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Shrine of Your Lies

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———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

 

When Dean found himself with no gas money, no job and just a map for directions, he abandoned his stolen AMC Rambler in a rough clearing and gave her a kiss goodbye before he opened his map and started walking. He was somewhere south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He recognized the forest and blew out a breath as he remembered just how easy it was to hide in. Dean could weave behind some trees and be out of sight in a second.

Dean made it ten miles that day, diving behind trees whenever he heard a truck behind him on the highway. His feet were only moderately blistered when he sat down that night and found a decent place to sleep on the barren earth. He considered starting a fire, but the summer heat was already oppressive enough and he abandoned the idea.

He woke up with a crick in his neck, as expected, and a deer staring at him from deeper in the forest. It bounded off as soon as he stirred.

Dean sat up and made his way back to the road, checking which way was north through the sun, and he began walking again until the forest led to developing shacks, and shacks to buildings. He was heading for the city center, so he turned left down an old gravel road and kept walking with sweat dripping down his back.

The small houses and barns were familiar now, something solid as to where he was going. Eventually, he got to the blaring red sign that threatened trespassers with buckshot holes. Dean smiled a little at the dishonesty in the sign and continued up the road toward the scrapyard.

It was good to be home.

But the ideas of ‘home’ still stung. It wasn’t long ago that John thought that Dean was a lost cause. The man was the one that constructed the whole situation: Dean was the bait, Dean would stay still, nothing would go wrong. Of course, something went wrong. Murphy’s Law governed Dean’s life.

Dean was the next target of the skinwalker’s scheme, and one little bite from the thing caused a whole rift between Dean’s idea of family and Dean’s idea of his father. John didn’t see Dean get bit, but he knew something was off the moment that he killed the skinwalker and Dean looked aghast.

So, like a lame horse, John took Dean out to the woods, when Dean was delirious with fever and writhing in pain, and left him there. Dean really wanted to say he was glad that John didn’t shoot him, but that would be a lie.

Dean stayed in the woods until most of the fever had gone away, and until he got a really intense hankering for red meat. Dean didn’t think about it very often, but he had sated the urge with a stray rabbit that happened to hop by Dean’s strained body. He still felt bad for Bugs Bunny, but the need for a beating heart won out over every ounce of remorse Dean felt.

His hands were stained red even after Dean washed them in a nearby stream, but Dean had finally understood what had happened to him. So he took it for what it was and tried to make himself figure what his other half was now. His scream rang out into the forest, disturbing some birds perching nearby, the first time he had tried to transform.

His bones, cartilage and tendons had to reform into another shape. Of course it hurt.

Dean had shamefully converted back into a human form and then went a couple days before he tried it again. Dean learned that it seemed to get easier every time, and if he had to live like this, then he was going to make it easy on himself. Now, it was almost second nature to turn into a dog.

But, as Dean walked up Bobby’s porch steps, he knew that it was going to be a bitch to explain to the older man. Dean knew that he would understand, but it was still something that was almost unheard of in the hunter community. A hunter that’s a creature, but mostly a hunter. It didn’t have a nice ring to it.

Dean took a deep breath and steadied himself before he knocked on Bobby’s wooden front door. It took a minute for the older man to get to the door, but Dean could hear him knocking around and grumbling to himself.

Bobby opened the door and flinched as if he’d been shot.

“Hiya, Bobby,” Dean greeted, giving a little half smile.

“Well, son-ova-bitch. Dean? Is that you?” Bobby asked, confused by the sight in front of him.

“It’s nice to see you old man. I don’t wanna be an ass, but can I come in? It’s hotter than hell out here,” Dean explained.

“Of course, son. I got some lemonade in the fridge,” Bobby said, backing away from the door and heading deeper into the interior of the house.

Dean opened the screen door and was greeted with a familiar sight: stack and stacks of books. Dean breathed in the dusty air and let it out in a rush. The surroundings looked the same as they did when Dean was 16, the few weeks before he’d been bitten and left out in the woods.

Bobby came back with a tall glass of lemonade and handed it to Dean, nearly sloshing it over the edge of the cup.

Dean took a sip and winced at the taste. The salt of the added holy water made the drink saltier than the Dead Sea. “Nice flavorings going on there,” Dean commended sarcastically.

“Sorry, but you can’t be too sure. We have a lot to talk about,” Bobby replied. He took the glass of lemonade in his hand and switched it with Dean’s, giving him the unsalted drink. Bobby set the other drink aside on a stack of dusty books.

Dean sipped at his proper lemonade while they both made their way to the kitchen.

“Did you want something to eat, boy? You look like you got hit by a truck,” Bobby stated with full honesty.

That was probably because Dean hadn’t eaten his fill of animal entrails in nearly a week and he was getting antsy around the smell of blood. Some 30 miles back, Dean had spotted some roadkill and his mouth had watered.

“Uh, yeah. I would appreciate it.”

“Well, I ain’t no butler. Go get the turkey out ‘a the fridge and the mayo and I’ll make you a nice sandwich.”

Dean did as he was told, grabbing the deli turkey out of the fridge’s drawer and the mayo off of the shelf. He set them on the counter and waited for Bobby to continue instructions.

Bobby had some bread laid out on a plate with some lettuce set to the side. “Well? Get me a knife—unless you want me to spread the mayo with my hands,” Bobby huffed.

Dean moved towards the silverware drawer and opened it. But he hesitated. Surely, Bobby was still testing him. Bobby knew that all of those knives and spoons and forks were pure silver. Dean’s hands rested just above the butter knives, itching to just touch the things like a normal human being. But that was the problem. Dean wasn’t a human being anymore.

“I can’t, Bobby,” Dean conceded. He could feel Bobby’s eyes from where he had been watching Dean the whole time, waiting for a reaction.

Bobby reacted in an instant. He pulled a knife from some hidden compartment and he was trying to bring it down on Dean. Dean, of course, knew what was happening due to his heightened senses and jumped out of the way just as the silver knife plummeted into the wooden countertop, getting stuck.

Bobby tried to pull the knife out but it was too well stuck. So Bobby quickly pulled a knife from a knife rack, immediately trying to go for Dean’s neck.

Dean dodged again, and cried out, “Stop it, Bobby! I can explain this!”

Bobby didn’t seem to let up and managed to cut into Dean’s arm that was blocking his face. The knife cut deep, but this one wasn’t silver and the wound healed up instantly. Bobby watched it happen with a look of hurt on his face before he pushed Dean out into the living room through the doorway.

Dean stumbled and fell onto his ass, still trying to protect his head, before he was trying to get away from Bobby’s advancement.

“I knew you weren’t Dean the moment I saw you. Dean died years ago, and you’re just some abomination wearing his face,” Bobby yelled viciously. His hand shook where he was holding the knife, pain spreading across his face.

Dean got himself back up and launched towards Bobby while he was distracted. He tugged the knife out of the man’s hands and threw it across the room before he put Bobby in a chokehold. He could feel the consciousness leaving the man while Dean counted the seconds before Bobby passed out. Dean gently draped his limp body across the wooden floor before he checked his pockets for anything deadly.

It took too much effort to haul the man onto a chair and to tie him up with some secure ropes. He double-checked that Bobby wouldn’t get out and left the man in the center of the living room while he went back to the kitchen.

While Dean always thought it was disgusting when he was younger, Bobby liked eating fried chicken hearts and Dean was never more thankful than in that moment.

Dean took the package of hearts out of the fridge and smelled them. The Foster Farm’s preservative smelled disgusting to Dean’s nose, but Dean was hungry and desperate and quickly tore into the package of cold, slimy hearts before Bobby woke up.

The blood was barely satisfying and Dean felt like he’s barely eaten at all. But it would have to do.

Dean’s senses picked up Bobby’s shuffling from the next room over, and Dean quickly washed his hands of the blood and reentered the next room. Bobby’s eyes were just peeking open when Dean entered.

“Bobby? Can you hear me?” Dean said quietly.

Bobby groaned in reply and sat up a little straighter in his chair, glaring at Dean with a look Dean had never seen before.

“Listen, John must have lied to you, because I was never killed on that hunt. John—Dad, he made me the bait on that hunt. Something must have gone wrong, because John never got there in time to stop the skinwalker and—and he let me get bit by that thing. It nearly killed me before John got there, but it was already too late. Some time in the next two or three days, John left me in the woods, but I survived, Bobby. I survived, damnit.”

Bobby had a mix of emotions flashing across his face as he tried to process the information. He finally looked up at Dean and broke his silence, “You ever killed a person before?”

“No. I—I’ve lived off of small animals and whatever I can get from a butcher shop,” Dean admitted. But there were times that Dean was so desperate to get his hands on something bigger, something undeniably human, that he’d almost given in to his urges. It was a long time ago, when Dean was still getting used to the skinwalker thing, when he’d found a young woman walking by herself late at night. He’d followed her a couple of blocks, trailing alleyways, before he’d forced himself to walk away and scrounge up some money for a run to the butcher shop in some other nameless town.

Bobby grunted. “So if you’re really who you say you are, tell me something only Dean would know.”

“Uh, when I was six, you let us play catch in a park one day. Sammy was only two, but you still gave him this huge mit and—and he held it open and I wasn’t thinking so I took the ball and threw it at the mit. But only, Sammy moved the mit and the ball hit him right in his nose. You thought he’d broken it by the amount of blood, but he was alright in the end. You didn’t let me watch TV for a week after that,” Dean remembered, a light look on his face.

Bobby’s face shifted to something softer. “I believe you, boy. Now, can I get out of these ropes or not? I can’t feel my damn hands.”

Dean went to untie Bobby’s binds, quietly praying that Bobby really did believe him. He left the rope on the chair and went around to Bobby’s front, where he was getting the blood flowing back into his hands by rubbing them.

They stood awkwardly for a second, sizing each other up in case they were lying about one thing or another. Eventually, Bobby brought Dean into a bone-crushing hug, making the air rush from his lungs. So, Bobby seemed to believe him. Or, at least, it seemed like it. Maybe Bobby would stab Dean to death in the middle of the night and leave him bleeding out on cheap cotton sheets.

Dean wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bobby pulled back and left a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “It’s nice to have you back, boy, but you have a lot to tell me.”

Dean sat down on the middle seat of the couch while Bobby sat across from him in a worn recliner and Dean explained what he’d gone through in the five or so years since he’d last seen Bobby. He explained how he had continued hunting and how he used his skinwalking abilities to adapt to a new brand of hunting. He explained how he hadn’t seen John again, and had never tried to contact him or Sammy.

Dean was exhausted by the time he had detailed his new life, and Bobby quickly placed him in his old room at the top of the stairs. Dean walked right past the Star Wars posters and of an epic looking Grease poster to his old twin bed. He laid down on top of it, not bothering to change into pajamas, before he fell asleep on the worn sheets.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

Dean woke up to the smell of pancakes and the sound of shuffling in the kitchen. Dean sat up and ruffled through the drawers for something that would fit his frame. He settled on some stretched out sweat pants and a worn Zeppelin t-shirt. He slipped them on in the cold of the bedroom and then made his way to the bathroom, washing his mouth out with water and wiping his face with a cloth.

Dean walked down the stairs and was overwhelmed by the amount of smells coming from the kitchen. Bobby was hunkered over the stove and was moving some sausage in one pan before he was flipping pancakes in the next.

Dean couldn’t help but smile at the domestic scene. But under the scents of butter and eggs was the distinct scent of blood. Dean sniffed in the open kitchen made his over to a bundle of butcher paper and plastic. He started to pull it apart, his stomach clenching at the opportunity of fresh blood.

Bobby must have noticed Dean at some point, so he spoke up, “Good, you’re awake. I got you a little somethin’ from the butcher down the street. I hope you like beef.”

Dean revealed the glistening heart of beef, something close to the size of his head, and he licked his lips. The heart wasn’t cold, but obviously fresh and killed in the last few hours. Dean looked up at Bobby, suddenly conscious of how he was eyeing the heart like an oasis in a barren desert. He looked back over to where Bobby was plating the sausage on a decorative platter, and then he looked back at the heart.

Usually, it was easiest to eat something like this when he shifted into his other form. But that didn’t seem like an option at the moment, not unless he wanted to scare both Bobby and himself at the reality of the situation. But beef was much too hard to chew in human form.

Dean picked up the heart, packaging and all, and brought it to the counter. He pulled a cutting board out from a cupboard and placed the heart on top. He snagged a knife from the knife rack (which was still noticeably missing a knife) and began to chop up the heart into bite sized chunks. Bobby joined him at the counter while he was dressing his pancakes and cutting up his sausage, and they worked in companionable silence.

Dean put everything on a plate and brought it to the small kitchen table with Bobby. They both sat down at the table and Bobby started up the old radio that resided on the center of the table. The old thing was scratchy, but it had been there longer than Dean had been alive, so they sat in silence and listened to an old NPR report.

Dean wolfed down his heart and then went back to the counter and cut up some more. Bobby didn’t seem to mind the bloody sight, and continued to eat his breakfast.

“Did you want some pancakes?” Bobby offered at one point. He gestured with his fork to the small stack on the counter.

“Maybe later, Bobby. You can finish them up,” Dean replied lightly. The few times that he had tried to force himself to eat human food on an empty stomach resulted in a lot of retching. But if Dean sated his urge for heart, then he was usually fine to eat whatever he wanted.

They finished breakfast, with Dean finishing the entire beef heart, and they sat down in the living room to watch the morning news. The news didn’t seem to change in the time that Dean had been exiled to one abandoned house or another, and the same stories played.

They sat in thoughtful silence with the white noise between them until Bobby decided to break the silence.

“I saw Sam ‘bout six months ago. You should call him.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed.

They went back to watching the news.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

It was only a week later when Sam arrived at Singer’s Scrapyard and Salvage. He had a small duffle bag thrown over his shoulder and some ugly Honda parked in the yard. Bobby hadn’t told him about Dean just yet, so Sam thought it was something case related or a housecall.

Sam looked just as shocked as Bobby had when he saw Dean standing in the living room. “Dean?”

Dean gave Sam an apologetic smile before he pulled Sam into a deep hug. “I’ve missed you, Sammy.”

“God, but—Dad said you were dead. How are you even here?” Sam asked, shaken.

“John lied. He left me out in the woods, somewhere north of Chickasha, but I’m fine now,” Dean replied coolly.

“Well, he better have had a good damn reason, Dean,” Sam huffed. He dropped his duffle bag on the wooden flood and crossed his arms over his chest, clearly perplexed by the information.

“He thought so. We were hunting a skinwalker and he used me as bait. The problem was, John didn’t get there in time. By the time he killed the damn thing, it had already bit me,” Dean breathed out. If Sam tried to stab him like Bobby, Dean was going to catch the next train to Insanityville.

Sam looked confused. “You’re a skinwalker?”

“Unfortunately,” Dean conceded.

“Isn’t there a cure? Some hunter must have found something. You can’t stay like this forever, Dean,” Sam said, his voice rising with every word.

“Don’t you think I’ve looked, Sam? This is a curse I can’t break, and I have to pay for John’s mistake everyday,” Dean led with a sudden outburst.

John should feel sorry for his lost son. John shouldn’t have dumped Dean in those woods. John should have looked for a cure. John should have told Sam and Bobby the truth.

But of course, John didn’t.

Sam pulled Dean into another hug. “God, I’m so sorry Dean. I should have been there.”

“Don’t worry about it, Sammy. At least I don’t have to eat Bobby’s fried fish eyes ever again,” Dean joked dejectedly.

The smile plastered on his face didn’t reach his eyes, and it was apparent to Sam that Dean hadn’t been happy in a long time. When was the last time that we did something other than hunting? Sam thought to himself.

Dean clearly didn’t want to continue the conversation, so he grabbed Sam’s duffle bag and brought it up the stairs, Sam following close behind. He dropped it on Sam’s childhood bed and then looked Sam up and down. The kid looked weary, his shoulders heavy, with dark circles under his eyes.

“Did you want something to eat? We can have lunch now if you’re hungry. Uh, Bobby might have some pasta or something. Maybe I can make you a pasta salad or something? Doesn't that sound good? We might have some—”

Sam stopped Dean’s rambling by holding up a halting hand. “Dean,” he spoke, “I know we haven’t seen each other in a while, and I thought you were dead for Christ’s sake, but things aren’t different between us because you got bit by a radioactive spider. Okay?”

“Okay,” Dean said simply.

They descended the staircase and found Bobby still in the living room, relaxing with a beer gripped loosely in his hands while he watched some baseball game on TV. Dean left Sam in the living room to fetch two more cold beers, one of which he handed to Sam before they kicked back and tried to enjoy the game.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

Two weeks later.

Dean began to realize that things were different with his curse the third time he woke up as a dog. Something in him had relaxed to the idea of having another half, and the divide between man and dog began to blur. He was (somehow) becoming more relaxed with using his senses, his strength and his shifting abilities.

Last week he had been able to take down a Rugaru in half the time that Sam and Bobby had been able to. He’d had to help them kill the twin of the first Rugaru. Now with his hearing honed, he could hear any fraction of a sound that any ugly happened to make, and he could nearly tear their heart out with one hand. Not that he’d eat a rugaru’s heart. Dean has some standards, after all.

Dean sat up on his bed, still man’s best friend, and hopped down. He padded down the hall to the bathroom and then shut the door before he shifted back into his human body. He snatched a shirt off of the ground and pulled it in, along with some sleep pants.

He made his way to the kitchen and to the package that was left wrapped on the table. His weekly craving of something bloody had started to become routine by now; Bobby went out on a run in the morning to the nearest butcher and got the freshest heart that he could find.

Sam seemed more standoffish than usual last week, but he snapped out of it and was back to his boyish self soon enough.

Dean helped Bobby cook omelets for Sam before he went back to his heart. He took the bloody thing onto a cutting board and began chopping it up into neat sections. He heard Sam shuffling around in his room above, so Dean knew it wouldn’t be long before the kid came shuffling down the stairs for breakfast.

Sam entered the room just as Dean was pouring the blood from the cutting board onto a plate with the chunks of heart. Dean didn’t bother to look up, and brought his plate to the table where Bobby was already cutting into his omelete. He sat down in the seat opposite of where Bobby sat, arm curled protectively around his plate of muscle before he started eating in a voracious manner.

The kitchen was filled with the sounds of forks scraping on plates and eating while they finished up their breakfast. At one point, Dean looked up and found Sam staring at him with a look of distaste on his face. Dean raised a brow in question, and Sam finally realized that he was staring.

“It’s just—your eyes,” Sam explained. He finished his last bite of egg and then pushed his chair out, leaving the table and placing his plate in the sink. He left the kitchen.

“What’s wrong with my eyes, Bobby?” Dean questioned after watching Sam leave in a rush.

“Well, they have this gold color in ‘em and they sparkle like a damn Disney princess,” Bobby replied with a snarky tone.

“How long has that been happening?”

“I dunno, boy. Sometimes you just have this look about you, and I can’t quite place what’s wrong,” Bobby admitted.

“Like, a good look or a bad look?”

“Son, I sure as hell can’t tell. Finish your damn food and wash the dishes. I have somethin’ for ya after you finish,” Bobby said gruffy.

Dean finished his food and the dishes in record time. As it turned out, Bobby had found a case for them to work. It wasn’t something super formal, which Dean still hadn’t gotten used to, but it was a nest of vampires that were killing innocents on the edge of Who Cares, Iowa.

The only problem was that the nest was bigger than they were used to, and that meant calling in backup. Dean was the first to object to the needed assistance, stating that him being a shifter gave them a leg up and that they didn’t need to contact any other hunter, at all, ever again.

Of course, Bobby wasn’t having any of it, and called one of his contacts right after they all got done arguing. He told Dean to stop being such a sore loser, and reminded him that his contacts were professional hunters, not some bunch of rascals.

Two rugged-looking hunters pounded on the door of Bobby’s house a little after 2AM the next day. Dean had heard them drive up and was the first one to make it downstairs. Dean looked through the peephole at the two hunters before he popped open the locks on the door. Opening the door, Dean found a man and a woman bundled up from the cold.

The woman stepped forward, extending a hand, “I’m Jody, and this here is Castiel. Can we come in or do we have to freeze our asses off?”

Dean quickly stepped aside and let the two hunters into the house. They walked in like they owned the place, and Dean felt the familiar risings of anger. First, Bobby let hunters into the house that Dean didn’t know, and then they begin to rock the boat.

Dean blew a breath out of his nose. This hunt wasn’t going to be easy to deal with when he already had to be on guard about what he revealed to these hunters, but now that he knew they were assholes, Dean was fuming. In all honesty, he wanted to usher these hunters to the door and boot them out, but it wasn’t Dean’s place to say who came or left Bobby’s house.

But Bobby couldn’t control Dean’s own actions, and Dean didn’t feel like talking to anyone right then, so Dean left out the still-open front door.

Dean walked towards the back of Bobby’s property and shifted into his familiar canine form. Sometimes it felt nice to just work his anger out by running around. Dean set out looking for something to keep his mind off of the present, and he found it in the woods.

There was a nice deep burrow in the ground along one bank of a stream and Dean could smell freshly unearthed dirt. He couldn’t resist his instincts and stuck his head down into the hole. There was some small animal digging around, and Dean wanted to know what it was.

Dean started to dig into the ground, pulling back the grass around the edge of the hole. Sometimes he stuck his head down into the hole to see if he could get to the animal yet, but he kept digging.

He finally gouged out a nice hole to investigate, and he stuck his head in, only to be blinded by a jabbing pain. He yelped and scrambled away from the hole, finally seeing the porcupine leave its den.

Dean could tell that where was a quill shallowly buried in his face. He pulled it out by holding it between his paws and pulling.

The porcupine didn’t seem to like that Dean was still lingering around his den, and the quills on his body stood straight up. The damn thing was fast enough to get some quills buried in Dean’s foreleg.

Dean quickly limped away after that.

The little points of pain were deeper than the one that had been in his face. Dean knew he couldn’t get it out while he was still in canine form, but he knew that he couldn’t shift back without some substantial pain.

Dean limped back towards Bobby’s house, internally wincing every time he used his front legs. Eventually the wooden house emerged out of the trees and Dean dodged around the cars until he was at the back of the house. Sam’s light was still on up in the second story, and Dean could see his figure moving behind the curtains.

Dean tried to be inconspicuous, so he let out a quiet whine towards the window. Once that didn’t seem to get Sam’s attention, he let out a low bark.

The curtains wrinkled as Sam’s face peaked out his window. He looked around confused before his eyes landed on Dean.

Dean whined and aimed his head down towards where the porcupine quills were sticking out of his leg. He looked back up at Sam and gave his best puppy-dog eyes. Sam seemed to get the message as he rolled his eyes and moved away from the window, shutting off his lamp.

Dean heard the front door open, Sam grumble out an excuse as to why he was leaving the house in the middle of the night, and then Sam’s heavy footsteps as he walked towards the back of the house where Dean hid in the shadows.

“Honestly, it makes sense that you’re a German Shepherd,” Sam chuckled to himself. “Ya, know? Caretaker and all? Nevermind.”

Dean huffed in annoyance, letting out a little growl. His foreleg was starting ache deeper into the bone and the sooner he got the damn quills out, the sooner that Dean could relax in his own friggin’ bed. And he really didn’t want Sam to start psychoanalysing him while he couldn’t even respond back.

“You can walk, right? I’m sure as hell not gonna carry you,” Sam admitted. He turned towards the back door of the house and cracked it open. He was careful to listen for any sounds of movement before he beckoned Dean into the house.

Dean limped as fast as he could over to the door and slipped inside, heading up the stairs before Sam could catch up. He silently made his way to the bathroom, trying not to make the hardwood floor creak underfoot. The bathroom was cracked open and Dean slipped inside, waiting for Sam to get there.

Dean could hear every sound that Sam made going up the stairs, the big oaf, and if Dean could wince, he would. The hunters downstairs were probably still awake, and it only made sense that they wouldn’t be too receptive to some kid and a supernatural creature creeping around while they tried to sleep. Dean knew that he wouldn’t like it if he was stuck in that position.

Sam found the first aid kit under the sink (something that was vital in a hunter’s life), and sat down on the toilet’s lid with it. He popped it open and started to pull out some gauze and tape. He set them on the sink counter and stuck his hand in his pocket, pulling out his Leatherman.

Dean, who was sitting in front of Sam, brought his paw up and set it on Sam’s knee.

Sam gave him an expectant look, and then opened up the pliers on his Leatherman.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

Dean got his arm bandaged well enough that it wouldn’t get infected and then he passed out in bed.

The next morning brought the scent of bacon and eggs wafting up towards Dean’s room. He cracked his eyes open before the realization that there were hunters in the house came crashing down on him. He knew that he needed to keep his guard up from now on. No more silver, no more shifting, and no more eating hearts at breakfast. Even though Dean could live a week without having something bloody, his concentration started to break when he went a few days without.

Occasionally, he felt the urge to go find something in the woods and tear into it, and he would definitely do that, but only after this case was over.

Dean got dressed in actual jeans to spare the guests the sight of his Chewbacca underwear. God, he seriously needed a new wardrobe.

The two hunters were seated at the small kitchen table when Dean walked in. The tension was palpable.

Jody looked up from her eggs and looked Dean up and down like she knew his dirty secrets. She had greying hair and a face that yelled ‘stern’.

But Castiel, on the other hand. He looked like his had a stormcloud over his head that was sucking up all of the light in the kitchen. He had chosen not to eat Bobby’s world class breakfast and was instead nursing a cup of black coffee.

But when his eyes finally dragged up to look at Dean, Dean couldn’t help but notice how intense they were, even through the haze he put off.

“I’m Dean.”

The older woman spoke, “I’m Jody and this here’s Castiel. How old are you, boy? You don’t look a day out of high school and I’m expected to hunt with you?”

Dean blushed with shame and a bit of anger.

“I’m 22, and my father is John Winchester, if you didn’t know,” Dean replied, his jaw clenched.

“A Winchester boy, huh? We’ll see if you live up to the name,” Castiel said, suddenly joining the conversation. He gave Dean a teasing smile before he took another sip of coffee.

And now Dean was blushing for a whole ‘nother reason. Even if Dean knew that other queer hunters existed, how open Castiel was with his… appreciation made Dean panic.

“Y-Yeah. I’ll, uh, go get packed.”

Dean proceeded to run into the doorway.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

“We’re all packed? Y’all didn’t forget your machetes?” Bobby questioned.

After Dean had gotten adjusted to his new life at Bobby’s, he’d been given an old 1970 Thunderbird that made him feel like he was back in the Impala. It wasn’t the same, but Dean appreciated the classic car with the newly stocked arsenal in the trunk.

Dean had Sam riding shotgun while Bobby led the caravan out of the salvage yard. Jody and Castiel had opted to go in Jody’s truck so that none of them had to rely on each other for transportation.

Dean gunned it on the open road, easily passing Bobby’s old man driving while Sam laughed in the passenger seat, drumming along to a fast paced Motörhead song. Dean actually felt like his life was back to as normal as he could get it.

The wind whipped in his hair and brought the summer heat along with it. The spring had just begun to hint at a dry heat, making the grass dry out and become brittle, easily feeding into summer.

Dean could also appreciate the many interesting scents that were being brought to his nose. His canine instincts wanted him to pull the car over and investigate, but there were so many of them that he just let them filter through.

Sam often called Dean the dog he never wanted, but Dean secretly appreciated the brotherly teasing and how it brought the two of them closer together than ever before.

Not that he would admit it, anyway.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

It was Iowa, so there was an abundance of abandoned barns that just happened to be perfect lairs for malevolent vampires. The nest that they were after happened to be staying in an old red one.

They staked the place out after they drove into the small town, watching for activity, exits, and how they could escape if something went sideways. After a few hours, they retired to a deadbeat motel and stayed in their respective rooms.

Jody and Castiel didn’t bother to start many conversations. They went to their room after unpacking their bags and didn’t come out. Even with their stiff demeanors, Dean had to admit that they helped to stake out the place and ensure everyone’s safety. It gave them a (reluctant) point in his books.

 

Bobby had his own queen bed while Sam and Dean had been forced to share. Even after being away from Sam for so long, he didn’t want to sleep with the big oaf, so he let everyone head off to dreamland before he shifted into his canine form and curled up on a blanket that he’d set out.

The light from the full moon streamed in from a crack in the curtain and made Dean antsy. The way he figured it was that skinwalkers were cousins of werewolves, and even if the cycles of the moon didn’t affect him, it still brought on a primal urge to go running through a forest.

The door was easier to open with human hands, but once Dean was out the door, he headed off into the park near the edge of where they were staying. He wandered, letting scents guide him, and found a pond. There were bullfrogs croaking and ducks floating across the water.

Dean left the animals alone and went deeper into the park, carefully avoiding any place where people would see him.

He went back to the motel room, curled up, and tried to get more sleep.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

They parked the cars away from the barn so that the sleeping vampires wouldn’t be roused. Jody and Bobby cased the front while Dean, Sam and Castiel were sent to the back of the barn where there was a secondary exit. The plan was that Bobby and Jody would go in first, allowing the rest of them to come in from the back and finish the vamps off.

Castiel hadn’t protested at being separated from Jody, and instead, his eyes had flicked to Dean. He was a solitary man, but he seemed like he was also curious about Dean’s story.

It made Dean nervous, the sudden interest, and he didn’t know whether to feel threatened or lucky. He just hoped that it was casual flirting instead of suspicion about his human status.

Dean allowed Castiel to enter the barn first once they heard Jody and Bobby lopping off heads. He went in, and deadly smooth, approached a vamp focused on the older hunters. It barely took him one stroke before the vamps head went rolling on the floor, its surprised expression still on its face.

Dean watched with intrigue before he jumped into action and helped Sam behead another vamp.

The vamps dwindled, unable to escape the onslaught of the hunters. Sam had climbed up an unstable set of stairs to the higher level in the barn, searching for any survivors from the vampires.

Dean had finished beheading one before he heard a yell from upstairs. He didn’t think and instead went bounding up the ladder to help Sam.

There was a woman at his throat, her razor sharp teeth slowly sinking into the meat of his neck. She had frayed rope still wrapped around her wrists.

Dean saw red. His little brother was being bitten by some vile monster and he knew he needed to end the threat. He shifted in the blink of an eye and attacked the vamp, throwing her off of Sam and into the rickety barn wall. She hissed at Dean, trying hard to push him off, but Dean clamped down onto her vulnerable forearm. The flesh parted easily under his bite and he felt a satisfying crunch.

The vampire wailed in pain, giving Dean the opportunity to tear at her throat. The taste of her blood was repulsive. It tasted diseased.

Dean slowly felt the life drain out of her before he dropped her limp body. She had blood spilled down her front from her struggle. He slowly backed away from her, the diseased taste following him.

He’d protected his brother successfully, but he had to be an animal to do it. He felt ashamed of his reaction.

But he couldn’t pity himself right now. His brother was critically injured and he needed to get him downstairs as fast as he could. Sam’s life depended on it.

Sam wasn’t moving, but Dean could hear his heart beating strong in his chest. He shifted back into his human form, pulled his jeans and flannel on, scooped his brother up in his arms, and awkwardly descended the stairs.

Bobby, Jody and Castiel helped to get Sam to the Thunderbird. Dean held him close in the backseat while Bobby gunned it towards the nearest hospital.

Sam’s heart was growing weaker with every beat. The blood loss was worrying, so Dean ripped a piece of Sam’s shirt off and wrapped it around the wound to try and stop it. The razor sharp teeth of the vamp had been able to cut clean enough that the blood wasn’t coagulating as well as it should have been.

Dean cursed when Bobby flew over a speedbump in the hospital parking lot.

Soon enough, the car’s door was thrown open and the hospital staff was rushing a gurney out to the car, pulling Sam out.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

Castiel had stayed behind. Jody had taken off in her truck to make sure that Bobby made it to the hospital safely, but Castiel didn’t want to leave the bodies scattered around the barn.

Sam was a good kid, as far as he could tell, but all of them would be tied to murder if Castiel didn’t dispose of the mess quickly. The cops were likely going to ask about how Sam was attacked, and it would be suspicious if the murdering of several “humans” was linked to a kid covered in blood. The state of Dean and Bobby would also arouse suspicion.

Castiel threw his machete into the backseat of Bobby’s car and began to drag the bodies of the vamps to the back of the barn and out the door he came in through.

There was a total of 13 bodies before he remembered the upper level in the barn. He found the staircase and jogged up it.

A young woman was lying against the wall, her lifeless eyes staring back at Castiel. Her fangs were still out, daunting him, but he knew that Sam and Dean would have finished the job.

Sure enough, once he grabbed her feet and pulled away from the wall, her head lolled to the side, part of her neck detached.

Which was strange.

They’d all used machetes and he’d seen the Winchester boys slicing heads off with no problem. They wouldn’t need to hack at a neck to kill a damn vamp. So what happened to this one?

At a closer inspection, Castiel could see that there was massive tearing in her lower throat and clavicle.

If Sam was incapacitated from the vampire’s bite, then only Dean could have done damage like that. So how was the man capable of something so gruesome?

Next to the body was a bloody chunk of skin with some fur attached. Castiel picked it up carefully and inspected it. It had a dark tan color on the wiry pieces of fur. Castiel looked around the corpse for further clues, finally finding some more fur on the hands of the body and under her fingernails.

Something animal killed this vampire. And since he couldn’t remember Sam and Dean bringing a dog…

Then Castiel was missing something.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

Sam was given 3 units of blood to pick up his dropping blood pressure. The doctors and nurses were able to stop the bleeding, and Sam had woken up in pain within 2 hours of arriving at the hospital. The nurse quickly gave him more morphine to quell the pain.

Dean sat by his side and made simple conversation when Sam was up to it. But he drifted back off to sleep soon enough, and left Dean feeling glad that he was alive. Worse things could have happened, but luck seemed to have been on Dean’s side that day.

Even Castiel arrived at the hospital, smelling like smoke, to check on Sam. He had some char smeared on his face, but he didn’t seem to mind the weird looks people gave him about his disheveled state.

Dean was waiting in the hall when Castiel asked him to follow him down the hall.

“I would like to talk, Dean, about the situation at hand,” he said, strolling leisurely alongside Dean.

“I found something at the barn that is confusing me. And I don’t get confused easily, so I’d like a simple answer.” Castiel gestured towards a closed door, beckoning Dean to enter.

Dean walked into the empty patient’s room, feeling uneasy.

“What’s this about, man?” he asked nervously. He turned towards Castiel and waited for an answer.

“The vamp that got Sam—I found some hair on it from some animal, but I realized that you didn’t bring a dog.”

Dean swallowed, “Yeah?”

“Sam had already passed out by the time you got there, Dean. That means that whatever, or whoever, got to that vamp had to have been there exactly when you were.”

Dean gaped like a fish.

“Did you see any animals, Dean?” he said while slowly approaching Dean like a predator to prey.

“No, I didn’t.”

“I see.”

Castiel’s eyes found Dean’s and looked into them for answers. He seemed to find what he was looking for, and backed away from Dean, turning towards the door. “I don’t know what you are, Dean, but your secret is safe with me… unless it becomes a problem.”

He pushed the door open and left down the hall, leaving Dean shaking from adrenaline.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

They released Sam from the hospital with strict instructions on how to care for his wound. Dean made sure to set him up with enough pillows in his motel bed that he was propped up to watch the TV. He let Sam control the TV until he dozed off (along with Bobby, who had been snoring the whole time), before making sure that both of them were covered with blankets.

Now that Sam was stable, Dean didn’t have to worry about babysitting him. He was tired because of the bloodloss, but he was entirely alert enough to care for himself.

Dean decided to decompress from the stressful days that they’d been having, from the vampires to Castiel, and shifted. He went into the night’s crisp air and made his rounds around the little park by the highway. The same ducks bobbed in the pond, the same frogs croaked, but Dean enjoyed it nonetheless.

Until he came back to the motel.

Castiel was sitting on the curb, wrapped up in a hoodie, looking up at the stars. He had bags under his eyes and his hair was a mess, so Dean wondered why he was awake.

In a bold move, Dean stepped out of the tree line and made his way towards Castiel’s unmoving form. Even if Castiel didn’t know he was a skinwalker exactly, he knew enough, and Dean knew that the man wouldn’t try to hurt him.

Castiel jumped when he noticed the large German shepherd looking at him expectantly.

Dean laughed a little on the inside but still went and sat next to Castiel on the curb.

They sat in silence for a while, enjoying the clear night and tracing constellations that they knew by heart. Castiel eventually broke the silence.

“I’m happy that Sam is okay. I couldn’t imagine almost losing a sibling.”

Dean looked towards him, trying to convey agreeance with his eyes.

“I couldn’t sleep, and I'm guessing that you couldn’t either,” Castiel offered. “It’s just that—whenever I close my eyes, I can see the things I’ve killed.”

Dean whined, laying his head on Castiel’s arm.

“I’m guessing you’ve had the same experience?”

Dean blinked up at Castiel. Yes.

“I’m sorry,” he said, seemingly to both Dean and himself. He looked back up at the stars.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

After they’d parted ways, Dean couldn’t stop thinking about the hunter. He couldn’t ignore that there was something there between them.

Once Sam was healed (even though he had a distinct mouth-shaped scar), they began to work around the auto shop, doing a few odd hunting jobs here and there. They easily carved a space out for themselves in Bobby’s life and thrived in it.

But even if they had everything they wanted, Dean wanted something more than just his family. He missed have affection given to him, from making love to gentle caresses. To put it plainly, he missed Castiel and his knowing looks.

Bobby had Jody’s number but not Castiel’s, so Dean didn’t know how to contact him. That was, until the perfect hunt arrived.

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

Jody had parted ways with Castiel—instead hunting a rawhead in rural Wyoming. Dean had bribed (and maybe begged) Jody to tell Castiel that he was needed by the Winchesters before she left for her hunt. Jody had surrendered, and gave her hunting partner all of the details of their current case.

Castiel arrived at Singer Salvage in a Lincoln Continental that Dean gaped at once it pulled into the driveway. After barraging the hunter for his poor taste in vehicles, Dean invited him inside and they sat down, talking about what they had been up to in the past few months.

Bobby and Sam had been in town for a supply run and were pleasantly surprised to find Castiel and Dean taking the time to get dinner prepared.

Dean wiped his hands on his apron (it said ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ in a bedazzled pink font) before he let Cas grill the burgers and helped Sam put the groceries away. It felt strangely domestic and Dean was enjoying the bliss.

They sat down at the dinner table, swapping stories until they were all full and tired.

Castiel had warmed up to their family antics well enough. He had even begun to join in on the brotherly jabbing, teasing Sam about his adhereance to salad.

Dean’s heart nearly melted for the man.

Castiel had gone upstairs to catch some shut eye and Sam had joined Dean in washing the dishes.

“So. Castiel…” Sam had started.

“What about him?”

“Nothing. It just looks like you’re interested in him, is all,” Sam said with a knowing nudge to Dean’s side. He smiled like the cat that got the canary.

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“So what? He’s a good guy and has a fantastic ass. Sue me,” he replied defensively. He made sure to splatter some soap suds onto the plate Sam was drying.

“Even if it isn’t forever, he’ll be good for you, Dean.”

“Yeah? I think so too…”

———〈 ☽༓☾ 〉———

Later…

Dean knew that they weren’t ready to give up hunting anytime soon. They’d likely settle down and scold neighborhood kids for running on their lawn, but that wasn’t anytime soon. Him and Cas were raised into the life of hunting, Cas by his family and Dean by his father, and they couldn’t forget the things that they had seen in their line of work.

It didn’t mean that they had to throw themselves into killing everything that went bump in the night. They took breaks, visited family and friends, and spent time together.

It was everything and more that they had wanted—

Until Dean stumbled upon his father on a case in St. Louis.