.

Down to the ground floor, he let the dogs out back and left the dog door unblocked so they could come and go. Rethinking it, he closed the inner door so they couldn’t get back in yet. That much chili would require some extra bathroom time.

He wandered quietly down the hall. Finally, he found Rufus and Bobby asleep at the kitchen table. It looked like they had tried to play cards at some point and passed out.

“Bobby, Rufus,” Cas called, heading to the coffee pot. “It’s time to get up.”

Both men groaned and moaned like a pair of bears.

“Jesus,” Bobby bitched. “I ain’t been this sore since that Chinese girl I slept with in Houston.”

Cas stared blankly at the wall. He did not want to know.

“Oh! Ma neck!” Rufus winced and hollered. “Ma back! What the hell, Bobby?”

“Well don’t yell at me!” He put his hat on his head. “There’s perfectly good couch two rooms over, ya idjit.”

“Oh, no. Don’t you belly-ache on me, Bobby. I said I’d play you for it!”

“Well,” Bobby sighed. “I guess I fell asleep first!”

Rufus sighed. “How the hell are we gonna get on a plane?”

“I don’t know, but the shower’s mine next,” Bobby challenged, getting to his stiff feet and making his way out of the kitchen.

“Too much alcohol, Gabriel,” Cas said, heading slowly for the third floor. A draft and the smell of chili hit him when he rounded the steps to the second floor.

“Uh,” he moaned, his stomach churning. He glanced out the window. The dogs weren’t moving too fast either.

“I’m a terrible dog owner.” He went up another half flight and stopped. “A horrible boss.” He went up to the third floor, “ a bad host.”

“Hey,” Dean said, much more perky and pulling his suitcase into the living room.

“I found everybody.”

Dean grinned. He pulled Cas into his room and shut the door. “I’m gonna miss you.”

Cas put a hand over his truly foul smelling mouth. “I’m gonna miss you.”

Dean pulled his hand away. “Dean,” Cas shook his head.

“Shut up,” Dean grinned, kissing him.

Add gross boyfriend to Cas’ description list and he was summarily summed up.

But Dean didn’t care. And now Cas REALLY didn’t want Dean to go.

They pulled apart, Dean pulling back just a tad shy. It was moments like that, that Cas wondered what went through Dean’s mind. Whatever it was, it was detrimental.

“When you come back,” Cas said quietly, “we should try dating or something. Nothing too public if you don’t want. But maybe somewhere where there isn’t a bedroom around every corner.”

They grinned at each other. “Or library?” Dean added. “And I seem to remember a pretty hot make out session in the big kitchen last night.”

“Mmm,” Cas grinned. “I see what you're saying.”

“But yeah,” Dean grinned, looking down at his shoes. “We can do that.”

“You won’t go home and decide not to come back?” Cas asked. A real rush of fear flared inside him. What if Dean went home, freaked out and didn’t come back. Quit the job. And had some kind of downward spiral.

“Hey,” Dean said, catching Cas’ chin this time. “I’ll be back. I promise.”

Cas kissed him again, chastely this time to spare him his breath. They stepped apart and Dean pulled the door open.

“By the way,” Cas said quietly. “Don’t go in the kitchen and guess who I found sleeping together.”

Dean stopped at the kitchen door. “Whoa. Looks like someone murdered Bobby’s chili.”

“Yeah. Your dog.”

Dean was surprised. “Damn. That wreaks.” He looked back at Cas. “Why is he my dog if he does something bad?”

“You are a bad influence.”

Dean smirked. “Fine. And who was sleeping together? Oh wait…Sam and Gabe.”

“Right you are,” Cas laughed.

Dean pulled a duffel bag onto his shoulder. “Yeah, I saw that coming. I better go. I gotta say goodbye to my dog.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 Pictures, People, and Proof

 

Saturday was spent recovering and cleaning up from the party. And buying a new microwave.

They put all the rollerblades into one of the wardrobes that had shelves. It looked like they owned a small roller rink.

The small kitchen was a mini nightmare. Chili stains. On everything. Including Buddy.

Sunday was for doing nothing. Castiel slept until Buddy stole all his covers and made him get up to let them out.

He had coffee and watched TV. Gabe had slept in the living room and insisted they watch something happy instead of something educational. They settled for America’s Funniest Home Videos. Mindless laughter.

They had dinner at the Roadhouse and both slept in the living room, falling asleep watching reruns of Dr. Sexy.

Monday dawned and it was a bit sad how quiet the house was. Buddy stayed by Cas’ side and Rumsfeld manned the porch.

“Let’s go to the grocery store,” Cas suggested. “I’m getting really tired of ordering out. I think I’m going to start cooking.”

“Cool. What are you going to cook?” Gabe asked.

“I’m sure something at the grocery store will give me inspiration.”

They spent three hours grocery shopping and trying to figure out a few meals to try. Castiel was determined.

“I have an idea,” Cas grinned. “We load all these bags in the elevator instead of carrying them up.”

“Brilliant!” Gabe cheered. Neither of them even considered getting in it themselves.

With the groceries away and a meal planned for Wednesday, lunch eaten, and a load of laundry running, it was time to talk about what they both had been avoiding.

“Gabe,” Cas finally said, when he had reached for the remote again. “We need to figure out what to do about the ghost thing.”

Gabe sighed, his head flopping back on the couch. “What? What should we do?”

“I think we should go up there together during the day and take pictures, look around again, and maybe even record a video.”

“Okay. But if I hear singing, I’m outta there.”

They put jackets on, since it was always cold up there, and took several cameras with them. Castiel had no idea what he was looking for exactly. But they needed some kind of proof to get any kind of help.

They went up the steps, Castiel first and already recording with his good camera. As he got to the top of the stairs, he scanned the room slowly, then walked down the hall, filming each room. Then he shut that off and started taking pictures.

“Get this out of here. I’m going to trip over it.” Cas nudged the tricycle with his foot. Gabe picked it up and sat it by the stairs.

“Dean said he was getting rid of it. He must have forgotten.”

“What do you think went on up here?” Gabe asked, looking around.

“A kid must have had a bedroom in here. And played up here,” Cas suggested.

“And museum guy didn’t move it?” Gabe wondered.

“I guess he had all the other rooms to fill.”

“Maybe these were hospital rooms,” Gabe mumbled.

“Or it could have been the Novaks. They were here for 150 years before Lucifer lost the estate,” Cas added.

“Let's open something. Stir some shit up. Maybe we’ll scare something out.”

“Go ahead,” Cas agreed. He started taking pictures. Vague shots of each room. Pictures of the windows. The little girl’s room.

Gabe opened up one of the boxes in the first room. “Box number one,” he called.

He could hear him rifling through something. “This is a bunch of old, nasty medical equipment.” Castiel came out, taking pictures of the strange devices.

“We can sell them on eBay,” Gabe grinned.

Cas smirked, taking a picture of him.

Cas went into another room. This was the room the man at the window would have been in. He took a picture of the window.

“Box number two is a bunch of really old records. And no cool ones.”

Cas grinned as he stepped out in the hall and took a picture of Gabe looking at the records. Someday it would be fun remembering how crazy this had all been.

He went back into the little girl’s room and set it to record again. “Hellooo?” He said, looking around the room. “Is there a ghost here?” He walked over to the window. “Here’s the view out of the little girl’s room,” he narrated absently, showing the view down to the yard. He turned around. “I like your dolls.” That was a lie. They needed burned. They were entirely too creepy. “Okay, bye!” He shut the camera off with chills running rampant on his arms and back.

He stepped into the hall again, skirting around the tricycle.

Gabe was standing at the box of records, staring down at it.

“No good ones?” Cas asked.

“Nope. We should go.”

Cas shook his head. “We said we would dig into stuff, see if we could unearth anything.”

“Alright,” Gabe shook himself slightly. “It’s so freakin’ cold up here.” He shook his head again, as if waking himself up. He closed the box of records and put it back on the stack of boxes. “Mr. Devilish Grin liked hanging out right here by the bookshelf. Let’s see what’s on it.”

Gabe knelt down in front of it. Half of the shelf was blocked by a stack of boxes, but the half near the hallway entrance could be gotten to. He pulled the dust cloth off the globe that sat on top.

Gabe pulled an old cigar box off one of the shelves.

“This globe looks like it’s from the 70’s. It’s cracked,” Cas said, the whole thing falling apart in his hands.

“Jeez,” Gabe laughed as Cas scurried to catch all the parts. “Just sit it by the steps to go down.”

Cas turned and took a few steps, depositing the mess next to the steps. He stood up, looking at the spot oddly. He took a picture of it. He turned and took a picture of Gabe pulling a few books out of the shelf. Then he did what he really didn’t want to do.

He looked down the hall. A fear as solid as a wall hit him. The tricycle was back in the hall.

“Gabe,” he swallowed tightly. “Did you put the tricycle back in the hall?”

Gabe was on his feet in a flash. “No.” He leaned, seeing the bike. He turned a panicky look at Cas. “Did you do that? You're not funny, Cas! Quit fucking around up here!”

“I’m not!” Cas snapped back. “Did you do it? Are you messing with me?”

“No!” Gabe flapped.

The pair stood there, wanting to run but knowing this was all just too ridiculous to be real.

“I wanna go now,” Gabe said in a small voice. “Now.”

“Okay,” Cas whispered. “Just help me get this globe. They picked up the pieces, Gabe got the cigar box, and Cas grabbed his camera.

That was enough for one day.

 

Back to the living room on the third floor, Cas put the globe in the trash and they sat down.

“Is it too early to drink?” Gabe asked.

“Not if we both have a drink,” Cas reasoned. He went to the kitchen for a bottle of Jack on the top of the fridge. He poured them both a drink.

Sitting in the warm living room, dogs at their feet, they sipped their drinks and tried to figure out what to say.

“I didn’t touch that tricycle,” Gabe said low.

“Me either,” Cas swore.

After three more sips and several minutes later, Cas pulled his camera out of the camera bag. He pulled out the cable and connected it to the TV.

By the time he had the TV settings right and the video ready, he had had several more swallows and was feeling a bit braver.

“Let’s see what we caught,” Gabe said enthusiastically. He poured a second drink.

Cas chose the first file for today. It was a random, boring day. Nothing seemed out of place. They watched as he filmed walking up the steps and the main room at the top.

“We should bring that huge desk by the window down for one of the offices,” Gabe suggested.

“Mm,” Cas agreed.

They watched as Cas walked to every room. Nothing strange. The video stopped.

The next file was him in the kid room. “Hellooo,” he heard his own voice say.

……………….nothing.

“Is there a ghost here?”

……………….nothing.

“Really, Cas?” Gabe grinned. Cas shrugged.

“Here’s the view out of the little girl’s room,” he narrated, showing the view down to the yard.

He turned around, to show the dolls and toys. But that wasn’t what caught his eye. When the camera swept past the doorway…. He rewound and watched again.

“Little girl’s room.” He heard. The camera turned. He paused it.

“Gabriel.”

He turned to look at Gabe. He was pale and shocked. “I didn’t do that,” he whispered, eyes bulging.

Cas looked back at the paused image of Gabriel sitting the tricycle down just outside the girl’s door.

“But…you did do it. You put it back. Why?” Castiel asked.

“I didn’t do that!” Gabe was on his feet now, pacing in a small circle and stopping to stare at the image of himself in horror. “What the fuck is happening?”

Castiel stared at his brother a long moment. Either this was the most elaborate trick Gabe had ever pulled, or they had a real problem.

“I’m leaving,” Gabe stated.

“Sit down, Gabe. We need to look at the rest,” Cas muttered, pressing ‘play’.

The camera swept the room slowly. “I like your dolls.”

Castiel pressed pause. “Did you hear that?”

Gabriel looked petrified.

Castiel rewound and played.

“I like your dolls.”

Giggle.

Chills ran rampant and they were both on their feet.

“Did you hear that?” Cas asked again.

“Yeah.”

“I like your dolls.” He played it again. Giggle.

“Okay, bye!” The file ended and they both just sat there a moment.

Finally, Cas clicked out of the videos and into the still images taken today. He stood in front of the TV looking closely at each one. After 32 various shots of windows, rooms, and clutter, the only thing remotely odd was a few white splotches in two of the window shots.

Then he got to the picture he had taken of the broken globe. Nothing strange there.

The next picture was of Gabe pulling books out of the bookshelf. He could barely see the shelf or Gabe though. Because, staring angrily into the camera, face taking up 75% of the frame, was the man.

“Fuck!” Cas gasped, stepping back.

Gabe came closer. “What’s that? When did you- That’s me at the bookshelf! Who IS that?”

“It’s the same man from the other picture.”

But in this one, there was no devilish grin. His eyes were piercing and he looked angry. Pieces of his face looked like they were rotting off and peeling away.

The fact that something had been angry and staring into Castiel’s face like that, was terrifying.

“What’s in that cigar box?” Cas asked quietly. He exited out of the file and turned the TV off.

“Old pictures. I thought you’d want to see them,” Gabe answered, pacing.

Cas did want to see them. But not right now.

Without another word, they left the house.

 

There was only so much a man could take. Gabriel was well past his limit. And Castiel was damn near there.

Castiel drove up Main Street.

“I told you this town was creepy.”

“It’s not the town,” Cas sighed. “It’s our house.”

“Where are we going?”

“Florida is only a day’s drive. Let’s go to the beach.”

Gabriel grinned for the first time. “You, me, mutt, and muttly?”

Castiel looked at Buddy and Rumsfeld happily shoving their noses out the slightly lowered windows.

“We could go to Ellen’s.”

“Hm, Ellen’s or the beach?” Gabe laughed. “Beach. Right boys?” He turned around, the dogs staring at him. “Tell your daddy we wanna go to the beach!”

Buddy barked and Rumsfeld howled.

Castiel laughed so hard he thought he might have to pull over.

At the first gas station, he texted Dean.

Cas: We left the manor. We had…an issue. Going to the beach.

Dean sent a selfie of himself shoveling snow, giving him the finger. It looked like two feet of snow was on the ground and still falling. He had a knit hat, thick coat, and a smirk with a twinkle in his eye that made Cas grin. A tight, heat coiled around inside him just seeing his face.

Dean: What kind of issue?

Castiel sighed. No grown man wanted to admit a ghost had chased him and his brother and their dogs out of their own home.

Cas: Just the house being the house.

Dean: You guys okay?

Cas: We’re good. By tomorrow this time we’ll be sunburnt and drunk.

Dean: You better be home by Saturday. Mr. Novak.

Mr. Novak? Cas grinned. Dean was such a contradiction of strength and submission. It made Cas grin with a slew of thoughts running through his mind.

Cas: I will be. You too. Mr. Winchester.

Dean: :)

Cas put his phone away and got back in the truck. Gabe jumped in.

“I got everything we need for four days at the beach!” Gabe grinned.

“Such as?”

“A fifth of Tequila, two beach towels, a huge bag of gummy worms, two hoagies, and a bubble machine.”

“A…a bubble machine?”

“It was on sale.”

Cas nodded. Well. That made sense. “How about dog food?”

“Next stop?” Gabe grinned with a shrug.

“Look up a hotel. One that takes dogs. On the beach.”

“On it, Cojack!”

 

***

 

Castiel had learned several things.

1. Gabriel was the only person he knew that could out-drink him.
2. Sand never comes out of a vehicle when put there by two wet dogs that like to shake their coats out after being in the ocean.
3. You could, in fact, be asked to leave a state.
4. The police, in fact, could escort you out.

 

Sober and tired, they arrived back at Kripke Manor on Thursday night. Their trip had been cut short thanks to Gabriel’s bright ideas and deep pockets.

They went into the house and did a quick walk-through together. They slept in Cas’ room. All four of them.

Friday was quiet. Gabe came to find him in the library. He was working on the shelves, slowly. He was learning to love this room. Other than Charlie’s electrical work, Dean and Cas had done every bit of work in this room.

He glanced toward the nearest window. And they had their first kiss there.

He had drug a ladder in from the other room and was working in the far corner top shelf.

“This room is really turning out nice.”

Cas turned, seeing Gabe watching him from the door. “I’m sorry I went so crazy in Florida.”

Cas grinned. “If you can’t blow off steam with your brother, who can you blow steam off with?”

Gabe dropped his head, grinning. “Well, I did a a load of laundry and found my big-boy pants.”

Cas came down the ladder.

“I put ‘em on.” Gabe shrugged his shoulders.

Cas grinned. “There’s no shame in being scared, Gabe. I was scared too. It’s…unnatural. And I really don’t want to believe it’s true.” Florida, the wild party he started at their hotel pool, it had all been one big avoidance stunt. He was…they were both avoiding the looming problem within their own walls.

Gabe grinned. “So,” he clapped his hands, rubbing them together. “I think we should try to record the sounds I hear at night. Then we will have several kinds of proof. And maybe we can find some help.”

Cas nodded. “This house is ours. Let’s take it.”

Gabe nodded.

 

***

 

They had retired their liquor bottles as of 4am Thursday morning. Now, they were fueled on coffee. Castiel had purchased a high grade recording device and they duct taped it to the ceiling.

Sam and Dean might not like the duct tape on the woodwork of the ceiling, but Cas and Gabe did not care.

They lay in Gabe’s bed watching videos on YouTube. There were endless videos of music videos of Dr. Sexy. Fans were truly capable of creating the most incredible things.

Cas jolted awake when his phone vibrated an alarm at 2:30am. They had both nodded off.

They turned the recording devices on, the camera, and in general, they stayed awake and alert to catch the activity that was driving Gabe crazy.

At 2:54am a door upstairs rattled so hard that it brought Cas to his feet.

Gabe was not so much startled as he was haunted by it.

The door rattled hard again. It sounded like it was locked and someone desperately needed out of it.

“One more,” Gabe said softly and the door rattled again.

Castiel stared at the ceiling.

There was a pause of nothing.

Then, running footsteps. They ran (on the floor above) toward the bed. Then again, toward the bed.

Gabe just sat there. He had said he had heard this all many times, but for Cas, it was brand new and terrifying. He could hardly breathe.

“She’s gonna scream,” Gabe said quietly.

Castiel closed his eyes and felt an ice cold tremor rock through him as a woman screamed.

The door rattled. Three times.

The running. Twice.

The scream.

“Let’s go, Gabe,” Cas said quietly. The pair left the recorder going and the camera.

Buddy stood anxiously at the end of the hall. They went to the end of the wing to the living room.

“What the hell are we gonna do?” Gabe asked.

“How long does it last? The doors and running and, God, that scream.”

Gabe shrugged. “I don’t know. I always get the hell outta there.”

Castiel went to the living room window. He could see some of the fourth floor windows from here. The only thing he saw was a curtain move. It was enough.

“We need to do some research. Sam saw what I saw that night. And everyone can see the pictures. I’ll get the pictures printed tomorrow.”

Gabe nodded.

 

***

 

Castiel sat on one of the couches in the living room. He wished he had a warm fire going. Instead, he had a warm blanket over his lap and Buddy snuggled up to his side.

It was the first week of April and it was damp and chilly. It had been raining all day.

Cas went through the pile of old photos again. There were two fantastic pictures of the house. In one, it looked so small and naked without the two extra floors and ballroom. The other had the ballroom under construction.

The rest were of people. People he would never know. Probably family. But how would he ever trace it. Children. Women. Men. Babies. Families. Horses. Sometimes he thought he knew right where the photos were taken in the house. He recognized a fancy bench table two women sat on. It was on the fourth floor in one of the rooms hidden under a drape cloth. One of the photos was definitely taken in the foyer.

He studied the children in the pictures, wondering if that giggle belonged to any of them.

Buddy bolted upright so suddenly that he knocked the box over and pictures flew everywhere.

Castiel carefully gathered them and put them in the box, sliding it under the couch.

Buddy was gone. He ran to the front of the house and looked out the window. Two minivans stood in the driveway.

He grinned wide. They were back. The whole crew. His heart raced at the thought of seeing them all again.

Though he and Dean had texted a few times over the week, he was unsure where exactly Dean stood as far as their relationship.

They had kissed in front of everyone once at the running room party. They were generally more friendly than friends should be all night that night. But still. Maybe Dean would shuck that off to the alcohol. Maybe he would regret the whole thing.

Maybe he was just as anxious to see him. Maybe the week had been long for him as well. Maybe he wouldn’t be sleeping alone tonight.

Or maybe it would be confusing and hazy and somewhere in between.

He watched Dean petting Buddy and Rumsfeld. He backed away from the window. He would let Dean come to him. That would be the best thing to do.

He went to his room, leaving the door wide open. He put away a few scattered items and finally went to sit on the couch in his room.

“Hi, boss!”

Castiel looked up quickly. “Hello, Charlie! How was your week?”

She came in, sitting on the end of his bed. “Good. I had to un-decorate my apartment from Christmas. Not cool. And hung out with some friends. Pretty dull, actually.”

Castiel stood up, sitting next to her. He saw she had a slip of paper in her hand.

“Please tell me you aren’t leaving,” Cas said, seeing it was a typed letter. “I promise I won’t ask a million questions or hover over you! You do fantastic work and-“

“Stop, stop!” She laughed. “Thanks! But no, this is just a letter saying I’ve been accepted into a southern Virginia chapter of Moondoor.”

Castiel nodded. “The game?”

“It’s a LARPing thing. And the entire state of Kansas has one chapter. Virginia has five! They are super active and I am soooo excited! So I had to get a transfer letter from the King at ours to the King of this one.”

Castiel nodded.

“It’s so fun. You should totally do it!”

“I don’t think so,” Cas laughed.

“She trying to talk you into LARPing?” Dean laughed from the door.

Castiel’s eyes swung immediately to him. He grinned, knowing he was blowing a nonchalant, friendly grin by miles.

“I was ranked pretty high in the king’s guard in Kansas. I tried to get Dean to come be my squire, but nope. Maybe you can talk him into it.”

She turned to Cas with a very excited grin. “Oooh! We could go in together as knights! Dean could be our squire! We could share him!”

“No one is sharing me,” Dean groused, flopping onto the couch. “And…just, no.”

Charlie threw Cas a wink. “Work on him, would ya?”

Cas laughed. “I’m not sold myself.”

“Garth and I are pros. Benny goes sometimes.”

“I bet Gabe would do it,” Cas suggested.

“Really?” Her face lit up. “I bet he would!” She took off and Dean jumped up.

“I’m glad you guys are back,” Cas said, hoping Dean wasn’t leaving.

Dean shut the door.

That had to be a good sign. Right?

“Me too. Virginia is growing on me.”

Cas grinned. “You just don’t like to shovel.”

Dean made a face. “I hate shoveling.”

He walked over to the bed and sat down.

Cas thought he might hyperventilate. Dean still had a huge effect on him. No matter how cool he tried to play it, it was instant and unavoidable.

Dean pulled his jacket off. “I brought you something.”

“You did?” Cas knew he was grinning stupidly. He couldn't even stop himself.

“Here.” Dean handed him a business envelope.

Cas took it, staring at Dean’s face in worry. “Dean, I won’t accept this if it’s a resignation letter.”

Dean’s eyebrow jumped.

“I…you can’t quit!”

“It’s not a resignation letter,” Dean grinned. “Just open it.”

Castiel tore the envelope open. He was too worried. He stood up and paced as he pulled out a letter.

He was so nervous he could hardly take in the information.

It wasn’t a resignation letter. It was test results. From a doctor’s office.

“You told me if I wanted that to happen again, you wanted testing done. It’s done. I’m clean.”

Castiel could finally make sense of what he was holding. Proof Dean was clean.

His eyes locked onto Dean’s. Proof he wanted more.

Cas folded the letter and put it back in the envelope. He handed it back to Dean.

“I knew I was clean. That’s for you.”

Castiel nodded. He put the letter in his desk. He pulled his phone out and sent Dean an email. It was his results. Apparently they both had each other on the mind during the week.

“I sent you an email with mine. I’m clean.”

Dean nodded. He stood up and walked up to Cas. “I wasn't sure what I was going to do about us. But as the week went on…I was pretty sure I was done for.”

Castiel relaxed his shoulders. Time away had maybe been a good thing. He pulled Dean in and kissed him. “I missed you too.”

They kissed long and slow. Dean had him backed up to the desk and Cas was sitting on it.

“I was afraid you’d changed your mind about me,” Cas whispered.

“No, Cas. That’s impossible. I might not be the showiest guy, but I won’t make you into a secret either.”

Cas kissed him even harder and wrapped his legs around Dean’s waist, making him chuckle.

“I’ll have to bring you presents every time I go away,” Dean grinned. He slid his mouth down to Cas’ neck.

“How about you just don’t go away,” Cas groaned.

“Alright,” Dean chuckled back. “I missed you anyway.” He kissed Cas’ mouth gently and stepped back, sitting in the middle of the couch. Buddy jumped up and sat next to him on one side and Cas joined him on the other.

Dean put an arm around him and Cas cuddled in. Who knew Dean would be a cuddler.

“So, what did you do all week?” Cas asked. He listened while rubbing a hand on his chest, abdomen, and hand.

Buddy jumped down when he got too hot. Cas took immediate advantage. He pushed Dean down onto his back and fit himself beside and on top of him, pulling a blanket down.

“You smell good,” Cas mumbled, warm against his chest.

“You too,” Dean murmured, kissing his hand.

The rain poured down and they both drifted off.

 

***

 

Dean woke slowly, feeling too good. Too warm. Too much. He ground his hips and found his dick snuggly pressed into something.

He moaned.

He moved again.

That felt tooooo gooooood. He rucked his hips up and opened his eyes. “Cas.”

He could sleep through a lot of things. But not this. Cas had his dick in his mouth and was going to town.

“Fuck, Cas!” Dean threw his head back and moaned loud. He could not escape it. The spiraling slam was so fast and so forceful that he actually cried out and bucked. But Cas stayed planted, never letting go and sucking him through wave after wave of heat and satisfaction.

“You just…” Dean panted, helplessly. “You just swallowed. Holy shit. I’ve never…never had that done before. Holy fuckin’ wow.”

Cas crawled up his body and kissed his neck.

It was all so much. Being woken up inside it all. He felt like he was dreaming.

“That felt so good.”

“Good,” Cas chuckled low.

They were still on the couch, but it was late evening. They had slept. And…yeah. That was Cas’ dick pressed hard against his hip.

He sat up, looking down at Cas. “You took advantage of me in my sleep,” he grinned.

Cas grinned back. “You woke me up. Pushing and moaning.”

That was probably true. He had been thinking about Cas every minute of every day he had been away. He had been disappointed Cas didn’t come out to find him when they all got here. But maybe he was just playing it cool.

The look on his face now was all the hunger he had been wanting to see. He needed Cas to need him. It was an integral part of Dean’s psyche that he was needed as much as he needed the other person.

“What do you want me to do?” He asked, grinning. He would do anything for that grin.

“Return the favor,” Cas said quietly. “If it’s okay.”

Dean flipped them around, Cas on the bottom, finally. He pulled Cas’ t-shirt up and left wet, sloppy kisses on his sides and belly while he worked his jeans open. He pulled them out of the way quickly and took the hot shaft in his hand.

Dean shoved his way into a more comfortable position and sunk down onto Cas.

Cas had his hands in Dean’s hair immediately. But Dean did not let him slow him down. He had sped him into a whirlwind of an orgasm. And he had said to return the favor. So…

“Dean,” Cas huffed out. “Slow down or-“

“MmmMm,” Dean managed. Shaking his head no.

Cas squirmed and moaned and Dean knew exactly what he was doing. He swirled his tongue and swallowed and set a speed that had Cas crying out non coherently.

“Dean, De, nghhhh!” He slipped into a panting, moaning mess.

Dean pulled off, panting for air and wiped drool off his chin. “I just…wanna say…”. He stroked three times, Cas barely managing to open his eyes, “I’m a sucker for a quickie.” He was instantly back on him.

“Aarrrr,” Cas gasped. “You better…be ready…I’m…”. Cas arched back into pure wonton pleasure as he came with a violent rush.

Dean worked him the entire way through, pushing his hands away until Cas started yelling for him to stop.

Cas was an over-sensitized mess. Dean grinned, wiping his chin.

“Fuck,” Cas sighed heavily, still heaving for air. “I’m gonna…remember that.”

Dean giggled a malicious little giggle. “I know you will.”

Cas pulled him to him, kissing him. It was sloppy and earthy and better than anything Dean had ever done.

“Stop touching me,” Cas laughed. “People will wonder why your hands are tied up if you don’t quit touching me.”

Dean laughed, pulling his hands away. “That's what you get for waking me up like that.”

“Why…why is it every time we have sex I’m starving when we’re done?” Cas huffed.

Dean laughed. “Come on, let’s eat.”

They left Cas’ bedroom in a rumpled state, sharing the bathroom for a quick clean up.

They made sandwiches and sat at the table.

Sam came into the kitchen. “Hey, Cas!”

“Hi, Sam.”

Sam gave him a curious little look. “You okay? You look tired.”

Cas laughed and shook his head. “I’m worn out. But, no, I’m good.”

Sam’s eyes stopped on Dean. “Dude. That flight really took it out of you. You should both go to sleep early.”

Dean nodded. “Sounds like a plan.” He just wondered where he’d be sleeping. It was weird getting into a relationship with Cas, living under the same roof. The temptation was too strong to not sleep with him.

He had not intended on hopping immediately into bed with him. He had wanted to give him the test results so that awkward bit was out of the way. But the guy was…well, Dean was having a lot of trouble keeping his hands off of him. In fact, he was glad they had off tomorrow. Because he could think of plenty of things to keep them busy all night and all day tomorrow.

Cas kicked his foot under the table. He realized with a mild zip of surprise that he had been sitting there staring at Cas.

Who could blame him. He had THAT sitting at a table with him. It was difficult to look anywhere else.

“Dean!” Sam blurted.

“What?” Dean snapped out of it.

“I said, did you and Cas talk about the plans for the ballroom?”

“Uh…no.”

Sam gave him an exasperated look. “You said you needed him to okay the chandeliers by 6:00 tonight to have them shipped on time. It’s after nine.”

Dean bit his lip.

“I couldn’t make up my mind,” Cas interrupted, saving his ass.

“Oh,” Sam shrugged. “I’ll call the guy and have him come a day later. If you can decide by tomorrow.”

“We’ll take care of it,” Cas nodded.

“Dude,” Sam said directly to him. “Go to bed. You look like shit.”

Dean rolled his eyes. Stupid douchebag little brothers anyway.

Sam left and Cas chuckled.

Dean blushed, annoyed.

Cas leaned forward, close to his ear. “By the way, you do NOT look like shit.”

“No?” Dean grinned, turning so their mouths were very, very close.

“You might wanna drink some coffee though.”

“You too, old man.”

Cas pulled back, mouth dropping open. “I am not old! I’m thirty! How old are you?”

“Thirty,” Dean grinned.

Cas laughed. “You're a brat, Dean Winchester.” He leaned forward, kissing him quickly and sat back.

Dean grinned. Shit. He had this plan. This…idea. He had thought about it the whole way here. He was going to start things out slow. See if this was really worth it. Because goin’ all in on a guy was bound to blow up in his face. He had never managed a relationship longer than 8 months. And this job had more than 8 months left to go. And…he hadn’t even manned up and told Sam what was going on.

Maybe Sam already knew, but by the way he acted just now, he was doubting it.

Bobby and Rufus came into the kitchen. Cas talked to them briefly and then stood up.

“Can we look at the chandelier choices now? Or did you want to wait until tomorrow?” Cas asked him.

Dean looked up at him. His eyes were enough to make him lose total train of thought every time. But he reeled himself back in. “We can look now.”

Cas nodded and Dean followed him to his room. Cas sat at his desk, Dean sitting on the other side. The door was open. This must be work time.

He pulled out his phone and went to the email the contractor had sent him. “Here ya go. They have 6 options for the right size and what I think you and Gabe are looking for.”

Cas took the phone and scrolled through. He laid it on the desk.

“I like…this one. And this one. That’s it. Which one do you like?”

Dean looked at both. “This one has a more elegant look. I think the curves will look nicer than the harder angles of this one.”

Cas nodded. “The first one then.”

Dean nodded. He marked the choice and put 5 on the order form. He went to the sconces. “You have like 20 choices for the sconces.”

Cas looked at each of them. He narrowed it down to five choices. Then three. He screen shot each of the three, sent them to Gabe and waited.

Dean started completing the order form. “Gabe says the frilly one. Go figure.” Dean smirked. “He wants to know if they have lion ones.”

“No!” Cas insisted.

“I could probably find some, if you want.”

Cas gave him a pleading look. “Do not encourage my brother.”

Dean cracked up laughing and went back to completing the form.

Cas got up, kicking his shoes off. “I’m going to bed soon.”

Dean hesitated. He wasn’t sure what to do.

Suddenly, Cas was leaning over his back, mouth on one of his ears and hands massaging his shoulders. “Would you like to sleep in here?”

Dean’s eyes were closed and he was lost in the sensual touches. “Yes.”

“Good. I’m going to bed. I’ll be waiting.”

Cas disappeared from his shoulders, shut the door, locked it, and proceeded to undress.

Dean watched as he got into bed. Naked.

He shoved the phone over. He could finish the form tomorrow. Right now he needed to be in bed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9. Mondays, Mornings, and Sam’s Shoe

 

Dean had woken early. The morning was chilly and he dreaded the thought of getting out from under the thick, fluffy covers on Castiel’s bed.

Who was he kidding? He dreaded the thought of moving. He was lying flat on his back with Cas curled onto him. His head was nestled against Dean’s shoulder and he couldn’t help but run his fingers through Cas’ thick brown hair. It was darker than Dean’s. It was thicker and a bit longer than his too.

One of his feet was weighted down and pinned to the bed. He carefully lifted his head and saw Buddy at the foot of the bed, sleeping on top of his left foot. He grinned. He was a dog person.

How did that happen? When did that happen?

He stared at the freshly polished oak coffered ceiling. All the suites had coffered ceilings that formed elegant grids to crown the high ceilinged rooms. They varied in the different rooms. Castiel’s room was formed into large squares with cross beams that added a rich depth. Each square had a gold painted crest in its center.

Dean sighed. What was he doing here? Someone like Dean slept in shitty motels. And Cas grew up having a lot of money. Now he had even more money and didn’t even have a job! Just an estate to manage.

Cas’ hand slid over his abdomen and his thoughts about woodwork and self deprecation scattered into nothing. He was naked and tangled up with a creature he was still getting to know. Castiel Novak.

Cas’ hand slid upward, stopping on his chest. His fingers curled and then flattened, smoothing over his skin with a sigh. Dean grinned.

Cas was such a stiff person sometimes. Uptight. Serious. And then there were moments when the stiff jaw relaxed and he was fun, adventurous, ornery.

Dean looked down at the mess of hair and relaxed bit of forehead he could see. In bed…in bed, Cas was everything Dean could possibly want. He took control in a way that Dean wanted and needed. Because in bed, with a guy, Dean tended to hit and run. This…hanging around and actually getting to know him was way harder. Or, he thought it would be. If he just relaxed and acted normal then it all seemed to fit.

His fingers carded so easily through Cas’ hair. It all felt so…natural. If he could just relax and go with the flow here, he might really have something.

His eyes drifted from the hair threading through his fingers back to the ceiling. But how could he relax? How could a millionaire want anything to do with him? Dean had lived his entire life scraping from the bottom of the barrel. The grand total of three men he had actually dated had been in the closet as much as he was. And while sex in the closet can be good, no relationship can live there too long. Life has a way of demanding you come out.

And he did come out. To his crew. To Sam. And that guy ran. It was too much. So, there we had it. Gay or straight, Dean wasn’t the meet-the-family kind. That was always the point that Dean got dropped. Or he bailed.

A grin tugged his mouth again as Buddy sat up, yawned and stretched. He knew Cas’ family. Gabe and Buddy. And they were good! There was more family. That other brother and sister. But neither Cas or Gabe seemed to want anything to do with them. And none of that had to do with Dean. Well…that was new. He was past the family introduction stage.

That meant…it was time to talk to Sam and Bobby. He looked at Buddy. Buddy crawled a little closer so Dean could pet his head. Today. He would talk to them today.

“I think Buddy got what he wanted.”

Dean looked down at Cas’ now awake face that was tilted up to look at him.

“Hi,” Dean grinned.

Cas grinned, his head tipping slightly with a grin. “Hello.”

It was hard to think straight when he looked at him like that. It was like watching a dial turn. It started out with ‘hi, nice to see you’ and turned slowly and steadily into that hungry look that made Dean squirm in his suddenly too-tight jeans.

Of course, right now he wasn’t wearing any jeans. Cas’ hand slid down his chest and abdomen and grasped the length of flesh that was rapidly hardening.

Buddy jumped down and went to lay on the couch. “So, the dog conspired to get us together?” Dean huffed out, loving the feel of his hand on his dick more than he could fathom.

“It was most definitely a conspiracy,” Cas grinned. He got onto one elbow and let go of Dean’s dick, sliding on top of him.

“Cas,” Dean growled.

“You can be late for our meeting this morning,” Cas grinned, kissing him softly. “I’m going to be late.”

Dean grinned, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him up a little to line up their morning woods.

They both hissed and gasped into their kiss.

Some lube and one long kiss later, they were both gasping and rocking. Dean used both hands to keep their cocks pressed together. The slide and friction and press of one swollen cock against another was maddening. The drag and tap of balls to balls with every thrust from Cas was enough to drive Dean crazy. Cas moaned and his eyes were closed.

“Faster,” Dean didn’t whine.

Cas sped his grinding up a notch and then another.

Cas groaned long and low and came lower, his mouth right next to Dean’s ear. “I’m gonna come. You come with me.”

Dean shook his head, slightly frenzied. He couldn’t come on command like that.

“I feel you throbbing and your muscles trembling,” Cas coaxed. “Ready? Come all over me.”

Dean gasped at the erratic pace and heat flooded his hands like a gushing fountain as the pair of them came and writhed and slowly, slowly deflated into a semblance of the two people that had woken up together.

“I need a towel,” Dean huffed a full ten minutes later.

Cas giggled. “You need a shower.”

Dean took a deep breath. “The shit you say.”

Cas giggled again. “And you listen so well.”

Dean shoved him. “Shut up.”

Cas un-straddled him and stopped before getting off the bed. “Don’t worry, if you growl out orders in my ear with your dick anywhere near me, I’ll be ready to comply.”

Dean blushed. Why was he being turned upside down like this. Cas was the quiet one. The serious, uptight one. And now, he was making Dean blush!

Cas tossed him a hand towel and pulled on pajama pants. “I gotta get a shower. I guess I’ll meet you in the dining room in,” he looked at his watch. “Twenty minutes.”

He turned, coming back to the bed, kneeling onto it and taking Dean by storm one more time with kisses.

He pulled away and Dean wiped a hand down his face. “Go!” Dean laughed. “Get off of me!”

Cas laughed, leaving.

Buddy had slipped out the door with him and Dean laid there a moment just basking in the after-sex bliss. Castiel Novak. Whatever this was…however long he could make this last…he was in. He grinned at the coffered ceiling. He gave it the middle finger with both hands. “Ha! Take that!”

 

***

 

Dean took a seat on his preferred box at the lion table. Sam was reading over their spec sheet. Bobby came in, sitting on a box and yawning. Cas sat across the table drinking coffee and texting someone.

Gabe came in at a jog, hopped the arm of the lion throne and neatly deposited himself in all its curving, wooden, grandeur.

Dean grinned, getting a wink from Gabe. Bobby just did a sly bug-eye face and looked down at the paper in front of him. Sam and Cas rolled their eyes.

Sam cleared his throat. “Okay, so, round three starts today. April to the end of June.” He read over the jobs to finish, then moved on to the new jobs to start.

As he listed the new jobs they were starting, Dean glanced up at Cas. His blue eyes were already on him. Dean smirked.

Cas grinned, looking down at the table.

“Sound good?” Sam concluded.

“Yeah, yes,” everyone answered. Dean was pretty sure the only one paying attention was Bobby.

“Alright,” Sam nodded. “Dean, can you go over today’s spec sheet?”

Dean pulled his clipboard in front of himself. “Today Charlie starts second floor electrical in the hall at the top of the foyer. Bobby starts the floor in the ballroom. The elevator gets a check today. I’ll do that. Sam and Garth are starting the plumbing for second floor bathrooms. Water will be off from 10am to 2pm.” He ran down the rest of the list. “Lastly, Gabe and Cas have a meeting with the interior decorator in…ten minutes.”

They wrapped the meeting up quickly. Cas and Gabe headed out to meet the decorator.

Bobby and Sam were about to leave when Dean finally cleared his throat and stood up. “Can I talk to you two?”

Their conversation about the plumbing project stopped instantly, both turning to look at him with concern.

“What?” Dean snapped defensively.

“You wanna talk?” Bobby scoffed. “You dyin’?”

Dean smirked. Smart ass bastard. “No.”

“What’s going on, Dean?” Sam asked, both stepping up to the table.

“I wanted to let you guys know that Cas and I are…dating.”

Bobby’s eyes got wide. “I thought you two just got friendly at the party.”

Dean nodded. “And before the party. And after.”

“Boy!” Bobby snapped in a hushed yell. He threw an incredulous look at Sam. “He’s our boss! You think that’s a good idea?”

Dean grimaced. “I know, but-“

“Ain’t no ‘buts’!” Bobby flapped. “You can’t be bangin’ the boss!”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it that way,” Dean rolled his eyes.

“Oh, so this is more?”

“I think so.”

“You think so,” Bobby repeated, obviously not believing him. “And what happens to our 15 MILLION dollar jobs when you're done with him?”

Dean crossed his arms over his chest defensively.

“Don’t eyeball me!” Bobby snapped. “Tell ‘im Sam!”

Dean stifled a laugh. Sam was standing there quietly, obviously hoping Bobby forgot he was there.

“I mean,” Sam hemmed quietly, “it might go okay.”

“WHAT?” Bobby yelled in that hushed yell you use when there are people around. “It ain’t gonna go okay!”

Dean glared at the old man. “Bobby. It might actually be possible that I have a real relationship here.”

“HE’S YOUR BOSS!” Bobby pulled his hat off, ready to jump across the table and beat Dean with it.

Dean hated himself for stepping back slightly. He could be vicious with that damn thing. But Sam’s head was hanging guiltily too. If Dean had a dime for every time he and his brother were in this position with Bobby or their dad, he could at least buy them plane tickets out of here.

“SAM!” Bobby flailed, “Tell him! He can’t be screwing our boss!”

“I’m sleeping with Gabe.”

Dean blurted out a laugh.

“WHAT??!!” Bobby yelled. Like, really yelled. He staggered back a step in a flailing, self-restraining fit of silent rage/panic.

Dean stepped back again, Sam doing the same.

Bobby took a deep breath, glaring at both of them with open hostility. “You. Can’t. Sleep. With. Our. Boss.”

Dean and Sam both scrunched their mouths and put their hands in their pockets.

Bobby looked at both of them, his eyes bulging. “It has to stop!”

Dean and Sam glanced at each other, then back to Bobby.

“I’m not stopping,” Dean said quietly.

Sam looked between the two. “Me either.”

“Did I? Am I having a nightmare?” Bobby said quietly, pacing and putting his hat back on. “We land the biggest jobs of our careers, we get a third of the way in and you two are screwing our BOSSES?”

“Pretty much,” Dean said. Sam winced.

Bobby shook his head. “If you two idjits get thrown off this job, so help me God, I’m shipping your asses back to Kansas in a box.”

Dean nodded. That was fair.

“Bobby,” Sam began, “I didn’t mean for it to happen. Gabe and I just kinda…”

“I don’t need the details!” Bobby snapped, waving him off. “Fix it. End it.”

Dean blinked. “Ya know, you give me shit for not being able to keep a relationship with anyone longer than two months and now-“

“That’s because it hasn’t been two months yet!” Bobby hissed. “And when Cas comes down here for a spec meeting all hurt, pouting, and gets ready to fire us all because you did whatever it is you do to piss people off, I’m shipping you out.”

“You know you work for me, right?” Dean snapped.

The stare-off was intense.

“Guys!” Sam interrupted with that damn pleading voice Dean hadn’t heard since their dad was around.

Dean sighed, looking down. “Bobby, I didn’t…mean to do this. It just…happened. I didn’t even think he liked me until a few weeks ago!”

Bobby relented, rubbing a hand over his bearded chin. “Sam, you oughta know better.”

Sam nodded.

“Dean…remember that job in Elk?”

Dean grimaced. They lost everything because Dean slept with their client. And then his sister.

“That was ten years ago, Bobby.”

Bobby looked off to the side. “This is gonna go sideways. And I can’t afford to go sideways. Not on this one. But Dean…it ain’t just about money, son.”

“I would never do that to you, Bobby,” Dean said, not curbing the hurt in his voice or on his face. “And you should know better.”

Bobby tipped his head back, rolling his eyes. “I know you wouldn’t do it on purpose, Dean! Ya just get…”

“You sabotage yourself,” Sam said quietly.

“What is this? Pick on Dean day? Why the fuck does Sam get off so easy?”

“Hey,” Bobby’s voice snapped like a whip. “You know damn well I love both you boys. BOTH. And you’re right. I’m sorry.” Bobby sighed.

Dean’s glare was making Bobby squirm. “Here’s the deal,” Bobby offered. “If Sam screws this up, I’ll shoot ‘im. If you screw up, I’ll jus say ‘I told you so’.”

Dean huffed. “Fine.”

Sam lifted his hands in obvious disagreement. “No. Not fine.”

They stood there a moment, letting the anger dissipate and sanity take hold again.

“You boys know better than this. And you are gonna have to be responsible about it. And that’s all I can say about it.” Bobby shrugged.

“I’m not makin’ any promises,” Dean said quietly, “but I will be careful and I won’t jeopardize our jobs.”

“Me too,” Sam nodded.

“Are we good then?” Cas said from the doorway, shocking them all.

All three turned startled looks at the doorway. All three of them blushed, Bobby most of all.

“Yes,” Sam said quickly. “Sorry, we just needed to…we were just keeping things…”

“I understand,” Cas said stone cold serious. “I also understand your concerns, Bobby. And you're right. This is not professional or…wise. But it is happening and all I can say is that Gabe and I aren’t petty. No one’s job would ever be in jeopardy because of our relationships.”

“Thank you,” Bobby said quietly.

“Are things clear enough? Or do you want something in writing?” Cas pressed.

Dean couldn’t stop the grin that wiggled onto his lips. A laugh spurted out, Sam right behind him.

Bobby turned an incredulous look on them. Cas just kept with the conversation, waiting on Bobby’s reply.

“So,” Dean couldn’t stop himself, “how detailed of a contract or letter of agreement are we talking, Cas? Like are we listing positions, safe words, or-“

Cas finally cracked a smile, looking away from Bobby.

Bobby stared with wide eyes. “I’m gonna kill ya in yer sleep, you idjit.”

Dean finally shut himself up. Bobby was staring him down again but all Dean could do was grin, stifle his laugh, and wink at Bobby.

Bobby finally broke, chuckling. “You idjits.”

“It’ll be fine, Bobby,” Cas reassured him.

Bobby nodded, stepping out of the room and getting busy, Sam scurrying off out a different door.

Cas rounded the table slowly. “I was only there for the tail end of that, but I take it Bobby thinks this won’t work.”

Dean sighed, not making eye contact. “I don’t have the greatest record as far as dating goes.”

Cas stepped a little closer. “He’s not wrong for worrying. It isn’t professional. But…if we waited…”

Dean looked at him fully now. “We’re not waiting. And waiting for what? For me to go back to Kansas? No. It just is what it is.”

Cas smiled. “I agree. And besides, I was the one that pushed you into this being something more. You were fine with avoiding me.”

Dean flinched. “I wasn’t avoiding. I was busy.”

“Oh,” Cas nodded, seeing right through him. “And now?”

Dean pushed away from the table. “And I’m busy now too.” Dean stuck his tongue out at him and Cas just laughed, shaking his head.

“I’ll be with the decorator!” He called, Dean already heading across the foyer. “In case you aren’t busy!”

 

***

 

Castiel had learned several things today.

1. Bobby was the real boss.
2. Dean spoke terrible Spanish.
3. Sam slept naked.
4. Gabe was officially banned from decorating. And purchasing furniture (new, used, antique, or ancient)

 

“Gabriel!” Cas laughed, nudging his elbow. Gabe was insisting on explaining how he knew for a fact that Sam slept naked. He and Gabe were at the top landing of the sweeping steps above the foyer. They were leaning on the ugly metal railing, overlooking the beautiful foyer.

“What?” Gabe laughed back. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “I was freaked out! We hadn’t even been sleeping here that long and I kept hearing shit! That door rattling woke me up and then the scream. It was the third night in a row and I needed sanctuary.”

“I believe Bobby’s room is across from yours,” Cas grinned.

Gabe’s eyes widened. “Would you jump in bed with that? No. I didn’t think so. So, I ran into Sam’s room and he jumped out of bed half asleep!” Gabe gave him a look like there was nothing more that needed to be said. “Can I just say,” he added, “there is a loooot of muscle strapped to that tall frame.”

Castiel grinned.

“Dude,” Gabe said a little louder, standing up tall. “Did you sleep with him at Stanford?”

Castiel stood as well. “Does it ruin it for you if the answer is yes?”

Gabriel gave him a pleading look. “You did?” He asked weakly. “That’s…”

The look of disgust was priceless. Cas could not contain his laugh. “No, Gabriel. I never slept with Sam.”

Gabe slapped him upside the back of the head and Cas returned the shot with a lightening quick jab to Gabe’s solar plexis.

“Fucker!” Gabe hissed.

They settled back onto the railing, having caught a glance up from Sam. The scuffle must have caught his attention for a second.

Dean and Sam were talking to Rufus in the foyer below.

“Look at ‘em. So serious.” Gabe shook his head, grinning.

“They're working,” Cas grinned. But Gabe was right. Watching Dean at work was a pleasure like he had never known before.

Dean looked up at both of them and winked.

“No matter what happens, Gabriel, they are keeping the contract. I promised Bobby.”

Gabe nodded. “That man owns a shotgun. I’m not taking so much as a cracker away from him.”

Cas smirked. Huh. He should have bought a shotgun years ago. It might have kept Gabe in check all this time.

Dean turned around and took a few steps toward the railing, looking up at the brothers. “You two got a minute?”

“For you?” Gabe grinned.

They headed down the sweeping steps that were polished to a warm, healthy glow. The runner was maroon with a floral and lattice pattern that looked stately. The foyer, though cluttered with supplies and covered entirely with a protective floor because of the high traffic, was beautiful. The windows sparkled and two floors of huge windows let in a ton of tight.

They followed Dean and Sam into the dining room.

“We hit a snag,” Sam stated bluntly, flopping his papers down and blowing out an exasperated sigh.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Cas said gently, sitting on a box.

“It’s gonna be fine,” Dean shrugged, we just gotta think through it. “It’s a plumbing issue and it won’t make much sense to you guys, but it’s proving to be a problem.”

“And the guy never showed today to do the electrical inspection. So Charlie is stuck doing nothing.”

“I’ll call and see what happened,” Cas offered.

“You don’t have to do that,” Sam smiled. “I will handle it, it’s just slowing us down.”

“And Ash found more termite damage in the second floor, close to where it was down here. So he’s working on that.”

“Scuse me, sir?” A man asked from the doorway. It was one of the local hired hands that Cas saw around the manor quite often.

“Yeah?” Dean said, looking up at him.

“Las piedras estàn en el baño.”

“Gracias,” Dean nodded.

Cas frowned. Why was Dean having them put stones in the bathroom? Maybe it was for the plumbing.

The man looked concerned.

“We good?” Dean asked.

“Um..sòlo podimos caber 20 bolsas en allì y ahora no se puede llegar al baño.”

Dean looked lost. “What? There’s 20 bags of tiles in the bathroom and now they can’t do something.”

“There’s 20 bags of stones in the bathroom,” Cas translated. “And now you can’t get to the toilet.”

“What?” Dean looked so confused. “Why did you…”

Dean stumbled through some half-assed Spanish, the poor guy looking so confused.

“Dean,” Cas interrupted. “You keep telling him to put stones in the bathroom.”

“Not stones! Tiles! I wanted 20 packs of tiles put in the bathroom!”

Cas held a hand up. “I’ll tell him. He told the man to please take the stones back outside where they were, put 20 packs of tile in there, and please excuse Dean’s poor Spanish and lousy attitude. He had had a bad day.

The man told him he was afraid of that. Also, that they had found a shoe in the tank of the toilet. They had told Dean and he kept telling them to put it in the toaster.

Castiel laughed. The man laughed too.

“What’s so funny?” Dean groused, not following the Spanish at all now.

Cas asked him to please bring the shoe to him.

“Dean,” Cas said kindly. “They’re having some trouble understanding your Spanish.”

Dean hunched his shoulders up, “Dude, I speak good Spanish!”

“Apparently not,” Sam grinned. “Not if you're telling them to put shoes in the toaster.”

Dean looked lost. “I said what?”

“I would suggest Google translate,” Cas added.

“This day is just sucking,” Dean complained. “And, did I tell you the decorator has to wait on every decision you guys made today to submit them to the historical committee? They don’t meet for like three weeks.”

“They told us,” Gabe nodded. “It’ll be fine. Cassie and I have that much time to make a million fucking decisions on wallpaper, paint, curtains, and furniture. And apparently I made one too many poor choices because I’ve been black balled from all the local antique shops.” Gabe whined. He pointed an accusing finger at a smirking Cas. “I can’t purchase anything without his consent!”

Dean raised his eyebrows and Sam just looked at the list in his hands.

“I’d say we all earned a night at The Roadhouse tonight,” Dean grinned.

“Oh,” Sam added, “the safety inspector won’t be here until like six.”

“Okay,” Dean sighed. “Bring me a burger, if you would.”

“Sirs?” The man spoke hesitantly from the door.

“Gracias,” Cas thanked him, taking the shoe.

“Hey! That’s my shoe!” Sam took the shoe and gave Gabe an exasperated look. “The toilet? How was I ever supposed to find that?”

“I forgot I hid everyone’s shoes at our last party,” Gabe nodded with amusement. “And we never played a game to find them!”

Cas, Dean, and Sam all exchanged a look of frustration.

Cas clarified with eyes closed and a deep breath, “So, there are seven more shoes around here in odd places?”

Gabe thought for a moment. “Yep.”

 

***

 

Monday had passed like a sweater along sandpaper. Lots of snags and feeling frayed afterward. The safety inspector didn’t leave until almost 8pm.

Dean texted Cas that the guy had left. They had issues with the stable. It was considered unsafe to be in. So, it needed some repairs before Cas and Gabe could start their business.

He prowled around the inside, poking and pushing stall walls. It was a crumbling mess.

“Dean?”

Dean stepped out of the remains of a stall he was in. “Hey, Cas. I’m over here.”

They met in the middle of the aisle.

“Brought you dinner,” Cas smiled, handing him a cold beer and a white take-out bag from The Roadhouse.

Dean sat on the stone half wall that once was a beautiful stall wall. “Thanks.”

Cas sat next to him. “How did the safety inspection go?”

Dean took a long drink of beer. “You wanna hear about it now or at the spec meeting tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow,” Cas grinned.

Dean grinned back. He could see that Cas was anxious to touch him. Dean smirked. He shook his head slightly, making Cas blush.

He opened his bag, pulling out a burger. “Oooo, so good.” He opened the burger and pulled out a handful of fries, piling them on, then pressing the bun back down.

He crammed a bite in, chewing and losing himself for a few seconds in the flavors. He had been really hungry.

He turned, knowing Cas would be watching him with that little grin. And yep. There it was. He grinned, cheeks full of food, then kept chewing.

Cas’ eyes flitted from his face, his mouth, down his neck and lower. He stifled whatever it was he was thinking and got up to wander around the stable.

The floor was stone, quarried and built to last forever. The half walls of the same stone made an aisle down the center with four stalls on either side. One of the stalls was extra large. It would have been the brood mare’s stall. At one time, beautiful wood and iron walls made gates and the rest of the walls. A ladder at the end led up to a loft that was empty and half missing now, but would have held the hay. A huge damaged portion of the roof is what led to the stables demise. The whole thing was ready to collapse.

“What am I going to do with this?” Cas asked, wandering up and down the aisle. “I know nothing about horses and really am not interested in having any.” He walked into one of the stalls and leaned on the waist high wall, looking over it at Dean. “But I feel like it needs saved. It feels good in here, ya know?”

Dean nodded, chewing and halfway through his burger. He knew what Cas was saying. After his terrifying trip through the basement, his continual frustration finding staircases, and his general dislike for the fourth floor, he had grown to distrust the house. But out here, the air was clearer.

“We could redo it if the budget is left,” Dean said, looking up at the roof. “Tear it down to the stone and rebuild. The foundation is solid.”

Cas nodded. “And become a horse owner?”

Dean shrugged. “I don’t know, man. How about we see if we can survive the house first?”

Cas had to agree with that.

Dean finished his burger and his beer. He walked over to where Cas leaned over the wall. “Fries?”

“No,” Cas grinned, taking three.

Dean ate a few and sat it down. He came through where the stall door would be and grinned when Cas did not move from his position leaning over the wall.

He put his hands on Cas’ hips, grinding against him slowly. Cas’ head dropped and Dean could picture his face relaxing.

He leaned over him, sliding his hands up his sides and down his arms.

Cas moaned softly and Dean rubbed his dick even harder into him.

It was a rush just to be able to walk up to him like this. He had seen him leaning over the dining room table a hundred times and had thought about doing this every single time.

One hand jumped from his hold on Cas’ arm to grip him through his jeans, making Cas jolt and grind back into him.

Dean’s mouth found his neck and Cas was pressing back into him hard enough that he had to plant his feet to the ground and press back in return.

“Dean,” Cas murmured quietly. “I don’t have anything with me.”

“I don’t need anything,” Dean huffed, rubbing Cas’ dick through his jeans and grinding.

Cas started to turn but Dean held him fast. Cas’ hands were on the wall and Dean had grabbed one wrist, anchoring him there. The other taking total control of his dick, still zipped up snug in his jeans. “I’m gonna make you come in your pants like a teenage boy,” Dean growled.

Cas whined and shoved his head back, Dean sliding his mouth around the side and into the crook of his neck and shoulder. He stroked harder and Cas reached for his belt with his free hand.

“MmMm,” Dean blocked him, squeezing inside his thigh and then back on his long, thick, bulge.

“Dean,” Cas panted, getting frantic underneath him.

“I know what you want,” Dean said low, biting his neck. “You can’t have it right now.”

Cas bucked against him and whined. Dean ground against him hard and bit into his neck even harder.

He moaned out a frustrated cry and kept Cas pinned against him to ride out an orgasm.

Cas ground against him and writhed, gasping and growling until Dean felt wet heat seep through his jeans.

“Just like a horny teenager,” Dean panted, licking and kissing the bruised area on Cas’ neck.

“Fuck,” Cas managed, pulling his neck away from Dean’s mouth. “Too much. Stop.”

Dean chuckled low. Cas was like putty and he easily turned him around, lifting him to sit on the wall, Dean snug against him between his knees. They perched there in a long, patient hug.

“The stables are my new favorite place,” Cas mumbled, hanging on Dean like a rag doll.

Dean carded his fingers through Cas’ soft hair and kissed him on the cheek.

“Dean,” Cas managed, eyes closed. “I…you are too much. I can’t even think straight.”

Cas sat up, pulling back slightly, “Did you?”

Dean stepped back, wet spot showing in the same place Cas had one. Cas grinned and Dean leaned back in, laying his head against Cas’ chest, their arms wrapped around each other.

Cas might like the stable. But this was Dean’s new favorite place to be. He wasn’t quite ready to share that. But there was no denying it to himself. His head against Cas’ steady heartbeat, his arms wrapped around him. The way his fingers slid with a light press to feel him. Like Cas needed to triple check he was really holding a body in his arms. His smell and his steady, calm presence. All of it. Wrapped snuggly around him.

He could have fallen asleep there, standing, leaning into Cas. But Cas slid a hand up and down his back. His subconscious way of letting him know he was going to move. Dean sighed and got to his feet a little better.

“I’ll have to bring you burgers more often,” Cas grinned down at him.

Dean kissed him on the mouth. Their first kiss since this morning. “I’ll do that for free. Anytime you lean over something and stand there. So, you might want to pay better attention to your posture.”

Cas laughed, kissing him and sliding off the wall to stand toe to toe with him.

“Think that would shut Gabe up?”

Cas shook his head. “No idea. Might send him running, anyhow.”

“Come on,” Dean tugged his hand gently. “I’m ready to end this day. And I need a shower. Bad.”

“Why?” Cas grinned, palming him and making Dean squirm and pull away.

“EW! Stop! It’s bad enough we have to walk all the way back to the house like this!”

The barn was completely dark by now and they walked back to the house and up the steps. They rock, paper, scissored for the first shower.

Dean lost.

Damnit.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10. Dead Men’s Doors

 

Tuesday morning was a most pleasant affair. Cas woke up to a very spry Dean. Apparently he was a morning person.

And by the time he was done with Cas, he was almost convinced he was a morning person himself. Almost.

“You're gonna be late for the spec meeting if you don’t get up,” Dean grinned, bouncing on the edge of Cas’ bed while he tied his boot.

“Fill me in later,” Cas murmured from deep within his warm nest of sated happiness.

The bed bounced some more. “I’ll have coffee waiting.”

Coffee. Mmmmm…. Cas peeked out of his mound. “With creamer?”

“Yes,” Dean grinned, peeling the cover back and kissing him.

Buddy loved that Dean was a morning person. The pair left, leaving Cas alone with his tempting burrow.

 

Twenty minutes later and after a lot of whining in his head, Cas jogged down the steps.

He sat at his typical box at the lion table. Gabe was lounged across his throne like a hedonistic emperor. Sam, Dean, and Bobby were waiting, talking about the plumbing problem.

Cas sat down, hair still fairly messy and half asleep. Dean slid him a hot coffee and he took a long, slow drink.

“Ready?” Dean mused.

Cas glanced around the table. “Sorry. Go ahead,” he tried to hide the grin, but failed.

The plumbing was going nowhere, but they were getting another opinion today. Electrical was still on hold. The permit dick was supposed to come today. Bobby was working on the ballroom floors again and needed to know what to do with all the old beds and mattresses.

Cas and Gabe said they’d talk about it. Cas preferred to get them to a collector or museum rather than trash them.

“I could use some help with errands,” Cas said. “If Charlie isn’t busy, could I steal her away?”

“Yep,” Bobby said. “She’ll love you for that. Otherwise she woulda been on floor duty with me.”

“Are you sure?” Cas asked. “I don’t want to take away help from you.”

“She’s all yours,” Bobby grinned.

They all went their separate ways for the day. Cas called Charlie.

“Hi, Cas!” She answered cheerfully.

“Good morning, Charlie. I hope you don’t mind, but I have stolen you for the day. I need an assistant.”

“Yay! No floors? Bobby was such a grump yesterday!”

Cas grinned. “Meet me at my truck as soon as you can.”

“On the way, bossman!”

Cas crossed the foyer, seeing Dean standing at the entrance to the first room off the foyer, talking to Bobby. Buddy sat at his side, but looked back at Cas.

“Hey boy, wanna go for a ride?”

Buddy leapt up, running to him, jumping with delight.

Dean turned at the distraction. Cas stuck his tongue out at Dean, who flipped him off.

Ha! Stolen.

Charlie met him and both dogs at the truck.

“Where are we going?” Charlie asked, helping Rumsfeld into the back.

“I want to stop at the mall outside of town. The new season of Killjoys is out and I believe you are in need of some Xbox cards.”

Charlie’s face lit up. “For real? You stole me from floors and are spoiling me?”

Cas guarded a smile as he drove off the estate. “And I’m picking up the back splash tile for the kitchens.”

Charlie gave him a suspicious look. “I sense you are up to something. But, you know what? I’m not even going to ask why. What ever it is, I say yes.”

Cas grinned wider, glancing at her. “Dean might get pissed at you.”

“And? I can handle Dean.”

Cas chuckled. “Yeah? Tell me about him.”

Charlie hummed softly. “He’s…do you know about his dad?”

“Yep. And his relationship with Sam. But that’s pretty much it. Sam and I went to college together. We had some long conversations about John and Dean Winchester.”

“Well, Dean loves Dr. Sexy, Game of Thrones, and anything about classic cars or restoring houses. He was not a dog person until he met you.”

“That wasn’t me,” Cas said seriously. “I was quite pissed Buddy liked him so much. That was Buddy.”

“Huh,” she mused. “He’s good at…everything. He’s a shark at pool, so don’t even let him try to hustle you.”

Cas nodded, taking in every word.

“Who was his last boyfriend?” Cas asked.

Charlie blew out a breath. “I’ll let him tell you about his past track record. I’ll just say, if you can’t handle hearing about exes, if that makes you jealous, Dean is not the guy for you.”

“Are any of them still around?” Cas asked.

“Well…Lisa. She lives in Lawrence. But it’s not like they hang out. Dean goes to her son Ben’s baseball games sometimes.”

Charlie glanced over at Cas’ raised eyebrow. “Ben isn’t Dean’s son. But they did get kinda attached when he dated Lisa. It was probably the most functional and responsible relationship Dean had. But it didn't work out. And…Cole. Cole kept coming around but Benny and Sam finally chased him off. He and Dean had a terrible relationship but it musta been spicy. They fought all the time. Dean didn’t even realize how toxic it was. I blame John for that one. I think Dean was trying to prove a point to his dad that he could be with a guy. That was a loooong time ago. But every now and then Cole turns up. But you have nothing to worry about. Sam and I coached him out of that mess years ago. That was back when John was still around.”

“You knew John?”

“Oh yeah. Dean and I have been friends since kindergarten. He used to draw me pictures and stick them in my backpack.”

Cas grinned hard at that. He could picture a wee little Dean coloring pictures and sneaking them into Charlie’s back pack.

“I thought you were older than Dean,” Cas asked, thinking into things a little harder.

“No. I graduated a year before he would have. He flunked fourth grade. It wasn’t his fault. He was away a lot that year and Sam was a real handful when he was five. He wanted to go to school so bad. Sam was in Kindergarten. And every time they went away on jobs, John pulled them out of school. No warning. They’d just be leaving in the morning for who knows where. They would get somewhere and Sam would run away to try to get back to school.”

Cas snickered. “I could see that.” But the darker corners of the story weren’t lost on him. “Did Sam flunk too?”

“No,” Charlie said quietly. “Dean always made sure he kept up. Besides, after Sam ran away the third time, John beat Dean for it. Sam never ran away again.”

They rode silently for the rest of the way to the mall. When he pulled into a parking spot, he looked at Charlie. “I’ve never hated anyone I never met before.”

She nodded back. “I’m sure you’ll meet him eventually. He’ll turn up. Then you’ll like him even less.”

Cas scrunched his mouth in distaste. Dean and Sam deserved so much better than what they had gotten.

“Hey,” Charlie grinned softly, putting a hand on his arm, “they’re happy now. And even John can’t ruin it. They stuck together and drove him out. They’re good.”

Cas nodded.

Charlie sat back sighing. “If you can handle it, if you and Dean really try to stay together, you are gonna have to be patient with him.”

Cas grinned. “That’s what Sam told me a few weeks ago.” He grinned harder. “I find steamrolling him works better.”

Charlie’s eyebrows shot up.

“I’ll be back. Wait here with the boys, okay?”

She nodded, obviously picturing some sort of steamrolling options.

Cas went into the music store buying Charlie two xbox cards, KillJoys, her a pac man shirt, himself a Mario shirt, and Dean a Metallica t-shirt. He was a sucker for fandom crap. He stopped in the ice cream shop and bought himself and Charlie milk shakes and the dogs little bowls of vanilla ice cream.

After some squealing and a very happy pair of dogs settled back down, they headed to the hardware store to pick up tile.

They were heading back to the house.

“So, what’s next?” Charlie asked. Rumsfeld had his huge head over the seat and parked on her thin shoulder. She ran his long ear through her fingers and he blinked sleepily.

“I need an assistant.”

“For?”

“The passageways.”

Charlie looked at him. “I wanna squeal and flap again, because…hidden passageways! But Dean is going to kill me.”

“He won’t,” Cas grinned confidently.

“You better have gotten him more than a shirt,” Charlie warned.

“I got more for him than he’ll ever need.”

Charlie laughed uproariously. “Castiel Novak! You dirty boy! And you look soooo innocent!”

Cas winked at her. “So do you.”

She laughed hard again. “You owe me for this, by the way.”

He nodded.

“And your Jedi tricks won’t work on me.”

He grinned, admitting defeat on that one.

“You owe me some details. Cause I gotta admit, I’ve been gay since…forever. I would have nooo idea what the hell to do with a dick if I had one. Or if my partner had one. Let alone two. So…yeah. Details. But I’m gonna need some alcohol first.”

Castiel was laughing so hard he almost had to pull over. “Alright, well, I’m gonna need a drink or ten for that conversation as well.”

They parked the truck and turned the dogs loose. Rum went to the porch and Buddy bounded around the back of the house. He loved to watch when they dug. Rufus had complained of having at least ten almost-heart attacks because Buddy would pop up around any digging site.

Jon, the guy Dean had been poorly communicating with, gave him a friendly wave. Cas waved back and asked if he could have a guy put the tile from his truck into the kitchen.

He and Charlie carried several boxes each, into the kitchen themselves. They got a drink of water and made a plan for the passageway.

Charlie texted Ash that they were going in. Then told Benny as well.

“There,” Charlie said conspiratorially, “multiple people know we are going in. So, it’s not a secret.”

Cas nodded, and he slid the panel aside. He was dying to know what was up that ladder. They were both armed with flashlights, cell phones (fully charged), and rope. Charlie insisted all good adventurers should have a rope.

Cas glanced around the kitchen nervously, then dropped into the tunnel, moving quickly. Charlie dropped in behind him.

“I’m in,” Charlie whispered loudly. The panel was shut and they were off.

“I’ve been in here and reinforced some of the bottom rungs on the ladder,” Cas told Charlie as they crawled under the length of the dining room, across the long living room and to where it stopped abruptly.

He tested his weight carefully on the replaced section of flooring. It felt secure.

He stood at the ladder, testing his weight on a few rungs. “I’m going up.”

“Right behind you,” Charlie called.

He climbed rung after rung. The wall changed as they went above ground. His left shoulder was always beside a brick shaft. He thought it must be the chimney from the huge fireplace in the living room.

“Hey!” Charlie called.

Cas stopped in his tracks immediately. “Yeah?”

“You missed a door.”

He looked down, seeing Charlie pull on a door at her right side. She shook it with no luck and looked up at Cas.

“Let me try.” They both climbed down so Cas was across from the small wooden door. He twisted on the ladder to grab the handle tight, rattling it hard. He thought about Dean’s lock picking kit. He pulled a small pocket knife out of his pocket and began shoving the catch of the lock up. It turned out it wasn’t locked. It was corroded shut.

After some chipping away, he worked it free, the swollen wood dragging on the floor. He fully expected everyone in the house to be on the other side of the door, arms crossed and glares fixed on him because he had made quite a racket getting the damn thing to open.

He pushed the small door open and was surprised to find himself in a closet. He pushed some things aside and crawled out so Charlie could follow him.

Cas opened the door of the closet. They were in Gabe’s room.

“Cool!” Charlie cheered. “We made it!”

Cas thought back to the rattling door he had heard from in Gabe’s room. But this was not the door he had heard. That definitely came from upstairs. Nonetheless, it was creepy to think that his brother was sleeping in a room with a secret door.

“But the ladder keeps going,” Charlie added. “Let’s see where else it goes!”

Cas grinned. He officially loved Charlie Bradbury.

They crawled back into the shaft, getting on the ladder and pulling the door shut, which looked like nothing more than a wall from the closet side.

“Good catch, Charlie!” Cas said, climbing a good ten feet. The ladder ended at a landing that Cas climbed up onto.

Charlie made her way up and they both stood in a very narrow hallway. They were staring at the backsides of lath and plaster walls. Thin strips of wood made endless dashes along the walls. Wires could be seen running between studs from outlets close to the floor. Plaster squished out in dried little cascades between the laths and crumbled at the slightest touch. Cas had to turn a bit sideways to walk through, but at least they could stand and weren’t crawling.

He shined his light ahead, marveling at the sight of it. They began following the hall, watching for doors. They found a door into the laundry room. It looked like a decorative wood panel beside the built-in shelves.

“We’re on the fourth floor now,” Cas noted, recognizing the room. None of this had been touched yet.

Back inside the passageway, they followed a path into another room. Another door opened into the closet of an empty room. It looked like the wall when closed and was quite difficult to open anymore.

Back in the passage, they turned the corner and went down another narrow hall. And again they turned down another hall. Castiel was sure they were in between the walls of the bedrooms in the wing of the fourth floor.

They stepped into a new hall. This one was wider. And immediately felt different. The wall to their right shoulder was lath and plaster but looked haphazardly done. Laths were crooked, falling, and not evenly spaced like the other walls. But the biggest difference was the wall on the left. It had wallpaper.

Cas ran his hand along the flowery, faded, and filthy wallpaper. “What the hell?” He muttered.

“They put in a false wall,” Charlie marveled. “This was the original wall.” She pointed to the wallpapered wall. “Look, you can see they took off the crown molding at the top and then pried off the baseboards. They probably used them on this wall.” She patted the right wall, which would be the wall in one of the empty bedrooms up here.

“Why would they do that?” Cas asked, but his eyes were already on something else. The door. Not a hidden door. A regular door. The wall with old wallpaper had a door in it. It looked so startlingly out of place in the narrow passage.

Painted over its wood was some sort of large symbol. Lines went from the door in steady stripes off the door and over the entire length of the wall. He had not noticed it in the dark with the floral pattern to the paper.

It ran in thick, red lines that did not look deteriorated like everything else in here. In front of the door, facing it, sat a pair of shoes.

Dust clung to them and they had obviously been purposely placed there. They were a pair of very worn, women’s shoes. They were black and went over the ankle. Their laces lay tied daintily, as if the wearer simply vanished from the spot.

Cas felt Charlie grab his arm. He covered her hand with his own and then held it tightly. They were both breathing heavy. Cas was sure Charlie wanted to run, like him, but was too damn curious, like him, to do the wise thing.

Instead, they stood there, their lights roving over the wall and door and floor.

One of the red lines connected to another symbol, the same as the one on the door, but bigger and painted onto the wall. Lines ran from the four points of this one as well.

One connected back to the door. One ran straight up, over the ceiling and onto the lath and plaster wall. There, it branched into two lines. These lines ran the length of the hall and dropped down every section between the studs. There, they connected to a symbol but these were different. Lines went out from each side connecting each to the next. Lines went from the bottom, down the wall and across the hardwood floor, up the wall and converged into one line that connected back to the symbol on the wall.

Lines went sideways as well, from the large symbol, the length of the wall, around the corner and connected to the first symbol painted onto lath and plaster.

“It’s like…connect the dot,” Charlie said quietly.

“It feels like a cage,” Cas said, his eyes connecting the whole hall.

“Look, on the floor.”

They moved as one unit, stepping back. There was yet another symbol carved ruthlessly into the hand wood floor. It’s crude lines were filled in with the thick red paint and a line ran out one side, connecting to the lath wall and out the other side, under the shoes and up the door.

“All these red lines make it look like…they taped the room closed. From the inside.”

There were things on the floor at the base of each symbol on the lath wall. Cas bent down to pick one up.

He picked up an old glass bottle. It was slightly bigger than the palm of his hand. The bottle was full of a brownish-yellow liquid with a metal heart floating in it and several slim pieces of metal and several thin whitish-grey slivers lay at the bottom of it. Red thread was wound around the top of it and tied. It was sealed with something slick and waxy over the cork and thread.

“What is that?” Charlie asked.

“No idea,” Cas marveled. He handed it to Charlie, letting go of her hand. He took a few steps and picked up another one. “This one’s the same.”

“It looks like some kind of creepy, ritualistic, pagan shit, Cas. This whole thing gives me the major creeps.”

He shined his flashlight to where one of the bottles had been sitting. A thick layer of dust showed the oval of where the bottle had been. He noticed a line going from the circle, up the wall to the symbol.

“Yes.” Castiel thought about the ghost. The banging and the tricycle. “It’s all connected. Every symbol. Like a net. Like a cage.”

Charlie stepped back to the door, looking at the red line carefully.

“What is this?” She touched it gingerly. “It feels waxy.”

A rush of cold fogged Castiel’s mind. He had the sensation the world had tipped slightly.

“Why did you do that?!” Charlie gasped, stepping back and looking at Cas like he had lost his mind.

Cas looked at her with confusion. “Do what?” He turned to the door. His hand was on the knob. He had turned the knob and opened the door. Red, waxy flakes crumbled to the floor as the seals were broken. The shoes lay knocked over to the side.

He let go of the knob like it was on fire and jumped back, hitting the wall, dropping his bottle. It didn’t break, but Cas immediately felt like so much damage had already been done.

“I didn’t do it! I didn’t open it! I mean, I don’t remember doing it!”

Charlie stepped back, her eyes darting from his shocked face to the now open door.

“You just kinda pushed me out of the way and turned the knob before I could even stop you,” she said in a harsh whisper.

“I think we should go now,” she said, grabbing his wrist.

“But, the door’s open,” Cas whispered.

They both stared at it.

Again, they waited in a moment of almost running, and then staying to push on further.

“Okay, fine,” Charlie said quickly, “but we need to be out of here in the next five minutes or I’m leaving your ass here.”

“Okay,” Cas nodded.

“I take that back. You never leave a man behind.” She squeezed his hand tighter. “Five minutes or I’ll call Dean.”

“Okay. Five minutes. Tops.”

Cas held her hand firmly as he pulled the door open wider. They shined their flashlights ahead, into the darkness.

The dark seemed to eat the light away, making it hard to see. They stepped through. This side was like the other side. The door had a symbol painted on it. This one looked incomplete. And there were deep clawed gouges through it. There was broken glass and other signs of violence that echoed through the room.

“There’s a door,” Charlie whispered. In the corner was a small wooden door. Like the ones they had seen in the passage.

“This is the fourth floor. This is what has the fourth floor divided. This is why we can’t get from one side of the floor to the other,” Cas said in awe, figuring out where they were in the house.

“But why?” Charlie asked, shining her light around the narrow space.

The cold rush filled him again with an icy, dizzying sensation. “Open the door,” Cas heard himself say. He had to open that door. He went to the small door and yanked on it.

“Cas! You promised! Let’s go!” Charlie yelled.

She pulled her phone up with shaky hands to call Dean. She still had it on camera from taking pictures of the dogs.

Her eyes bulged as she looked at the man standing next to Cas. She looked up quickly, seeing Cas alone at the little door. But looking back through her camera there was clearly another man there. He was whispering in his ear and Cas was frantically pulling on the door. She took the picture. The flash struck the room harshly like lightening.

Cas stopped. Blinking in the sudden flash of her light. The small door stood open.

“What are you doing?” Charlie asked, tears of fear sliding down her cheeks.

“Opening my cage,” a man said from the other door.

He grinned evilly, his chin dropping slowly as his eyes bore into Charlie.

Cas, snapping out of his daze. He knew that man’s face. He was the man from beside the bookshelf. He snatched Charlie’s hand and pulled her through the small door with him.

They tripped out, into the cluttered closet of a room. Cas lifted and threw and shoved things blindly until they were both out. They were in one of the cluttered storage rooms.

The door inside the wall began slamming over and over and over. All the doors in the hallway slammed open and shut as Cas drug Charlie through the room. They dodged down the hall, the doors slamming so loudly and forcefully that it rang in their ears and the floor shook under their feet. Free of the hall, they ran down the stairs. At the foot of the stairs, both dogs growled and barked and snapped at the air.

They ran past them and down the next flight and the next, spilling out into the first floor kitchen.

Rumsfeld was howling and Buddy still had his hackles raised and kept looking back up the steps.

Cas stopped in the kitchen, but Charlie pulled him out the back door and they collapsed onto the back patio. He could hear Rum howling in the kitchen. Buddy had slipped out the door and stood guard at it, not taking his eyes off of it.

“I’m sorry,” Cas said. “I don’t understand why I did that. What did I do?”

Charlie handed him her phone with shaky hands.

He looked at the picture. It was him. He was pulling on the door and that man was whispering something to him with that lewd fucking smile on his face. His mouth was close enough to Cas’ ear that he should have felt it!

He shoved the phone back.

Charlie was shaking.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, pulling her to him and hugging her tight.

“Somethin’ wrong?” Bobby asked, looking down on them with confusion.

Chapter Text

11. Passageways, Pictures, and Packages

 

Dean pulled his ringing phone out of his pocket. “Hey, Bobby.”

“Where you at?”

“Laying out tile for the bathroom.”

“I think you better come out to the patio. The one out back.”

Dean stood up, looking out the window. Bobby was standing there looking down at…Cas hugging Charlie. They were sitting on the ground.

“Is Charlie hurt? Is Cas hurt?” Dean headed down the steps and down the hall for the side door.

“No?” Bobby said oddly. “I gotta go.”

Dean pulled the phone away from his ear. He jogged out the door and across the huge patio to where Charlie and Cas were. They were getting to their feet and both of them looked shaken and pale.

“What happened?” Dean asked, his stomach clenching.

Charlie, on her feet now, paced in a short circle. “That place is haunted.”

“What?” Dean looked at Bobby.

He shrugged. “I saw the dogs go nuts. Barked like I never heard ‘em bark before. So I went into the kitchen after ‘em . They went a hellin’ up the steps. I heard some God-awful banging and headed up there. When I got up a flight, these two came runnin’ down like their hair was on fire. Dogs with ‘em, still goin’ berserk. I came out here after ‘em and this is what I found.”

Dean looked at Bobby a long moment. Then he watched as Sam and Gabe came through the back door.

Gabe hugged Cas immediately. Sam looked worried.

“Am I missing something here?” Dean snapped, his frustration with feeling lost growing.

“The house is very haunted,” Cas said. “And Charlie and I just had a rather terrifying run-in with that man.”

“What man?” Dean asked.

“You saw him?” Gabe asked, looking paler by the second.

Dean sighed.

“Hold on a minute,” Sam spoke up, seeing how irritated both Dean and Bobby looked. “We need to all be on the same page here.”

Charlie walked over to the edge of the patio and puked.

“What the fuck is happening?” Dean asked. He knew Charlie pretty damn well. To see her this shook up was really unnerving.

Charlie came back to his side. “Just…don’t hate me, when we’re done here.”

Shit. He knew that look.

“Not too long after we started staying here,” Sam started, “Gabe came in my room in the middle of the night. He said he was hearing things upstairs. I thought he was just being weird.”

Gabe glared at him.

Sam gave him an apologetic shrug. “After a couple nights of this, I went to hear the noises too. But it was quiet. Then I saw stuff the night Cas woke us up.”

Dean nodded. “I remember that.” And Dean remembered it alright. He thought Cas was crazy. And now Gabe, Charlie and Sam were going down with him.

“You guys haven’t seen much,” Cas started explaining, “because you haven’t been on the fourth floor much. But we have proof. It’s why we left when you guys were away. We recorded some things in the storage section and then sounds from Gabe’s room, which is on the third floor but it’s under the storage section of the fourth floor.”

“What did you record?” Sam asked.

“There’s a man that keeps turning up in pictures we take,” Cas explained.

“Wait…” Dean held up a hand. “You have pictures. Of a ghost.”

“You’ve seen him before?” Charlie asked incredulous. “Why did we go in there if you knew it was haunted?”

“I had no idea it would be that bad!” Cas assured her. “Actually, I really never thought about that being an issue until I figured out we were on the fourth floor.”

Dean was trying to put the pieces together. So Gabe hears noises at night. He tells Sam. Sam says nothing. Cas takes pictures and the ghost shows up in them. He tells Gabe. And they both say nothing.

Dean looked at Cas sharply. “What do you mean, you ‘figured out you were on the fourth floor’?”

Cas looked guilty as hell. And said nothing.

Charlie started pulling on her ear lobe. She had a secret. One she didn’t want. He knew all Charlie’s tells.

Cas and Charlie…his initial instinct was that the pair had hooked up behind his back. But he discarded that thought as quick as it came. He knew Charlie better than that. And he thought he knew Cas too. But Cas had a tendency to sneak off and try to do things. And that was when he had his answer.

“You went in that fucking passageway again, didn’t you?!” Dean snapped.

Cas furrowed his brow, looked ashamed for a second, and then straightened his shoulders a bit. “Yes. I needed to see where they went.”

Dean crossed his arms over his chest.

“How am I supposed to live, own, and work in a house when I haven’t even been in all of it?” Cas snapped again.

Dean just stared. How could he keep Cas safe if he insisted on crawling into danger all the fucking time. He mentally distanced himself from Cas. Cas wasn’t his. Neither was this house. So…why should he worry so much what happened to them.

And now Cas was scared of the house. Of ghosts. It was all totally out of Dean’s control.

“Dean,” Cas said, frustration changing to worry on his face.

Dean just stared at him coldly. Maybe if Cas liked to sneak around the house, then he snuck around doing other things. And everything Dean was risking, all those…feelings…were better off staying locked up where they had been.

“So, yeah,” Charlie started explaining, “Cas and I went into the passage in the kitchen. It goes under the dining room and living room. Then it goes up along the chimney in the living room, straight up and comes out in Gabe’s closet.”

“Whoa!” Gabe reeled back a step. “What?”

“Yes,” Cas said. “Do you see why this is a concern?” Cas said to the group, but his eyes stayed on Dean. “Gabe has an opening in his bedroom closet that none of us knew about. It’s dangerous to not know your own home.”

Dean wanted to strangle him every time Cas ‘proved his point’.

“It goes up higher though,” Charlie continued.

Dean pictured a million ways Cas and Charlie could have fallen and died. Fallen and gotten hurt. Gotten trapped, lost, or killed.

“So this tall chute comes out on the fourth floor in the wing section between two rooms. Once you climb out of it, there’s skinny halls that go between and connect the bedrooms. Then we found this really weird hall with a door in it.”

“What?” Sam and Gabe asked, obviously freaked out.

“There had been little secret doors to all the rooms,” Charlie explained, “But this was an original door. It was like someone had hidden the door. They built a wall to hide it behind.”

“And,” Cas continued, no longer worrying about Dean, but caught up in the story of what they had done. “And there were all these red lines criss crossing all over the hallway connecting these symbols that were painted on the walls.”

“What?” Sam and Bobby said in shock.

“Yeah,” Charlie added, “the lines all connected the symbols and then things just got…really freaking scary.”

Cas and Charlie exchanged a haunted look.

Charlie raced through the rest. “Cas got kinda weird and opened the door. It broke the red lines that were over it and this wind swept through, and Cas didn’t even know he had done it, and we went through the door to another creepy hallway with all this broken glass and scratches in the door and walls, and Cas opened another secret door and then I saw the guy. The ghost guy! And I said, ‘Cas, what are you doing?’ And the guy said, ‘Opening my door.’ And then he looked at me like he was going to tear my soul right outta my chest! And we ran. And the doors all slammed so loud! And we just…ran out!” She finished in a rush, breathing heavy and looking scared.

Dean looked around the group. Cas, Gabe, and Charlie all looked fairly shaken up. Bobby and Sam looked intrigued. And Dean knew he was frowning.

“So,” Dean said, when no one else was talking. “What do you want me to do about it? I don’t think we have anything in the contract regarding ghost removal.” He knew his glare was harsh and his words were bitter. But he couldn’t help himself. This was nuts.

“I think,” Bobby said, giving him a bit of a warning look, “you guys should do some research and get some help. This ain’t the first time I’ve dealt with a house that the owners think is haunted.”

“I don’t THINK it’s haunted,” Cas clarified quietly. “I KNOW it is. There is some kind of religious spell or something in that room. And I’m afraid I have let out what ever was in there.”

“I would get a priest to bless it,” Bobby suggested. “And maybe that’ll fix it.”

Sam nodded and Gabe and Cas agreed as well.

“And I know it’s your house,” Bobby said sternly to Cas. “But I’m highly suggesting you stay out of those passages until you know a little more about what you're walking into. So…” he pinned Cas with a look, “don’t go in there.”

Cas nodded. “Alright. I won’t.”

Dean walked back toward the side door he had come out of.

“Where are you going?” Gabe asked.

“Back to work,” Dean shrugged walking backwards a few steps. “I don’t know shit about ghosts. What I DO know, is tiling a bathroom floor. So, I’ll be tiling a bathroom floor.” His eyes narrowed on Cas. “I’ll be doing work. My job.”

Dean turned back around when Cas’ head tipped down. Yeah. He knew he was wrong. And this was just crazy. And why did he get himself involved in shit like this? He went back inside and refused to think about Cas, ghosts, or anyone. He had a floor to do.

 

***

 

Cas wanted to disappear. He watched Dean walk into the house. When the door shut behind him, it felt like way more was closing than just the door.

What had he done?

All he wanted to do was explore. It had been fun! And now, he had put Charlie in danger, came face to face with a ghost, made himself look like he was insane, pissed off Dean royally, and possibly unleashed something evil in his own home, putting all of them in danger.

How had it all gone so…wrong?

Gabe put an arm around his shoulders. “I’m glad you and Charlie are okay. Let’s call somebody in here who can fix this shit.”

Cas nodded. “I gotta go talk to Dean.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Bobby and Sam both warned.

“Just give him some space,” Sam suggested. “He won’t be nearly as angry by tomorrow.”

“Why is he even angry?” Gabe snorted. “It’s not like HE’S being kept awake every night!”

“He’s angry because I went behind his back. It’s about trust, Gabriel.” Cas explained, but he knew Gabe wouldn’t quite get it. Gabe had no trust issues. It just wasn’t a concern for him.

Cas started walking toward the house.

“What’s he doing?” Sam asked nervously.

“Going to talk to Dean,” Gabe guessed.

Sam groaned. “He doesn’t listen to suggestions very well, does he?”

“Generally, no,” Gabe answered.

Any more conversation about him was lost to his ears as he neared the side door and went into the house. Dean had said he was tiling a bathroom. He must be in the second floor main bathroom, because that was what they had said at the spec meeting that morning.

He got to the top of the stairs, hearing the light tinking sounds from tiles being laid out. He leaned against the wall outside the bathroom door. He might not understand everything about what made Dean tick, but he recognized what he had done.

Dean did not trust him. He had snuck into the passage after Dean had repeatedly told him not to go in there. And he had kept secrets about the ghost.

Cas knew he had his reasons for what he had done. But it didn’t mean anything if Dean couldn’t see it.

He gathered his courage and stepped into the doorway of the large square bathroom. Dean was on his knees with two other guys, laying out a quick pattern.

Dean sighed heavily, not even looking up to see him.

“You need something?” Dean asked. Finally he turned to look at him.

“I see you're busy,” Cas said quietly. He did not want to be unprofessional in front of everyone.

“Very busy,” Dean muttered, going back to his work.

“Later, then,” Cas said so quietly that he was not sure Dean even heard him. He went back downstairs and went into the library, closing the door. He picked up his sanding block and wood polish. He stood there for several moments staring blankly at the next shelf to be done.

After a few minutes, the room was so deafeningly silent that Cas had to leave.

He opened the door and found Buddy sitting there waiting. Cas knelt down, petting his soft fur. “Sorry, Buddy, I didn’t mean to leave you out here. Or let the ghost out.” He let his head rest on top of Buddy’s.

They went up to Cas’ room. He kept his door open. He felt slightly uncomfortable everywhere he went in the house. He should be with Gabe, Sam, Charlie, and Bobby freaking out and worrying about what to do.

Instead, he turned his laptop on. He’d research. He’d fix the ghost problem so they could get on with their lives.

He worked long into the night. Charlie came to see him. Sam and Gabe came. Dean never came. Buddy stayed by his side. He was much more antsy than normal.

Rumsfeld paced the hallway all night. He would lay in front of Bobby’s door, sleep, then pace again.

Late, after midnight, Cas knocked quietly on Dean’s door. No answer. He knocked louder. No answer.

He went back to his room. He continued his research.

 

Castiel had learned one very important thing.

1. Fighting with Dean sucked.

 

***

 

It had been three days since Charlie and Cas had gone exploring. Dean watched with detached interest as Sam read over the spec sheet at their morning meeting.

His eyes stayed on the massive lion table. It’s surface was in a constant state of mayhem. Floor plans lay all over the table. These were their working plans. There were lots of hand drawn lines, measurements, phrases and notes all over them. The third floor plan was tucked into the stack with the fourth floor and fifth floor plans. The ground floor plan was looking pretty rough. It had coffee rings on it, dirt, one corner had gotten wet and then dried wrinkled. The second floor plan was full of notes and lines as well.

His focus the past few days had been flooring and woodwork. He and Ash were stripping baseboards and refinishing them for the second floor.

Sam had finished the list of today’s goals. Cas got up immediately and left. Buddy hesitated and then followed him out of the room.

Dean stood up, picking his coffee cup up to take with him. He stopped, looking at Sam. Then Gabe. Then Bobby. “What?”

Sam adjusted his posture on the box he sat on. “Gabe, could we have a minute?”

Gabe nodded. He pulled his feet up, stood on the throne and stepped over the armrest with a fluid grace. He left without a word.

Dean sat his cup on the table and crossed his arms defensively over his chest.

“Did you see what I just saw?” Bobby asked.

Dean could tell that Bobby was attempting to be patient with him.

“No,” Dean said tiredly. “Was it a ghost?”

Bobby and Sam both stared at him as if he weren’t funny. Huh.

“I saw my boss walk out of here for the third morning in a row lookin’ all sad and beat down.”

Dean sighed.

“What are you doing to remedy this situation?”

Dean scowled. “Nothing. I didn’t do anything to un-remedy it, Bobby.”

Bobby took his hat off and tossed it on the table. “Boy, yer makin’ me tired.” He rubbed his hands up and down his face, finally dropping them to the table. “And that boy,” he pointed out the door, “is makin’ me nervous. And that damn dog is just makin’ me depressed.”

Bobby obviously reconsidered what he was going to say next, starting and stopping several times. He put his hat back on. “Need any help with all that tile work?”

“I finished that two days ago. Ash and I are detailing baseboards all day today.”

The three waited there a moment. Bobby stood up. “Could ya at least throw a ball fer the dog?”

Dean agreed with a tiny smile and a small nod and Bobby left.

“Dean,” Sam started.

Dean snatched his coffee off the table. “Later, Sam.”

He heard Sam sigh as he walked out. He jogged up the steps in the foyer and headed for the second floor. He didn’t have to put up with Sam’s shit. So he just wasn't.

He and Ash worked for hours sanding and re-staining the baseboards back to a beautiful natural wood. Music played and the pair worked all morning barely saying a word.

“Dude,” Ash called, stretching and yawning. “I’m stopping for lunch.”

“Good call,” Dean agreed. He finished the board he was on and headed for the kitchen on the third floor. He made a sandwich and took a soda from the fridge.

Buddy came in the kitchen and Dean gave him two slices of ham. It had just started raining, so he sat at the table to eat.

“They’re weird. All of them are strange. But I think these guys can help,” Cas said on his phone as he walked into the kitchen. He had not even seen Dean sitting there.

“I want these guys. They don’t just talk about the hauntings they’ve seen. They talk about how to get rid of them.”

Cas dug through the fridge, coming out with a leftover egg roll and an apple.

Gabe walked into the kitchen, phone to his ear. “As long as they’re legit,” he said.

Cas turned and looked at him. Gabe grinned that mischievous grin he used so well. Cas rolled his eyes and hung up his phone, Gabe doing the same.

“Why are we on the phone if you're right here in the house?” Cas asked.

“Because when you called, I was otherwise disposed.”

“You were with Sam. I heard him.”

“You heard us? Sorry,” Gabe grinned.

“No,” Cas huffed, “I heard him talking when you answered the phone.”

“Well, anyhow, we were naked and I figured the phone was the best option for communication at that very moment.”

Cas just shook his head, turning to sit at the table. He saw Dean sitting there at the same time Gabe did.

“Oh, hi,” they both stammered.

“Hey,” Dean said quietly.

Gabe gave his brother a very obvious stare. He might as well have yelled, ‘talk to him!’. He then quickly left the room, shutting the door.

Cas stared at the door a moment and then looked at Dean, slowly chewing a bite of apple. He sat in a chair and sighed.

Dean wanted to get up and leave. But something stopped him. He really didn’t want to leave.

“Dean,” Cas said quietly. “I’m sorry.” His head was down, but he looked up at him. “I’m sorry I snuck into the passageways again. I just…I was so excited to see inside. See where it went.” He shook his head, looking away. “I wish I wouldn’t have.”

He stood up suddenly, making Dean sit back a bit in surprise. He left the kitchen, leaving his food behind.

Dean frowned. Cas looked more stressed than he had ever seen him. He wondered if he should have jumped up and followed him. But he also looked like he needed some space.

Dean opted to finish his sandwich in silence. Buddy stayed with him.

When Cas did not return, Dean wrapped the uneaten egg roll back up and put it back in the fridge.

Maybe he didn't trust Cas like he once had. But there was no denying he was having trouble not being with him. He took the apple and went to Cas’ room.

Cas was on his phone again, sitting at the chair at his desk. He was slouched over, both elbows on his desk.

“I appreciate the invitation, Balthazar, but no.”

Dean pressed the door further open, knocking on it lightly.

Cas sat up a bit, looking at him. “Balthazar, I gotta go. No. No, I just need something to go right.” He grinned slightly. “Thank you. Okay. See you later.” He hung the phone up and gave Dean one of the most wiped out looks Dean had seen on him.

It reminded him of when Cas was in the hospital looking pale and in pain. “You forgot to eat.” Dean sat the apple on Cas’ desk.

Cas huffed, looking at it with disinterest. “Thank you.”

Dean sat in the other chair, the desk between them. It was messy with papers and a few books and notes all over the place. It was unusual and it reflected the strained face and messy hair behind it.

Dean wanted to forget the whole thing had happened. He wanted to say he was over it and everything was fine. But he held onto his thoughts and feelings, keeping them bottled up.

Cas picked up the apple. “Did you want something?”

“No,” Dean stood up to leave.

But he didn’t leave.

Cas looked up at him with a confused look.

That wasn’t fair. It was like a weapon. An automatic ice melter. His adorableness was an unfair advantage for sure.

Dean sighed. “I get it.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and knew he really sucked at this kind of stuff. “I get wanting to go snooping around. Wanting to know what hidden doors are in your own house. But it isn’t safe. And I tried to tell you that.”

“You did tell me that,” Cas sighed, sitting back in his chair at a slouch that was very un-Cas-like. “Driving is dangerous too. And flying. And crossing the street by myself. Are you one of those guys? Are you going to hover and worry and not let me out of your sight?”

Dean looked at him for a long moment. “Fair enough. I’m backing off.”

Cas’ face fell. “No,” he waved a hand. “Please…uhhh. I’m losing it here.”

Dean grinned sadly. “Me too.”

“Dean,” Cas said quietly, “I need to know if you even believe me. About the ghost.”

Dean frowned. “I…I do. I mean, I don’t think you're lying. I just never saw anything like that. It all sounds pretty crazy.” He sat down again, lacing his fingers together and staring at the floor. “But yeah. I believe you.”

Cas nodded with some relief relaxing his face. “I have pictures. Do you want to see them?”

Dean shrugged. “Sure.”

Castiel pulled out a large envelope, sliding a stack of pictures out. He handed him one.

Dean looked at the picture. And immediate feeling of unease crept along his body. “Who is this?” There was a man leaning against a bookshelf.

“That’s the ghost.”

Dean frowned harder. His smile was so…evil looking. “But, who is he?”

“I have no idea,” Cas sighed. “I didn’t stop to ask him his name.”

Dean handed the picture back. “I’m kinda worried about you, Cas.”

Cas’ face cracked into a smile. He leaned onto one hand, flipping the picture over. “Me too.”

Dean’s phone rang. He sat back, pulling it out of his pocket. “It’s Sam.”

“Yeah?” Dean answered.

“Gabe left for a meeting and there’s a delivery down here. Is Cas with you?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh. Well, I called him but he didn’t answer. Can he come sign for it?”

“Yeah. We’ll be down.” He hung up the phone.

“Come on, Cas. You got a delivery downstairs to sign for.”

Cas gave him a tired look. He sighed, getting to his feet.

They walked down to the foyer and Cas signed the clipboard. Two men carried in a huge crate.

“Where did you want it, sir?” The man asked.

“What is it?” Cas asked.

“A piano.”

Cas gave the crate a confused look. “Who ordered this?”

The guy pulled the clipboard off the top of the crate. “Gabriel Novak. The note says, ‘Happy birthday, little bro. Pianos don’t count as furniture.’.”

Dean had to grin at the look of awe on Castiel’s face. He actually looked choked up about it.

“Do you want it in the living room, Cas?” Dean prompted him.

“Yes. Yes, that would be great!”

The men wheeled the huge container to the living room and proceeded to dismantle the crate around it, revealing a beautiful, dark wood, grand piano.

One of the men sat down to do a final tuning while the other loaded the parts to the crate to haul out. Then dusted the entire thing.

“All the paperwork for it is in the bench seat,” the tuner said. “It sounds beautiful.”

“It does!” Castiel grinned. “Thank you!”

The men left and Cas walked around it with an open mouth. Dean pulled his phone out and took a picture, sending it to Gabe.

“Your brother’s pretty cool,” Dean grinned. “I guess you play?”

Cas sat on the bench gingerly, looking like he was almost afraid to touch it. “I do play. And Gabe…I can’t believe he did this!”

“And I gotta say, it’s pretty classy looking! No lions!” Dean laughed.

Castiel laughed, shaking his head in wonder. He pulled his phone out and texted Gabe a thank you that had him swat a tear away.

Dean left him to have some privacy and went for coffee in the kitchen. He poured Cas one too. As he stepped into the dining room, he heard the first few tentative notes.

Dean stood in the doorway, watching him marvel at the keys. Then he really started to play.

Dean listened a moment before he picked up the slowed down, melancholy version of Led Zeppelin’s, Going To California.

Dean’s mouth dropped a bit at the eruption of soul and beauty that came out of the piano. Cas was playing Led Zeppelin like there was no tomorrow. He wasn’t singing, but the words were written across his face. His eyes were closed and he just seemed to be in a sweet, sad trance.

“You play Zeppelin?” Dean managed when Cas had been done for a full minute.

He opened his eyes, blinking. He grinned. “I do.”

Dean sat down on the bench next to him, staring at the keyboard. He always wanted to play. But guitar was as ‘ridiculous’ as his dad had ever tolerated.

“That was beautiful, Cas,” Dean said quietly.

Cas huffed a quiet laugh. “My stepmother insisted that I learn to play. She was…” Cas shook his head at some memory with a sad smile. “She hated rock and roll. She only liked classical. So I would figure out how to play rock and roll in a classical style and she would love it.” He grinned ruefully. “She had no idea what she was humming sometimes.”

Dean laughed. “You learned to play rock music that sounded classical? That’s genius, Cas!”

Cas shrugged. “Is one of those for me? Or are you feeling extra thirsty?”

Dean looked at the coffees he held. “Oh! Yeah. Here ya go.” He handed Cas one steamy mug.

Cas took it carefully, sipping. “Thank you.”

Dean stared at the keyboard again. He wanted to hear more. “I didn’t know it was your birthday,” Dean said quietly, bumping their shoulders gently.

Cas grinned. “It’s not. My birthday is in September.”

Dean stared at him a moment. “I think I could spend the rest of my life with you and still not be able to guess what the hell you are gonna say or do.” He grinned, but Cas gave him a hesitant, sad smile.

Dean looked down. He hadn't meant to get so serious.

Cas sat his mug on the floor and started playing Rolling Stones, Wild Horses. He sang some of the lyrics with this one.

Dean felt his heart swell, break, and swell again. At the end of the song he played a long solo that gave Dean chills.

“Cas,” he said quietly.

Cas looked at him.

“I’m sorry. I keep…running away when things get any kind of uncomfortable. I don’t mean to. It’s…how I’ve always coped in the past. It’s not an excuse. Just…an explanation of the fact that I know I suck sometimes.”

Cas slid one hand down to Dean’s on the bench between them. “It’s okay. I screwed up this time.”

Dean shook his head. “I hate to say this, but you kinda scare the shit outta me.”

Cas gave him a surprised quirk of one eye brow. He snorted a laugh a moment later. “I scare you?”

Dean bit his lip. “Pretty bad, actually.”

Cas’ laugh died down but his smile remained. “I’m not going to hurt you, Dean.”

Dean grinned. He didn’t say as much, but he knew Cas had already hurt him. His heart swelled again. He leaned forward, kissing Cas gently.

Once their lips touched, a warm spark flickered and grew to a roaring heat inside Dean’s chest.

He leaned in harder, kissing him faster. “I’m sorry,” he managed between kisses.

Dean cupped his head, pulling him tighter against him.

Eventually, Cas pulled back, resting his forehead against Dean’s. “I know you just want to protect me. But you can’t.”

“Well, don’t hate me for trying, Cas. It’s just me being me.”

Cas grinned. “Okay, then.” He kissed him again, pressing forward hard enough to make Dean shift around to hold him tighter.

Pulling back again, Cas looked at Dean with some of that exhaustion seeping through.

“You look so tired, Cas,” he said, knowing he sounded worried.

“I am. I hate sleeping alone.” He grinned weakly. “I never had a problem with that. I’ve slept alone my whole life. And now you've ruined me.”

Dean liked that little tidbit. He stood up, looking down on Cas. “Mr. Novak, I need half a day off.”

Castiel looked up at him with confusion, blinking slowly. “Okay. When?”

“Right now.”

Cas glanced around. “Okay.”

Dean grinned wide. “Thanks. Now, come with me.”

Castiel stood up, closing the lid over the keys of the piano carefully. He stepped out from the bench.

Dean held his hand out and Cas took it eagerly.

They walked upstairs and Dean steered them to his room this time, Buddy on their heels. They shut Dean’s door and kicked shoes off. They climbed into bed and Dean never wanted to just hold someone so badly.

They got comfortable and Dean ran his hand up and down Cas’ arm. They were both asleep in no time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12. Flickering, Freaking, and Fracturing

 

Castiel had learned several things.

1. He had the best brother in the world.
2. Buddy was a bed hog.
3. You had to remove ALL the things inside a chicken before roasting it.
4. If you leaned against a brittle screen in a window. You would soon find out how unforgiving a patio could be on one’s ass.

 

Morning meeting started with a new zeal of energy. Gabe was perched on the armrest of his lion throne. Sam sat next to him with a warm gleam in his eye. Dean and Cas came in from the kitchen with their coffee and the happy clickety clack of Buddy’s paws. They sat on one box, still talking quietly between each other.

Bobby sighed with a bit of relief.

Dean caught it and smirked. “I threw the ball for the dog. You happy?”

“Immensely,” Bobby deadpanned.

Sam glanced between the pair, but didn’t ask.

“Before you start,” Cas said, stopping Sam from reading anything. “I wanted to say thank you, Gabe, for the piano. It’s…amazing.”

Gabe sat up taller. “You likey? See? I shop very well by myself!”

“You do,” Cas grinned, blushing.

“Wait,” Gabe got to his feet, really looking at the pair sitting on the same box, “Did my little present do this?”

“Do what?” Castiel asked.

“Fix that broken tragedy of a relationship you two were dragging all over the house?”

Dean rolled his eyes. Cas sighed. “Possibly.”

“Ha! You totally Lady and the Tramped that bitch, didn’t ya!”

“Gabe,” Cas sighed.

“Didn’t ya!”

“Totally,” Dean said, kissing Cas’ temple.

Cas gave him a surprised grin.

“YES!” Gabe cheered. “I did it! I fixed it!”

Sam smirked at Dean, probably for getting so soft in front of all of them. But Cas grinned, slipping a hand over Dean’s knee and slid it up his thigh a few inches. The pair exchanged a grin and Gabe did a happy dance back to his throne, lounging across it like he had solved the five year drought crisis over his vast kingdom.

Cas could care less. Gabe could revel in it all he wanted. All he knew was playing the piano had broken that last bit of anger Dean had been hanging onto. Gabe could dance through the whole meeting for all he cared. For this morning, Gabe was the hero.

Shaking himself from his little happy bubble, Cas cleared his throat. “I also wanted to let everyone know that I have finally got a date for when the ghost exterminators are coming.”

“Ghost exterminators?” Gabe asked incredulously. “Did you just Google ghost busters, or what?”

Cas gave him a less than thrilled glare. “You know damn well I combed the internet and checked these people out thoroughly. They will be here on June 18th. It’s a Monday. The Monday before you leave for your week break, actually.

“And these are professionals?” Dean asked.

“According to the website, yes. They call themselves paranormal investigators.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a less than thrilled look.

“It was the best I could get,” Cas defended. “I had one number I found but they never answered when I called. Then I found some brothers that hunt ghosts, but they were booked until October. We can’t wait that long.”

Dean gave him a disbelieving face. “People do this for a living? Hunt ghosts?”

“Dean,” Sam interrupted.

“What? It’s crazy. But hey, who am I to judge?” He shrugged and relaxed his face into a bored stare.

“Moving on,” Sam cut in again. “The chimney sweep is coming. Benny will be working with him. Charlie is getting nowhere with the second floor electric in this part of the house,” Sam pointed at the ceiling of the dining room. “She’s been having a ton of problems with the electricity. It keeps flickering and shorting out. So, she’s still working on that. Garth is starting the new plumbing route. Rufus made a note to keep Buddy inside while they’re digging today.”

Cas nodded, grinning down at the dog.

Bobby continued. “Me and Ash are putting the baseboards and some of the restored trim back in the ballroom today. That room is almost done.”

“And the four of us are going on a shopping run,” Sam said, waiting for a smart remark from Bobby.

“Well, ain’t that cute,” Bobby smirked.

“Adorbs!” Gabe cried. “Can we go now?”

They all got to their feet, shoving the boxes under the table.

“Can you buy some chairs for the war room?” Bobby asked, twisting to crack his back.

“I like the box look,” Dean grinned. “Gives it a modern, UPS touch.” He neatly ducked the pen Bobby whipped at his head. “Damn Bobby! I coulda lost an eye!”

“Jus stand still, I’ll be back with my bee bee gun. We’ll see how many eyes you got left after that.”

Sam laughed, clapping Bobby on the shoulder.

“You see how they treat me?” Dean pouted. He ducked, shocking Cas again as a ball cap went whizzing by.

Dean cackled a laugh, scooping up the hat and put it on, trotting past Bobby just out of his reach.

“I’m not too old ta kick yer ass, boy!” Bobby yelled, chasing him out of sight.

Cas laughed at the pair of them. He glanced over his shoulder, but Sam and Gabe were deaf to the whole exchange.

Gabe was still lounged across the arms and seat of his mighty throne. And Sam was leaning over him, ready to lean down and kiss him. No wonder Gabe liked lions. Right now that was what Sam looked like.

Castiel headed out of the dining room and winced slightly as Dean came at him at a run, hat gone.

Dean scooped him up, laughing. “Let's blow this brothel!” He set Cas back on his feet and the pair jogged out the front door.

Charlie walked past them with a grin. “Have fun, bitches.”

They waited at the truck for a moment, watching the dogs come to them from the side of the house.

“Charlie’s gonna keep Buddy with her so Rufus can chill the fuck out,” Dean said, texting on his phone.

“That’s good,” Cas murmured petting them both on top of the head.

“Sam’s not answering,” Dean sighed.

“Give him a minute. Him and Gabe were looking awfully friendly.”

Dean rolled his eyes, dragging a breath in annoyance. He put his phone to his ear.

“Here they come,” Cas grinned, pushing Dean’s elbow, dislodging his annoyed look.

“Here, you drive,” Cas said, tossing Dean his keys. Buddy hopped in excitement.

“Not this time, Buddy,” Dean said. “You can’t go.”

“He can go,” Cas said, the dog running to Cas’ side quickly.

“That dog,” Dean said, his eyes meeting Cas’ over the hood of the truck, “is too friggin’ smart. And spoiled.”

Cas looked down at the shepherd. His right ear tipped down. “But…he does the ear thing.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “And the puppy-dog eyes and the little whine.” Dean’s eyes moved to the dog, meeting his black ones. “And the droopy tail thing. Yeah, I see your game, pal.”

“Don’t listen to grouchy Dean,” Cas said to Buddy. “He can’t help himself.”

Gabe groaned. “Is the other one coming? He drools, ya know.”

Rum was already panting on his side on the front porch. Gabe looked markably relieved.

The five loaded into the extended cab truck and headed to a huge flea market called The Find. It was an hour’s drive. They had read about it on a local flyer and it seemed like a great place to pick up some cool pieces. And the town it was in had three antique shops.

Cas and Gabe had planned this excursion, saying they needed some professional opinions choosing some items. All Cas and Gabe really wanted was to spend some alone time with them.

They split up, enjoying the chance to be alone. Cas and Dean started at the south side, Sam and Gabe heading for the north end.

They strolled slowly along the rough wooden tables heaped with architecture parts, clothes, junk, furniture, and anything thirty years or older under the sun.

Buddy walked along happily on his leash, people-watching.

“I like these,” Dean said, stopping to look through some sections of corner molding. “These would look really good on the two corners in the living room.”

“Can you stain them to match?” Cas asked, pretty sure Dean could do anything.

“Chu,” Dean sucked his teeth. “In my sleep. I’ve been doing baseboards all week.” He held his hands up with their stains and small cuts. Dean’s hands were rough, which Cas found rather a big turn on.

Cas grinned, taking his hand and rubbing at the stained edge.

“How much for these two?” Dean asked a woman sitting behind the table.

“Fifty for the pair.”

Cas gave Dean a curious look.

“It’s a good deal.”

Cas nodded. “We’ll take them.”

She took Cas’ cash and smiled.

“Where are they from?” Dean asked, his eyes roving over the ornate wood sculpted lengths.

“I picked them up in South Carolina. They were tearing down an old library and selling what they could.

“A library?” Cas grinned. “That’s interesting.”

She nodded. “I have an old card catalog stand over there, and some bigger pieces we couldn’t haul here today.”

“Yeah?” Dean grinned, seeing the look of enthusiasm on Cas’ face. She pulled her cell phone out and scrolled through several pictures of some outside architectural parts, then to a few large inside ones. One was a huge wood inlay decorative panel.

“Ooohh,” Dean’s eyes lit up. “That might look really good above the front door in the foyer.”

Castiel pictured it. “It would?”

“Do you like the design?”

“Yes,” Cas said, looking at the huge scrolling pattern. It looked so elegant. “It's beautiful.”

He looked up to see a hopeful grin on Dean’s face. His eyes twinkled with green and tiny gold flecks. It made Cas grin instantly. “Okay. Let’s get it.”

“How much?” Dean asked with a much less enthusiastic look.

“If you come get it from our place in North Carolina…$1,000.”

“Sold,” Dean grinned. Cas wrote the check and had a warm glow inside his chest that was a direct link to Dean Winchester’s smile.

They got the card catalog as well, Cas babbling on about how he was going to set up his own system, mark the books and cards so the public could use it.

It wasn’t until they were going through a crowded section by a bunch of baby toys, clothes, and furniture, that Cas reached for Dean’s hand.

He gave him a slightly worried grin, asking if this was okay.

Dean held his hand snuggly in his own and gave him a lopsided grin of insecure confidence.

It made Cas grin shyly. They had been so closed off from the world for months that this felt brand new again.

“I know what you need,” Dean grinned. “A snow cone.”

“I love snow cones,” Cas grinned.

“Alright! Now, and this is very important, if you answer incorrectly…it could be the end of us.”

Cas grinned as they approached the stand. “What all- important question is it?”

Dean took a dramatic deep breath. “They have four flavors. One gets you an automatic ride home in the backseat without me.”

Cas laughed.

“One gets you a cold shoulder, because it’s just a stupid choice.”

Cas nodded.

“One gets you a free snow cone. And the correct choice gets you one kiss.”

“Ohh,” Cas hummed with a grin. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Dean. But he did turn to see these choices of vast importance. Blue Raspberry, Cherry, Root Beer, and Lime.

“If I can correctly categorize all four flavors, I want that kiss now.”

Dean laughed, moving up in line. “Go for it, smarty pants.”

“My choice, earning me a kiss,” Cas grinned, “is Cherry. Blue Raspberry would have gotten me a free snow cone. Lime is stupid, according to you, and had I chosen Root beer, I would be riding home in the back seat.”

He grinned at Dean’s shocked look. “How the hell did you do that?”

Cas laughed. “I think I’m learning how to read that handsome face of yours.”

“Huh,” Dean grinned. His smile grew a shade darker and he kissed Cas.

Cas chuckled as they moved up in line and Dean ordered two cherry snow cones.

They walked the rest of the tables, meeting up with their brothers and exchanging pictures of what they had found. Sam had an excellent effect on Gabe’s choices in items. And there must have been some interesting debates along the way so far.

They continued on, looking through the area Sam and Gabe had already been through.

Cas was looking through a box of piano books when he heard an ornery chuckle from Dean.

“What?” Cas asked, looking over at the next table.

Dean lifted a brass lion head out of a box. “It’s a door knocker.”

“No.”

“Cas,” Dean held his hands out like there was no better argument.

“No way.”

“I bet you anything Sam and Gabe stood here and had this same argument.”

“And Sam won. Like me.” Cas kept going through the piano books, pulling several out.

“How much for all of them?” He heard Dean ask the guy behind the table.

“$35 for the whole box.”

“Dean!” Cas jumped at the box.

“I’ll take it,” Dean grinned.

“What did you just buy?” Cas asked, looking inside worriedly.

In the box was the door knocker Dean had shown him. It was as big as a dinner plate. Under the massive brass lion head were ten smaller ones the size of soda cans. “What are you doing with these?”

Dean laughed. “I have a plan.”

“A plan?” Cas repeated worriedly.

Dean kissed him with a laugh. He picked up the box and carried it with a grin.

“You and my brother are a dangerous combination,” Cas groused, taking Buddy’s leash.

“Gabriel is awesome,” Dean laughed.

They loaded their finds in the back of the truck when they met around 1:00 in the afternoon.

“Gabe! I got you a present,” Dean grinned, pulling the box onto the tailgate.

“You did?” Gabe instantly grinned, jogging to the back of the truck.

Gabe looked into the box. “YES! I wanted that and Samsquach wouldn’t let me get it!” He jumped onto Dean with a bear hug, kissing the top of his head.

Sam came back, looking in the box. “Dean! Why?”

He gave Cas a look. Cas just shrugged as the other two laughed like idiots.

They went for lunch and then headed to the antique shops, getting a grandfather clock, a pair of high back wing chairs, a huge painting of a summer landscape, and a bunch of lamps and lights.

It had been a great day. The freedom of the confines of the house made them all feel free.

They went for dinner. Dean kept coming up with ways to use the box of brass lion heads.

“I know,” Dean said as they got in the truck to go home, “I can put the big one on the front door, the little ones on all the bathrooms on the first floor.”

“Yes!” Gabe agreed enthusiastically.

“I’m just going to duct tape the whole damn box to your feet, Dean, and drop you in a lake,” Cas deadpanned.

Sam chuckled.

“Ohhh,” Gabe clapped his hands, “I got it. Lion door knocker on the cabinet doors in the kitchen!”

“Good one,” Dean grinned.

“I’m going to hurt you both,” Sam sighed.

“Sorry Sam, but we are never double dating again,” Cas said apologetically.

“Agreed,” Sam said, dropping his head back.

 

***

 

Over the next eight weeks, work progressed slowly. It seemed as soon as one project was complete, like plumbing, an issue arose. A leak in the fourth floor bathroom. Clogged sinks. A malfunctioning sprinkler. So, the projects never seemed totally complete.

The spec sheets grew with small problems to fix and re-fix. Everyone seemed weighed down with the house. They often went out for dinner, needing the time away. More and more often, the top crew who lived there found things in town to keep them busy.

Benny and Ash were often at the Roadhouse. Bobby and Rufus began bowling. Charlie and Garth were getting closer with some of their new LARPing friends. Dean and Cas went to see a lot of movies. They even double dated with Alfie and his girlfriend. Sam and Gabe stayed out late a lot too. Everyone found reasons to be away from Kripke Manor.

Even though they had said they wouldn’t do it again, Dean, Sam, Cas, and Gabe took another Friday to go to the flea market a few towns over. It was warm outside and it was nice to enjoy the fresh air. It occurred to Cas that the house was always cold. Even June’s heat did not seem to penetrate Kripke walls.

They had another successful shopping trip, finding some rugs, more lamps, three very cool looking carts for loading food from the upper kitchens and bringing them down to help serve once the business got rolling.

The first floor was completely furnished, except the library. Cas was sad to see he still had many empty shelves. But he figured he had the rest of his life to fill them. Unless they decided to sell the place.

“Yay,” Charlie said, ten kinds of pissed off and coming at them as soon as they walked into the foyer.

“Hey, Charlie,” Dean said, eyebrows raising.

“Yeah. I can’t run electricity when the house is too freaking haunted to cooperate.” Her arms were crossed over her chest.

The four shoppers exchanged looks. They had not missed the heavy weight of the house. It was on them as soon as they walked through the front door.

It did not miss Castiel’s notice that things were changing since he had opened those stupid doors on the fourth floor.

Bobby approached the group with a tired sigh. “We got water leaking from the fourth floor into one of the bedrooms on the third. Again. And Garth keeps getting locked into rooms.”

Cas shrugged. “Should we stop everything until the paranormal investigators get here?”

Bobby sighed. “I hate to ruin our timeline. But someone’s gonna end up getting hurt. And…we can’t seem to find Ash.”

Sam and Dean balked at that.

Bobby’s phone rang. He sighed. “Hello? Garth, why would you even go in there? I’ll be there in a minute.”

He hung up the phone. “I have to go get Garth out of the closet in his room.”

“Meeting time,” Gabe said, heading for the dining room.

“We can’t lose two weeks of work,” Dean said, following him as he headed for the dining room.

They stood around the table. Except Gabe, who sat on his throne.

“What if we have to work in pairs,” Sam suggested.

Dean shrugged. “It would slow us down, but it would be better than pullin’ the plug.”

“We gotta find Ash,” Sam said.

Dean pulled his phone out, dialing Ash’s number. “It’s ringing.”

The top crew, Charlie, Bobby, Rufus, Garth, Sam, Dean, and Benny met in the foyer with Cas and Gabe. They were breaking into pairs when Ash strolled through the front door with three big bags.

“Hey dudes! I got tacos!” He grinned.

Everyone sighed.

No longer a need for search parties, people began drifting back to work.

“We could work in pairs for the next two weeks,” Sam suggested.

“We’ll work out a schedule working in pairs,” Dean sighed.

“I need some back-up tomorrow or the next day,” Cas said with some hesitation. “I really need to go through the fourth floor. I’m hoping there will be more documents on the house or people that lived here.”

“Alright,” Sam nodded. “We’ll work it into the schedule.”

Ash lifted his bags with a curious look. “Tacos?”

 

***

 

Two days later, after more problems with flickering lights and missing or moved work tools, Cas, Gabe, Dean, Sam, and Bobby went up to the fourth floor to find anything useful about the history of anything remotely connected to the house or people who had lived in it. They had sent the rest of them home early. Even working in pairs was not panning out. There were complaints of cold spots, equipment randomly starting or stopping, and new problems sprouting up everywhere. Work was at a complete stand-still.

Bobby parked himself in front of the bookshelf where the globe and the ghost had once been. He began pulling out books and leafing through them.

“Did you bring that tricycle back up here?” Dean asked the group irritably.

“No,” Cas and Gabe answered.

“Dude,” Dean said quietly, “I carried that thing out to the dumpster that night Cas had us search up here. That was a few months ago.”

Chills ran up Cas’ arms, but he shoved his worries away the best he could. They had a job to do.

Sam shrugged, picking up the small trike. He sat it by the steps.

“I got a newspaper article here,” Bobby said quietly.

“Make a pile,” Gabe suggested, wanting this over with.

They went into the hallway, fighting off the feeling of a cold chill in the air. Cas and Dean started in the first room on the right. Sam and Gabe started in the first room on the left.

This room was full of furniture. Upon initial inspection, there was a coat rack, a wardrobe with a missing door. And multiple lumpy things with dust covers over them.

Cas pulled a dust cover off slowly, revealing an old pale yellow, formal sofa. On the sofa were several very flat looking decorative throw pillows and a pile of thick rusty chain.

“Well, that’s not creepy,” Dean frowned, picking up the chain. He studied it for signs of what it would have been used for, but gave Cas a shrug as he dropped it back onto the sofa with a cascade of clinking metal.

They shoved the sofa over and Dean pulled off the next dust cover. It was an old roll top desk. Of course, it was locked.

Cas looked at the scratched and worn desk. “Break it open.”

“You sure?” Dean asked. “It could be worth a lot of money.”

“I already have money,” Cas said quietly. “Break it open. Please.”

Dean went into the first room where Bobby sat with his small pile of papers. He got a crow bar and brought it back in.

“You want me to do it?” Cas asked, watching Dean study the decrepit desk with some hesitancy.

“No. I got it.” Dean shoved the crow bar under the edge of the curved wood and pried it up until the small lock burst from its’ hold.

Dean slid the lid up, shimmying it until it was finally all the way pushed back. The desk held two rows of pigeon holes. Inside them were bundled letters. He pulled a pack out.

“This is addressed to the house. To Mr. Novak.”

“Take them all out,” Cas said in a hushed voice, handing him a box.

Dean gently placed four packs of twine bound letters in the box.

“Looks like we got a…ink bottle, some weird old pens, blank paper, blank envelopes, and this little box of…ew. What is that?”

Dean handed Cas the little cardboard box. “It looks like hair.” He pulled out a thick lock of brown hair tied in a white, thin ribbon. And…I’m pretty sure those are teeth. Baby teeth?”

Dean shivered and looked thoroughly disgusted. “Why the hell would you keep teeth and hair? Dude.”

Cas shrugged, closing the lid and putting the box back in the corner of the desk.

Dean set about checking every panel of the desk. Just when Cas was going to ask what he was doing, Dean opened a hidden door on the side of the desk.

“How did you even know that was there?” Cas asked.

“I don’t know. Creepy houses with creepy passageways seem like they would have creepy furniture with creepy hidden compartments.” Dean pulled a handful of papers out of the little opening and handed them to Cas.

Cas looked at them. They were brittle in his hands. He looked over them carefully.

“This is a birth certificate for a Lucas Novak.” Castiel looked at the parents names and the dates. “Wait. This could be a brother of Lucifer’s. The dates are about right.”

The next paper was an old contract. It took Cas several minutes to decipher the barely legible writing. “These are people. Bought by Lucifer. He had had indentured servants. It looks like they were all children. Bought to learn animal husbandry.”

The next set of papers were more of the same. “He…they all…all these children died here. Horse kick to the head. Crushed by a large animal. Influenza. Small pox. Small pox. There were so many…”

“They all died?” Dean asked, looking over Cas’ shoulder at the paper.

“I think so. And what are all these documents on experimental procedures on the soul?” Cas read over several papers. “Dean, these are different. It looks like some of them completed their service and were released.”

“I’ve seen this name before,” Dean pointed at one of the other signatures. Rowena MacCleod. MacCleod. I know that name from somewhere.”

“That’s my neighbor,” Cas recalled. He had seen the name on an old deed where the lines of the grounds were marked. “The MacCleod family still own the big house just past our driveway. We share a border over by the mausoleum.”

They exchanged a worried look.

Dean continued uncovering furniture and checking them all carefully. There was no closet, so they left the room, heading back to Bobby.

“I been through everything on this bookshelf,” Bobby said, handing Cas a small stack of papers. “There’s some weird books in there. Astrology and really old medical books.”

Sam and Gabe came out of their room, they had found nothing too interesting.

“Let’s keep looking,” Cas suggested.

The next two rooms they searched had nothing too odd in them. The next room was the child’s room.

“We need to gut this room. Everything in here looks creepy as shit,” Dean stepped back in the hall, tripping. “Who moved this damn tricycle?” He picked the rickety thing up and dropped in unceremoniously beside the stairs.

“It was just there a minute ago,” Bobby said, looking more and more uncomfortable. “And why is it so damn cold in here?”

The room where Bobby was working was very cold. Bobby rubbed his hands together, puffing a warm breath into his cupped hands to warm them.

“We found some books,” Gabe said, walking down the hall with three thick books in his hands. “You are gonna want to see this.”

A loud crashing sound came from the room Sam was still in. They all ran to it, seeing Sam sliding up the far wall until his head smacked against the ceiling.

“What the hell!” Dean yelled, running to him but bouncing back with an unnatural force hurtling him into the group, knocking all of them down.

“SAM!” Dean yelled, scrambling to his feet.

Sam’s feet kicked and his hands pulled at his own neck as if something were strangling him. He choked out a cry, looking desperate for air.

“It’s mine!” A voice from everywhere raged around them.

Sam dropped to the floor like a lead ball, gasping and moaning.

Gabe and Dean got him up quickly, running for the stairs. Cas grabbed the dropped books and Bobby grabbed his stack of papers. They all ran down the stairs, slamming the door shut behind them.

No one stopped until they were outside on the patio. Once outside, Sam went down on his knees, clutching his arm to his chest. “What the fuck was that?” He gasped, rocking with pain.

“What’s wrong?” Dean asked.

“My arm! It’s broken. I’m sure of it. I came down so hard!”

“Take him to the hospital,” Cas said. His jaw was trembling and his hands were shaking. But his fear was quickly turning to anger.

Gabe and Dean walked with Sam around the house and out to a car to drive him to the hospital.

Cas marched toward the kitchen door.

“Hey!” Bobby called, catching up to him. “Whadya think yer doin’?”

“I’m getting the rest of the papers we need,” Cas growled out. He was outraged at the house. How dare it turn on him! He was not losing everything to some dead man.

“You can’t go back in there!” Bobby panicked, putting one hand on the door to block it.

“I am going in there,” Cas snapped. “My dog is in there.”

Bobby turned, looking in the window of the back door. Buddy could be heard somewhere inside the house barking ferociously.

“Aw, hell.” Bobby stepped back. “Well, I’m goin’ with ya then.”

“You don’t-“

“Save it, Cas. You ain’t goin’ in there alone.”

Cas read the determination on Bobby’s face. He nodded.

Bobby stopped blocking the door, wrenching it open. They followed the sounds of Buddy’s barking, finding him locked in Gabriel’s room on the third floor.

The dog was a frenzied, hackle-raised mess. When Cas finally managed to pull the door open, Buddy cried and jumped on him, frantic for his owner.

Cas soothed him enough that he quit whining. Cas went back up to the fourth floor, grabbing the box with letters by the steps and saw with a sickening clench in his stomach that the tricycle was back in the hall.

He left quickly, shutting the door. He went to his own room, getting some clothes and the little box of pictures, the envelopes of photos, and his laptop. They left the house, Rumsfeld waiting at the truck with a howl.

He texted Dean to meet them at the hotel in town. No one was sleeping here again. Not until something was done about that damn ghost.

 

***

 

The hotel room door unlocked with a mechanical grind. Buddy was at the door and whining, barely letting Dean inside without Dean having to pet him and push him back gently.

“Dean, is Sam okay?” Cas asked, jumping to his feet.

Dean closed the door and waded past the pushy dog, hugging him tight.

“He’s okay. His arm is broken and there are bruises around his neck. But he’s okay.”

“My God,” Cas sighed, he didn’t say it out loud, but he was so thankful Dean hadn’t been any more injured than the bruises on his side.

“I got him all settled in with Gabe. They’re gonna order room service and stay in for the night.”

“Bobby’s next door,” Cas said, stepping back and letting Buddy devour Dean’s undivided attention for a few minutes.

“I’m so sorry, Dean. I can’t believe that happened to Sam. It should have been me! I’m the one pushing for us to deal with that fucking house and everyone else is paying the price!”

“Hey,” Dean soothed, catching him by the arm and pulling him into him again. “It’s gotta be done. Or walk away. And Sam will be okay.”

“Should I walk away from it?” Cas asked, truly feeling lost and overwhelmed.

“No,” Dean said more firmly than Cas had expected. He pulled back giving Cas a determined look. “There is something in that house. Let’s just get these ghost buster people inside and get it taken care of.”

Cas grinned at his use of the word ‘let’s’. Let us. Us. As in, together. Cas nodded just as determined. It was their house. Theirs. And they were getting it back or Cas would burn the son of a bitch to the ground.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13. Lawyers, Baby, and The Serengeti

 

Castiel put the box of paperwork on the middle of the conference room table. He had reserved a conference room at the hotel so they could sort through all they had gathered from the house.

“Look, we all have chairs,” Dean smirked. The room was half full with a large Formica topped table and a bunch of tan, padded chairs. The florescent light was cold and harsh unlike the warm glow of their dining room.

“Please,” Gabe rolled his eyes. “This place is so vanilla.”

“I’m good with vanilla for a day or two,” Cas sighed. The house was weighing him down. He had slept so good last night. Buddy was happy, not up and pacing or trying to figure out what room to sleep in. Sleeping with Dean was damn near magical. And that was just sleeping. Something about someone reaching for you during the night when they were asleep. Someone wanting you so subconsciously that even asleep they pull you into them and smile with satisfaction.

As bad as yesterday had been, Castiel had to admit, he felt a real sense of peace with Dean. Or perhaps it was just the fact that ancient prison cells weren’t below his feet and haunted hallways weren’t looming over his head.

Either way, his steps felt lighter and even the box of forlorn looking papers did not dampen his smile.

“Bobby is coming with doughnuts and coffee,” Cas added, finally getting a grin from Gabe.

“And banana oatmeal smoothies for us,” Cas grinned at Sam.

“Thanks, Cas!”

“Gross!” Dean and Gabe scoffed.

“Oatmeal? In a drink?” Dean clarified with disgust while Gabe acted like he was puking.

Cas and Sam exchanged a grin. “When they’re too fat and unhealthy to go on vacation in ten years, we’ll go do all the really cool shit.”

Cas grinned, winking at Dean. “We’ll leave them on the porch with Rumsfeld and hike the Incan ruins-“

“Knock it off.” Dean jumped up, grabbing Cas around the waist from behind, kissing him just under his ear. “A couple doughnuts and burgers won’t stop me from chasing your ass through jungles, giant libraries, up mountainsides, through ruins or whatever other nerdy shit you two can think up.”

Cas giggled, pulling away from the ticklish touch but got nowhere. In a lower growl only for Cas, Dean murmured in his ear. “Ten years from now, huh?”

Cas knew he was blushing and put his hands over Dean’s on his waist. He nodded, catching the weight of what he had just said. Ten years from now. Dean had never outright said they were even dating and Cas had them vacationing as couples ten years from now. A warm thrill brewed to a full body rush at the grin and eager look Dean gave him for mentioning it.

He turned, kissing him chastely. The look that lingered a moment was full of hope.

Dean let him go with a last squeeze around his waist. His cheeks were tinged pink, but there was no sign of anxiety to it. Only a happy grin as he sat back down.

Cas sat too. Gabe and Sam were talking, but Cas was suddenly overcome with the realization that Dean Winchester might actually be the one. The one! But if he was ‘the one’ didn’t that mean that he loved him? His thoughts skittered back through their turbulent time getting to know each other over the past year. He had judged Dean so harshly at first. He had actually liked Sam a whole lot more than Dean. That thought almost made him laugh out loud. While he loved being around Sam, he certainly didn’t love him the way he loved Dean.

The thought was a bit shocking. But there it was. He loved Dean. He loved everything about him. His rough hands. His hips. His past. His sense of humor. The green of his eyes. Even when he became angry and difficult. The smoldering look that could get him hard in .2 seconds. The music he hummed. The way he interacted with Gabriel. With Buddy.

“Holy shit,” he muttered.

Dean glanced at him but Cas just waved it away. This was not the time or place to declare his love for Dean. He had to cover his ridiculous grin with his hand. He was is love! LOVE.

Bobby walked in. He watched in a daze as Bobby grumbled about the wait at Heavenly Brew. The ‘disgusting grass shakes’ were handed out and they were digging into the doughnuts. When had all this happened? He wanted Sam and Bobby and Charlie in his life forever. Dean had not only profoundly changed his life by being in it. But by bringing all this family too. Had the house been oppressing all this growing bonding? Or had it happen so slowly he had not taken notice? There was no denying it was there. He felt a feather-light touch on his hand and looked over to see Dean watching him.

“You okay?” Dean asked quietly.

Cas turned his hand, squeezing his, rubbing his thumb back and forth. “I’m good. Really good.” He pulled his hand back, busying himself to put a straw in his smoothie. He did not want to chase Dean away. If Dean could read his thoughts, he might run for the hills. He had just recently agreed to ‘something more than a hook-up’. Cas was ten steps ahead. Married. Ten year anniversary vacations. Shit.

He took a big gulp of his cold drink. He needed to pace himself if he wasn’t going to ruin things. And that was NOT an option. He was in love.

 

***

 

Dean watched Cas with growing worry. They were out in the real world now. No longer in the confines of the Kripke Manor bubble. Cas’ joke several moments ago had hit him like a lightening bolt. He was thinking about the future. A future with them together. Damn. It had hit Dean in all the right places. But as soon as he had acknowledged it, Cas got quiet. He had a constant blush now and a far away look. As he finished his second doughnut, it sat heavily in his stomach. Cas was probably figuring out what a monumental mistake that would be. Why the hell would a millionaire stick it out even a year with a problematic carpenter? Yeah. That was never gonna happen.

Cas was clearing away the breakfast mess. Dean watched how he moved with a grace that was damn near unearthly. He moved around the conference room with ease in his jeans and t-shirt. His shoes cost more than Dean’s entire wardrobe, but they didn't jump out as such. Their eyes met briefly as Cas wiped off Gabriel’s messy corner. The slightest narrowing told him that Cas had caught him thinking. Dean grinned and looked down to try and throw him off, but Cas had a way of seeing right through all his bullshit. He took a sip of coffee and tried to think about what the others were doing back in Kansas.

His phone buzzed. He pulled it out.

Cas: Whatever it is you are thinking about…if it has to do with me, stop.

Dean glanced up at Cas. When had he even texted that? Cas raised one brow at him.

Dean: I wasn’t.

Cas glanced at his phone. He turned a blue stare onto Dean that he swore to God split him open, read his mind, and put him back together. He saw everything. That should make Dean want to run like hell. So, why wasn’t he?

Cas: Liar

“Damn,” Dean swore quietly, not interrupting the discussion Gabe, Sam and Bobby were having about Rumsfeld terrifying a woman in the lobby last night and how she had to be a grade A idjit to be scared of that sad, sleepy stack of bones with droopy ears.

Dean: fine. I’ll stop.

Cas grinned, just one corner of his mouth tipping up the tiniest bit.

Dean: I’ll think up something dirty instead.

Cas grinned fully now.

Cas: That’s more like it.

Dean huffed a laugh, not looking at Cas. He shoved the thoughts away. For now, he was Cas’ favorite toy. And he was gonna enjoy it while it lasted.

“Alright,” Cas said, standing with an authority that Dean could picture him wearing his suit and addressing a jury. When did that get so hot? He might be developing a courtroom kink.

“Today's mission is to read everything in this box, take notes, compile some sort of history, and figure out who the man in the picture is,” Cas taped the photo on the wall of the blonde leaning against the bookshelf. “Why he would haunt the manor, and is he protecting anything else?” Cas taped three huge sheets of paper onto the wall with a question on each one.

“Bobby, you take the newspaper articles.”

Bobby nodded, pulling the box to him and pulling out the brittle, yellowed pages.

“Gabriel, take two packs of letters. Sam, one of the books, Dean, one of the other books. I’ll take the other two stacks of letters and the last book.”

The box was slid around the table as they all took their parts.

“Watch for dates,” Gabe instructed, “names, events, and if it doesn’t feel right, write it down.”

Dean pulled a book out of the box. The Study of the Soul. It was a leather bound book, thinner than a Harry Potter novel. This should be a piece of cake. He opened the cover and turned the first few yellowed pages. The print was fucking tiny. So much for being thin.

Everyone had been given a legal pad and pen to take notes on what they read. The room descended into a classroom kind of quiet with turning pages and pen tapping.

Cas and Gabe began going through the letters at a speed that made Dean wonder if they were really reading them. But they took notes and made marks on the envelopes. He could see they were sorting them somehow into piles, so they had to be getting something from them.

He refocused himself into the book and took some notes himself. Why they would want to know how this lunatic author thought the soul could be actually located in the body and how to extract it was beyond him, but he took notes anyway.

A good hour later, they were all finished. Cas and Gabe were comparing notes and sorting some of their letters together. It was interesting to see the brothers work together. He could tell by their short sentences and seamless movements that this was something they had probably done many times. It had to be a lawyer thing.

 

***

“Okay,” Cas said, sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Our first question. Who is our ghost?”

Bobby stood up with two articles in his hands and carried them to the picture on the wall. “This is Lucas Novak. Got a picture here with him and the town mayor at the time.”

Cas took the picture, comparing the two. “Lucas Novak.” He taped the articles under his picture. The first one is shortly after the ballroom was added. He healed some big fancy shin-dig that made the paper.”

“The year?” Cas asked, pulling a marker out of his pocket.

Bobby checked his notes. “1815. Ten years after inheriting the house. He was quite the playboy. He hosted balls twice a year and a lot of other parties.”

Cas taped the birth certificate next to the picture as well. “He would have been 22 in this photo.”

“Thank you, Bobby,” Cas said quietly, studying the pictures so far.”

“But according to the deed, Lucifer Novak inherited the house, not Lucas. So are they brothers?” Sam asked.

Cas nodded. “Excellent question.” Halfway down the paper, Cas wrote, ‘Who is Lucifer Novak?’

“I got a picture of him too.” Bobby said, coming back to his articles. He pulled one out gingerly. “Lucifer Novak, heir and socialite questioned in suspicious activities. He was questioned after a woman named Susan Kline accused him of killing her daughter, Kelly Kline. Nothing ‘amiss’ was found and all charges were dropped.”

Cas studied the picture. “This is in 1862.”

“We need a timeline.” Gabe taped two papers lengthwise on the other wall, taking a picture down and sitting it to the side. It was weird to see Gabe so focused. He glanced over at Sam and recognized the look he had probably had while watching Cas.

“So he was accused of murder by Kelly’s cousin, Jane in 1862. Lucifer would have been 69 years old.”

Gabe took the notes. Lucifer’s information was on the top of the line and Lucas’ was under the line.

“Something seem off to you?” Bobby asked Cas. “Does that man look almost 70?”

Cas squinted at the picture. “No. He doesn’t. You're right. Something is off. He looks to be in his 40’s. Maybe Lucas and Lucifer were not brothers.”

Gabe noted it next to his age. “I have letters from Kelly Kline’s mother, father, and that cousin, Jane. The whole family seemed real unhappy with Lucifer.”

“Yes,” Cas agreed. “But let’s finish with Bobby first.”

“The rest of the articles are more mentions of balls and parties. I made a list of the dates and people mentioned but there’s no pictures with those.”

“Thank you, Bobby,” Cas said again. He seemed to process all the wall information again.

“Let’s do the letters,” Gabe said.

The pair took three stacks of letters and added the information to the timeline.

“So,” Gabe summarized out loud. “Lucifer got nice enough letters from Kelly’s folks at first. First couple years Kelly and Luci seem happy, even though there’s a twenty year age difference. But, hey, I’m not judging. Looks like there’s a kid born, Jackie, I’m going to assume it’s a girl because mom mentions a dress in one of the letters and cross-dressing was a bit of a no-no back then. Then the letters get pushy. They want to visit, they want to see Kelly and the baby, why isn’t Kelly writing to them anymore, where’s Kelly. In 1859, Kelly dies. Parents want to visit Jackie, the mom offers to raise the kid. Then the letters get a bit more frantic. They question why was Kelly sick, what exactly was wrong with her, where’s Jackie, and so on. Jackie dies in 1863. She was seven. There is one scathing letter from Kelly’s mother after that, and that was all the letters regarding Kelly, Lucifer’s wife.”

“Did he kill his wife and kid?” Dean asked.

“Is the little tricycle girl Jackie?” Gabe asked.

They studied the walls for a few minutes.

“We’re missing some critical information here,” Cas noted, adding another sheet to the wall and starting a list. “We need a photo of Jackie, birth certificate and most of all an obituary. There has to be more information about that. She would have been the sole heir of the estate. It would have been important.”

“We also need an obituary on Lucas and Lucifer and a birth certificate for Lucifer.” Gabe added, Cas writing it.

“So, what are the letters about?” Sam asked, looking at three more stacks of letters.

“This stack,” Gabe picked up a handful of letters, are parents talking about their indentured servant kids not coming home alive.”

“Any of those names match the contracts we found?” Dean asked.

“Two,” Gabe noted, checking his list. “And several from the other letters.”

“Apparently Lucifer was an avid taker of indentured servants. He claimed to take them for five years and teach them animal husbandry,” Cas added for the group.

“That’s what this book is about,” Sam interrupted, opening the book. “It’s a ledger on servants. A lot of them, like, almost all of them died.”

“Alright, let’s cross-check the names and see what you two come up with,” Cas suggested, Gabe and Sam nodding. “These letters,” Cas picked up the second stack, “were about children that came home, thanking him for their years of service for their children.” There were only a few there. “This last stack is from parents, family, or the servants themselves. They returned home, but they were all noted as being ‘odd, peculiar, unable to adjust, maladjusted, demonic, and weak-minded’.”

“Damn,” Bobby watched as the stack was slid next to the others. “What was he doing to the servants?”

“I might have something on that,” Dean said quietly. He held up the thin book. “Somebody, L. Novak, was studying how to remove a soul. I thought it might just be a weird book, but then I hit some of the pictures.” Dean opened to one of them. “I saw this in the basement.”

Cas came over to study the strange looking machine. “Yes. I believe you are correct.”

“And this one.” Dean flipped to another picture, and another, and another. The last one, a table with restraints and wires, was in that white room in the basement. It wasn’t something you forgot.

“What…how did they attempt this?” Cas asked, haunted by the pictures.

Dean read his notes aloud. “There was this weird diet he fed them. They stayed ‘between awake and asleep for a minimum of one month’. They did all this specific electrocuting, then they ‘listened for the grace’ with one of these machines. Then they used that table and some other heinous instruments to ‘extract the grace, which shimmers with white light’.” Dean met Cas’ haunted blue eyes. “Were they seriously trying this on people?”

“I think so,” Sam answered. “These ledgers have a key. It tells a lot of information. I just didn’t understand most of it. But ‘hearing the soul’ is one of the boxes. Most people got that far. And the ‘asleep’ column, the dates are consistent with people being asleep for a month. A lot died just at that part at first, but they must have gotten better at that, because by 1850 people weren’t…whatever the X’s mean…died? As soon as I find one to compare, I will know more.”

“The book I read through,” Cas said, stepping over and picking it up, “The Art of the Slumbering, is a study on inducing a coma. That isn’t what they call it, but that’s what it is. So, this must have been one of the things they studied to improve their work.”

“Their work to remove people’s souls,” Dean scoffed. “This guy was a real crackpot.”

“Well, he did something,” Gabe added. “That last stack of letters…the things people said. It made it sound like he altered their personalities. Some of them were sickly, but others were healthy. Just…behaved a lot different. And the ones that were asking to come back to Lucifer seemed like they had some kind of agenda.”

“What the hell,” Dean wondered aloud. “I feel like we have a lot more questions than we started with.”

“And I’ve read about nothing Lucifer seems attached to in the house. But if he was messing around with the afterlife so much…maybe he managed to do…something.”

“I found one,” Sam blurted, pointing to the ledger, Gabe leaning over his shoulder. “Meg Masters. She’s one of the last entries. She has no X’s. her’s are all checked and dated.”

“She’s one of the ones who came back.” Gabe found her letter. “Looks like she went to Detroit on some sort of mission to get something and was coming back. She wrote several times. And her parents were ones that said her ‘demeanor had soured’.”

“And there’s the wifey,” Gabe pointed to a line in the ledger. “Kelly Kline. Looks like she did well until the third ‘pineal gland extraction’. She got an X. June 14th, 1859.”

“Dude,” Sam shook his head in disgust. “His own wife.”

“So he keeps people on the brink of death, messes with their brain chemistry and thinks he got their souls?” Bobby asked.

“Maybe,” Sam shrugged. “Guys, this ledger dates from 1839 to 1864. That’s 25 years of experimenting. There are probably 500 names in here. And there are two people’s handwriting. So Lucifer was not doing this all on his own.”

“1864,” Bobby squinted. “What the hell happened in 1864? Lucifer died or disappeared, losing everything. His house, his experiments, it just all stopped. But if that’s Lucas’ ghost, what’s the connection?”

They all sat or stood quietly.

“I don’t know,” Dean broke the silence, “but the Kripke’s took over and that’s still the house name. In fact, it was mandated on all the deeds until Singer went bankrupt over a hundred years later, that Kripke be kept as the house’s name.”

“Huh,” Gabe frowned in thought.

“We need Ash and Charlie back for this if we really want to dig into it. They have…really good computer skills,” Dean said, stretching back in his chair.

“By good, you mean…” Gabe asked.

“Like, you might not want to know how they do it,” Bobby smirked.

Cas and Gabe exchanged a shrug. “When they come back, hopefully the paranormal investigators will have the haunting part solved,” Cas sighed. “But if I’m going to live there, I need to know what happened. And 500 people deserve to have the truth of the situation known.”

“I agree,” Gabe nodded.

Bobby, Sam, and Dean all nodded agreement.

Cas sat down with a sigh. “I’m going to write up a report for the paranormal investigators. It might be helpful if they know some of this background. They arrive in just over a week.”

They put the books, letters and articles back in the box and left Cas to put his letter together.

In the hallway, Bobby stopped Dean and Sam. “Since we got ten days of nothing and then three days of ghost busters, I think we aughta take advantage of the down time. But stay away from the house.”

Sam nodded. “Gabe thought maybe we could do some recon for other businesses like what they want to start. We might go see a few places.” He looked over at Dean. “I think he meant all four or five of us, but it’s up to you guys.”

“I got a buddy in Pennsylvania I’d like to meet up with,” Bobby said. “How bout I take the dogs with me and you guys can go business building on your own?”

Dean nodded. Sam and Gabe went up to their room when the elevator opened but Bobby had given Dean a look to hang back. They headed over to the free coffee in the dining area.

They both sat down at a table. “I wanted to say,” Bobby started, staring down into his coffee and talking quietly, “that I’m real sorry for doubting you and Cas.”

Dean blinked a few times. He watched another guy get coffee and cleared his throat. “Well, thanks Bobby. I mean…we’re doing good. Cas is…good.”

“I know he is,” Bobby looked up at him now, brown eyes staring firmly into him. “He’s good for you, Dean. And you deserve it. You deserve every bit of it.”

Dean scoffed. “I don’t know about all that, Bobby.”

“I do.”

Dean couldn’t maintain the look. He stared into his own coffee. He laughed short and bitter. “Bobby, he’s a fucking millionaire. When this house shit is done…I’m gonna be done too.”

“What the hell’s that mean?” Bobby barked.

“It means I might look pretty good right now while he needs me. But a year or two from now…what the hell would we even have in common?”

“You have that house for one,” Bobby said sternly. “You saved his life.”

“I carried him up some steps!” Dean laughed.

“Okay…you rescued him. You believe him when he’s talking about ghosts.”

“I fuckin’ saw it! I felt it!” Dean threw his hands up. He could still remember the ice cold vice grip around his own throat that threw him across a room.

“And you've seen what he’s seen,” Bobby nodded. “You don’t just forget shit like that. It’s a bond, Dean.” Bobby looked across the room but was obviously somewhere far away. “Some of those boys I was in the jungles of Vietnam with…we saw shit that…it changes you. It dents you up a little. You might be able to buff it out for the rest of the world, but you know. Your friends know.”

“Well you didn’t marry them or anything,” Dean smirked, trying to help pull Bobby back a bit.

Bobby gave him a serious look. “Only cause I don’t swing that way. If I did, I’d probably have married the one.”

Dean swallowed, nodding.

“What I’m sayin’ son, is that you deserve the best. And if the best for you is Castiel Novak, then take it. Don’t let him slip away. Don’t beat yourself up inside and tell yourself you ain’t good enough.”

Dean frowned. He was going to deny it, but Bobby knew him too well. “Alright.”

“I mean it.”

“Alright, Bobby,” Dean met his eyes this time.

“And after today, that Gabe might not be too bad either.”

Dean laughed. “He gets all lawyerly and Sam starts drooling!”

“Please!” Bobby laughed. “Bein’ in a room with the four of you is like sittin’ smack dab in the middle of two rom-coms.”

Dean laughed, knowing he was blushing a little.

 

***

 

Cas had learned several things on his road trip.
1. Slim Jims came in a variety of flavors.
2. Dean loved to drive.
3. He now knew all the lyrics to Led Zeppelin IV.
4. Sam had surpassed Gabe on the gas issues. Sam got gas from everything. Simply breathing gave him gas.

 

They were going to rent a car. But then Cas decided he should just buy one. Gabe demanded it be a ‘fun’ one. He took Dean car shopping with him. Cas was thinking of some sort of VW bus. That would be fun. They found a yellow one with a big green smiley face painted on the front.

Dean said he wouldn’t drive it.

He did find one that seemed to make him ridiculously happy. It was a huge, classic car. Perfect for a road trip. Roomy, comfortable seats in front and back, smooth ride, roaring engine, and it put a smile of Dean’s face that Cas never wanted to end.

He bought it. A ‘67 Chevy Impala. Dean went on about the engine and the build and how it would last forever. But all Cas heard was the rumble of the engine and Dean’s happy voice. It smelled like leather and it ate gas like a hog.

When they pulled up to the hotel, Sam laughed but was equally as impressed. Bobby approved. And Gabe said it was ‘bitchin’. So, the road trip began.

They went to a bed and breakfast in Maryland. A wedding event and hotel place in Pennsylvania, a beautiful resort in Ohio, a historic bed and breakfast in Kentucky, two event centers in Tennessee, and another resort in West Virginia.

Dean always drove. He referred to the car as ‘baby’ a lot, and he talked to it frequently, like he did with Buddy. It was endearing. And Cas thought he would never be in a car again the same.

They toured event centers and were so touched with the owners generosity with tips, forms, and vendor suggestions. They learned a lot. He and Gabe took notes and phone numbers and pictures. It was a lot to take in.

They were pulling into their final stop on the trip. There would be no work on this one. Just a night to relax before going back home. West Virginia was beautiful with thick woods and rolling mountains.

“I think we should definitely splurge on the third floor suites,” Sam laughed when Cas had argued that a hand painted mural was too much.

“I already have the guy! He’s amazing and he’s coming next month to do the dining room! He can do our room too, I’m sure. But you and Dean should get one too!”

Cas whipped around, staring at his brother. “You commissioned an artist to paint the dining room?”

Gabe stuck a lollipop in his mouth. “Maybe.”

“To paint it…how, exactly?” Cas pressed.

“Hey, the dining room is for us. When guests are at the house, they can stay in the other rooms to eat.”

Castiel stared at him. The Winchesters wisely stayed quiet, just watching like a tennis match.

“Gabriel. The first floor dining room is open to guests. We discussed this.”

“Okay. So…where is my lion table going?”

Gabe had all the innocence of a ten year old. But Cas knew better. “We’re getting rid of it, Gabriel.”

“But I like it.”

“It was the agreement when you bought it,” Cas growled.

“But…I like it.”

“It’s-“ Cas stopped. He felt a soft rub along his arm from Dean. It was enough to pull him out of his brotherly battle and look at him. He gave Dean an impatient look.

“Come on,” Dean smirked quietly. “He likes it. And the throne.”

“The-“

“Cas,” Dean grinned.

Son of a bitch. That was NOT fair. Cas huffed, staring firmly at Gabriel. The manipulative little bastard had all three of them against him. For a gaudy table and an equally gaudy ‘throne’. Like Gabriel needed any SORT of encouragement like his own throne!

He looked as Sam. Sam bit his lip and looked down at his own lap. Damnit.

“Fine.”

“Yay!” Gabe lit up.

Cas rolled his eyes. “It’s not staying on the ground floor.”

“Oh, come on, Cassie!”

“The third floor doesn’t have a dining room next to the kitchen,” Sam added. “Or the second floor. I guess they’re like food prep only.”

“See!” Gabe rallied. “It has to be the first floor.”

“No,” Cas challenged. “Absolutely not.”

“What if we put a kitchen where Dean’s room is. And a dining room where Charlie’s room is. It would be nice to have all the ‘house’ stuff in one section,” Sam wondered aloud. “Or what if we put a kitchen on the fourth floor. By that big room by the pool. We could easily make one of the other rooms there a dining room. And a study. It would be like a two story house within the house.”

Cas tried to picture it. “I’d have to see the floor plans again. Would that be a huge cost?”

Sam squinted in thought. “Might add 20-30,00 to the budget. But then your personal kitchen would be away from all the business activity.”

Gabe smirked. “OR, we could just let the guy paint the damn dining room we already have. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s gonna look fantastic.”

Cas huffed, just now noticing with a bit of surprise that the car was parked and Dean had just opened the trunk.

“I’ll think about it,” Cas folded.

Gabe beamed with triumph as he got out of the car. “You think on it, Cassie. It’s gonna be epic. And NOBODY else has one.”

Cas was out of the car by now too. “That’s because nobody else wants one, Gabriel.”

Sam chuckled.

“Sam and I will get the bags,” Dean interrupted. “Gabe, here’s your cabin key. It’s right there.” He pointed to the one across the little parking area.

“Thanks, Dean-O.” Gabe took the key and one small bag, heading for the little log cabin with a green roof. It was tiny. Two rooms at the most and looked like it was made of giant Lincoln logs.

“Here ya go, Cas. I’ll be right in.” He caught the keys Dean tossed and headed for the identical one in front of the car.

He unlocked the door and stepped inside. A small room was quaintly, if not cheesily, decorated with a cabin theme of red and black plaid and moose everywhere. There was a large bed with night stands along the wall. The other side of the room had a couch in front of a fireplace. There was one door that stood ajar. Cas assumed it must be the bathroom. He put the keys in his pocket and thought about what he and Dean could do with this nice little set up. There was a mini fridge with a small counter and coffee pot. He had bought some gourmet coffee at a store earlier that day and wanted to get it for the morning.

He went back outside and closed the door quietly, seeing Dean and Sam animatedly talking by the trunk. He did not want to interrupt, but he heard his name and was drawn closer.

“You can’t just insert yourself into their plans!” Dean barked.

“Why not? They were good ideas. And who knows, Dean, we might end up staying together. Gabe and I anyway! It’s getting really serious.” Sam bit back just as vehemently. His voice dropped lower and softened as he went on. “I think I love him. And I would never steer him to make a bad decision about the house either way. I care about them. Cas is my friend. And it’s okay for you to get comfortable for once, Dean. Cas is a good guy!”

Dean scoffed harshly. “This is what Bobby was worried about. You are making suggestions and taking sides on decisions that ONLY belong to our clients.”

The pair stared at each other a long moment. Cas knew he shouldn’t be listening, but it was too late. He was taken aback by how disconnected Dean really was. Now that he thought about it, there had been many brainstorming conversation between Gabe, himself, and Sam. Dean remained silent. Like tonight with the dining room. But if Dean assumed he was done when the job was done…then no wonder he did not want to contribute to such conversations.

“Gabe is way more than a client. And you are totally lying to yourself if you think Cas is only a client,” Sam said bitterly.

“Well, maybe that’s how things work for you,” Dean said just as bitterly. “But I think you are way overstepping your bounds.”

Sam snorted in disgust. He snatched his and Gabe’s suitcases and headed toward their cabin.

As Dean watched him walk away, all Cas could do was stare with cold realization. Dean was leaving himself an out. People only did that when they were sure they were going to need it.

“Cas,” Dean said, sounding slightly startled.

Cas flinched. He could act like he just got here and ignore it all. He could confront Dean and tear the hole wide open. Or he could admit he heard the conversation and agree with him. Maybe if Dean needed an out, then he needed one too.

Cas found his feet working before his brain was quite ready. He took the spot Sam had been in only seconds ago.

Dean looked shocked still. He was grasping for something to say, but apparently Cas’ mouth was operating before his brain as well.

“Are you leaving me?”

Dean closed his mouth and looked hurt for only a second before his jaw tightened.

“I came out for the coffee I bought,” Cas said in way of an explanation for his eavesdropping. “I heard what you said to Sam. I had not realized you were not participating in decisions because this was business before personal. For you.”

Dean’s gaze dropped to the gravel under his feet. “It’s the right thing to do. The business is yours and Gabe’s.”

Cas could feel his anger rising like a steady flood, filling him. “When the house is done, are you leaving?”

“I gotta go home, Cas,” Dean said, holding his hands out.

Cas nodded. In all fairness, it was too soon to be judging him for thinking that way. But inside, his heart was crying.

Dean frowned, looking back down.

Cas’ anger dissipated. He should have realize this is where Dean’s head was. “Your family has warned me to go slow with you.”

Dean rolled his eyes, looking away.

“Charlie, Bobby, Sam, they all have told me to be patient. That you would need extra time. But so far, I have found that when I give you extra time, you hang yourself with it.”

Dean’s eyes were back on him now and he crossed his arms over his chest.

“I don’t know what you're thinking about you and me, Dean. But I think you need to know that…” Cas wanted to shut himself up, to walk away and give Dean more room. It would be more fair. But he just couldn’t shut himself up.

“Cas,” Dean sighed, “you don’t have to sugar-coat it for me. I-“

“I’m falling in love with you, Dean.”

And there it was. Out in the cold night air for all of the world to hear. For Dean to hear.

Dean’s mouth had frozen mid sentence with shock in his eyes.

“They all said to go slow,” Cas rambled on, seeing the frozen look on Dean’s face, “but I just can’t. I love you. Not because of what you can do to make an old house come alive. Not for how ridiculously handsome you are, but for all the things. The little dumb things. The things that make you, you. I don’t want to scare you off. And I wanted to tell you this whole trip. But I thought I better wait. But, after what you said to Sam…I thought you should know.”

Their stare was charged and loaded but went no where. Dean eventually dropped his gaze and glanced at the open trunk.

“Cas,” he said finally, “you barely know me. There’s a lot of shit-“

“I don’t give a damn about your past, Dean.” Cas laughed, feeling scared and nervous and more exposed than ever before in his life. “I didn’t even like you when you used to visit Sam!”

Dean pressed his mouth together.

“But I didn’t even know you. And now I do. And there is so much more to get to know. And I want to.” Cas stepped forward but did not touch him. “I want to know everything. I can’t even help it, Dean. I’m…so in love with you.”

Dean frowned hard and that was the last Cas could hang on for. He nervously glanced around, snagging the bag of coffee out of the trunk and headed for the cabin. He had poured his heart out. And got nothing in return.

The door was barely closed before tears fell. Damn himself for crying. And damn himself for continually bull-dozing his way through Dean’s emotions. He tossed the coffee on the nightstand and curled into a small ball on the couch. He stared forlornly at the bare fireplace. It was as empty as his heart. Why had he told Dean? He should have waited. There had to be better timing than now.

He tried not to notice how time was ticking by. He wondered where Dean was. Would he call a cab and leave for Kansas? Would he sleep in the car? Where was he?

He jumped at the sound of the door. It was Dean. Cas wiped his teary cheeks off and turned back to the empty fire. He laid his head on his arm and blinked slowly, listening to Dean pull the bags inside and shut the door. He listened as Dean’s boots made loud clomps while he did something.

He squeezed his eyes shut when Dean sat next to him on the couch.

“I know you're awake,” Dean whispered.

Cas felt Dean’s hand brush the freshest tear away.

“Cas,” Dean said his name with such wonder that Cas opened his eyes. “Don’t cry because of me. I…” he moved Cas into a sitting position.

“If you're going to try to sell me some bullshit about you not being worth it, I don’t want to hear it, Dean.”

Dean clicked his jaw shut. They were sitting side by side now, looking at each other like either of them would bolt at any second.

Dean sighed heavily. “I don’t know what it is about you,” Dean laughed softly, “but you know just how to stop me in my tracks every time.”

Cas grinned slightly. The truth was he could read Dean like a book on some things. His flight stance was pretty recognizable.

“Cas,” Dean stammered a moment before blowing his breath out. “I…”

Cas was staring at the empty fireplace again. “You don’t have to say it back Dean. It doesn’t work like that.”

Dean nodded.

Cas turned to him with a broader smile he wasn’t quite feeling. “I won’t keep saying it. But I want you to know where I am in this. And I want your input on the house. Not just professionally.”

Dean scrunched his mouth, looking down at his hands.

“It’s important to me. Because, when you get over whatever stumbling block you have put in front of yourself and admit to me, and yourself, that you love me too, well, it just makes things more efficient.”

Dean gave him an incredulous stare.

Cas grinned for real this time.

Dean scoffed a laugh. “What…what the hell, Cas? You can’t just say shit like that!”

Cas was not feeling all the bravery he was fronting, but enough that his bulldozing just wouldn’t stop.

“When you get over your ‘stumbling block’ (Cas air quoted), we can move forward. Until then, I guess I’ll keep my distance.”

Dean’s mouth wobbled. He was caught comically between looking like he was going to yell and going to laugh.

Cas plumped the tiny throw pillow on the couch, laying down and putting his legs across Dean’s lap. “Night.”

Dean stammered, looking absolutely lost on what to say or do. “Cas. Are you messing with me?”

“A little,” Cas mumbled, nestling down into the pathetic pillow.

“You can’t be serious,” Dean huffed, shoving his thigh slightly.

Cas refused to answer that. Two could play stubborn, mule-headed fools.

Dean’s hand on his thigh began to rub and massage slowly. He crept closer to Cas’ inner thigh.

Cas glared at him with no heat behind it.

“You wanna stay on the couch, huh?” Dean rumbled softly.

Cas closed his eyes, trying not to smile at the heat brewing in his warm hands.

Dean’s hand slid up his thigh and squeezed his hardening dick through his jeans. “It doesn’t FEEL like you want to sleep on the couch. Alone.”

Cas bit his lip, forcing his hips to not move to the gentle stroking Dean was enticing him with.

“I’m gonna go over to that nice, soft, roomy bed over there.” Dean leaned down, his mouth hovering just over Cas’ ear. “Let’s finish this on that nice, roomy bed.”

Cas cracked a smile, pulling away from Dean’s warm, tickling breath. There was a reason he wasn’t supposed to let Dean have his way…but his foggy head was having trouble remembering why.

“Come on, Thursday,” Dean grinned, untangling himself from Cas and striding over to the bed.

Cas turned, watching his every delicious move.

Dean shrugged his flannel shirt off, his back to Cas, his body facing the bed. He dropped it on the floor and pulled his t-shirt off slowly.

Cas’ eyes followed the tanned skin and lean, muscular lines that formed a running, muscular dip the length of his spine. He could feel that smooth, lightly freckled skin without even touching it.

Dean turned his head, a smirk teasing those lips Cas wanted so badly. Cas crawled onto the arm of the couch like a cat watching his prey.

His head turned back as he kicked his boots off with some unnecessary ass wiggling.

Fucker.

Dean’s moves were slow and purposeful, making Cas hard as granite.

He heard the jingle of metal as Dean undid his belt. The gritting drag of a zipper being pulled down.

Cas licked his dry lips and one foot was on the floor.

Dean tipped his head back and groaned softly. From the movement of his arm, he knew Dean was stroking himself.

Fuck.

Cas was across the room in three quick, silent steps. He turned Dean around abruptly, seeing those green eyes widen with pleased surprise.

“That’s mine,” Cas growled, pulling Dean’s hand away.

“I believe it’s mine,” Dean smirked.

“That’s where you're wrong,” Cas grinned, stroking the silky, hot skin with an expert twist that Dean loved.

Dean groaned in response, his eyes growing heavier with lust. “It’s yours,” he whispered.

Cas grinned hungrily and leaned forward, kissing Dean with a possessive hunger. Dean pulled his shirt off roughly and kissed back with equal demand.

Cas shoved Dean back with a wry grin, watching Dean fall onto the bed with a hungry grin and a thrill of anticipation in his eyes.

He stepped up to the bed, opening his own jeans and smirking. “Want what’s yours?”

Dean sat up, shoving Cas’ pants down and taking his dick with practiced finesse. He licked the head and swallowed him down, making Cas lose the battle to keep his eyes open. His hands went to Dean’s hair with ease, pulling him in and out a few times, savoring the enveloping wet heat of Dean’s mouth.

“Feels so good,” he growled, pulling Dean off of him and pulling his own pants and boxers the rest of the way off.

Dean scooted back further onto the bed and Cas climbed over him, kissing him hard and hungry. “You drive me crazy, Dean Winchester.”

Dean panted a laugh. “You drive me crazy too.”

Cas grinned, sliding his mouth to nip Dean’s chin, jaw, neck, and collar bone. He wanted this. All of this. All of Dean. And he would wait if he had to. He would wait until Dean figured it all out.

His hand slid up to twist and tug on Dean’s nipple while his mouth slid back to Dean’s ear. “I want you.”

“Yeah,” Dean managed, his legs already around Cas’ waist.

Cas kissed him again, slowing to steamy stop. He hovered over him a moment, just looking into those green eyes with want. “I’ll get the stuff.”

Dean nodded, both dropping suddenly to a more serious mood.

Cas walked back on his hands, getting to his feet to retrieve their lube from the outer pocket of Cas’ bag. He came back to the bed, Dean having moved to under the covers and turned off the light.

Dean held the covers open for him. Cas crawled inside the plaid sheets, tight against Dean’s warm body. They kept staring at each other as if they were going to say something, but no words were spoken.

Cas ran his hand down Dean’s side, feeling his skin and muscle. His scar from climbing a fence as a kid and the familiar jut of his hip. He kissed him, but it was tentative, Dean opening his eyes quickly when he stopped. There was a nervous tension that Cas was sure he had caused but wanted to soothe away.

He picked up the bottle of lube and flipped the cap open.

“Wait,” Dean said huskily.

Cas stopped, fearing Dean would push him away, run from him, or roll over in anger, shutting him out.

Their eyes met and Dean’s hand slid up Cas’ side. “I…I think maybe I do love you, Cas.”

Cas was hit with a rush of guilt and hope. “Dean, you don’t-“

“No, Cas,” Dean cut him off. “I’m total shit at this stuff. I’ve never…I’ve never really been…like this before. It scares the shit outta me.” He smiled nervously, his eyes dropping to Cas’ chest where his fingers traced invisible patterns. “I didn’t think you would ever…take me so seriously. I mean…I’m just a carpenter.”

Cas frowned at that. “Dean, you could be a homeless man or a millionaire. It wouldn’t matter to me.”

Dean’s eyes flicked up to meet his. “I think you might really mean that,” he said with a look of wonder.

“I do,” Cas grinned encouragingly. “But I won’t push you into anything you aren’t ready for. But more than that, I won’t let you run away without even letting me try.”

Dean grinned and quickly dropped into a more sober look. “I have never felt quite like this before.”

“Me either,” Cas admitted, looking down at Dean’s tattoo.

Dean’s hand cupped his face and their eyes met again. “I just couldn’t have sex without saying that…it isn’t just sex anymore.”

Cas grinned, knowing what he was saying. “No, it isn’t just sex.”

Dean swallowed hard, looking like he was going to ask for the world from him. “Cas…make love to me.”

Tears burned at the corners of Cas’ eyes. He shook his head yes and grinned. “I will.” He kissed him, warm and wet and soul searching. He rolled on top of Dean, loving the feeling of being held in his arms. “I will. I love you.” He kissed his neck and felt a slew of giddy fright at what he had unraveled in Dean tonight.

He lubed his fingers with trembling hands and Dean opened easier than ever. It was only a few moments before he was lubed and slid inside him, rocking gently.

It was like seeing Dean for the first time. Like his outer layer had been stripped away to reveal a wholeness he had never known before. And Dean was watching him with a look of rapt awe.

“Faster, Cas,” Dean grinned, rucking his hips up to meet his careful stroke.

“Whatever you want,” Cas murmured, speeding to a quicker rhythm, angling just right to make Dean’s head drop back in wonton revelry.

“You're so gorgeous,” Cas panted, watching Dean twist his hips, his arms strewn wide open and chest heaving. “That’s it, take it, Dean, I love you. I…”

“Yeah,” Dean moaned, his body locking up.

Cas slammed in harder and harder and watched the long lines of Dean’s throat as he arched and let out a roaring moan as heat surged between them.

He thrust and thrust, watching Dean drop onto his back and whine with overstimulation. It was an erotic and breathtaking sight to behold.

Cas slowed as Dean’s eyes opened and he came up on his elbows to meet Cas’ mouth in a kiss that was as filthy as it was beautiful. “Come for me, Cas,” he panted. He huffed a laugh in Cas’ ear. “Come on, baby, make love to me. I want you. I want all of you.”

Cas cried out in a wave that slammed into him with brutal force. He pumped several more times, shaking and teetering and finally collapsing into Dean’s steady arms.

He slid out and felt Dean turn them back onto their sides, holding him close. “Don’t cry, Cas.”

Cas blinked into more awareness, swatting tears off his cheeks. He was a mess of elation and completely overwhelmed in Dean. He blew out a breath and ran a shaky hand through his own hair. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Dean whispered, kissing his cheek, his mouth, his hand, making Cas curl into him.

Their bodies stilled and Cas raised his chin, looking into Dean’s eyes. “I…that was…thank you.”

Dean grinned. “Yeah. All that.”

Cas’ head dropped down, his body unable to hold him any kind of upright anymore.

They wound together in a tangle of soft touching hands and random kisses to whatever body part their mouth was near.

It was good. It was so, so good.

He was in love. And he was loved. And it was fucking awesome.

 

***

 

Dean’s eyes blinked open slowly. The sun was shining through the open plaid curtains of the small window across the room.

He was in love.

He turned his head, seeing Cas’ thick, dark brown hair a tousled mess and buried into his chest. His hand automatically reached for it, his fingers carding through it sleepily. Cas. Castiel Novak. His.

He knew he had a dopey as shit grin on his face and was thankful no one was around to see it.

Cas. The bastard. He had a way of reaching right into Dean’s head and forcing him to deal with everything. It was insanely infuriating and extremely effective. No one had ever looked at him the way Cas did. And he had never felt so utterly lost in someone before.

It made him want to kinda hyperventilate. And it made him really, really happy too. A laugh erupted so suddenly that he smacked a hand over his own mouth. Cas nuzzled in closer and Dean kissed the top of his head until he could feel him drop into a heavier sleep.

He tipped his head back, looking at the thin beams that ran along the pitched ceiling. His thoughts drifted back to the house. He felt oddly attached and yet repulsed by the mansion. He thought about Gabe and his lion dining room. There was something about it that always brought a grin to his face. It had nothing in common with the rest of the house’s decor or the business in general. It was solely Gabe. And something about that just seemed so right.

He looked down as Cas lifted his head.

“Morning sunshine,” Dean grinned crookedly, getting a lopsided, sleepy grin in return.

Cas stretched out, pulling away from Dean momentarily, only to return. He tangled a leg back between Dean’s and stroked his thumb lazily over his ribs.

“I think you should…” Dean bit his lip, grinning slightly. “I think we should let Gabe keep the lion table in the first floor dining room.”

Cas’ head popped up with bright blue eyes and a hesitant grin. “You…” Cas broke into a wide grin the crinkled the corners of his eyes. “You think we should have a Serengeti style dining room?”

“Yes,” Dean said confidently.

Cas shook his head with a wry grin. “Of all the opinions to put forth, Dean. Really? You want to take ownership of that?”

Dean chuckled. “It’s Gabe. It just…works! I’m tellin’ ya, people will love it.”

“You're so full of shit,” Cas dropped his head back down but Dean quickly pulled him up so they were face to face.

“I’m serious,” he smiled.

Cas rolled his eyes. “You're going to make me regret encouraging you to participate, aren’t you.”

Dean hugged him close. “I’m sure I’ll make you regret lots of things.” He chuckled into Cas’ neck and loved how Cas could move his body to wrap around his.

“No, I won’t. Not really,” Cas grinned.

Dean caught his meaning. “You're so crazy for wanting anything to do with me, Cas.” He hadn’t meant to say it out loud. That seemed to happen a lot around Cas. “I mean, you coulda had Balthazar. Or Alfie.”

Cas laughed. “Balthazar and Alfie did their jobs quite well. You should thank them, ya know.”

Dean’s brow furrowed. “Why? What for?”

“I basically used them to make you jealous. And it worked like a charm.”

Dean’s jaw dropped open. “You little shit!”

Cas rolled over, flipping the covers back with a laugh. “Alfie was in on it after the first time you scowled at him. Balthazar…well, he did ask me out.”

Dean sat up abruptly. “You told me. He’s such a fucking douchebag.”

Cas laughed as he disappeared into the bathroom. He listened as the toilet flushed and then the sink water ran. “The day we kissed for the first time was when he asked me out.”

Dean stared at the wall that blocked him from Cas and the bathroom. “That smarmy-“

Cas stepped out of the bathroom wearing nothing but a grin. “I told him I was already in a relationship.”

Dean frowned again. “But…we weren’t dating or whatever.”

Cas busied himself at the coffee pot. He glanced over his shoulder with a grin. “I knew I would be.”

Dean huffed, half grinning and half in shock.

Cas pressed the start button and came back to the bed. He sat down, his eyes reading Dean’s face carefully. “Am I freaking you out again?”

Dean laughed short. “You always freak me out. It’s what keeps me off my game.”

Cas grinned. “It isn’t easy. Keeping you off kilter. I hope I don’t get too boring and you leave.”

Dean’s smile slipped a bit. “That’s not going to happen.” They sat quietly a moment, some of the insecurities from last night creeping into the light of day. “I mean, we have to go home to meet the ghostbusters. So, that aughta be somewhat entertaining.”

Cas laughed, shaking his head.

They had coffee and laid in bed talking about one of the wedding places they had visited. They seemed to run a smooth operation.

They lounged around the room until Dean’s stomach was growling and demanding food. They ate at a small diner down the road and stopped at a ‘must see’ stop along the road. It was a panoramic view of the smokey mountains. It was amazing to see the never ending chain of peaks rise and fall.

“It’s beautiful,” Cas said quietly.

Dean stepped up behind him, slinging his arms low around his waist and sitting his chin on Cas’ shoulder. “It is.”

They stood looking, watching a red hawk soar effortlessly into a cluster of trees a peak away.

Dean sighed, breathing in the fresh air and feeling a deep sense of peace. He kissed Cas’ cheek. “I love you.”

Cas’ head immediately tipped toward him. “I love you.”

Dean grinned, tucking his chin behind Cas’ shoulder. He had never had anyone to just say that to. He had almost gotten to that point with Lisa. But knew it just wasn’t true. But this. This was true. And huge. And easy. In some ways it was so easy. Every step he took with Cas was easier and easier instead of gut-wrenchingly difficult. It was like when he had a good project going and the pieces all went in place and formed something beautiful. “I’m ready to get back. I miss my dog.”

Cas chuckled. “I bet he’s gonna cry and attack you like he did that time you left for Kansas.”

Dean chuckled into Cas. “I don’t know, he might be attached to Bobby by now.”

“I don’t think Rumsfeld would let that happen. He seems to have claimed Bobby for himself.”

They headed back to their cabin, loaded the car, and chased Sam and Gabe out of bed and onto the road.

 

The break had all of them feeling refreshed. The ride home was full of talk about the event business and the house. Dean, to Cas’ disbelief, continued his support of a Serengeti themed dining room. Gabe had launched over the front seat, wrapping his arms around Dean’s head in a hug. The car swerved, everyone yelled, and a flurry of flying arms from Dean freaking out made Cas laugh so hard he cried.

They met at the hotel that night. Cas stepped into the conference room they had reserved at the hotel. Their pictures hung where they had left them. He read over the questions and timeline again. He flipped through the ledger.

He dreaded returning to the house tomorrow morning. But the investigators were coming at 10am. He was anxious to hear what they had to say about the house.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14. Salt, Buffy, and Jenga Beds

 

They pulled up to the mansion in the early light of a fine summer morning. It was already somewhat muggy, with the promise of a hot June day to come.

As Cas approached the porch, he could feel the shadow of the house cover him like a cold blanket. He stopped at the double black wooden front doors, keys raised at a halt just outside the lock.

He heard the others gathering behind him and turned to look at Dean. “Do you hear that?”

Dean stopped what he was saying to Bobby to listen. “Is that music?” His eyes scanned the front face of the house. “In the ballroom?”

They all stopped to listen. The unmistakable notes of something classic playing. It sounded like someone was testing out the new stereo system Charlie had installed.

Sam and Dean exchanged a look, both reaching behind them to pull out their handguns.

“Everyone is still in Kansas,” Sam said, his left arm still casted and slung in front of him. “Might be a looter. Or…”

Cas sighed, shoving the key into the lock and turning it to hear the familiar click.

Cas pushed the door in, Dean, Sam, and Bobby stepping past him quickly to start scanning everywhere with guns raised. Gabe and Cas stood just inside the door as the three fanned out to check all doorways leading into the foyer.

“Stay at the door,” Dean said quietly, heading for the ballroom, Sam and Bobby tailing him quickly.

The music, fuller and louder now that they were inside the house, stopped abruptly as Dean crossed the threshold into the room before the ballroom.

An eerie silence filled the void. Cas glanced out the door, which was left standing open, and noted that both dogs remained on the porch. While this was typical for Rum, Buddy sat just outside the doors, head tucked low and watching past Castiel with what only Cas could guess was worry, fear, or worse, knowing what they were walking into and not liking it.

Dean walked back into the foyer looking a shade paler. “You gotta see this.”

Gabe and Cas exchanged an anxious look. They followed Dean through the wide doorway on their right and through the big room that would be the reception/gallery area outside the ballroom doors.

Sam stood, blocking the doorway with his gun still raised and pointed inside the huge room. Bobby stepped back with an awed look on his face.

Sam stepped just inside the doors to make room for Cas and Gabe to come in. The wood floors gleamed beautifully, the burgundy drapes hung at each window looking stately. The light fixtures gleamed, new and barely ever used along each wall. The chandeliers hung, not even old enough to have dust on them yet. But that was not what they were all staring at.

The silent room stretched out long and luxurious. In the center of the room, 46 old, rusty, metal cots were stacked into a bizarrely constructed tower that went almost to the ceiling. It was like a giant Jenga-style tower.

Chills ran rampant up and down Cas’ arms and his breath caught at the sight. It was like a giant toddler had stacked them.

“We hauled these beds outta here two months ago. They been stacked in the one room and waiting to be picked up by that buyer,” Bobby said in a hushed voice. “Who did this?”

The air was so cold you could see your own breath. A chill shuddered through Cas so hard that his teeth started to chatter.

Without another word, the five backed out of the house slowly, Cas shutting the door with wide eyes.

They all exchanged bewildered and thoroughly freaked out looks. They went back to the car and truck, not even knowing what to say.

“These ghost buster people better be the real deal,” Sam said. “Otherwise this house is going to eat them alive.”

“Let’s…uh,” Dean scratched the back of his neck, frowning. “Let’s go down to the stable and figure out what to do down there.”

Everyone nodded, liking anything not to do with the house. Silently, they loaded into the car and Bobby’s truck, heading to the stable.

Cas got out of the car and strode into the stable with determination. He traversed the ruins quickly and sat on one of the half-walls.

Gabe came inside just as determined, Bobby, Sam, and Dean just behind him, but hanging back. Gabe wore the same strained and angry expression Cas could feel on his own face.

“What the fuck, Cassie?!” Gabe yelled, punching his fist through one of the rotted boards still hanging onto a barely secure frame of what used to be the upper part of one of the stall walls. It shattered with a sickening clatter to the stone floor.

Dean grabbed Sam’s sleeve to stop him from catching up to Gabe.

“What the fuck are we supposed to do with this place?” He yelled, arms flying out to his sides. “Why did Dad buy it? Why did he give it to us? What the fuck are we supposed to do with it?”

Cas was as overwhelmed as Gabe. He propped an elbow on the wooden stud beside him and stared blankly into one of the empty, half ruined stalls. “I don’t know, Gabriel! Is it a punishment? Did Dad want to see us lose everything?”

Gabe was pacing a fierce circling path up and down the aisle. He stopped abruptly in the center, turning a cold look onto Castiel. “I’ll burn the whole fucking thing to the ground. I swear to God.”

Sam tugged his arm away from Dean’s grasp.

“Hey, hey.” Sam approached Gabe carefully, putting his one good hand on Gabe’s shoulder. The touch seemed to melt Gabe instantly.

“I’m sorry,” Gabe muttered, hugging Sam hard, burying his head in Sam’s chest. “I don’t know what to do.”

Sam hugged him, one armed and kissed the top of his head. “We’ll figure it out. I promise. These guys are coming, and…they’ll fix it.”

Gabe sighed heavily and took a calming breath.

Cas pulled his feet up onto the wall, hugging his legs to himself and dropped his head. He felt more overwhelmed right now than when he had made that first phone call to Sam to start work on the house. He put his head down on his arms. What the hell were they going to do? “What if they can’t help?” It came out quiet and he wasn’t sure anyone even heard him until Dean was next to him with one arm around his hunched shoulders.

“They can help, Cas,” Dean murmured softly, kissing his head and hugging him to him. “Let’s see what they can do. Okay?”

Cas sighed heavily, leaning into Dean’s muscular chest.

“It’s gonna be okay.”

Cas slid a hand over, gripping Dean’s forearm like he could siphon strength from him. He leaned back until his head thumped against the support beam. “Lucas disagrees, apparently. And right now, I’d say he’s winning.”

Dean stood up a bit straighter. “No, Lucas is dead. We’re winning. And we have something he doesn’t.”

Cas stared into Dean’s determined green eyes. “What do we have?”

“We have teams of people who say this house is ours. We’re just going to have to fight for it.”

Cas shook his head slightly. “Fight for it.”

Dean shrugged, quirking a grin. “I’m pretty handy in a fight.”

Cas snorted a laugh. “I’m sure you are.” He sobered his grin. “I know you are.” He sat up, looking over to Gabe. “You're right though. We’re going to have to fight for it.”

They heard a car coming and all five of them turned to look.

“It’s a van,” Bobby announced.

Cas gave Dean a small nod. “Round one begins.”

 

***

 

Dean drove back to the house to meet the van, Bobby following. Everyone was feeling frazzled and spent. He could see how tired and worried Cas and Gabe both were.

Dean stepped out of the car, the door creaking closed when he pushed it shut. He could admit quietly to himself that he hoped these investigators were legit and going to fix the hauntings. For Cas and Gabe’s sake. Hell, for all their sakes.

His paper-thin hopes went up in smoke when he saw the side of the van. A ridiculous looking skull with the giant word ‘Ghostfacers’ on it. Two douchey looking guys came to talk to Cas.

Dean watched them with growing suspicion. Three others got out and began unloading equipment onto the front porch. None of them looked older than 22. The one, a petite chick with straight black hair, might still be in high school. The two talking to Cas seemed to be in charge of this one-ring circus. He stepped closer to Cas, feeling like this was not a very good idea.

“Well,” Douche with glasses was saying, “We should make some introductions here, Harry.”

The douchiest one, Harry, blinked ridiculously and spread his arms dramatically. “Well, yeah! I’m sure you recognize us, but just in case you can’t keep us straight,” his voice dropped two octaves and he held himself…even douchier. If Dean’s eyes narrowed any harder they would implode and shoot lasers, destroying anyone who had stepped out of that stupid looking van.

“I’m Harry Spengler.”

There was an odd silence.

“Am I supposed to know who you are?” Dean glowered, unable to stand the drama.

Douche in glasses sucked his teeth and looked utterly put out while Megadouche looked totally shocked.

Dean flipped his hands with an impatient glare.

“We’re the Ghostfacers!” Megadouche, Harry, insisted. “You may have seen us online.”

“Soon to be on TV!” One of the three stooges from the back of the van cheered.

“Now, that’s the spirit, Corbett!” Harry pointed with a cheesy gameshow wink.

“Anyhow,” Douche with glasses scoffed. “He’s Harry Spengler. I’m Ed Zeddmore. We're the hosts of Ghostfacers.”

Harry jumped in, cutting him off. “This is our illustrious team of fellow paranormal investigators, Maggie Zeddmore, Ed’s sister.”

“Adopted sister,” Ed corrected. The fact that Ed was a white guy and Maggie was clearly Asian descent made the comment even more ridiculous.

The girl rolled her eyes but waved to the group. There was NO WAY she was near 21 years old yet.

“Kenny Spruce,” Douche in glasses (Ed) continued.

“Hey,” a guy lugging a box out of the back looked like he would rather be in his mother’s basement playing video games.

“And Alan Corbett. He’s new.”

The skinny, peppy kid waved enthusiastically.

“We don’t know him very well yet,” Ed clarified.

Dean wondered why he would point something like that out. Alan looked slightly hurt by the comment.

“Cas,” Dean took his elbow, “you said you researched these guys. What the hell?”

Cas gave him a wide-eyed look. “I did. They came highly recommended.”

“By who?” Dean spat.

“Their website.”

Dean closed his eyes and counted to ten. “Cas. They recommended themselves to you.”

Cas furrowed his brow, squinting. “No. There were comments in a box by people who had used them. And they were available.”

Dean licked his lips and studied that gorgeous face in front of him. “Cas, are they making a TV show out of this? They said they were hosts.” The last word was barely out of Dean’s mouth when he looked up to see Kenny with a camera on his shoulder, filming.

“I don’t think so,” Cas shook his head, looking confused.

Dean counted to 20.

Cas turned back to Ed and Harry. “I’m Castiel. We spoke on the phone. This is my brother, Gabriel. We inherited the house.”

“The inheritors,” Harry repeated cheesily into the camera.

“Yes,” Cas stammered slightly. “And this is Dean and his brother Sam and this is Bobby. They are our contractors working on the house.”

Cas glanced at Dean, asking if he should elaborate, explaining they were dating. Dean shook his head very slightly. He was not ashamed by any means, but he did not want the complications of their dating and Sam and Gabe to detract from the fact that there were house owners and contractors here.

“Alright!” Harry snapped into action. He waved Kenny to film him and straightened his shoulders, dropping his voice. “Two brothers! One inheritance! Three contractors! Two plus one plus three equals…six people with one big problem.”

Dean rolled his eyes. This was going to suck. Big time. He glanced over at Gabe. He smirked at the happy grin on Gabe’s face. Little fucker was thoroughly entertained with this shit.

Figures.

“Get some exterior shots, Spruce,” Harry instructed in his normal voice. “We can have Maggie film phase one.”

“Phase one?” Cas asked.

Harry nodded, as if he already held the knowledge of great secrets. Ed stepped forward with a business-like persona. “Phase one,” he said dramatically, looking at Maggie. “Are you recording?”

“Yes!” She snapped, annoyed.

“Phase one,” Ed said again.

“Homework.” Ed and Harry said together.

“We did some research on the place since we talked on the phone. Kripke Manor,” he strolled along the front of the house, looking at the camera Maggie carried, “was a TB hospital in the 60’s. It was built in the 1700’s and was used briefly as a PRISON during the Civil War.”

“That’s what I told him on the phone,” Cas said, squinting in concentration as he watched the filming pair.

“Cas, did you know these guys were making a TV show out of your house?” Dean asked.

“No.”

Dean nodded. “Remind me to cross check your hires from now on.”

“They said they can eradicate the house of ghosts. No one else I could hire on short notice claimed to do that.”

“Well, a TV show about how haunted this place is, might not be the greatest way to advertise your new wedding and event center.”

Cas sighed, his shoulders drooping a bit. “If we don’t fix whatever is happening here, I’m going to lose the whole thing.”

Dean put his arm around Cas’ shoulder. He only meant to convey he was there for him, but Cas seemed to need more. He turned into him in a full-on hug, head buried in his chest and hands gripping him.

Dean hugged him back, staggering only a half step. “Hey,” he whispered, kissing his head and combing his fingers through his hair at the nape of his neck. “It’s gonna be alright.”

Cas lifted his head a bit. “I could lose everything.”

Dean sighed, hugging him tight. “You aren’t going to lose everything. You aren’t going anywhere without me.”

Cas pulled his head back. It was one of those moments when Dean was shocked at just how blue Cas’ eyes could be. His mouth hung open slightly but he didn’t say anything.

Dean grinned. It was rare to catch Cas off guard. It was actually kind of fun! “Don’t forget Gabe and Sam come with this awesome package deal.”

Cas grinned.

“And the dogs. And Bobby.”

Cas nodded, the grin making his eyes crinkle at the edges.

“But let’s give this save-the-house thing a chance first before we walk off into the sunset homeless and jobless and shit.”

Cas chuckled, kissed him and relaxed markedly. Dean kissed him one more time and stepped away to busy himself with something. Anything. Anything not involving Douche, Douchier, and the three douchekateers.

 

***

 

Cas had learned several things today.

1. Settling for who could come to the house first might not have been a good idea.
2. According to Harry, WWBD meant, What Would Buffy Do. He did not understand this reference.
3. Salt is like acid to ghosts. And not the fun kind.
4. Buddy avoided the investigators like they were the plague.

 

Cas was concerned. While their website had been informative and promised a lot, the group of 5 paranormal investigators did not seem equipped for a problem as big as Kripke Manor.

They were an odd bunch, for sure, but they seemed like good people. Cas followed the lane from the driveway back to the stable. He could hear banging before he could even see the place.

The stacked beds towering in the ballroom had really freaked him out this morning. Gabe too. They were at the end of their rope with dealing with the house ghost. The road trip they had taken seemed to make it worse. They had felt so good out from under the oppression of the house. So, why were they bothering with it at all? They could sell it. They could burn it. And they would not lose everything. That had been a gross exaggeration. But the house felt like everything some times.

He couldn’t say he was restoring the house for their father’s sake. While their father had provided ample tools to get the job done, by way of the house’s bank account, it was not the only thing driving him to get it restored. But they could have sold it.

Instead, he and Gabe saw it as their new start. A new lease on life. Except…he felt surrounded by death.

Back in the hot, fresh air of the summer day, his head was clearing a bit.

He stopped at the turn into the stable. Dean was on the roof of the stable, hanging onto one of the eaves of the roof. Sam was on the second to the top rung of a high ladder, watching Dean carefully.

They were both shirtless and sweating in the sun. Gabe was sitting in a camp chair, sunglasses on and eating a box of Nerds with a very pleased look on his face.

Cas slowly walked toward the stable. Dean was swinging a large hammer, working two large wood beams apart. His muscles rippled and bunched as he swung the hammer with a large cracking sound. His skin was slick with sweat. He knew, from memory, the feel of that calloused hand that was swinging the hammer.

“Whoa!” Sam yelled.

Dean stopped, looking down at him.

“That’s enough,” Sam called.

Dean nodded, shifting his weight back and getting a foot onto the ladder. Sam began climbing down the ladder to make way for Dean.

Dean, feet finally back on the ground, grabbed his shirt from where it hung over a board. He scrubbed his face and neck. Cas’ eyes drifted down to his abs. The six-pack of muscles flexing as Dean mopped his face, made Cas lick his lips. The slight space between Dean’s jeans and the slick skin of his lower abdomen made Cas’ fingers itch to curl between them and pull the fabric away.

“Well, hey.”

Cas looked up guiltily, blushing. “Hello, Dean.”

Dean chuckled and flipped his shirt onto his shoulder like a towel. “We started taking down the stable.”

“I see,” Cas grinned with his own deep chuckle.

Sam, hair pulled back into a tiny ponytail, laughed at something Gabe was saying.

Cas and Dean exchanged a heated look. “The sun brings your freckles out.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “How’d your homework go with the douche squad?”

Cas tore his hungry, wandering gaze off of Dean’s body. “I hope they paid attention. I told them about Lucas. Showed them the photo where he’s looking into the camera. That had them all excited.”

“Huh. I bet.”

“I had them sign a contract stating it was not our fault and could not sue for liability if they are injured in the house.”

“Huh,” Dean nodded. “I hadn’t thought of that.” He gave Cas a grin, stepping into his personal space. “Have I ever told you, you're hot when you get your lawyer swagger on?”

“Mmm,” Cas grinned, hooking his index fingers into two belt loops of Dean’s jeans. “You have. I believe I gave you a thorough cross-examination for that.”

Dean frowned. “I don’t really remember. You might have to do it again and remind me.”

Cas raised an eyebrow. “Ask me again and I’ll take you behind the stable to do it right now.”

Dean grinned, kissing him chastely. “You're gonna have to wait. I’m in the middle of destroying your stable.”

“Mmmm,” Cas stepped back, letting his fingers slide out of the loops. “I’m happy to supervise.”

“Yeah?” Dean chuckled. “Just make sure you're droolin’ over the right guy.”

“Please,” Cas huffed. “There is no comparison.”

Dean gave him a cocky grin, wiping his forehead off again. “Come on, Romeo. We got a barn ta raise.”

Sam leaned down, kissing Gabe and saying something in his ear that made Gabe chuckle.

Cas grabbed a chair and opened it next to Gabe’s. Gabe gave him a knowing grin and offered his box of Nerds. Cas took them, pouring pink and blue sugar pebbles into his palm. He tossed them into his mouth one at a time like eating popcorn at the movies. Watching Dean (and Sam) tear board after board down was the best show he had ever seen.

“We could charge for this,” Gabe mused, staring with open lust.

“Mm.” Cas agreed. “We’d make more than we would running a wedding center.”

“How are the Scooby gang handling Satan and friends?” Gabe asked, turning to look at him.

Cas blew a breath out. “We’ll see. They are finishing phase one.”

“What the hell is phase one again? Homework?”

“Yes.”

“What’s phase two? Smokin’ a jay in the bathroom?”

“Phase two is infiltration.”

“Riiiiiight. Infiltration. And that begins when?”

“Tonight. They stay at the house tonight and we meet with them briefly in the morning. Then they take the day to sleep and compile information. The following day is ‘phase three’.”

“Please stop air quoting. You're killing me, bro.”

Cas grinned. “Phase three is ‘Face Time’ and that’s when they tell us all that transpired during the night.”

“So…in one night, they find the ghost, or ghosts, kill said ghosts, and pack up their shit. All in one night.”

“That’s what they said.”

“Mmhmm.”

Cas sighed. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll call those brothers and see if they can come sooner than October.”

Gabe popped a Nerd into his mouth. “We’ll figure it out, baby bro. For now…I’m watching these brothers we got right here.”

 

***

 

Cas tried not to hover. He did. But he kept finding himself checking on the Ghostfacers team. They just seemed…ill equipped.

“He’s back,” Kenny said flatly, catching sight of Cas standing in the doorway to the ballroom. They had been filming the bizarre towers of beds.

Ed rolled his eyes so hard his whole head rolled. “Ya can’t keep comin’ in here, man!” Ed smiled, but Cas understood he was being told he was interrupting. Ed put a hand on his shoulder, steering him through the gallery. “It throws off the vibe when the family is here. We have to build a rapport to draw them out.”

“I believe just going to the fourth floor will do that.” Cas glanced at the Eagles Nest of tangled computers and cords in the dining room. He was very thankful Bobby had insisted on taking the floor plans out of there.

“Right. We’ll check it out.”

Cas nodded. He crossed the foyer and went through the front doors with a bit of worry. He had shared his documentation of their findings and questions concerning Lucas, Lucifer, and the experimenting that had gone on.

Dean was leaning against the car, which he had taken to driving everywhere. Buddy sat next to him. Dean was dirty from head to toe and Cas thought he had never looked better.

“Ready to roll?”

“I’m ready.” Cas knew exactly what he would be doing while Dean got a shower back at the hotel. He would be putting on his sharpest suit. Dean was getting cross-examined until he couldn’t walk tomorrow.

 

***

 

The next morning, Dean got out of the Impala with a slight limp to his gait.

“What’d you do to your foot?” Sam yawned, getting out of the back seat.

“It’s not my foot,” Dean groaned with a grin. “And don’t ask.”

Cas chuckled as he came around the hood of the car.

“Ho, ho,” Gabriel laughed loudly. “Cassie, you sly dog!”

“No,” Dean cut him off, “dogs don’t do shit like that. They're smarter than us.”

Sam and Gabe laughed with a mixture of humor and disgust.

“They don’t need the details,” Cas gave Dean a pointed glare.

“Fine,” Dean laughed. Not that he would have shared anyway. No one in the world except Cas would ever be privy to the state of affairs in their hotel room last night. All Dean had to say about it was…he didn’t know he could do that, he knew Cas was strong…but damn!, and God, he hoped they could do it again.

He could feel heat flushing his cheeks. The memories were fresh enough to make his dick jolt in response. His hip was tweaked, making him limp, and he could still feel where Cas had been holding on to him, like two push-button reminders of the night. Whatever toll his body had taken from last night was nothing in comparison to the pleasure he had had. And he wanted to do it again.

The back door of the Ghostfacers van burst open and Maggie, Spruce, Corbett, Ed, and Harry staggered out.

“My BEST friend!” Ed swore bitterly, “And my BEST sister!”

“Ed! I’m sorry! She was just…we were all so squished back there and…”

“No!” Ed waved an arm. “Spruce, hold my glasses.”

Kenny took the glasses, camera in hand, recording the whole encounter.

Dean raised an eyebrow as Ed launched some sort of bitch-slapping cat pounce onto Harry, who flailed and swatted back. They looked like two cats batting at each other.

“Are they-“ Sam asked, more amused than concerned.

“Fighting?” Dean laughed. “I think so.”

Harry landed an almost punch and Dean stepped between them, pushing them both back a step. “Knock it off you dweebs.”

Harry shook his hand out and Ed turned to Spruce, taking his glasses. “Did I? Is my tooth still in?”

“Yep,” Spruce said flatly.

“I won, right?” Ed whispered.

Dean rolled his eyes. “You morons are about to lose your paycheck if you don’t knock this shit off.”

“He was groping my sister!” Ed yelled.

Maggie rolled her eyes. “Ed!”

“Gentlemen!” Harry cut in. “Chisel chest here is right. We have work to do.”

Dean smirked. “Really?”

“Sorry,” Harry back-pedaled. “We…the house was…”

“Crazy!” Ed jumped in. “We saw a ghost echo! And that Lucas ghost!”

“It was so crazy!” Maggie jumped in, still looking shaken.

“And the beds in the ballroom moved!” Corbett yelled. “They MOVED! Like all at once!”

Everyone of the Ghostfacers was talking over the other in a shouting tangle of frantic accounts of what had happened.

“This is the most haunted place I’ve ever seen!” Ed swore.

“That even exists!” Harry yelled. “This is gonna totally skyrocket our careers! This is going down as the most haunted place in America!”

“The world!” Maggie nodded emphatically.

“We’re gonna have book deals, movie deals, TV deals!” Harry spiraled excitedly.

An ear-splitting whistle had everyone’s instant attention. “Focus!” Gabriel yelled. “Jesus. This is like herding cats! We know the place is REALLY haunted. Otherwise my brother would not have called you clowns in. Now, what happened?”

Ed and Harry shushed the other three as they took over telling them that there were EMF spikes, EVP spikes, and temperature fluctuations. That a ghost echo was seen on the fourth floor. A man breaking through a door and then chased a woman and child down the hall, ending in a scream from the woman.

Gabe, Sam, and Cas nodded. That had been the door slamming, running, and scream they had all heard.

“A death echo?” Sam asked.

“It’s a ghost, or ghosts in this case, trapped in a loop of their death,” Ed explained.

“It’s about as dangerous as watching a scary movie,” Harry waved an unconcerned hand. “But the real trouble was Lucas Novak.”

All the ghostfacers nodded.

“Is he gone?” Cas asked. “Did you vanquish him?”

“Absolutely,” Harry nodded confidently. “He’s gone.”

“Sent back to the bowels of hell,” Ed said in a ridiculous low voice, reminding Dean that they were on camera.

“So, we are going to crash and put together some video for you to watch. But…yeah, you can move back in,” Harry smiled.

Cas grinned with such relief that Dean didn’t have the heart to share his hesitation that the Tweedle Dee and the Dumb Squad could have actually accomplished what they said they did.

“ALL the ghosts are gone?” Sam pressed on.

“Uh…yeah.” Ed shook his head like Sam was being ridiculous. “Dude, we’re experts. The ghosts are GONE.”

“GONE.” Harry nodded emphatically.

While Maggie and Corbett nodded along, Dean did not miss the skeptical brow quirk from Spruce.

“We can move in. No ghost activity. Guaranteed,” Sam clarified.

“You don’t need to be afraid anymore,” Harry smiled condescendingly.

Dean raised an eyebrow at that.

Sam balked. “I’m not scared. I just don’t want anything else broken. Like my neck.”

“Alright,” Dean cut the conversation short, knowing it was going nowhere good. “Let’s let these guys get some shut-eye.” Before they all ended up with black eyes.

Gabe rubbed a hand up and down Sam’s back, breaking the angry glare Sam had going.

“Yes!” Harry grinned. “We’re gonna go and let you guys get back to work.”

Cas and Gabe walked into the house as the Ghostfacers got back in their van and drove away.

Sam sighed a tight, frustrated breath. Dean could read the muscle clench of his jaw like an anger meter. He was brewing.

“What’s goin’ on, Sammy?”

He sighed again, rubbing a hand over his jaw. “I just…do you think these guys really did it? Can something like that even be done? Getting rid of ghosts?”

It was Dean’s turn to sigh. “I don’t know, Sammy. Maybe?” He looked at Sam’s arm, slung to his chest. “We can give it a try. First sign of trouble and we’re out.” Dean put a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Okay?”

Sam nodded.

“Okay?” Dean repeated.

Sam glanced at him, knowing what Dean was waiting for. He nodded his head again, meeting Dean’s eyes. “Okay.”

Dean grinned, squeezing his shoulder again. He thought back to a time when Sam was shorter than him. Smaller than him. He would get so nervous before a big test. Dean wouldn’t let him go until he looked him directly in the eye and said ‘okay’. Dean would say something stupid to make him laugh and off they would go.

He patted Sam on the back and headed to the house. “And hey, if it’s still haunted? We’ll have one hell of a bon fire.”

Sam snorted a small laugh. “Yeah.”

They went into the foyer, looking around. Other than some misplaced items, the house seemed…lighter. It even felt warmer. They found Cas and Gabe standing in the doorway to the dining room. They stepped aside, letting the brothers see inside.

Sam’s jaw ratcheted up several notches. And no fucking wonder. The towers of beds were gone. Instead, there were 23 stacks of two beds each. They were standing end on end in precise rows. It was just as revolting and disturbing as the first time. But the room was warm and there was a sense of calmness in the air that had not been there before.

“We can have the guys move them back to the room they were in when they start work again next week,” Dean said tightly, steering Sam back out of the room. “Til then, let’s just keep the doors shut.”

Cas and Gabe nodded, pulling the huge doors closed. Yep. Ignore it until it goes away.

Sam put an arm around Gabe’s shoulder and they headed for the kitchen. Dean took Cas by the hand and they followed. They made their way quietly through every room of the first floor. It was quiet, but it was light and warm and clean. The floors gleamed and the furniture stood where they had last seen it. They climbed the sweeping steps of the foyer, making their way through the second floor.

It was more of the same. Less furniture and some rooms only partially done, but warm and clean.

They climbed the back stairs to the third floor. While this floor had not been worked on as much yet, it was still warm and brightly lit by the sunlight pouring through the windows.

Their rooms all looked undisturbed. In Gabe’s room, he shrugged his shoulders and twisted his mouth, scrutinizing things. “Feels…better in here. Not so…”

“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “It does feel better.”

They went to the fourth floor, all exchanging nervous looks. They went to the L wing first. Only the windows and some plumbing had been attended to in this section. It all seemed oddly fine.

They crossed back through the third floor and up the kitchen steps to the worst of the house. The fourth floor storage rooms.

Dean noticed some things had been knocked down. He picked up a coat rack, standing it back up.

“It’s actually warm up here,” Cas said quietly, studying the room.

“Yeah,” Dean agreed. They walked down the hall, stopping at the tricycle in the hall.

Cas picked it up gently, carried it into the girl’s room and put it in the middle of the room. He closed the door. “There. Let’s see if it stays there.”

They nodded. There was still a nervous tension in the air up here, but Dean figured that would never go away.

The fifth floor was the same. Rows of little rooms and beds, just as they had been.

They went down the stairs to the first floor. It seemed only natural to stop in the dining room to talk.

Gabe ran a hand over the paw of the right arm of the throne. He sat on the arm tentatively. Sam shoved a box over to sit down. Dean pulled a box over, frowning as soon as he sat on it. “This isn’t my box.”

Cas gave him an amused smile. “Is it this one?”

Dean pulled it up, sitting down. “Nope.” He studied the box, turning it around. He grinned as he sat down. “There it is.”

Cas pushed a box over, sitting down as well.

“Soooo,” Gabe asked quietly, picking at a nail, “do we sleep here tonight?”

They all exchanged looks. “The rooms at the hotel are already paid for tonight. We should at least wait until tomorrow,” Cas suggested.

“Sounds good,” Dean mumbled.

“Works for me,” Sam nodded.

 

***

 

Dean, Sam, Cas, and Gabe met with Ed and Harry the next morning. Ed set up two laptops at the dining room table to show what they had found.

Gabe took his usual seat, sitting more formally than usual with an air of authority that seemed to put Ed and Harry into a nervous school-boy state for presenting. Dean pointed at two boxes for them to sit on, which also seemed to throw them off slightly.

Spruce circled the table with his usual camera rolling.

“Phase three,” Ed said low and flat for the camera.

“Face time,” Ed and Harry said together.

Dean and Sam exchanged an eye roll but said nothing.

“We found the most EVP, EMF spikes and temp fluctuations on the fourth floor, above where we sit now,” Harry said darkly.

“And the ballroom. And basement, beside us and below us,” Ed added, overly serious.

They showed them the scene where Harry and Maggie freaked out in the ballroom when the beds were rearranged. It would have freaked anyone out. Dean had to give them that.

There were several shots of the basement and some of the creepy equipment down there. Harry did a lot of talking and in general freaking out at any noise. There was more running, more screaming, more flashlights going every which way.

“This last scene is…pretty disturbing,” Harry warned.

Harry pressed the play button on a paused video. It was Corbett and Ed on the fourth floor. Ed was looking around the girl’s room. “Is there anyone here? My name is Ed. We would like to speak with you.”

A door rattled with a familiar rattle. Ed and Corbett began heavy breathing and in general freaking out. It was difficult at times to see what was actually happening from all the jerking around the camera was doing. They ran out of the room, Corbett tripping over the tricycle, knocking it over. The camera bounced everywhere. Corbett stopped in the main room by the steps, turning back to look down the hall. The tricycle was back to it’s usual upright position. Harry paused the video.

“See the kids bike? Corbett had knocked it over…and now it’s back to sitting where it was!”

“Dude,” Dean scoffed. “That tricycle has done a lot scarier shit than that.”

“All right,” Harry smirked. “Well, I bet you haven’t seen this.” He pressed play again.

A woman with straight hair came running out of the girl’s room, little girl in hand. Lucas came next, chasing them. Amidst the jostling of cameras and Corbett’s freaking out, you could see the woman and child run into the closest room to the steps. She tried to slam the door, but Lucas burst through. The scream that followed made all of them shudder.

Ed, to their surprise, went to the room. “You don’t have to do this anymore! You're dead!” He yelled shakily. “This is no longer your time. Stop reliving the past!”

Dean was shocked to see it was not the woman that had died, but the child. The woman was holding her, rocking her in her arms while Lucas looked down on them, saying something. Ed, again to Dean’s surprise, shot Lucas.

“What the hell was that?” Dean asked, watching Lucas burst to shreds and disappear.

“That, my friend, was the second death of Lucas Novak,” Ed nodded.

“That was the death echo?” Cas asked.

“Sure was,” Harry nodded.

“What did you shoot him with?” Sam asked, studying the scene.

“Rock salt. Little trick we picked up,” Harry shrugged.

“It’s time to move on,” Ed’s voice continued on the video. “Peace be with you.” The woman and child blinked out.

“And there we have it,” Harry said smugly. “Three ghosts. GONE.” Ed and Harry high-fived.

“I believe we’re done here, gentlemen,” Ed smirked.

Cas pulled out his checkbook. “Thank you, for all you did.” He wrote some amount and handed the check to Harry, who tried to act nonchalant about it, but was obviously excited.

“Your house is officially ghost free,” Ed nodded.

Ed and Harry leaned in together as Spruce filmed them. “Kripke Manor. DONE. Ghost-” They both drew their hands down their faces whispering loudly, “-facerrrrs!”

Spruce turned the camera onto himself. “Later playaaaaas.”

Dean squeezed his eyes shut so he didn’t say anything rude. He just wanted these idiots gone. But they had done what they said they would, so he would play nice. And count to ten.

 

They watched as the white van drove away.

“Everyone will be back on Monday. That gives us three days and nights at the house to see if that really worked,” Dean said.

“It looked effective.” Cas shoved his hands in his pockets, looking down toward the stable.

 

Over the next three days, Dean and Cas, Gabe and Sam, and Bobby and the dogs stayed at the manor. There was a lightness to the place they had never felt before. No more cold spots, no more noises at night. No more furniture moving.

Dean checked the tricycle every day. It stayed in the girl’s room where he had put it. That was a good sign.

Buddy still would not come up to the storage side of the fourth floor. That was not a good sign.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15 Fathers, Brothers, and Tea for Two

 

Castiel walked slowly along the hallway on the first floor. The suite at the back of the house was finished. The hardwood floor gleamed, wallpaper with a fine pattern was on some walls, while others were painted. A king-size canopy bed sat in the center of the room with a regal flair. This would be the suite the bride and groom could stay in for one to two nights after the wedding. There were love seats and a fireplace, and of course a fabulous bathroom with a jacuzzi tub.

Castiel closed the door. He tried to make rounds every day to check on things. The first floor was finished except the dining room, which was such a work room that it would probably be one of the last rooms done. They had decided to keep the strange room with three half baths. Well, they kept the plumbing. The rest was gutted. They still had three half baths in a row, but now they were tastefully decorated.

He walked up the wide staircase at the foyer to the second floor. This floor was also complete. The kitchens were full of equipment to cook for up to 200 people. The first floor kitchen was his favorite. It had a grand country kitchen feel, done in black and white. The second and third floor kitchens, all complete now, had a more industrial feel.

The first floor and part of the second floor would be open to the public. Now that they were starting the third floor restoring, they had to think more about how they wanted to live here.

Cas walked slowly through the second floor, opening doors and checking rooms. Everything was coming together beautifully.

The full crew had been back and working for a week now. Some of them had come back pretty nervous. Charlie preferred to have someone with her at all times. Garth was still careful to keep his phone on him at all times, but so far he had not been locked into any rooms. Nothing odd had happened at all. And everyone commented on how much warmer and peaceful the place felt.

Castiel had come to love the third floor. It was where all their rooms were. It was where the running room was. It was the life and love of their home. He found decorating decisions harder to make up here. Everything still had to be approved by the historical committee, but they had proven to be easy enough to work with. They had decided since they were living in the third floor, they would skip it and begin work on the fourth floor wing. They were still leery to disturb the other section of the fourth floor much.

As Cas walked through the fourth floor now, he poked around as he always did. He could stand in the girl’s room without getting chills. Today he opened the window to let some fresh air in. The fourth floor did have a stale smell in this section. It was probably all the old furniture. He and Gabe had brought down another desk and a gossip bench to clean up and add to the house.

He sat at the table in the girls room. The tray of food had bothered him for so long. It had felt wrong to move anything for so long, but now he felt like it was time to start moving things.

Right now, the room was quite pleasant. Warm, sunny, and quiet. Cas nodded off sitting at the table.

He woke an hour later. He had been dreaming about the little girl. Jackie. She had been showing him her dolls and telling him their names. She had brown hair in two curled pigtails.

Castiel looked around the quiet room. “Jackie,” he said to himself. It was no wonder he had dreamt of her, falling asleep here, but it brought about another feeling Castiel had not dusted off in years. Would he ever be a father?

The memory of the little girl laughing while she showed off her toys left him feeling rather sad. He wanted to have children. A family. A normal home. But the life he was building here was less than ideal for family life. Running a big business from your home, with people in and out. He stood, looking at the shelf of sagging dolls, cobwebs covering their blank stares. What was he going to do with this room? It felt wrong to move anything. Like he would be stealing from her. He had planned on taking the tray of food with him, but like every other time, he left it there.

He walked down the hall and turned to the steps. Buddy sat up from where he had been laying across the bottom step waiting for him.

Cas went down the steps at a jog. “Buddy! Have you been waiting there all this time?” He rubbed behind his ears and stroked his silky fur. “Such a good boy.”

They went down to the foyer. He had not meant to go to sleep. He got there right as a delivery was coming in.

It was furniture.

“It’s here!” Gabe came from the kitchen at a run.

Castiel studied each piece that was unloaded. He and Gabe had ordered these on line from an auction site. There were six paintings to be hung, which were stacked in the office, four rugs, which were sent to their respective rooms, a wingback chair for the library, and three dressers for bedrooms.

“Gabriel,” Castiel groaned as a another two items sat in the foyer with workers buzzing around busily, “What the hell is this?”

“The sideboard?” Gabe asked, pulling the plastic wrapping back to marvel at the intricately carved front doors of the cabinets and drawers. It was a huge cabinet for the dining room.

“I do not recall either of these items on our receipt.”

“I might have added them,” Gabe shrugged, avoiding his eye.

“Gabriel,” Cas sighed, “Why?”

“Why?” Gabe ran a hand over the flat top. “Because it’s fucking perfect! There was no saying no to this, Cassie! It’s perfect!” He stepped back, looking at the back mantle of it. “Besides, I got a second opinion.”

“From who? Buddy? I told you before that the dogs don’t count.”

“From YOUR boyfriend, that’s who,” Gabe smirked.

Castiel rolled his eyes. Dean. Damnit.

“Was he working at the time? So distracted he couldn’t even hear you?”

“Nope!”

“Was he stoned?”

Gabe laughed. “Nope!”

“It’s here!” Dean clapped, walking into the foyer with a grin. He circled around the huge sideboard and ran a hand over the smaller server. “Yeaaah, they’re awesome!”

Castiel began counting in his mind. Slowly. For sanity. He got to twenty and opened his eyes to see Dean and Gabe giggling over the carvings on them.

“Why, Dean? Why have you given into this?” Cas sighed.

“Baby, just…don’t look at them. I know you get all ticky about the lion dining room, but this shit is great!”

Castiel’s mouth dropped open. “Ticky?”

“Yeah, your one eyebrow gets all stiff and you start pullin’ on your, yep, pullin’ on your sleeves.”

Castiel glanced down at his crossed arms. His right hand was pulling on the hem of his t-shirt sleeve. He stopped, glaring at Dean.

“The stick up your ass goes all cattywompus,” Gabe nodded.

“If we have anymore lions in that room, The Virginia Safari Park can open it as a side attraction!” Cas yelled.

Totally not perturbed, Gabe turned to Dean. “If we don’t get horses for the stable, do you think we could have a lion?”

Dean laughed. “No, Gabe.”

Gabe tapped his chin thoughtfully. “We could rescue a lion.”

Castiel thought his head may surely explode. He had to admit, somewhere very deep down inside, that the dark wood was beautiful and would match the table handsomely. But giving Gabe a hard time about it was way more on top of his outward opinions.

“Did you see the scenes on the doors, Cassie?” Gabe admired.

Castiel said nothing.

“Hunters! Lions hunting down their prey. And look at the drawers! You hook your fingers in the lions mouth and pull! Cool, right?”

“Awesome,” Dean grinned, putting an arm around Cas.

“You're doing this on purpose,” Castiel gaped.

Dean kissed his cheek as Cas pulled away. “What? He had to have all the big pieces in the room before the painter gets here next week.”

“I hate all of you,” Cas deadpanned.

“Look, Cassie!” Gabe went on, pulling the drawers open to the smaller server. “For all our napkins and silver and whatever else you stick in these things!”

Cas sighed.

Gabe turned around. “I had to have them. Do you know the name of this particular manufacturer?”

“Oh, this is good,” Dean sighed.

“One dead brother, incorporated?” Cas asked.

“Ha! Funny! But no. Berkey and Gay!” Gabe grinned like that made all the sense in the world.

Castiel envisioned that old sword on the fourth floor. He envisioned chasing Gabriel down with it and…well, there was nothing left to do but laugh at this point. Gabriel had fully won the dining room. End of story. He took a deep breath and looked at the pieces again. They were magnificent. Stately and beautiful. And they would need the storage. He met Gabe’s eager grin with a smile of his own. “They’re great, Gabe.”

Gabe clapped his hands and began directing people to put them along the wall in the dining room.

Dean hugged him, laughing.

“Gabriel is Gabriel. You,” Cas poked Dean in the chest, “are just enjoying yourself.”

Dean laughed again. “Maybe. But your face.” Dean took him by the chin, kissing him. “Your scowl is worth the wrath.”

Castiel rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, that too,” Dean chuckled, kissing him again. He let Castiel go, heading into the dining room, Buddy following him happily.

Castiel went into the office, sitting at the desk. His whole afternoon was thrown off from his unexpected nap and Gabe’s unending ‘surprises’. He picked up a pile of applications for waitstaff and cooks. He caught a name in the references he had not seen in a while. Missouri Mosley. He looked at the applicant’s name again. Patience Turner. He put it on top of the pile. That might be worth checking into.

“Sir?” One of the laborers knocked on the open office door.

“Hi, Scott, what can I do for you?” Castiel asked.

“There’s a man and woman here to see you. They’re standing in the foyer.”

Castiel frowned. He did not have any appointments. Maybe it was Alfie and his girlfriend.

“Thank you, Scott.” Castiel stood up and followed him into the foyer. To say he was shocked was an understatement. A familiar knot formed in his stomach.

“Michael. Hannah. What are you doing here?”

Michael turned, that familiar smug look on his face. “Looks like Father did leave you a little something.”

Castiel crossed his arms over his chest. He was neither glad or hopeful to see his siblings.

“Cas! You gotta see this fucking server! It has a shelf-thing that pulls out to extend it.” Dean caught one glimpse of Cas and slowed his stride.

Michael raised an arrogant eyebrow, glaring at Dean.

Dean slid his hands into his pockets, not moving. He stared Michael down as if they already knew each other.

“Excuse us,” Michael said dismissively, “we’re talking.”

Dean looked at Cas.

Cas held a hand up to Dean, telling him to wait. “What do you want, Michael?”

Dean studied the man harder, stepping beside Cas.

“We came to check on our brothers,” MIchael laughed, glancing at Hannah. “Let’s go somewhere a bit less,” he glanced around the messy, busy foyer, “hectic.”

“Tacos!!” Ash declared, walking through the door, holding up four huge bags.

Hannah stepped back with a disgusted wince.

Ash turned to Cas. “It never gets the response I think I’m gonna get. Dudes. What’s wrong with tacos?”

“I’m sure everyone will be thrilled, Ash. Thank you.”

Ash nodded with a ‘rock-on!’ grin, winced as he sidestepped around Hannah, and continued on toward the kitchen.

“This place is quite the zoo!” Michael laughed.

“You're standing in a working construction zone, Michael. Now, why are you here?”

Michael stuck his hand in his pants pocket with a suave twist. “I wanted to talk to you about a family matter.”

Castiel sighed. “Dean would you get Sam and Gabe and meet us in the library?”

Dean never broke his cold gaze with Michael. “Sure, Cas.”

Castiel turned, walking back to the library, leaving Michael and Hannah to follow or leave.

“Oh my God!” Hannah scoffed. “There’s a dog! In the house!”

Castiel turned, seeing Buddy hedge around the pair in the hall and come to Cas’ side. “This is Buddy. One of the dogs Father left me. If you have a problem with the dog, you can go wait in the car.”

Castiel went into the beautiful library taking a seat at a mahogany table, Buddy sitting on the floor next to him.

“This is lovely, Castiel,” Michael said, looking around with an unreadable look. “Or should I call you ‘Cas’? Seems to be what the locals call you.”

“You aren’t local. And neither are they. Just sit down and state your business Michael. Hannah.”

Both sat, Hannah pulling out a file and a pen.

“What the fuck are you two yahoos doing here?” Gabe strode in, looking irritated.

Michael bristled, Hannah merely cleared her throat.

Sam and Dean followed Gabe into the room, all three taking seats at the table.

Michael and Hannah looked at the brothers as if they had lost their minds.

“Why do you have your workers here?”

“Me?” Dean smirked. “I live here. Do you live here, Sam?”

Sam nodded with a cold glare locked on the pair.

“He lives here too,” Dean grinned.

“Good point,” Gabe smirked. “Now what do you two low-life, high-class thugs want?”

The feigned humor was gone from Michael’s face. “We’re here to visit. Our brothers. Not be insulted by a bunch of carpenters.”

“I’m a carpenter,” Dean grinned with a razor sharp edge. “Sam, Sam’s a architectural engineer.”

“Sam and Dean are our general contractors,” Cas added. “And Sam is Gabe’s boyfriend. Dean is mine. So,” Cas sat back, staring Michael down, “family or business, they belong here.”

Michael shook his head. He cleared his throat and took the file from Hannah, opening it.

“Well, we came to offer you, Gabriel, and you, Castiel, your jobs back. We feel we may have reacted rashly and would like to extend an olive branch.” Michael looked between the two with a mixture of smugness and certainty.

“Are you serious?” Gabe asked, leaning forward, sounding for all the world sincere.

“Yes,” Michael nodded.

“Ya hear that, Cassie? Mikey and Hannah say we can come back. We can be real, live lawyers again!”

Michael’s jaw tightened.

“You wanna go play lawyer any more, Cassie?” Gabe asked.

“No.”

Gabe sat back with a serious look on his face. Somehow even putting a lollipop in his mouth did not detract from the heat of his gaze.

“The firm needs your help,” Michael said tightly. “You could sell this mess and we would buy you back in as equal partners.”

Castiel sat forward now, his brow furrowed. “Are you in jeopardy of losing the firm?”

“No,” Michael scoffed. “But family is family. We realize now that father treated you unfairly.”

“You…just realized that now?” Gabe laughed.

The door to the library opened, everyone looking over as Ash and Charlie walked in, laptops in hands.

“The firm is definitely in trouble,” Charlie announced matter of factly, sitting her laptop on the table. Cas and Gabe leaned forward. “They lost three big cases last year and had to down-size.”

Castiel sat back with one brow raised. “Why don’t you really tell us why you're here, Michael. Hannah.”

“Well, it ain’t to give you any assets. They sold the family home, the one in Italy, and the other one,” Ash added, sitting his laptop down.

“Father was in debt! The firm has been draining all the mortgages dry!” Hannah blurt out, unable to stay silent. “We had to sell the houses immediately, taking losses on all three of them!”

“Oh my,” Gabe smirked. “What a mess.”

Castiel grinned. “It seems as though you are trying to wrap our money into yours.”

“We are family, Castiel. I have never asked you for anything! I’m asking that you and Gabe sell this and join us again. With the money you get from this dump, we can keep Father’s firm alive!”

“Father’s firm,” Castiel said low, “can burn to the ground. You fired us, Michael. Quite heartlessly.”

The brothers stared in a hateful glare for a heated moment.

“I’ve learned a lot about our family since we moved here,” Castiel said smoothly. “There are some real monsters in our bloodline. It seems to me, you fit the bill. No, Michael. No, Hannah. We are not selling. We will never move back to DC to partner with you. I would sooner see this mansion burn than give you a scent of profit from it.”

“Those are bitter words, brother.” Michael closed the file. “I understand things are taking longer here than expected. That the place was condemned and is falling down around you.”

“You really gotta check your sources,” Gabe smirked. “We’re doing juuuuust fine.”

“You are being a child, Gabriel!” Hannah scolded. “You are having sex with your head contractors!” She looked at Sam sharply. “You can sue for these kinds of things.”

“Sue?” Sam laughed. “I’m happy. You happy, Dean?”

“I am so mother-fucking happy,” Dean said seriously, making Cas grin. To see Dean unaffected by Michael and Hannah was heartening.

“They liquidated all the cars, auctioned the furniture, and sold the boat too,” Ash added with a few clicks.

“We could take you to court about everything involved at SPN international.”

“Bring it on, Michael,” Gabe snapped, all his humor gone. “I’d stack up my associates,” Gabe pointed a thumb at Sam, Dean, Charlie, and Ash, “against yours any day.”

Michael clenched his fist. “Why are you staying here? This place is going to devour you! You don’t belong here in Virginia! You certainly don’t have the skill set to run a huge business!”

“While I’m sure you would prefer we return to DC, right under your thumb, Michael,” Castiel said calmly, putting a patient hand on Gabe’s arm, “we have no interest in rekindling family ties or ever being lawyers for you again. I always found your ethics questionable, at best.”

Michael and Hannah both stood up.

“You're going to choose,” Hannah said incredulous, “to stay here with these people rather than help your own family?!”

“This is our family,” Gabe said quietly, reaching over to take Sam’s hand.

“This is our family,” Castiel agreed, smiling at Dean.

“I can show you out,” Ash offered with a grin.

Michael and Hannah left, following Ash out the door.

“Can you BELIEVE them?!” Gabe yelled, standing up and pacing around the table.

Castiel chuckled.

“You're laughing?” Gabe asked, staring at him intently.

“I just can’t believe that with all they were given, they dropped the ball so badly they drove here to try and take what we have.”

“Shit. Two weeks ago I mighta sold out!” Gabe shrugged.

“Come on, Samborguini, let’s get outta here.”

Sam shook his head with a grin, getting up. “Hey, I’m sorry that happened.”

“Yeah,” Dean added, “your brother is a dick. And your sister is a bitch. Just sayin’.”

“Too true,” Gabe agreed. “I’m gonna go scrub my eyeballs and brain and forget this bullshit ever happened.”

Gabe and Sam left.

Dean moved to the seat next to him. “You alright?”

“I’m fine. I just find it disturbing sometimes that I’m related to some pretty awful people. Like, maybe I’m not really a good person.”

Dean frowned. “Cas,” he pulled him into his chest with a kiss to the top of his head. “You are a good person. The best person I know.”

Buddy jumped up, licking his face. Cas laughed, pushing him down and wiping his cheek off.

 

***

 

By mid July, things were running smoothly. The work seemed never-ending, but at this point, it was completely a labor of love. Cas and Gabe were getting into the wedding business end of things, hoping to host a few weddings in October for a practice run.

Dean was elbow deep with restoring some of the windows on the third floor. The stained glass sections were a new skill for him. It was hot work, hanging outside the windows. There were only a few parts that needed replaced, otherwise he would have had to pull the whole section out and have some help with it.

He climbed back inside Sam and Gabe’s room, wiping his hands off carefully.

He jumped, his heart flying up in his throat when he saw Sam sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. “You scared the shit outta me, Sam.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, looking half asleep.

Dean closed the window and gathered some of his tools. He crossed the room to Sam. “You alright, man?”

“Yeah. Just tired.”

Dean looked at him a bit more critically. He looked fine. And he could not blame him for being drag-ass tired. The heat was getting brutal to work in.

Benny had the house divided into three zones for heating and cooling. The first floor, the second/third floors, and the fourth and fifth floors. The house was comfortable, but if you did much of anything outside, you were soaked in sweat in minutes. He handed him a bottle of water. “Make sure you're drinking.”

Sam took it, nodding and taking a small drink. “I am.”

Dean left quietly, closing the door to give him some peace and quiet.

“Dean,” Charlie called, “I was looking for you.”

“You found me,” he sighed, wiping his arm across his still sweaty forehead.

“Two things, the pool chick is here and you might want to intervene. Gabe is with her. If you aren’t careful, you could end up with a waterpark sprouting out of the back of the house.”

Dean laughed.

“No, seriously, he was talking about a tube slide.”

“Shit,” Dean sighed.

“The second thing is, Ash and I found nothing in our searches so far. The problem is, we’ve never researched something so old. Most of that era information isn’t online. So…we’re still digging. But we might have to actually go to the courthouse to find some things.”

“Okay. Thanks for looking.”

“No probs, boss. I’m headed to second floor to finish running the internet lines. I gotta get that wrapped up because the wallpaper people will be here next week.”

“You're amazing, Charlie,” Dean grinned, giving her a quick hug and moving on to the pool.

He went out the balcony doors and up the spiral of stone steps that led to the topmost balcony and pool. The door stood open to the glass room. They had left it open all through the fall the year before to try and dry it out. But now that it was hot and steamy outside, it was back to muggy and swampy in the enclosed pool.

“So, the inside just gets repainted?” Gabe was asking, looking down into the disgusting sludge in the bottom of the gaping rectangle.

“Yep. This will get pumped out and cleaned. Then we can put a camera through the pump system to see if it’s still useable. Then I can get you a better estimate.”

“So…not up and running this summer?” Gabe frowned.

“No sir.” The pool lady, an aquatics engineer who had done work for some major hotel chains, gave him an apologetic smile.

“Hi,” Dean said, shaking the woman’s hand. “I’m Dean Winchester, one of the general contractors here. What’s the story?”

“Dorothy Gale, we spoke on the phone a few times,” she grinned.

“Right,” Dean grinned. “Suppose you can’t just click your heals and re-do this mess, huh?”

“Hilarious,” she rolled her eyes good naturedly. “I can’t send you to Kansas either.”

Dean chuckled. “I got nothin’ left in Kansas anyway. So, what are our thoughts on the pool so far?”

“The room is structurally sound. It’s air tight. The ventilation is going to need some work. And until I get to the bottom of that,” she pointed at the pool, “I’m not sure about the system itself. Or the concrete base.”

Dean nodded. “When are you pumping it out?”

“I brought gear. But this is going to take awhile. I gotta get the equipment up here. Pump it. Let it dry. Then start some digging.”

“You're welcome to stay at the house,” Gabe offered. “We have rooms on the first floor that haven’t even been slept in yet.”

“Huh, well, okay, if it isn’t too much trouble.”

“It’s no trouble,” Gabe grinned. “So, wouldn’t a slide be hella bad-ass going down to the yard?!”

Dorothy glanced out the window to the yard. “It could be done. But aesthetically, it would look awful.”

Gabe pouted. “I want this pool to be fun! Epic, even! Like, a waterfall or rock wall, or-“

Dorothy laughed. “Alright. I’ll get the pumping started and we can look at some ideas tomorrow.”

Gabe rubbed his hands together vigorously with a grin. “Now, that’s what I’m talking about!”

“Nothing gets okayed without Cas’ approval there, Willy Wonka,” Dean added, Dorothy giving him a nod.

Dean left the two to brainstorm how to get the equipment up to the fourth floor. He hadn’t seen Cas for hours. He called but got no answer. He went to the third floor kitchen and frowned when he saw Buddy laying at the foot of the steps.

“Hey boy, is Cas up there?” He said, kneeling down to pet him. Buddy whined, looking up the steps. “I was afraid of that.”

Dean went up the steps and looked around. He always checked the hallway first. No tricycle. This area still gave him the creeps. But at least it wasn’t freezing cold anymore. He walked back the hall to the girl’s room.

Cas sat at the table. Sleeping. He didn’t like it that Cas had a tendency to nap up here. It gave him the creeps. And Cas always seemed a little sad afterwards.

He walked into the room quietly, glancing up at the shelf of creepy dolls. They no longer had cobwebs on them. Their faces were cleaner and their dresses fluffed. He glanced around the room. It had been cleaned. The hardwood was swept of dust and dirt. The rug vacuumed. Even the bedding looked clean. The toys could have been played with yesterday. And that fucking tricycle was even shinier than it had been. The curtains were clean and tied back.

More disturbing, sending chills up Dean’s spine and making his stomach clench, was the table. The child’s tea set was clean and set. For two. There were cookies on a plate in the center of the table.

“Cas!” Dean knelt down in front of Cas, shaking his leg and cupping his cheek. “Cas! Baby, wake up!”

Cas startled awake, eyes flying open and jumping a little in his seat. “Wha?”

“Why are you sleeping up here?” Dean asked trying not to panic.

“I-I just dozed off,” Cas said, glancing around and rubbing his eyes. “It’s quiet.”

Fully awake and seemingly in his right mind, Dean stepped back from him. Bewildered, Dean waved a hand around the room. “Did you do all this? Did you clean this room?”

Castiel got to his feet, looking around guiltily. “Uh, yes. I thought if it was clean…”

“What? Why are you spending so much time up here? Did you bring cookies up here, Cas?”

Cas looked at the table in confusion. “I did. That’s…weird, isn’t it. I thought…”

Dean ran his hands through his hair, watching Cas look sadly at the table.

Cas looked at him, his crystal blue eyes in some kind of pain Dean couldn’t understand. He pulled Cas into a hug, kissing his cheek and temple. What the hell was happening?

He stood back, holding Cas at arms length, studying his face. “What are you doing up here?”

Cas pulled away, running a hand through his hair and frowning hard. “I keep coming up here because when I fall asleep up here I dream about Jackie. She plays and talks and tells me about her toys and has pretend tea parties and…”. Cas gave him an utterly lost look.

“Jesus, Cas,” Dean rubbed a hand over his mouth. He didn’t know what the fuck to make of this, but it wasn’t good.

“I want to have kids some day.”

Dean looked back at him in shock. “What?”

Cas glanced around the room. “I want to have kids some day. And…all she wants to do is play…”

Chills ran so sharp over Dean’s body that he physically shivered. “This is not okay, Cas. This is so far from okay, that you're really freaking me out.”

Cas looked embarrassed. “I didn’t say anything because…”

“Because it’s fucking crazy!” Dean snapped, yelling.

Cas frowned and looked down. “I thought maybe there was something weird about it. But she isn’t hurting anyone. And what happened to her isn’t her fault.”

“She died,” Dean explained, feeling he had to, that Cas was not seeing this for what it was. “She is gone. And you need to let her go. You can’t spend your time up here with someone who isn’t even here.”

Cas swallowed hard, nodding. “You're right. I’m…I…sometimes I don’t even want to be up here and I find myself sitting here.”

Dean picked up the cookies and took Cas by the hand, pulling him from the room. They went down the hall quickly and down the steps to where Buddy waited.

Dean let go of his hand in the kitchen and threw the cookies in the trash. He paced beside the counter for a moment unable to put words into a coherent sentence. The house was still haunted. Maybe not by Lucas. But the girl was still here.

He stopped, looking at Cas who stood by the window looking dejected. He walked over to him, taking his face in his hands. “I am right here. Right here, Cas. If you want to talk about kids, let’s talk about kids. Don’t go up there again. It’s not okay. She’s doing something to you. She’s dead. She doesn’t need you. I do!”

“I’m sorry!” Cas whispered, his eyes tearing up. “I won’t go up there anymore.”

Dean kissed him, hugging him tight again. His fears about the house came crowding back in. But this felt much more personal. Like that kid was after Cas. He pulled back, kissing him and walking to the steps, looking at Buddy, who waited by the door. “Buddy,” he pointed up the steps. “No Cas. Don’t let him go up there.”

“Dean,” Cas whispered, his shoulders slumping.

“Come on, we’re getting out of here for a little bit.” Dean took him by the hand again, pulling him down the hall to Cas’ room. “Pack a bag. We’re taking a night off.”

“Dean, we don’t need to leave the house. I said I won’t go back up there. I won’t.” He grabbed Dean’s hand that was already unzipping a duffel bag. “I won’t. I promise. I’m sorry I scared you.”

“Me? Doesn’t it scare you? Aren’t you a LITTLE freaked out?”

Cas sighed, sitting on the bed. “Yes. It bothers me. It’s been bothering me. But I didn’t want to admit that either I was crazy or the house was…”

“Haunted?” Dean tossed the bag back in the wardrobe. “Hey, Cas, your house is haunted. Like, haunted as fuck. And I knew those Ghostfacer fuck-ups weren’t doing things right!”

“THIS is why I didn’t say anything! I knew you would freak out!”

“Oh,” Dean crossed his arms over his chest. “This is me being calm.”

Cas sighed.

“My boyfriend is sleeping in a dead kids room and bringing her fucking COOKIES!”

Cas blushed, looking angry.

Dean blew a breath out, turning away to look out the window. He needed to calm the fuck down before he had a damn stroke. Cas was going through something. And this was not helping. He closed his eyes and counted to ten. “I think we should leave.”

Cas stood up. “What does that mean?” He asked defensively.

“It means, this place isn’t safe. I think we need to get some real people in here. Not some douchebags tryin’ to make a TV show.”

Cas nodded with frustration. “You can go. I’ll be fine.”

Dean walked away from the window, getting in front of Cas. “This isn’t me running, Cas. This is me, protecting us. Not just you. All of us.”

“It was dumb, okay? I won’t do it anymore. And no one else is having problems. It really could be nothing.”

Dean sighed. “Fine. But the second one of my guys complains about weird shit happening? The second I hit some unexplained cold spot? I will carry you out of here if I have to.”

Cas’ serious demeanor fizzled and he cracked a grin. “Okay. Agreed.”

Dean sighed. He wanted more than anything to knock Cas out and drag him out of the house. But he had said he would work on being so overprotective. So he swallowed all his misgivings and put his trust in Cas.

Cas got up, crossing the room to where Dean stood. “I’ll start by calling a priest tomorrow. I’ll have him come bless the house. Bobby recommended it a long time ago and I never did it.” He took Dean’s hands in his. “This is our house. I’m willing to fight for it. Are you?”

“I am.” Dean pulled him in, one arm around his waist and one combing back through his hair. He kissed him, pulling back to stare. “I love you, ya know.”

Cas grinned, his hands sliding around Dean’s back. “I know. I love you too.”

 

***

 

Castiel followed Dean into the dining room. He had texted Gabe and Sam to meet them there.

Gabe was perched on the arm of his throne, feet on the seat with his chin propped on his hand, elbow parked forlornly on his knee. “What’s with all the cryptic messages?”

Gabe looked bored. Which was never good.

“Where’s Sam?” Dean asked, sitting on his usual box.

Gabe shrugged. “No clue.”

Castiel sat his cell phone on the table. “Is everything okay, Gabe?”

“Yeah,” he sighed.

That was definitely a no. He gave Dean a worried look. Dean shrugged back.

Sam came into the dining room with a huge yawn. “What’s going on?”

Castiel noticed Gabe did not look thrilled to see Sam, which was unusual.

“We have a problem. A ghost problem,” Dean stated heavily.

Gabe turned to look at Dean with surprise. “Wait…what?”

“Yeah.” Dean cleared his throat. “Cas has been spending too much time on the fourth floor and I found out why today. He’s been dreaming about that kid, Jackie. And I’m pretty sure it’s ghost driven.”

Sam looked sick to his stomach. “I-I’ve been seeing things.”

They all looked at him with varying levels of shock.

“I, uh, keep seeing Lucas. Like, everywhere. And I can’t sleep.”

“Why didn’t you say something sooner?” Dean snapped.

“Because I thought the ghosts were gone! But…I see him all the time and…he won’t let me sleep.”

“What?” Gabe snapped.

“I didn’t want to sound like a nut!” Sam defended. “I thought maybe there was something wrong with me!”

Dean groaned loudly. “You two need to speak up about this shit. I haven’t seen anything. That doesn’t mean keep something serious like this secret.”

Now that he really looked at Sam, he looked exhausted. No wonder Gabe was upset. Sam was not acting like Sam.

“I called a local priest,” Castiel said nervously. “He’ll be here tomorrow morning. Actually, he seemed rather anxious to get here. He offered to come tonight.”

“Then call him back and get his ass here now,” Gabe snapped. He got off the arm of the throne, walking out of the dining room. “Because that,” he pointed at Sam, “is not the Sam I know.”

Castiel and Dean looked at Sam curiously. Sam glanced away. “We had a fight. I said…it doesn’t matter. I’m tired. That’s all. Tomorrow for the priest will be fine.” He stood up and left the room.

Cas and Dean exchanged a look.

“I’m calling,” Cas said, pulling his phone out.

Dean tapped his fingers nervously on the table.

“Father Murphy.”

Cas slid the phone to better speak into it. “Father Murphy, this is Castiel Novak again.”

“Castiel, is everything alright?”

“Well, we would like you to come to the house tonight. We seem to be having some more…activity.”

“I can be there in an hour.”

Castiel was surprised but relieved. “Thank you, father.”

Castiel put his phone down. “He’ll be here in an hour.”

Dean nodded. “That works.”

“Do you know what happened between Sam and Gabe?” Castiel asked.

“No idea. But something’s up with Sam. I’m gonna go talk to him.” He kissed Cas and headed into the kitchen to go find him.

“We have the night off?” Charlie asked, walking into the dining room with a grin. “I just got a text from Dean saying we have an all-stop for the night.”

“You do,” Castiel sighed. “It seems we have more ghost activity. A priest is coming.”

Charlie’s grin slid. “Shit.”

“Yes. Could you…would you please invite the pool lady, Dorothy out to dinner with the crew? I really don’t want to lose her contract because we have…problems.”

“Sure. I’ll find her. Good luck with the priest.”

Castiel nodded. He looked over the massive table. The floor plans and spec sheets and paint and wallpaper samples were strewn about. He wished all he had to think about was the house itself instead of the things haunting it. The contents of the conference room at the hotel where they had delved into the house’s past were all packed into the back seat of his truck. He dreaded taking them all out again. But obviously there was more to do.

 

***

 

Dean found Sam standing in the doorway to Gabe’s old room.

“Whatcha doing?” Dean asked quietly.

“Thinking,” Sam said quietly.

Dean glanced into the room. It looked like it always did.

“About Lucifer Novak.” Sam went on begrudgingly when Dean turned back to him. “He just keeps showing up, standing in a corner or sitting in a room. I just keep ignoring him. But he just keeps showing up!”

“When you see shit like that,” Dean said firmly, making Sam listen to him, “you need to tell somebody.”

“Alright,” Sam said tiredly.

Dean deemed him lectured enough. “So, what’s going on with Gabe?”

Sam sighed. “Nothing. I just…can’t sleep. I keep having these really vivid dreams that…that Gabe gets…killed.”

Dean could see how upset Sam was. Something was not adding up. It wasn’t like Sam to freak out over some bad dreams. “How does Gabe get killed in these dreams?”

Sam swallowed hard, not meeting his gaze. “I kill him.”

Dean nodded. He had fully exceeded his fucked-up-shit tolerance for today. “Come on. I want you to go out with the others. You need to get out of here.”

“No,” Sam shook his head. “I’m just gonna go to bed.”

“Uh, no, you aren’t. You aren’t gonna take a freakin’ nap while there’s a fuckin’ priest, I mean, a priest, wandering around here blessing shit!”

“I’m not going out! I’m staying here.”

“It’s been a long damn time since I carried your stubborn ass out of a building. But I can still do it.”

“Fine! I’ll go stay at the hotel!” Sam snapped, pushing past Dean and stomping off toward his room. Dean leaned against the wall his head thumping back against it. He hoped this priest could fix things. He was losing everything again. Cas. His brother. The battle with the house.

He headed downstairs to wait in the foyer. The house was quiet and he didn’t like it.

He sat on the bottom step, waiting. Before too long, Sam walked past him, leaving without a word.

Castiel came down, sitting on a step behind Dean, putting his arms around him and resting his head on Dean’s shoulder. Dean took his hand. All their dreams. So close. And so fucking far away.

Gabe came down the steps slowly. He flopped on the stair next to Cas.

“Phase..what’s this now? Four?” Gabe said flatly. He slumped over, leaning onto Cas’ shoulder. “This is bullshit.”

“Yep,” Dean answered just as flatly.

A loud knock rang out.

“Well, that would be the priest dude,” Gabe sighed.

Castiel stood up, the others following his lead. Cas opened the door. “Hello, father.”

“Castiel.”

“You're a priest?” Dean asked.

“Father Murphy. And yes.”

Castiel had to agree. He was not real familiar with priests in general, but Father Murphy looked like he was in his fifties and could be hanging out at the Roadhouse, having a beer. He looked like someone who would hang out with Bobby.

“Please, Father, come in.” Castiel held a hand out, stepping back.

“Thank you. The house is looking fantastic.”

Castiel nodded. “Are you familiar with its history?”

“I am. In fact, its why I’m stationed here. Kripke Manor is one of the 42 sites in America protected by the church.”

Castiel blinked slowly. “The Catholic Church protects…sites?”

“We do,” Father Murphy said, shrugging his overcoat back to show an old wooden case.

“Why?” Dean asked. “Protect from what?”

“Satan. Demons. This house was the site of an occult in the 1800’s. The house is to be maintained by the church whenever needed.”

Gabe and Dean exchanged an incredulous look. “That was NOT in the deed! Or the write up!”

“It’s one of those things that is not talked about. Except in certain company,” father Murphy explained gruffly.

“Like the lucky fuckers that inherit it, maybe?!” Gabriel yelled, both hands in his hair in frustration.

“Gabriel,” Cas warned.

“I’m gonna have to ask all of you to leave. The dogs too,” Father Murphy said, unperturbed by Gabriel.

“Fourth floor, Padre,” Dean nodded, steering Gabe out the front door. “Come on, Buddy.”

Castiel followed them out the door, leaving the priest alone.

 

****

 

They pulled up to the manor three hours later. Castiel learned several things.

1. Father Murphy swore like a sailor.
2. Buddy would NOT go in the house.
3. Seventeen shattered windows had not been figured into the budget.
4. The tricycle was back in the fourth floor hallway.

 

Dean, Cas, and Gabe sat on the hood of Cas’ truck in front of the manor. Father Murphy had left. The ‘blessing’ had not gone well. Not at all.

Father Murphy looked like he had been through war when they had gotten back. He looked like the sun had been stolen from the sky when he said, “Someone broke the seal.”

“The seal? The door?” Castiel asked nervously.

“Yes,” Father Murphy growled. “I’ll be back. I’m gonna need help from the Vatican.” He left in an angry huff.

“Fuck me,” Gabe sighed.

They sat, immobilized with what to do next.

As the sun began to rise, the first light of the day swallowed by the shadow of the house, a truck came driving slowly up the driveway, stopping in front of them.

A man stepped out, looking at all of them solemnly.

“Fuck me,” Dean muttered.

“Hey, Dean.”

“Dad,” Dean said flatly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16 Broken Seals, Broken Families, and Growling Dogs

 

Restoration of Kripke Manor was at a stand-still. Again.

After Father Murphy’s brief description of his attempt to exorcize the evil out of the mansion, they were surprised at his mention of coming back. The man was doggedly determined, if nothing else. And apparently the work the Ghostfacers had done was nothing more than a blanket to calm things down.

The priest had barely escaped with his life after he found the seal to the door broken. He said the entire house shook, all the windows in that section of the fourth floor burst as he ran. And ‘Lucifer himself’ chased him out. After hearing the priest drop several phrases about ‘gateway to Satan’, ‘haunted by demons’, and ‘hounds of hell’, no one was going in there.

Father Murphy said the child Castiel had been speaking to may have been just another version of Satan himself. And Lucifer was ‘attaching himself to Sam’.

All of it was horrific. All of it was dangerous. And it was more than disturbing that the Catholic Church had their house on a watchlist.

It wasn’t until after Father Murphy had left that Castiel wondered how he even knew to look for the seal. How he knew where to find it.

They had talked about what to do long into the night and into the morning. They should have left. They should have packed up the truck and ran. But they hadn’t. They had hung out long enough for the one and only person Dean could not want to show up, showing up.

His dad.

If he had not already been deliriously tired and burnt out from the horrors of the house, he may have reacted differently. But all he could muster at the shocking sight of seeing his father standing there, was “Dad.”

His dad took a few steps closer, stopping when Buddy growled.

Cas and Gabe were obviously shocked to see him. And neither one budged from where they sat on either side of him.

Dean finally slid forward, still staring. “What are you doing here?”

John rubbed a nervous hand over the back of his neck. “I tracked you down. Your security system at your office is shit.”

“You broke into our office,” Dean stated, shaking his head in disgust.

He nodded, not looking proud of himself. “I’ve been looking for you and Sam for a few months. None of your friends would say where you’ve been.”

That was not a surprise. Lawrence was not that big of a town. And those close to the Winchesters knew John Winchester for what he was.

“I broke in just to figure out where you were. I had to see you.”

“Why?” Dean snapped, hating that he felt so bad for being disrespectful.

His dad looked down at the ground, shoving his hands in his pockets. Dean could not help but notice how much older he looked since last they saw each other.

“Can we go inside and talk?” He asked, glancing at the house. “Privately.”

Dean shook his head. “No. We can’t go inside. The house is…” he hesitated to say ‘haunted’. His dad would never believe that sort of thing and probably make fun of him for even suggesting it might be true.

“I came to see if you were doing okay, Dean. Where’s your brother?”

A familiar internal panic erupted. Sam was not okay. And that was going to piss his dad off.

“He’s at a hotel. Sleeping.”

John nodded, looking up at the house. “This place is awesome.”

Dean had no answer for that. Yes, it was. And no, it wasn’t. And above all, he didn’t want his dad here. Not now. Not ever.

Cas and Gabe slid off the hood of the truck as well, dropping down on either side of Dean. Cas stepped forward, staring John down. “I’m Castiel Novak, this is my brother Gabriel. We’re the house owners.”

“Nice to meet you,” John grinned, his eyes darting back to Dean. “Amazing place you have here.”

“Are you just stopping by?” Gabe asked suspiciously, “Or are you here to start trouble?”

Dean and Cas both glanced at Gabe’s bluntness. Leave it to Gabe to just say it like it was.

His dad looked like he might have something nasty to retort to that, his eyes sliding back to Dean with an understanding that yes, these guys knew what a crap father he had been.

“I’m here to see my sons. We have some business to take care of before I leave town.”

“Well,” Cas answered, “we haven’t slept all night. So, your business is going to have to wait a few more hours. We were just leaving for a hotel in town.”

“Sounds good,” his dad nodded. “I was driving all night anyway.”

“You can follow us,” Cas said cooly, handing Dean the keys to the truck, insinuating Dean was driving, so he could not ride alone with his dad.

John nodded, getting back in the car, while the three of them and the dogs loaded into the truck.

Doors closed and heading down the driveway, Dean’s head was so full he could barely think straight.

“Why is he here?” Gabe asked. “Sam is gonna lose his shit when I tell him.”

“I’ll tell him,” Dean said pointedly. “You should probably get your own room when we get there anyway. Sam’s not thinking straight to begin with. When he hears our dad is here, he’s…gonna lose his shit.”

Cas reached across the seat and put a steady hand on Dean’s thigh. “Whatever he has to say, it’s going to be okay.”

Dean nodded. “I know,” he said quietly, not sure he truly had the inner strength to handle his dad’s general bullshit. “Just…if he says anything stupid…”

“I’m fully capable of handling myself,” Cas reassured him. “I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about you. And Sam.”

Dean sighed. Why? Why was he here? What business could he possibly have with him and Sam?

 

Gabe checked them in, getting three rooms. He came back outside handing Dean and John keys. It was barely 7am and people were trickling out of the hotel, going about whatever business they were on.

The rooms were close. Gabe went inside his room, stopping in the doorway. “Let’s meet in the lobby at…one?”

“Sounds good,” Dean answered.

John nodded, going into his room with a familiar, old duffel bag over his shoulder. The door closed with a snap.

Cas sighed, opening their door. Dean handed him his bag. “I gotta go talk to Sam.”

“Okay,” Cas agreed, kissing him and going into the room.

Dean headed up a flight of steps and down the hall to Sam’s room, knocking on the door several times before Sam finally opened it.

“Hey,” Sam said, yawning and scrubbing a hand through his hair.

Dean pushed his way inside and sat on a chair by the window. The room was dark except the one lamp Sam probably turned on to answer the door.

Sam flopped onto the bed. “Hey, sorry about earlier. I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with me. Well, I do. But still.”

“It’s alright,” Dean sighed. “I told Gabe to get his own room. He’s in 117 if you want to see him. But we were up all night.” Dean pulled out an extra key card to Gabe’s room holding it up and putting it on the table.

“Uhh, I was such an asshole to him. He’s gonna-“

“He’s gonna be real happy if you show up,” Dean said, looking down at his own hands.

Sam rubbed his eye, looking at his phone to check the time. “You guys were up all night? How’d it go?”

“Father Murphy barely made it out alive.”

Sam sat up, waiting to hear more.

“The house is fucked. Apparently it’s on the Vatican watch list for ‘demonic activity’.”

“What?” Sam gasped, putting his feet on the floor.

“Yeah. Ole Murphy already knew about the sealed doors and freaked out cause the seals were broken. Says he has to call the Vatican to get back-up.”

“Holy shit!”

“Yeah.” Dean watched while Sam processed the information. When he looked like he had some kind of handle on it, Dean continued. “Dad showed up about half an hour ago.”

“What?” Sam blanched. “Why? He’s here?”

“He’s here,” Dean nodded. “Says he has some business to discuss with us.”

“Fuck.” Sam got up, pacing across the room and back. “I’m not goin’ in on any of his bullshit schemes.”

“Me either,” Dean said flatly.

Sam sat on the bed again. “How the hell did he track us down?”

“Oh, you’ll love this,” Dean smirked. “He broke into our office and figured out where we were working. Says he’s been looking for us for a few months.”

“God,” Sam groaned. “Like we don’t have enough shit going on!”

“I know. I didn’t even mention that the house is haunted and that we’re dating our bosses.”

Sam made a bitchface. “Fuck him, Dean. We don’t need him. We never did. Whatever bullshit he’s selling, let’s just agree now that we’re not buying it.”

“We’re not.” Dean stood up. “The house is off limits. The dogs won’t even go inside anymore.”

Sam raised both eyebrows in surprise at that. “Damn.”

“We’re gonna meet in the lobby at one. We gotta figure out what the fuck to do. We’re gonna have to send everyone home. Again.”

Sam sighed.

“See ya in a few hours.”

“Okay.”

 

Dean came into the hotel room quietly, Rumsfeld and Buddy both there to greet him at the door. He rubbed the fur behind their ears and took their sloppy kisses with a grin, wiping his face off. He pulled his clothes off, crawling into bed with Cas. He needed every hug, kiss, and caress Cas gave him. Without any words needed, they made love slowly, patiently. It was an unspoken promise that neither of them were going anywhere. That they were together in all the turmoil around them.

 

****

 

John sat in a chair in the lobby, staring out one of the windows. It was raining. Castiel had difficulty looking at the man without wanting to tear his head off. This single being had broken and damaged two men he had grown to love. But he promised himself he would follow Dean’s lead on how to proceed.

Dean had Rum on a leash and Cas had Buddy. It gave him some satisfaction that John looked at the dogs with some nervousness.

The lobby was empty but for John. He stood up when they walked in. Sam and Gabe, who had come out of Gabe’s room and seemed back to themselves, came in after them. There was a living room type set-up in front of a fireplace. They all took seats, the dogs laying down.

“Hey, Sam,” John grinned, nodding at his son and fidgeting with his hands.

“Hey. It’s been awhile,” Sam answered stiffly.

“Yeah, well, yeah.” John sat down nervously.

“You met my boyfriend, Gabe?” Sam added, sitting on a chair next to Gabe.

“Uh…I did. I didn’t know you were, but yeah. We met.”

“And you met my boyfriend, Cas,” Dean added, sitting on a couch, smiling as Cas sat next to him.

“Oh. Okay. That’s…well, it’s good to meet you both. Again.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a look. Their dad’s kindness made them even more suspicious.

“I’m not here to start any problems,” John stated, with a wave of his hand.

Cas tried to change gears, as Dean’s jaw tensed again. “And, what are you doing here, John?”

John leaned forward, staring assertively into Cas’ eyes. “I told you, I came to see my boys. Now how about you let me talk to them?”

Castiel imagined that look sent many people fleeing. But he had not been a lawyer without learning how to read people. John was scared. With an underlying history of rash anger and violence. None of that worried Cas a bit. All he wanted was the truth. And for him to leave.

Cas grinned. John sat back trying to not look surprised. Not a happy grin. But an ‘I see right through you’ grin.

“Look,” John said, scooting forward in his seat, looking at Sam and Dean, “I know you aren’t exactly happy to see me. I know the last time we saw each other, things were pretty bad. But-“

“John?”

They all looked up at Bobby, standing in the lobby with a shocked look on his face. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Good to see you too Bobby,” John smirked.

Bobby glanced at the group, then back to John. “I’ll say it again,” Bobby repeated, a tone deeper. “What the hell are you doing here?”

John glanced around looking increasingly uncomfortable. “I knew this wouldn’t be easy, but I need you to hear me out. I’ve changed. I’m not the same guy I was before.”

Castiel could feel Dean stiffen next to him. He looked very unsure of how to take what was being said.

“I know I was a rotten father. I know we had some rough times.”

No one said anything.

John swallowed hard. “I was not a good dad to you boys. I know it. I let you down. I’ve let your mother down. And I know I can’t take any of that back. But…I’ve changed.”

Sam and Dean exchanged bewildered looks. Bobby’s matched.

“I quit drinking altogether. I got a job. Couple jobs. It’s pretty easy to pick up construction work.”

“You quit drinking?” Dean asked with disbelief.

“One year, five months, and thirteen days. Sober.” John nodded.

“Why?” Dean asked, looking utterly lost.

John looked down as he answered. “I, uh, I ended up in the hospital. Some people brought me there when they found me passed out in an alley behind a bar. I, uh, stayed for rehab. That was two years ago. I, uh, stayed two weeks and thought I had it all under control…but…I started drinking again.”

Sam and Dean were both frowning in thought. It was hard to hear a grown man admit so many things, let alone it be their father.

“So…” John continued, still looking uncomfortable, “a couple months went by. Same shit, different day. And then the craziest thing…I ran into Lisa Braeden. Remember her?” John looked at Dean with a smile.

Dean glanced at Cas but nodded back at his dad. “Yeah.”

“Well, she had that kid of hers with her and I was…well, I had been drinking, and I asked her if he was yours.”

Dean closed his eyes. He opened them slowly to stare. hatefully back at his dad.

“She said no. She said a lot of things. Things that were…hard to hear. Like…shit I had done that messed you up. And Sam. She, uh, she really gave me hell.”

The group sat quietly waiting.

“So…I got to thinking that maybe you weren’t the lazy kid I always said you were. That Sam had stayed on even when he didn’t want to. That…I didn’t even know if you were dead or alive. And that you could probably give two shits if I were dead or alive.”

Dean and Sam both looked down, not thrilled with their father’s realizations, but seeing that maybe something had changed.

“Dean is anything but lazy,” Cas snapped. “He’s amazing at what he does.”

Dean twisted his mouth. It was always hard for him to take a compliment. He reached for Cas’ hand to stop him from saying more. Cas just glared at John.

John, noticing the exchange, and their hands, nodded. “You’re right. He, you, I am very proud of you, Dean.”

Dean just raised an eyebrow at that.

John sat forward again, his face red, “I was a bad father. And I’m so…” he took a deep breath, “so sorry for all I did to you boys. Dragging you around the damn country all the time, it was…so unfair.”

Dean and Sam both looked shell-shocked. Neither moved or said a word. Bobby looked angry.

“I went to another rehab. This time it stuck. I’ve been clean since. No bullshit.”

“Why did you wait so long to find them?” Bobby asked.

“I didn’t trust myself. I made a deal with myself that if I could stay sober for a year, prove to myself I could really do it, that I would find you boys. It just took me awhile to find you.”

Silence fell on the group.

Dean stood up, letting Cas’ hand go. “I don’t know what to do with that.” He shrugged his shoulders and walked out the front doors of the lobby.

Sam still looked kind of lost. “You’re a little late, Dad.”

John nodded. “I know.”

Sam shook his head. He got up, following after Dean. The four remaining sat quiet.

“It’s pretty fucked up,” Bobby said suddenly, “that you waltz in here outta the middle of nowhere and drop that load of shit on these boys.”

“It’s not a load of shit, Bobby,” John swore. “And what was I supposed to do? Say nothing? Not apologize? I have to make things right if I ever hope to have some kind of relationship with them.”

Bobby shook his head, still angry.

“I’m sorry, Bobby, for all the shit I put you through. I know it was…awful.”

“Awful ain’t the half of it. You had Dean so screwed up he couldn’t hardly function right for years. It wasn’t until Cas came along that I actually thought he might be happy. He might actually have figured out how to be happy. Alcohol wasn’t your only problem, John.”

John nodded, glancing guiltily at Cas and Gabe. “I know.”

Bobby shook his head and left, muttering something.

Castiel glanced at Gabe. Well, this was awkward.

Several moments ticked by.

“So…” John said, making both Novak brothers look at him. “You’re dating Sam?”

Gabe nodded. “Sure am.”

“And…” John looked at Cas hesitantly, “You’re dating Dean?”

“I am.”

John nodded. “Were you dating before the job on the house or did you meet when you hired them?”

Castiel looked at John a long moment. Was he really going to have a conversation with this man? About Dean, no less? Well, he couldn’t just sit here and stare at the man. “Sam and I knew each other in college. We called him when we inherited Kripke Manor.”

John nodded. “Well, you’ll never meet a pair of more loyal guys. They’re good men.” John stood up, looking out the window again. “No thanks to me. But they are good men.” He walked toward his room.

Gabe followed him with his eyes until he could no longer see him. Then he looked at Cas.

Cas shrugged a shoulder. He was as lost as everyone else. “Let’s walk the dogs,” Cas suggested, getting up.

“Yeah,” Gabe sighed, following him.

 

Cas and Gabe did not see Dean, Sam, or Bobby the rest of the day. It wasn’t until late that evening that all three returned to the hotel.

Cas knew he needed space, so he said little when Dean came in. It was a lot to process.

Dean said nothing about his father, just got undressed and got into bed. Cas, who had been sitting at the table in their room reading, watched him pull the covers up around him.

“Room for me in there?” Cas grinned.

“Yes, of course,” Dean said quietly.

Cas turned the light off and got under the covers, pulling Dean close to him. “I missed you today. I’m not used to you not being there.”

“I missed you too.”

“Gabe and I dug through the research today. We’re gonna go see Ruth MacLeod tomorrow. You and Sam want to come?”

“Yeah, sure. Why are you visiting her?”

“She’s the neighbor. Her family was in on Lucifer’s experiments. I just want to see if she knows any history on the place. See if she knows anything that will help.”

“Okay,” Dean said quietly.

Cas kissed him and held him tight. It was all he could do.

 

***

 

Ash had done some digging. They had learned several things.

1. John Winchester had indeed been in two rehabs.
2. John Winchester was married.
3. Dean and Sam had a half brother.
4. Father Murphy had left for Rome.

 

The next morning, Dean and Cas got up, dressed, and headed out. Dean froze in the doorway, when he saw his dad standing next to it.

Dean looked at him with surprise.

“Hey, Dean!”

“What are you doing here?” Dean asked.

“Waiting to see what you were doing today. Feel like some company?” John gave him a pleasant enough smile.

“No.” Dean glanced back at Cas. He hadn’t seen his dad in years. And now he was everywhere. “I thought you left.”

“Nope, didn’t leave,” he kept grinning.

Dean looked at him suspiciously. “No. You can’t come with us. We’re doing some stuff for the house.”

“Oh. Okay. Maybe I’ll see you guys around dinner time. I’ll be around. Here’s my cell number.”

Dean took a small slip of paper from him, still looking at him suspiciously.

“Have a good day,” he waved.

Dean gave Cas an incredulous look, to which Cas shrugged. At least Buddy had stopped growling at him.

Ash’s morning visit had only confounded Dean more. He was shocked that his dad had gotten married again. He did not know the woman. Kate. A nurse. And he did not know the boy, Adam, that was supposedly John’s son. It did not come as a total shock that his father had a son to someone. The man slept his way around the country for years. What shocked him was the normal life they seemed to have. Adam was 17. A senior in high school. And Dean couldn’t even think about it. It was just another layer of lies and deceit. And he wasn’t interested.

They joined Sam and Gabe in the lobby and headed to the MacLeod’s without another word about his dad.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17. A Liar, A Witch, and a Safe

 

Dean had seen the neighbor’s house. It was a gray stone fortress shrouded in thick, large trees lining the property. It was half the size of Kripke Manor, but had the same elegant grandeur and was built in the early 1800’s.

They had been living and working in Kripke Manor for over a year and none of them had ever spoken to or seen the MacLeod’s. According to Charlie, the owner of the house was Ruth MacLeod. She shared the huge home with her one and only son, Fergus MacLeod. The deeds of the house were handed down from Rowena MacLeod, the woman who had assisted Lucifer with his insane experiments, to a list of women, ending in Ruth. She was in her 70’s, her son in his 50’s. And that was pretty much all they knew as Gabe banged the huge door knocker in the shape of a ferocious looking dog head.

Gabe banged the knocker again.

He stepped back as they heard a grinding lock open. The huge wooden door opened a few inches. A man in a suit opened the door. He studied each of them with impatient curiosity. “May I…help you?”

“Hello,” Cas jumped in shaking the man’s hand. “My name is Castiel Novak. This is my brother, Gabriel. We own Kripke Manor.”

“So you do,” the man smirked. His British accent was a bit of a surprise.

“This is Dean and Sam Winchester,” Cas continued, “our head contractors. We were hoping to speak with Fergus or Ruth.”

The man twitched ever so slightly. “Well, as luck would have it, I am Fergus Crowley MacLeod. You can call me Crowley.”

“We have some questions about Kripke Manor. We were hoping you and your mother would be able to help us with a few things.”

Crowley’s eyes roved over the four of them again with a smirk. “Sure. Why not?” He stepped back, letting the four of them inside.

The foyer was wide with gray and black marble floors. A set of stairs curved upward, also marble with a wrought iron railing.

“This way,” Crowley said, strolling into a large sitting room. “I’ll just go collect Mother.”

The way he said ‘mother’ dripped with discontent. Dean walked around the sitting room, taking things in. The room was dark. A thick rug covered most of the floor. Two ancient looking sofas and three wingback chairs took up most of the room. Dark mahogany end tables matched the wood paneling on the walls.

“This place feels like a museum,” Gabe said quietly. As he sat on one of the sofas, Dean could have sworn dust puffed up slightly. He was right. Everything had a very untouched feel to it.

“Maybe they don’t use this room often,” Cas said, sitting next to Gabe gingerly.

Crowley came in, taking a seat in one of the chairs. He crossed his leg, leaning his chin on his hand. He looked mildly amused. “Mother will be along in a moment. We weren’t expecting visitors.”

“You have a beautiful home,” Sam grinned, sitting next to Dean on the opposite sofa from Cas and Gabe.

Crowley raised an eyebrow, looking even more amused. Dean got the feeling Crowley already knew why they were there. But that was impossible.

“Did you grow up here?” Dean asked, already knowing the answer.

“I did.”

Dean gave Cas a look. This guy was going to be a hassle. He could see it already.

“And you are from?” Crowley droned on.

“Kansas,” Sam answered.

“My brother and I grew up in the DC area,” Cas added.

The conversation, like the furniture, had gone stale.

A slight, petite red-head strode into the room. “Well! Guests!” Her Scottish accent was even thicker than her son’s. Her hair was in perfect red curls and her make-up was thick. She wore a slim velvet dress. There was no way she was 70. And there was no way Crowley was 50. Something felt off.

Cas stood up to shake her hand. She held a delicate hand out, if Dean wasn’t mistaken, to be kissed. Cas merely grasped it with a grin. She turned, getting the same disappointment from the other three.

“It’s so nice to have visitors!” She grinned wide, perching on the edge of a chair. “And such dashing lads! Aye, Fergus?”

“Dashing,” Crowley said flatly.

“You’re the gentlemen bought Kripke Manor then?” She nodded.

“Yes,” Cas answered her politely. Gabe looked absolutely fascinated by her.

“We came to ask if you knew anything about the history of our house,” Cas added.

“Oh! I suppose I do. A wee bit, mind you. Fergus! Have you offered them tea?”

“No,” Crowley said flippantly.

“Would you like some tea?” She smiled at all four of them.

“No,” Sam and Cas said politely.

“Yes,” Gabe and Dean answered. Like Gabe, Dean found this pair of people very odd. The longer they stayed, the more he could watch.

“Tea, then, Fergus.” She gave her son a pointed look. He stared at her coldly with that half grin still on his face. He stood up and strode out of the room.

Gabe and Dean exchanged a look. Dean looked toward the door and Gabe grinned. He jumped up. “I’ll give him a hand. Tea. It’s so simple yet so…complicated.” He followed after Crowley quickly. Dean shook his head slightly.

“So, the last owner was a business man, Charles something or other,” Ruth shook her head trying to remember.

“Novak,” Cas supplied. “Our father. We inherited the house from him.”

“Oh, yes! Novak!” She sat back primly. “We never met him.”

Cas nodded. That was most likely true. But she was definitely hiding something.

“Did your family ever talk about their connections to the Novaks?” Castiel asked.

She started to shake her head no.

“We found some papers with the name Rowena MacLeod on them.”

Ruth’s face quieted from it’s former forced smile. “Yes,” she said slowly. “I believe my grandmother may have spoken of them.”

“Did you know Rowena worked with Lucifer?”

A shiver shimmied through her tiny frame. “I’ve heard tell of it. Yes.”

“Do you know what they were working on?” Cas asked.

“I…no,” she shook her head slowly.

Cas pulled out some of the articles he had brought. “It is not mentioned in the articles.”

Ruth picked up an article with an awed, haunted look on her face. “Aye, he was, my grandmother said Lucifer was a handsome man. But a man obsessed. He wanted to find the human soul. Locate it. Discover it. But it was a barbaric time for such matters.” Her eyes snapped up, laying the article down. “I suppose, I mean.” She smiled with a nod.

“You look very much like her, don’t you?” Cas asked, looking at her with some fascination as well.

Ruth smoothed her hands over her lap. “I’ve been told I’m her very likeness.” She smiled up at him proudly, but there was something else there. It was driving Dean crazy.

“Did your great grandmother ever talk about the experiments she did?” Castiel asked, pulling the ledger out and laying it on the coffee table with the articles.

Ruth pulled back, sitting ram-rod straight. “Just that he wanted to find where the human soul was located,” she said quietly.

Cas nodded and Dean was glad he did not go into too many more details. Something about this was not sitting right.

Gabe and Crowley returned with the tea. “Nice portrait in the dining room,” Gabe said, sitting down and itching his nose at the tuft of dust that arose from the sofa. “Who is it?”

“Oh, that’s me,” she grinned broadly, truly meaning it.

“How old are you?” Gabe asked. Dean and Sam only raised their brows in surprise. Crowley grinned. Cas whacked him on the shoulder.

“Please excuse my brother’s rudeness,” Cas said, blushing.

Ruth waved him off, pouring tea. “I’m old enough to fan yer hide,” she grinned.

Obviously not the answer he wanted, he frowned, ready to press on, but Cas whacked him again.

“Mother looks quite good for age,” Crowley grinned.

“Why thank you, Fergus,” she bit back. She handed Gabe and Dean a cup of tea. It was freaking hot. Dean shuffled it around, only holding the little plate that came with the cup. They both felt like they could break if he touched them too hard. He took a sip of the bitter hot water and tried to quickly school the disgusted look off his face. Yep. Not a tea drinker. He handed it off to Sam, who took it, looking like Dean had lost his mind.

“Drink it,” Dean mouthed.

“You asked for it,” Sam mouthed back, handing the fragile things back.

Dean copied the way Gabe was holding the stupid little plate and listened.

“We’ve been having some problems at the house,” Cas was saying. “That’s why we came to see if you know more about what went on there.”

“What sorts of problems?” Ruth asked, looking nervous.

Cas glanced at Gabe.

“Ghost problems,” Gabe stated.

“Oh!” Ruth sat back with surprise.

“Yep,” Gabe nodded. “Did you know Lucifer killed his own kid up there? We have ‘ghost echos’ or some shit. It’s been a mess since Cas went digging around in my closet.”

Ruth’s face lost its false cheerfulness. “What’s this now?”

“Oh, Cas went exploring in some passageways and opened this door-“

Ruth paled. She looked at Cas with absolute seriousness. “Did you break the seals?”

Cas looked shocked. “Y-yes. I did. It was an accident.”

She swallowed hard, Dean feeling like it was the first time he was seeing her truly be unguarded.
“Bloody hell,” Crowley shook his head. “You just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?”

Dean kept glancing at the others at how quickly things were changing.

“I told you they would be a problem!” Crowley rasped, standing and pacing in the room.

“What are the seals?” Cas asked. “How do you know about all this?”

Ruth sat back with a more stern look on her face. “Because. Rowena helped create those seals. They had him trapped. And it was no easy task.”

“Who?” Sam asked. “Lucifer?”

“Aye. She trapped him in a cage.” The look on her face was haunted. “It took five hunters, an entire witch coven, and three priests to do it. But he was trapped. Lucifer himself.”

“Hunters?” Dean asked.

“A priest was there yesterday and things did not go well. We can’t even get in the house,” Cas explained.

“Aye, the bloody priests. That just likely pissed him off.” She shook her head.

“Ruth,” Cas leaned forward, “what happened at Kripke Manor?” It was obvious she knew more than what she had originally tried to act like.

Ruth sat back again. “Well, as I’ve heard it, mind you, before it was ‘Kripke Manor’,” she said with more bitterness than was any kind of normal, “it was the illustrious estate of Lucas Novak. Lucas was a dashing socialite. The whole town loved him and his risqué parties. I must admit, I, my great grandmother, was drawn in like the rest of the town. He fell in love with a bit of a plain Jane, Kelly. For whatever reason, he was obsessed with her. That was Lucas’ way. He did not simply LIKE something. He obsessed. Lucas then became obsessed with the idea that Kelly would leave him if he got too old. He married her and immediately began searching for a way to live longer. To stay young forever.”

“Mother,” Crowley interrupted.

“No,” Cas said, “Please go on.”

Ruth’s eyes lingered on the papers on the coffee table and the ledger. “He sought far and wide for what to do. He began working with a man, Cuthbert SinClair. I couldn’t say what all they discovered together, but Cuthbert disappeared. Lucas delved deeper, searching by all means for the answer of how to cheat aging. He worked with the coven. But that did not last long. Soon he was researching on his own. He got into dark magic and the next thing you know, he’s looking twenty years younger and wants to be called Lucifer.”

“Wait…” Cas held a hand up. “Lucas changed his name to Lucifer?”

“He did.” She shook her head with that same haunted look. “He said he became Lucifer. He began conducting experiments to find the human soul. He wanted…well, I’m not sure what he wanted, but what he created was…well, I’m sure this all sounds like a bunch of fantasy.” She smiled understandingly.

“Not enough, unfortunately,” Cas said. “So Lucas became Lucifer. He conducted experiments to find the human soul…and then what?”

Ruth looked down. Was that guilt? Fear?

“He found it. Lucifer began twisting people’s souls into demons.”

Gabe was frowning. “Lucifer was making demons in our attic?”

“The basement,” Ruth corrected.

“But the fourth floor is where we’ve had all our trouble,” Cas said, confused.

“The real work was done in the basement. But Lucifer was trapped in a cage on the fourth floor.”

Cas sat back. The implications of truly horrible things happening in the house were frightening. “Can he be put back in the cage?”

Ruth shook her head slowly. “He was human then. Now…he’s, as you say, a ghost. It’s almost impossible.”

“Almost?” Gabe asked.

“Well, there are ways. I might be able to help. I would need something from the house. My great grandmother’s grymoire. A spell book. It’s in the safe.”

The brothers exchanged looks. “What safe?” Dean asked. He had been through every inch of that house, except…

“The basement,” Ruth said with a chipper nod.

“How do you even know about the basement?” Cas asked.

“Well, I don’t know exactly,” Ruth batted her eyelashes with a smile. “It’s just what my grandmother told me.”

“A grymoire,” Sam said slowly. “Are you…a witch?”

Ruth shrugged a shoulder. “My great grandmother was. I’m sure I can help you with your little problem if I can have that book.”

Little problem. As far as Dean could tell, every bit of this was one huge problem after the next. Including this tiny red-head.

She stood up. “It was lovely having you all here.”

The four of them stood, realizing they were being dismissed.

“Wait!” Cas stopped her from turning away. “Will you help us?”

“I will. But I need that book.” She walked away smartly.

Cas turned to Crowley. “Do you know anything about the safe?”

“I do,” he grinned smugly, And, I can help you get through the house to get to the safe.”

Dean was not too keen on taking help from this guy either. Cas had not exaggerated. His people skills sucked. This guy was like the king of rotten. And his mother was a freakin’ witch!

“We’ll figure it out,” Dean interrupted, taking Cas by the shoulder.

“You know how to ward off a spirit then?” Crowley asked cooly.

“No,” Cas answered, Dean losing him again. “You do?”

“I do. Family secret.” Crowley grinned. “I can help you boys.”

“Then let’s do it,” Sam said.

“I’ll need to acquire a few things first. I’ll meet you at your front door tomorrow at noon.”

Cas nodded. “Thank you.”

“Why are you so bent on helping us?” Gabe asked.

“Let’s just say, I’d prefer that book stayed with me than my mother. Bit of a loose cannon, that one.” He grinned like a Cheshire Cat.

They followed him back to the front door, all of them filing out. Cas turned to say something to Crowley, but the door abruptly shut in his face. Cas turned back to them with some surprise. “Well, that was…educational.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Dean waved them on. “They give me the creeps.”

 

***

 

They went for dinner at the Roadhouse. Bobby and Benny joined them. The rest of the crew was still in town, just taking a few days off.

“Are we seriously going back in that house?” Bobby asked?

“We have to!” Castiel said.

“Mind if I join you?”

They all looked up. John was standing there with a cup of soda.

“Sure,” Sam said, reluctantly. They all jostled over a bit at the table, making room for an extra chair. After the shuffling stopped, the table was quiet.

“So, word around town is that place of yours is haunted,” John said.

Everyone exchanged glances. There was no hiding it at this point. “Very,” Gabe said bluntly.

“I once did this job in Texas, restoring a coffered ceiling,” John began, “anyway, the lady that owned the place swore it was haunted. I didn’t really believe her until I saw this woman at the top of the steps. Started talking to her and she just vanished! Scared the shit outta me.”

“I think I remember that,” Sam said, nodding. “You told us about it.”

Dean nodded. He had forgotten about that. Mostly, at the time, he had chalked it up to alcohol.

Castiel could see that Dean was tight as a knot. His movements were stiff, he had stopped eating, and his jaw was tight.

Cas leaned over and bumped his elbow with his own. “Hey.”

Dean looked at him.

“You want to leave?” Cas asked, rubbing a hand down Dean’s back.

“No.”

Cas nodded, stealing a fry off his plate with a grin. Dean grinned back. “You never order fries. You just steal mine.”

Cas chuckled. “Yours are better.”

Dean rolled his eyes, grinning.

“Tomorrow we’re going to the house with the neighbor guy and going to find some book of spells,” Gabe added. “How’s that for creepy?”

John nodded. “You know this guy?”

“Nope,” Sam answered. “But Cas seems to think it’s a good idea.”

Castiel’s jaw dropped. “I don’t really think it’s a good idea! But what else can we do?”

“Wait for the priests?” Bobby suggested.

“That’ll take months,” Cas shrugged.

They all grumbled their agreements to that.

“So, Dad,” Dean cleared his throat, “why don’t you tell us all where you’ve been the last five years.”

It was a dramatic change in conversation. Castiel put a reassuring hand on Dean’s thigh.

“Yeah,” John nodded. “Uh…pretty much floated from job to job that first year. Ended up back in Windom, Minnesota. Stayed there for awhile. Was doing pretty good there actually. Uh, remember Kate?” John asked, turning to Bobby.

“Yeah,” Bobby nodded.

“Well, we, uh, got back together.” John nodded. “Got married.”

Dean and Sam nodded. They already knew, but apparently Dean had wanted him to tell them.

“Kate…well, she…encouraged me to come find my boys. She…knows it’s important to me.”

Castiel thought John looked worn out. And no wonder. It took a lot to admit all these things and take on the blame. Even if it was warranted. He squeezed Dean’s thigh gently. Just to remind him he was not alone with all this.

“I guess now is as good a time as any,” John went on, “to tell you boys that I have a son with her.”

Dean sat back.

“We know,” Sam nodded. “Adam, right?”

“Yeah.” John looked down guiltily. “He’s seventeen and he…well, he’d like to meet you boys someday.”

“Oh, so he knows about us?” Dean smirked. “Nice.”

“He knows about you boys because I talk about both of you all the time. I told him how much of a screw up I was.”

Dean nodded. “Well, at least you were honest.”

John winced.

“I’ll never be what I should have been. I can’t rewind time. All I have is what time is left. And if you boys want me to go, I understand. But I had to try.”

Sam looked like he was ready to say something. His brow was furrowed in that worried, sad frown. But he glanced at Dean first, saying nothing.

Dean sighed heavily. “You know I’m still gay, right? You didn’t manage to beat that out of me.”

Everyone tensed at that.

“I am,” John said shakily, “more ashamed than you will ever know for how I treated you. The things I said. I was…so wrong in so many ways. And I think Cas is a great guy. I hope you can let all that go, Dean. I’m not worth it, son, trust me. I am…so, so proud of what you boys have done with your lives.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a look of confusion. This was not the man they had grown up with.

“I’m leavin’ town tomorrow,” John went on. “But I had to find you. To tell you boys you are better men than I could have asked for. And from what I can see, you both look happy. Gabe, Cas, it’s been good to meet you. I’ll be at the hotel tonight. Probably head out around ten tomorrow. If you don’t come see me, I understand. But, I really would like to hear from you once in a while.” He stood up, patted Bobby on the shoulder and left the restaurant.

The pressure immediately lifted from the table. Everyone sat back and sighed.

“You think he’s really changed?” Sam asked.

Dean shrugged. “Maybe.”

“That’s more the John I know,” Bobby said quietly. “When your mother was alive, you couldn’t have asked for a better guy. It ain’t an excuse, but her dyin’ messed him up. The alcohol just made him worse.” He shrugged.

“Ya know what,” Dean sighed, sipping his beer. “If he stays sober and keeps his opinions to himself…I don’t care. I can’t stay angry at him forever.” He looked at Cas. “I have way more to worry about than Dad.”

“At least he’s trying,” Sam said quietly. “He wasn’t all bad. Just…sucked at parenting.” He looked at Dean with the twinge of a smile. “We have a brother.”

Dean snorted. “We probably have twenty. The guy was a man-whore.”

Sam laughed, Dean laughing too. Dean put his arm around Cas. “He’s family. I guess. You only get one dad.”

“Well, that’s all fine and good,” Gabe grinned. “But if he says one word that has you two frowning?” He snapped his fingers menacingly.

Castiel grinned. “Agreed.” John’s return made Castiel nervous. But not nearly as nervous as it would have made him a few months ago. He and Dean had grown a lot over the past months. As odd as their lives were, what they had seemed to be the most solid thing Castiel had ever known.

 

****

 

They got back to the hotel late. The dogs needed walked, so Cas and Dean headed back out into the night. They walked several blocks, letting them get some energy out. As they neared the side entrance to the hotel, they found Bobby putting a box in the Impala.

“Hey,” Bobby called. He met them by the door, petting Rumsfeld as he whined and howled softly.

Bobby stood back up. “You boys alright?”

“Yeah,” Cas grinned, looking at Dean.

The ease at which Cas glanced at him, that sweet smile and the way he reached for Dean so naturally, stirred something in Dean. He put an arm around Cas’ shoulders, leaning his head to touch Cas’. “Yeah. I’m alright,” he answered finally.

Bobby took the leash from Dean, Rumsfeld sitting on Bobby’s foot and leaning into him. He patted his big head. “I know your dad means well,” Bobby started.

“My God,” Dean laughed. Bobby had stopped talking. Dean shook his head, stepping away from Cas. “How many times have you said that, Bobby?” He blew a breath out. “Your dad means well,” Dean repeated, shaking his head.

Bobby nodded.

“I mean, does he just think he can say ‘sorry’ and move back into my life? Boss me around? Tell me what an idiot I am when he slips up and forgets to be nice?” Dean shook his head. “I can’t do it. Not right now. Maybe…I don’t know…some time.”

Bobby took his hat off, scrubbed a hand through his hair and put it back on. “Dean, if you want him to leave, then tell him. If you want to patch things up, then do that. It ain’t up no one but you. And Sam.” He gave Dean a pointed look. “I know I came between your dad and you plenty of times when he was wrong. But I wouldn’t ever come between you and him. You get me?”

Dean nodded. “I know, Bobby. I know.” He hugged him, slapping him on the back and stepped back.

“I need to talk to Sam,” Dean said quietly. Cas looked a bit surprised when Dean reached for his hand.

They went inside, heading straight for Sam and Gabe’s room.

“Do you…want some privacy?” Cas asked as Dean lifted a hand to knock on the door.

Dean pulled his hand back, taking Castiel’s face in his hands. “You are my privacy, Cas.”

Castiel kissed him, reveling in the way Dean pulled him flush against him. “I love you,” he whispered into Dean’s ear, hugging him tight.

“I know,” Dean grinned, kissing him. “I love you. Like, insanely, Cas.” He kissed Cas again, hungrily, delving into his mouth like it were home. He could curl up inside Castiel’s chest and stay there forever.

Breathing hard, he pulled back, resting his forehead to Cas’. Cas squeezed his sides with a loving grin and those blue eyes reaching right into his soul.

“I…” Dean admitted shakily, “I never knew it could be like this Cas. So…good. So…”

Cas cupped Dean’s face in his hands, his eyes firmly gripping him to his very soul. “It is. God, I love you so much it…scares me. I need you, Dean. I…I would do anything to make this work.”

Dean grinned, kissing him. “It’s working, Cas. Trust me. It’s about the only thing that I know right now is absolutely right. Whatever happens with the house…my dad…our lives. This,” he kissed him, “this is…perfect.”

With that bit of clarity shining through. He kissed him one last time and took a deep breath, stepping back to knock on the door.

Gabe opened the door with a grin. “Dean-O! Cassie! Come on in?” Buddy ran past him, jumping up on the bed to lick Sam’s face, making him laugh and push the dog down to lay beside him on the bed.

Thankfully, the bed was made and they had not caught the pair naked.

They sat down in the chairs by the small table, Gabe sitting on the dresser. “What’s up?”

Dean sighed a bit, going from his friendly greeting face to the heavy truth of why he was here. “I’m gonna ask Dad to leave.”

Sam, petting Buddy’s silky fur, nodded.

“If you want to-“ Dean started.

Sam cut him off, sliding to the edge of the bed. “He needs to go. I can’t take it right now. I already had Lucifer crawling around in my head. Dad being here is just…I can’t.” Sam looked exhausted.

Dean nodded. “As long as we agree.”

Sam nodded. “I’ll call him to come over.” He slid a thumb over his cell phone, calling. “Hey. Can you come over to Gabe’s room?”

He hung up. “He’s coming.”

They waited, nervously until there was a knock. Gabe jumped up to get the door. “Hello, John.”

“Hey.” John walked into the room, standing there. “What did you need?”

Dean stood up, looking tense. “We need you to go.”

John nodded. “I figured.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Too little, too late?”

“Yeah,” Sam said, getting to his feet. “Look, Dad, we appreciate you trying to fix things. And maybe someday that will be possible. But…you did a lot of damage over the years. That doesn’t just…go away.”

John nodded. “For what it’s worth, I am sorry.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a quick look.

“So, what are you going to do?” Dean asked his dad.

John shrugged his shoulders. “Go back home. Try to…be a decent dad to Adam while I can, I guess.”

Dean wanted to say a slew of horrible things to his dad. His jealousy for a kid, a brother, he never met, was clogging his throat and fuming in his mind. But he cleared his throat. “You do that, Dad. And if you ever lay a hand on him…you can forget any kind of forgiveness. I already have Adam’s number. I will be calling him.”

John nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Go. Be a decent dad. Take care of your family. I already have plenty of family of my own,” Dean said tightly.

John nodded. “Let me know how things go with the house?”

Sam nodded.

“Good luck. Cas, Gabe, it was nice meeting you.”

Cas and Gabe gave him a less than warm nod. Dean could tell that Cas wanted to say a lot more. Gabe too. But both held their tongues.

John took a few steps closer to Dean. “I’m so proud of you, son. I never told you. But I think it everyday.” He hugged Dean with an awkward pat to the back, Dean returning it stiffly.

He stepped over to Sam. “I’m proud of you too, Sam. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.” They hugged, stiff, but a bit easier than he and Dean.

He did not reach to pet Buddy, who sat up on the bed watching him carefully. John left without another word.

They all stared at the closed door. “I don’t ever want to be like him,” Dean said quietly.

“You are nothing like him,” Sam frowned, grabbing his shoulder.

“I know,” Dean shrugged. Sam did not let go, staring at him. Dean lifted his chin, meeting Sam’s eyes. “I know.”

Sam squeezed his shoulder, pulling him into a hug. “We never needed him, Dean. We’re better now than we ever have been.”

“We are,” Dean grinned, the pair pulling apart. “We got more family than I know what to do with.”

Gabe jogged over, wrapping his arms around Dean’s shoulders and planted a loud, wet kiss on his cheek. “Are you calling me family?”

Dean laughed, shoving him off and into Sam. “Yes, Gabe!” He laughed. “You don’t gotta get all huggy-bear on me though!”

“You hear that, Samba?” Gabe grinned up at Sam, “Deanie-weenie looooves me.”

“Everybody loves you, Gabe,” Sam grinned, kissing him. “Me most of all.”

“Aaaannd we’re leaving,” Dean laughed, Buddy and Cas jumping up.

 

Castiel learned several things that night.

1. Dean was more flexible than either of them realized.
2. Dean Winchester was madly in love with Castiel. And Castiel felt the same way.
3. Hotel staff will call you at any hour to tell you, you are being…too loud.
4. Dean was ticklish under his armpits. Cas found it absolutely enticing to pin him down and tickle him senseless.

 

*****

 

The next day, they pulled up to the house at 11:45. John was gone. And Dean felt good about parting on decent terms. It was an odd feeling to know where his dad was. That he was safe. Happy even. And that he was trying to make amends. It was more settling than he realized it would be. The fact that his dad was proud of him and Sam shouldn’t matter. But it satisfied him deep down. And with the way Castiel had thoroughly loved him and made love to him last night, he felt remarkably light for what they were about to walk into.

Castiel hopped out of the truck and pulled his box of research out.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Dean asked, leaning over his shoulder.

“There was a picture in here…” Castiel rifled through the papers. “Here! Look.” It was the old photo of two women sitting on a couch.

“My God! That’s Ruth!” Dean said, stepping back.

“I believe that is Rowena.” They stared at the picture. She looked exactly the same. Even the way she sat.

“You don’t think,” Dean stood back.

“What?” Cas asked.

“You don’t think Lucifer found a way to stay young, do you?”

Castiel shrugged. “A year ago I would have told you no. Now? Now I’ve been attacked by ghosts, I’m working with a witch, and my home was host to demon creating.”

Gabe took the picture, he and Sam joining them. “That’s fuckin’ crazy,” Gabe said quietly.

“Is Ruth really Rowena?” Sam asked incredulous. “Because that would make her…165 years old. Dude. Come on.”

“Crowley would know. Let’s ask him,” Castiel suggested.

“Let’s not ask too many questions until he gets us through the house,” Dean warned.

Castiel had to agree with that. They needed him.

“I wanna know why they both have accents, when they both grew up right here in Americana, USA,” Gabe said.

“Me too,” Sam nodded.

“Maybe they owned the house but spent a lot of time overseas?” Castiel shrugged.

“Maybe,” Dean said quietly, watching a sleek black car drive up the driveway. “I wonder a lot of things about him and ‘Mother’.”

Crowley got out of the car with that grin already tugging one corner of his mouth. “Hello, boys.”

“Crowley,” Dean and Sam said in return.

Crowley studied the front of the house. “Shall we?”

“What exactly did you need to acquire?” Dean asked.

“Ah,” Crowley pulled his suit jacket open, pulling out four necklaces with tied pouches on them. “One for everyone.”

“What the hell is this?” Dean scoffed, taking one and looking at it like it might bite him.

“It’s a protection charm. A hexbag, Squirrel,” Crowley snipped. “Just put it on.”

Dean glared at him but put it around his neck, as did the others.

“Nice doing business with you, Crowley,” Dean smirked. “We’ll let you know when we find something.”

“Oh, I’m coming along,” he grinned. “I still have one thing you haven’t got.”

“Yeah? What’s that?” Sam interjected, looking like he wouldn’t believe anything the man said.

“I have the combination. To the safe.” He tapped his head with a knowing grin. “I suppose you thought you could just rip it open, Moose.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Fine. I don’t know why you want in here so bad anyway.”

“I have my reasons. Now. Shall we?” Crowley grinned.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18 Hex Bags, Combinations, and a Little Latin

 

“Why do you have the combination to the safe in my house?” Cas asked.

Crowley rolled his eyes. “If you haven’t put two and two together yet, Rowena put Lucifer in a cage. She knew things. They were…partners of sorts.” He followed them through the door to the foyer.

The first thing Dean noticed was the frigid temperature inside. He could see his breath. That made no sense, since it was July and hot outside. The second thing he noticed was how eerily quiet it was. He was glad they had gotten rid of all the old TB hospital cots. At least the ballroom was still empty.

Gabe held firmly onto Sam’s hand, insisting that bodily contact would help Sam fight off Lucifer. He doubted there was any merit to it, but he quickly grabbed Cas’ hand. Just in case.

“What’s in these hex bags, Crowley?” Dean asked, heading through the hallway. “They smell like ass.”

“You’ll be thanking me for those little trinkets,” Crowley smirked.

“Let’s just get in and get out,” Cas grumbled. “It’s freezing in here.”

They headed into the bathroom with the door to the basement in it. Cas unlocked the door and they headed downstairs, each one carrying an LED lantern.

Cas flipped the light switch, but the lights kept flickering.

They went down the stairs and into the first large room. There were boxes, crates, equipment and other weird contraptions to shove around and move. No one found a safe.

“Are you sure it’s down here?” Gabe asked, hanging onto one of Sam’s belt loops while he muscled several crates back into place one-armed.”

“Oh, I’m sure,” Crowley nodded.

They moved into the second room, which had rooms on either side. Cas and Dean came across one of the machines pictured in the book Dean had researched. They pushed it back into place and kept digging.

“It’s probably behind some secret freaking door.” Dean glared at the walls. He hated the basement. It brought back memories of Cas getting hurt.

They went through several small rooms that were used as prison cells. One of them had racks of boxes, all of them with carvings on them. “What language is this?” Dean asked, wiping a layer of thick dust off of one.

Crowley glanced at it. “Latin.”

Dean gave him a curious look. “You read Latin?”

Crowley shrugged. “Says, ‘do not open’, ‘beware’, ‘do not open’.” Crowley walked away from them.

Dean gave Cas an incredulous look. “Do not open? Well, that just makes me want to pry it open.”

“How about, no,” Gabe swatted his hand away. “We have enough shit going on.”

“I’m not opening anything. This mess is all my fault for opening a door,” Cas said quietly.

Dean put an arm around him. The lights flickered violently. They heard a door slam somewhere in the basement. They all exchanged nervous glances.

“I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear that,” Sam said tightly. Gabe took his hand again.

“I really don’t want to go in that white room again,” Cas said quietly. “Do you think it’s in there?”

“I don’t know,” Dean frowned. He didn’t want to go in there either.

They got to the last room, the small one with shelves on every wall. Dean pulled on all of them, pulling on the dreaded one last. It opened to the white room.

“What the hell is this?” Sam asked, going in, Gabe swatting maniacally at a mess of cobwebs he had stepped into.

“Cas thinks it was a morgue.” Dean secured his grip on Cas’ hand.

The five of them went down the metal staircase and into the strange white, tiled round room. There was only one door at the bottom.

“That’s just fucking disturbing,” Gabe grimaced, looking at the large drain in the center of the floor.

The door at the top of the steps slammed shut.

“Fuck,” Dean huffed, clenching Cas’ hand tightly. “This might have been a really stupid idea.”

“Can we move this little field trip along,” Crowley complained, waiting by the door.

“If we aren’t topside in an hour, Bobby has instructions to bring a wrecking crew to get us out,” Dean reminded the group. With that tiny bit of encouragement, they moved to the final door.

The lights flickered violently and a faucet on the wall began to drip.

“This was a bad idea,” Gabe whined.

Dean turned the knob to the door. It wouldn’t budge. It felt more than locked. It felt frozen. “We might have a problem.”

He glanced to the side, looking as the others all flattened against the wall. He turned further. Standing in the middle of the room was Lucifer. Pale, slightly transparent, and wearing a devilish grin.

They all stared in shock, frozen in fear.

“Hello, Crowley.”

Crowley gave the others a nervous grin. “Lucifer.”

“Why are you in my house?” The lights flickered, sparks falling from one like glowing rain. A pop and surge could be heard and the lights went out.

Their lanterns provided a decent amount of light and Lucifer frowned at them. The door at the top of the stairs opened and Cas gasped. “Jackie!”

Lucifer turned, seeing her and blinked out, both ghosts gone.

“Move,” Crowley barked, pushing Dean and Cas aside. He pulled a paintbrush and glass jar out of his suit jacket and quickly painted a symbol on the door.

Dean held his lantern close to the symbol. “Is that blood, Crowley?”

“No, it’s ketchup,” he rolled his eyes. “Of course it’s blood.”

The door clicked open and Crowley pushed it further.

“What kind of blood?” Gabe asked, starting to look rather scared. “Is that your Mother’s blood?”

“Just be happy it’s not yours,” Crowley smirked, walking into the storage room. “Stay at the door, Moose, so Lucifer can’t shut us in.”

Sam, looking slightly bewildered, stood still with his back against the door while Dean and Cas followed Crowley inside.

Splintered wood and bricks still lay in a pile off to the left where Cas had fallen through.

They searched the walls with their lights.

“Guys!” Sam yelled.

Dean looked over and saw Lucifer standing toe to toe with Sam in the doorway.

“Find it!” Crowley growled. “Find that bloody safe!”

“There!” Cas yelled.

In the corner stood an old fashioned black safe. It was taller than Dean with a huge wheel on the front.

“Open it!” Dean yelled. Cas, Dean and Crowley ran to it.

“He-he can’t touch me!” Sam yelled. Lucifer had tried to do something to him.

Above them, in the big living room, Cas shivered at the sound of something rolling around. “It’s Jackie on the tricycle.”

Lucifer blinked out and Sam sagged against the door, Gabe still clutching him tightly.

“We need to go! Like fucking yesterday!” Gabe yelled.

Crowley turned the wheel the final direction and pulled. Dust puffed out as the giant door swung open heavily.

Cas pulled out a bag. Crowley darted for a thick red, leather book, clutching it with a grin. Dean and Cas shoved their way in, grabbing everything inside the safe and dumping it into the bag. There were bags of coins, stacks of money, piles of books and several boxes.

Dean jumped back as Lucifer began pushing on the door to the safe.

Cas, caught in the closing door, groaned as it slammed into him with a thud. Dean quickly grabbed it and shoved it back. Cas grabbed a last stack of papers, shoving them in the bag.

“We gotta go!” Sam yelled.

Cas grabbed the bag, clutching it to his chest as Dean ran him out of the room.

Everyone back in the white tiled room, Sam stepped away from the door as it slammed, vibrating loudly.

“I think we really pissed him off!” Sam yelled.

“Run!” Cas yelled, everyone following him up the metal stairs to the door.

He pulled on the door and it gave, much to Dean’s relief. Back through the storage room, they all ducked with arms up in defense as cans and tools went flying.

“Your hex bags aren’t helping!” Dean yelled, taking a paint can to the forearm.

“Well, you aren’t possessed, so consider yourself protected!” Crowley yelled.

They ran through the chain of rooms, stopping to shove boxes and equipment out of the way. Everything shook and a loud groaning roar surrounded them.

They skidded to a halt at the foot of the stairs. Jackie stood at the door at the top of the stairs. She blinked in and out a few times.

Cas, in the lead of their line, hesitated. “Please, let us through!” He yelled.

She giggled and laughed as she stepped back. The door slammed shut without her touching it.

Lucifer flickered back into sight right behind Sam, who was in the rear of the pack.

“Time to go to sleep,” Lucifer grinned maliciously, grabbing at Sam but hissing as he stepped back, hurt just by touching Sam.

Sam grabbed an old poker leaning against the nearest shelf and swung it, slicing through Lucifer, disintegrating him.

“What’d you do?” Dean asked, shocked.

“I don’t know!” Sam shrugged, handing the poker to Cas.

Cas charged up the steps, everyone on his heels. He barged through the door swiping at Jackie. She shrieked, disintegrating.

Cas handed the poker to Dean, since his hands were already full with the heavy bag.

Dean took it, taking Cas by the elbow as they all ran through the hall. Lights flickered, the floor shook, pictures vibrated off the walls, and Lucifer popped up in front of them at the entrance to the foyer, looking more pissed than ever.

Dean swung the poker, cutting him, fading to bits.

They ran through the foyer, the front door slamming open and shut. Dean caught the door, wrenching it open as they all spilled out onto the porch, tripping down the steps not stopping until they were by their cars.

Everyone stopped, huffing and puffing to catch their breath. The front door opened. They could see Lucifer standing there glaring. The tricycle went across the foyer behind him with a sickening child’s laugh echoing out.

“Stay out,” Lucifer hissed. The door slammed shut.

Shaken and hardly feeling safe so close to the house, they all exchanged looks.

Crowley opened the door to his car. “Pleasure doing business with you boys!” He jumped in the car and took off.

They exchanged worried looks and got in the Impala without another word.

Dean watched the house in the rearview mirror. “Holy shit,” he sighed.

“Did you see what the poker did?” Sam asked, leaning forward from the back seat. “That’s what those Ghostfacer guys did. Except he came right back!”

“Yeah. We saw,” Dean nodded.

Everyone sagged in their seats as Dean drove back to the hotel. Crowley was gone. He mentally kicked himself for letting him grab that book and get away. That book had the answers to trapping Lucifer again. Even if Ruth had promised to help them, they had no guarantees.

 

****

 

Castiel’s hands shook as he sat the heavy bag on the dresser in their hotel room. He was cold to the bone. And shaken to the core. The hateful look on Jackie’s face haunted him. He thought she was helping them at first, but it seemed she was just as evil as Lucifer.

Buddy sniffed it with disdain, sneezing and walking away to lay down.
Cas stepped away from the bag and looked at Dean. Dean pulled him into a tight hug. His hands gripped him firmly, as if double checking he were indeed right here with him.

Eventually they stepped apart. “That was the most fucked up thing I’ve ever witnessed,” Dean muttered, sitting heavily on the bed.

“It was…terrifying,” Cas agreed. He pulled the stinky hex bag off from around his neck and tossed it onto the dresser. Dean looked down at his own, doing the same.

“That witch crap gives me the creeps,” Dean complained.

“Mm,” Cas agreed. “It did seem to provide us with some protection.”

“Yeah, well, next time I’ll wear hockey gear to block the flying paint cans.”

“Next time?” Cas turned, looking at him in horror. “Dean, we can’t ever go back there.”

Dean had his sleeve pulled up. A big bruise was already forming on his forearm, another on his forehead. He looked up at Cas, his green eyes alight with promise. “I told you I would fight for the house, Cas. We have to fight. Otherwise, Lucifer wins. And that bastard is leaving. That house is ours.”

More than one word in that declaration tugged at his heart. He nodded. “You’re right. It is ours.” He sat heavily next to him. “How the hell do we fight?”

Dean sighed. “I don’t know yet. But Crowley seems to know what he’s doing. And Ruth. I just wish he hadn’t gotten away with that book. It might have the answers to our problems.”

Dean was right. The MacLeod’s seemed to have a lot better understanding than they did of what had happened and what was happening in Kripke Manor.

“I can’t think about it anymore tonight,” Dean declared, shaking his head. “And I need a shower to wash off that skanky witch smell.”

Cas grinned. Only Dean could manage to capture the events in such a way. “Let’s get a shower then.”

They shucked their close and ran a hot shower, both stepping in. They shampooed and washed. The hot spray of water taking the chill out of their bones.

As Dean rinsed, soap sliding down his body, Cas ran his hands down his silky smooth skin, rubbing the soap away. He groaned with a grin.

He kissed his freckled shoulder, sliding his hands around to his abdomen.

“Mmmm,” Dean moaned softly. He turned, kissing him and pressing him against the cool tile wall. “I’m done showering.”

Cas chuckled softly as he shut the water off. They toweled dry quickly, getting into bed.

Cas, hair sticking up in every direction, settled onto his back, Dean climbing over him with a smug grin.

Castiel ran his hands down Dean’s back and back up, pulling him to his mouth to kiss him. Here in the normalcy of the hotel, he needed to let go of what they had survived today.

Dean started prepping him with practiced familiarity. By now, they knew each other’s bodies. Every inch.

Castiel sat up, pushing Dean up with him. He was ready. And impatient. He flipped Dean onto his back, making him chuckle. “So feisty,” Dean grinned.

Castiel grinned back, rubbing lube down Dean’s cock like with a twist. He straddled him, taking him in with a slow, steady weight, sitting fully.

He lifted and dropped with a moan, Dean clutching his hips.

He kept a steady, solid pace until Dean’s hands moved to his dick. Cas groaned, Dean moaning in return. For several minutes they rocked and stroked.

Castiel’s eyes flew open when Dean sat up, sliding them both to the side of the bed. He loved that Dean could manhandle him.

Dean pulled out, making Cas gasp. Dean got to knees and crawled off the bed, pulling Cas to the edge, lifting his legs to his chest. He put himself back in and set a pace Cas could only hang on for.

“Uuuhhhgg,” Cas cried out, spiraling heat and grinding against Dean for the pressure building inside him.

Castiel clutched at Dean’s arms that were pulling him into him.

“Go on,” Dean growled, “Jack yourself off. I wanna see.”

Castiel gasped, grabbing his own cock and stroking in time with Dean’s thrusts. Three strokes and Castiel was gone, an orgasm slamming him so hard he shuttered. Dean rocked into him hard and came with a growling groan. He leaned over, riding out the waves of bliss as Cas gasped and moaned at the sensation.

Tired and happy, Cas lay boneless on the bed. Dean pulled out, leaning down to kiss him. Cas kissed back, barely able to keep up. His motor functions were running in slow motion. Dean stood up, grabbing a hand towel and clean them both up.

He prompted Cas to move, getting him under the covers and slid in to hold him tight. It was only early evening, but Castiel was exhausted. He lay wrapped in Dean’s warm arms in a blissful peace.

“I love you,” Dean said, kissing the top of his head.

“I love you more,” Cas grinned, kissing his chest.

“That’s not possible,” Dean chuckled.

“Can we just stay in bed the rest of the day? Forget the rest of the world. Order pizza. Watch stupid TV?”

Dean squeezed him in a hug. “That sounds perfect.”

They dozed off and stayed cuddled up for an hour. After that, Dean was up and moving around the room. He grabbed his phone and the remote to the TV. He ordered a pizza and settled back in bed with Cas. They flipped channels, settling for American Ninja Warrior.

“Is it a requirement that you have a sob story to compete in this thing?” Dean asked, sighing.

“Makes for good TV, I suppose.”

“I bet I could I get through that course.”

Castiel grinned. “I’m sure you could. You’re pretty hot too. The camera would love you.”

Dean laughed at that.

They both groaned when there was a knock on the door.

“Just a minute,” Dean yelled, getting up and putting on pajama pants. He tossed Cas a pair and waited for him to shimmy into them, throwing the covers back over himself. He didn’t want to get up.

Dean opened the door, Buddy trotting over to see who it was. “Oh. Hey.”

Cas looked curiously at Dean’s back, not able to see who was there.

“Just thought I’d see how it went today.”

Castiel recognized Garth’s voice. He sat up, waving as Garth came in with a grin. “Hey, Cas! We were all just wondering how things went. None of us went back to Kansas.”

Belatedly noticing they were both half dressed, Garth giggled. “Want me to come back later?”

“No,” Dean and Cas answered.

“We’re just beat from this afternoon,” Dean answered, rubbing a hand back through his hair.

Garth sat down in the chair and Dean pulled two t-shirts out of a drawer, tossing one to Cas. It was one of Dean’s. Cas put it on with a grin, scooting up in the bed to sit against the headboard.

Dean pulled a plain black t-shirt on and sat back down next to Cas. “It was…insane,” Dean answered, staring at the bag on the dresser.

“Did you get what you needed?” Garth asked. “We all want to help, if there’s anything we can do.”

“I don’t know. I think that punk, Crowley, ran off with the one book we really needed,” Dean answered.

Between the two of them, they recounted the bizarre tale. Garth looking shocked. “Golly,” he kept saying.

“What are you going to do?” He asked.

“Fight it. Somehow. Figure out how to get rid of Lucifer for good,” Dean answered confidently.

Garth nodded. “Well, if there’s anything we can do, just let me know.”

Another knock sounded on the door.

Dean answered it, paying for the pizza. Cas got up to pull some drinks out of the small fridge and feed Buddy. Garth stayed, eating a slice and hearing more about the Ghostfacers attempt and failure to help.

Another knock sounded at the door. Castiel got up this time. He opened the door, seeing Bobby and Rumsfeld. “Hey. Just wanted to see how you two were doin’.”

“Come on in,” Cas waved, stepping back.

Bobby and Garth exchanged hellos and Dean and Cas told him about getting to the safe and getting out. The pizza was gone and Dean called for a second one.

Another knock on the door brought Sam and Gabe. Then Charlie showed up, wanting to hear about how it had gone. The second pizza came and was eaten just as quickly.

Charlie, Cas, and Dean were sitting together leaning against the headboard while Sam and Gabe sat on the bed. Bobby and Garth sat in the chairs, the pizza boxes stacked on the table.

“One more slice,” Garth grinned, holding up a floppy triangle.

“I’ll take it,” Cas called, getting up and taking the slice. He sat back down, Dean taking it and taking a bite.

“Hey!” Cas laughed, snatching it back, stringing cheese and grease all over Dean’s chin.

“Mmm,” Dean grinned, proud of his stolen bite.

“Thief!” Cas laughed, kissing him.

Dean grinned, putting an arm around Cas while he finished his slice.

Rufus and Benny showed up, complaining there was no pizza. Benny called Ash, who showed up a few minutes later with beer. Gabe recounted the entire tale again for them.

Castiel leaned his head onto Dean’s shoulder. He loved that the group was all coming together. This was the family Dean had been talking about. Not just a pair of brothers. All these amazing people. All ten of them crowded into one little hotel room. Happy. Supportive. It was more than Cas had ever had.

“So,” Gabe asked, “What’s in the bag? What was in that safe?”

Castiel got up, bringing the bag back to the bed. “I don’t really know. I was just shoving everything in. He unzipped the duffel, pulling out a wad of papers, handing them to Gabe. He took them, sitting up to look at them closer. He pulled a thin leather bound book out.

“Hunters Journal,” Cas read the first page aloud. “There’s a five on it.” He handed it to Dean, who began looking through it.

He pulled more journals out, handing one to Charlie, Bobby, Benny, Rufus, Ash, and Garth. Sam took the two small boxes.

“This journal was written by E. Kripke,” Dean said.

“Mine too,” the others answered.

Sam opened the first box. “This has really old baby shoes and hair clippings in it.”

“Ew,” Gabe pulled away. “Why did those freaks have an obsession with keeping hair?”

“That was pretty common, back in the day,” Bobby answered without looking up from the book he was starting to read.

Sam closed the box, putting it back in the bag.

“Holy shit!” Gabe shouted. “Here’s the paperwork changing Lucas’ name to Lucifer. Ruth was right. And this is the deed, redone from Lucas to Lucifer.”

Castiel nodded. He had a journal in his hand from Lucifer. It described his ‘new life’ as Lucifer. His obsessive love for Kelly. And a disturbing, spiraling series of accounts that Lucifer had gone from finding souls, to experimenting with them, to collecting them, and turning people’s souls into demons. His ‘greatest accomplishments’ were collecting souls to extend his life and the seven demons he successfully created. His most loyal, Meg Masters. Castiel remembered the name from the letters and the ledger. What became of the seven demons was not mentioned, giving Castiel chills.

One section spoke about how he wanted to collect Kelly and Jackie’s souls. How they resisted and how they ‘failed the procedure’.

“I think I know how to kill a ghost,” Dean said, lowering his book. “The Kripke’s have a whole how-to kill guide to hunting and killing ghosts right here.”

“If this is supposed to be real,” Benny added, “I can kill a wendigo and a…wraith.”

“I got djinns and vampires,” Bobby nodded.

“Shapeshifters,” Rufus added.

“Lamia, Banshees, and Okami,” Ash added, already pecking away on his laptop.

“What?” Sam asked, taking a journal out of the bag. He flipped through it. “This one’s about witches and werewolves. But these are just books. He was an author.”

“No, we have Kripke’s books he published in the library,” Castiel said, looking at the book Dean was reading. “These are different. They’re hand written too.”

“Yeah, iron and salt hurt ghosts,” Dean clarified, “but that’s not how you vanquish them. You gotta find what’s left of them here and salt and burn it.”

“We are going to end up burning that damn place down, aren’t we,” Gabe sighed.

“No,” Castiel said. “We’re going to vanquish Lucifer. And Jackie.”

“I have the first journal,” Charlie said excitedly. “It’s about the Kripke family. He says they are Hunters. That there are people out there hunting all these monsters. And they got called into Lucifer’s house by Rowena MacLeod! She worked with them to trap him. Once Lucifer was caged, they stayed at the house, using it as a safe haven for hunters. Like, monster hunters. They ran some businesses out of the first floor to make money, but first and foremost, they were hunters. Kripke Manor was named that so hunters knew where to go.” She stopped to read more. “Ooohhh, Cas, Gabe, the author of these and the Novak family were related. It’s how Lucas got into black magic. The Novak’s were hunters too.”

“Wow,” Gabe said, stunned. He looked at Cas. “See, our family isn’t all bad.”

It was all starting to make sense. If he could believe it. And after what they had been through today, he had no other alternative.

 

They learned a lot that night.

1. Silver kills or injures Djinn, Fairies, Lamia, Pishtaco, Shapeshifters, Skinwalkers, and Werewolves.
2. Demons smelled like sulfur and could possess you, unless you had an anti-possession tattoo.
3. They needed tattoos.
4. They needed a shit-ton of salt.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19 Dealers, Painters, and Fry Cooks

 

Construction planning began on the stable. It had been stripped to the stone foundation. The stone was cleaned and brought back to their stately grandeur. Garth was improving the plumbing, Charlie running electricity to it, Rufus, Benny and Bobby were heading the construction of the top of the stable and the apartment above what would be a small indoor arena, state of the art tack room, and storage. Alfie had promised help if they decided to get horses. While that group planned and got the needed permits, the Winchesters and Novaks focused on getting back into the house.

It had been several days since their adventures with Crowley. They had decided to go back for a visit to see what they could do next.

Dean banged the ridiculously evil looking dog head, rolling his eyes. They all stood waiting.

Dean banged again.

The door finally opened, Crowley standing there. “You summoned me?” He asked tersely.

“Yeah. We need to talk. Let us in,” Dean groused back.

Crowley pushed the door. It creaked open wide to the marble foyer.

They all came inside, Gabriel shutting the door as Crowley led them to the dining room. It was a large room with huge windows, though it still seemed gloomy. A huge mahogany table that could seat ten comfortably, took up the majority of the room. Ruth sat primly at the end of the table, hands on the arms of the chair, head up and eyes closed.

Dean curled his lip. What the fuck?

Cas glanced at him, then Crowley. “Is your mother…sleeping?”

All eyes on Crowley now, he grinned. “Not exactly.” He pulled the red leather journal out of his suit jacket, laying it on the table. “She’s…waiting.”

“Waiting for what?” Gabe asked, leaning toward her with a fascinated stare.

“Waiting for me to let her move,” Crowley grinned wider.

They all looked from Ruth to Crowley with slack jaws and wide eyes. Maybe this had been a huge mistake.

“She came for dinner, after our little escapade next door,” Crowley explained, taking the seat at the head of the table, “she began her tireless dribble about what she would do to me once she had this.” He slid the book on the table closer to himself. “So I made her be still. And quiet,” he practically growled, glaring at her.

They took seats at Crowley’s end of the table, except Sam, who walked down to feel for a pulse. “She’s alive.”

“Of course she’s alive!” Crowley scowled. “What exactly is it you want? I’m busy.”

Dean glanced around the dining room, into the foyer and the silent sitting room. It seemed nothing moved in this house. What the hell was he so busy doing?

“Did you put a spell on her?” Sam asked incredulous, sitting next to Gabe.

Crowley looked at him blankly. “Quick one, aren’t you, Moose?”

Sam pursed his lips in a frown.

“You said you would help us with Lucifer,” Cas said pointedly. “How exactly can you help us?”

Crowley sat back, hands on the edge of the table. “Lucifer is not the real Lucifer. He was just a man. A mad man, yes, but just a man. He’s nothing more than a very powerful ghost.”

Dean hoped to God that was true. Because he just might know how to handle that.

“As well as Jackie,” Crowley added, getting up. He walked over to a cabinet in the corner, taking out two jars. He sat them on the table with a thud.

“Is that blood again?” Gabe asked, scrunching his nose in disgust.

“It is.” Crowley grinned, pulling out paper and a pen. “This is the symbol to paint on a door if it gets sealed.” He drew the symbol he had drawn on the door in the basement.

“You aren’t coming with us?” Dean asked, studying the symbol.

“While that sounds thrilling, as I said before…I’m busy.”

Dean leaned forward, “Listen here, Crowley. You are coming.”

Crowley grinned back at him. “I know we’re mates and all now, Squirrel, but you can fix this on your own.”

Dean frowned back. “We are NOT mates.”

“What about the cage Lucifer was in?” Cas asked. “The priest said it was a gateway.”

Crowley rested his chin on his fist, thinking. His eyes drifted to his statuesque mother. A look of frustration crossed his face and he snapped his fingers.

Ruth opened her eyes with a start, looking at all of them. “Wha- what did you do Fergus!” She yelled, nothing moving but her head.

“I read your book, Mother.”

“Uh!” She gasped. “You let me go right this instant!”

Crowley drew a line across his mouth and hers snapped shut. Her head still moved, her eyes bulging in anger, but nothing came out of her mouth.

“Speak when you’re spoken to, Mother,” he grinned.

She rolled her eyes, then squeezed them closed in a glare.

Cas looked at Dean with some shock. The fact that Crowley was so skilled with spells was not encouraging. In fact, it could be a major problem.

“We have guests, Mother. Now, they want to know what they need to do to close Lucifer’s door. Be a good poppet and answer them.” He waved a finger again.

She made an indignant face, still glaring at him. “The door can not be just shut. It requires spellwork. Not all of it is in the grimoire. And you’ll need the witch that made the seal if you truly want it closed.”

“Well, lucky for us, you’re right here,” Gabe grinned. “Rowena.”

She laughed, frowning. “Don’t be absurd,” she scoffed.

Castiel pulled the photo of her out, walking it down to the end of the table for her to see. “You are Rowena. Aren’t you?”

She looked at the picture. “We do look a wee bit alike, but-“

“Stop lying,” Cas said quietly by her ear. “We also have Kripke journals. We know you manipulated Lucifer, stealing his longevity before you sealed him in that cage.”

She looked at him with a cold stare. “He was a mad man.”

Cas stood up, walking back to his seat. “I rest my case.”

“He was creating demons!” She yelled. “He was teetering on the brink of becoming one himself! He had to be stopped.”

“So,” Sam looked back at Crowley, “is that how Lucifer knew who you were, Crowley? You worked with him too?”

“I was around,” Crowley admitted, “But my mother was the assistant. I only siphoned longevity from Mother as payment to keep quiet about it all.”

“He killed hundreds of people,” Rowena emphasized. “He had to be stopped. Fergus went behind my back and called the bloody Kripkes, of all people. Working with hunters.” She rolled her eyes in disgust. “I was shunned by my own coven because of him!”

Crowley rolled his eyes now. “They put him away, didn’t they?”

“With MY help! MY blood!”

“Alright,” Dean snapped. “Save your family issues for the next millennia. We need help now.”

“What spells do we need, Mother?” Crowley sighed.

She tipped her small chin up, closing her eyes. “I suppose you’ll just have to take me with you.”

Crowley glared at Dean. “Happy? We all get to come.”

“The whole Scooby gang,” Gabe said, shaking his head.

“It needs to be done soon,” Rowena said with a sigh. “The longer you wait, the stronger he becomes.”

“If anyone of us gets hurt,” Dean threatened, leaning toward Crowley again, “I have a few Kripke secrets to send your ass directly to hell.”

“Touching,” Crowley growled. “I’ll need to make more hex bags. And what will you need, Mother?”

“The use of my body, for one,” she snapped. “Don’t mind Fergus.” She sneered, “he only got into witch craft to-“

Crowley snapped his fingers. Her eyes closed with a placid look on her face. Still and quiet.

“One hundred forty-five years of her incessant prattle!” Crowley rasped, his voice going two octaves higher. He schooled his features back to a collected calm. “Wears on a man.”

Dean and Cas only raised their brows at that.

“So,” Crowley went on, looking at all of them, “I help you, you keep my little secret about my long, healthy life.”

So that was the deal. Dean had known one had to be coming. Shrewd little bastard that he was.

“You mean,” Sam clarified, “we just..let you go?”

Crowley grinned. “Precisely. Getting quicker there, Moose.”

“And where will you be going?” Cas asked, his brow furrowed. “How do you keep re-inventing yourself?”

“Thanks to the internet,” Crowley grumbled, “it won’t be easy.”

“And you’ll keep Rowena on a leash?” Dean asked, giving the witch a wary look.

“Leash,” Crowley grinned. “I’ll keep her under control, get the gateway sealed, and you morons can handle the ghost clean up. In return, no hunters, police, or anyone is told about me. Or Mother.”

Dean glanced at Cas. He looked less than enthusiastic about the deal. Sam just looked irritated. Gabe gave him a nod. “Deal,” Dean said.

“Do we need to wait for Father Murphy to return?” Castiel asked. “He went to Rome for help.”

“Bloody priests,” Crowley growled. He thought a moment. “We need that door sealed for good. No more patching it shut.” He looked at his mother. “I’ll make sure it’s sealed for good.” He nodded. “And you can get rid of the visiting Vatican-ites.”

Castiel shrugged. “They haven’t really been around that much.”

Crowley rolled his eyes. “One of them has been working for you since the beginning. One of your laborers, Scott something or other.”

“Scott is a priest?” Castiel asked, shocked.

“Priest. Spying on both our houses.”

Dean and Cas exchanged an uncomfortable glance. Castiel nodded agreement.
“Lovely,” Crowley said smoothly, standing.

They all stood, following Crowley to the front door. “I’ll meet you at the gate to Kripke Manor tomorrow at noon.”

Dean was going to say something smart-assed, but the door was shut so abruptly that he was cut off. He shook his head. Freaking Crowley.

Cas stood there, eyes wide and holding two jars of blood.

“Did you get the symbol too?” Dean asked.

Gabe pulled the paper out.

Dean nodded. “Let’s get the hell outta here.”

 

******

 

Castiel was amazed at how quickly their team could plan a project. Dean and Sam gave final approval of the plans, the others going ahead with ordering equipment and materials.

The painter for the dining room had shown up. Gabe had forgotten to delay him. Cas had forgotten to cancel him coming altogether.

Castiel and Gabe were called to the front desk to meet him. He was a small, soft spoken guy with short brown hair and a neatly, close-trimmed beard. He had a huge, lumbering man with him.

“Nice to meet you!” Gabe greeted him with a hand shake and second glance at the big guy.

“You too,” he grinned nervously, shaking Castiel’s hand as well. “I’m Aaron. Aaron Bass. This is my brother, Lem. He assists me while I’m painting.”

Castiel shook Lem’s huge hand. He had a formal, stiff appearance, but seemed kind.

They went to one of the conference rooms to discuss the mural work he would be doing. “If I could see the dining room, I could plan a little better,” Aaron said, after hearing what Gabe wanted.

“The house is having some pest problems,” Castiel said apologetically. “It’s being…fumigated tomorrow. Hopefully you will be able to get in the next day.”

“Oh,” Aaron nodded, looking at both of them curiously. “I’ll…start planning and we can go from there.”

Gabe gave him a curious look back. “Are you a priest, by chance?”

Aaron looked at him with some surprise. “No. I’m Jewish, actually.”

“Jewish! Perfect!” Gabe stood, patting him on the back. “Just checking. Can’t be too careful these days.”

Aaron stood, looking confused. Castiel just grinned apologetically. “Take tomorrow to plan. We’ll be in touch the following day.”

Aaron nodded, glancing at his brother, who had said nothing and barely moved during the meeting. “Right. Okay.”

Cas and Gabe headed back to their rooms. “I need a drink,” Gabe sighed.

“Roadhouse?” Castiel asked.

“You got it!” Gabe waggled his eyebrows and went into his room.

Castiel unlocked his own door, getting a dancing, wound up Buddy in the face. “Hey!” Castiel laughed, petting him, grabbing his cheeks and shaking him, like he liked. He growled playfully. “Ohhh, big tough guy,” Cas grinned. Buddy promptly ran to Dean, jumping on the bed.

“What?” Dean said, overly surprised to the dog, sitting a book he was reading on the night stand.

Buddy looked at Cas.

“Is someone here?” Dean asked.

Buddy whined, looking at Cas again.

“Oh! It’s Cas!” Dean laughed, watching as the dog jumped his front paws on the bed. “No, I don’t like him,” Dean teased.

Buddy stopped, looking at Dean sharply.

“Nope,” Dean crossed his arms over his chest, looking away from Cas. “I don’t like him.”

Buddy laid down, shoving his nose under Dean’s elbow.

“Nope,” Dean pouted. “He’s stinky.”

Buddy grumbled, shoving his nose harder under Dean’s elbow until he was laughing too hard to pretend any more. “Fine! I like him! He smells good!”

Buddy jumped up again, rooting into Dean until he could lick his ear, making Dean squirm and push him away, laughing.

Castiel grinned at the pair. “Buddy, down,” he laughed. Buddy bounded off the bed, circling him excitedly until Cas pulled a Slim Jim out of his pocket. He gave him a big bite and put the rest back in his pocket.

Buddy laid down, happily wagging his tail. Cas went to the bed, straddling Dean. “What’s this about? You don’t like me, huh?”

Dean grinned, still wiping the side of his face with the corner of the bedspread. “I might kinda like ya.”

“Mm,” Cas grinned, kissing him. “I might kinda like you too.”

Dean hummed with a happy murmur as Cas bent down to kiss him again.

Gabe wants to go to the Roadhouse,” Cas said, sitting up, picking up the book Dean had been looking at.

“Awesome. I’m hungry.”

Buddy barked.

“WE”RE hungry,” Dean corrected.

Ellen let them bring the dogs to the Roadhouse. They had a small yard out back. They were pretty sure she only did it to get Bobby alone, since he always had Rumsfeld.

“Studying for tomorrow?” Cas asked, glancing through the pages about ghosts.

Dean rubbed his hand up Cas’ thigh. “Yeah. I’m hoping Crowley was telling the truth, that Lucifer is just a ghost.”

“A powerful ghost,” Cas frowned, sitting the book down.

“So, if Rowena is a witch,” Dean said, “is Crowley a wizard? A warlock?”

Cas smirked. “You’re confusing reality with Harry Potter again.”

Dean smirked back. “Let’s get some dinner. Muggle.”

 

****

 

They met Charlie, Dorothy, Bobby, and Rufus at the Roadhouse. It was busy and loud, the usual for a Friday night. Jo and Ellen were swamped, all their staff stretched thin to handle the full crowd.

Jo came to the table with their food. She looked frazzled.

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Castiel asked her as she circled their table, sitting plates down.

“Not unless you can run a grill. Or bartend,” she smirked, ponytail bobbing.

“I can do both,” Dean grinned, picking up his burger.

She stopped in her tracks, staring at Dean.

“Me too,” Sam added.

“I’m a wicked bartender,” Gabe grinned. “Cassie too.”

“Are you serious?” She asked almost desperately.

“Yes,” all four said.

“Hurry up and eat!” She waved a hand.

They all dug in, making short work of their meals. They bussed their own table, Rufus and Bobby moving to the bar. Charlie and Dorothy left, seeming awfully friendly, saying they had something else to do.

Dean and Sam got a quick intro to the kitchen in general from Ellen, thanking them profusely and leaving them to sling burgers. The other bartender showed Gabe the ropes and he quickly began filling orders with a grin.

Jo took Cas and gave him an apron. “You can help me wait tables.”

For five hours, they worked like dogs to keep up with crowd. Door locked and music at a softer lull, they gathered at the bar for a drink.

“Heard you guys got a ghost problem,” Ellen grinned.

“More like a full-on crisis,” Gabe sighed.

“Always heard that place was haunted,” she nodded.

“Know anything about the house?” Dean asked, sipping a beer.

“No. Heard it’s huge,” she grinned.

“We’ll have you over sometime. When we can get back in,” Castiel smiled.

“I can’t thank you boys enough for helping us out,” Ellen added.

“Saved our asses,” Jo added, “I was drowning.”

Cas pulled his tips out of his apron, handing them to Jo.

“You earned ‘em,” she laughed, pushing them back. Cas pocketed the money. He would buy Jo something nice with it. She deserved it.

“Looks like those baby blues got you some big tips!” Gabe teased.

Cas winked at him, but Gabe held up his tips, which were quite comparable. “What can I say,” Gabe grinned, “I’m a charmer!”

“Next time you two are staying in the back!” Sam frowned. “All I got were grease stains and bossed around by Dean.”

“I can’t help you’re slow!” Dean bantered.

“All I know is, I owe you big time,” Ellen laughed. “There shouldn’t have to be a next time. We just had two out sick and one cook that had a thing with his son. Normally, we’re fine.”

“Anytime,” Gabe grinned, kissing her cheek and coming around the bar to sit next to Sam.

“Ya know what?” Ellen nodded knowingly, “I’ll cater your wedding for you.”

“Whose wedding?” Cas asked, frowning.

“Whichever pair of you lovebirds gets married first,” she grinned.

“Well, it won’t be Bobby,” Jo piped in, “he’s too slow to actually get off the fence and ask my mom out already.”

“OOOHHH!!” They all laughed, Bobby turning beet red. Rufus howled laughing, slapping his knee.

“Joanna Beth!” Ellen snapped.

Jo dodged her mother’s snapping towel, coming around the bar and hiding behind Dean.

“Don’t hide behind me!” Dean leaned way over onto Cas’ lap.

Cas tipped his chin down, smelling Dean. “God, you smell like hamburger,” he growled, grinning at the red flush on his face.

Jo smacked Dean’s back. “Are you scared of my mom?”

Dean glanced at Ellen. “Yes.”

“Damn straight,” Ellen warned. “Now you boys go on home and get some rest. You worked hard tonight.”

“Yes ma’am,” Cas, Dean, Sam, and Gabe said, hugging her and Jo goodbye.

Castiel went in the back to get Buddy, leaving Rum for Bobby. Maybe tonight Bobby would finally be brave enough to ask her out.

 

****

 

Castiel had learned several things.

1. The smell of hamburger made him…very happy.
2. Bored dogs stuck in hotels will chew your shoes.
3. Hotels will, in fact, fine you for ‘inappropriate noise’.
4. Gabriel had bought a ring.

 

They sat outside the hotel at two tables the next morning. Sam, Dean, and Bobby at one, with all the Kripke journals piled on the table. Right now, they were combing through the ghost section of the fifth journal again. It was already getting hot and sticky outside.

Ash came toward Castiel and Gabe, laptop in hands.

“Morning, Ash,” Castiel grinned.

“Morning.” He sat down, pulling a chair out to talk to both tables. “So, I found some hunters.”

Dean, Sam, and Bobby looked up with surprise. “You found hunters?” Dean repeated.

“Yep. They’re pretty hard to find, actually. But, so far, I found three. They are pretty stoked we are at Kripke Manor. Apparently it’s a legendary spot for safe haven in hunter circles. It’s been off the map for so long that they were all pretty surprised, but they said if we need help with the ghost stuff, they’re in.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a surprised look. “Dude,” Sam grinned, “we have back-up!”

Bobby sat back with a look of relief on his face. “Can you get us in contact with one? I’d like more to go on than these old books.”

“Sure thing,” Ash nodded. “I’ll open up a chat with this one chick I’ve been talking to.”

He sat the laptop in front of Bobby, who pulled out a pair of glasses and quickly began typing. “First thing I’m doin’ is fact checking this shit.”

Bobby and Sam spent an hour chatting with a Jody Mills. She verified all they had learned as accurate. She also gave them tips on making rock salt bullets. She also said she could be at Kripke Manor in two days.

Dean and Bobby left for a local store to buy another shotgun and cartridges to make rock salt bullets. They were going to have to hustle to meet at Kripke Manor in time.

Castiel spent the rest of the morning washing his truck and picking up dog food. Buddy loved the local pet store. He was allowed inside, and the clerk always gave him a treat and told him how handsome he was.

As he hauled the heavy bag out to his truck, he saw a familiar car pull up next to him. Missouri Mosley stepped out. “Mr. Novak! What a pleasure!” She smiled sweetly.

They met behind her car, shaking hands. “Oh!” She smiled, holding onto his hand with a mix of emotions. “You’ve had a busy year.”

“I have,” Castiel smiled, squinting at the looks passing over her face.

“Sorry,” She said softly, “I…have a touch of…sensitivity to people and their…lives.”

“You mean…” Cas wondered curiously, “You’re psychic?”

“Mm,” She nodded. “I am. I see you’ve found love this year. It radiates from you.”

Castiel grinned. “I did.”

“And the house is…so dark,” she frowned, squeezing his hand gently. “That spirit is…clinging to the house desperately.”

“Yes, he is.”

A sad look crossed her face. “There’s another spirit. A child.”

Castiel stiffened.

Missouri looked him in the eyes, full of concern. “She likes you, Castiel. She’s…drawn to your love of children.”

Castiel felt tears prickle hot at his eyes.

“She’s only using you, Castiel.” She squeezed his hand again. “She’s…twisted from tormented time in the veil. She means you harm.”

Castiel nodded.

“Oh..” she cupped his face. “Sweet boy. You’ll have the love of a child. I promise. But that ghost means you nothing but harm.”

They hugged, Castiel feeling raw and exposed. “Thank you,” he whispered, letting her go.

She blew out a breath with a refreshing grin. “Sorry to unburden so much on you on such a beautiful day. Sometimes it comes on me rather strongly.”

“No, thank you, Missouri,” Castiel said, stepping back. “I hope to see you again soon.”

“You will,” she nodded, knowingly.

It tugged at him curiously the way she was so certain in her answer as she walked into the store.

Castiel dropped Buddy off at the hotel with Charlie and Dorothy. She wished him luck with the house, Buddy whining when he left.

He drove to the house. He parked the truck at the gate, turning the engine off. He took a deep breath, steadying himself for the dreaded task ahead. He hoped this house was worth the hell they were going through to have it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20 Dead Men’s Souls

 

Castiel got out of his truck. Dean, Sam, and Bobby were at the trunk of the Impala, loading and making salt rock rounds.

Gabe got out of his car, looking jittery. Castiel threw him a questioning look. He tipped his head over to where he stood.

“Have you been drinking coffee?” Castiel asked, watching as Gabe bounced on the balls of his feet and fidgeted with his hands.

“God no!” Gabe scoffed. “I’d be totally off my rocker if I did that.”

“Well, you look close to it. What’s the matter?” He felt his brother’s forehead. Cool but slightly sweaty.

Gabe pushed his hand away. “I’m just…should I propose now? I don’t think I can wait.” He glanced over his shoulder towards the house then turned back to Cas. “What if something happens?”

“Gabe,” Castiel said calmly, putting a heavy hand gently on his shoulder. “We will be fine. We will ALL get through this.”

Gabe nodded, glancing away. “But…what if Rowena does something to us? Or Crowley? Or the friggin’ house?”

Castiel took his brother’s hands, pressing his thumbs into pressure points in the palms of his hands. It was something they did as children when Gabe was too hyper. Even though Gabe was the older brother, his hyperactivity got him in more trouble than the others. Castiel, in an attempt to help, went to the library and did some research. He read about pressure points and tried it.

Gabe stilled, closing his eyes. He squeezed Gabe’s wrists, elbows, and shoulders, applying steady pressure. Gabe’s head dropped and he took a deep breath. He had not done this in years, but the effect was the same. The calming deep pressure centered him. He repeated it, Gabe moving like putty in his hands.

“I’ll wait,” he said quietly. “I want to do it right. Make it special. God, Cassie, I’ve never loved someone so much. I don’t know what I would do without him.”

“I know how you feel,” Cas grinned, hugging him. He stood, one arm over his brother’s shoulders. “And he’s going to say yes.” Cas grinned harder. “He gets you, Gabe. And you aren’t always easy to get.”

Gabe snorted a laugh. “You’re a good one to talk. You and Dean are…well, who woulda pegged that at hello?”

“Certainly not me,” Cas laughed. “I had the hots for Sam.”

Gabe slugged him in the shoulder. “Don’t ever mention that again.”

“Come on,” Cas grinned, glancing back, “the hair, that ass.”

He blocked the first jab, missing the second and staggered back at a laugh.

“Dean and his dreamy eyes and ripped abs not enough for you?” Gabe whispered.

Castiel grinned harder. “More than enough.” The pair settled down, getting a curious look from Bobby.

Seeing Gabe was much more himself, they joined the others at the trunk, helping.

“You boys need your heads knocked together, or what?” Bobby grinned.

“No, Sir,” they both answered.

“Soooo, Bobby-O,” Gabe grinned. “Did ya ask Ellen out last night?” He waggled his brows at Bobby, who blushed, glaring at him.

“No.”

“Why not?!” Gabe squawked. “Jo laid that wide open for you!”

Bobby shook his head, focusing on the bullet in his hands. “Shut up, Gabriel.”

“She’s totally into you!” Gabe laughed.

“She really is, Bobby,” Sam grinned, bumping his shoulder.

“It just…we…I…” Bobby stammered, not looking at any of them and still blushing. “Here comes Crowley.”

Dean and Sam exchanged a chuckle. Shy Bobby. Who knew?

Crowley’s sleek, black car pulled up behind the Impala. He stepped out wearing his usual suit and tie. His mother sat primly in the passenger seat, mouth tight and looking less than thrilled to be there.

“Afternoon, boys,” Crowley grinned.

“Crowley,” Dean, Sam, and Gabe said.

“Hello, Crowley,” Cas nodded.

Dean was squinting at Rowena in the car. “Crowley, is your mother wearing a collar?”

“You said keep her on a leash. So happens, I had one.”

“Wow.” Dean shook his head. “You two have some serious issues, ya know that, right?”

“She’s a witch,” Crowley shrugged. “But, hey, what can you do? So, Mother and I have been talking about this gateway the priests are always fretting about. She says it’s not a gateway so much as a weak spot. Lucifer festered there for so long in his cage that it created a magnet of sorts. The short of it is, we’re taking the cage away.”

“What?” Cas asked. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” Crowley explained impatiently, “we remove the cage. We remove the seals. Lucifer, or Lucas, rather, will think he’s winning, until he realizes he has no where else to go but the house. No exit to Hell. When you get rid of him, he’ll be gone for good, not held in one spot to fester.”

“That makes sense,” Dean said.

“It does?” Castiel and Gabe asked.

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “Why lock him in with us. We want him gone.”

They all nodded in agreement.

“So what do we need Rowena for?” Sam asked.

“She has to strip the spellwork and cleanse the area where the cage was.”

“We’re gonna have to go in that passageway, aren’t we?” Dean asked.

“Never fear. I’ve brought the whole boy band hexbags. I even have one for your roadie, there.” Crowley waved to Bobby who frowned back.

Crowley went back to the car, getting the necklaces. “These are a bit more powerful than the last ones. The plan is to go in quiet. The hexbags will keep us hidden from him until there’s no denying we are there. And he still won’t be able to touch us.”

“But he can still throw paint cans,” Dean smirked.

“Yes,” Crowley nodded.

They hashed out a plan of attack and loaded into the Impala and Crowley’s car. They drove to the side of the house. Dean and Bobby quickly put a ladder up to the second floor balcony, since there was no other way to get to it. This would save them a lot of time walking through the house.

One by one, they climbed onto the second floor balcony. Once they were all there, they climbed the outer stairs to the fourth floor. Cas unlocked the door and went inside quietly.

Castiel led them through the halls and into one of the bedrooms they had not restored yet. He slid the panel by a closet to the side, stepping into the narrow passage.

Dean followed, then Crowley clutching a thin metal chain that looked no thicker than a necklace, which attached to his mother. Bobby followed next, Gabe and Sam brought up the rear.

Castiel wound his way between the rooms until he got to the area where he and Charlie had found the door.

Rowena shivered, looking at all the red lines and symbols.

Crowley handed her a small dagger. Dean instinctually inched back a step, blocking Cas from her.

She sliced her palm open, Gabe whispering something and Sam shushing him. She put her hand on the symbol on the door, saying something in Latin. The symbol flared into a white light and sizzled with a stinking rotten smell. She moved to the symbol on the wall, repeating the spell. It flared, sizzled, and she went to the opposite wall. As she started the third, the room went from cold to frigid.

Now that Dean was more aware of what was happening, having read about temperature spikes, he raised his iron rod high, ready to strike. Bobby, seeing him, loaded the salt buckshot round in the shotgun.

The bottles along the wall on the floor began shimmying as the floor started to vibrate. The walls shook like they were in an earthquake. Rowena began saying the spell faster and louder.

Castiel jumped suddenly, knocking into Dean as Lucifer appeared right behind him.

“Rowena,” he said, as if they were old friends seeing each other on the street.

She turned her head, looking at him, but kept saying the spell, moving to the next symbol.

His eyes darted to the symbol that flared and sizzled. “Are you freeing me?” He grinned.

Rowena was on the last symbol on the wall, speaking quickly.

Crowley began picking up the bottles, handing them to Dean, Cas, and Gabe to take out of there, salt them, and burn later.

An angry look passed over Lucifer’s face. “You stole my souls,” he said with a chilling humor in his voice. “Naughty little witch.”

He made a move to grab her. Dean whipped the iron rod, slicing him in half.

“Faster!” Crowley barked at Rowena.

She spun, shoving her way to the carved symbol on the floor, putting her palm down on it, starting the spell.

Lucifer appeared next to her, Bobby aimed the gun, but there were too many people in the small space and in the way.

“I’m letting you free!” Rowena shouted up at him, stopping his attack.

The shaking and stench of rot brought chaos to the room.

Lucifer paused, giving her a suspicious look. “You’re lying! You stole my souls!”

Sam lunged an iron rod through Lucifer’s back, disintegrating him again.

Rowena started the spell over, the symbol flaring. The sizzle traveled along the red lines, everyone stepping away from them as they lit up and squealed, curling and falling to dust on the floor.

A tightness in the air lifted, making the space feel slightly bigger. Rowena stood, picking up the shoes that sat partially knocked over in front of the door. She thrust them at Gabe, who took them.

She wrenched the door open, Lucifer standing there. He grabbed her by the throat, his hand sizzling at her touch. He howled in pain, disappearing. Rowena staggered back, Dean steadying her. She bolted for the next room, dragging Crowley with her.

The door slammed shut, separating them. Gabe pulled the paper of the symbol out, holding it to the door while Castiel pulled out a jar of blood and a paintbrush. He painted the symbol quickly. “Open it!”

Gabe snatched the paper back, shoving the door open. Rowena stood in the middle of the tiny room, hands raised and yelling a spell into the air. Crowley was mixing something in a bottle. Lucifer appeared again, enraged. The wall split, cracking with a sickening, splintering tear as Lucifer roared as loud as a freight train.

Rowena stopped yelling as Crowley smashed the bottle at Lucifer’s feet. Another foul smell filled the room, steam rising through his translucent body. His image marred as if his skin rotted and came off in places.

They jolted with shock as Bobby shot him, the ghost shredding to thin air.

“It’s done,” Rowena sighed, her shoulders sagging. “Tear the false walls down. Salt and burn the walls, the floor boards, the door, and the bottles. The cage is gone.”

“Yeah,” Bobby said, reloading the gun, “but Lucifer will be back. We better get outta here.”

Castiel looked at the small door in the corner, still standing open. Dean grabbed his hand, pulling him back into the other room with the others. They filed back through the passage, spilling into the empty bedroom. The bright light of day made them all squint as they made their way back to the door to the balcony.

Crowley yanked the door open, all of them sighing in relief as they poured out onto the stone balcony. They kept moving, down the three flights of stairs.

“We’re almost there,” Sam encouraged. Gabe tossed the shoes Rowena had given him down to the ground and went over the railing first, giving Sam a worried look. “Go,” Sam nodded.

Gabe climbed down quickly, followed by Crowley and an ever-complaining Rowena. Bobby slung the shotgun over his back, going next.

As Castiel waited, he glanced in the window to the second floor. Jackie stood in the hall, peeking around the corner at him. The sad look in her eyes, as if Castiel himself had betrayed her, choked him up. How could she mean him harm? She was only a child!

Dean followed his gaze, seeing her. She darted away.

“Cas,” Dean said firmly. “Go.”

Sam was almost at the bottom and Bobby stood with his shotgun aimed at the house in case he saw something.

He went to the ladder, crawling over the wide, stone rail, getting his feet onto a rung. He looked at Dean. “Hurry.”

Dean nodded, jaw tight.

Castiel climbed quickly down, his feet once again on solid ground. Dean was already mounting the ladder when he looked up.

When his feet were on the grass of the side yard, Cas hugged him tightly. They had all made it. The cage was gone.

Everyone breathed heavy. They were halfway done.

Dean stepped away from Cas quickly, snatching the thin silver line from Crowley’s hand. He yanked Rowena toward him roughly. “What was all that about stealing souls?”

Rowena squirmed, Bobby aiming the shotgun at Crowley to back him off. Crowley lifted his hands in understanding, taking a step back.

“Lucifer collected souls!” Rowena explained.

Dean snatched the collar around her neck, the pair nose to nose with Rowena barely on her tip toes and clinging to Dean’s wrists. “Tell it all!”

“He took people’s souls! Twenty of them! That’s how he was becoming so powerful! When the hunters trapped him in the cage, I stripped the souls, taking them for myself.”

“And?” Dean demanded.

“I kept half. The other half to Fergus. It’s what has kept us alive so long,” she explained.

“Why didn’t you leave?” Sam asked. You could have disappeared.”

“We did. We do,” she gasped, choking around the collar and Dean’s grip on it. “But…the souls were still tethered to Lucifer. We had to…stay close.”

“Untether them.” It was a demand from Dean that made the hair on the back of Castiel’s neck stand up.

“I can!” She nodded, squirming.

Dean let her go. She rubbed at her neck, giving him a scathing look.

“What happens to you if the souls are untethered?” Sam asked.

“They ARE untethered,” she snapped, still rubbing her neck. “It’s part of what I was doing up there. So, now Fergus and I can disappear, as you say.”

Crowley looked like he was thinking fast.

“How do you get rid of the souls? Let them go?” Dean asked.

“I…if I do that,” Rowena said slowly, “it will kill us.”

“Well, I’d say you had a good run,” Dean smirked.

Crowley narrowed his eyes. “She’s lying. It can be done. We’ll…die of old age eventually. But not immediately.”

“Fergus!” Rowena snapped. “Must you ALWAYS fold for hunters? You bloody coward!”

Crowley snapped his fingers, Rowena closed her eyes and stood just where she was. Crowley looked at her with just a trace of sadness. It was gone in an instant as he looked at Dean. “I don’t want these souls tied to me. Or her. It makes us…splintered and…” he shivered, shrugging his shoulders. “I can hear them. They want to be freed. I have had a long life. It was not what I expected though. Tied to that house…to Mother. I just want to be freed.”

Bobby lowered his shotgun a bit. Dean nodded. “Here’s the deal, Crowley. You ditch the souls, you clean up your act. No more witchcraft. I don’t tell the priests, the hunters, or anyone about who you really are. And you stay next door where I can keep an eye on you. You disappear? I send hunters after you.”

Crowley nodded. “Deal.”

“And we do this now,” Sam insisted. “Before Rowena thinks of a plan to get away.”

Crowley nodded. He straightened his jacket with a dignified tip of his chin. “Shall we?”

Dean lifted Rowena over his shoulder, her leash still wrapped around his hand, wishing Crowley were on one too. “Let’s do this.”

Dean sat Rowena in the front seat between him and Cas, handing Cas the leash.

He wrapped the chain around his hand, feeling a slight current of electricity where it touched his skin.

“You would make a very good hunter, Dean,” Cas grinned. “Your instincts are very good.”

“Thanks, but I already have a job.” He gave Cas a quick grin as they followed Crowley’s car back to his house. “Let’s get this shit over with.”

“Do you really trust Crowley to keep his end of the bargain?” Sam asked from the back seat.

Dean drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He pulled his phone out. “Charlie, meet us at Crowley’s. And bring two tracking devices to put on him and his mother. Yeah, we’re all fine. It went pretty good.”

He hung up the phone, glancing at Cas. “Might not be the hunter thing to do, but if we track the little bastard and he leaves, I’ll be able to find him. And I know Rowena is gonna be a problem.”

Cas, Sam, and Gabe nodded. At least it was a plan.

 

****

 

They followed Crowley inside the house, Dean carrying the tiny witch to the dining room and sitting her in a chair.

Crowley went to work, pulling out a metal bowl from the corner cabinet. He snapped his fingers, Rowena jolting awake.

“I always knew you-“ she stopped, looking around the dining room with some surprise. “Now what?!” She demanded.

“Now we let those souls go,” Sam glared.

She closed her mouth, glaring at her son. “So, you’re going to be dying like the next human? Joining ranks with the hunters? Again?”

Crowley nodded with a sigh. “Yes, Mother.”

“Bloody coward!” She cursed, gritting her teeth.

“What do we need?” Crowley asked her.

She crossed her arms over her chest and began listing strange ingredients. Crowley went to another cabinet, pulling them out as she spouted them off.

The table was littered with jars, a mortar and pestle, bags, a candle, and some stones.

“Now, you have to take off this bloody collar so I can work. It’s stifling me.”

Dean, Sam, and Bobby exchanged disbelieving looks.

“No way,” Gabe said, shaking his head.

Rowena sat back in the chair, crossing her arms over her chest again. “Then it can’t be done. Pity,” she said sarcastically.

“Is that true?” Dean asked Crowley.

He curled his lip in frustration. “Most likely.”

“One false move, lady,” Bobby said, loading the chamber of the shotgun and aiming it right at her.

She rolled her eyes. “I’ve got no where else to go, you wee bit of a man.”

Crowley came around the group, unclamping the collar, tossing it onto the table. Dean tossed the end of the leash onto it.

She stared at him pointedly. “Release the spell, Fergus.”

He studied her for moment. He said something in Latin, snapped his fingers and Rowena shrugged her shoulders, wiggling in her seat as if shrugging something off.

She pushed her chair back, getting to her feet. “I’ll have to do Fergus first. I need the power.” She began crushing some kind of dried strip that looked like bark. She added several other ingredients, one of the stones, and the candle. She lit it, glancing at her son. “Here’s to hoping it hurts, you wee bastard.”

Crowley smirked, shaking his head.

She said something, nothing happening for a moment. She added another three herbs and a wad of dried lamb’s skin. She spoke again. The bowl ignited in a green flame, smoke billowing out of it.

Crowley went ram-rod straight, his mouth opening wide as white smoke billowed from it, winding around the room in a long, snake-like cloud. It sparkled with light and burst through a window, shooting skyward.

Crowley crumpled onto the floor. They waved the thick smoke away, coughing.

“Damnit!” Dean yelled.

Bobby lowered the shotgun. Rowena was gone.

“Son of bitch!” Dean yelled, grabbing Crowley and shaking him roughly.

The man coughed and sputtered to consciousness. “Uhg, it hurt like a bitch,” Crowley rasped, coughing again.

“Where is she?!” Dean yelled, shaking him again.

“Who? What?” Crowley gasped, getting to his feet.

“Where’s Rowena?” Sam yelled.

Crowley looked at her empty chair. “Bollox,” he swore. He glanced around the room. “She’s gone.”

“Where?” Dean demanded, Bobby raising the shotgun again.

“I don’t know!” Crowley rasped, high pitched and frustrated. He grit his teeth, looking just as angry as the rest of them.

“Perfect,” Dean snarled.

Crowley collapsed into the now empty chair. “They’re gone. All those voices. All those…whining, annoying voices! Gone!” His head lagged back onto the chair with a grin on his face. “They were driving me mad.”

“How do we find her, Crowley?” Sam snapped, snatching his lapel.

“I don’t know! She’s gone! I can try a location spell, but she’ll only block it.”

Dean and Sam sighed angrily. Bobby laid the gun on the table.

Crowley glanced around at them. “Don’t beat yourselves up too badly, boys. She’s bested the likes of Lucifer, her coven, and me. I told you she’s a loose canon.”

A knock on the door got all their attention. Gabe went to answer the door, coming back with Charlie.

She glanced around the room. “Creepy place.”

Crowley frowned at her.

“This the guy?” She asked, opening a box with an ankle tracker in it.

“Yep,” Dean pursed his lips.

She knelt down, clasping the black band around Crowley’s ankle.

“What the bloody hell is this?” He shook his foot, the band snuggly staying put.

“A tracking device,” Sam said with a tight jaw. “To track you.”

“I thought we were partners here?” He said angrily.

“Yeah. We keep track of our…associates,” Dean glared.

Crowley shook his head, watching as Charlie clicked away on her laptop. The ankle device lit up green.

“There. 24/7, anywhere in the world, instant location reading,” she grinned proudly.

“Nice,” Gabe grinned.

“Where’s the other one?” Charlie asked, holding up the second box.

“Just hold onto that,” Cas said. “She seems to have vanished.”

“Ooohhh,” Charlie frowned.

“Yeah,” Dean sighed.

“Let’s get out of here,” Gabe frowned.

Dean and Castiel turned to Crowley. “No more magic,” Castiel said firmly.

“Cross my heart,” Crowley grinned.

Dean was glad the souls Crowley had were released. And he could be tracked now. But he still did not trust the man. He would have to keep a close eye on him at all times. And if he was a problem, he would turn him over to hunters in a heartbeat.

They left the MacLeod house exhausted and burned out. They were getting closer and closer to taking control of Kripke Manor. All they needed now was to kill their two ghosts. After the shaky win they had today, he voted to wait for the hunters to come for back-up.

Besides, a day off would do them all good.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21. Prayers for the Hunters, Salt for the Spirits, and Vengeance for the Wicked

Castiel had learned several things.

1. Dean’s middle name was Samuel.
2. Sam’s middle name was Dean.
3. Buddy’s registered name was Ramesses’ Justice. Go figure.
4. Rumfeld’s registered name was Rumsfeld Rules. (Dean said he was having it changed to Rumsfeld Rules the Porch)

 

Dean smirked at the screen of his phone. “Looks like Crowley went to the market.”

Castiel grinned. “Tell him to bring us some apples. Golden Delicious, preferably.”

Dean broke into a full on grin, texting Crowley.

Castiel pulled into the driveway of Kripke Manor, turning onto the lane that led to the stable. It was busy as a hive with work being done.

He let the dogs out of the back seat of the truck and met Dean at the tailgate to help unload supplies. After several trips back and forth, they sat on the open tailgate to have a drink. The day was hot and sticky.

Dean tapped his water bottle on the edge of the tailgate, lost in thought. “Cas, when we get our next week off, would you like to come home with me?”

Castiel was glad he wasn’t currently chugging water. He surely would have choked. He and Dean were very close. They were exclusive. They loved each other. But to invite him home still felt like a big deal.

Dean huffed a laugh. “What? Your eyes are all wide and extra blue. Sometimes I could swear they glow.”

Castiel looked away shyly, grinning, but looked back quickly. “I-I would love to go home with you, Dean. Thank you.”

Dean shrugged a shoulder. “I gotta take care of some things. A friend of mine has all my crap in a storage unit. I let my apartment lease expire. And Sam and I have some things to take care of with the business.”

Castiel watched as Dean fought not to look too eager or worried about his offer. It was endearing. “Dean…” he waited for Dean to look at him. “I’m…excited!”

Dean put his arm around Cas’ shoulders. “It’s not too exciting there. And I guess we’ll have to stay at a hotel or something. Might be pretty boring.”

“You’ll be there,” Castiel grinned. “It won’t be boring. And I want to see your hometown.”

Dean nodded, grinning. “Yeah. We’ll make it fun.”

They watched as a support beam was put into place by some of the crew. “What about the dogs?” Castiel asked.

Dean frowned. “Hm. Ellen?”

“We could ask,” Castiel shrugged. “A week at the Roadhouse and even Buddy might disown us.”

Dean laughed. “Never. That dog loves me.”

“Well, we’ll just have to explain it to Buddy and he’ll be okay.”

Dean shook his head. “Ya ever wonder just how much he understands us? He’s so damn smart. Honestly, it’s kinda creepy sometimes.”

“It is not!” Castiel whacked Dean’s arm softly. “And you better not let him catch you saying that!”

They both laughed as they finished their bottles of water.

“Dean,” Cas said, choosing his words carefully, “have you…would you consider moving here?”

Dean looked at him steadily. “Yeah. I’ve thought about it.”

Castiel grinned, biting his lip. “Would you like to move in? With me? Like…permanently?

Dean’s grin did not slide like Castiel had expected or worried. “Yeah. Yes.”

Castiel’s chest expanded to near bursting. “You would? I mean, you will? I thought it would freak you out.”

Dean nodded. “Ya know what freaks me out? The thought of going back to Kansas. The thought of being apart. I don’t like it. But this…” he glanced around at the property, his green eyes landing back on Castiel warmly. “This is really starting to feel like home.”

Castiel leaned over kissing him softly. “Good. I hate the thought of you leaving. Even for a week.”

They shared a smile.

Castiel chuckled softly. “I’d give you a key and a drawer, but you already have keys and your own dresser.”

Dean laughed. “You already told me to start making decisions on the house. I kinda figured this was coming. It’s also why I let my lease expire.”

Castiel laughed now. “You let your lease expire because of me?”

Dean grinned. “Yeah, Cas. I kinda can’t imaging life any other way at this point.”

“Me either, he whispered back, kissing him again. “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

Castiel was not totally surprised Dean felt the way he did. But it was a huge step for both of them. And it seemed an effortless one. Castiel could picture waking up every morning with Dean by his side. Having friends over. Running the business together. Making a life and a family together. It all seemed too good to be true.

Castiel felt his phone buzzing in his pocket and pulled it out. “Hey, Gabe.”

“Cassie, Sam and I are over here at the mausoleum. We got the door pried open finally.”

“Have you gone in yet?” Castiel asked.

“No, thought we’d wait for you two.”

“We’ll be right there.” Castiel ended the call. “They have the door open. We should head over.”

Dean slid off the tailgate, Castiel following him. There was no lane to the mausoleum. They had to cross the big lawn and go around a line of pines that blocked the view of the little marble building.

Yesterday, they had gone for tattoos. Castiel’s was low on his abdomen, peeking out of his waistband. Bobby, Garth, Dean and Sam got theirs on their chest. Charlie got one on her wrist. Gabriel got one on his back. And Rufus and Benny got one on their upper arms. It felt like an added layer of protection. Although, Castiel was regretting the placement at the moment. His jeans were rubbing and irritating it with every step.

They made plans to investigate the mausoleum today. They had never been inside. It gave them all the creeps and they knew they were in for something, they just weren’t sure what to expect. And, whether it was good or bad, they did not have Crowley.

“I texted Bobby. If one of us isn’t back in an hour, he’s coming to wreck the thing,” Dean sighed, wiping sweat from his forehead. The sun was beating down on them the entire walk.

As usual, when they passed the line of pine trees, a sense of quiet stillness filled the air. They could see the white marble building with its smooth, blocky build. Even the roof was marble.

Gabe and Sam stood at the open trunk of the Impala. “I got the shot guns loaded,” Sam said, handing one to Dean. Gabe was holding a large bag of salt. Castiel took a container of gasoline. They all took lighters and were wearing the hex bags Crowley had made them.

“So, we check the place out first, get pictures quick, then salt and burn anything that looks relevant,” Dean reviewed for the little group.

Castiel nodded. It seemed easy enough. So why did he feel so damn apprehensive?

“The door was a bitch to open,” Gabe complained. “I didn’t think we were going to get it, but apparently one broken arm does not slow down my Samsquatch.”

Castiel had to grin. Sam’s casted and healing arm was not slowing the man down one bit.

Dean pulled the iron gate door all the way open, then pushed the extremely thick wooden door the rest of the way inward. With his flashlight lined up alongside his gun, he swept the inside visually from top to bottom. He disappeared into the darkness inside and Castiel followed quickly behind him.

Sam and Gabe were right behind him. All of them looked all over the small room inside.

In the center, stood two large, marble crypts. Along the walls, small doors could be seen in three rows of ten to twelve little doors. Each door was engraved with names, birth and death dates. Small sconces on the walls held torches or nothing at all. Castiel thought in a more pleasant time, some of them must have held flowers.

They all looked around quickly. When they realized nothing was immediately prepared to jump at them, they began looking at things more closely. Castiel pulled his camera out, taking pictures of every door. He then began taking pictures of the crypts and the writing engraved on them, the walls, the door, and the floor.

Novaks spanning the time from the 1700’s to the death of Jacqueline Novak covered almost two walls. There were four blank doors remaining. The third wall was full of much more crudely etched names and dates.

This wall of doors was flanked by two poems. Castiel read the first one.

Hunter’s Prayer
When I die, pour salt on me,
When I die, set me free.
When I die, let the flames devour me,
When I die, set me free.
All the world is dark. I’ve looked as far as I can see,
When the years have torn me apart, let me be.

Castiel covered his mouth with one hand. Hunters. There were hunters buried here. The words made chills run up his arms and neck. There was something so powerful about the sacrifices made. These hunters had most likely died ridding the world of supernatural creatures. Silent fighters in the night. Protecting unsuspecting people, people in peril from things the world doesn’t believe in.

He moved to the other side of the rows of small doors. With his flashlight, he read the engraving.

Prayer to the Hunters
Lay down your guns, your bows, your knives.
Set aside the salt, give the burden to me.
Reapers have come to change your lives,
Pass on now, you are free.

You’ve been wrapped, warm with a cover,
Salted to never haunt the crier.
Friend, Father, Sister, Mother, Brother,
Lay down your weary head upon the pyre,
Your soul will never be stolen by another,
We burn your bones to cleanse with fire.

May the reaper take you home.
May the angels set you free.
May God have heard your groan.
May He let you come for me.

These people were warriors. He felt honored to be keeping the remains of all these brave men and women. It only made him want to fight harder to retake the house and restore it to what Kripke Manor should be. A safe haven for hunters.

“Dean, are you seeing this?” He asked in a hushed voice.

Dean and Sam approached the wall with their flashlights.

“Oh wow,” Sam whispered. “These are hunters. Look, there’s Kripke himself. His son, his wife, his daughter. They were all hunters.”

“I read about hunter funerals,” Dean added quietly. They salt the body, wrap it, and burn it so they can’t come back as ghosts and so their body can never be used by a demon or eaten by ghouls.”

“Wow,” Gabe said from behind him. “We gotta get the house back. These hunters deserve a resting place.”

“Agreed,” Castiel said.

“Yeah,” Dean and Sam added.

“So, whose in the big boxes?” Dean asked, swinging his light back to the two looming marble rectangles taking up a good bit of room in the tiny building’s center.

“Charles and Naomi Novak. The original builders,” Sam read aloud.

“Well, other than dust and cobwebs,” Gabe sighed, “there isn’t much of anything creepy in here.”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed.

“I think we gotta crack open Lucifer’s door and Jackie’s door. Just in case there’s anything in there to salt and burn,” Dean said, grabbing tools.

Castiel and Dean set about to pry the marble door open. They had to use a chisel and hammer, destroying the seal around it.

Three of four sides chiseled out, Castiel sat on Naomi’s crypt. “I hope I’m not repeating history here, breaking seals and opening doors to let more nightmares out.”

“They’re already haunting us,” Gabe reassured. “What more could they do?”

Dean whipped around, glaring at Gabe, “Are you nuts? You might as well throw out a welcome mat and-“

Castiel jumped off the crypt he was sitting on, Lucifer appearing beside him, eyes glowing red, chin tipped down with an evil, angry snarl.

“Shit!” Gabriel yelped, dodging to the side.

“This is MY house!” Lucifer roared.

Dean sliced through him with the crowbar he had been using. Castiel felt a shock of cold behind his neck before he was thrown across the small room, hitting the wall and sliding down to the floor.

Amongst the yells and shouts, Lucifer appeared in front of him. Before he could even raise his hands fast enough to try to block him, Lucifer had him in an icy grip around the neck. The hex bags obviously weren’t working. Castiel felt himself slide up the wall, an icy grip around his throat, before he felt a shower of stinging bites all over his chest, arms, and face, accompanied by an ear-shattering bang.

He dropped to the floor for a second time, Gabriel semi catching him. Dean lowered the shotgun.

“YOU SHOT HIM!” Gabriel yelled.

Dean looked shocked until Lucifer appeared again. Dean turned, shooting again. “SAM! Get that door open!”

Castiel gasped, scrambling to his feet with Gabe’s help. Lucifer appeared again if front of them.

“Oh, HELLS NO!” Gabriel yelled firing off a shot of rock salt, catching Dean with the spray this time.

“Gabriel!” Castiel yelled, pushing the gun down. Dean ran to their side of the small room.

“That was intentional, you little shit,” Dean snapped, aiming his shotgun at the room in general.

“Sorry not sorry,” Gabe bantered, aiming his gun again at the room.

Sam hammered the chisel, totally disregarding his own broken arm.

“We gotta move over to Sam,” Castiel hissed with a wave.

He stepped over, in front of the open door. He felt an ice cold grip on the back of his neck and back, flying backwards out the door, hitting the grass with a rolling thud.

“CAS!” He heard them yell as the marble door slammed shut with grating bang.

Castiel scrambled to his feet again, pounding on the door until an ice cold piercing fog took over. He fought the fog in his mind until darkness closed in.

 

******

 

Dean worked the chisel as fast as was humanly possible. There must be something behind this fucking door for Lucifer to pop up. “Why aren’t the fucking hex bags working?!” Dean shouted.

“I’m gonna kill Crowley,” Sam seethed, holding his shotgun at a vague aim into the room.

“CASSIE!” Gabriel screamed for the millionth time, still shoving and pushing at the closed door.

Dean finally yanked the small door open, the whole marble slab dropping to the floor, shattering. This was Jackie’s little tomb. Dean snatched a doll, pulling it out. “Why with the fucking dolls?!” Behind where the doll had laid for over a hundred years, sat a mahogany box. “Salt!”

Sam grabbed the bag Gabriel had left sitting on one of the crypts, giving it to Dean. “Where the hell did Lucifer go?” Sam shouted.

“Out the door with my fucking boyfriend,” Dean snapped, throwing the wooden urn forcefully into the corner, breaking it open. A copper canister inside broke free.

Dean dropped to his knees, opening the canister and pouring the ashes into the broken shards of the box.

“CASTIEL!” Gabe shouted.

“Damnit, Gabe, get over here!” Dean snapped.

Gabriel finally left the door. “Get me the gas!” Dean barked.

Gabriel dropped the gas container next to Dean’s knee as he scattered salt through the wood and ashes.

“I’m gonna kill Lucifer,” Gabe huffed, hoarsely.

“Me too,” Dean bit sourly as he doused the pile with gas.

He lit his lighter.

“Dean,” Sam cautioned as Dean dropped the lighter.

The pile engulfed in flames, lighting up the tiny room.

Dean stood, coughing.

“Yeah,” Sam snidely huffed, “now we can all suffocate from smoke inhalation.”

“Well,” Dean coughed, “I’ll be sure to make a beeline for Lucifer in hell.”

Gabriel coughed, heading for the door again.

Dean tossed the doll onto the fire, listening to the hair singe and seer into flames.

 

They were all coughing as Dean chiseled away at Lucifer’s door. The fire had smoldered until Sam finally stamped it out completely.

Sam had laid the gun on one of the crypts, since nothing seemed to be bothering them. It made Dean sick with worry. Because if the bastard wasn’t here, he was with Cas. He focused all his frustration, anger, and fear into driving the chisel further and further.
“Wait,” he heard Sam say. “What about the blood symbol to open the door!”

“I didn’t bring any blood,” Gabriel answered.

Dean stopped mid swing, both Winchesters staring at him for a second.

“Oh,” Gabe nodded.

“Do you remember the symbol?” Sam asked.

“Yeah. Yep.” Gabe nodded.

“So let’s do this.” Sam pulled out a pocket knife and quickly cut his own hand, cupping the pooling blood in his palm.

“Sam!” Gabe sputtered. “I would have done that! You already have a broken arm!”

“Just do it,” Sam shook his head.

With a worried frown, Gabe got to work drawing the symbol in blood. It took several shoves from both of them, but the door opened.

Light streamed in and the smoke billowed out.

“CASSIE!” Gabe yelled.

“Gabe!” Dean yelled. “Get in here and help me get this damn door off so we can-“

Dean jerked away from an icy grip to his arm. Lucifer was back. The grip threw him onto one of the crypts. He slid off, hitting the floor on all fours, his tools flying across the small room.

“Shit!” Dean sputtered, shaking his spinning head.

A bang from the gun rang his ears as Lucifer shredded apart.

Dean got to his feet, seeing Gabe holding the shotgun. “Thanks!”

“Yeah,” Gabe stammered back. He looked at Sam, who was pulling a piece of rock salt from his chin. “Sorry.”

Dean picked up the tools, glancing around nervously. “Can ya maybe stop shooting us with rock salt?”

“Quit being picky,” Gabe scoffed. “Saved your ass, didn’t I?”

Dean went to work hammering the chisel.

“Duck!” Gabe yelled.

Dean ducked just in time to miss the shot Gabe fired over his head, Lucifer roaring in anger as he disintegrated.

Dean jumped back up, his head ringing with a deafening clamor. “Try the crowbar.”

“What?” Gabe scrunched, wincing at his own ringing ears.

Sam tapped him on the shoulder with the crowbar, taking the shotgun.

“Good idea!” Gabe yelled, rubbing at his ear.

“You guys alright?” Bobby called from the open door. “I heard gunshots.”

“No,” Sam said, pulling another piece of rock salt from his neck. “Lucifer keeps-“

Lucifer appeared between the two men, grinning maliciously. Bobby, reacting out of instinct, slammed the butt of the gun into Lucifer’s head, which of course went right through him, the butt slamming into Sam’s head instead.

“Shit!” Bobby gasped.

“Awfugh!” Sam stammered, staggering back three full steps, clapping a hand to his now bleeding mouth.

Lucifer laughed. “You guys are great at this, I gotta say.”

Dean ripped the marble door off, tossing it on the floor. He grabbed the book inside, the small box, and the mahogany urn. He slammed the boxes into the corner. A similar canister broke free from the one he had just done this to. The small box held a lock of hair. He tossed salt as more fighting went on behind him. A crowbar whizzed over his head, making Dean shrink down. He crawled to the other corner to get the gas can.

Another ear-shattering bang rang his ears.

“Son of a bitch!” Gabe yelled.

“Sorry.” Bobby reloaded as Gabe dug a piece of rock salt from his cheek.

Dean doused the pile in gas. He dropped the can as he flew back across the room, right out the door. “LIGHT IT!”

Gabe and Bobby shot right at each other, missing Lucifer completely, but hitting each other quite effectively.

“DAMN IT!” They both yelled at each other.

Gabe threw down the shotgun, grabbing the crowbar out of Sam’s hand. Sam was still wincing and holding his mouth. “I lost a tooth.”

Lucifer appeared again as Dean struggled to his feet. “LIGHT IT!”

Gabe swung the crowbar, slicing Lucifer and clipping Bobby on the arm as Bobby lit the pile. “Damnit, Gabe!”

“Sorry,” Gabe huffed.

Lucifer did not reappear.

Sam, Gabe, and Bobby staggered out of the mausoleum, collapsing onto the grass.

All of them were peppered with rock salt shots. Sam’s mouth was still bleeding. Bobby’s arm was bleeding. And none of them could hear right.

“Cas isn’t out here,” Dean said, pacing. “Where the hell did Lucifer take him?”

They all, one by one, looked toward the house.

“Think we destroyed Lucifer?” Sam asked, pulling a piece of salt out of his shoulder.

“No.” Dean pulled Bobby back to his feet, looking at the gash on his arm. “I think that needs stitches.”

“Yeah,” Bobby nodded, pulling duct tape out of the trunk of the Impala. Dean tied a bandana around his arm, then duct taped him until they could get it taken care of.

“Better call an ‘all-stop’,” Dean sighed, “before anyone else gets hurt.”

“Good idea.” Sam pulled his phone out, still mopping his mouth with a rag Gabe had given him.

“We gotta find Cas,” Dean frowned, pulling his own phone out, calling Crowley.

“Yeeeees?” Crowley answered drolly.

“Crowley, you son of a bitch.”

“Son of witch, actually.”

“Get your ass over here with some hex bags that work. They were useless today! Why!”

“They’re only good for one use, Squirrel. What were you doing, pray tell?”

“Getting our asses kicked, that’s what! And Cas is missing. I think Lucifer took him.”

Crowley sighed. “I’ll be there in an hour.”

“That’s not good enough!” Dean ranted. “We- hello?” Dean looked at his phone. “Damnit.”

 

*******

 

The extra crew workers all went home for the rest of the day. If they had to keep shutting down work, they weren’t going to ever get this house or even the stable done. But the wait was needed. It just wasn’t safe to have people around when Lucifer was riled up.

Dean paced back and forth on the patio behind the house. The top crew had all refused to leave. And no one had seen the dogs since Cas went missing. Dean felt sick.

Charlie, Dorothy, and Garth came around the side of the house, coming onto the patio. “We got the journals,” Charlie said quietly.

“Rufus and Bobby are still at the ER,” Dean said, pulling the thin leather books out by the handful.

“Ghosts.” Garth pulled two specific journals out of the stacks.

“This one talks about possession,” Charlie added, fishing out another one.

They sat at the patio table, hashing out ideas.

“So, the anti-possession tattoos don’t cover ghosts taking you over. That’s kinda bullshit,” Gabe complained.

“They’re only for demonic possession,” Garth nodded.

“Hello, boys.”

Dean looked up, seeing Crowley approach the patio with a canvas bag. “There better be more than apples in that bag, Crowley, or I swear to God-“

Crowley sat the bag on the table. “Yes, yes. Utter defilement, yadda yadda. Here’s your apples.” He dropped a bag of yellow apples unceremoniously onto the table. “And here’s your hex bags.” He handed Dean a velvety bag. “What’s Lucy doing to Castiel?”

“No idea,” Dean huffed, putting one of the tiny bags around his neck.

“These aren’t free, ya know,” Crowley glared.

“Yeah? Bill me,” Dean snapped, handing hex bag necklaces to Gabe, Sam, and Benny.

“I did.” Crowley dropped a folded paper onto the table.

Dean opened the paper as the three got shotguns and other weapons ready. Dean read over a bizarre list and their costs. “Black cat bones?”

Crowley shrugged.

“$36?” Dean looked back at the list. “Pink salt, $3 per pinch. Feather of a humming bird, $22. Left hind paw of a mouse, $17. Material of a loved one? What the hell is that?”

“I used a shirt of Moose’s. Everyone loves the big dopey ones.” Crowley grinned, bouncing on the balls of his feet, smiling blatantly at a glaring Sam.

Sam frowned, his forehead wrinkling. “How the hell did you get a shirt of mine?”

Crowley shrugged. “I have my methods.”

Dean tossed the paper on top of the apples. “You’ll get your money if I survive. So you better have made them right. Because I am not coming out of there without Cas.”

“Ah, yes. You didn’t ask, but I assume you were just too stupid to know better, but here’s a potion to release a spirit, if he is, indeed, possessed.” Crowley held out a small bottle of liquid with a smirk.

Dean wanted to punch him in his know-it-all face. But he was actually helping. He reached over, taking the bottle.

Crowley pulled out another paper, tossing it on top of the bill. “That’ll be $310.68.”

Dean grit his teeth.

Crowley held up his hands placatingly. “No rush. You can pay me tomorrow.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Let’s go,” he said to Benny, Sam, and Gabe.

“Can you guys try to aim somewhere other than at each other?” Charlie asked.

 

******

 

Dean pushed the back door open to the kitchen. The four filed in quietly, the rest of the group nervously waiting on the patio.

The house was eerily quiet and a good twenty degrees colder than outside. Safety’s off, guns raised, they began ascending the stairs. Every flight the air got colder.

At the foot to the fourth floor stairs, Rumsfeld stood at high alert. His hackles were raised and he bellowed a long howl up the steps, looking from Dean to the fourth floor.

“Good boy,” Dean murmured, patting the big dog’s head as he went around him.

Surprised and slightly alarmed, Dean watched as the dog proceeded up the steps in front of him, growling loudly.

He glanced back, seeing matching surprised looks on the three behind him. To their knowledge, the dogs had never once been in this section of the house.

Dean stepped into the large, cluttered room at the top of the steps, Benny, Gabe, and Sam right behind him.

“Watch the steps Sam,” Dean said in a hushed voice, his brother nodding.

Rumsfeld stood in the entrance to the hallway, head low and growling. For a lazy porch dog, he was scary as hell.

Dean stepped beside him. His gut twisted at the sight of the tricycle sitting in the hall. He glanced in the first open doorway, coming face to face with a smirking Lucifer.

“Back for more so soon?” He reached for Dean, cringing at the sting of his skin from the hex bag. Dean fired a shot, the ghost evaporating angrily.

Dean hurried forward, heading for where he felt sure Cas would be.

Jackie’s room.

He stepped in the door, fighting back bile that rose from his stomach. Castiel sat on the floor, humming and playing with a doll.

Dean swallowed hard.

Buddy sat next to Cas, trembling. His hackles were raised and his ears were pinned back. He looked at Dean, whining.

“Hey, boy,” Dean said softly.

Cas’ Head jerked up with a childish grin. The voice that came from him had to be Jackie’s. It certainly was not Cas’.

“Sally is my favorite.” He/she said, lifting the doll up a few inches. “Her hair is the longest of all my dolls.”

“Holy shit,” Benny whispered behind him.

“Make him go away,” Cas/Jackie said with small frown.

“Wh-who?” Dean asked, hating his hands for shaking.

He/she looked at Buddy. “He growls too much and he doesn’t like me.” He/she hugged the doll to their chest. “He might chew on my dolls.” He/she tipped her solemn face back up to Dean. “I might have to kill him.”

Dean swallowed hard again.

Buddy growled low, studying Cas’ face with a piercing stare.

“No, don’t hurt him,” Dean whispered.

Cas stood up. “Look! I don’t have to use the chair to reach all my dolls now. This one’s name is Tabitha.”

Buddy was on his feet, still close to Cas’ side. The dog was obviously terrified but refused to leave. His hair fell out in shedding clumps when he moved and he trembled everywhere.

“Buddy,” Dean called. “Come ‘ere.”

Buddy looked at him but would not budge.

Cas took another doll from the shelf, humming again. He/she sat her in a chair at the little table, Buddy following every step.

Dean came in further, reaching to grab Buddy’s collar. The dog snarled, showing teeth and Dean pulled his hand back slowly. “Alright,” he swallowed again.

Gabe pushed his way through. He tapped Dean’s pocket with the potion in it. Dean gave him a questioning look. Gabe held his hand out with raised eyebrows. Dean handed him the tiny bottle.

Gabe slipped it instantly into his pocket. He stepped closer to Cas. “Can I play?”

Dean shivered at the sight of Gabe and Cas.

“No.” Cas/Jackie barked in an inhuman growl, setting Buddy off, hackles raising higher and snarling. “You stink like cat.”

Gabe raised his eyebrows in shock, trying not to look as terrified as Dean knew he was. “Rude,” Gabe grinned. He frowned, looking down at the hex bag around his neck. “Is it this?”

Much to Dean’s horror, Gabe took the necklace off. “I’ll just…” he put it over Buddy’s head, the dog looking at him irritably. “There. Now can I play?”

He/she snarled at Buddy, the dog hunching down and snarling back, barking. This set off Rumsfeld howling and Dean jumped at the sound of Sam shooting his gun.

Dean gave Benny a look and Benny went to check on Sam.

Cas/Jackie winced in pain, sitting in a chair at the table. “He hurts me when I try to destroy the dog.”

“Let’s have a tea party,” Gabe shrugged as if he had not heard her. “Sally can come.”

Cas/Jackie’s face lit up. “Yes!” The ghosts voice dropped eerily again. “Make us tea.”

“You heard the girl,” Gabe grinned shakily. “Dean,” he handed him the teapot. “Make us some tea.”

Dean took the china pot and stepped into the hall. “Benny make tea and put it here.”

Benny gave him an incredulous look. “Do what?”

“You heard me. The kid wants tea.”

Benny snatched the pot, heading around Rumsfeld. “This has got to be the weirdest damn job anyone eva had in their life.”

Dean came back in the room, his shotgun still in hand.

Cas/Jackie was twirling in front of the mirror with a dress held up to his chest. “Daddy says he’ll have new dresses made for me. I’m too tall for these now.”

Gabe and Dean exchanged a sickly look.

It seemed like an eternity passed as Gabe and Dean watched Cas flit from toys to clothes to books, prattling on in the little girl’s sing-song voice that randomly dropped to a low, grating rasp.

Dean jumped at another gunshot. He stepped into the hall, Rumsfeld was snarling. Sam looked apologetic. Benny opened his eyes, unclenching his jaw as he reached up to pull a chunk of rock salt from above his eyebrow.

Benny headed his way, handing him the teapot.

Dean took it into the room. “Whose ready for a party?” Dean asked, trying to sound cheery, but his voice wavered. He sat the pot on the table.

“Yay!” Cas/Jackie clapped, skipping to the table where Gabe already sat waiting.

“Shall I pour?” Gabe grinned, doing a much better job pretending than Dean was.

“Yes!” Cas/Jackie grinned, sitting primly in the small chair.

Gabe poured them both cups. Then one for the doll. “Oh! Can the doll with red hair come?” Gabe asked excitedly, pointing at a doll in the far corner of the shelf.

“Elizabeth? Okay!” Cas/Jackie jumped up, getting the doll while Gabe poured half the bottle into the tea.

He slighted the bottle out of sight as he/she turned back to the table with the doll.

Dean stood by helplessly as the pair set the doll a place and chit chatted. Only the shaky tea in Gabe’s cup ever gave away his nerves.

Cas picked up her cup, blowing on it daintily.

“What a lovely tea set,” Gabe admired, taking a sip.

“My mommy got it for me.” A sad look crossed his/her face. With the shake of his head, Cas/Jackie finally took a sip. “Tastes funny.”

“You need sugar!” Gabe said, spooning three pretend scoops into the cup. “I LOVE sugar!” He heaped six pretend scoops into his own. “Aaaaand, I brought us a special treat!” He pulled a candy bar out of his pocket. He unwrapped it, broke it in half and put half on her small plate.

“Candy!” Cas/Jackie giggled. They took a bite.

Gabe took another drink. “Mmm!”

Cas/Jackie giggled again, taking a bigger drink.

He/she prattled on about the dolls, taking another big drink.

Cas/Jackie frowned as they sat the teacup down. “Gabriel,” Cas whispered, grabbing the cup and downing the rest as he gained a moment of control.

Buddy barked and Dean raised his gun again.

Cas/Jackie sprung from the little seat, Gabe doing the same. A gray mist flared from him, going back in.

“Hold him down!” Gabe yelled.

Dean dropped the gun, lunging at Cas, tackling him to the floor as the house trembled around them, Buddy barking ferociously. Gabe grabbed Cas’ face roughly, pouring the rest of the bottle into his mouth and covering it with his hand.

Cas/Jackie lurched, choked, and finally swallowed as both men pinned him to the floor.

The ghost exploded from Cas’ body in a gray haze, shriek’s filling the room. Buddy snapped viciously at the smoke.

“Cas!” Dean yelled, climbing up him, looking into his eyes with panic.

Cas coughed and choked, Gabe taking his hand away. “Dean!” He hacked and coughed weakly.

“Cas! You’re okay! We got you!” He kissed Cas’ mouth, his face, and back to his mouth. He sat up. “Cas?”

Cas lay lifeless on the floor. His skin was pale and cold. He flopped in Dean’s hands, Buddy rushing to him, whining and licking his face.

“What’s wrong with him?” Gabe asked, shaking Cas’ shoulder.

“I-I don’t know!” He felt a weak pulse, searching Cas’ lax face for signs of anything.

Dean pulled a hex bag necklace out of his pocket, putting it over Cas’ head to protect him. “Cas, come on, wake up.”

Dean got to his feet. Buddy crawled onto Cas’ chest protectively, looking around the room growling.

Dean grabbed his gun. “Benny!”

Benny came in the room.

“Help me with Cas.” He handed the gun to Gabe. “Move, Buddy, I got ‘im.” Buddy reluctantly backed off, still growling as his eyes traveled the corner of the room with the doll shelf.

Benny helped hoist Cas’ limp body up and onto Dean’s shoulder. They headed out the door and into the hall. The tricycle hit Dean’s shins with more force than seemed possible. “Fuck!” Dean yelled, falling, Benny barely catching Cas’ head from hitting the floor.

Buddy lunged over all three of them snarling and meeting Rumsfeld halfway down the hall. The pair snapped and lunged at seemingly nothing, barely missing each other in the brawl.

“Stay down!” Sam yelled, firing a shot just over the dog’s heads. Sam reloaded. “Come on!”

Benny and Dean grabbed Cas in a two-man carry. Rumsfeld ran for the stairs howling. Buddy stood low in front of the doorway to the first room where Lucifer had been. He snarled and growled, ears pinned back and hackles raised.

“Take him,” Dean ordered Gabe, taking the gun back. He had an idea. Gabe and Benny headed for the stairs, carrying Cas with them.

Dean shot into the room over Buddy’s head, the dog cowering slightly and lowering his snarling to a growl. Dean went around him and into the room. This was the room he and Cas had opened the desk. In that desk had been a lot of papers. And a box with hair in.

Dean ripped the cover off the desk, shoving the roll-top open. He rifled quickly, hearing Buddy snarl and snap.

He grabbed the box.

“Dean!” Sam yelled from the door. Lucifer, enraged more than ever, lunged at him, the hex bag protecting him as Lucifer pulled back, seething. Buddy lunged, jaws snapping viciously.

“Move!” Sam yelled.

Dean dove, the shot going off. Buddy yelped sharply and whined, stepping back in a cower.

Dean looked around. Lucifer was gone. He opened the box, snatching the hair and put it in his pocket.

He turned to go, the desk next to him trembled ominously, slamming forward and plowing Dean off his feet.

Another shot rang over his head. “Sonofabitch!” Dean yelled, pulling his legs out from under the desk.

“Oh no!” Sam said, dropping to his knees. “Dean!”

Dean saw what Sam was looking at with a sickening lurch in his gut.

Buddy.

He had taken the full force of the blow to push Dean out of the way. “Oh, God!”

The brothers shoved the desk away, Buddy not moving.

Dean knelt, rubbing the dog’s face and neck. “Buddy, oh no, no, no!”

“Dean, we gotta go!” Sam yelled, getting to his feet and caulking the gun too late. Lucifer threw the desk at Sam, knocking him out of the room, the door slamming shut.

“You MOTHER FUCKER!” Dean roared.

Lucifer looked down at the dog. He grinned impishly. “Oops!”

Dean growled in rage as he pulled a salt shaker from his pocket, slammed the hair on the floor, salted it and lit it on fire.

“NOOOOO!!!” Lucifer screamed, burning to pieces in front of Dean’s eyes.

The old rug on the floor caught fire quickly. Dean stamped it out with his boots as Sam barged back into the room. He looked around wildly, gun raised.

“He’s fuckin’ dead.” Dean stamped the last of the smolder out. He looked down at Buddy’s still body.

Sam lowered the gun. “Dean, let’s go.”

Dean seethed with anger. Why did every step of this have to be so fucking hard? He grabbed a coat rack swinging it like a club into the wall, wood shattering and splintering everywhere.

“Dean,” Sam said shakily.

Dean got on his knees. “Damnit, Buddy…”. He rubbed the dog’s fur again. He heaved a sigh, stuffing his rage and pain deep inside to lift the dog into his arms. “He was the best dog ever,” he said bitterly.

“I know,” Sam nodded. “Come on. Jackie is still here.”

They descended the steps. Rumsfeld cried and whined the whole way to the patio.

Dean came out into the hot day, tears tracking down his stoic cheeks.

“Oh God!” Charlie gasped, seeing Buddy, one leg dangling sickly. Tears ran instantly.

Cas lay on the patio, still not moving.

Gabe stood from Cas’ side, hugging Sam, but looking at Buddy in shock. “What happened?”

“Lucifer threw a desk on him,” Sam explained quietly. “He saved Dean’s life.”

Dean laid the dog next to Cas. Rumsfeld shoved his way in, sniffing him and whining.

“What do we do with Cas?” Benny asked. “He’s…sleepin’ or somethin’. But I don’t think a hospital is gonna fix him.”

Dean sighed. He had no answers. At this minute, he had nothing at all. How did he think he could do this? Hunt ghosts.

Crowley squatted down to Cas’ side, feeling his head and looking over him. “I think I can help.”

Rumsfeld pawed at Buddy.

“Rum,” Charlie choked out, pulling the dog away gently.

She crouched down, running a hand along his furry side. “Oh, Buddy…”

“Do you know what’s wrong with Cas?” Dean asked Crowley.

“He needs to be woken up. He probably got lost if a ghost was possessing him for long.”

“It wasn’t that long,” Dean fretted.

“She was a very old and powerful ghost,” Crowley said seriously. “Let’s get him to my house.”

Dean nodded.

“Dean?” Charlie said with a tremble in her voice.

“Yeah?”

“Dean! He’s alive! Buddy! Look!” She pulled his eyelid open, his pupil dilating.

“Oh my God!” Dean leaned over Cas to look again. “I gotta!”

“Go!” Gabe gasped. “I’ll stay with Cas!”

Dean nodded, feeling so torn. “You drive, Charlie!”

She nodded as Dean scooped the dog into his arms again. Rumsfeld whined and followed them all the way to Cas’ truck.

 

*******

 

Dean tapped his foot in a jack-hammer motion. Charlie paced the waiting room. Buddy had been in surgery for twenty minutes. His phone vibrated again.

Gabe- Cas is in bed and Crowley is mixing up some kind of concoction for him. How’s Buddy?

Dean- Still in surgery.

He shoved the phone in his pocket as the vet came out of the door. Blood spattered her scrubs. “Good news!” She grinned.

“How is he?” Dean asked, trying not to sound as desperate as he felt.

“It was more of a procedure than a surgery,” she explained. “We relieved the pressure on his brain, easier than I had expected. We set and casted his front left leg. He seems alright, but his heart rate is high and he seems very agitated.”

“Please let me see him,” Dean begged. “He’s probably terrified.”

She hesitated. Dean bit his lip with a pleading smile. “Okay, but please try to keep him calm.”

Dean nodded emphatically. “You got it.”

He followed the doctor into the recovery room, where Buddy laid on a table, panting and whining. Two vet assistants were watching a monitor and petting him sweetly. A bandage wrapped around his head and a cast weighted down his left leg.

“Buddy!” Dean whispered, pushing right in and lowering his head to Buddy’s.

Buddy whined louder.

“I know, boy! I know. You did so good boy! So good. Cas is gonna be fine. He’s waiting for you to come home, so chill, okay?” He sniffed, swiping a tear off his own cheek and rubbing Buddy’s neck and snout. “What a good boy. You did it. You saved the day little man.”

Buddy relaxed markedly, his eyes looking much less fearful.

“Cas is ok. Everyone is okay.”

“Aw, you are one lucky boy!” One of the vet techs grinned, giving Dean a flirty smile. “Your daddy loves you very much.”

“Yes, I do,” Dean grinned, looking at Buddy. “Love you, Buddy. It’s gonna be okay.”

The dog sighed, falling asleep as Dean petted his neck.

“We need to keep him for observation for the night, but he can probably go home tomorrow,” the vet grinned.

Dean frowned. “If you tell me what to do, I’d rather bring him home. My…my boyfriend is gonna want to see him. They got hurt together and…they can rest and get better together.”

The vet frowned. “If his brain shows no signs of swelling when we rescan him in two hours, he can go with you tonight.”

Dean nodded.

 

******

 

Castiel blinked his eyes open slowly. His head felt foggy and he had vague memories of Crowley, of all people, being inside his head, telling him he needed to wake up. The memories slipped away the longer he tried to concentrate on them. He frowned. He had no idea where he was.

He was in a large, comfortable bed in a large bedroom. The woodwork and furniture were old but beautiful.

Snoring ever-so-softly beside him was Dean, their heads together on the same pillow. He and Dean were both fully dressed. On his other side, warm and sleeping hard, was Buddy. He was bandaged around his head and there was a cast on his front leg. “What the hell?” He muttered gravelly.

Crowley sat in an armchair, mouth hanging open and sleeping. Castiel blinked rapidly, waking further. “Dean?”

Dean swallowed, licking his lips, his eyes opening. “Cas?”

Dean sat up, looking over his face with worry. “Cas? How are you feeling?”

Castiel blinked, taking stock of his body. He moved all his limbs gently. “I’m fine. I have a headache and my mouth tastes like…church.”

Dean frowned.

Crowley cleared his throat, wincing with a hand on his neck. “That’s probably the Frankincense.”

“What?” Castiel asked. “And what happened to Buddy? Where are we?”

“Easy,” Dean grinned. “What do you remember about Tuesday?”

“Tuesday?” Cas asked. “I…we got tattoos. No…wait. That was Monday. What day is it?”

Dean hesitated, confusing him further. “It’s Thursday.”

“What? What…” Castiel frowned. “Where the hell are we?”

“My house,” Crowley sighed, getting to his feet. “I’ll ring for some tea and breakfast.”

“Ring?” Castiel furrowed his brow. “You have staff?” He looked at Dean again. “Why are we at Crowley’s and what happened to Buddy?”

Dean took a deep breath, rubbing a hand over his sleepy face. “Do you remember going to the mausoleum?”

Castiel frowned. “No. Maybe.” He thought a moment, sifting through hazy, fractured memories. “There are hunters buried there. Their ashes. Yes…but…”

“Lucifer showed up,” Dean supplied. “We damn near shot each other all to hell, but managed to burn the crap in their vaults.”

“Oh.” Castiel racked his memories, but there was just nothing there.

“Lucifer took you,” Dean said gently, rubbing a hand through Castiel’s hair. “You were…Jackie took over and had you up in that room. In the house.”

“What?” Castiel asked weakly.

“We got you out. And I think we finally destroyed Lucifer for good. Maybe Jackie too.”

“And Buddy?” He asked, rubbing a hand gently down the dog’s side.

“He stayed with you the whole time,” Dean grinned sadly. “He was so…scared. And pissed. You shoulda seen him attacking those ghosts.”

“He was on the fourth floor?” Castiel asked, shocked.

“Yeah, Rum too. But Lucifer threw a desk at me. Buddy knocked me out of the way and caught the blow instead. Hit his head real hard and broke his leg.”

Castiel gasped, looking at the dog in concern. “Mother fucker.”

“That’s what I said,” Dean grinned. “Then I burnt his ass. He burned up right in front of me, Cas.”

Castiel laid his head back on the pillow, his hand resting gently and reassuring him with a gentle rise and fall of the sleeping dog’s side as he breathed.

“He’s gonna be fine,” Dean reassured.

“Is everyone else okay?”

Dean nodded. “Yeah. All accounted for.”

“What’s all this?” Cas asked gently touching small red, healing spots along Dean’s cheek.

“Rock salt. Gabe is seriously never allowed to hold a gun again when this is all over.”

Castiel’s jaw dropped. “My brother shot you?”

Dean nodded, grinning. “And Bobby. And Sam.”

Castiel looked at his own arm, seeing similar red spots. “Who shot me?”

“Uh…it was pretty confusing in there, really,” Dean frowned.

Castiel tilted his head. He knew what Dean looked like when he was guilty. “You shot me?”

Dean blushed, stammering, “Dude, it was mayhem in there!”

Castiel laughed. “It’s alright. I wish I could remember it.”

“Sorry,” Dean pouted.

Castiel chuckled again. “It’s okay. I’m sure it was chaotic. Was Crowley there?”

“Not for all that. When you were missing and we finally got out, I called him to yell at him. Apparently hex bags only work once.” Dean grinned. “And Crowley actually kinda saved the day.”

Castiel huffed a small laugh. “Wonders never cease.”

“Yeah. He gave you some crazy potion and did this dreamwalk thing to get you back to consciousness.”

The pair exchanged a look.

“Thought I mighta lost you, Cas,” Dean said quietly.

Castiel shook his head. “No. I’m okay.” He squeezed Dean’s hand reassuringly.

“Cas,” Dean continued, “I don’t ever want to lose you.”

“I’m okay,” Castiel smiled gently, kissing Dean’s hand.

“I mean, ever,” Dean went on, his green eyes searching Castiel’s face with worry. “Cas, Castiel, would you marry me? Stay with me forever? Afterlife and always?”

“Dean!” Castiel sputtered in shock. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

“Yeah. Yes!” Dean laughed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to do it like this. I can do the knee thing and-“ Dean scrambled off the bed getting on one knee, still holding onto Cas’ hand tight as Cas sat up, watching him with wide, shocked eyes.

“I love you, Castiel Novak. I want us-“

“Yes!” Cas stammered, pulling Dean to him.

“I want us to live together, be together, have kids together! God, Cas, I love you! I know you deserve better, but-“

“Shut up,” Castiel laughed, kissing him. “Yes, Dean! Yes to all of it! All of it. I love you!”

Dean laughed short. “You will? You sure?”

“Dean Winchester,” Castiel grinned harder than he had ever smiled before. “Yes! Yes! I love you!”

Dean hugged him, kissing him over and over. “I didn’t even get a ring yet!” He laughed.

“I don’t care!” Castiel laughed, holding Dean tight to him, tears streaming down his face. A wash of relief like he had never known flooded him. Dean was his. Forever!

Buddy barked, sitting up a bit and panting so wide there was no mistaking the smile on his face.

“Somebody’s happy!” Dean laughed, rubbing Buddy’s head gently.

Castiel laughed. “Everybody’s happy!” He kissed Dean again, letting Dean press him back down into the pillow.

 

A/N: There is more to come! The Hunter’s Prayer is written to the song, “Wolves” by Down Like Silver. If you haven’t heard this song, look it up. It is hauntingly beautiful!

Chapter Text

Chapter 22. Laughter, Love, and Tears

 

Castiel had learned several things.

1. He and his brother might have the same last name. Again.
2. Jackie was still haunting the Manor.
3. Dean had an endless supply of t-shirts and was terrible at doing laundry.
4. There was a shoe dangling from the gutter of the fourth floor. How the hell had Gabriel gotten it there? And whose poor shoe had suffered months of weathering?

 

“Have you lost your damn mind?” Rufus snapped with a frown and wide eyes.

“Temporary insanity?” Gabriel shrugged. “I’ll buy ya new boots, Rufus.”

“Damn right! What’s wrong with you takin’ a man’s boot like that! Only a damn fool would steal a man’s boot. Not both boots! Just one.” Rufus shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I said I’ll replace it! What size are you?” Gabe flinched, pulling his phone out.

Why Rufus’ boot was the one he chose to launch onto the roof would baffle Castiel forever. Only Gabriel would find such joy from idiocy.

He gave Rufus an apologetic grin. Sometimes it was really hard being Gabriel’s brother.

“Settle down, Rufus,” Bobby grumbled.

“Settle down?” Rufus blinked rapidly, hands on his hips. “Where’s your shoe, Bobby? Huh?”

“No idea,” Bobby sighed.

“Hey,” Gabriel grinned. “You got new boots AND rollerblades outta the deal.”

“Took damn near a year!” Rufus squawked. “Perfectly good boots.”

“There! Ordered! It’ll be here tomorrow.” Gabe waved and took off.

“Idjit,” Bobby sighed. His eyes slid over to Castiel. “No offense.”

Castiel pressed his lips together, his eye brows raising. Yeah. Gabriel.

Rufus and Bobby headed toward the stable to continue working on it. Castiel’s eyes followed the line of pines that blocked the little mausoleum. He was curious to see it again. There was something he wanted to read again in there.

“Hey, Cas!”

Castiel turned, seeing Charlie and Dorothy heading his way. Charlie was always pretty chipper. But since the arrival of Dorothy, she was extra chipper. “Hello, Charlie. Dorothy.”

“Hey boss,” Dorothy grinned. “Got the system scoped for the pool. Ordered parts for it. They won’t be here for another three weeks, so I’m gonna head back home until then.”

“Sounds great,” Castiel nodded, shaking her hand. “Thank you for putting up with all our…hiatuses.”

“You kidding? I’ve never been paid for so much down time in my life! But it’s gonna be a great pool.”

Castiel nodded. The house fund was indeed draining. So far, they had spent around six million dollars. He tried not to think about it too hard.

“See you in September then?”

“Yep. First week,” she nodded.

Charlie’s smile had slipped. They turned to walk away.

“Charlie,” he called. “A word?”

She jogged back to him. “Yeah?”

“Dean and I will be going to Kansas next week. Are you planning on going as well?”

“Yep. Since Sam and Bobby are staying here to run the work, Dean needs help with the business stuff.”

“If Dorothy is interested, she could…come along. Ya know, so we can talk about the pool plans.” He winked.

Charlie broke out into a radiant grin, squealing and hugging him tight. “You are the best! Truly!” She kissed his cheek and ran back to Dorothy.

Castiel grinned, looking down. He liked to make Charlie happy.

“That grin is a little too happy,” Dean said, walking up to him and crossing his muscular arms over his chest. “Especially since you’re standing out here kissing other people.”

Castiel grinned, drinking in Dean’s form. His t-shirt pulled up slightly from crossing his arms, showing a teasing bit of skin above his jeans. He frowned. “That’s my shirt.”

Dean looked down. “Huh.”

Castiel gave him a leveling look. “Are you out of clean clothes again?”

Dean’s eyebrows climbed with the drop of his jaw. “Charlie gets plane tickets and kisses and I get a lecture about laundry?”

Castiel put his hands on his hips. “She doesn’t steal my shirts.”

“She does too! I know because she has half of mine and now some of yours!”

Castiel’s stern demeanor cracked, a laugh slipping out. “Fine!”

Dean grinned with a cocky smirk. “Such a push over.”

Castiel shoved Dean playfully. “Your cocky grin won’t last forever.”

Dean laughed an octave lower. “Bet it does.” He caught Castiel’s wrist, pulling him in. “Picture it, 80 years old, no teeth-“

Castiel laughed, pushing at him as they staggered a step.

“Gray hair,” Dean pulled him closer, kissing his neck as Castiel leaned away from the hug, “drivin’ my HoverRound! You’re still gonna be a sucker,” he kissed him again, “for my cocky little grin!”

“Could you PLEASE keep your creepy foreplay for the bedroom?” Gabriel deadpanned.

The pair staggered to a stop, looking at him.

Gabriel shoved his sunglasses on. “Not sorry to interrupt, but Rufus the Grouch needs your expertise. Dean.”

Dean stuck his tongue out at Gabe, turning back to Castiel and kissing him soundly on the mouth. “I’ll find you later, Thursday.”

Castiel shook his head, loving every second and fighting the blush on his face.

“Gag,” Gabe drolled as Dean passed him.

“Jealousy becomes you, Gabe.”

Gabe slid his sunglasses on top of his head. “You guys are puke-worthy.”

“Yeah, back at ya,” Castiel grinned.

Gabe grinned impishly. “I know.” He slid the sunglasses back down. “Sorry to burst your bubble, but we got an issue.”

Castiel’s elation faded. “What?”

“My painter I hired is threatening to leave. Turns out not everyone likes just hanging out in a hotel for a week.”

“Send them home,” Castiel shrugged.

Gabe’s jaw dropped. “Dude!”

Castiel sighed. “Fine. Let’s just…go in the first floor and see what happens.”

Gabe bit his lip, looking at the house with open nervousness. “Yeeeaahh, I don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?” Sam grinned, walking in on the conversation.

“Aaron, the painter guy, is threatening to leave because I don’t have work for him.”

Sam followed his gaze to the house. “I’ll call him. See what I can do.”

Gabe grinned.

Castiel raised an eyebrow, turning and heading for the stable. He knew that grin on Gabe. It was followed with a heavy petting and/or kissing session with Sam.

“Where ya goin’ Cassie?” Gabe called.

Without turning to look, he raised his right hand over his head, flipping his brother off.

He could hear Gabe laughing as he crested the hill and headed down the slope toward the stable.

He snagged a hard hat from one of the work tables, passing through the busy, loud work site. He headed into the furthest stall, where he had left Buddy an hour ago.

“Time to head back to the hotel, Buddy.” He watched as Buddy got gingerly to his feet, Rumsfeld doing the same.

He squatted down, petting his face. He lifted the dog onto his shoulders, his hind legs cradled by his right arm, wrapping his body behind Cas’ neck, head and front paws at his left arm.

It had been two weeks since Dean had killed Lucifer. They had been focused on the stable ever since, ignoring the looming house. None of them were too anxious to go back inside.

He walked back into the stable aisle, hearing Dean talking to Rufus about the new structural beam. He headed into the newer part of construction, finding the pair.

Seeing him coming, Dean stopped what he was saying.

“I’m heading to the hotel,” Castiel said.

“Alright. I’m gonna be a few hours,” Dean grinned, kissing him, then kissing Buddy’s head.

“See you then.”

He headed back out, hiking to the truck with Rumsfeld in tow. He put Buddy in the passenger seat, Rumsfeld getting the back to stretch out on.

No wonder the painter wanted to go home. It had not been a week of loafing at the hotel. It had been two and a half. The guy deserved to go home. He headed for the hotel.

With Buddy hoisted on his shoulders and Rum on a leash, he came into the hotel lobby. The dogs were loved by the staff. And Buddy was well pampered any time they saw him.

“Mr. Novak!” Becky waved from the front desk. “Good to see you, sir! Hi Buddy! Hi Rumsfeld!”

“Good evening, Becky.” Castiel waited while the dogs got pets and treats and he got giggly smiles. Becky was sweet, but a bit much at times. But Sam was the one she fawned over the most, much to Gabe’s annoyance.

Castiel saw Aaron and Clay heading for the restaurant attached to the hotel. “Excuse me, Becky, I’ll be right back.” He handed the lady Rum’s leash and jogged over to catch Aaron.

“Aaron, Clay!”

Both men stopped, Aaron eyeing Buddy on his shoulders with some reservation. “Castiel.”

“Hey, I wanted to apologize for the ridiculous wait on the painting job.”

Aaron stared with annoyance. “I’ve been here almost three weeks and I haven’t even seen the house! People keep telling me it’s haunted. I think your brother is just jerking me around.”

Castiel tilted his head, eyeing Aaron. “If you want to leave that’s fine. We’ve paid your expenses so far, we’ll fly you both home.”

Aaron hesitated slightly. “I’m just...getting stir crazy. And your brother is kinda weird,” Aaron laughed nervously.

Castiel narrowed his eyes. “My brother is entirely too wealthy to be called weird, Mr. Bass. He’s eccentric. And if you wise up, you’ll make a lot of money for a fairly simple job. Or, I can hire someone else.”

Aaron swallowed nervously, glancing at Clay, who just stood there stoically. “You’re absolutely right, sir. I can wait.” He nodded emphatically.

Castiel reeled himself back a notch on the intimidation scale. “You would be wise to keep my brother a satisfied customer.”

Aaron nodded again, glancing at Buddy. “Yes! I...he’s such an easy-going guy, really.”

Castiel nodded, heading back to the desk. If Gabriel wanted an Aaron Bass safari in his dining room, then that’s what he was getting.

“Oh my,” Becky sighed. “That was very...take-charge, Mr. Novak!” She giggled and Castiel did his best to politely shake her off. He took the leash and headed for his room.

“Night, Becky.”

“Good night Mr. Novak!” She waved, swooning and giggling.

 

Castiel gently put Buddy on his own four feet to walk the hall to their room. He was walking with a slow limp and occasionally lost his balance. More than anything though, Castiel knew very well that he was just spoiling the dog.

Oh well. He deserved it.

He unlocked the door, holding it open for Buddy’s slow limp and Rum’s determination to follow the slow limp. Castiel went through the mail delivered that day. A few bills and a few more job applications. He tossed them on the dresser, preceding to gather laundry to start a load.

With two loads going in the laundry room, Castiel pulled out a few of the journals from the bag they were in. The problem with the house was that Jackie still seemed to be there. Dean, Benny, and Bobby had gone back in and found the tricycle back in its place in the fourth floor hallway. They had another lock of hair here at the hotel and had salted and burned it. But they were missing something.

Castiel had a feeling what they were missing was in Jackie’s room. But short of burning the entire room, they weren’t sure what to do. But it needed handled.

He had never regained the memories he’d lost from his possession by Lucifer and Jackie. But it was safe to say, without Crowley’s help, he may have never gained consciousness again.

He dropped a journal back into the bag. He knew Dean did not want him back in the house until it was ghost free, but he was going to have to do something sooner than later.

Gabe texted him an hour later to meet them at the Roadhouse for dinner. He left earlier than he needed to, to talk to Ellen.

Buddy’s slow entrance received its typical fanfare when he got to the restaurant. Castiel finally made his way back to the kitchen. The dogs went out back with Jo while Castiel followed Ellen to her office.

“Dean and I are going to Kansas next week,” he said, toying with a stack of aprons on the corner of her desk. “I was wondering if you would keep the dogs for us.”

Ellen scrunched her mouth, narrowing her eyes. “I will. On one condition.”

Castiel looked at her more closely. “I need a bartender this weekend. Friday and Saturday.”

Castiel nodded. “Sure, I can do that.”

She grinned. “Done deal then. So where’s the rest of your motley crew?”

“They’ll be here any minute.”

She grinned with a slight blush to her cheeks. “Good. Your guys haven’t been around lately.”

They were at the Roadhouse at least three days a week. What she wasn’t saying was, Bobby wasn’t paying enough attention to her. He grinned. “I’ll see what I can do about that.”

She nodded, shuffling some papers. “Be here Friday by five.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He headed back out to the restaurant, getting a big table.

Sam and Gabe were the first to arrive. Sam was on the phone with someone, smiling and thanked them, hanging up as he sat across for Cas.

“That was Aaron,” Sam clarified.

“Yeah?” Gabe asked, waving to Jo. “What’d he say?”

Sam shrugged with a grin. “He says he’s more than willing to wait until the room is ready and offered to do some partial sketches for you to approve. He’s such a nice guy!”

“Awesome!” Gabe sat back with relief. “I thought I was gonna lose him.”

Castiel grinned. At least he had managed to solve one problem.

 

******

 

Castiel had been at the Roadhouse since 4:30. It had been a long, loud evening. By midnight, he was making his millionth Jack and Coke and raking in the tips with an extremely boisterous group of women out for a ladies night. He may have winked. He may have been slightly flirty. But it was all in good fun.

He sat the Jack and Coke on the bar next to a Dirty Marty (a local blend), taking the money the blonde slid him.

He grinned even deeper seeing Dean catch the exchange. Dean glared at her and took a seat at the bar, Bobby sitting next to him.

“I see I need to get a move on with that ring,” Dean griped, giving Castiel an equal glare.

“You know what they say,” Cas grinned, handing both men a beer. “If you like it, you better put a ring on it.”

Dean grinned shaking his head. “Flirt.”

Castiel winked, grinning at the slight blush he could still bring out in Dean.

He waited on another pair of smiling ladies. “ID’s, ladies,” he grinned.

They both laughed, pulling out there ID’s. Both in their late twenties, he handed the cards back. “What can I get you?”

“Sex on the Beach,” the red head grinned, blinking a little more rapidly than necessary.

“A Cosmo,” the blonde grinned, her eyes raking over Castiel’s chest.

“Coming right up.” Castiel pulled a glass down to start one of the drinks.

Dean caught the eye of the blonde and he grinned at her flirtatiously. He pointed at Cas. “He’s gay.”

The red head looked disappointed, but the blonde only looked more intrigued. “Mmm,” she hummed, looking at Castiel again.

All Castiel could do was grin. And, oh yeah, make drinks.

The blonde looked back at Dean. “You know that for sure?”

“I do,” Dean grinned proudly. “In a biblical sense.”

The blonde looked at him curiously.

“That’s my fiancé,” Dean deadpanned.

“Oooohhh,” she grinned even harder. “Wow. So...are you guys into-“

“Please don’t say three-ways,” Dean said, losing his grin.

The blonde laughed, taking her drink and sliding Cas a ten. “Fine. I won’t say it. I’ll just think it.” She gave both of them an ornery grin and left with her friend.

Dean gave Castiel a disbelieving look. Castiel only grinned.

“These women are animals!” Dean scoffed.

“Hey there, Dean, Bobby!” Ellen called, coming behind the bar to get several beers.

“Ellen,” Dean frowned. “From now on, he goes to the grill! Or salad prep!”

“Who? Cas?” She grinned. “No way. Those blue eyes and that ass make me a lot of money!”

Castiel swatted her with a towel.

“My God,” Bobby groaned.

Ellen laughed. “But it’s me all the boys come to see!” She winked at Bobby, who blushed, taking a drink of his beer.

Dean and Cas exchanged a grin.

“When do you get off?” Dean asked.

Castiel stifled a dirty come back. “An hour.”

Dean smirked. “I’ll wait and drive you home.”

“Good,” Castiel grinned. “I was doing shots with Maggie and the bachelorette party over there. I might be tipsy.”

Ellen laughed, leaving with her tray of beers to serve.

“Robert,” Castiel said, coming to lean on the bar in front of Bobby. “If you don’t ask Ellen out soon. I might have to shoot you.”

“Knock it off,” Bobby scoffed, glancing over his shoulder. “I will when I’m good and ready.”

Castiel grinned. He poured out two shots of whiskey, sliding one to Bobby. He held the other up in a challenging toast. “Here’s to slow pokes.”

“And flirts,” Bobby said back, clinking their glasses.

They both downed the shot and Castiel poured him another, leaving to wait on more customers.

The bachelorette party descended on the bar again with a round of shots, Bobby getting lots of hugs and women hanging on him with a little nudge from Cas.

Dean seemed quite entertained with Castiel’s scheming.

By 1:00am, Ellen was ushering people out the door and Dean locked it.

Castiel wouldn’t classify himself as tipsy at this point, but he certainly was buzzing. Dean had switched to soda and seemed quite willing to egg Bobby on to keep drinking, helping Cas keep his whiskey full.

“I had this friend in Fukuoka,” Bobby laughed.

“Whoa! Watch your language,” Dean laughed, watching Bobby sink lower on his stool.

“Fukuoka!” Bobby over enunciated with a laugh. “Anyhow, he bet me ten dollars I wouldn’t eat a tequila worm.”

“Ew,” Cas and Dean frowned.

“Ja eat it?” Cas asked.

“Sure did!” Bobby laughed hard, rubbing a tear off one cheek. “Puked all over his little bicycle!”

“Where the fuck is Fukuoka?’ Dean chuckled.

“Japan,” Bobby waved off the minor detail that made Dean and Cas exchange a look of surprise. “He bet me ten more dollars I couldn’t ride that pukey bike over this little foot bridge. Uuuhhh. I lost that bet.” He shook his head, laughing at the memory. “At least when I fell into the river it washed the bike off!”

Castiel leaned on the bar conspiratorially. “I bet you ten dollars you can’t put a worm on a hook.”

Bobby’s eyes got wide. He turned. “Ellen! You got a fishin’ pole?”

“Course I got a fishing pole,” she hollered back. “In the break room.”

“Got any worms?”

“In the fridge in my office,” she yelled back from the kitchen.

“I love that woman!” Bobby grinned like a kid. He took off for the back.

Dean shook his head. “What are you up to? And just how drunk are you?”

Castiel laughed. “I might be nearing smashed. But just..I got this!” Castiel giggled as Bobby came back to the bar at a trot with a pole and a worm.

Ellen came out from the kitchen, watching Bobby curiously. “What’s he doing?”

“Kid thinks I can’t hold my liquor!” Bobby explained, waving the fishing pole so that Dean had to duck. Twice. “I’m gonna show him I can still bait a hook.”

Ellen grinned.

Bobby neatly speared the worm and his finger. “See!”

Castiel laughed, pulling a wad of money out of his apron. “Here’s ten bucks.”

“Are those your tips?” Dean asked, his eyes big.

“Yep!” Castiel slapped the pile of cash on the bar proudly.

“That’s ridiculous,” Dean scoffed. “What the hell were you doing before I got here?”

“I’m cute,” Cas shrugged with a little grin.

Dean laughed.

Castiel turned his attention back to Bobby. “I’ll bet you twenty bucks you can’t clear three tables in five minutes without breaking anything.”

Bobby narrowed his eyes. “Thirty.”

Castiel scrunched his mouth. “Deal.”

Bobby laughed. “I used to be a bus boy when I lived in Chicago,” he grinned triumphantly.

“You lived in Chicago?” Dean asked. “And when were you in Japan?”

“Lived in Japan for three years. Lived in Chicago for six months. I got arrested, but shhhhh, don’t tell Ellen!” He whispered loudly.

Ellen gave Dean an amused smile.

“READY?” Castiel held a hand up, looking at his watch. Bobby stood up, rolling his neck. “Set! Go!”

They watched in minor hysterics as Bobby ran like a maniac to clean off three tables, push the chairs in, clear the dishes in 4 minutes and 22 seconds.

Ellen shook her head, taking Castiel’s drawer to count.

Bobby huffed and puffed and took a drink of water. “Fork it over, blue eyes.”

Castiel slid $30 to him, still laughing.

“Okay,” Castiel took a deep breath, steadying himself on the bar. “I’m going for broke. I bet the rest of my tips,” Cas slid the hardly dented pile in front of Bobby, “you can’t ask Ellen out on a date.”

Bobby’s eyes widened. “You think I can’t ask a woman out?”

“Apparently not without a shove,” Castiel grinned.

“Please,” Bobby rolled his eyes.

Ellen came back out, taking her apron off and pouring herself a whiskey.

Castiel gave Bobby a look.

Bobby swallowed, getting up from his seat and sitting next to her.

“Didn’t know you were a whiskey drinker,” Bobby said quietly.

“Yes you did,” Ellen grinned.

“I can’t watch this,” Dean said painfully under his breath.

“So...” Bobby hesitated. “You work tomorrow?”

Dean rubbed his forehead.

“Course I do, you old goat. It’s Saturday night,” Ellen laughed, taking another drink.

Bobby nodded, glancing at Castiel. Castiel started straightening out the messy pile of money.

“So...” Bobby said, blowing out a breath.

“Cas...” Dean implored in a tiny voice, not looking at the older pair.

Castiel leaned onto his elbows, still gathering ones. “It won’t take long.”

“It’s taking too long already,” Dean whined.

“I’ll make it worth the wait,” Castiel grinned, kissing him chastely and going back to slowly gathering the pile of money.

“Where do you fish around here?” Bobby asked her.

Castiel closed his eyes. Maybe his plan wouldn’t work.

“Beecher Dam. Good for trout,” Ellen nodded.

“We should go sometime,” Bobby nodded. “Soon.”

“Sure. It’s best early in the morning,” she took another drink.

“Let’s go this week,” Bobby grinned.

“I could do Tuesday morning five-ish.”

“Perfect,” Bobby grinned. He took a nervous drink as the conversation died.

“Oh my God,” Dean whispered, making Castiel snickered.

“Mom,” Jo said, coming through the door. “Jason needs his time sheet signed.”

“Oh yeah,” Ellen sighed, leaving her drink to follow her daughter into the kitchen.

“What the hell was that?” Dean hissed the second the door shut.

“What?” Bobby threw his hands up.

“Fishing! At Five AM!” Dean hissed again.

“It counts!” Bobby whispered loudly back.

“No.” Castiel gave him a no uncertain terms frown. “That was painful, Bobby.”

Bobby rolled his eyes.

“A date! Bobby!” Dean hissed again, hearing Ellen coming back. “Remember what those were?!”

Bobby glared at him.

Dean sat back up, sipping his water. “I thought the old man still had game,” Dean shook his head sadly.

“I’ll show you game,” Bobby said, standing up.

Castiel watched with a bit of worry and a lot of curiosity as Bobby went over to the jukebox and put a quarter in. And another. He picked several songs, coming back to the bar where Ellen sat again. He was sobering up quickly.

Bobby started talking to her much more quietly as a slow, twangy country song played in the background.

Dean and Castiel exchanged a smirk.

Ellen giggled at something, Bobby laughing as well.

“Been a long time since I danced,” Bobby sighed. “Don’t suppose you’d dance with me, would ya?” He asked softly.

Ellen smiled sweetly. “Yeah. I’ll dance.”

He took her hand, leading her to the middle of the room where they started dancing.

“And now I’m getting uncomfortable,” Dean sighed. “Time to go.”

“But-“ Castiel held the wad of money up.

“He did it Cas. He deserves the money.” Dean took the money, putting it in Bobby’s inside jacket pocket. “You lost.”

“I SO won!” Castiel grinned, watching the pair get more comfortable.

“What did you win?” Dean asked, pulling Cas through the back door and the empty kitchen.

Castiel giggled. “In-laws.”

Dean smirked. Bobby was like Dean’s father, so he caught his meaning.

They ran into Jo, who was getting ready to leave.

“Hey!” Dean grinned, steering her toward the back door. “Let’s leave out the back.”

“Why?” She asked turning to look at him.

“Your mom is on a date.”

Castiel giggled.

“With who?” She peeked over Dean’s shoulder curiously.

“Bobby!” Castiel shushed, holding a finger over his own mouth.

“Cas, are you drunk?” Jo asked, looking at him more closely.

“Maybe,” he shrugged, his legs feeling loose and jelly-like. He bounced on them slightly, testing their stability.

Dean ushered them both out the back door, locking it.

“Is he playing Patsy Cline?” Jo winced.

“Hey, what works for old goats is none of our business,” Dean sighed.

 

********

 

Cas yawned, leaning onto Dean’s shoulder. His Saturday morning hang over and late night working that night had left him exhausted Sunday morning.

But the dogs had a place to stay when they left and Ellen was one extremely happy bar keep. It was well worth it.

Dean put his arm around Cas’ shoulders as he drove the Impala out of town. He loved driving. Especially on runs like this. It was just the two of them and they were going an hour and a half out of town to pick up material for Cas and Gabe’s interior decorator.

“I want to tackle Jackie’s room tomorrow,” Cas said quietly.

Dean sighed. Tackle was an accurate word. They had no idea what to expect from that damn little bitch of a ghost.

“I ordered hex bags from Crowley. He said they would be ready tonight.”

Dean squeezed Cas’ shoulder a little tighter. “Alright.”

“It has to be done.”

“I know. Doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Dean grumbled.

Cas gently gripped Dean’s shirt by his abdomen. “I love you.”

Dean kissed the top of his head. “Love you too.”

They rode in a comfortable silence for most of the trip. They picked up the reams of material and went for lunch at a local diner. When they were walking back to the car, Dean spotted a jewelry shop. “Let’s go in there,” Dean said, pointing at the sign.

“Okay,” Cas grinned.

They walked in, a bell chiming their arrival. It was carpeted and quiet with a hushed feel inside.

“Be right with you,” called a woman from the back.

“Take your time,” Dean answered, strolling the glass cases slowly.

“Are we...looking for wedding bands?” Cas asked with a shy little grin.

“Yes,” Dean nodded, still looking down at the case. “These are cool.”

Cas joined him, pointing at a tray of silver rings. “I like silver.”

“Me too,” Dean grinned.

“And it can be a weapon,” Castiel said seriously.

Dean looked at him, as he did many times, in just a little different light. “God, I love you.”

Cas looked up at him, eyes wide and blue. “Why? I mean...what?”

Dean grinned, looking away. How was there this person that fit him so well? It wasn’t like they were even that similar. But they fit together in every way. It blew Dean’s mind any time he let himself think about it.

The sales woman came out from the back room. “Hello.”

“Hey,” Dean nodded. “Looking at wedding rings.”

Her eyes drifted to Cas. “Do you know what you’re looking for?”

“Can we see these?” Cas tapped the glass, still staring at the tray of silver rings.

“Silver? Mm,” she grinned, sliding the door open and lifting the tray out. “Nonconformists.”

“I like silver,” Cas said, studying the wide bands. His eyes kept going to a wide band on the left hand side.

But that was not the one he picked up first. He slid a simpler silver band on. He flexed his fingers, feeling the fit. It made Dean grin a little just thinking about him wearing his ring. Forever.

The sales woman smiled, catching the grin.

“Do you like this?” Cas asked, handing him the band.

Dean tried it on, frowning. “Too simple.”

“Really?” Cas asked quietly. “I figured you for an understated, simpler band.”

Dean shook his head, going for the wide band Cas had been looking at. He slid it on his finger. He made a fist, feeling it between his fingers and how it slid with his movement. “This is awesome.”

“You like that one?” Cas grinned, his eyes lighting up.

“Yeah. Try it,” Dean handed him the ring, watching as he slid it on. Cas grinned at it with tiniest nod.

That was the one.

“I like the rows of banding,” Dean pointed, touching the surface. It had five rows of beveled, varying size studded silver, the center rising just above the others. “Looks like chains.”

Cas grinned. “It’s my favorite one.” He looked up at the saleswoman. “How much is this one?”

“This happens to be one of our rarer pieces. This particular jeweler only makes ten a year. Because of the rarity, that ring is $2,800.”

Dean grinned. “I’ll take it.”
The saleswoman smiled. “Cain is a local artist. He’ll be thrilled.” She walked away quickly, giving them both an endearing grin.

Cas turned to him, his jaw open slightly. “Dean, I was going to get that for you!”

“You don’t like it?” Dean asked, worried.

“I love it!”

“Me too,” Dean grinned. “And I’m the one that asked you to marry me. I just...didn’t have a ring yet.”

Cas smiled, looking at him with the warmest grin. “So...I have to wait to get yours for the wedding?” He asked, tipping his head to the side.

“Uh...yeah, I think so,” Dean frowned, scratching the back of his head. Honestly, he never paid attention to this kind of stuff.

“People often buy their rings together,” the saleswoman grinned. She slid the box over the glass surface to Dean. “You give this to him whenever it feels right.”

“If you get his ring today,” she pointed at Cas, “I would save it for the wedding.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It just seems more special that way.”

Castiel nodded, a grin growing on his face. “Thank you. I already know what I’m getting him, so, that will be perfect.”

She took Dean’s card. It felt so good to pay for something so nice in full. Even though he was working grueling hours when they were in full swing, it never really felt like work. His expenses had been so few since living with Cas, that he was saving a lot of money. And he had paid off all his old bills. He could walk into this marriage with no debt. Something he had never thought possible.

They left the store, little box tucked into his pocket and hand in hand. He was curious what ring Cas had in mind for him, but didn’t ask.

They headed home, Cas tucked into his side. Dean had the most content smile he had ever had. He caught up to a car going ten miles under the speed limit. He didn’t even care. The longer it took to get back, the longer he could just sit like this.

Rain started pattering down on the windshield. He flipped the wipers on and sighed with contentment.

“I can’t believe you aren’t passing this guy,” Cas grinned up at him. Catching something on Dean’s face, he sat more upright, studying Dean closer.

“What?” Dean grinned, glancing between him and the road.

“You just look...really happy.”

Dean laughed softly, pulling over alongside the road.

Cas looked around curiously.

“Cas,” he said, catching his attention again. “I am. Really happy.” They stared for a long, long moment.

“Me too, Dean,” Cas said quietly.

Dean pulled the ring box out of his pocket, biting his lip. “I already asked you-“

“I already said yes,” Cas interrupted slightly breathless.

Dean grinned, opening the box. “Here,” he offered shyly.

Cas took the box, pulling the ring out. He studied it with a grin so tender that it mended something deep inside Dean. Someone loved him THAT much. “Here,” he offered, taking the ring and sliding it into place. “Now everyone will know.”

Cas nodded, meeting his eyes again. “I love it. I love you.”

Dean kissed him, pushing the box away from between them. He maneuvered Cas onto his back, straddling him. This was not the first time they had sex in this car. But it was the first time he was having sex with anyone he gave a ring to.

The kisses became demanding as they unbuckled belts, undid buttons and zippers and struggled to get rid of the barriers between them. Shirts came off next and like a flooding tidal wave, Dean had to have him. Every bit of him.

“Dean,” Cas gasped. It was a language Dean was fluent in. He knew what his partner wanted just by the tinder of his voice. Dean might as well have ten different names, because when Cas uttered it with the tiniest variation, he knew exactly what Cas wanted.

“I got you,” Dean gasped back, between molten kisses. He opened the glove compartment, pulling out a bottle of lube.

“I’m ready,” Cas panted before Dean had even touched him.

Dean smirked. “You are not.” Cas could be impatient during a quickie, which he supposed was all in the name.

He shoved Cas’ leg up onto the edge of the front seat and opened him quickly.

Already trembling, Cas groaned with satisfaction as Dean slid inside him.

They kissed, the very air in the car steamy with their bodies and breathing. Steam shaded the windows as the sun set around them.

Dean moved with slow deliberation, watching Cas’ face with reverence. His eyes opened, watching him as intensely. “I wanna move,” he said quietly.

Dean stilled, catching his breath.

“Sit up with me,” Cas murmured, getting up on his elbows, kissing him.

Dean took him in his arms, moving them around, sitting in the passenger seat at a slump. His head dropped back as Cas gripped the back of the seat and rode him just as slowly at first.

He raised his head, thick with lust and want. Cas sped up, making Dean fight to hang on. He took Cas’ cock in his hand and stroked it in rhythm.

Cas laced the fingers of his left hand to Dean’s, pinning it to the back of the seat.

Dean flicked his thumb over, rubbing the ring, feeling its hard surface against his own fingers.

Cas shuttered, his mouth dropping open. Dean stroked harder, watching Cas teeter and moan as semen flooded hot into his hand. His body going lax in his arms, Dean pumped up hard into him, cuming with an equal groan.

They gasped for air in the hot, stuffy night. Headlights passed them, lighting across Cas’ sleepy face. His eyes opened, radiating blue in the lights before they were gone.

Cas collapsed into his chest, his head on his shoulder. Dean chuckled, hugging him. They sat there a good ten minutes before moving. They dressed slowly, opening the window to let air in and defog the windows.

Cas’ hand on his thigh as they drove home would never look quite the same. He had put that ring there. And he craved one of his own. He wanted someone to give him that look. The oh-you’re-married look. It made him grin just thinking about it.

“I’m glad it looks different than Sam’s,” Castiel said sleepily.

“What?” Dean asked, turning the wipers up a speed to keep up with the rain.

Castiel went still beside him. “Um...”

Dean glanced at him. “You’re glad what looks different?”

Cas bit his lip. “I wasn’t supposed to tell.”

Dean frowned. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Cas sighed. “Gabe...got Sam...”

Dean’s jaw dropped. “Gabe got Sam a ring? He’s gonna ask him to marry him?”

Castiel groaned. “I suck at secrets! Yes. But he’s waiting for the right time. And working up the nerve to ask you. And Bobby.”

Dean’s mind calmed down. “He’s gonna ask me for my permission?”

“Well, yes,” Cas said, like that was well-known information.

Dean rubbed his mouth with his hand. “He’s gonna ask me for permission to marry Sam?”

“Yes,” Cas grinned, catching on to Dean’s shock. “Your opinion matters more to him than anyone.”

Dean frowned. “Was I supposed to ask Gabe if I could marry you? Cause I didn’t. And now I feel kinda shitty about it.”

Cas grinned. “He may have mentioned it. But he fully supports us, Dean.”

Dean sighed. He had missed something there. But honestly, he hadn’t known he was going to ask Cas to marry him that morning when he woke up. Or at all, for that matter. He had shocked himself as much as Cas that day. But once the words were out, the answer given, the promise made...it all felt really natural.

“I’ll, uh, talk to him,” Dean said, wishing he had given Cas a better proposal than he had. But, he had meant every minute of it. Every word.

He took Cas’ hand in his, grinning at the ring and feeling it with his thumb. On second thought, it was perfect just the way it was.

 

**********

 

Castiel loaded the shotgun Bobby handed him. Everyone seemed slightly skittish of the rock salt shotguns. Everyone still had scars from their last foray.

Armed with salt, gasoline, guns, hex bags, and iron crowbars, they headed into the house again. Charlie, Dorothy, and Benny waited outside with a giant burn bin already burning.

The dogs had been kept at the hotel to save them the stress. But Buddy knew what was up anyway. He was whining and hobbling to follow them. Garth and Rufus waving for them to just go.

The house was cool and quiet inside. Glancing around the kitchen, he realized how much he missed being here. He followed Dean with more determination. They filed up the stairs.

“Doesn’t feel so cold in here,” Sam said quietly, watching carefully.

“Yeah, well, don’t get comfy,” Dean warned.

They moved through the hall quickly, Dean picking up the tricycle as he went. Once in the bedroom, Bobby took a guarding stance, shutting the bedroom door and scanning the room constantly for ghosts.

Dean shoved the window open. He dismantled the shattered window, tossing it to the yard below. Castiel scooped the dolls off the shelf, dropping several. Dean tossed the tricycle out the window.

“Nooo!” Cried Jackie’s plaintive voice from in front of him. Castiel held his hand out, stopping Bobby from shooting her.

“Cas!” Dean yelled, Bobby hesitating.

“Wait!” Castiel snapped at everyone. “Just one minute.”

He squatted to look up at the sad, scared look on Jackie’s slightly translucent face. “Jackie, it’s time to go home.”

“I want my bike. And my doll.”

Castiel fought back the urge to cry. As wrong as it was, he had spent time with this child. Happy, play time. “I know you want these things, but they are only things.” Castiel pressed his lips together to stop them from quivering with sadness. “You need to go be with your mommy now. She’s been waiting for you for so long.”

Jackie stared at him sadly. “But this is MY house.” Some of the familiar flickers of rage sparked in her.

“This WAS your house,” Castiel explained calmly. “Now it’s time for you to go to heaven.”

Jackie frowned at him. “My daddy’s not here anymore.”

Castiel nodded.

“I want to stay here with you,” she said quietly.

Tears finally slid down Castiel’s cheeks. “I-I wish you could, Jackie. But your mommy is waiting for you.”

Jackie stood there sadly a moment, everyone frozen around her. She leaned forward toward Castiel, Bobby raising the gun again and Dean gripping his crowbar.

Castiel held his hand out for them to wait.

Jackie leaned in closer, cupping her small hand to whisper in his ear. “She’s under the stairs.”

She vanished, Cas gasping as he stood up.

“What’d she say?” Dean asked.

“She said, ‘she’s under the stairs’.”

“Whose under the stairs?” Gabe asked, shivering.

“What stairs?” Dean blurted. “This house has a million fucking stairs!”

“I don’t know,” Castiel said helplessly. “She disappeared.”

They all exchanged looks for a moment. “Well, keep tossing this stuff just in case,” Dean said quietly.

Castiel tossed the dolls, not feeling very good about it. Sam and Gabe had taken up all the bed covering and shoved them out the window. The tea set was put into a pillowcase, tied shut and tossed. It hit the patio, shattering in its bag. Toys, clothes, chairs, pictures from the walls, everything went out the window.

Dean opened the tiny closet in the room. Dresses and boxes went out next.

“The bed?” Sam asked.

“Break it down,” Dean said gruffly.

They dismantled and emptied the room under Bobby’s watchful eye. Bed and table gone, they rolled up the rug last, shoving it out. Below them, Charlie salted while Benny and Dorothy fed everything into the fire.

Castiel felt sad. None of this was Jackie’s fault. She was traumatized into a trapped state of death where she festered and became worn and warped. She didn’t even have a proper grave anymore.

With the room barren and echoing with each step or word spoken, Castiel wanted to leave.

“Do you guys feel like she’s still here?” Sam asked.

“Yes,” Gabe and Dean answered, looking around nervously.

“Basement maybe?” Dean suggested. “Coulda been more in that safe. We were kinda in a hurry at the time.”

“Maybe,” Bobby shrugged.

They headed down the stairs. In the kitchen, Castiel stopped. “I think I’m done.”

Dean and Gabe gave him worried looks.

“I’m just gonna go help them burn.”

Dean came back over to him. “You know we did the right thing. She can’t stay here, Cas.”

“I know,” he gave Dean what he hoped was a sure smile. “I just...I’d rather not go to the basement.”

Dean nodded, kissing him and joining the others.

He opened the back door, seeing the bonfire out in the yard. The sickly flap of the gray-with-age curtains in the flames, the bed frame alight, and toys shriveling to dust did not bring him comfort as it did the others.

He shut the door and sat on the steps in the kitchen. He struggled back and forth with why this was right and how wrong it felt.

His breath came out in a puff of air and he realized suddenly how cold it was. He stood up, looking around. “Jackie?” He whispered.

He glanced up the stairs and saw her peeking around the corner at the top of the steps.

Hesitantly, he began climbing the stairs. In the second floor kitchen he caught a glimpse of her on the third floor landing. He climbed higher, his heart racing. In the third floor kitchen, he looked up the steps but saw nothing on the fourth floor. He stepped further into the kitchen and Jackie appeared by a cabinet door.

“Jackie,” Castiel said softly.

She stood prim and small in her dress, her hands clasped in front of her, as she often did. She pointed slowly to a tall cabinet door.

Castiel came toward her and the door slowly. Dean would be so angry if he knew what he was doing. Not for doing it, but for doing it alone. But the moment felt so fragile, like if he breathed too hard she might vanish.

He skirted around her opening the tall cabinet.

Crouched in the back of it, was Jackie.

He turned, seeing she was no longer in the kitchen. Taking a deep breath, he looked into the pantry again. She was watching him and waiting. He crouched down, watching her.

She pointed to the wall. Castiel looked, realizing it was an access door to a crawl space. He pulled the broom and dustpan out of the way, crawling into the freezing, tiny space. He pushed on the wall, a board fell inward. He pulled his phone out, turning the flashlight on. He took a deep breath and squeezed into the space.

Beneath the stairs to the fourth floor was an old storage closet. There were big glass jugs with liquid inside, several wooden buckets, and a small something wrapped in a blanket at the very back, under the underside of the lowest stairs. He swallowed hard, knowing this bundle was his goal.

He squeezed in further, gingerly pulling the light blanket toward him. He backed out, heart thudding in his chest, pulling the little bundle along.

He backed out of the closet, finally picking up the blanket. His hands shook as he looked at Jackie, who stood in the kitchen again looking solemn.

He swallowed hard, looking down at the dirty pink satin blanket. He unwrapped several flaps of blanket, revealing the small, pale face of a doll.

Castiel jerked his head up, looking at Jackie. His greatest fear, that this had been an actual baby, was relieved. But when he saw the hair of the doll, he knew it was Jackie’s hair.

“She’s very beautiful,” Castiel said in a small voice. “Like you.”

Jackie grinned with pride.

Castiel looked down at the doll sadly.

“Daddy had her made for me. I wasn’t supposed to play with her. He said she had to be hidden. But I found her anyway.”

Castiel swallowed back tears. So, Lucifer had purposely set his own daughter up to be a ghost. Kept parts of her, like himself, in separate places to keep them tied here forever.

Castiel looked up at the pale imitation of life that used to be a beautiful little girl. “Thank you, Jackie. I will take very good care of the house.”

She grinned, running for the stairs to go back down. Castiel followed slowly, cradling the doll delicately in one arm as he turned his flashlight off and called Dean.

“Cas?” Dean answered, static heavy in the line.

“I have it, Dean. I have the last piece of Jackie.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m coming downstairs. I’ll meet you at the back door.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Just...stay on the phone until I can see you, okay?”

“Okay,” Castiel nodded, heading down the stairs.

He waited at the back door, listening to Dean breathe and talk until he too was in the kitchen. They put their phones away, Dean’s eyes glued to the bundle in his arms.

“What is that?” Gabe asked, eyes wide.

“A special doll Jackie’s father had made for her. She has Jackie’s hair.”

Sam, Bobby, Gabe, and Dean, all gave the doll a sad look.

“Come on,” Dean said, steering Castiel out the back door. They walked to the large drum burning all Jackie’s things.

She appeared next to Castiel, staring at the fire. Everyone but Cas took a sudden step back.

She looked up at Castiel. “Can I go see my mommy now?”

“Yes,” Castiel nodded, unable to stop the tears sliding down his cheeks and the ache in his throat.

“Jackie,” Dean said softly, surprising both Castiel and Jackie.

She looked at him.

Dean cleared his throat. “See those trees over there?” He pointed to the line of trees at the far end of the property.

She nodded. “Yes.”

“If you run, you can catch her over there.” He grinned, nodding his head.

She looked up at Castiel. He nodded back in agreement.

She giggled and took off running across the yard.

“Burn it, Cas,” Dean whispered, putting a hand on his shoulder.

Castiel watched her run as he tipped the doll and blanket into the fire. She whisked away in the flash of a bright light. Gone.

Castiel looked imploringly at Dean.

“That is NOT what happened with Lucifer. She went home, Cas. She went to heaven.”

Castiel hugged him tightly. It didn’t feel as bad as he had feared. Relief filled him. Relief that Jackie had moved on. And relief for all of them. They had the house back!

The entire group sniffled and stood silently.

Their ghosts were gone.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23 Questions, Confessions, and Propositions

 

The ghosts that were left unattended at Kripke Manor had taken their toll. All the windows on the fourth floor wing that had housed the ghosts needed replaced before any more rain damage was done. The ballroom floor had deep gouges that looked like fingernail scratches the length of the room. Bobby actually removed his hat as if someone had died when they saw it.

The runner on the stairs to the foyer had been shredded. Every square inch of the floor in the running room was adorned with plates, cups, bowls, utensils, all in a single layer and neatly placed.

“What the fuck even?” Gabe sighed in disgust when Castiel showed him the stretch of dishes in the narrow room.

“Wow,” Garth deadpanned.

Dean scratched his head in annoyance.

Sam started laughing.

Gabe gave him an incredulous look. “How can you possibly find this amusing?”

“I don’t know,” Sam shrugged, giggling again. “It’s just so...nuts! All this is so nuts.”

Dean and Castiel exchanged a look, Dean cracking a grin.

One by one, they all managed to find the humor in the bizarre life that apparently was theirs.

Other than these set-backs, the windows on the fourth floor and the ensuing water damage being the worst of it, the house was ready for operation again.

They all moved back in several days after the burning of Jackie’s things. They took it slow, doing multiple walk-throughs over those several days, watching for things moving and feeling for cold spots. Nothing had moved and the house was a normal temperature throughout.

On the last Thursday in July, Gabriel took his seat slowly and with reverence in the lion throne. It was their first spec meeting in weeks. There was a lot to review and brush up on.

The fourth floor windows, floors and third floor ceilings moved to top priority. Since there was damage control in that area being planned, they added removal of what had been Lucifer’s cage to the list. They had plans drawn up for a re-arranged and improved fourth floor.

Their trip to Kansas had been pushed back in order to get work moving on the house again.

Castiel had to grin at the sight of his brother easing into the throne with such happy satisfaction. Dean complained his box was collapsing and it might be time to get chairs for the rest of them.

“Ya think?” Bobby had glared. “I been askin’ for months. You see I’m sittin’ on the same box of...whatever’s in here, as I was a year ago.”

Castiel added it to Gabe’s ‘to do’ list, not even trying to insert his opinion on the scheme of Gabe’s dining room.

Dean and Castiel had a plane to catch in four hours with Charlie to Kansas. Dorothy had been unable to come since her parts were being delivered and she needed to focus on work to be done with the pool.

Sam read over what everyone would be focusing on. Bobby was relegated back to floor repairs in the ballroom, much to his annoyance and displeasure. Gabriel and Castiel could go back to getting things in motion to start the business and more decorating.

Between the stable and the house, there was suddenly a mountain of focus before fall was on them. The trip to Kansas had been shortened to four days to get them back sooner.

As they wrapped the meeting up, Dean fidgeted with his pen. “Gabe, are you and Sam sure you want to take care of the dogs while we’re gone? They could still go to Ellen’s if you want.”

Gabe leaned forward in his throne, resting his elbows on the table. “I can handle the dogs.”

“You know you’ll have to take Buddy upstairs in the elevator, right? He still can’t do steps.”

Gabe shifted nervously. “Um...Sam can carry him up.”

Sam frowned. “Dude, four flights of steps? I don’t think so.”

Gabe frowned. “Sam can take him up in the elevator.”

Sam shrugged. “It’ll be fine Dean. We’ll take care of them both just fine.”

Dean gave his brother an unconvinced look.

Cas put a patient hand on Dean’s shoulder. “We need to go. Our brothers will do just fine.”

Dean nodded.

“Sam,” Cas said, “I have the dog food in my truck if you’ll come get it.”

“Yeah.” Sam stood, gathering a few papers and following him.

Dean looked across the messy table. House plans were back to being written on, stain samples were stacked on one corner, and several wallpaper books were strewn across the mess. It was good to see them back in action and a day’s spec sheet hanging on the wall again. Bobby had headed to the ballroom, leaving just Dean and Gabe sitting there.

Dean cleared his throat. “Gabe.”

Gabe sat his phone down, looking up at him.

“I...uh...I wanted to say thank you for supporting me asking Cas to marry me. I didn’t ask you first, but now I kinda wish I would have.”

Gabe nodded. “My brother is not the easiest person to get.” His amber eyes flicked up to Dean’s. “You really do make him happy, Dean. I’ve never seen him so into another person. So...connected.”

Dean nodded with a grin.

“Speaking of brothers,” Gabe went on, rubbing at the ornate armrest of his seat, “I...uh...I want to ask you a question. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about Sam.”

“What about Sam?” Dean asked, already guessing where this was going.

“I...uh...I...”. Gabe looked down at his hands, picking at a nail nervously. “I really love him.”

Dean grinned.

“He’s...perfect. I think...I think we could be really happy together.”

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “He likes you. I don’t know why...”

Gabe smirked. “You’re not going to make this easy, are you.”

“Make what easy?” Dean asked, feigning confusion.

Gabe blew out a big breath. “I would like-“

“To buy chairs for the rest of us?” Dean supplied.

“No,” Gabe blushed.

“To test out the elevator while I’m still here?”

“No!” Gabe crawled out of the throne, fidgeting and getting flustered.

“To go on a double date with Bobby and Ellen?” Dean grinned, watching him with a satisfied grin.

“Dean! Shut up!” Gabe held his hands up.

Dean gave him an innocent grin.

Gabe took a deep breath. “I would like to ask Sam-“

“What shoe size he is?” Dean went on. “Cause, dude, they’re big.”

“Oh for the love of God,” Gabe moaned, wilting onto the box next to Dean.

“What he uses in his hair? Cause it is pretty flowy.”

“I know his shoe size, Dean.” Gabe stared him directly in the eyes. “I know what shampoo, conditioner, moose, and cream he uses on his hair.”

“He uses cream?” Dean scoffed. “What the hell kind of cream?”

“I’m going to kill you, if you don’t shut up,” Gabe deadpanned.

Dean raised an eyebrow. “This isn’t going well. I feel threatened.”

Gabe sat there a moment with his jaw hanging open. “I hate you.”

“Hostile,” Dean sighed, frowning.

“I’m asking Sam to marry me. And you’re okay with it. Say yes.”

“I feel pressured,” Dean scowled. “This is definitely not the way to go about this, Gabriel.”

Gabe, beyond all patience at this point, slammed his hand on the table. “Dean! Say you’re fine with this. Please.”

Dean cracked a grin finally. “So, you want to marry my little brother.”

“Yes.”

Dean sat a moment, like he was really thinking about it.

“You’re such a dick,” Gabe huffed, grinning.

“Oh, well, that just sells it,” Dean shrugged.

“I’m marrying him,” Gabe said, shaking his head. “You can just kiss my ass.”

“Speaking of asses,” Dean said seriously, “are you thinking leather chairs for in here? Cloth?”

Gabe gave him a piercing, level look.

Dean leaned over, close to Gabe. “You can marry my brother if he says yes. And he will.”

Gabe deflated. “Thank you. Asshole.”

“Any time.” Dean clapped him on the shoulder. “What are you so nervous for anyway? He loves you, Gabe.”

Gabe sighed. “It’s just...I know I drive him crazy sometimes. But...I love him more than I can-“

“You had me at the throne, Gabe. You’re amazing. Smart. A badass. And most of all, because you do drive him a little bit crazy. He needs that.”

The pair exchanged a grin.

“Thanks, jerk,” Gabe said, hugging him.

“Oh, we’re hugging,” Dean huffed, patting him back.

“You really think he’ll say yes?” Gabe asked, stepping back.

“Yes.” Dean threw an arm around his shoulders walking him out of the dining room. “About those chairs. Just promise me there will be no animal print.”

 

*********

 

“Huh,” Cas mumbled from the seat beside him.

“What?” Dean asked tightly.

“Oh nothing really,” Cas said, still looking at his phone. “It just says, ‘according to one estimate, you can lose about two cups of water from your body for every hour you spend flying. While estimates of water loss during flight vary, it’s well-known that flying causes dehydration in passengers, which can lead to deep-vein thrombosis on long-haul flights’.”

Dean could feel his parched mouth dry a bit more. They had been sitting on the airplane for a whopping five minutes and he was already starting to sweat.

“Huh. Airliners’ lifespans aren’t determined by years. Instead, they’re determined by the number of pressurisations the plane undergoes. Every time a plane is pressurised during flight, it causes stress on the plane’s fuselage. Over time, this stress causes irreparable metal fatigue and cracks. An approximate rule of thumb is 75,000 pressurizations per aircraft. In human terms, this works out to about 20-25 years for most planes.“

Dean immediately began noticing how worn the seat in front of him looked. “How old do you think this plane is?”

Cas shrugged. “At least fifteen years, give or take.”

“Give or take what? Five years? That could make it twenty years old!”

Cas turned a surprised look at Dean. “Dean, are you okay? You look pale and...”

“I hate flying,” Dean said tightly, putting his head back against the seat. “Like, a lot.”

“Dean...I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. Gabe just keeps texting me these interesting facts about-“

“Fucking Gabe,” Dean moaned.

“I won’t read any more of them aloud,” Cas grinned, patting his arm.

“Thanks. That’d be good.” Freaking Gabe. He sighed with a self-deprecating groan. Pay back from Gabe was a bitch.

“Hey,” Cas said, close to his ear, intertwining their fingers. “I’m right here. And I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean grinned shakily. “You gonna fly us out of here if we crash?”

“Well, it’s a Thursday. I own Thursday, ya know. So, I got this.”

He felt Cas kiss his hand and he let his eyes come open again. “Thursday, huh.”

“Mmhm,” Cas nodded with enough assurance that Dean actually relaxed a bit.

“I got us a surprise for tonight,” Cas added.

“What kind of surprise?” Dean asked.

Cas grinned. “Not one I can talk about in public. But I promise you’re going to like it.”

“Are you wearing it?” Dean asked, eyeing Cas with a hungry look.

Cas chuckled low, kissing his hand again.

“What’s that chuckle mean?” Dean pulled his hand back, kissing Cas’, feeling the warm silver of his ring against his mouth.

Cas blushed. “I’m not telling you any more.”

“Hm!” Dean pouted.

“Want to watch a movie?” Cas asked.

“Hey, bitches!” Charlie said, taking the seat next to Dean. “Sorry,” she winced, apologizing to a mother and her daughter sitting across the aisle.

“Hi, Charlie,” Dean and Cas smirked.

She giggled. “It’s super cute when you speak in unison.”

Dean rolled his eyes but Cas grinned, making Dean grin.

 

It was by far the best flight Dean had ever suffered through. Cas stayed right beside him the entire time. He arrived back to the surface of the planet sober too, which was a bonus.

Kansas in summer. Still pretty plain. As Dean drove the rental car back into Lawrence, he realized he wasn’t missing any of it. It was drab and gray compared to what Virginia with Cas was. And even though it seemed they had been through hell, it seemed so much better than what he had left here.

Dean headed straight to Charlie’s apartment. She hopped out of the car with her luggage and a wave. “See you at the office in the morning!”

“Later, Charlie,” Dean waved, watching her head into the doors of the square building.

“Dean, have you talked to anyone about moving to Virginia?” Cas asked, watching her disappear through the door.

“Yeah. Sam. And Charlie. And Bobby. Uh...yeah, I’ve talked about it a good bit, actually.”

Cas grinned. “You don’t talk about it with me too often.”

Dean had to agree with that. “We’ve been...busy. And I guess I feel kinda weird talking about moving in. Like I’m freeloading. I don’t know.”

Castiel watched out the windshield as Dean made his way several blocks over to a decent hotel. “I guess you could get your own apartment.”

Dean looked at him. “Do you want me to?”

“No!” Cas shook his head, frowning. “I want you with me. And I happen to live in this huge, gigantic house. And I want you there for every minute of it! I’m quite sure it is safe to say you have never freeloaded in your life.”

Dean sighed. “Alight. I get it. And I do want to move in with you. I mean, stay moved in with you. I guess it’s ridiculous, really.”

“Good.” Cas sighed. “So, what do the others think?”

“Well, Gabe asked me if he could marry Sam. And Sam will say yes. And Gabe is tied to the house in Virginia. So...I, we are both planning to move to Virginia. Charlie is the one who is most upset about me staying there. But...we’ll figure something out.”

“She should move in with us. Stay in the area. There’s plenty of work for her to do around town.”

Dean nodded. “I’ll tell her.”

“What about the business?”

Dean shrugged a shoulder. “We can move it.” They drove quietly a few minutes. “Sam and I want to shut it down, actually.”

“Shut it down?” Cas asked, just as surprised as Dean thought he might be.

They pulled into the hotel. Rather than checking in, he decided to finish this conversation now, so he pulled into a parking spot.

“Sam and I agreed when we landed ‘the Novak job’, we were going to finish it and go out. Retire, so to speak.”

“I see,” Cas said quietly. “But you do such amazing work. Are you sure you still want to quit the business?”

Dean tapped his thumbs on the bottom of the steering wheel at his lap. “I can’t do this job forever, Cas. There is so much time spent on the road. And I don’t want that kind of life.”

“No,” Cas agreed quietly.

Dean stared at the Chevrolet emblem in the center of the steering wheel. “Do you think it’s a bad plan? To sell the business?”

Cas reached for Dean’s hand, pulling him out of his stewing. “Dean...I know that your hands make things come back to life. What you and Sam are doing with the Manor is truly incredible. But I want you with me. And...we don’t need the money. Unless the wedding business fails.”

“It won’t fail,” Dean assured him.

Castiel frowned with worry. “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and just admit how selfish I am. I want you. All the time. I have a business to try and run and more than anything, I would love you to be a part of that.”

Dean grinned. “So, close up shop and relocate to Virginia?”

“Yes!” Cas answered emphatically. “We need help with the wedding business. We can join together, the four of us, and run it without it owning us, ya know?”

Dean scooted around in his seat with a questioning look. “Cas, just how wealthy are you? You never really talk about money. And I know the account to the house is huge. But outside of that...how rich are you?”

Castiel grinned. “The account that is tied to the house is down to 9 million now. Hopefully we’ll have plenty left in there for repairs and even some business expenses. But that account is specified for Kripke Manor, per the will.”

“Right,” Dean nodded.

“Other than that, I have my own personal account with around $20,000 in savings. Then there are the accounts that Gabe and I are joint on, left by my father, which comes to around five and a half million dollars.”

Dean swallowed. Holy shit.

“It’s down to like five and a half million now. After buying several vehicles and paying off fines from that trip to Florida Gabe and I took.”

“You guys had fines?” Dean asked. He had heard a few details of the trip, but never the full story.

“Oh yeah,” Cas sighed. “That was back when Gabe and I got our first big dose of just how haunted the manor was. We were pretty freaked out.”

Dean nodded.

“I guess I should confess all of it. It all started harmlessly enough,” Cas shrugged. “See, Gabe picked up this bubble machine and...I mean things just really got out of hand.”

“A bubble machine.”

“Yes,” Cas nodded, as if that made any sense. Of course, with Gabe, it might. “So, we’d been bumming around at the beach with the dogs for a few days. And you know how Gabe makes friends.”

“Uh huh,” Dean narrowed his eyes listening.

“And we were drinking. A lot. So, Gabe sets up this bubble machine on the beach. People started coming and hanging out and then of course Gabe wanted to have a party.”

“Okay.”

“So...we were renting this house on the beach and he left the bubble machine running with a sign on it that the party was at the house we were in.”

“So, you had a crazy party.”

“A LOT of people came. Did I mention it was during Spring Break for a local college?”

“No,” Dean sighed.

“So..all these people show up and it got pretty loud. And wild. And some neighbors called the police.”

Dean nodded.

“The police shut it down with a hefty fine.”

Dean nodded.

“So...Gabe had another party the next night.”

Dean raised one eyebrow. “Just Gabe?”

Cas winced. “We had a party the next night.”

“Uh huh.”

“The police came again. We got fined and they asked us to leave.”

“Did you leave?”

“We did. They pretty much escorted us out of town. But all these locals saw and stopped us in the next town.”

“And you had another party,” Dean surmised.

“We did. That’s when the trouble really began.”

Both Dean’s eyebrows raised.

“Let me just clarify, neither of us knew that Florida had such bizarre laws.”

“Such as...”

Cas blew a breath. “Um...we paid fines for...public singing in a swimsuit, unlicensed skate boarding, corrupting public morals, apparently a swamp buggy is not allowed to be driven on roads, did you know breaking more than three plates in one day carries a $3,000 fine?”

“What?” Dean laughed.

“Seriously! I have the copy of the fines we paid at home. Um...several accounts of ‘unnatural acts with people in public’, and did you know oral sex is illegal in Florida?”

“Who the fuck were you having oral sex with?” Dean snapped.

“No! Not me! And not Gabe either. We paid everyone’s fines. I mean...we were the ones supplying the alcohol and Gabriel in general. Then there was one for molesting a trash can.”

“You party with some weird-ass people,” Dean frowned.

“No, that was Gabe.”

Dean shut his eyes. “I don’t even want to know.”

“And we were fined for men wearing strapless gowns in public. Who thinks these laws up?”

“Who was wearing a gown?”

“Well...there was a fashion show...and...”

“Gabe?”

Cas blushed. “And me.”

“Jesus, Cas.”

“There was a lot of alcohol.”

“What else?” Dean sighed.

“Underage drinking, providing alcohol to minors. And then there was the whole lion thing.”

“What lion thing?” Dean hated to ask.

“Oh, well, we went to this lion sanctuary...and Gabe tried to steal one.”

Silence.

Cas hung his head. “Yeah. It was bad.”

“You guys paid $500,000 in fines?”

Cas blew out a breath. “It was around eight. We used our own money too.”

Dean was mildly pissed. “Alcohol to minors? Cas.”

“They just kept sneaking in!” Cas sagged, knowing he had no grounds to defend himself.

“Did you sleep with anyone there?”

“Dean! No! And neither did Gabe! We might be rich and stupid, but come on. Neither of us were remotely interested in that happening.”

Dean relaxed a bit. “Did you actually get the lion?”

“It was a cub,” Cas grinned. “They are so soft! Um, yeah, well, we didn’t make it out of the park. We got caught in the gift shop.”

Dean laughed. “You stole an animal-“

“Rescued.”

“Rescued a lion cub and stopped at the gift shop?”

Cas furrowed his brow. “It was a bad plan.”

Dean laughed. “At least you only got fines.”

“Oh no, we were arrested. Twice.”

Dean’s jaw dropped. “Castiel Novak! You got sent to jail?”

Cas grinned. “We bailed out. We only slept there the second time one night because they refused bail. That was when they made us leave.”

“The state?”

“The state. I’m actually not allowed in the state of Florida.”

Dean laughed hard. “Why didn’t you ever tell me any of this?”

Cas shrugged. “It was all rather embarrassing. And we were kind of a new thing back then.”

Dean swallowed his laugh. “My fiancé the criminal.”

Cas rolled his eyes.

“Does Sam know?”

“I doubt it. Gabe was rather embarrassed as well. Especially with the trash can thing. It really was circumstantial.”

“I bet.” Dean got out of the car.

“Are you freaked out?” Cas asked him, joining him at the trunk of the car.

“Me? No. I mean, I didn’t know you were into wearing gowns.”

“I’m not,” Cas laughed. “I did look good though!”

“I have no doubt,” Dean grinned, handing him his suitcase. “I’ll just have to be the one with the clean record when we go to adopt kids. Since you’re the one providing alcohol to minors and conducting ‘unnatural acts’ in the streets.”

Castiel froze in his steps, eyes wide.

Dean stopped, still grinning.

“I was very upset about the minors thing.”

Dean stifled his grin. “I’m sure some underage college kids think you’re a hero.”

Cas shook his head. “I...”

“Cas,” Dean chuckled, “how do you think Ash and I got to be friends. He’ll clean up your record. Ya thug.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. My record is cleaner than it should be.”

“You were arrested?”

Dean sighed. “Public drunkenness, Drinking under age, grand theft auto, which was total bullshit, resisting arrest...yeah. I was a model citizen until you came along and started dragging me down.”

Cas grinned. “Resisting arrest?”

“Oh I was a real piece of work in my younger days. Had to make my dad proud.”

Cas’ grin fizzled out. “Oh. Sorry.”

Dean shrugged. “We’ll get Gabe squared away too. Not that I should encourage parenting to him. I don’t trust him to take care of the dogs.”

Cas grinned. “So...adoption?”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “How else are we gonna have kids?”

Castiel blushed. “I...I don’t know! I mean, I wasn’t really sure you wanted kids.”

“Well, I do. And I know you do too.”

Cas let go of the suitcase handle, hugging Dean and kissing him. “Cas,” Dean laughed.

“Cas...we gotta get a room!”

“So get a room,” Cas panted between kisses.

Dean pushed Cas back a step with a grin. “I need my face to get the room! Jeez. It’s no wonder you have such a rap sheet.”

Cas rolled his eyes. “I’m never gonna hear the end of this, am I?”

“Ohhh, not for a while.” Dean grabbed his suitcase again and headed for the hotel lobby.

 

*********

 

Dean and Charlie spent the better part of two days sifting through email and real mail from the business. Cas was busy packing up the lobby. They were making a lot of headway. The fact that they had barely been on site for the past year had definitely slowed things down. But moving a business to another state was a pain in the ass.

“I’m gonna have to rent a moving truck and drive back to Virginia,” Dean sighed, looking at the boxes in their office.

“You are not,” Charlie said, standing. They had Dean and Sam’s office packed and in two separate piles. “That crap goes on eBay. That crap goes in your storage unit. This laptop comes home with us. Nice try though.”

Dean rubbed his achey knee. “Fine.”

Charlie added another box to the eBay pile. “What about the sign out front?”

Dean had insisted a long time ago that their business sign be made of wood. It looked out of place in the strip mall where their office was located, but he loved it.

“I’m taking that home! I guess I’ll ship it.”

Charlie nodded, sitting on Sam’s empty desk. “Home, huh?”

Dean sat next to her. “Have you decided anything yet?”

She shrugged. “I really do like the Moondoor crowd in Virginia.”

Dean grinned.

She dropped her head onto his shoulder. “And you.”

Dean turned, kissing the top of her head. “Stay in Virginia with us, Charlie. Somebody has to keep me in line.”

She giggled. “If you and Sam both move there...”

“We are, Charlie. It’s a done deal.”

“Then I guess I’ll move too.”

“Really?” Dean grinned.

“Only if you PROMISE your kids will call me Aunt Charlie.”

“Deal!” He hugged her tight. “You gotta help me talk Bobby into moving too. Then the whole family will be there.”

“If all three of us go, he’ll move. Plus, he seems pretty smitten with Ellen.”

“We have a year to talk him into it. There’s another year’s worth of work to do at Kripke. Then...”

“Then we can find jobs. Or...I might get into this hunting thing.”

Dean frowned at that. “I wonder why that Jody lady never showed up. She said she was coming and now Ash can’t track her down.”

“I’ve tried too. I talked to another hunter and she said she would try to find her.”

Cas came in the office with another box. “This is the last one. It’s more files.” He added it to the pile to go to storage.

“We can drop them off at my storage unit. I’ll have to pick up the key first.” Dean slid off the desk, letting Charlie go.

“I can do it, if you want.” Charlie gave Dean a nervous look.

Dean shook his head. “No. I need to do it.”

“What am I missing?” Cas asked, looking between them.

Dean’s jaw tightened. “Lisa has the key. I’m gonna have to tell her I’m not coming back. And Ben.”

Cas helped him load the small car with as many boxes as they could fit. Once they were settled in the front seat, Cas bit his lip. “I could go to Charlie’s. Or back to the hotel. If you want some privacy.”

Dean gave Cas a look. “What did I tell you about privacy?”

Cas blushed. “I am your privacy.”

Dean grinned. “Don’t stress it, Cas. Lisa will like you. And I haven’t been around much anyway. So, Ben probably won’t take it too hard. He’s a good kid.”

Cas nodded.

 

*********

Castiel had learned several things on his trip to Lawrence so far.

1. Dean and Sam were well liked by people in Lawrence.
2. Dean had a very messy office. How they had managed to be so organized was beyond him.
3. Buddy was mad. Gabe had resorted to making him a steak and sitting on the floor with him to get him to eat.
4. Buddy was terrible at FaceTiming. He stole Sam’s phone and took it out to the gazebo while they were on a call with Sam.

 

They pulled up to a nice little house in the outskirts of Lawrence. Dean hopped out of the car with little apprehension. Castiel was not sure why he was feeling so nervous about this. If Dean was okay, he should be okay too.

They went up to the porch and Dean knocked on the door. A boy with dark brown hair opened the door.

“Dean!” He threw open the screen door and hugged Dean tightly. “I didn’t know you were coming! Thanks for the birthday present! Mom even let me open it the day before my birthday!”

Dean was all smiles, hugging him tightly. “You like it?”

“Yeah! Come in!” He backed up, smiling at Castiel. “Hi!”

“Hello, Ben,” Castiel nodded, following Dean inside.

“Ben,” Dean stopped in the living room. “This is Cas. The guy I’ve been tellin’ you about.”

“Hi Cas.” Ben shook his hand. He looked like he might be twelve or thirteen years old. “Dean talks about you and your crazy house all the time.”

Castiel grinned. Apparently Dean talked to Ben a lot more often than he had thought.

“Is it really haunted?”

“It was,” Castiel explained, “but the ghosts are gone now.”

“Cool. Mom said maybe we would come visit this summer, but we were really busy.”

“Yer mom home?” Dean asked.

“Yeah! MOM!” He went to the bottom of the steps. “Mom, Dean’s here!”

Dean sat down on the couch. Castiel sat in the chair next to it. His apprehensions were growing.

“Dean! You finally made it!” A beautiful brunette came into the living room. Dean stood up to hug her. She kissed his cheek and gave him a long smile, squeezing his arm. “It’s so good to see you. We miss you!”

Dean cleared his throat. “Yeah, I missed you guys too.” He pulled back a step. “This is Cas.”

Lisa turned her warm brown eyes on him. Castiel stood. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Her smile faltered. “It’s nice to meet you too.” She turned back to Dean. “Can I get you a drink?”

“No, no. We aren’t staying.”

“Aw,” Ben frowned, his shoulders slumping.

“Sorry, kiddo. I was just stopping in to get the key to the storage unit you got for me.”

“Sure, I’ll go get it,” Lisa said, heading out of the room.

“Dean! You have to come see my room! I wanna show you what I did with the model car you got me!”

“Yeah?” Dean looked over at Cas. “I’ll be right back.”

The pair left and Castiel sat down on the chair again. Pictures on a shelf caught his eye. He got up, crossing the living room to look at them. They were mostly of Ben. Two of them had Dean in them. One was of Dean with Ben on his shoulders in a baseball uniform. They were both smiling hard. Ben looked like he was around seven. The other was a picture of Lisa, Dean, and Ben. Ben looked to be around four. Dean was holding him on his hip and had an arm around Lisa. They looked very happy. A sinking weight pulled at Castiel’s stomach. Dean could have had all this. A family with the white picket fence and a simpler life.

“So.”

Castiel turned around, seeing Lisa had returned. He grinned politely.

“You’re the Cas I keep hearing about.”

Castiel was not sure how to respond. He had heard very little about her.

“I always knew Dean would find some life far away from here.” She crossed her arms over her chest, sitting on the couch. “Lawrence just has too many bad memories for him, I think.”

Castiel sat on the chair again. “I met John a few months ago.”

Lisa sat back.

“He said you yelled at him. That he was asking inappropriate questions.”

“Inappropriate? I wouldn’t say that. He wanted to know if Ben was Dean’s. Everyone thinks Ben is his. He might as well be. He’s the only father figure Ben has ever had.”

Castiel could feel his face flush slightly.

“Don’t worry. I know this isn’t what he wants. He could have had it.” She nodded. “It was his decision to not be here.” She looked down. “Sorry. I don’t mean to come across as a bitch. But he usually picks such terrible people to date. But you seem like a nice guy.”

Castiel huffed a laugh. “Thanks.”

“I know you make him really happy. And he seems to be doing well.”

Castiel heard laughing from upstairs. “He talks about Ben a lot.”

She smiled, relaxing a bit more. “Did he get a new apartment? He wasn’t even here when we packed up his old apartment and put everything into storage.”

Castiel hesitated. “No. He’ll be moving to Virginia. We are engaged and...”

“Engaged!” She sat forward again. Apparently her and Dean didn’t talk about everything. “When did you ask him to marry you?”

“I didn’t. He asked me.”

Lisa looked shocked. “I didn’t know that.” Her look was distant. As if she were putting some thoughts together.

“Dean Winchester. Off the market.” She looked up at Castiel. “Congratulations.”

Castiel sat back. He would have thanked her if he thought she meant it.

“Yeah,” Dean came into the living room with an arm around Ben’s shoulders. “But now we can really kick their asses with you on the team!” Dean looked at Lisa. “Butts. We can kick their butts.” He turned to Castiel. “I got Ben a new xbox for his birthday so now he can play with me and Charlie.”

Castiel smiled. “That’s great!”

“Do you play?” Ben asked him, flopping onto the couch.

“No. I’m terrible at video games.”

Ben nodded. “So...what do you guys do for fun?”

“We take the dogs to the park sometimes. Or run them out in the yard,” Dean answered. “Actually, we haven’t had a whole lot of down-time together.”

“I still can’t believe you like dogs. After the thousand times I tried to talk you into me getting one.”

“I know,” Dean shrugged.

Ben shook his head. “That’s so wrong.”

“Dean,” Lisa said, standing up. “Can I talk to you a minute?”

“Yeah.” He glanced at Cas as she walked out of the room. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Castiel nodded.

Dean’s look lingered a second. He followed Lisa.

“They always do that,” Ben sighed. “They think adults can only talk in another room.” He rolled his eyes.

Castiel had to grin at that. “I heard you play baseball.”

“Yep. I think I might try out for the soccer team too. I don’t know.”

“I played soccer in school.”

“You did?” Ben’s face lit up. “I’ve played before but it’s really competitive to get onto the school team.”

“Do you have a net?”

“Yeah! You wanna kick the ball around?”

“Sure.” Castiel followed Ben out the front door and around the side of the house. He pulled out a net from the garage and kicked two balls over to Castiel.

Cas had not touched a soccer ball in years. He dribbled it between his feet going up and back the yard and flipped it up, bouncing it off his knee a few times.

“Awesome!” Ben came running over, copying him with the other ball. “I can run good. I just suck at aiming the ball where I want it to go.”

“You should practice in your cleats. The shape of the shoe makes all the difference. But let’s see if I can remember some pointers.”

Castiel and Ben practiced passing the ball back and forth, perfecting a pretty good inside shot to the right.

They were laughing at Cas trying to remember some head shots and missing when he caught sight of Dean and Lisa on the back porch watching them.

“When you’re by yourself,” Castiel said, Ben listening carefully, “set up small targets at the net to aim for. Keep practicing until you can get those, and you’ll be able to do it at a run better during a game.”

“Cool,” Ben nodded. “Like soda cans?”

“That’s what I used to use.”

Ben ran off to the recycle bin to grab some cans. Castiel headed for the porch.

“Look at you,” Dean grinned. “I didn’t know you played soccer.”

Castiel shrugged. “For five years in middle and high school.”

Dean came down the back steps. “Would you mind if we take Ben out for pizza?”

Castiel looked up at Lisa. “Sure.”

“Lisa isn’t coming,” Dean clarified.

“Oh. Even better.” Castiel gave him a tight grin. Dean nodded in understanding. Something must have been said while he and Ben were playing.

“Hey, Ben! I could really go for some Marco’s Pizza! Wanna go with me and Cas?”

“Yeah!” He ran toward them and up onto the porch. “Guys night!”

Lisa grinned. “Go wash up and then you can go.”

 

They squeezed Ben into the backseat and headed for the storage units. Dean kept the conversation light, but Castiel could tell something had been said. It made him frustrated. But he could wait.

Dean unlocked the padlock and slid the door up. He stood there a moment, looking at all his things. “Kinda pathetic. Thirty years old and all I have can fit in a little storage unit.”

Castiel rubbed a hand down his back. “I moved to Virginia with four bags. Even my furniture had been leased. But...we have a lot now.”

Dean gave him a small smile. “Yeah. I guess we do. What am I gonna do with this crap?”

Castiel shrugged. “Donate what you no longer need. Ship the rest to Virginia.”

“Are you moving?”

Castiel and Dean turned, seeing Ben standing there with a box. His eyes were wide.

“Sorry,” Castiel said, feeling awful for bringing it up.

“Yeah, Ben. I was gonna tell you at dinner. I’m...I’m gonna move to Virginia to be with Cas. Sam too. Maybe even Charlie.”

Ben’s face fell. “Oh. Okay.” He handed Dean the box, turning back to the car.

Dean bit his lip. Castiel took the box from him. “Sorry, Dean.”

“Nah, it’s okay. Just...give me a sec.”

Castiel started a pile in the storage unit for the boxes from work. He glanced around at Dean’s other things. He could see a black leather sofa and several guitar cases. A table and two chairs. A bed, dismantled. Several boxes. Some lamps. All from another life of Dean’s. He glanced out as Dean hugged Ben tight. They laughed about something. Dean probably made a joke to make him laugh. He did that. He sat on one of the chairs and opened a partially opened box. He smirked. Porn? Really? He picked up a magazine. Busty Asian Beauties. He laughed. Behind that were Playgirl magazines. He tossed the magazine back in and closed the box.

Ben and Dean came back with boxes and they moved them all into the storage unit.

They had pizza and sat around talking for quite some time. When Dean got up to go to the bathroom, Ben gave him a serious look. “I know my mom is jealous. She wanted Dean to marry her.” He looked down at his drink.

“I’m sorry, Ben,” Castiel said quietly.

“No, it’s okay. He’s not even my dad.” Ben looked out the window. “I wish he was.” He looked back at Cas. “You better take good care of him.”

Castiel grinned sadly. “I will. I promise. And, you can come visit any time. Any time, Ben.”

Ben grinned. “Thanks, Cas. I’m glad you guys are together. He was never this happy with my mom. I think he stuck around a lot longer because of me.”

Castiel nodded. That was probably true.

“Do you think I can come for the wedding?” He asked excitedly.

“Of course!” Castiel laughed. “I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet. I guess we will have a wedding.”

“Well, yeah! I mean, that’s your thing right? The business you’re starting?”

“Yes.” Oddly enough, Castiel had not even thought that far ahead. He and Dean were just thankful to be able to sleep in a house again. He forgot that there were so many things to look forward to.

Dean returned, sitting down.

“Ben is officially invited to the wedding,” Castiel grinned, nudging Dean’s foot under the table.

“Oh! Yeah! You gotta be there. Shit. I never even thought about a wedding,” he admitted, shrugging to Castiel.

Castiel laughed. “Me either. Ben kindly pointed out that we do in fact run a wedding venue for such things.”

Dean laughed, ruffling Ben’s hair.

 

*******

 

After saying goodbye, Dean got back in the car. He sighed heavily, glancing at Cas. “That was...sorry.”

Cas nodded with a small grin. “I think you broke that woman’s heart, Dean.”

Dean sighed again. “Lisa knows damn well I’m gay. She was the last woman I went out with. And trust me...the sex was mediocre. I just wasn’t into her like that. And ya know what she sees when she looks at me? Dad material. That’s it. Stability. There’s no passion there, Cas.”

Cas nodded. “He really is a great kid.”

Dean looked back at the house. “If he had been my kid, I’d be taking him with us. But...Lisa is a good mom. He has a good life here. I’m just gonna miss him.”

Dean pulled the car away, heading for the hotel. “What did Lisa say to you?”

Cas watched out the window intently. “Nothing really. I just knew she still loves you and I’m the threat.”

Dean had been taken aback by Lisa’s behavior once the two of them got alone in the kitchen. She lectured him on anything she could think of to stop him from moving. She actually propositioned him. She told him he could move in with her and keep the business going. That Ben needed a dad. He was a bit shocked, since they had been on good, neutral terms for so long. She was panicking that he was leaving. That they were getting married. That Dean was finally taken. And happily, at that.

Dean felt bad for putting Cas in an awkward position, but thankfully, Ben was awesome. And Cas was amazing. Lisa would get over it. She would have to.

“I told Lisa we want to have Ben out to the wedding. Whenever we decide to do it. And maybe even for a week or two next summer.”

“Good,” Cas grinned, reaching for his hand.

 

**********

 

Dean woke to his cell phone ringing and vibrating off the nightstand. He nudged Cas, who was wrapped around his torso like an octopus.

“Babe,” Dean nudged him again. “The phone’s ringin’.

Cas mumbled something against his chest and Dean had to grin.

He maneuvered his way into a sitting position, Cas dropping off of him to burrow further into the covers. He fished his phone off the floor. It started ringing again.

“Hey, Sam. What’s up?”

“Dean. We have a bit of a situation.”

“What’s wrong?” A million worries crept into his mind.

“Ash finally got ahold of another hunter two days ago. They said they got an emergency email from her. She was tracking a djinn in Oklahoma. This hunter, Alex, she’s afraid Jody is in real trouble. But she’s in Maine on a case. I told her I’d call you, since you’re pretty close to where she went.”

“Yeah,” Dean scrubbed a tired hand through his hair. “So...I should go find her? Have Ash call me with more details.”

“Yeah, okay. Dean, be careful. These guys are professionals and got caught up in something.”

“Alright. We will be. Later, Sammy.”

Dean sat the phone down and shook Cas by the hip. “Hey! Wake up, sunshine! We have a hunt to go on!”

Cas’ head popped up, eyes still shut. “What?”

“A case! A hunter is in trouble and we have to go help them. Come on, Cas!”

Cas sat on the side of the bed. “What’s happening?”

“Jody Mills is in trouble. We’re gonna go see if we can help her.”

Dean was dressed by the time Cas stood up.

“You seem rather excited about this,” Cas mumbled, pulling jeans on.

Dean tossed their things into their bags. “It’s our first case! I better call Charlie.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 24 Blood, Bachelors, and Bubbles

 

Dean stopped at Charlie’s apartment building and she came out the front door with two bags. She threw them in the back seat and slid in.

“Morning bitches!”

“First stop is at Bobby’s,” Dean announced, pulling out of the parking lot.

“First stop better be for coffee,” Castiel yawned, “or I might hurt someone.” He gave Dean a pointed glare.

“Grumpy pants needs caffeine,” Charlie grinned, patting Cas on the shoulder.

“Don’t I know it,” Dean huffed. “I try to keep conversation to a minimal pre-coffee.”

Castiel rolled his eyes. “I need coffee. Sue me.”

They fueled up on gas, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches. Dean headed south to Bobby’s and called Bobby, putting him on speaker phone.

“So, Alex thinks Jody was after a djinn,” Bobby began. “So stop at my place for knives and guns. You’re gonna need silver knives dipped in lamb’s blood.”

“Where do we get lamb blood?” Castiel asked.

“How bout Olsen’s butcher shop?” Bobby suggested. “Or that fancy restaurant heading out of town..Ruby’s?”

“Rueben’s,” Dean nodded, turning down a road.

“Yeah. They serve lamb. So, dip the knives in lamb blood and that can kill them. We need silver bullets and I don’t have any.”

“Well, guns might at least slow it down so we can stab it,” Dean shrugged, pulling into the driveway of a junkyard.

“I have a silver knife in the desk in my office,” Bobby said.

Castiel watched curiously as Dean drove quickly through a junkyard, pulling up to a small house. “This is Bobby’s place.”

They got out of the car, Dean picking up a dead potted plant on the porch and getting a key. He unlocked the door, heading through the living room.

Cas was surprised at how cluttered the little house was. There were a lot of books and pictures and interesting mementos from all over the world. His desk was stacked with papers and more books. Dean went through the drawers, rifling quickly and pulling out a knife. “Got it.”

“I got a set of silverware in the kitchen pantry way in the back,” Bobby added.

Castiel went to the kitchen and pulled a closet door open, digging through boxes of trash bags and old table cloths. He pulled out a black, wooden case that was locked closed with a hook. He sat it on the table, opening it. An array of forks, knives, and spoons fanned out on both sides, set in snug velvet inlays. “Found it!” Castiel called.

They took a silver candlestick off the mantle and got back in the car. Dean put several guns in the trunk and a box of ammo.

Back on the road, heading south toward Oklahoma, Bobby read everything he could find on Djinns. “So, they are quick, strong, and can hide really well. Says they like abandoned buildings and ruins. Maybe check around for abandoned buildings when you get into town.”

“Right,” Dean nodded.

The plan to break into the restaurant was foiled immediately when they pulled in. There were already people working in the kitchen.

“I got this,” Charlie grinned, getting out of the car.

To the guys surprise, all she had to do was ask for the blood. And pay for it.

She got back in the car with two bags of blood. She grinned triumphantly at their curious looks. “I told them it was for a recipe I wanted to try!”

“Huh,” Dean nodded. “I guess honesty does pay.”

“I paid. You owe me $30.”

 

***********

 

They pulled into the fourth abandoned building they had come across. This one was a large set of warehouses. It was late and dark and they were all about ready to give up for the night.

Dean parked a little ways from the buildings, trying for a discreet entrance. No use tipping the monster off before they even got through the door.

Armed with dipped knives, they snuck into a locked door after Dean picked the lock. Castiel berated himself for finding it rather hot that Dean could ‘break and enter’ so stealthily. They made their way through the large building using as little light as possible.

On the second floor, in what had once been lofty supervisor offices, they found what they were looking for.

A woman with reddish-brown hair hung with her hands tied over her head. Her head was drooped forward and she looked utterly wiped out. There were blue marks on her skin from where the djinn had been feeding off her blood.

Dean guarded the door while Cas and Charlie moved into the room, quickly cutting her down.

“Jody?” Charlie whispered, shaking the collapsed woman’s shoulder. She did not respond.

“We need to get her out of here,” Cas said, feeling for her pulse. “Her pulse is weak and thready.” He lifted the petite woman into his arms, heading for the door.

Dean held a hand up. Charlie and Cas both froze.

The woman made a muffled noise.

Dean slid his knife in his pocket, giving Cas and Charlie a warning look.

“Somebody there?” Came a voice from the floor below them.

“Who’s there?” Dean barked.

“Officer Gean. I got a complaint of some activity in here.”

Dean stepped forward, looking over the metal railing that gave a wide open view of the large warehouse below. “We heard a friend of ours was here. We found her.”

Dean saw a man in uniform step out of a downstairs corner. Shining his flashlight, he could see the guy was in uniform. Great. Police. This oughta go smoothly. “Uh...we found her.”

“You found someone up there?”

Dean waved the others to follow him along the railing and down a large flight of steps. “Yeah. We found her.”

The officer met them at the foot of the steps. “Do you know this person?” The cop asked suspiciously.

“Yeah. She’s a friend,” Dean repeated.

As Cas got to the ground floor, the officer looked at the woman he was carrying, shining a flashlight in her face. “She’s injured.”

“Yes,” Cas answered, squinting into the light.

“I’m gonna have to ask all of you to come with me.”

Dean glanced around. The djinn was probably alerted to their presence by now. If they weren’t careful, they were going to get killed. And immensely more complicating, get a cop killed.

“Look, officer,” Dean cut in as Charlie tried to explain why exactly they were in the warehouse, “we need to get out of here. There’s someone after her.”

“Dean!” Cas yelled.

The officer lunged at Cas suddenly, Dean seeing the officer’s hand erupt in blue flames. The officer knocked Cas and Jody to the floor.

Dean grabbed his knife. Charlie was half a move behind him. The djinn swiped a hand at Cas, who knocked it out of the way.

Dean grabbed the monster, stabbing him in the chest. The officer’s face shifted into a bald monster covered in tattoos. Charlie sunk her knife into his chest with a squeal.

“Oh! That was so gross!” She stepped back, pulling a second knife out her jacket.

“Cas!” Dean knelt down, lifting the limp body of the woman off of Cas’ lap.

“I’m fine,” Cas assured, getting to his feet.

They stared down at the dead body on the floor.

“Dude, we killed it,” Dean said quietly.

“We did,” Charlie nodded.

“Now what do we do with it?” Cas asked.

They all exchanged a look.

“Salt and burn?” Charlie shrugged.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Dean sighed. He handed Jody’s limp form back to Cas, grabbing the dead creature and dragging him out the door.

 

**************

 

“I’m tellin’ ya, Sam,” Dean grinned at his cellphone attached to the dashboard. “We slayed it! Charlie and I gave him the ole one, two lamb’s blood stab! Sucker dropped like a stone!”

“It was awesome!” Charlie cheered from the backseat. “In a horrible kind of way.”

“We’re driving back to Virginia,” Castiel interrupted. “Jody is in pretty bad shape. She wasn’t well enough to fly and if we take her to a hospital...there’re going to be questions we can’t answer.”

“Sounds good,” Sam sighed. “See you in a day or so.”

“See ya,” all three said.

Castiel turned to look at Jody. She was sitting in the back seat behind Dean, sleeping against the door. Her skin was gray and littered with cuts and bruises. She had managed to have a coherent conversation with them several hours ago. The djinn must have taken her from behind because she had no memory after going into the warehouse. But she was sad and distant. Bobby had reminded them that the whole time Jody had been strung up in that warehouse, she had been living and reliving a life that was probably where she would rather be.

Although she had thanked them for saving her, she seemed depressed and washed out. They all did their best to comfort her.

For a day and a half, they only stopped for gas and food, taking turns to drive and sleep.

By the time they arrived in Danville, Jody was at least awake and watching out the window.

“I can’t believe Kripke Manor is a real thing,” Jody said, watching the roof line to the house through trees that Charlie pointed out.

“What do they teach hunters about it?” Dean asked.

“Hunters growing up in the life know the old rhyme.
‘When in need of help and shelter, hunters run to Kripke Manor.
36.5860, dust of fallen, a light in the window.
79.3950, home for the hunter, home for the hero.’”
Jody looked at all three of them and shrugged. “I can remember singing it while jumping rope when we were kids. It’s just something they taught you.”

“Dust of the fallen,” Cas repeated, “they must be referring to the hunter’s ashes in the mausoleum.”

“You have a mausoleum?” Jody asked, looking rather creeped out.

“We do. What are the numbers?” Castiel asked.

“I have no idea,” Jody shrugged. “We didn’t think it was real. Kind of like a Camelot for hunters. A huge stone fortress. The perfect safe haven where they had all the answers, mountains of weapons, and an army of hunters to help you.”

“Well, we got a good set of books, a lot of bedrooms, and beer,” Dean grinned at her in the rearview mirror.

She chuckled. “That sounds perfect, actually.”

“I wonder,” Charlie muttered to herself, her thumbs flying quickly on her phone. “Say those numbers again?”

Jody repeated them.

Charlie looked up triumphantly. “They’re coordinates to Danville, Virginia.”

“Wow,” Dean shook his head. “So the coordinates get you to town then you find the big stone house. That’s ingenious.”

Jody watched out the window as the real Kripke Manor came into view. Some of the dark shadows in her eyes cleared away as she leaned forward, watching their arrival. “It is huge! And made of stone!”

Castiel and Dean exchanged a grin.

“And ghost free. Finally,” Charlie added.

They parked the car and went through the front door slowly. The house was busy with workers.

“Mr. Novak! Dean! Good to see you guys back!” Scott grinned, stopping in his tracks with an armload of drop cloths.

“Thank you, Scott,” Castiel nodded.

“Scott is our local spy to the priests,” Dean noted quietly to Jody when the man had moved on.

“Huh.” She watched the man disappear up the steps. “This place is even bigger than I imagined.” She looked around in wonder.

A scraping, clunking sound could be heard from down the hall.

Dean and Castiel took off toward the dining room, pushing each other out of the way to be the first to greet a desperate Buddy.

“Buddy!” Dean yelled, the dog barking and whining as he ran to them, all three falling on the floor in the hall outside the dining room.

“I don’t know!” Came Sam’s voice, he just went ape-shit in the yard and damn near tore the back door down to get inside! Oh. It’s Dean and Cas.”

Castiel stood up, after much petting and apologizing and swearing he would not leave him again. “Hello, Sam. Gabe.”

“Seriously?” Gabe shook his head. Rumsfeld stood next to him howling. “What exactly IS all the hype?” Gabe asked the dogs.

“They love us,” Dean sighed, laying splayed out on the floor of the wide hallway, Buddy half on top of him and panting.

“You guys are ridiculous,” Gabe crossed his arms over his chest.

Castiel hurried to fuss over the huge bloodhound with equal apologies and petting.

“Rum was fine. He hung out on the porch all week,” Gabe frowned. “But that one,” he pointed at Buddy, “required coddling and steaks.”

“They were great,” Sam grinned. “Buddy ate fairly well after three days. And Rum coulda cared less.”

The hound trotted over to Dean, hanging his long ears and floppy jowls right over Dean’s face.

“You missed me!” Dean grinned. The dog eagerly licked him, making Dean squirm up into a sitting position, wiping his face off the best he could.

The brothers all hugged each other hello.

“You must be Jody!” Sam said brightly, shaking the woman’s hand.

“I am,” she grinned, still amused with the antsy dogs.

“I’m Sam, Dean’s brother and this is Gabe, Cas’ brother,” he introduced.

“Good to meet you,” Gabe grinned, shaking her hand.

“We really need to get her to a room so she can rest,” Castiel said.

“The honeymoon suite is ready,” Gabe offered.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” Jody frowned.

“Nonsense,” Gabe grinned, steering her back the hall toward the back of the first floor wing. “It’s one of our new rooms. We need someone to try it out for us!”

“I’m glad things went so smoothly,” Sam nodded.

“Yeah. Piece of cake,” Dean grinned. “I can officially say I’m a hunter!”

“Ha! Me too!” Charlie cheered. “We are officially bad-asses!”

Sam and Castiel exchanged a frown.

“How about we leave the hunting to the professionals,” Castiel added. He was getting quickly uncomfortable with the idea that Dean and Charlie liked hunting. It was dangerous.

“Fine,” Dean sighed, putting an arm around him. “But we can say we did it!”

Charlie laughed. “If hunting looks like what Jody’s been through, I’ll be extra picky about what I hunt.”

 

**********

 

After Jody was settled into bed to rest, they decided to have a spec meeting to catch Dean and Cas up on what they had missed.

Bobby joined them in the dining room. The dining room was the first big change. All the furniture was gone except the table (which was pushed up against one wall), Gabe’s throne, and their boxes to sit on. The rest of the floor in the room was covered in drop cloths. Aaron had started painting the long stretch of one wall. The muted colors he was using were very complimentary to the woodwork. Dean hoped it would look refined instead of like a nursery. Ya never knew when it was Gabe at the helm.

“So, the painting started,” Sam pointed out. “We tore out the walls and woodwork, including the floorboards on the fourth floor where Lucifer’s cage was. We salted and burned them. Once that was done, the windows up there were all replaced.”

“I noticed,” Dean nodded. He had noticed it from the outside when they pulled up. “They look great.”

“Yeah, I was happy with them,” Sam agreed, Gabe nodding. “We have all the water damaged areas either stripped, sanded, or cleaned up.”

“What about all the furniture up there?” Cas asked.

“We moved it to the third floor. That big room by the running room,” Bobby explained.

“The pool is being worked on,” Sam added, reading down his list, “work has started on the third floor again. And the stable crew has the entire outer frame up for the new section.”

“Wow,” Cas sat back, “you’ve been very busy.”

“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “Things are really moving along. The house feels so much better.”

“Sam and I are both sleeping at night, which is a vast improvement,” Gabe smirked.

“That’s great,” Cas smiled.

“You guys can take it easy for the day,” Sam said. “I didn’t put you on the schedule for anything. Figured you’d be pretty tired from that trip.”

“Good,” Dean yawned. “I’m going to bed.”

 

*************

 

Fall came gently to Virginia. The leaves changed colors and they often noticed geese flying south for the summer. The house felt good. The nervous tension in the air from the workers had gone back to a focused and happy crew. Jody had spent a week at Kripke Manor. She was amazed to see the journals and the tale of the manor itself. She asked if other hunters could use Kripke Manor as a safe house. According to tradition, Jody said the hunters who kept Kripke manor did not hunt. Their sole purpose was to be there for hunters in need. Castiel was relieved. The thrill Dean had gotten from going on a hunt had worried him tremendously. Dean would make a great hunter. But selfishly, he wanted Dean to himself. If they could help hunters and stay at the house, it seemed the perfect compromise.

The third floor was done except some more furniture purchasing. The stable was enclosed with walls on all sides and the rooms of the apartment roughed in. There were already debates on who would live in the apartment. Castiel and Gabe decided a live-in grounds keeper was who should get the apartment. A job ad was listed in the local paper. It was time to start hiring staff. It was late November and plans for the first weddings to be held were slated for the last three weekends in December.

The first wedding, and the biggest trial-run, was Dean and Castiel. They figured there was no use in waiting. And who better fitting to be the guinea pigs than themselves.

Castiel was on his second cup of coffee when he found the door to the dining room locked. “What the hell?” He muttered, leaving the kitchen and coming into the hallway and other entrance to the dining room. He found Sam, Dean, and Bobby all standing there giving Gabe a wary look.

“And now that we’re all here,” Gabe clapped, seeing Castiel coming toward them, “it’s time for the big reveal!”

“Do you know about this?” Dean asked.

“I know nothing, per usual,” Castiel huffed.

“Gentlemen,” Gabe cleared his throat, “I am pleased as punch to finally reveal the finished dining room!” Gabe slid the pocket doors open wide with a flourish.

Castiel grinned. Gabe must have been up half the night putting the final touches on the room. The grand lion table stretched long and beautifully polished, seating ten people comfortably. Gabe’s throne commanded the end of the table as it always had, but looked freshly polished as well. Nine ornately carved chairs with sage green leather upholstered chair cushions neatly sat around the table. The mural, done in muted browns, greens, blues, and reds was subtle enough to look elegant, yet had all the charm his brother deserved. The sideboards and other furniture gleamed. Gabe had restored them himself. Dishes in gold and blue lined the cabinets.

“Gabriel,” Castiel managed, “this is amazing!”

Gold and blue patterned curtains hung at the two huge windows at the end, letting warm light in the large room. An ornate tan, green and blue rug softened the room and made it feel comfortable even with the grand and regal flares.

“I knew it was gonna be awesome,” Dean grinned, nodding around the room approvingly.

“Chairs!” Bobby grinned. “Finally.”

“Your boxes are all in the third floor dining room. The war room,” Gabe clarified. “I moved all the spec sheets, house plans, samples, and work shit up there.”

Bobby frowned. “That mean I still don’t get a chair for spec meetings?”

“I’ll work on it,” Gabe laughed.

“Gabe, this is amazing,” Sam grinned, hugging him close. “You are amazing.” They kissed chastely and Castiel had to grin at the look of utter happiness on his brother’s face.

“Told ya it’d be awesome,” Dean smirked, nudging his elbow.

Castiel shook his head. “I suppose you were right.”

“Thanksgiving dinner is gonna be epic!” Gabe grinned.

“Some of the crew are going home,” Bobby reminded. “But I’m staying, Charlie, and of course you two.”

“Let’s invite Ellen and Jo!” Castiel suggested.

Bobby grinned. “That’d be real nice.”

“I’ll make pies!” Gabe cheered.

“What else?” Castiel asked.

“I’m good with pies,” Dean nodded, completely satisfied with the thought.

“We gotta have turkey!” Sam laughed. “Mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans!”

They all exchanged bewildered looks. None of them were great cooks.

“Well,” Bobby grinned, patting Castiel’s shoulder, “you got a whole three days to figure it out.”

“Me? Wait!” Castiel guffawed. “I don’t know how to do all that!”

Bobby had already left, Sam and Dean right behind him. “Google it, bro,” Gabe shrugged, leaving.

Castiel looked at the beautiful room. “Shit.”

 

*****************

 

Castiel learned several things that Thanksgiving.

1. Turkey farts were deadly. Especially the silent ones from Buddy.
2. The dining room was one of his favorite rooms in the house.
3. You had to get up REALLY stupid early to start a turkey.
4. Sam had been sneaking off to the stable a lot lately.

 

December came with gusty, chilly air. Castiel loved nothing more than sitting with Dean in front of a roaring fire in one of the many fireplaces. Work continued on almost every floor and the stable. Time was flying by.

Castiel rocked back in the comfortable leather desk chair in their office, his chin propped on his palm, listening to Gabe.

Gabe shoved his hands in his pockets, pacing in front of the desk. “He works until like midnight every night! Then he’s up before dawn! Something’s going on. He’s tired all the time.”

Castiel nodded. He had noticed Sam’s strange behavior as well. “He’s very driven. He works too hard.”

Gabe flopped into one of the fine wingback chairs in front of the desk. He fidgeted with his hands in his lap. “What if he’s losing interest. In me.”

It was just over a week until he and Dean got married. Seeing Gabe worry made him worry as well. He was sure there was a good explanation for Sam’s aloofness, but when Gabe got nervous, he tended to explode. Or run.

“He’s not bored, Gabe. You’re the most un-boring person I’ve ever met,” Castiel encouraged, leaning forward and putting his elbows on the desk.

Gabe blew a breath out, nodding.

“I’ll talk to Dean. See if he knows anything.”

Gabe nodded, not looking too encouraged.

A knock on the office door made the brothers turn to look.

“You asked to see me?” Bobby said from the doorway.

“Yes,” Castiel said. “Come in, Bobby. Close the door.”

Bobby did, sitting in the seat next to Gabe, taking his hat off and running a hand over his hair.

“I have been doing a lot of hiring lately,” Castiel explained, shifting some files over to pull up Bobby’s. “I put the groundskeeper position off until the business hiring was well underway. So, I only just now noticed you put in an application for the job.”

“I did,” Bobby nodded, looking slightly nervous.

“Are you planning on moving here?” Castiel asked.

Bobby cleared his throat. “I am. Sam and Dean plan on it. Charlie too. So...it seems the right thing to do.”

“But do you want to live here?” Gabe asked.

“I do. Home is where yer people are. All my people are here. And surprisingly enough, this place feels like home.”

Castiel nodded at that. “Do you have experience with landscaping?”

“Some. I’ve never had a job in it, per se. But I’ve done my share of lawn work.”

Castiel glanced at Gabe. “Bobby, I love you like family. If you really want the job, I would be more than honored to have you here. But...Bobby, I would love just having you here. You could...retire. Stay here at the house-“

Bobby frowned. “I ain’t ready to retire. No. I really would like the job.”

Castiel grinned. “Alright. Well, here is a full description of the job and pay. You get an assistant as well. And of course you get the apartment at the stable. Unless you would prefer to live in the manor. Or somewhere else.”

Bobby took the paper, reading it. He nodded. “This will be just fine. I do have one question. Is someone allowed to live in the apartment with me?”

“Of course,” Gabe grinned. “Like who?” He waggled his eyebrows at Bobby.

Bobby rolled his eyes. “Ellen. She has a place of her own. But Jo moved out and I think she’d like it here.”

Castiel grinned. “Of course. Pets too. Have you mentioned this to Sam or Dean?”

“Nah. Thought I’d see if I got the job first.”

“The job is yours, Bobby. I couldn’t be happier.” Castiel stood up, coming around the desk to hug him. Gabe hugging him next.

Bobby signed the paper and pulled his hat back onto his head. “You boys mean a lot to me. I can’t tell you how much you’ve changed Sam and Dean’s lives for the better.”

Castiel humbly grinned.

“Save it for the wedding speech,” Gabe laughed, patting Bobby’s shoulder.

“Me? No, that’s your job,” Bobby grinned.

“Wait...really?” Gabe frowned.

Cas rolled his eyes.

“Yep. Better start writing!” Bobby grinned. “Seriously though, thank you. For all you’ve done. For taking a chance on us.”

Castiel grinned with relief. When he had first seen Bobby’s application, it seemed too good to be true. There was no one he trusted more to help them run the estate than Bobby. “This never would have worked without you, Sam, and Dean,” Castiel said truthfully. “Anyone else would have hit the road and never looked back. Your whole crew is remarkable.”

Bobby grinned, nodding. “Thanks.”

 

**********

 

Dean opened the new leather checkbook case with a satisfied grin. He had a joint checking account. He ran his thumb over the embossed ink names on check number 001. Dean Winchester. Castiel Winchester. This was really happening. He was getting married. They had a marriage license. Castiel James Novak Winchester was his. His husband. And he felt nothing but good about the prospect of being a married man.

He closed the checkbook and put it in the drawer of Cas’ desk in their room. Life was so damn good that it scared him a little bit. Being satisfied, happy, and stable scared him a little. The fact that Sam was just as happy only made things sweeter.

Cas was nervous and flitting all over the place to manage his new staff and their wedding next week. But Dean had found the whole wedding-prepping thing to actually be pretty fun.

Cas walked in the room, still on his phone. He was finalizing deliveries from the florist and DJ. Everyone was jumping to land opportunities to work for Kripke Manor’s Wedding and Event Estate.

Cas hung up his cell with a sigh. “Everything is ready. I really like that florist we picked.”

“Good,” Dean grinned, pulling the checkbook out. “Look what came today.”

Cas came over to the desk, his face lighting up as he read over the first check. “Wow. That’s...”

“Real?” Dean grinned up at him.

Cas nodded, meeting his gaze with a warm, sultry stare. “Yeah. We’re getting married.”

Dean chuckled, pulling Cas down onto his lap to kiss him. “You sure you’re sure about this? About me?”

“Dean,” Cas sighed, his look sobering with an intense stare. “I’m so sure that I’m not even nervous. Just excited.”

“You’ve been nervous all week,” Dean said quietly, rubbing a hand along Cas’ thigh.

“I’m only nervous about the business end of this wedding. I want things to go smoothly. And the newspaper is covering the ceremony. I just want to make a good impression so the business thrives.”

“I just made a reservation for a wedding in May. We have 18 weddings scheduled for next year already. I’d say we’re starting out pretty good.”

Cas grinned. “I know. I just want them to be wonderful weddings. Ours included.”

“It will be.” Dean bit his lip. He had wanted to share something with Cas for awhile, but had sworn it a secret to Sam. “I have something to show you. It’s what’s had Sam so busy lately.”

Cas’ demeanor clouded. “What is it?”

He nudged Cas to stand up and he pulled out a stack of papers from the bottom drawer of the dresser. He hesitated, but handed the stack to Cas. “Let me just clarify that this was ALL Sam’s idea.”

Cas took the stack of papers and began reading. Within seconds, Cas gave him an incredulous look. “Is this a joke?”

“Nope.”

Cas’ brow furrowed as he read more. He read through the first four pages before he looked back at Dean with an odd expression. “This is real? Sam is serious?”

“Yep.”

Cas paced the room, reading every single page. “Dean, this is kinda crazy.”

Dean nodded. It was. He had told Sam he was out of his mind. But Sam was convinced. And in a really crazy way, it was really cool.

“Sam can do all these requirements? And I can’t even imagine what the historical society had to say about this!”

Dean laughed. “Remember that night last month that Sam and I were arguing and I had to wear a friggin suit?”

Cas nodded.

“Yeah. Took a LOT of convincing. But they went for it. With your permission of course.”

Cas blew out a huge breath. “Why didn’t Sam talk to me?”

Dean shrugged. “He wanted to see if it was even possible before he ever brought the insane idea to you.”

Cas sat the stack of papers on the desk. “I’m...I need to think about it. I mean...it’s just so...”

“He totally understands if you say no.”

“Well...what do you think?” Cas asked, sitting on the end of their bed.

“I think it’s nuts. And I think Gabe will love it.”

Cas shook his head. “The shit I do for my brother.”

“Likewise.” Dean sighed.

“What did Bobby have to say about it?”

“Oh, he thinks Sam has lost his mind. That we’re all insane. The usual.”

Cas grinned. “Bet he was whipping the hat around like crazy.”

“Oh yeah.”

“I...I’m gonna have to think about it. I think I need a drink.”

“Well,” Dean grinned, putting the stack of papers in the desk drawer, “I have just the place for us to go.”

Cas nodded, getting to his feet. “Danville’s greatest third floor bar?”

“Yep.”

They headed down the hall. Tonight was their bachelor party. Planned and hosted by their best men, Gabe and Sam. They had no idea what to expect.

“Dean! Cas!” Balthazar exclaimed cheerily as they walked into the big room outside the running room. “Finally! The party can begin!”

“Cassie!” Gabe came at them at a run, hugging them both. “Dean-O!” He whistled loudly, getting the crowd of people’s attention. “I want to thank everyone for coming! I’m sure you’re all wondering what tonight’s itinerary entails!” He smiled devilishly at the crowd and winked at Cas. “So! Cocktails at the bar, dinner in the dinning room, gifts in the great room, then the limos will be here to take us out of town for some partying at The Man Cave! Oh yeah, that’s right people, there will be dancing and debauchery! Then! Back here for the after-party! Let the drinking begin!”

Everyone cheered. Dean had not been to a party like this before. His top crew were all here, friends, Cas’ friends, all here to celebrate them. Cas slipped his hand into his with a nervous grin. He squeezed it encouragingly. “Let’s get a drink.”

Cocktails passed quickly with a lot of congratulatory hugs. They went down to the dining room and enjoyed a lot of laughs and a beautiful dinner of steak, lobster, salads, and, of course, beer or wine. The civility of it all was making Dean nervous. He leaned over to Cas. “What exactly does ‘gifts’ mean?”

Cas swallowed his bite of lobster. “There is a rather large stack of gifts in the great room. Wedding gifts, maybe?”

“You usually get those at the wedding,” Dean smirked back.

“I have no clue,” Cas shook his head.

The party moved into the great room after dinner. Gabe made Dean and Cas sit in front of the fireplace and started handing them gifts.

“So, I gave people the choice of bringing a wedding shower gift, in which case they were to bring an item and a seasoning starting with whatever letter of the alphabet they were given. OR!” He grinned around at the eager little crowd, “a raunchy gift, in which case they had to get a flavored or brand of lube starting with the alphabet letter they got.”

“Oh God,” Dean muttered, his head dropping and a blush already creeping up his cheeks.

“I have no idea what’s in the boxes,” Gabe grinned, “so let’s do this!”

“You first,” Dean nudged, so not looking forward to the potentially awkward gifts they were possibly going to receive.

Cas glared at him. “Together.”

“Fine.”

“Come on!” Benny cheered, so not a good sign.

Dean counted to three and they both tore the wrapping off their boxes, opening them nervously.

“Hey!” Dean grinned. He lifted up a ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron and a grill set with a container of Paprika. “Awesome.”

“Oh my God,” Cas huffed, lifting up a Fleshlight and blueberry lube.

The crowd hollered and laughed, whistling and cheering them on to do two more.

Cas was blushing hard and Dean was thinking about just how he planned on incorporating that Fleshlight.

They counted to three, each opening a gift at the same time.

“Sweet!” Dean grinned, pulling out a toaster that put Darth Vader prints on the toast. He shook a container of onion powder. “This is so cool.”

“I can’t,” Cas shoved the item back in the bag, blushing.

“Pull it out, Cassie!” Gabe yelled.

Cas pulled out a risqué Batman costume. And Cherry flavored lube.

“I hate all of you,” Cas barely managed.

Dean laughed. “I’m Batman,” he winked.

“Again! Again!” Charlie cheered. “This is too good!”

They opened the next set of gifts. Dean held up a fancy wedding scrapbook for them to fill. “This is awesome.”

“Is this a saddle?” Cas asked, lifting up a small, plush saddle.

“It is,” Dean choked out, watching the dawn of understanding grow on Cas’ face.

“It’s a...there’s straps on the saddle...but...” he turned the saddle over in his hands, putting the picture together in his head. “Does your dick go in this hole?” He laughed, looking at Dean. “Oh...so they can ride you.”

“I better get some chaps,” Dean laughed back.

“And, of course, Astroglide lube.”

The torture continued, Dean only getting zapped twice with the naughty gifts. Cas was so excited to open a salt and pepper grinder set that Dean thought the poor guy was going to cry.

They thanked everyone for the utter mortification of porn, toys, and lingerie. And profusely thanked all those that blessed them with tasteful gifts.

Much rowdier than before, the group moved out into the awaiting limos.

Dean crawled into the back seat, putting an arm around Cas and accepting a glass of champagne. He kissed Cas on the cheek and moved over to his ear. “I can’t wait to use some our new things.”

Cas blushed, glancing around to be sure no one heard Dean. “Luckily we have enough lube to last us ten years.”

“We’ll just see about that,” Dean snickered, kissing his cheek again and leaning back to his own seat to listen to Benny telling a story about what a hard time Dean used to give Garth when they first met.

It was loud, raucous, and lewd. And Gabe was right. Everyone danced. It had been a long time since Dean had been in a club. They drank and danced and even made out in the bathroom for a few hot minutes. They left the club in a drunken posse, staggering and singing all the way back to Danville and all the way up to the third floor.

Gabe whistled loud to get everyone’s attention and climbed on top of the bar. What had once been a cheap poolside bar had been replaced with a permanent oak and brass bar that seated six easily. A full liquor stock lined the wall behind it.

“People! Some of you are new to partying at Kripke Manor. But this is how we start our parties.”

Everyone raised a shot glass.

“To Kripke!”

“To Kripke!” They all cheered back.

Gabe held a finger up, pouring two more shots, handing one to Cas.

“To Dad.”

Cas raised his shot to Gabe. “To Dad.”

Music started and the party went from typical bachelor party rowdiness to their more mischievous brand of party entertainment and hijinks. The rollerblades came out and Charlie brought out the orange cones. There was a photo booth, karaoke, and more Jell-O shots than legally wise.

At 2am, Gabe rounded the tipsy crowd up for the night’s final game. Hide and seek, Gabriel style.

“Our lovebirds will wait right here in the running room until this timer goes off. The rest of us have fifteen minutes to find a partner and hide INSIDE the house. No basement. If you can make it back to the bar and tag it before getting caught by one of them, you beat the lovebirds. Winners get to brag forever AND get to pick where they get to sleep tonight. Losers have to sleep wherever the happy couple decide to put you.”

“I’m VERY creative,” Dean added.

“Yes, he is,” Sam laughed.

“Hiders have to stay with their partners, but the love birds can divide and conquer.” Gabe picked up a box. “In order to help them make creative choices, they will roll this five sided die to pick a floor, then get blindfolded to pick a room on our handy-dandy house plans by throwing a dart at them.”

The crowd mumbled and looked at each other nervously.

“Oh, and to make things interesting,” he grinned, pulling out a second and bigger box, “hiders have to wear one of these lovely tags for Cas or Dean to snatch.” He held up a handful of penis shaped tags that were about a foot long. “It must be tucked into your pants like so.” Gabe tucked the long, wide ribbon end into the front of his jeans, letting the cardboard penis that read ‘Gabe’ dangle in front of his crotch.

“Gabe!” Cas laughed.

“I suggest you hide well and run like hell!” Gabe shut them in the running room with a shove and the timer while a great commotion broke out in the bar room, followed by a lot of running.

Cas sagged against the door with a grin.

“Your brother is a menace,” Dean grinned, buzzing and feeling pretty damn good.

“So is yours. He’s the one crazy enough to be in love with that mess,” Cas grinned.

Dean boxed Cas in against the door, watching with a growing grin as Cas perked up. His eyes dropped to Dean’s mouth and leapt back up to his eyes. “We have thirteen minutes.”

Dean chuckled, lowering his mouth to Cas’. “I need more than thirteen minutes. But that’s enough time to tell you how I plan on using some of our new presents.”

Cas kissed him deep and heavy, his hands pulling him hard against himself. “Like the pepper grinder?”

“No,” Dean giggled, biting along Cas’ jaw. “Like That Fleshlight.”

Cas moaned, his head dropping back against the door to give Dean all the smooth neck he could get. “Remember the time I fucked you in the solarium?”

“Yeah,” Cas panted, sliding a hand around to feel Dean’s hard length through his jeans.

“We’re gonna do that again. Only next time you’re gonna use that while I take you from behind.” He heard a whimper from Cas that made him come back to his mouth with a vengeance.

Cas flipped them around, banging Dean into the door. He grabbed both Dean’s wrists, pinning them above his head, kissing him just as hard. “Remember the time I fucked you in the library?”

“Mmyaeh,” Dean muttered against his lips.

“Next time I’m tying up these wrists and putting that new blindfold on you.”

The timer went off and they both gasped, panting and staring at each other.

“Think they’d notice if we never looked for any of them?” Dean grinned, only half kidding.

Cas released his wrists and gave him a cocky grin. “Time to chase down these dicks. You know I hate losing.”

Dean laughed. They stepped apart, straightening up their clothes and catching their breath. Cas turned the timer off. “Divide and conquer?”

“You know it,” Dean grinned.

They left the room at a stealthy run. Dean took the downstairs while Cas took the third floor and upstairs.

Dean went quietly down the kitchen steps to the second floor. He crept from the kitchen into the hall. He heard running on the stairs above him and darted back up.

In the doorway to the room with the bar, he tackled Garth and Anna, taking both their penis flags with a malicious laugh. He headed back downstairs and into the kitchen. Alfie and his girlfriend froze in the kitchen doorway.

Dean swiped his girlfriends flag with a squeal from her and chased Alfie doggedly down the hall until he caught him, taking him down with a loud clatter. “Sorry Alfie!” He yelled, running toward the foyer steps where he heard more movement. He crept down the stairs quickly, hearing voices toward the ballroom.

He took off at a run when he caught sight of Sam darting into the kitchen. “SAM!” He ran into the kitchen and up the steps. He chased that lanky bastard through three rooms before he caught him by the flannel and yanked out his penis flag.

“Gotcha Sammy!”

Sam laughed, catching his breath. “You got me, jerk!”

“Where’s your squirrelly little boyfriend, huh?” Dean got back to his feet, eyes roving the halls.

“I’m not telling!” Sam laughed. “I might be willing to help do some scouting for you, if you pick me a nice place to sleep.”

“Sure. I can throw darts blindfolded.”

“I know you can.”

The brothers laughed. Growing up around bars apparently had it’s bizarre benefits.

Sam went to the first floor and Dean headed toward the back steps on the second. An eruption of screams broke out from somewhere above him. “Get ‘em, Cas!”

Checking the bar, he found Bobby sipping a bourbon with Rufus. Their penis flags were still in tact.

“Shoulda known you two would be here,” Dean smirked.

“Cas is cleaning house upstairs,” Bobby grinned, pointing over to where several couches flanked a pool table. At least ten people gave him a wave or flipped him off.

“No Gabe yet?” Dean asked, scanning the crowd. “I’m gonna track that little bastard down. No way he’s sleeping in a bed tonight!”

He headed upstairs, Jo practically plowing him over at the top of the steps. “I’ll take that!” He laughed, swiping her penis flag from her pants.”

“NO!” Jo laughed, staggering back as Dean took off after Ellen, who had darted back into the deconstructed fourth floor. He caught up to her, scooping her up from behind.

“I will fan your hide, Dean Winchester!” She flailed, trying to hide her flag, but Dean swiped it away anyway.

“You’ll have to catch me first!” Dean laughed, running away from her to search for Gabe.

He skirted the hall, coming into an empty bedroom, pulling the closet open. Nothing. He headed down the hall further. He caught some movement, stopping to wait at the corner. He could hear someone just around the corner breathing. He jumped out, just as Cas jumped out. They both stifled a startled scream, grabbing each other’s arms.

“Dean! What are you doing up here?” Cas huffed, staggering back a step.

“I’m helping. And where’s Gabe?” He chuckled, catching his breath.

“No idea. Sam either.”

“I found Sam by himself.”

“But you can’t leave your partner,” Cas frowned.

Dean thought back to catching Sam. “Shit. I bet Sam distracted me and he got away!”

They went down the back steps and through their living area. Back in the bar room, Gabe sat on the bar, proudly wearing his penis flag like a necktie.

“You little shit,” Dean deflated.

“You didn’t think Samsquatch would sell me out, did ya?” Gabe grinned.

“Ugh,” Dean sighed. “Paybacks, Sam! I got a lot of good dirt on you, bitch!”

Sam laughed from behind the bar, flicking a bottle cap at Dean.

Dean swatted it down to the floor with a smirk. “Who is still out there?”

Gabe looked around the room. “Charlie and Dorothy... Ash and Benny...I think that’s it.”

Dean gently whacked Cas’ arm. “Bet I know where Charlie is.”

They headed down the hall and into Charlie’s room. Dean thumped on the huge wardrobe door and pulled it open. Charlie spilled out onto the floor with a look of utter bliss. “I’ve been to Oz,” she sighed.

Dean looked into the wardrobe at a disheveled Dorothy. She smirked, handing him their penis flags.

Dean took them. “I thought Narnia was in the wardrobe.”

“Oz is waaaaay better,” Charlie giggled, straightening her shirt.

“Get back to the bar, you nymphs.”

Cas raised an eyebrow as Charlie got upright and pulled Dorothy out.

Cas tipped his head toward the door. “I think I have an idea where Ash is.”

“Good,” Dean sighed, stepping over Charlie. “I’m ready to find my own Oz.”

Cas grinned, winking at him and taking his hand. They meandered down the hall to Ash’s room. A power cord was strung from an outlet to the closed closet door.

“That’s genius hiding, Ash,” Dean said, opening the closet. Benny and Ash sat on the floor of the closet with Ash’s laptop on their laps. “Are you watching Dr. Sexy?”

“Yep,” Ash grinned. “And eating tacos.”

Benny chewed a huge mouthful with a grin.

“Give me your dicks, you dicks,” Dean grinned.

Benny and Ash pulled their flags out, handing them to Dean. They got to their feet, coming out of the messy, stuffy closet.

“Added bonus,” Benny grinned. He turned back to the closet, picking up a tangle of shoes. “Found my shoe Gabe hid.”

“That’s my shoe!” Cas groaned, stepping forward to snag a sneaker.

“And that’s mine,” Dean snapped. “What the hell, Ash?”

“I kept finding them the night of that party. I was collecting them to win a prize.”

Dean smacked him upside the back of the head. “Congratulations.”

Ash frowned, rubbing his head. “Dude. No tacos for you.”

Dean shook his head and went back to the bar.

Darts were thrown and everyone spread out to find their places to crash. It had been an epic bachelor party for sure.

 

********

 

Castiel learned several things the next day.

1. Honey flavored lube was his new favorite.
2. Windows will break if you throw a Jell-O shot at them hard enough.
3. 22 people with a hangover makes an interesting sight at the breakfast table.
4. The scary statue lady in the fountain in front of their house was sporting a bra and a strap-on. Dish liquid in a fountain will produce enough suds to host a squeaky-clean polar plunge. Castiel thought the scary statue lady looked a little happier.

 

Gabriel had thought of everything. A cleaning crew showed up at 2pm the next day to clean up after their party. Even they could not figure out how to stop the fountain from bubbling over. Gabriel thought it was hilarious.

“That fountain needs replaced anyway,” Gabe grinned, sitting down on his throne with a prideful sigh. “My duty as bachelor party host was flawless.”

“Yeah,” Dean scoffed. “The stripper was my favorite part.”

Gabe rolled his eyes. “How am I supposed to know the difference between a stripper and a real cop?”

“The very real gun on in her holster was my first clue,” Dean grinned.

“She was actually very kind,” Castiel grinned. “I explained you were trashed and invited her to the wedding.”

“Is she coming?” Sam laughed.

“Yes, she is,” Castiel grinned. “And so is Crowley. He’s the one who called in the noise complaint. Said he was insulted he was not invited to the bachelor party.”

Gabe shrugged. “So I forget to invite the king of rotten and he calls the fuzz?”

“Apparently,” Cas nodded. “And officer Hanscum is a very nice and understanding police officer.”

The doorbell chimed. Castiel got up. “I’ll get it.”

“We need to order a new window for the one I broke in the running room,” Dean said, following him.

“Yeah, you were trying to take my head off with those Jell-O shots,” Sam winced, following Cas and Dean.

“Who knew years of playing dodgeball with you would come in handy,” Dean smirked.

Castiel opened the front door. To say he was surprised was an understatement. And he wanted to die right on the spot for not having gotten around to removing the lady in the fountains strap-on.

“Father Murphy!” Castiel choked out, blushing at the state of their fountain and the stack of gifts still standing in the great room.

“Castiel,” he said somberly. Four other priests stood in full garb behind him on the porch.

There was no way in hell they had not all seen the huge tub of bubbles and the strap-on protruding obscenely from their statue.

He wanted to die.

And kill Gabriel.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25 Priests in the Hall, Rings in the Fountain, and Hunters at the Door

 

Cas looked like his head might actually erupt. Dean could swear his eyes glowed with anger at Gabe. And, okay, it wasn’t cool that five priests were standing on the their porch with that scary-ass fountain lady sporting a strapped-on boner. But hey, it was a free country.

“Hey there, Padre,” Dean intervened, since Cas had gone rigid as a statue.

“Dean,” Father Murphy nodded.

“Uh...what’s goin’ on?”

“We are here to help you sort out the problems with the house.”

“Oh,” Dean grinned, his shoulders relaxing. “We got it all taken care of.”

Father Murphy narrowed his eyes. “I highly doubt that.” One of the priests behind him glanced over his shoulder at the fountain and looked back at him uncertainly.

“Uh...no, really. We vanquished the ghosts and got rid of the cage Lucifer had been in.”

Father Murphy looked stricken. “You did what?”

“Yeah, we-“. Dean frowned. He probably shouldn’t mention they used a witch. Or two. “We took care of it.”

Father Murphy stepped inside the foyer, Dean stepping back out of respect instinctively. The other four priests followed, forming a half circle.

Sam waved at them, doing some sort of bobbing, nervous wave, dip-thing and taking off at not quite a run for the living room. Oh yeah. There was a big pile of toys and porn and...yeah, better stay clear of the living room.

He glanced around the foyer. There was five beer cans on the bottom step of the grand staircase. There was a lot of bedrooms that were probably safe, but, yeah that would be weird. Where the hell could he take these priests so they could talk without scarring all of them for life. He started to suggest they move this pow wow into the office, but the priests were all riled up now.

“What exactly did you do?” Father Murphy asked again.

“We gathered all the parts left from Lucifer and Jackie, salted and burned them and finally got rid of them both. And then we...tore out the cage. We salted and burned that too.”

Three of the priests frowned. One of them stepped forward with a look of worried concern. “What about the seal?”

“We...uh,” Dean scrubbed a hand through the back of his hair. Why was no one else jumping in here?

“We sought help,” Cas said tightly, “from an outside source to break the seal for good.”

“Only a witch of the original caster’s bloodline could do such a thing,” Murphy frowned.

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “We found one.”

The priests murmured quietly amongst themselves. It was pretty obvious none of them believed them. And at the same time, they already knew about witches, seals, and spellwork. What the hell? He might as well tell them everything. Okay, almost everything. He would keep Crowley out of it. “I can show you,” Dean offered, waving an arm for them to follow him.

Dean winced internally at the stack of penis flags laying on a table in the foyer. Gabe picked up the beer cans so they could go up the steps. Nothing missed some of the observant priests eyes, but none of them said anything.

 

Cas unfroze himself, trailing the pack of priests. The hallways were all clean. The cleaning crews was still working in the third floor. On the second floor, he headed for the kitchen stairs. At the landing to the third floor, Bobby came around the corner, almost running into Dean.

“Hey!” Bobby stopped him. “I patched the window ya broke. Next time you throw jello-“. Bobby’s words stopped abruptly as his eyes widened and drifted behind Dean to the priests. “Holy shit! I mean...”

Dean smirked a grin and patted Bobby on the shoulder as he passed him. One of the priests gave him a grin, but the rest acted as though he was not even there.

Dean kept going to the fourth floor. At the top of the steps, he pointed down the hall. “I think you remember where it was, Murphy.”

Father Murphy nodded as they all pulled out bibles like they were lightsabers. The pack of black, flowing coats descended the hallway as if they were going to battle.

Dean put an arm around Cas’ shoulders as they followed them. “You gonna be alright?”

“I’ll be fine. I’m just deciding how horrifically I’m going to kill Gabriel.”

The priest in front of them turned a slightly concerned look at Cas.

“He’s kidding,” Dean deadpanned when Cas simply glowered back at the man.

They watched as Father Murphy stopped at the end of the hall. It was no longer the end of a hall. The newly constructed walls gave way to a large, open room.

“This is where it was,” Father Murphy pointed accurately at the floor.

“What exactly did you do?” The oldest priest asked, turning to Dean and Cas.

They relayed the whole story from first sightings, to the Ghostfcers, to salt and burning, and the mausoleum. They chose to leave Crowley out of it.

“How did you know to salt and burn and to use iron to defend yourselves?” Father Murphy asked, giving them a studying look.

“We found some journals left here by...people that used to handle stuff like this,” Dean explained.

“Hunters,” Father Murphy said definitively.

Dean nodded. “Yeah, hunters. And we tracked down the witch, Rowena MacCleod.”

Father Murphy and the other priests looked shocked. “That’s...impossible.”

“Oh, it’s not,” Dean crossed his arms over his chest. “She’s still alive and kicking. Unfortunately, she got away. We haven’t seen her since. But if we do, we’ll be sure to let you know. If we don’t manage to handle her ourselves.”

Father Murphy grinned. “I see you have truly taken ownership of Kripke Manor. It’s been a very long time since we had people here who understood...what exactly was happening here.”

Cas and Dean exchanged a look.

“We do,” Cas nodded. “And we intend to support hunters here.”

Father Murphy grinned again, his shoulders relaxed. “Finally. We fully support hunters. And now I will know where to direct them.”

Dean nodded with some surprise. So, priests were in on the supernatural hunt as well.

They watched as the men wandered around, touched floors and walls, muttered quietly and finally deemed them cage free.

“Thank you all for joining us in this fight,” Murphy nodded. “I got a real good feeling about you two.” He patted Dean on the back.

“Well, thanks, Padre,” Dean grinned. “We’ll call you if we need ya.”

Murphy nodded. The priests headed downstairs. Back in the (completely cleaned) foyer, the priests filed out the front door. Father Murphy stopped in the doorway. “I see there was quite a celebration here recently. May I ask what you were celebrating?” A mischievous grin toyed at his lips.

“Oh, yeah,” Dean rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “It was a bachelor party. I’m getting married.”

“Oh!” Murphy grinned wider. “Congratulations! I assume it’s to Mr. Novak here.”

“Yes,” Dean and Cas answered together.

Murphy nodded. “Congratulations to you both. As a wedding gift, would you like me to do a full blessing on the house?”

“Sure,” Dean shrugged.

“That would be wonderful!” Cas managed, Finally loosening up a bit.

“I can come by in a few days, if that works for you.”

“Absolutely,” Cas grinned, shaking the priest’s hand. “We can never be too...cleansed or blessed here.”

Murphy nodded with a wave to them both. He turned, looking at the fountain. The bubbles still bloomed onto the lawn, but, thankfully, the lady in the fountain was free of adornments.

He turned back to Dean with that same mischievous grin and shook his head as he got into the car with the other priests.

Dean shut the door.

The foyer was empty.

Where did everybody go?

A loud crash and squeal came from the kitchen.

“I’M SORRY!” He heard Gabe yelling. Thunderous running and dog barking came closer. “CAS! NO!”

Dean went to the hall, stepping back quickly as Gabe circled around him and Cas nearly plowed him down to get to his brother.

“How was I supposed to know a flock of priests would show up?!” Gabe squawked, running for the living room. Buddy ran and barked the whole time.

“I swear to God, you set this shit up!” Cas yelled, chasing him.

Sam stood in the hallway looking shocked. Dean knew he probably mirrored his brother’s expression. They both darted for the living room when they heard a thud.

Dean ran under the sweeping stairs of the foyer and into the huge living room. He stopped next to Sam, seeing Cas had Gabe pinned to the floor.

“IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!” Gabe yelled, fighting Cas off the best he could.

No actual punches were being thrown, but Dean decided the two needed separated. He and Sam descended on the pair. Dean hooked an arm around Cas’ middle and hauled him up and back. Sam picked Gabe up off the floor with ease, standing him on his feet. Dean kept a tight hold of Cas, who was shoving to get away from him. “Cas. Enough. It wasn’t Gabe’s fault the fountain lady was wearing a strap-on. You’re gonna have to chill.”

Gabe straightened his shirt out and ran a hand through his hair as Cas took a deep breath and settled down. Buddy looked bewildered at all of them.

“Well, someone needs their ass kicked for that,” Cas huffed.

“No one is getting their ass kicked,” Dean said sternly, loosening his grip.

Cas sighed heavily. “Fine.”

“I think good ole Father Murphy got a kick out of it,” Gabe said seriously.

“Just...don’t,” Sam grinned, trying not to laugh at Gabe.

Cas straightened his shirt out and stepped away from Dean. “Sorry.”

It was short and Dean wasn’t too sure how much Cas meant it, but it was enough to end the brawl.

“I think Cas needs a nap,” Dean grinned, taking his hand.

“I do not nap. I don’t need a nap,” Cas snapped.

“Well, I do,” Dean grinned, undeterred by Cas’ surly demeanor. “You can watch me nap.”

Cas frowned harder. “I am not watching you nap, Dean.”

Sam and Gabe headed out of the room. Dean pulled Cas to him in a loose hug. “You’re grumpy. Come on. We’re going to bed. Whatever we decide to do when we get there is up to you.”

Cas sighed again, sagging onto Dean’s chest. “That was embarrassing.”

Dean took him by the hand again, heading for the elevator. “I know.”

“Gabriel has done this sort of shit to me all my life.”

He pressed the button and steered Cas into the elevator, Buddy following. “I know.”

Cas leaned against the wall, scowling as the old elevator pulled them up to the third floor. “He’s just so...”

Dean opened the door and they headed for their room. “I know.”

Cas went straight to their bed, kicking his shoes off. He slumped onto the soft mattress. “He means well.”

“I know,” Dean grinned, kicking his own shoes off and shutting the door.

“Maybe I am tired,” Cas muttered, yawning.

Dean rolled his eyes with a grin as he pulled the curtains closed to block out the light. He knew they were all tired. And hung-over. And that nothing would feel better than curling up with his angel of Thursday and going to sleep. He crawled in bed, pulling Cas into him as they settled into a comfortable snuggle.

“Sorry. I think I needed a nap after all,” Cas grinned, finally looking at him.

“I know,” Dean smirked. “Did I ever tell you that you’re adorable when you’re all mad and frowning?” Dean ran a finger down his cheek and grinned.

“A few times,” Cas grinned back. “Night, Dean.” He kissed him and tucked his head under Dean’s chin.

“Night, Thursday.”

 

**************

 

Castiel wandered around the now familiar antique store. He had talked Gabe out of the giant, ornate grandfather clock that chimed Elvis songs for the fifteenth time since they had started shopping at this place. He considered buying it just so Gabe wouldn’t see it anymore and he wouldn’t have to have the same old argument. But he just could not justify the waste of a purchase. And there was no way the monstrosity was entering Kripke Manor. For some reason, Elvis Presley songs always left him feeling depressed.

“I have some new things coming in next week,” the shopkeeper said from her counter.

Gabe and Cas came to the counter to look through the photos. “This is nice,” Gabe pointed at a gold and blue patterned rug.

“For the bedroom on the third floor?” Cas asked.

“Yeah. That would be great.”

“This desk would look awesome in me and Sam’s bedroom!” Gabe pointed.

Cas nodded. “Are you guys going to make that bedroom on the front corner your living room? Because that desk would look great in a study.”

Gabe’s enthusiasm drained. “I have no idea. Cassie, I was ready to propose. But now...Sam’s more distant than he’s ever been. I don’t really know where things are going.”

Castiel bit his lip. He wished he could explain why Sam was tired all the time. Why he was working so much. And that it was all for Gabe. Sam wasn’t going anywhere.

Gabe flipped the page, leaving the desk unmarked. “It’s just too soon for us. I guess we don’t quite have what you and Dean have.”

Cas put an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “He loves you very much, Gabe. I know you’re going through a rough patch, but I promise things will improve.

They picked out a few things from the photos and bought a stationary set and two steamer trunks.

Castiel checked his watch frequently. He was supposed to keep Gabe away from the house until 2pm at the earliest. He took him to lunch and ate as slowly as possible.

At 2:25, they pulled into the driveway leading to Kripke Manor. Sam was standing at the fountain as Cas knew he would be. The whole top crew was gathered and waiting. A huge tarp covered the fountain.

“What’s goin’ on with the fountain?” Gabe asked.

“No idea,” Cas lied. He pulled the car up beside the gathered crowd and got out.

Gabe got out as well, coming around the front of Cas’ truck to see what all the commotion was.

Castiel joined Dean as Gabe made a beeline for Sam. “What happened? Did the scary lady finally crack?” Gabe grinned. “Got some dick and ran scared?”

Sam shook his head, looking extremely nervous. “No, Gabe. I’ve been really busy lately...and distracted...and this is part of the reason why.”

He waved for Jon to pull the tarp, revealing the new fountain. The rectangular base was dug out and replaced with a large, scalloped shaped fountain. A large boulder formed in the center with a regal lion on the top, facing the entrance to the driveway.

“Holy shit! Cassie! You did this without me?”

Castiel grinned. “I had nothing at all to do with it.”

Gabe gave Sam an endearing grin, looking up at him as they circled around the front of the fountain. “Samore! You did this for me?”

They stopped, facing the regal lion that looked like he was watching over the entire manor.

“I did,” Sam grinned. They spoke quietly as Gabe studied the details of the magnificent fountain.

Gabe’s whole body froze when his eyes reached the lion’s paw. He gave Sam a shocked look. His jaw moved, but nothing intelligible came out.

Dean slid his arm around Cas, tipping his head against his. His thumb slid up and down in short strokes on his upper arm.

Sam got down on one knee and Gabe covered his mouth with one hand in utter shock.

They couldn’t quite hear what Sam was saying over the spray of the fountain, but tears glistened at both their eyes.

“I was gonna ask you,” Gabe said, still looking awe-struck. “Yes, Sam. Yeah. I’ll marry you!”

Sam swallowed back a shaky grin as he slid a ring on Gabe’s finger, stood up and lifted him right off his feet, kissing him.

Everyone clapped and cheered and Dean whistled loud. He was so relieved for Gabe that this day was finally here.

After receiving a lot of hugs and congratulations, Gabe and Sam were side by side again. “So...this fountain caused you a lot of work?” Gabe asked, looking at it curiously.

“No,” Sam shook his head. “The other part of my surprise is over at Bobby’s apartment.”

Gabe grinned with excitement. “I love surprises!”

“I know you do,” Sam laughed. Bobby and the four of them headed to the stable and apartment.

Sam stopped at the closed stable door. “I got you a present. And I had to work a lot to get it here...but I wanted to surprise you.”

Gabe’s shoulders relaxed and he shook his head. “All this time you’ve been working on something for me?” He shook his head in wonder. He turned to Castiel. “And you just let me go on stressing that Sam was bored with me?”

“I only found out last week!” Castiel defended. “But...yes. For Sam.”

“You dick,” Gabe laughed, shaking his head.

“I really hope you like this,” Sam said nervously.

“Did you get me a horse?” Gabe grinned as the stable door slid open.

“No. No horses.”

They walked down the center aisle, past the tack room and into the newly constructed and newly renovated riding arena. The work Sam had done inside the arena was a bit shocking. Him and whoever he had talked into this project must have been working their asses off.

A small mountain of boulders took up one corner. Lying on the largest stone, only three feet from the ground, was a large, male lion.

Gabe gasped.

Castiel gasped.

Dean covered his mouth with one hand and muttered, “holy fucking shit.”

It was one thing to know Sam was bringing a lion here. It was another to be so close to it.

Next to the lion sat a large, black man, that for some strange reason reminded him of an elephant.

“You must be Gabriel!” He boomed in his rich, loud voice.

At this point, the gate to what was going to be a riding arena, was still separating all of them.

“I am,” Gabe barely managed, opening the gate mechanically and heading toward the end of the large room.

Castiel and Dean exchanged a slightly surprised look.

The lion turned his head, looking toward Gabe for the first time. His eyes were clouded a grey-blue.

“This is Loki. Your boyfriend has been hard at work convincing us that the two of you can take care of this fella.”

Gabe nodded. His mouth was still hanging open and his eyes seldom left the lion’s huge face. He approached the pair slowly, Sam by his side. Castiel, Bobby and Dean hung back, but watched raptly.

“Loki,” Gabe said quietly. The lion looked his way a bit more accurately.

“My name is Ganesh,” the man said in his thick, rumbly voice, smiling benevolently. “

“G-Ganesh,” Gabe stammered, eyes riveted to the massive cat. “It’s nice to meet you. Both of you.”

Ganesh smiled down at the lion, stroking his shoulder.

“Loki is a 15 year old lion that was in desperate need of a home,” Sam said, his eyes still on the huge, wild animal with awe. “I contacted a rescue place last year. I just thought...I mean, what do you get the man that has everything?”

Gabe laughed slightly. “Sam...a lion? A REAL lion?”

Sam swallowed hard. “He was born in captivity and lived at a zoo for a few years, then he lived on a farm in Ohio. He ended up there because he went blind when he was a few years old and he wasn’t zoo material.”

“Oh.” Gabe stepped closer.

“He’s very used to people,” Ganesh explained, and even other animals. He just needs a confined, yet free space that he can be.”

“He’s used to people?” Gabe asked, looking at Ganesh.

“He loves people. Other than being blind, he’s getting up there in age. He doesn’t like the cold too much. He has a wonderful, sweet demeanor. He did have a mule he hung out with at the farm. But she passed away a few years ago. The owner of the farm was getting up there in years and needed to find Loki a new home. Sam here seems to think you two are up for the job.”

“Yeah! Yes!” Gabe nodded. “Can I pet him?”

“Yep.” The man stood up, petting the lion’s massive head. “Loki, this is Gabe.” He took Gabe’s hand and held it to the lion’s nose. He smelled both their hands and looked away.

Sam pet him the same.

“Hi, Loki,” Gabe said gently, petting the lion steadily. The lion turned his huge face back to Gabe and nudged him with his nose gently. He panted a little and sat up.

The movement sent Sam and Gabe back a step with awe.

“You have all the time you need to bond and care for him, Gabe,” Sam added. “If we don’t like it, they will find him another home.”

“No!” Gabe frowned.

“We can do this! Is this really enough room for him?” Gabe asked, all concern and worry.

“His running days are over. He never was a hunter. He was neutered a long time ago. So...he’s a pretty chill guy, really,” Ganesh smiled fondly.

“Loki,” Gabe said in amazement.

The lion yawned, making Gabe’s eyes go wide to see his gaping mouth full of teeth. Loki licked his paw a few times, then smelled the air, nudging Gabe’s hand again.

“Um,” Gabe frowned slightly, leaning toward Ganesh he whispered as to not hurt Loki’s feelings, “where’s his?” Gabe ran his finger in a circle around his own face. “You know, his mane?”

Ganesh grinned and chuckled with a low belly laugh. “He lost his mane years ago when he was neutered. They go together, I’m afraid.”

Gabe nodded. “Well, who needs a mane?” Gabe was hardly breathing and looked entirely awe-struck. “You are the most handsome thing I have ever seen. Besides Sammy, here, of course.” Gabe chuckled and Loki watched him curiously.

“They have a boat load of stuff to teach us about caring for him,” Sam said quietly, “but they said between the stall to sleep in, the indoor arena, and the fenced in field outside, this is plenty of room for him to explore but still feel safe.”

The look on Gabe’s face said everything. He was happier than Castiel had ever remembered seeing him. He radiated excited, nervous joy.

He turned to Cas, his eyes almost tearful. “Cassie, come meet my lion.”

Castiel swallowed nervously, crossing the few feet between them. The trainer held his hand and let the lion sniff him. Castiel had trouble remembering to breathe. “Hello, Loki. It’s very nice to meet you.”

Dean and Bobby joined in. They spent hours that day just getting to know the old lion. He liked the indoor, using its solid walls to navigate by himself around the arena. This was to be Loki’s retirement home. He had maybe another five years or so to live, and they were going to make it the best for him that they could. The trainer was staying for the first week to help them all learn just how to take care of him.

It took Castiel’s breath away every time the lion moved around. He was bigger than he had thought he would be. His tawny brown fur was softer to the touch than he expected. And his ears were thicker and softer than he thought possible. The trainer had brought along a ball that Loki loved. It was wooden weaved and had a noise device in that chirped when it rolled, making Loki chase after the sound. He would bat the ball with his massive paws and send it rolling, run after it and do the same. It was adorable to see him play. He listened to others speaking around him, finding them and pushing his great head against their thighs.

Castiel had debated whether or not this was a totally insane idea of Sam’s, or just up Gabe’s alley. Apparently he had chosen correctly.

Tomorrow, they would introduce the dogs. Or, at least attempt to. Ganesh seemed to think it would go well.

Gabriel glowed with a new light that Castiel had never seen in his brother’s eyes. Sam seemed more relaxed and utterly devoted. Loki seemed quite happy with his new home, making them all feel quite relieved.

 

**********

 

The day of their wedding came so quickly that Castiel felt totally unprepared. He learned several things as the day arrived.

1. Dean looked adorable in suspenders.
2. Buddy seemed just as excited about the wedding as Castiel and Dean.
3. Rumsfeld rarely laid on the porch anymore. He preferred leading Loki around and laying in the sun together.
4. Bobby had bought a ring.

 

“Dude, what’s the hold up?” Gabe grinned, coming into the Readying Room.

Castiel turned away from the mirror. “My tie. It just...It won’t lay right.”

Gabe strode into the room and tied the tie with deft fingers. His eyes flicked up to Castiel’s briefly before he turned him toward the mirror to check his work.

“Thank you, Gabriel,” Castiel frowned. “I guess I am nervous. I’m just not sure why.”

“Well, your smoking hot fiancé is pacing circles. If Sam and him don’t get out of there soon, they might strangle each other.”

Castiel wobbled a grin. “Is Dean nervous?”

“Same as you. More anxious than anything.”

Castiel nodded. “You’re right. I’m anxious. I’ve never been a crowd person. And there are an awful lot of people out there.”

Castiel paced to the window. “The kitchens are running fine. And the florist did a great job in the ballroom.”

“What are you doing checking on the kitchens? I told you I would handle it. And I did,” Gabe sighed.

“Now, when the ceremony ends-“

Gabriel held up a hand, coming up to Castiel with that rare flare of authority he could wield. “Enough, baby bro. You are getting married. You are NOT worrying about how many plates Kevin Tran broke in the kitchen today. Today, that is my job.”

Gabe turned him so they were facing each other. He took Cas’ hands in his and pressed the pressure point by his thumbs.

Castiel closed his eyes and took a steady breath.

“Cassie, you are crazy, stupid in love with that guy out there.” Their eyes met and Gabe clapped his hands onto Cas’ shoulders. “Let’s do this!”

Castiel laughed, shaking off all the little details. They went down the sweeping stairs of the foyer and into the ballroom.

Music played and the room seemed more alight than he had ever thought before. The sconces on the walls glowed beautifully, the chandeliers glistened, and it was a bright, crisp day outside, letting a lot of light in the huge windows. Gabe hooked his arm into Cas’ as they stood in the doorway.

A white runner stretched out between the guests, who all rose to their feet, awaiting his walk down the aisle.

There were so many familiar faces. Jody and a handful of hunters she brought with her, Alfie, Anna, Missouri, Bobby and all the crew that were sitting right up front where family belonged. Father Murphy, Scott, the couple that ran the antique shop, the hotel staff, Becky, Aaron and his brother, Dorothy, Balthazar, Crowley, Ellen and Jo, everyone from the bachelor party, Ben, Buddy, several members of the historical society, some of the vendors at the market a few blocks away, shockingly, Michael and Hannah, not sitting toward the front.

But the person who captured his sweeping glance across the crowd, was the same person who always caught his eye. Dean. Standing at the front with a big, excited grin. Their eyes locked and he saw nothing else until they were finally face to face, still staring, and both still grinning.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean grinned.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel grinned back.

He could feel Gabe’s possessive grip on his arm. “You take good care of him. Always.” Gabe said with fierce sincerity.

Dean tore his eyes from Castiel’s to look a Gabe with a patient grin. “Always, Gabe.”

Gabe nodded, taking his place to the side, getting a wink from Sam. Behind Sam, Charlie grinned with a little bounce.

The ceremony went quickly. Cas gave Dean the same ring he had. He had ordered it the day after Dean bought his. The thick band, with a circle of diamonds and rows of silver riveting, fit him perfect.

When he FINALLY got to kiss his groom, and they were pronounced husbands, it was to a thunderous applause.

Dean kissed him, pulling him to him. “I love you, Cas.”

“I love you, Dean.” Cas swiped away a tear and Dean kissed him again.

As they came up the aisle together, married, Castiel could finally see everyone who had come to the wedding. His friends. His family. All of them had come to celebrate them. It overwhelmed him in a good way, filling his heart and mind with love.

Three years ago, he only knew three people in this room. And two of them (Michael and Hannah) were a constant source of stress and anxiety. He had a new life. A new start. And a huge support base to work from.

Dean looked as overwhelmed as he did. He held his hand tightly as people began filing out behind them to give their congratulations and hugs.

The staff did a flawless and speedy job clearing the wedding seating and setting up tables for the reception. Everyone milled around the foyer, reception room, and gallery room having cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while they took wedding photos. The reception began with a DJ they were planning to keep on the regular.

Before the meal began, Gabe stood up, clinking his fork on his champagne glass, starting a clinking orchestra. Dean pulled Cas in for a kiss, the crowd cheering them on.

“Alright, alright,” Gabe waved, quieting the crowd and separating the newlyweds. “It’s time for my speech.” Gabe cleared his throat, his face taking on a serious look. “There has been exactly ONE person in my life that has been there for me at all times. I remember when Mom got pregnant with him. I was pissed.” Gabe grinned and shrugged. “Our mom was in remission and getting pregnant was a big risk. When I told her, in my four year old wisdom, that this baby was a bad idea, she held me in the bed with her and this new little dark haired, blue eyed baby blinking all big and wondrous at me. She said, “Gabriel, this baby is for you. You take good care of him, and he will take good care of you.” Gabe swallowed hard. “I did my best, little bro. It wasn’t always very good. And I think you took care of me a little too often. When Cassie was five and I was nine, our mom passed away. I didn’t understand it at the time, but she told me that Cassie and I were going to always have each other. She was right. Cas, you are the best brother a guy could hope for. And Dean, you are the best brother-in-law a guy could hope for. I am happy for you both. Dean, I love you. Cassie,” Gabe put a hand over his heart, “I love you.” He raised his glass, everyone following him. “To Mom and Dad!”

Everyone took a drink and Gabe held his aloft again. “To Kripke!”

“To Kripke!” The crew yelled back.

Gabe turned to face Castiel and Dean. “To Castiel and Dean Winchester!”

“Yaaaaay!” Everyone cheered.

The food was fantastic, the cake was good, other than the utter mess Dean made of it on Castiel’s face. They danced, they partied, and it was an amazing success for the business and for Dean and Cas.

 

***********

 

Christmas Day was a merry affair. They had a gorgeous tree in the great room and Dean, Sam, Cas, and Gabe had never had so much family fun on a holiday before.

As evening set in, Castiel and Dean sat on the couch watching the big fire in the fireplace. Buddy lay sleeping in front of the fire. Castiel was attempting to understand the Apple Watch Dean had gotten him and Dean was watching him with amusement.

Sam, Gabe, and Rum were out with Loki. Charlie was curled up on the other sofa, talking quietly with Dorothy.

Buddy sat up, looking toward the front door. The doorbell chimed, surprising all of them a bit from their relaxed stupors.

“I’ll get it,” Dean groaned, kissing Cas’ temple before standing. Buddy had already run to the door.

Castiel maneuvered to the tiny menu on the watch’s screen.

“Cas!” Dean yelled from the door. “We got company!”

All three of them jumped to their feet, heading into the foyer. A man stood there looking scared. In his arms was a girl. She was bandaged but bleeding from her forearm.

“What happened?” Cas asked. He did not know the man or the girl.

“This is Lee Chambers and his daughter Krissy,” Dean said quickly. “He’s a hunter.”

“I heard we could come here...for help,” Lee panted. “My daughter was bitten by a wendigo.”

“Shit,” Charlie and Dean said.

“Bring her this way,” Castiel snapped into action, heading down the hall to one of the guest rooms.

Lee laid her on the bed. “I already stitched her up, but I couldn’t take her to a hospital...so...”

“You did the right thing,” Castiel said calmly, laying a hand on the scared father’s shoulder.

“I’ll get bandages and antiseptic,” Dean said, heading to the kitchen where they kept a first-aid kit.

“A hospital would ask too many questions,” Lee explained. “And I was running out of supplies.”

Krissy winced and moaned, waking up.

As Lee calmed her down, explaining that they were at Kripke Manor, Dean came back in the room with the big first aid kit.

“Hey there, Krissy,” Dean grinned. “Got you some bandages and stuff.”

“It freaking hurts!” Krissy scowled, sitting up more.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” Dean pulled out what they needed and helped Lee clean the bite.

“I didn’t think this place was even real,” Krissy said through gritted teeth as Dean finished wrapping the cleaned wound.

“It’s real,” Castiel assured her. “I’m Castiel. This is Dean and Charlie.

Krissy looked around the room. “This place is fancy.”

“Yeah, and you’re bleedin’ all over it,” Dean smirked.

She huffed a laugh, laying back down. She seemed exhausted. Lee did not look much better.

“Let’s get these two in a room upstairs for the night,” Castiel suggested. “You both need rest. Are you hungry?”

“No,” Lee smiled apologetically. “We just need a couple hours to rest.”

“What’s the rush?” Dean asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Nothing,” Lee shrugged. “I just don’t want to put you guys out.”

“This is what we’re here for,” Dean said pointedly. “You guys can get back on the road when you can both think straight. And when that bite looks better.”

“This place,” Castiel added, “Kripke Manor was built by hunters almost two hundred years ago. It fell into the wrong hands and then fell into disuse, but this place really belongs to all hunters. We are always here to help.”

Lee nodded. “Okay. Ellen said you guys were pretty cool, but...we aren’t used to having somewhere to go, ya know?”

Dean patted his shoulder. “Spread the word, Lee. We are open for business.”

Dean and Castiel left the room to go up to the second floor and put them in a better room where they could stay for however long they needed to, to recover and get on their feet again.

“I can’t believe he has to drag his kid with him for hunts,” Dean whispered, shaking his head.

“He probably has no choice,” Castiel shrugged. “A lot of these people don’t really choose to be hunters. The life just kinda sucks them in.”

They flipped the lights on in a room on the second floor that had its own bathroom and two separate beds. “This one will be perfect,” Dean nodded.

“We need a better set-up,” Castiel sighed. “We can’t have bloody hunters showing up in the middle of a business day.”

Dean nodded. “Let’s get these two settled in. Then we can talk strategy.”

 

***********

 

Missouri had cleansed the house. Father Murphy had blessed the house. The hallways echoed with laughter, construction, and general mayhem.

The business picked up to a steady stream of weddings from December through forever, with local proms and events in the spring.

Over the next year, changes were made to the first floor, moving the honeymoon suite forward in the wing. Where the wedding suite had been became a section of the house that was locked except for those carrying a key fob to allow them entrance to a rear hunter entrance.

The hunter section had a reference room with a small kitchen area, storage rooms for hunter gear and weapons, the back stairs led to hunter guest rooms, some set up for medical emergencies. The basement entrance was kept with the bathroom removed. They used the basement to store curse boxes, dangerous weapons, a room to interrogate demons, cells to temporarily hold monsters of all kinds, and other messy situations hunters brought to their doorstep at any given time. Hunter traffic was patchy but kept well under wraps with their sectioned set-up.

The wedding business took up the first floor (other than the library and Gabe’s dining room), then the hunter resource room at the back of the wing. The second floor was for hunters in the wing section, kept locked off from the second floor of the main section of the house, where more wedding storage and staff worked. The ‘war room’ was kept as a planning and meeting room. The floor plans had been framed and hung on the walls of the ‘war room’ by Sam as a gift to everyone. Dean loved that they were not the crisp, new floor plans. They were the working floor plans with writing and math down the sides, coffee rings, wrinkled edges, funny little notes, and all the changes they had made together.

The third floor had another working kitchen for the wedding business. The running room and bar room were where the crew and those that lived in the house hung out. A lot of pictures of family and friends filled the walls of this room as time went by. The infamous party photo stayed front and center. There was a picture of Sam, Gabe, and Loki. One of Rumsfeld and Loki playing with the big ball. A big picture of their first pool party. All of them were mid-jump into the pool. Wedding photos were hung, Ben’s school picture, old photos of the house and the old pictures they had found. There was even the picture of Lucifer leaning against the bookcase. It was who they were and how they had all managed to find such a great home from something so riddled with problems. There was a photo of Jackie and one of the hallway with the tricycle in it. The more prominent pictures were their good memories. Sam proposing at the fountain, Dean and Buddy studying the wood grain of a section of trim. Cas and Dean on the steps of the patio, Cas sitting on the step above Dean with his arms around his shoulders, their heads tipped close. Sam and Cas mid discussion looking at floor plans. Bobby sitting on the box at the table with a smirk. Ellen and Bobby at the gazebo. Charlie and Dean with sunglasses on, walking down the driveway and looking bad-ass. Buddy laying regally in front of the fireplace. Gabe, grinning impishly from his throne.

The third floor wing was where Dean and Cas lived. They had a beautiful bedroom suite that they decorated together. They had their own living room, kitchen, and four other rooms to use for their own purposes.

Sam and Gabe lived on the wing of the fourth floor. The large living room on the other side of the indoor pool was posh and became a popular summer hang-out for them and their friends. They had their own kitchen, dining room, office, bedroom suite and several other rooms they could use for whatever they wished.

The section of the fourth floor that had once been the terrifying haunted hall and rooms, was now an open and spacious work-out room and storage rooms.

The fifth floor had been renovated into an apartment for Charlie, Dorothy, and Benny. Benny had become Bobby’s assistant, helping take care of the house and grounds.

Weddings came and went. Hunters came and went. The Winchesters (all four of them) had made their homes inside the house their own. Bobby and Ellen loved the huge apartment above the indoor arena and stable.

Kripke Manor was alive and thriving again.

 

The End

Chapter Text

Time Stamp

 

“I have lived in this house for four years, Cassie. I have NEVER had to use the elevator. I’m not starting now.”

Gabe headed for the stairs with the stroller. Castiel watched him patiently.

Gabe stood at the bottom of the sweeping steps of the foyer and sighed heavily. The stroller was not going up the stairs. “Fuck.”

“Stop swearing in front of the babies,” Castiel groaned, rolling his eyes.

“Dude, she’s three months old. And let’s face it, with me as a father, she’s gonna swear like a trucker. Her preschool teachers can kiss my ass.”

Castiel laughed. It had been a long day. Sam had sent the brothers shopping for supplies while they put together some newly ordered furniture for the babies. Taking babies shopping was new for both of them.

Buddy trotted down the stairs, sniffing Grace’s stroller and then Grace herself, making the tiny baby squirm and giggle.

He trotted over to Castiel’s stroller, sniffing the twins, Jack and Eric. They were six months old and grabbed his ears and nose clumsily. He pulled his head back, shaking it and looking up to Cas.

“Is Dean upstairs?” Cas asked, giving him a bite of a Slim Jim. The dog tossed his head upward, taking a few steps toward the elevator.

“He doesn’t answer you, ya know,” Gabe groused.

“He does too.” Castiel headed toward the elevator.

“I take back all the nice shit I ever said about you,” Gabe frowned, following him.

Castiel pushed the button. “You’ll be just fine, Gabriel.”

The door opened. Castiel pushed the double stroller inside the elevator, grinning as Jack tried to touch his reflection in the shiny back doors. Buddy followed him in, sitting next to his feet.

Gabe stared into the elevator dubiously.

“You hang out with a lion every day,” Castiel said, staring his brother down. “This little elevator won’t even bite you.”

Gabe scoffed. “Loki would NEVER bite me. That would require teeth, for starters.”

The brothers both laughed. As beloved as the lion was to all of them, he was getting pretty old. He had recently had four more teeth removed.

Gabe took a deep breath, looking down at Grace. “I know you’re worth the risk.” She grinned back at him, squirming again. Gabe couldn’t help but grin. “Alright. I’ll do it.”

Gabe pushed the stroller inside and got in.

“We’ll go to your floor first,” Castiel offered, pressing the button marked with a four.

The door slid shut and Gabe blew out a breath.

The elevator dinged, did its familiar shimmy and began heading upward.

It was rare that Gabe got afraid of anything. Or stressed. It was also pretty rare to have Gabe in a vulnerable position. A smile twinged Castiel’s lips as a devious thought crossed his mind.

Gabe was attempting to put Grace’s sock on for the twentieth time today. Castiel glanced at the panel of buttons on the old elevator. He pushed the red knob marked ‘Emergency Stop’.

The elevator lurched to a halt. Gabe’s eyes got as big as saucers.

“What happened?!” Gabe squeaked.

Castiel raised an eyebrow. “No idea.”

Gabe gasped. “What do we do?!” He lunged for the door, trying to pry it open. “IT WON’T OPEN!”

Castiel could not help but laugh at the wild look in Gabe’s eyes.

“What! Why are you laughing? We could all die in here!”

Castiel laughed harder. “I just pushed the Emergency Stop, you spaz!”

Gabe looked at the buttons as if they would run away. “Un push it!”

Castiel stifled his laugh. He pushed the red knob and watched Gabe deflate to his normal size and color as it began moving again.

“Are you insane?” Gabe seethed. “You could have killed us all!”

“I’ve pressed it plenty of times,” Cas laughed.

“WHY! What would EVER possess you to press that?” Gabe squawked.

Castiel stopped laughing, giving him a look.

A pregnant pause filled the air as Gabe wracked his brain and studied his brother’s face.

Castiel raised an eyebrow.

Gabe’s face melted into a look of disgust. “You’ve had SEX in here?!” He covered Grace’s tiny ears. “You’ve had sex in here?” He whispered harshly.

Castiel raised the other eyebrow.

“You are a pig.” He looked at the twins matter-of-factory. “Your father is a pig.”

Castiel laughed. “Well, I’m a happy pig.”

The elevator shimmied to a stop, dinging and the door slid open. Gabe rushed through the door with Grace in tow. “Uncle Cas is a dirty, no-good, meanie,” he said to Grace, making her giggle.

“Night, Gabe!”

“Fuck you, Cassie!”

Castiel shook his head, laughing. “Uncle Gabe deserved it, trust me,” he said to his boys, watching them grin up at him. “Didn’t he, Buddy.”

Buddy panted happily then trotted off, tail wagging, as the doors opened onto the third floor. Cas went down the hall to his and Dean’s part of the house, swiping his fob to unlock the door.

“Dean, we’re back!”

Dean came out of the living room. “I put both the cribs together.” He kissed Cas then knelt down to unbuckle Eric as Cas unbuckled Jack. “Were you good boys for Daddy?”

“They were great,” Cas grinned, taking Jack into his arms. “We stocked up on diapers, wipes, and formula. And I got the high chairs you wanted.”

“Alright!” Dean grinned, making a face at Eric and holding him up, wiggling him and making him laugh. “Big boys need big chairs!” He took the diaper bag off the stroller and followed Cas into the nursery.

“Gabe kept them all entertained and awake for the ride home, so they should be out soon enough.”

Buddy followed them all to the bathroom where Cas and Dean tag-teamed a quick bath for the boys.

“You gonna be a man about this?” Dean asked, settling Jack into his new cribs with a kiss to his chubby cheek. “No tears.”

Cas laid an already sleeping Eric in his new crib. They turned a music toy on and stood there a moment, watching the boys sleep and fall asleep. Dean took Cas by the hand and the two left the room quietly.

They headed into the kitchen. “I’m starving,” Cas sighed.

“I’ll heat up some spaghetti for you, Thursday.” Dean put a plate together quickly as Cas sat down at the table, watching him move around the kitchen with familiar ease.

“I love watching you cook.”

Dean smirked over his shoulder, “You love watching me do anything.”

“True,” Cas grinned.

Dean sat the plate of heated leftovers in front of him. “You gonna pay for that?”

Cas chuckled, snagging Dean’s t-shirt and pulling him down for a kiss. Dean melted into him, sitting on his lap for a longer kiss. “You better eat quick. I have plans for you.”

Cas raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?” Cas drew him in for another deep, lingering kiss. “What kinda plans?”

Dean chuckled low. “Let’s just hope the boys give us two good hours before one of them or both of them wake up.”

He got up, sliding Cas’ plate back to him. “I’ll be waiting.”

Cas grinned, taking a big bite and grinning as Dean sauntered out of the kitchen, heading for their bedroom.

All of them had been thrown into fatherhood. A hunter had showed up on a beautiful day in September with three crying babies. They had been left orphaned by a few vampires on a feeding binge that had killed their parents. The hunter had a hell of a time getting out of the situation and ended up burning both the families homes to the ground. Totally overwhelmed, he showed up at Kripke Manor. The decision had been pretty quickly made. These kids were left without families. They could drop them off at a hospital somewhere, or have Ash create the adoption paperwork.

Cas finished his meal quickly, rinsing his plate and shutting off the kitchen light. He peeked into the nursery. Both boys slept soundly, snug and warm.

None of the orphaned babies had names. Sam and Gabe were totally smitten with the tiny little girl. They name her Grace and became a family over night.

Dean and Cas had decided to keep the twins. Someday they would tell them that they were saved by a hunter and that they loved them the minute they laid eyes on them. Dean wanted to name one of them Eric, after Eric Kripke. He said the man was a noble hunter. Cas was nervous to admit it and never had to, because Dean guessed he would want to name one after Jackie. So, Jack became their son. Named for the first child who had stolen a piece of Castiel’s heart. Jack and Eric had thrived in the few weeks they had been living with them. They were sitting up on their own now and becoming loving little bundles of energy.

Cas headed into his and Dean’s room, grinning at the smile that greeted him. He turned the light off and pulled his clothes off as he headed for the bed.

Thrust into parenthood, they were all adjusting pretty quickly. It came as a shock to their friends and family that knew nothing about the hunters that came and went from Kripke Manor. Everyone else was thrilled at the additions as well.

Cas crawled into the covers and into Dean’s arms. He was complete in a way that he had never known possible. He kissed Dean and sighed with utter content as Dean ran his hands possessively over his back and fisted both hands gently into his hair.

 

Kripke Manor was not just a business. Not just a safe haven. It was home.

Chapter Text

 

Fantastic artwork of Kripke Manor's floor plans (with added notes, doodles, and well-worn love from our favorite guys and gals).

First Floor

 

 

Second Floor

 

 

Third Floor

 

 

Fourth Floor

 

 

Fifth Floor