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The Zeppelin Affair

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“Huh. That was weird.”

Dean’s staring down at his phone, apparently oblivious to the highway they’re barreling down at 80 miles per hour. Sam bites down on the decades-old distracted driving argument he’ll never win, and asks, “What’s weird? Cas okay?”

“Yeah,” says Dean slowly, “he says he is, just —” He looks up again, and Sam releases his death grip on the door handle, flexing his fingers in relief. “I dunno, man. Something seemed off. Said he lost cell service, and that he’s on some — very interesting lead, and — that he’ll fill us in when he knows more.”

“That sounds — fine,” says Sam, but Dean shakes his head.

“I dunno, man,” he repeats. “I’m gonna text him real quick, just to check.”

Which is just about all Sam can take. “No,” he says, grabbing the phone out of Dean’s hand, “no, you’re going to drive, and I’m going to text Cas.”

Dean shoots him a glare — holding it for a long moment as if to prove a point — then says, “Fine. Tell him — uh — say: Dude, that was a bit of a communication breakdown. Everything ok?”  

Sam glances over at him. “Really?”

“Just type the damn message, asshole.”

---

Asmodeus has just strided up to the cells when the phone in his pocket buzzes again. He pulls it out and regards it, then snorts in disgust. “Damn Winchesters,” he mutters, beginning to type a response. Then he raises his head, and his eyes fall on Drexel.

“You!” he declares, advancing. “Congratulations.”

Drexel swallows nervously. “On — on what, sir?”

“You’ve got yourself a new job,” Asmodeus drawls. “Don’t let Dean Winchester suspect anything.” And he proffers the phone.

Drexel stares at it for a moment, then gulps, and takes it. “Sir,” he says, “what should I —" 

“Do I look like I care what you say?” Asmodeus roars.

“No! No, sir, I’m very sorry, I’ll — I’ll get right on it, sir!” And as Asmodeus turns away, Drexel begins to type.

“Wait,” says a hoarse voice from behind him.

Drexel looks up. It’s the angel, Castiel. He’s come forward, pressing his face to the bars. Quickly, Drexel turns away again. If he just ignores him, he can’t get into trouble.

“Wait,” says Castiel again. “He’ll know it’s not from me.”

Drexel and Asmodeus both turn to stare at him.

“You really think we don’t have a code for these situations?” Castiel demands. “Dean Winchester will know instantly that someone else is using my phone, if you don’t do as I say. Trust me, it won’t take him long to remember Asmodeus can change his voice along with his shape.” 

“If we don’t do as you say,” Asmodeus echoes. “And what, exactly, do you think you’re in a position to demand?”

Castiel slumps against the bars. “Nothing,” he says, defeated. “I simply — I don’t want the Winchesters to come tearing in here any more than you do.”

Asmodeus glares at him suspiciously. “Why?” 

Castiel lifts his head. “Look. We’re both gambling. I’m betting the Winchesters can find Jack before you do; you’re betting you’ll be first. Neither of us wants them coming here to start an all-out war. Unless you’ve changed your mind in the last twenty minutes.” 

For a long moment, Asmodeus simply surveys him. Then, from the next cell, another voice hisses, “Cassie! What are you doing? Rotting in here is not going to help with the — little problem we discussed earlier!” 

Castiel doesn’t look away from Asmodeus’s face or act as if he’s heard Lucifer at all.

“Very well,” Asmodeus decides. “Drexel — type what the angel tells you to type.” 

---

A few minutes pass before Cas responds. As soon as Dean’s phone buzzes, he grabs for it, and Sam snatches it away, tucking it safely at his right side where Dean can’t reach.

“Dude.” Dean’s voice has taken on a petulant note. “Give it here!”

“No,” Sam tells him sternly. “You’re driving.”

Dean’s nostrils flare, but he relents. Sam lifts the phone to read Cas’s text. Instantly, Dean slaps it from his hand. The Impala jerks wildly as they both scrabble on the floor, but it’s Dean who comes up triumphant, straightening out just as a semi roars past them with a blare of its horn.

“Jesus Christ,” Sam pants. “Do you really —”

But Dean’s ignoring him again, mouth tightening as he reads the text.

“Ok,” says Sam. “What?”

“Cas is fine.” Dean passes him the phone without another look. The text reads: Yes, I’m sorry, Dean. It’s nobody’s fault but mine.

Sam stares for a moment, and then he starts to laugh.

Dean glares at him, but Sam’s too entertained to care. “You and Cas made a code out of Zeppelin songs? Really?”

“Shut up,” says Dean.

“Does he even know Zeppelin songs?”

“Metatron gave him an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, remember? Besides,” Dean adds, with dignity, “I’ve been educating him.”

Sam doesn’t stop chuckling all the way back to the bunker.

---

The cell phone goes off at 6:30 the next morning.

The buzzing startles Drexel out of his daze. Guard duty is boring. Just standing in a cold corridor not speaking to your prisoners and staring at the wall. And he hasn’t even had any more texting to perform since last night.

The name on the suddenly bright screen is Dean. Drexel doesn’t answer, just watches it buzz.

“You’ll have to let me pick that up,” says Castiel.

Slowly, Drexel raises his eyes to look at the angel. Asmodeus hasn’t said he can talk to the prisoners when he’s not around. He shakes his head tightly.

“If I don’t make our morning check-in,” Castiel says, “Dean will think something is wrong.”

Drexel shakes his head more rapidly still, panic rising in his chest.

Castiel sighs. “Look,” he says. “If you won’t let me do it, have Asmodeus call him back with my voice. Do it in the next fifteen minutes, or else…”

---

Cas misses his morning check-in.

Dean spends twelve minutes and thirty-two seconds pacing back and forth across his bedroom, cataloguing all the possible things that could have gone wrong since last night and exactly where he’ll start looking, before Cas calls him back.

He sounds pissed. “Dean,” he snaps, “I’m a little busy here. I’m fine. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Whoa, hold up, Cas,” Dean starts. “What —”

But Cas has already hung up.

Dean’s still staring at his phone when Sam comes into the kitchen two hours later, rubbing his eyes and making a beeline for the coffee pot. Up late researching, presumably.

“Dude,” says Sam, watching Dean owlishly over the rim of his mug. “Just call him, if you’re that freaked out.”

“I did,” Dean tells him gruffly. “He was busy.”

“Text him, then.” Sam rolls his eyes and stumbles back out of the kitchen.

Dean sighs, thinks for a moment, and types: We might be going to California for a case. You anywhere nearby? We could meet up.

It’s a fiction, of course, but that’s not the point. And hell, he could go to California. No problem.

The answer comes more quickly this time. No. Over the hills and far away.

Dean sighs. Ok. Let us know if we can help.

There’s no reply, but he shouldn’t expect one.

---

“Twice a day?” Asmodeus snaps. “He expects you to check in with him twice a day?”

“At bare minimum,” Castiel replies, blandly.

“This is absurd,” Asmodeus fumes. “And completely unnecessary.”

Castiel shrugs. “I was dead for a while,” he explains. “Dean is… attached.”

“There’s attached,” comes Lucifer’s snide voice from the next cell, “and then there’s unhealthily obsessed.”

“No one asked you,” Castiel says stonily. Looking at Asmodeus, he adds, “I hope you weren’t too short with him.”

Asmodeus’s nostrils flare.

“You could always let me take the call,” Castiel suggests apologetically, “if it’s too much of a burden.”

Asmodeus looks as if he’s contemplating what kind of splat Castiel would make if he squashed him like a bug. “Drexel,” he says, “at 6:30 each morning and 9:30 each night, you will bring the phone to me.”

---

The second day is when things really start getting weird.

Honestly, Dean never anticipated using the whole Zeppelin code quite this much. It’s just Cas is being so weird over the phone, all pissy and hanging up almost as soon as he’s answered. And they still haven’t heard a damn thing about Jack, not from any of the hunters keeping an eye out or from Sam’s new web crawl he’s set up to look for omens. No hunts, no Jack, no Cas, and Dean’s about crawling out of his skin.

So — well — he’s not trying to be needy, damn it, but at least Cas responds to his text messages. He types: Hey Cas. When you gonna bring it on home?

It takes Cas a few minutes to reply this time. Refusing to stare at his phone and wait pathetically, Dean wanders into the war room to check, yet again, on whether Sam’s got anything.

When his phone buzzes again, he almost chokes. It says: Soon. Don’t worry. I can’t quit you, baby.

Sam dissolves into peals of laughter. Dean flips him off. Two can play at that game.

Baby, he types, come on home.

He leaves the phone on the table, daring Sam to laugh at him, while he grabs a beer from the fridge. When he gets back, Sam is staring at it in horrified awe.

“Oh my God,” he whispers. “Did he…”

Reaching the table, Dean turns the phone to read it. When I do, it says, I’ll bring you a custard pie.

“Do you think…” Sam sounds tortured. “Does he know what that means?”

Dean sits abruptly, as if his legs have given out under him. “I have no idea,” he says.

---

“Sir,” says Drexel.

He’s jittery with nerves — excited, but a little terrified, too. He’s discovered something important.

“Yes?” Asmodeus drawls, without looking up.

“Sir,” Drexel repeats. “I think I’ve — I’ve discovered something important about Castiel and Dean Winchester, sir.”

Asmodeus spares him a momentary glance. “Go on,” he says, as if it pains him.

“Sir,” Drexel says again, “I believe they’re in a romantic relationship.”

Finally, this gets Asmodeus’s attention. He fixes his stare on Drexel, and Drexel feels a shiver of fear run the length of his body. “On what basis?” Asmodeus asks.

“Well, sir.” Drexel holds out the phone to show him. “They frequently call each other baby, as you can see. And I have discovered through my researches that in current parlance, this term is generally applied by English-speaking humans to their sexual partners. Not,” he adds, for the sake of completeness, “to their young children.”

Asmodeus surveys the text messages for a minute before returning his gaze to Drexel. “And why,” he inquires, “should I care?”

Drexel gulps. “Well,” he says, “I thought it might help with your — with your verisimilitude, sir, if you used Dean’s accustomed nickname when impersonating Castiel.”

For a long moment, Asmodeus simply watches him. Drexel feels his palms break out in a cold sweat.

“Very well,” the Prince of Hell says at last. “You are dismissed.”

---

“I’m sorry it’s taking so long, baby,” says Cas the next morning.

And you know what? Dean is done. He is just fucking done.

“What the fuck, Cas?” he bursts out. “I mean, seriously, what in the hell is going on? You disappear for days on some very important lead you won’t tell us squat about. You’re blowing off all my calls, and when you’re not — I mean, yeah, okay, it was funny for a bit, but — seriously, what is with you?”

There’s a long silence on the other end of the line. Then Cas says, “I’m sorry, Dean.”

“I don’t want you to be sorry,” Dean snaps. “I want you to explain what in the hell —”

But Cas has already hung up.

---

“You,” snarls Asmodeus, and that’s all the warning Drexel gets before he’s thrown against the wall.

Asmodeus’s hand is on his throat, and it’s not just his meatsuit he’s choking, it’s also his essence, his very being. Drexel struggles wildly, trying to free himself, but Asmodeus doesn’t budge.

“Did you think that would be funny?” Asmodeus roars. “Getting me to act like a fool?”

Drexel can’t speak around the hand on his throat, so he does his best to shake his head wildly. Asmodeus snarls at him and raises him a little higher on the wall, and Drexel’s eyes roll back in his head.

“I’ll let you live,” Asmodeus breathes. “This time.”

And he drops Drexel in a shuddering, sobbing heap on the floor.

---

It’s a while before Drexel recovers enough to lift his head. When he opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is Lucifer, sitting cross-legged behind his bars, only a few feet away, and smiling.

“You know,” says Lucifer, conversationally, “there was a time when you were my most valued servant.”

He holds out his hand for the phone.

---

It’s barely noon and Dean’s already two beers deep when his phone buzzes and declares: You can’t always get what you want.

It’s not Led fucking Zeppelin. He’ll take it.

“Sam!” he yells. “SAM! We’re going to get Cas!”

---

After the battle — after fighting their way down through ranks of demons, after colliding headlong with Cas and the terrified defector and fucking Lucifer , fighting their way up from the cells below — after Asmodeus has disappeared and his servants are dead or vanished along with him, and after a lot of furious demands for explanations and fruitless strategizing about the Michael Problem — after, in short, a long fucking day — Cas slumps forward in the back seat of the Impala, resting his head on Dean’s seat, his hair just tickling the back of Dean’s neck, and says, “I’m sorry.”

“Dude,” Dean tells him, “stop fucking saying that.”

Naturally, Cas ignores him. “I didn’t want you to risk yourselves coming after me,” he continues, and his voice is muffled against the seat.

“And I don’t want you apologizing for every damn thing,” Dean retorts. “But then, we —”

He stops himself short there. We don’t always get what we want hits a little close to home.

“To be fair,” Cas counters, and his voice has taken on a slightly peevish tone, “I wasn’t the one doing all the apologizing. You can hardly blame me for Asmodeus’s attempts to impersonate me.”

“Can and will,” Dean corrects him. “And don’t you dare try to blame Asmodeus for those fucking text messages.”

He expects Cas to get defensive. Or to roll his eyes, act above it all; or to huff and pretend he doesn’t know what Dean’s talking about. He does not — most certainly does not — expect Cas to giggle.

Charitably, it might be labeled a rather high-pitched snort. Dean is not inclined to be charitable.

“Dude,” he says. “Seriously?”

“Hey,” says Cas, and then he’s overtaken by another great snort of laughter, one that catches in his throat and turns into a coughing fit, but when Dean glances in the rearview mirror, he can see he’s grinning through it. “Hey, hey,” he finishes weakly, coughing just barely under control, “what can I do?”

And then he’s off again, laughing himself stupid in the backseat of Dean’s car like some kind of beautiful idiot, clutching at his own thigh and grinning like it’s the greatest joke ever told.

And Dean can’t help it. He shakes his head, and then he’s laughing too.