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Brave New World

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Shaggy couldn't sleep.

He stared up at the ceiling of the room he was sharing with Fred and Scooby, listening to their breathing as he tried in vain to count sheep. It was a wasted effort on his part, because he never made it past ten or eleven of the fluffy figments of his imagination. He was too distracted. Everything that had happened in the past few hours ran through his head for the hundredth time, and he shuddered. Wishing they were back home, where everything was normal and safe.

Ghosts, monsters, demons, even angels; according to Sam, Dean, and Castiel they were all real after all! And alternate realities too, as it turned out. Thanks to a freaky purple light, that had appeared out of nowhere and enveloped the gang while they were walking to the Mystery Machine to go celebrate the victory of their joint investigation with the Winchesters and Cas, he and his friends were now all trapped in one of these other realities. Unfortunately for them, it just so happened to be one where all the things that go bump in the night seemed to thrive.

It was everything he ever dreaded, and worse!

Scooby whimpered from his spot at the base of the bed, jolting Shaggy back to the present. He quickly sat up and leaned forward to pat his sleeping dog. Whispering 'it's okay, Scoob' soothingly, over and over again with each gentle stroke, until his best friend stopped twitching and settled down into a more peaceful slumber. The scrawny teen stayed like that for a moment, studying the dog, and then he let his eyes wander over to Fred's sleeping form.

He couldn't help feeling a little envious of how his friend had just, more or less, rolled with the insanity that had been thrown at them that night. Then again, Fred was usually the first to recover from a surprise thrown their way. Velma and Daphne still seemed a little unsure of the situation when the five of them had parted ways to turn in for the night, but they did their best to not let it show much. Shaggy knew his friends well, though. By the morning, the girls would be just as calm and collected as Fred seemed to be about the whole thing.

It still rattled Shaggy though, how different everything looked in this world. How different they themselves looked. It was like walking around in a 3D movie, or a cartoon! And it wasn't just the physical change that disturbed him, he had noticed other changes since they had arrived in this world.

His appetite wasn't as strong here, although Velma and Sam both theorized that might just be his nerves. Velma's eyesight seemed a little bit stronger since her arrival, which she had been surprised to discover when her glasses had gotten knocked off when they first found themselves in the bunker. And Daphne had noticed, whispering to the rest of the gang as to not offend their hosts, that their new friends looked older in this reality than they had back home.

The biggest change, though, had been in Scooby.

Shaggy had noticed something was off pretty quickly after they had arrived in this frightening new reality. When he realized what it was, it had come as a terrible shock to all of them. Scooby Doo couldn't talk in this world.

Dean seemed almost as upset by this revelation as Shaggy had been.

Castiel had tried to fix that. After revealing to the gang that he was an angel of the lord, a fact that Shaggy was still processing even now, he had tried to restore Scooby's ability to speak. Unfortunately, it didn't work. The best he could do was allow the rest of them to at least feel the unique dog's emotions, a kind of psychic connection, but as comforting as the existence of the link was…it just wasn't the same.

"At least you can still understand us," Shaggy thought as he ran his hand across the dog's shoulder one more time. Then, with a tired sigh, he got up.

Even though he wasn't actually hungry, he figured it wouldn't hurt to try to find his way back to the kitchen and help himself to a midnight snack. That always seemed to help back at home when he couldn't sleep if he was too worked up over a case, maybe it would help now.

The bunker was still hard to navigate. Instead of locating the kitchen, he stumbled across a recreational room instead. He flicked on the lights and smiled. "Zoinks! Like, this is a pretty groovy space!"

Dean's so-called 'Dean Cave' was a room that Shaggy could easily imagine himself and the rest of the gang hanging out in a lot in the coming days. He wasn't much of a foosball player, but he knew Fred would be eager to go a few rounds with everybody. "He'll coax Dean into playing, no doubt about it." The jukebox in corner showed promise, and he found himself wondering what kind of music their new friends liked listening to. Would it be bands he and his friends were familiar with, or some groovy new future music?

It wasn't until he noticed the miniature fridge plugged in by the in-progress bar that his eyes really lit up. Shaggy's stomach grumbled at the sight of it. Maybe his appetite was coming back to him now that the shock of their trip was beginning to wear off?

With a sigh of relief, Shaggy strode over to the fridge. Walking between the foosball table and the two reclining chairs that were placed squarely in front of the TV that Dean had set up there, having replaced the one he had broken with the one that had been in his own room before calling it a night a few hours earlier.

Shaggy jumped a little in surprise when he stepped on something hard, and heard the click of the TV turning on as he lifted his foot to get a look at the object. It took him a moment to figure out what it was, he was used to the clunkier TV remotes back home, but once he did he was grinning with childlike wonder as he picked it up and flipped through the channels. There were so many stations!

If there was one perk about this creepy reality, it was that they were so much more advanced than the one he came from. "I guess it won't be too awful, staying here for a while." He thought to himself as settled on a random station, not paying much mind to what was playing as he turned his attention back to the fridge.

"Like, Scooby and I can stay here and investigate the kitchen!"

Shaggy's eyes widened with surprise at the sound of his own voice, and he glanced at the TV again. Stunned by what he was seeing, he let the fridge door close on its own and wandered over to stand behind the reclining chairs. He rubbed at his eyes, and blinked with astonishment as he watched the rest of the scene on the small screen continue to unfold. He was on the TV! So was Scooby and the rest of the gang, looking like their normal selves!

"Wha-what's going on…" Shaggy murmured, feeling the all-too familiar sensation of the hair on the back of his neck standing up and goosebumps rising across his arms.

He remembered the case he was watching.

Was there some kind of TV crew secretly taping them the whole time? But, no. That didn't make any sense. Way too many cameras would have needed to be used in order to pull off what he was seeing. Plus, he remembered how cramped and creaky that particular house had been; even if both he and Scooby had been oblivious to a camera crew, he was certain the others would have noticed a bunch of men hiding in the house filming them eventually.

Not to mention the fact that this case was close to a year ago now, and no one ever approached them about it.

He was starting to wonder, as he rubbed his eyes again, if he was dreaming after all. But he knew he wasn't, and as the program ended he felt a sense of unease begin to prickle at him.

"You're watching The Classic Cartoon Hub!" Said a narrator as the lineup for the next two hours displayed on the screen. "Up next is another episode of Scooby Doo!"

Suddenly feeling weak in the knees, Shaggy gripped the top of the closest recliner. Stumbling his way around it, he slowly sank into its plush cushion and stared on in shock as the screen went black for a moment before the sound of squeaking bats rang in his ears and the opening theme began to play.

"This can't be real…it has to be some kind of crazy joke!"

He spent the first ten minutes of the program repeating that thought in his head. The case being shown in this episode was a much more recent one, the gang had solved it just last week, and he found himself quoting word for word the conversations he remembered most clearly from that night. By the time the program went to a commercial break, he was too dazed to really pay attention to it anymore. An ad that played a few commercials in advertised a Scooby Doo marathon for the best episodes and movies from 1969 to the present day, and Shaggy felt the dread he was feeling sink its claws in deeper.

"We're not real…I'm not real…"

Shaggy never did fall asleep that night.

Chapter Text

After spending however many hours in that rec room, having his worldview effectively smashed into pieces, Shaggy crawled back into bed just before dawn. Laying on his side, with his back to Fred, he stared at the windowless wall in front of him as his mind still drowned in his newfound knowledge. He felt even more exhausted than he had before; and yet, sleep continued to cruelly elude him.

After the Scooby Doo block had ended, Shaggy wound up watching the cartoons that had followed it. It was a surreal experience, both oddly comforting and heartbreaking at the same time. Because one way or another, he was familiar with all of characters that graced the screen in front of him.

Back home, Shaggy and his friends were really close with a lot of the kids from Riverdale. Although, it was a surprise to him to learn that Sabrina was secretly a witch. The Pussycats were mostly known for their groovy music, but Mystery Inc had worked a case or two with the band before, which Shaggy had fond memories of. In the past few years, they had also teamed up with the Blue Falcon and the Dynamic Duo, who were famous heroes back in his world.

They had encountered Yogi Bear once during a visit to Jellystone National Park. After a particularly tough case during one summer vacation, Daphne had suggested that they stop there to relax for a couple of days on their way home. While the rest of the gang had been pretty amused by the bear's antics, after deducing he was the one stealing food from the other camp sites, neither Shaggy nor Scooby were thrilled with his repeated attempts to snatch up their own picnic baskets.

They had never actually met Jabberjaw, but his team was well known in the mystery-solving circles back home. While explorers like the Quests and the Ventures were widely-known celebrities for their treasure hunting adventures all over the world. Everyone else, like Top Cat or Penelope Pitstop, were fictional characters on popular shows.

"Like us, apparently…" Shaggy thought as he pulled the covers completely over his head. Even now, despite knowing for sure that it was true, it was still hard to fully accept. How could he be just some cartoon character, when he had an awareness of his life beyond the weekly adventures he saw repeated before his very eyes on that television screen?

He remembered meeting Velma, Daphne, and Fred. He remembered when he first got Scooby. He remembered his childhood.

…Didn't he?

Gripping the sides of his head and squeezing his eyes shut, Shaggy strained to summon up those particular memories. It was fuzzy now, almost like static from a poor antenna signal. Why couldn't he remember anything clearly beyond the mysteries he solved with his friends?

Scooby, sensing the teen's distress, whined a little from his spot at the base of the bed before he climbed off and trotted to Shaggy's side. The dog plopped himself down in front of Shaggy's head, and pawed lightly at the blankets that obscured his view of his face. Whimpering with confusion as well as concern as he did so.

Next to him, Shaggy felt Fred begin to stir.

"…hrm…Scooby? What's the matter, boy?" He sat up and gently shook Shaggy's shoulder. "Hey, Shag. Are you awake too?"

Choosing to ignore the inquiry, Shaggy remained perfectly still and tried to even out his breathing. Hoping that he could pass as still being asleep, and Fred would just leave him alone.

Scooby whined again. The dog's aura of concern was hard to ignore.

"He's out like a light," he heard Fred whisper to the dog as the other boy quietly threw back his covers and cautiously got out of the bed. There was a faint click as the lamp on that side of the room was turned on. "Let's leave him alone, Scooby. Shaggy probably didn't get much sleep last night." There was a shuffle of cloth as the teen quietly gathered up one of the towels they had been provided with and a set of fresh clothes. "It's a little bit past seven...I'm going to get washed up and see if the others are in the kitchen already. Do you want to come with me, or hang back with Shaggy until he wakes up?"

Scooby's worry didn't falter, and his whimper in response made it clear he didn't want to leave the room.

Shaggy smiled a little, even though he wanted to be alone.

"Okay then, I'll see you two in a little while!"

The brighter light from the hallway flooded the room for moment as Fred passed through the doorway. Then, as the door shut softly behind him, there was nothing but silence. Well, that and the cloud of worry emanating off of the dog.

Sighing, knowing he wasn't fooling Scooby one bit, Shaggy threw back the covers and sat up. Locking eyes with his best friend, and hoping they didn't reveal his inner turmoil to the dog. "I'm fine, Scoob."

Scooby huffed at that, clearly not buying it. His face wasn't as humanly expressive here as it was back in their world, but the dog still managed to give him a studious look.

"Like, seriously, Scoob. I'm just a little tired, that's all!" Shaggy's trademark nervous laugh bubbled out of him with ease as he reached out and ruffled the dog's head affectionately. "I just kept having nightmares like you were, that's all. I just need to, like, catch a few more Zs!"

Scooby tilted his head, and for a moment Shaggy worried that the dog saw right through his little white lie. That worry evaporated a second later when Scooby licked his face, encouraging a more genuine laugh from the distraught teenager.

Then, with a small woof and a happier aura replacing the worried one, Scooby trotted over to the door. Pawing at the knob a few times, until he finally succeeded in getting the door open. With one last look at Shaggy, Scooby squeezed through the gap and ventured out into the hallway with his nose to the ground to follow Fred's scent.

Shaggy got up and closed the door behind the dog. Lingering there for a moment, with his palm pressed up against the wood, he felt that happy and carefree feeling fade away. His own emotions flooded back in, and he felt tears begin to brim his eyes.

No matter how hard he struggled to, he still couldn't remember how he met Scooby or the others anymore.

First, he lost his connection to Scooby Doo. Then, he stumbled across the disturbing reality that he wasn't really a flesh and blood person. Now, this? Bit by bit, Shaggy felt like he was slowly being erased.

"The gang can't find out about this." Shaggy decided as a strong wave of protectiveness for his friends suddenly swept over him. He heard their carefree laughter from just a few hours ago, after their celebration, echo in his mind, and saw their smiling faces collectively staring back at him. He didn't want their understanding of the world to become tainted the way his had been. He wanted to protect their innocence.

"I won't let them die here too…"


 

It was uncomfortable, being in the same room with Daphne.

"She's practically jailbait, Sammy!" Dean whispered to his brother with a hint of revulsion in his voice as he flipped the pancakes he was making for everyone. Stealing a glance over his shoulder at the girl in question as she chatted away with Velma at the table, he shuddered as he remembered his relentless pursuit of her back in the cartoon universe. "Man, I feel sick just thinking about it. She's a freaking child!"

"Not much older than Claire from the looks of it." Sam replied with a judgmental grunt as he turned the sausage links over before adding the diced peppers and onions to the eggs. "Seriously, Dean, how did you not know they were just college students if you were such a big fan of their show?!"

Behind them, Castiel served the girls fresh mugs of coffee. Daphne's flirty giggle made the older hunter audibly cringe, and he shot his brother an annoyed glare. "For the record, I don't remember that ever being stated for sure on the show. Besides, in my defense she looked way more mature in her animated form!"

"The bad guys always refer to them as meddling kids, Dean."

"Well…they totally weren't kids in Zombie Island, or any of the movies that came after it! Or the live action movies! They were closer to our age in all of those!"

Sam scoffed as a smug little smirk flickered to his face. "Yeah, sure, but haven't they been reinvented as high schoolers in the last few shows and TV movies?"

Dean almost argued back, but then developed a smirk of his own to match his brother's. "For someone who likes to make fun of my love for the Scooby gang, you seem to know an awful lot about the franchise's history."

It was Sam's turn to feel defensive. "Shut up…I just got a little curious…"

"You've always loved them too, admit it!"

"Whatever, Dean."

"Hey gang," Fred's voice cried cheerfully from the kitchen door as he strode into the room with Scooby not far behind him. "How did everyone sleep last night?"

Daphne perked up at the sight of him, and pat at the empty spot beside her to encourage him to sit down. "I slept pretty well, considering how crazy last night was." She remarked with a smile. When he passed by her to accept a steaming mug from Castiel, only to take the seat beside Velma instead, she couldn't help but pout a little. "So, uh, how about you two?"

Velma shrugged, "I could have slept better. I mean, it's not like I didn't get any sleep at all, but I did wind up staying up pretty late thinking about everything." She glanced at Castiel as he bent down to study Scooby. Watching as he pressed two fingers against the dog's head again in another attempt to restore his speech. She sulked a little when she saw the disappointed looks on both of their faces. "…I mean, it's a lot to take in. Finding out that ghosts, and monsters, and…well, angels are all real!"

"Yeah, the angel thing was a bit of a shock to take in for me too when I first met him." Dean remarked, sharing a look with his old friend. He misread Castiel's dejected look, wondered what was up, shrugged when he couldn't figure it out, and then shifted his gaze over to his brother with a knowing smirk. "Sammy and I are experienced hunters, and even we get blindsided with surprises from time to time."

"Yeah," Sam agreed with a chuckle. "More times than I like to admit, to be honest."

The three teenagers and their dog all seemed to relax a little with that little confession. It was reassuring, knowing that even these guys didn't know everything all the time.

"So, you never actually told us what the plan was." Daphne piped up as she added more creamer to her coffee. "How are you going to get us back home?"

Dean and Sam shared a different look. Sam made a face as he realized what his brother had in mind. "Dude, come on! Really? Rowena?"

"Yeah, well, it's not like we've got our pal Gabe around to do it for us."

"But I thought that maybe…" Sam's eyes shifted over to Cas hopefully.

Castiel seemed to flinch under everyone's curious gaze. "If I could do it, I would do so in an instant. Believe me!…but, I can barely muster up the strength to teleport to the other side of the world, and even that takes a tremendous amount of time to build up. I can't transport people through the veil between worlds like that ghost did to all of us."

"He can't even fix Scooby…" Dean mumbled under his breath, earning an annoyed glare from his brother and an unreadable one from his friend. Embarrassed, realizing what a dick move it was for him to even bring that up again, he flashed an apologetic smile at the angel. Hoping Cas realized that he didn't mean to hurt his feelings. "Sorry, man, I know it hasn't been easy for you since the Fall. Sammy and I genuinely appreciate what you've done, and continue to do for us. I swear!"

"It's okay, Dean." It didn't sound like it was. "It…frustrates me just as much that I can't do anything else to help."

"Hey, it's okay!" Daphne reassured Castiel as she gestured at herself and her friends. "We appreciate that you tried to help Scooby, and that you're sticking around to help us anyway…I mean, we're just a bunch of lost kids, and you're spending time here when you've probably got way more important things to do."

Castiel smiled gratefully at her, then shook his head to dismiss her view on the misplaced group's worth in the grand scheme of things. "Getting the five of you home safely is just as important to me as it is to Sam and Dean."

With a blush blossoming on her face, Daphne smiled and looked away.

"So," Velma cut in, steering them back on topic. "Is this Rowena you mentioned another angel like Castiel?"

The three men exchanged a look, and then both Winchesters started laughing hard.

Baffled, Velma leaned over to Fred. "I, uh, take that as a no?"

Chapter Text

"So, when are you going to let us tag along on one of your hunts?"

Dean cringed and rolled himself out from underneath the Impala, coming face to face with Fred's hopeful grin hovering over him. The Scooby gang hadn't even been in the real world for twenty-four hours yet, and the unfathomable idea of them hunting was already coming up? He was beginning to regret letting the teenager hang around with him in the garage while he was working.

"Yeah, no. That's not gonna happen!"

The grin shifted into a disappointed frown. Fred took a couple of steps back to give him space as Dean got up, and watched on as the other man went through the motions of lowering the Impala back down onto the garage floor. Waiting until Dean glanced in his direction again before protesting. "Why not?"

"Because what Sammy and I deal with on a day to day basis is way over your head." Dean argued with a light chuckle as he strode over to his tool box to snatch up the red, oil-stained rag to wipe his hands off with. He wasn't done with the Impala's weekly tune up, but with the teen pestering him, and his stomach grumbling at him to eat, he figured now was as good a time as any to take a break from working on the car.

"You guys are good at the whole detective thing," he said as he tossed the rag back where it belonged when he was finished with it. Then, he turned to face Fred again. "But the plain and simple fact is, you're not meant to be hunters. So, just stick with what you already know how to handle. Okay?"

Fred's frown deepened, offended by the unspoken implication he was hearing in the rejection. "Hey, come on! I thought we handled ourselves pretty well the last time we worked together."

"That was a fluke," argued Dean. "We were dealing with a child spirit, from our own world here, who thought slapping us into a car-erm-" He pretended to clear this throat, annoyed with himself for nearly letting the truth slip out. "Slapping us into a crappy situation for shits and giggles was a great idea. We got lucky that he could be reasoned with once we caught him. Most ghosts aren't usually that cooperative, and a lot of them can be really dangerous if they've been around long enough. And that, like I already told ya Freddy, is just the tip of the iceberg with hunting! There's a lot worse out there than ghosts!"

"But wouldn't it be better for us to know more about this stuff, so we know how to deal with it?"

"Trust me, you're not going to have to worry about that once you get back home. We're the ones with the things that go bump in the night here, not you guys. So, don't worry about it!"

Hoping to end the conversation there, Dean turned and made his way to the garage exit. All he wanted to do right now was wash up more and stuff a sandwich in his face, not argue the pros and cons of hunting with an overly-eager teenager.

"How can you be so sure of that?" Fred called out after him.

Dean stopped in his tracks, his hand in mid-reach for the doorknob, and sighed. His amusement took a hard right towards annoyance. And he found himself wondering for a moment, as Fred caught up with him, what it was going to take to convince him to just drop it. "Listen to your elder, kid. I ain't gonna say it again."

"I'm 18," Fred replied a little testily, "which makes me a legal adult. Capable of making my own decisions."

"Yeah," Dean snapped back, "well, until we can track down Rowena to get you back home, you're under my roof. Which makes you my responsibility! Mentally, you're still a kid. And I'm not interested in having your blood on my hands because you didn't want to take no for an answer!"

He didn't wait for Fred to stammer out a response to his outburst. In seconds, he was out of the garage and stalking down the hall to make his way towards the kitchen. It wasn't long before he heard Fred's steps behind him, and he found himself quickening his pace.

Dean was tired of having kids look up to him like he was some kind of hero. Of them being so eager to dive headfirst into the dangerous world of hunting. Claire, Kristy, Charlie, in her own nerdier way, and Jack. Even Ben, once upon a time, had expressed an interest to live the lifestyle that Dean never asked to live in the first place.

Why didn't they ever listen?

Pushing his way through the kitchen door a couple of minutes later, he was relieved to see Sam and Velma were already working with Daphne on sandwiches for the group. "Did you get in touch with your gal pal, Sammy?"

His brother made a face at him, but then shook his head no. "You know Rowena. She finds you, not the other way around."

"Yeah, well, the sooner we find her-," Dean waltzed over and snatched up one of the sandwiches off of the plate they were being piled on, "-the sooner we can send the brat pack home where they belong." He strode over to the fridge to snag a beer, and was out of the kitchen again before anyone else could get a word in otherwise.

"What's up with him?" Daphne asked as Fred came over to see what he could help with. She noticed the sour expression on his face and connected the dots. "Freddy, what did you two fight about?"

"That guy is just so…unreasonable!" Fred grumbled as he wandered over to the cabinet to take plates out for everyone and placed them on the table. Taking down glasses next and doing the same with them. "He refuses to tell me anything about hunting! He's convinced that we have nothing to worry about when we get back home, but how can he be so sure of that? He acts like he's withholding information to, I don't know, protect us from ourselves I guess? But if he really cared, then wouldn't he teach us to defend ourselves in case we run into something back home?"

"Your world's safe," Sam said without thinking.

"Well," Velma piped up as she closed the bread bag and twisted on the tie, "we don't really know that for sure." She studied her companion's reaction, and realized he did seem certain that their safety was guaranteed. Like he knew something they didn't know. "Why are you and Dean so convinced that our reality is safe?"

"Because I know it to be true," said a gravelly voice from the doorway.

Everyone turned to see Castiel entering the kitchen.

Velma chuckled and shrugged. "Well, I guess if an angel is telling us this…"

"I was already familiar with your particular reality before arriving in it," explained Castiel as he briefly shared a look with Sam. "Aside from an abundance of criminals who seem to delight in dressing up as specters and ghouls in an attempt to pull off their nefarious schemes, your world is a relatively tame one." He turned his attention to Fred. "Being a hunter is unnecessary in your world, so…don't press Dean on the matter. He has a lot on his mind right now."

Fred looked like he didn't agree, but when Castiel's expression became more pointed he reluctantly nodded in understanding.

Snatching up a sandwich for himself, he took a bite and carried the plate with the rest of them over to the table while Sam went over to the fridge to list off the non-alcoholic beverage options the bunker had to offer. It wasn't until everyone was sitting at the table, Castiel included with Scooby at his feet, that Fred noticed someone else was missing. "Say, where's Shaggy?"

The girls looked at the empty seat with worried expressions. Worked up nerves or not, it wasn't like Shaggy to miss a meal, let alone two. None of them remembered seeing him throughout the morning.

Scooby whimpered, and everyone once again felt a blanket of the dog's anxiety wash over them.

"You don't suppose he's still catching up on his sleep?" Fred asked, sliding his chair back with the intention of looking for their friend. "Maybe I should go and check on him…"

"I'll go," volunteered Castiel. He snatched up a few sandwiches and piled them onto his own plate to bring with him. "If he's feeling ill, then I can restore his health."

Velma was still a little skeptical over the claims that the ordinary man standing before her really was an angel, and her brows raised with surprise at his declaration. "You can do that, huh?"

"Of course. It'll be even simpler than healing his wrist had been."

Sam suppressed a chuckle at Velma's expense when he caught the baffled look on her face. It was funny seeing her so out of her element. At least, in these circumstances anyway. He watched Cas leave with Scooby, and then gave her a playful nudge in the shoulder. "Get used to the weird and outlandish, Velma. You're going to come face to face with it a lot while you're here."

"Yeah, well, if Dean has his way, we won't see it for long..." Fred grumbled as he took his seat again.

"He's just looking out for us," pointed out Daphne, beating Sam to the punch. She took a dainty bite from her sandwich, saw out of the corner of her eye the tell-tale signs that Fred was going to argue with her, and let her frustrations with their current predicament boil over. "I don't know why you're so eager for trouble, Freddy. After what happened back home-"

Fred's fist suddenly slamming down on the table startled them all. He let out a breath, mildly embarrassed by his own outburst, and did his best to collect himself. Then he looked up and locked eyes with Sam across from him.

His anger was plain to see, but there was an unhidden fear in Fred's expression too that made Sam hold his tongue. It resonated with him. He remembered how he used to feel when he was younger; overwhelmed by everything that was happening around him and feeling as if the world was crumbling underneath his feet.

"Look...," Fred paused as he remembered the sound of screams and breaking glass. "The fact of the matter is, that ghost we fought in the mansion back home was real. It threw us around that room like we were rag dolls, and if Castiel wasn't there…Shaggy and Scooby would have died!"

That somber reminder of what almost happened snuffed the argument out of Daphne, and made Sam feel even more sympathetic for the frustrated teenager sitting before him.

"I know I'm being pushy about the whole hunting thing," Fred continued with a haunted expression on his face, "but…I just don't want something like that to happen again! Our world may be 'safe' by your standards, Sam, but I'm not ruling out the possibility of something like that happening again. If something from your world somehow winds up in ours again, I want to know how to recognize it and deal with it before it kills one of my friends! That really isn't an unreasonable request for me to be making! If Dean really cared about our well-being, then he'd drop the macho act and teach us how to hunt!"

Sam couldn't exactly argue with that. And he knew, if Dean had been present for Fred's speech, that his brother would probably have a hard time arguing his case to keep the Scoobies from learning how to hunt after hearing that too. Unfortunately, having no knowledge of Fred's true motivations, and being in a strict 'do as I say' state of mind, Sam knew he'd have to talk some sense into Dean first before actively teaching their new house guests anything about the world of hunting. After all, Dean's word was law in the bunker.

Of course, that didn't mean they couldn't do any independent research on their own. Dean hadn't forbidden the teenagers from exploring their new surroundings.

"Look, I'll talk to Dean about it." He offered sympathetically, earning mixed expressions on the faces staring back at him. The girls didn't look too thrilled with the concept, despite Fred's valid concerns. "In the meantime…we do have a lot of books here you could read to pass the time."

Fred read between the lines, and smiled gratefully. "Thanks, man." He plopped another sandwich onto his plate, scrapping his chair back again, and started to excuse himself. "Do you mind if I…?"

"Sure," nodded Sam, "go ahead."

After politely sliding his chair back in its place, Fred quickly made his exit. He practically had a skip in his step.

"I'd better go with him," Daphne remarked as she picked up her own plate. "If he runs into Dean and starts something, I might be able to diffuse things a little."

As the door closed shut in the red-head's wake, a steadily awkward silence filled the kitchen. Sam and Velma hadn't been alone together since the Mystery Inc. gang's arrival in the real world. Neither of them really knew what to say to each other.

All Velma could think about was the giant elephant in the room, and if she could avoid talking about that then that would be great.

"So, uh…" Sam murmured as he cleared his throat. He realized that his playfulness from earlier might be misinterpreted, and he wanted to make things clear now before it escalated any further. "We kinda need to talk about this, you know."

"How you're defying your brother's authority by giving Fred the clear to read up on hunting?" She squeaked nervously, attempting to stall the inevitable unwanted discussion if it couldn't be dodged entirely. "How mad do you think he'll be, huh?"

Sam gave her a patient, yet amused look, which made her hang her head a little. "Come on, Velma…you know what I mean."

An embarrassed flush lit up the young girl's face. She really wanted to disappear right now. Why couldn't he just pretend it didn't happen like she was trying to do?

With a reluctant sigh, she stole a glance at him. "I, uh…I really don't know what came over me last night when I kissed you." She fixed her eyes down on her hands in her lap, fidgeting them nervously. "I'm not usually so…forward with guys. Like, at all! Especially when it's obvious they're not interested…"

"You're a nice girl-"

"No, not really," Velma interrupted Sam with a self-deprecating giggle at her own expense. "I was being a real know-it-all bitch last night towards you the whole investigation! It's…kinda my defense mechanism, I guess? I'm not blind. Even if I was a pretty girl, I know that if I'm in the same room as Daphne, no guy's going to look twice at me. So…I rely on my intellect to put up walls so I don't get hurt or turn into a green-eyed monster towards my best friend."

She glanced back up at him with a sorry expression on her face. "Not that that makes it okay. I was being smug, and then I wound up being wrong and went and threw myself at you because…I really don't know…maybe I felt safe doing it because I didn't think I'd ever see you again? Like that magically made it okay for me to do? Which is, just, so ridiculous! So…yeah, I don't blame you for not liking me."

"I do like you, Velma." Sam assured her with a comforting smile on his face. "To be honest, you've always been my favorite…"

That struck her as an odd thing to say, but Velma didn't linger on it. Her heart drummed loudly in her ears as a hopeful feeling bubbled up within her. Maybe she hadn't blown it with him after all.

"…but, the thing is…"

That hope popped in an instant, and her expression fell a little with disappointment.

"I'm way too old for you," he said gently. Feeling bad for being the cause of the crushed expression on her face.

Well, that wasn't a lie. Velma had to admit that part of her embarrassment over the kiss was largely due to the realization that Sam was much older than her than she had initially thought when they were back in her world. That rational made the rejection hurt a little less. In a way, it was comforting knowing that it wasn't something she said or did that drove him away from her. "So…you forgive me for jumping you?"

He laughed, which made her smile. He had such a nice laugh.

"I take that as a yes?"

Sam shoulder bumped her with a twinkle in his eye, and then he got up. Collecting their plates and empty soda bottles. "Yes, I forgive you. Besides, it was kinda funny."

That stung a little. "What, my crush on you?"

Realizing he hurt her feelings, Sam was quick to explain himself. "No, I mean the comedic timing of when you kissed me. I don't know if you noticed, but my brother was fixated on wooing your friend Daphne the entire investigation."

"While you weren't even trying to get my attention, and you 'got the girl', so to speak?"

"Yeah."

Velma smirked, sharing his amusement. "Well, I'm not going to lie. Daphne and I thought that was funny too."

"So, she did notice Dean's interest in her?" Sam wondered how Dean would feel about that, now that he was no longer interested in winning her over. He couldn't help feeling a little bad for his brother for the joke that had been made at his expense.

"Daphne likes to play with guys who are so over the top like that," explained Velma unapologetically. "Although, sometimes, she does hook up with them too. Of course, she'd never take it that far with someone as old as Dean!"

Laughing, Sam rinsed off their plates along with the knives that had been used for the sandwich condiments. "Is that why she thought she was going to hell?"

"Pretty much. Although I doubt, if God's even real, that he really cares about that."

Sam put their dishes in the strainer and smirked at her over his shoulder. "No, not really. He's got bigger, genuinely serious problems to deal with than teenagers being teenagers. Not that he does anything to actually fix those problems..."

Velma's jaw dropped. "You've met God?"

Plucking a couple of sodas from the fridge, Sam sat back down and slid one to her. "Yeah, well…that's a long story."

Knowing he had Velma's undivided attention, he twisted off his bottle's cap and took a long sip of overly-sweet beverage. Then he leaned back in his chair, pondered on where to even start, and then, finally, began to tell her his story.

"When I was a baby…"

Chapter Text

Castiel rapped his knuckles lightly against the closed door.

He stood stiffly in the hallway outside of the room Shaggy was sharing with Fred. Holding the plate of sandwiches up in his hand like a butler, he stared blankly ahead at the wooden barrier before him as he listened for signs of a response from the other side. It wasn't until he noticed Scooby in his peripheral vision behind him that Castiel realized he was standing a little too close to the door. "Oh."

Shaggy was known for being easily spooked. If Dean was startled by Castiel's sudden appearances that were too close to his so-called 'personal bubble', then Castiel suspected Shaggy wouldn't react well to the sight of him standing as close to the door as he currently was when the teenager finally opened it.

Since frightening Shaggy was the last thing he wanted to do, he quickly took a step back.

Scooby watched him with a tilted head, radiating amusement, which prompted a small smile to sneak onto Castiel's face. He reached a hand out to give the dog an affectionate pat on the head. Then he gently tossed him a sandwich, which Scooby eagerly caught between his teeth and gobbled up in seconds.

It was only when Scooby drew his attention back to the door that the worried mood settled down on the pair again. Deciding that an appropriate enough amount of time had passed since he first knocked, Castiel rapped his knuckles against the door again, a little louder than he had the first time.

It had the desired effect. Faintly through the wood came a muffled groan of exhaustion in response. "…yeah?"

"Your friends were concerned, so I brought you some food."

Scooby scratched impatiently at the door with a low whine to emphasize this point, expressing his own concern the best way he knew how to in this world.

The rustle of sheets being lazily flung aside on the bed was heard. Followed by a soft padding on the carpeted floor until the door finally opened up. The messy-haired, baggy-eyed teenager blinked tiredly at them. He yawned out a hello, swaying a little on his feet.

Castiel wordlessly held the plate forward, staring at Shaggy expectantly.

Shaggy, in turn, just stared blankly back at him for a moment. Then his sleepy eyes floated down to scan his options, and with another yawn he finally picked a sandwich. Stepping back into the dark room, he plopped himself heavily down onto Fred's side of the bed. He took a small bite, almost reluctantly, and began chewing slowly as he stared off into space, seemingly forgetting for a moment that he wasn't alone in the room anymore.

Scooby whimpered, disturbed by the uncharacteristic quiet and distant behavior from his long-time companion. He rushed into the room, hopped up on the bed beside Shaggy, and lay his head down in his friend's lap. His expressive brown eyes went back to the doorway where Castiel was still standing, and they seemed to beg the angel to do something to remedy the situation.

Castiel felt he had developed better social skills over the years, but he knew he was still awkward when it came to offering comfort. Flickering his eyes between the pair, he hesitated before crossing the threshold into the room. Closing the door slightly behind him.

"You didn't sleep at all, did you?" He knew it was a stupid question to ask. One look at the teenager made that fact painfully clear to him. But it was the only thing he could think of to say to start a conversation.

Shaggy continued chewed silently for a moment. He looked like he was wavering between lying or not saying anything at all, but then seemed to think the better of it. With a small shrug, he swallowed his mouthful of mozzarella, tomato, and rye and met the angel's eyes. "Like, not a wink."

Castiel frowned. He knew how important sleep was to humans. He remembered how badly lack of sleep had impacted him when he had been completely human a few years ago, and even now with his depleted grace he still needed it from time to time. Although, thankfully, not on a daily basis like he needed to back then.

He hesitated again, and then walked over to the bed. Placing the plate onto the night stand, he sat at Shaggy's other side and helped himself to a sandwich too. His teenage companion didn't seem to mind the crowded company, and continued eating silently. Reaching across Castiel to snatch up another sandwich, which he offered to Scooby.

It didn't go unnoticed to either Castiel or Scooby that Shaggy was only barely halfway through his own sandwich, nor the fact that on a normal day he'd likely be starting his third one by now.

"I know it can be…therapeutic for humans to talk about what's on their mind." Said Castiel after a moment, reflecting on how it would probably benefit him too if he expressed himself more often. "Do you want to talk about what's bothering you?"

Shaggy glanced at Scooby, his face darkening a little as he shook his head. "I can't, man." He took another small bite as his eyes danced back to Castiel, his shoulder slumping a little in a defeated manner. "Besides...you wouldn't understand."

With thoughts of his humanity still lingering on his mind, the angel's brows furrowed slightly as he followed the memories. He remembered how the experience had made him feel. How it still made him feel. "I wouldn't be so sure of that."

The quiet remark snagged Shaggy's attention, and he wondered if mind-reading was an ability his new friend possessed. He glanced down at Scooby again, and a wave of protectiveness washed over him. A touch of anger mingled in along with it. He wasn't having a conversation about his existential crisis with his blissfully ignorant best friend sitting right there in the room with them to overhear it. "I don't want to talk about it, okay?"

Used to being snapped at, Castiel took the bite in Shaggy's tone with stride. After letting a couple of moments pass, finishing his sandwich in the process and brushing the crumbs on his hand into the little trashcan next to the table, he softly broached the subject again. "A few years ago, after one of many well-intentioned mistakes of mine…I fell from Heaven."

Both Scooby and Shaggy perked up at this announcement, he had gained their undivided attention.

"I did have a taste of being almost human once a few years before that, when we were fighting to stop the Apocalypse, but that was nothing compared to the fall. At least then, during the apocalypse, I still had a small amount of grace left in me. I was still an angel. But when I fell, my grace had been stolen from me and I had been cast out to die on Earth as a human. It was…quite a profound experience."

One of many he had painstakingly gone through over the years. Although, in hindsight, he found that some of them had been worth the anguish they had caused him to suffer.

"Being on Earth as a human was completely different from my time spent here as an angel. Everything looked and felt so staggeringly different to me than it had been before. It was as if I was in a different dimension altogether from the world I knew and loved. And I had to learn to navigate in it on my own for weeks. The experience was frightening."

He had never told Dean or Sam how he felt about that period of time in his life.

Shaggy seemed to sense that this was the first time Castiel had ever confessed his feelings over the experience out loud, and he stared back at him with a mixed look of awe, sympathy, and guilt. "Okay, so…maybe you do get it."

Castiel locked eyes with him again. Reaching over slowly, he clamped a hand down on Shaggy's shoulder in a reassuring gesture. "I understand if you don't want to talk about it right now," he said with a quick yet subtle glance at Scooby. Silently signifying to the teenager that he understood that Shaggy didn't want to voice his worries with the dog present. "But, when you're ready to, I'm always here to listen."

Shaggy nodded with a small smile of gratitude. "…thanks for the offer."

Castiel smiled back, standing up purposefully. "In the meantime, you really do need to get some sleep, Shaggy." He lifted a hand. "Will you let me help you?"

With a tired, grateful nod, Shaggy chuckled. "I feel like a zombie. So, like, whatever you can do to help me get some good quality shut eye would be totally welcome, man!"

Relieved to hear that answer, Castiel nodded and extended his hand. Pressing his outstretched fingers gently against the boy's forehead, he tapped into his limited power and used it to lull Shaggy's restless mind into a deep sleep laced with pleasant dreams. He was quick to catch him when the young man slumped forward, and gently lay him back down onto the bed. Making sure that he was comfortable, and tucking him in with care. "Sleep well…"

Scooby crawled across the top of the bed and settled down beside his friend. Looking at Castiel gratefully, he uttered a small woof in thanks before lowering his head to take a nap himself.

The angel lingered for a few watchful minutes, and then stepped out of the room to leave the pair to sleep in peace.

He was surprised to find Dean hovering outside the door when he entered the hallway.

"You finally got him to sleep, huh?"

Castiel looked back at the now-closed door. "I did what I could…the rest is up to him."

Dean frowned, matching the angel's pace as they walked down the hall. "You think there's more to it than him just being a little rattled by being thrown head-first into our craziness?"

"Yes."

"Maybe he just really misses his connection to Scooby?"

His failure to fix that problem still weighed heavily on Castiel's mind.

"I'm sure that's part of the problem too," he acknowledged with frustration, "but I think whatever's eating at him is more significant than that. Possibly even more than his sense of displacement here in our world."

"Well, what could be worse than going from Pleasantville to our little hellhole of a dimension?"

Castiel was sure his friend had just made some kind of pop culture reference, but didn't understand what the joke being made was so he didn't acknowledge it. Instead, he mulled over the question. While he was relieved to know that he had been able to offer Shaggy some small form of comfort, it bothered him that he hadn't been able to pinpoint to exact problem.

Once again, he found himself in the middle of a situation in which someone he cared about was suffering. Where his help was needed, and he was stuck standing on the sidelines unable to do anything about it. Watching on like a useless spectator. "I wish I knew…"

Dean studied his friend, hearing the weight in those words, and fumbled over what to say. "Yeah, well…I think your little chat with him will go a long way easing his thoughts until he's ready to open up about whatever the other thing is." He gave Castiel a couple of pats on the back. "You did good with him."

That would have to be enough, for now at least.

They turned the corner, with Dean taking the lead, and Castiel realized they were headed for the main room. "Research or road trip?" He asked, noticing a hint of excitement on his friend's face. "Dean, do you have a lead on how to get them home?"

"Well, no." Dean's smirk faltered a little, but quickly regained its ground. "But I've got something almost as good!"

"What?"

"You'll see! We just have to do a little bit of shopping first."

Reaching the end of the hallway, Dean pushed open the door that entered into the main room. Noticing Fred and Daphne reading at one of the tables, he nodded over at them. "Cas and I are doing a quick run to Wal-Mart. You kids want us to pick up anything? Snacks, soda?" He glanced at Daphne and coughed awkwardly. "Uh…lady things?"

Daphne smiled, while Fred pointedly ignored the pair as they passed by. "Some chocolate would be nice!"

"You like M&Ms?"

"Doesn't everybody?"

"M&M's it is! Come on, Cas."

Roughly fifteen minutes later they were at the Wal-Mart in question. Castiel was perplexed when Dean unexpectedly led him over to the toy section of the store and started tossing all the Scrabble board games on the shelf into their cart.

"Why do you-?"

Dean simply smirked at Castiel as he tossed the last game in with the others. "I told ya, man, you'll see!" His eyes flickered over to the action figures. "I used to love browsing through the toy aisle when I was a kid. Although, it kinda sucked too because Dad never let us get anything."

He steered the cart further into the aisle, and let his eyes wander over the various figures on display. "They've gotten so much better looking than the ones from when I was a kid. I mean, look at the paint job on some of these! For a bunch of cheap toys, they really did a great job with the details."

Castiel glanced at the figures until he spotted ones from a franchise he was familiar with. He had to admit, their likeness to the actors they were portraying was relatively impressive.

"Oh, man," exclaimed Dean from behind him, "is that what I think it is?"

Craning his neck to look over his shoulder as the other man maneuvered their cart around him, Castiel watched his friend crouch down to study one of the toys that had caught his eye.

Dean grabbed the box and flipped it over to read the back, grinning widely all the while as he stood back up. "Oh, this is sweet!" He flipped it back around to show it to Castiel, not caring that the angel wouldn't have the foggiest idea what it was. "We used to have an Atari when I was a kid. It was one of the few fun possessions Sammy and I were allowed to have growing up that Dad was willing to cart around with us."

Inside the box was a gaming controller, presumably designed to look like the one from the classic console, programmed with ten games from that system built into it.

"I used to play half of the games on this thing! I am totally buying this!" Dean tossed it into the cart, and looked at the other plug-and-play gaming device on display. "Heh, that one looks like Pac-Man. Gee, I wonder what could possibly be on it?"

With a chuckle at his own joke, he snatched it up to take a look and was pleased to see that it had multiple games on it as well. "Man, were there really this many Pac-Man games? Like, really?! At least it's got Galaxian and Galaga on it too. Sammy used to have those on his old Gameboy before it crapped out on us." He tossed it into the cart and then proceeded forward. "Alright, let's move on before I see something else I want to buy!"

The trip to the snack aisle after that was a short one. And before Castiel knew it, they were on the road again. It wasn't until they were ten minutes away from home that either of them said anything again.

"So," Dean started a little awkwardly, "I, uh…I heard a lot of what you said back there to Shaggy. About your experience being human after the big fall from heaven…"

Castiel nodded self-consciously, but didn't return the glance. He shifted his gaze forward, away from the passenger window, to watch the cars ahead of them instead. "It wasn't that bad, Dean. I adjusted."

"Yeah, but I didn't really do much to help make that adjustment easier for you, did I?"

"You had Sam to worry about," Castiel pointed out. Although, there was no hurt or resentment in his voice as he said it. Everyone, ally and enemy alike, knew that nothing came before Sam in Dean's book. "You had to make sure he was going to be okay."

"Except Sammy's not my only brother," grumbled Dean guiltily. He stole a look away from the road for a few seconds to catch Castiel's eye. "You're family too, Cas, and once I knew Sammy was in the clear I should have gone looking for you when you didn't show up at the bunker. After all the crap you've gone through for us, for me…I should have had your back for a change. I mean, let's be real, man, I never really have."

"Dean…"

"I've got your back now, okay?" Dean said earnestly, bringing his eyes back onto the road before them. "I'll be here to help you when you need it, whether you want it or not…and, well, like you said to Shaggy back home…If you've got something weighing on your chest and need to talk stuff out…I'm here to listen, too."

They had both made a lot of mistakes in their relationship with each other over the years, and they had both strived to do everything in their power to fix their issues. As a result, their bond had strengthened. But despite the solemn vow of brotherhood being uttered by the hunter in the past, this was the first time the angel felt the honest guilt sewn into the words. There was a promise there, and he knew that this time it would be kept.

"Thank you, Dean."

With a relieved sigh, Dean nodded his head in acknowledgement. When they caught sight of the bunker ahead of them, his boyish excitement flared into life again. The moment the car was back in the building's garage he came to a stop, put it in park, and leapt out of the vehicle to snatch his bags from the back seat.

"I'm going to get stuff set up," he told Castiel as the angel got out of the car too. "Go and grab Scooby for me, okay?"

Castiel seemed perplexed, but didn't question the request being made of him. He grabbed the bags of snacks and headed inside. Dean followed on his heels with a bright smile on his face.

"What's with the board games?" Fred asked after catching a glimpse inside one of the bags as the pair passed them by again. "Did you buy those to keep us preoccupied while we stay locked up in here all day?"

Dean ignored the attitude being directed at him. Now that he had gotten his guilt about what had happened years ago with Cas unloaded, he was in too good of a mood over his awesome idea to let Fred get under his skin again. "Nope, but you'll be happy I bought them when you see why I bought them!"

The two teenagers shared a curious look, and then slid out of their chairs to follow him.

Dean started moving the extra furniture in the room around to create more space to work with, which Fred helped with. Once he was satisfied, he opened up one of the games and dumped the letters onto the floor. Quickly separating them into piles in alphabetical order in a line across the top of the area they had just cleared. When he was finally done, he stood back to admire the display with a pleased grin on his face.

If this worked, then he would put the rest of the games in the other frequently used rooms in the bunker. "Alright, now all we need is good ol' Scoob!"

Eager to see what this was all about, Daphne began to leave the room to go look for him when Castiel walked in with Scooby trailing behind him.

The dog trotted over to Dean. He looked down at the piles of black-lettered squares, and then cast an expectant look up at the hunter. Silently waiting for an explanation.

Dean beamed down at him, practically bouncing on his feet with excited anticipation. "Scooby, we're going to do a little experiment, okay?"

The dog stared blankly up at him, tilting his head in question.

"First, I'd like you to answer a couple of questions for me. Bark for yes, and growl for no. Got it?"

Scooby barked.

"Okay so….is your name Scooby?"

He barked again with a mild wag of his tail. Sam and Velma, curious over what was going on, wandered into the room and stood on the sidelines with the others to watch the exchange.

"And are you a cat?"

Scooby's growl, coupled with an 'are you kidding me' expression, made everyone in the room laugh.

"How about…a human?"

Another growl answered the question, although it was slightly more amused-sounding than the previous one had been.

"Are you a dog?"

This time there was a happy bark of confirmation.

"Okay," Dean looked hopeful, "can you read?"

Scooby barked again, and shifted his head to look over at the piles on the floor again. Tail wagging as he, and the rest of the onlookers, put the pieces together.

"Can you spell if we needed to have a meatier conversation with you?" Dean looked like he won the lottery as he watched Scooby purposefully trot forward and immediately begin pushing letters around with his nose.

In just a few seconds, they all got their answer to that question.

DOES ANYBODY HAVE ANY SCOOBY SNACKS


 

Dean was still brimming with pride hours after his experiment with Scooby proved successful. It made him feel good knowing he had solved one of the problems that had been plaguing their guests since their arrival the night before. Now all they had to do was track down Rowena, and convince her to help them get the kids home.

In the meantime, he had a different problem to conquer.

With a grimace planted firmly on his face, Dean tried, and failed, to get the Pac-Man plug-and-play game out of its tough plastic packaging. "Why are things always so damn hard to get open these days?"

He noticed Sam come into the rec room and tossed the still-packed game over to him. "Here! It's yours anyway, so you should be the one to have to open it!"

Sam made a face at his brother, but after a moment found himself equally frustrated when he, too, struggled to get the game out. "Man, heh…wow, they really seal stuff impossibly good these days, huh?"

"It's nuts, right?" Dean laughed as he snatched up his own game, which he had already opened, and plugged the yellow and white audio and video cables into the TV. "I mean, I had to use scissors once to open a new pair of scissors!"

After freeing his game, grinning fondly down at the large, sharp-edged plastic Pac-Man in his hand, Sam skimmed the back of the package to read the game list. "Were there really this many Pac-Man games?"

"That's what I said." Laughed Dean, "I'm surprised they didn't slap that mouse version on there too."

"I hated that game so much!"

"So did I, I swear it cheated!"

"I used to love these two games though," Sam remarked when he noticed the ones he used to play all the time as a kid.

"I remembered," Dean smirked as he rounded the arm chair and wandered back to the mini-fridge by the bar to grab the two of them some beer. Popping off the tops and leaving them on the counter, he walked back over and handed his brother one of the bottles as he sat down. "I thought you'd appreciate the blast from the past."

Sam smiled, because he really did appreciate it. "Thanks, Dean." He sat down in his own chair and watched his brother play Centipede for a few minutes. After a couple of rounds, he finally decided to unload what had been on his mind since his lunch time conversation with their guests. "I think we should teach the kids the basics of hunting."

Dean's expression hardened a little, but he didn't tear his eyes away from the screen. "So, I take it you were the one that planted the idea in Fred's head to do a little bit of reading?"

"Yeah, I did." Sam said a little defensively. When he noticed the warning signs that his brother was gearing up to chew him out, he quickly spoke up to explain himself. "Look, I get that their world is safe. Well, at least the version that they come from is anyway…but, if something from our world could so easily jump into theirs, like what happened last night, then who's to say it won't happen again? If it does, we might not be there to help again. They need to know what the warning signs are, and how to protect themselves."

"Aw, come on, Sammy!" Dean complained as the spider sprite got too close to his character and killed him before he could move out of the way in time. With another life left, the level restarted, but he wasn't paying any attention to it now. It was merely background noise as he shifted in his chair to spout his argument at his brother.

"You saw how they initially reacted to the news that the shit that goes bump in the night is real! Fred was mad that they didn't know about sooner because they were: 'wasting their time when they could have been fighting Dracula'. It's all about the glory of it with him, as if hunting is just like solving another one of their mysteries! It never ends well for folks with that mindset, you know that! Remember those Ghost Facer guys?"

"It's not like that though, Dean. Fred's scared that something like this will happen again, and that he's going to watch Shaggy or one of the others die." Sam frowned as he thought back on how fast things had gotten out of control the night before. "I mean, if it weren't for Cas…"

Dean remembered Shaggy's horrified scream as he fell from the balcony, and the others equally horrified screams as they ran over, helpless to stop what was happening while Scooby vaulted over the railing after his friend. Sure, no one died. But Shaggy's wrist still got busted up, and Dean knew all too well how much worse that outcome could have been if things had played out differently.

Watching Cas, a few months ago, rush purposefully past him towards Lucifer in the Apocalypse world flashed in his mind after that. The memory of his friend's eyes suddenly bleeding that harsh white light vividly stood out to him. He'd never forget the way Cas swayed lifelessly backward as Dean could do nothing but stare on in helpless horror. He'd never forget those nauseating winged scorch marks on the grass beneath Cas's still body, making it so horribly clear that there would be no coming back this time.

It still made him sick, thinking about seeing Castiel's body under the sheet on that table. Having to place him on that pyre and light the match. Watching him burn. Watching his mother disappear into the Apocalypse world with Lucifer. Finding Charlie in the bathtub. Watching Bobby code in the hospital. Walking away from Jo and Ellen as the hellhounds closed in, and that fiery explosion that followed.

There was a long line of horrible memories filed away in Dean's mind of the people he had loved and lost. Too many memories. And he knew, someday, that his luck would run out and he'd lose Sam, Mary, and Castiel for good too. The very thought of it haunted him like a ghost.

Fred had only gotten a small taste of that kind of fear. Hopefully, he'd never had to experience it at its worst.

"Dean, I know you don't like dragging people into hunting, especially kids. Believe me, I feel that way too, but…"

"Fine."

Sam looked surprised by the harshly spat out word. He had been expecting more of an argument from his brother. "So, we'll teach them?"

Although he still looked annoyed about it, Dean nodded. "Yeah, I guess. If he's not playing around, if he really just wants to protect his friends…"

"It could happen again, Dean." Reminded Sam, quick to prevent him from changing his mind. "You know it could."

"Yeah, Sammy, I know…I know." Dean wasn't in the mood to play video games anymore. "It's getting late, I think I'm going to call it a night." He turned off the game and unplugged it from the TV. "Did you want to plays yours?"

Sam shook his head, "I'm tired too. I'll check it out tomorrow, after lunch."

Nodding, Dean switched the TV setting back to the cable box. He was confused to see Wacky Races on instead of one of the usual programs on the home and garden network. "Huh…"

"What is it?"

"I don't remember leaving it on this channel last night after getting everything set up." He shrugged, not thinking anything of it. "I must have hit a button or something on the remote as I turned it off."

After switching off the TV, Dean went and grabbed another beer from the fridge. Then he trailed out of the room after his brother, flicking off the light along the way.