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The One With the Bad Faith Healing

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Sam startles when his cell phone vibrates on the table, ringtone screaming. He scrambles, shoving his laptop aside, and grabs his phone, flipping it open and answers without checking to see who’s calling.

“This is Sam,” he says between one deep breath and the next, when the quick movement catches up to him and makes his head spin.

“It’s Joshua. Calling you back.” Joshua pauses, and Sam twists around to dig through his bag for something to write on. There’s only one reason Joshua would be calling him back. “Sorry about Dean. He was a good kid, from what John tells of him.”

“He is,” Sam corrects. “Are you…?”

“So, there’s a guy out in Nebraska. Hooked up with a reverend and his wife last summer, claiming he could heal people.”

“A faith healer?”

Joshua laughs, a little unkindly, and Sam debates the value of hanging up on him. The plastic casing creaks under his fingers, and he clears his throat.

“You’re the one looking for miracles, Sam. I just happened to find one. Was gonna send a hunter up there to see what was going on, eventually. Make sure the guy was Kosher, so to speak, but haven’t had the time. Hell, even Singer’s not having much luck getting folks to do milk runs these days. Had two exorcisms last month alone. Figure you and Dean can kill two birds with one stone if this guy’s legit, and if he’s full of shit, well…” Joshua leaves the sentence unfinished.

Sam frowns, but pulls a notebook out of his bag. He reaches for the pen on the bedside table and uncaps it with his teeth, scribbling a few lines and watching the ink go from faded to dark blue in a few strokes.

“Do you have an address?” he asks, tonguing the cap back into the corner of his mouth and clenching down on it with his molars.

“You got a pen?”

Lying to Dean isn’t as hard as Sam thought it would be. Either Dean’s too exhausted to call him out on his line about a specialist in some podunk city in Nebraska, or Sam hasn’t lied to him enough. Not about the things that matter, anyway. Dean’s in the passenger seat, so there’s not much he can do about it when Sam turns west when they hit I-80. He spends the first part of the drive trying to explain car maintenance between bouts of coughing and paging tiredly through a shockingly well-read copy of Hocus Pocus that Sam saw him pull out from under the front bench while they were passing through Lincoln. There’s a white library sticker with 813.54 in bold black Arial font on the spine under the cracked and yellow vinyl wrapped around the cover.

When it’s too dark to read, Dean pulls the hood of the hoodie he stole from Sam over his head and huddles down against the door, looking less like a person and more like a pile of laundry. Sam lets him sleep until he jerks awake several hours later, gasping for air just as Sam is pulling out of a drive-through a couple of hours into Nebraska.

“You okay?” Sam eases the car one-handed to the side of the parking lot while Dean cranks the windows down and sucks in breath after breath. It takes him eighteen breaths before he unwinds, slumping back against the seat and shrugging.

“I’m alive, ain’t I?” Dean's voice is raspy with sleep and lack of oxygen. He reaches out for the cup in Sam’s hand. “Gimme.”

Sam passes over the orange juice and tosses a sandwich into his lap without comment.

“Where’s the coffee?” Dean bitches, rubbing at his eyes with the back of one hand. He squints tiredly down at it like Sam handed him a cup of spiders.

“You shouldn’t be drinking caffeine right now,” Sam says, and he pulls out his own sandwich, guiding the car back on to the frontage road.

“I’m already going to your fucking specialist. You don’t have to torture me.”

When he glances over a few minutes later, Dean’s prying the lid free and taking short, careful sips between deep, slow breaths, fumbling one-handed with the wrapper on the sandwich. Sam knows he hasn’t had much of an appetite, but it’s too deeply ingrained in them both to avoid food waste for Dean not to force down anything put in front of him. Which is what Sam is counting on.

“Kill for something with a little less grease next time,” Dean adds on forty minutes later, tossing the empty cup and wrapper into the backseat.

“There’s probably a place we can stop at in Ford City when we get there. His place doesn’t open until 11 tomorrow.”

Dean makes a soft confused noise and coughs. “On a Sunday?”

“Special favor,” Sam lies, and it slips out a little easier than the first one.

There had been options. The doctor hadn’t shrugged helplessly at Dean and pronounced him dead in a couple weeks. It was 2006, for fuck's sake. Not the Dark Ages. He’d brought up medications, which Dean had balked at when he’d asked about prices and the nurse had come back with estimates. But, the nurse had argued, they could add time he needed to schedule for a stent and pacemaker, which could give him more time to last through the wait of a transplant list, and maybe, with some luck…

The thought of replacing his heart with one someone died to give had made Dean want to throw something at her. No, he’d insisted. No to everything. The pills, the heart surgery, the list. Too much damn money to waste when there wasn’t enough of it, anyway. Money Sam would need to keep following Dad’s breadcrumbs once Dean was dead.

He should have put his foot down about Nebraska too. Sam’s specialist is gonna cost money neither of them can earn back. Especially not the way Sam thinks Dean does it. The thought of hustling pool or cards in a bar full of smoke makes his heart palpitate against his ribs hard enough to hurt. Maybe with a few hours of rest, he can test the waters with some truckers at the next stop. A few hand jobs won’t strain his heart much, and folks desperate enough for some company in places like this aren’t gonna give a shit about his health.

Well, he could do that, except Sam’s been hovering over him every time they pull over—because needing to piss every ten minutes is just another problem Dean’s gotta deal with, now. Which leaves Dean with nothing to do but tally up the loose cash he’s been depositing into the Bank of Impala since Dad gave him the keys and got himself a truck. Two thousand from a few nights in Springfield shoved under the loose corner of carpet on the driver's side by the brake. Nine hundred left over from the lesbian couple who had insisted on paying him for saving their daughter's life from a ghoul back in '99 that he hadn't been too prideful to deny after two and a half weeks of eating nothing but peanut butter and half-rotten apples. Five hundred in the barrel of a 12 gauge that got cracked in half by a Chupacabra in New Mexico. Six grand that Dean's been earning for years, mostly on his knees. Sam's deposited his own money despite Dean's protests and hell, there might still be some of the cash Dad left him tucked away where the vinyl cracked on the backseat.

He adds in the last few credit cards—the limits on those aren't even that high, a few hundred a piece—but it doesn't help much.

Dean taps the eraser against his bottom lip and tries to remember if he's missing anything. He comes up empty. Which means this is it. The value of Dean Winchester’s life, scribbled into the margins on page thirty-two of a stolen Vonnegut novel.

He tucks the pencil between the pages and closes the book, deciding he’s done reading for the day.

“How far is this place?” he asks, staring out the window into the easy rolling hills of a field filled with cows chewing mindlessly under the grey overcast sky.

“Maybe an hour,” Sam guesses.

Dean nods, tucks himself back against the door, and waits.

Sam's woken up by the sound of Dean coughing in the bathroom. The window he’s facing is fogged up from the rain drizzling down outside. Sam shoves himself up and wipes his mouth, listening to Dean through the door.

“You okay?” he asks tentatively. The sink turns on in response, but it doesn’t do much to cover the sound of Dean gasping for air between coughs. Sam rolls his eyes and gets out of bed so he can get dressed.

“I’m fine. Stop asking,” Dean grinds out when he opens the door a few minutes later.

Sam squeezes past him, shoving him aside more carefully than he would normally, and hopes Dean won’t notice. “Yeah, sure. Tell that to my bladder.”

“Piss outside, next time!”

Forty minutes later, Sam pulls into a gravel driveway, passing a lit-up billboard planted in the mud declaring ‘Service Today!’. He parks in the field outside of a worn out, but tidy, two-story farmhouse. People are spilling out of the couple dozen cars and the two RVs already parked there. He spots a few struggling on crutches and walkers in the mud. The sign outside of the tent’s open flap calls the place the Church of Reverend Le Grange and Sam hears the sharp angry inhale Dean makes when he notices it.

He shoves Sam off him with a groan when he tries to help him out of the car.

“I said he was a specialist,” Sam says defensively, cutting off Dean’s breathless complaints. “Didn’t say in what. The guy’s supposed to be the real deal.”

“Guy heals people out of a fucking tent in Nebraska, Sam. How real can he be?”

They pass by a white guy with neatly cut hair who’s standing in the rain and handing out papers, yelling about fraud. Dean grunts in agreement with him and gets a dirty look from a woman with a cane and a wide brimmed hat keeping the rain out of her face. Sam grimaces in apology at her.

“People see a thing they can’t explain,” Sam argues, catching hold of Dean’s arm when he wobbles unsteadily. It gets Sam an ungrateful elbow to the rib while Dean glances around them nervously. Sam tightens his grip and pulls Dean closer to his side to keep him on his feet, not caring how it looks. “They want to have a little faith in something bigger. Maybe you should, too.”

“Only thing I have faith in is reality,” Dean grunts. “What’s really going on, and what’s really going on here is a bunch of folks getting swindled out of their hard-earned wages.”

Sam can’t help but look down at him, blinking in surprise. He and Dean have never really talked about religion outside of learning what works for killing the monsters that are tied to one or another. Christo works on demons, but not all of them, apparently. Just the ones that believe in it enough to be frightened. The ones that don't, though, well, Pastor Jim had said they'd been lucky it had.

“How can you see all the things we’ve seen and be this skeptical?” Sam asks, puzzled and a little offended. Dean looks out at the slowly growing crowd as they near the tent. The sick people and their families and friends slogging desperately through the rain, carried on by the hope of something good happening for them. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and scowls.

“Easy. We’ve actually seen them.”

“You don’t believe there’s any good to balance out all the evil out there?”

Dean falls quiet save for his breathing and Sam scrapes for another argument about the good they're doing. They may not be healers, but they’re out there saving lives. That must mean something, right? Dean shrugs and says, before Sam can find the right words, “Because I’ve seen what evil does to good people.”

“Or maybe God works in mysterious ways,” a voice hazards from beside them.

Dean’s irritation over the comment unfolds when he spots the source. She steps politely around Sam and into their path, pulling them both up short. She’s attractive. White-skinned and smiling with forced politeness while Dean leers. Sam rolls his eyes and lets Dean push away to have his moment. It’s the least he can do.

“Think you might have turned me around on the subject,” Dean says, trying for sincere and falling flat when she laughs at him.

“I’m sure.”

Sam’s surprised Dean even remembers to introduce him to Layla Rourke before her mother comes up along and leads her away into the tent.

“I take it we’re staying?” he asks once both women are out of earshot.

“Oh, yeah.”

The inside of the tent gives Dean the heebie-jeebies. Signs with bible quotes hang on the walls. ‘He sent forth His Word and healed them; He rescued them from the Pit’. Dean ignores the rest, focusing instead on the sick and dying people trying to find seats in the rows of metal chairs sunk into the grass in front of a wooden stage. it doesn't take long to spot the camera mounted to a support beam just over Sam’s shoulders. He points it out wordlessly.

There’s three people on the stage. Dean figures the older guy standing at the pulpit and talking down to a few people in the front row is Reverend Le Grange. Dressed in a white button down and black tie, he looks like the kinda guy most folks don’t notice on the street. Nice and friendly. The woman sitting in the chair behind him has to be his wife. She’s just as unassuming, but there’s an edge of falseness to her smiles that makes Dean’s jaw clench from looking at her.

Dean focuses on the second guy hovering out of the way behind the woman’s chair. Sam’s specialist. He’s maybe a few years older than Dean, and for every bit of the Le Granges' mild Midwestern appeal, this guy exudes an air of someone that doesn’t quite know why they’re even in the room. He looks uncomfortable in his own skin, arms hanging awkwardly at his side. The black suit, blue tie, and wavy dark hair makes him look like a funeral director, not a faith healer, and the distantly curious look he keeps giving people makes Dean nervous.

It’s the look a kid gives an ant hill before putting their foot through it.

He’s so distracted that he doesn’t even notice Sam’s dragged him up toward the front few rows and positioned him right in the aisle seat behind Layla.

“Hey, no, switch seats,” he hisses, putting in enough of an effort to make Sam get up that the woman sitting next to Sam has to shush them. Dean shoves himself back into his seat and shoves his hands into his pockets and keeps watching the room until Le Grange clears his throat into the microphone hooked up to the pulpit. There’s a soft murmur of voices and then silence.

“Each morning, my wife, Sue Ann,” he turns and nods genially to her, “and I read the news. Never seems good, does it?” People respond around them, one woman behind him muttering something vicious about terrorists. “Seems like there’s always someone committing some immoral, unspeakable act. But I say to you, God is watching.”

“Amen,” replies the congregation. Dean feels nauseous, sitting forward and breathing deeply, watching the friendly belief on the reverend’s face and his wife's polite, nodding agreement. The healer though… he’s focused fully on the reverend now. The searching expression is gone, replaced by something narrow-eyed and furious.

“God rewards the good, and He punishes the corrupt,” Le Grange continues, and the tent fills with exalted cheers and prayers. The self-satisfied smile on Le Grange’s face curls up a little more and he gestures back with one hand toward the healer. “And it is the Lord who sent Elijah to us. To work through him so that He may see into the hearts of the people and heal them.”

Dean sniffs and leans towards Sam to whisper, “More like their wallets.”

“You think so, young man?” Le Grange asks, looking straight at him. Dean’s chest pulls painfully with each rapid beat as he pulls his legs up under the chair and sits up, muttering an apology. The reverend waves it off with a smile and asks for his name.

This is not what he wants to happen. Especially with the way Layla and her mother both straighten up in their seats in front of him. He’s so used to being able to get away with making a snide remark without consequence that it’s damn fucking embarrassing to have the attention of the entire tent on him. Real easy for the reverend to draw attention to him when he’s only a couple weeks off from being dead. He probably looks about as intimidating as a teddy bear right now.

He coughs a few times, grimacing with the pain, but is beaten to answering the question by Elijah stepping forward and placing a hand gently on Le Grange’s arm. He doesn’t take the pulpit, just stands to the reverend’s side and waits for the murmuring to quiet down. He looks at Dean like he’s a revelation and says steadily, in a voice that rumbles like the Impala down to the marrow in Dean’s bones, “Dean Winchester.”

“Holy shit,” Sam breathes.

No way. The guy looked them up somehow. Maybe the plates on the car or—he leans slightly to check his back pocket for his wallet—something. Maybe not their wallets. The only ID Dean has in there was from their last case. He would have called him Leo Cohen if that’s how he did it. It's Missouri all over again. Read like a damn book without a single word exchanged between them.

“Yeah,” he admits grudgingly.

“You should…” Elijah starts and stops, clutching the edge of the lectern in one white knuckled hand as he turns back toward Sue Ann. Dean can’t see his face anymore, but the angle of his shoulders is high and tense, dropping only when Sue Ann dips her chin slightly. Elijah twists back toward him and it’s only then that Dean sees how blue his eyes are, wide and curious. “You should come up here.”

He shakes his head.

“I’m okay,” he lies.

“What are you doing?” Sam whispers frantically.

“You came to be healed,” Elijah says and there’s no question in his voice. He says it with the same surety he had when he said Dean’s name.

“Uh, well…” Not here in front of all these people and helping them fall a little bit more for the shit Le Grange’s preaching. He glances around, eyes landing on people struggling to breathe even with the help of oxygen masks, and then looks back up at the healer. “Maybe you should pick someone else, Eli.”

Elijah doesn’t react to the nickname. He leans forward as if he could cross the space between them without thinking about it.

“Dean.” There’s an army behind his voice. “Come here.”

It's like trying to argue with traffic. Nothing's gonna move Elijah except time and he's got way more of it than Dean. Hesitantly, Dean struggles up from the chair, flapping a hand at Sam when he tries to help, and eases out into the aisle, his heart fluttering at a hummingbird’s pace. Getting up the steps to the stage makes him wheeze and Le Grange grabs him by the arm. It’s impossible not to lean into the support while his chest burns from the exertion. Elijah steps in close enough to touch and Dean stares at him, taking in the unnaturally bright color of his eyes, the steady probing pressure of his gaze, and the line of his mouth bowed in concentration.

Dean drops his eyes to the open collar of his shirt and takes another breath, the air in the room suddenly too thick to breathe.

“Easy, son,” Le Grange says quietly in his ear.

“No disrespect,” he says, forcing a little well-practiced bravado into his voice and adding as much of the tone he uses to make people know he’s not taking their shit, “but I’m not exactly a believer.”

The left corner of Elijah’s mouth pulls up. It’s not a smile, but there’s a softness like he’s in on some joke that Dean doesn’t know about. He lifts his right hand up and cradles the side of Dean’s face.

“I’m not here to convert you,” Elijah says, so quietly that Dean almost doesn’t hear it. Le Grange raises the hand not keeping Dean on his feet and tells the congregation to pray with them. Dean closes his eyes and tries to avoid flinching, unsure what to expect, but not wanting to see it.

Light, so hot it makes Dean’s inside melt even as the cold following it freezes everything in its path, pours into his body and through his veins straight to his heart. The dying organ gives one last series of painful palpitations as Elijah’s touch sinks into Dean and then stops. The relief of it sends Dean crashing to the floor on one knee even while Le Grange tries to hold him. Or maybe that’s all part of the show. He opens his eyes and Elijah’s eyes are whited out with the same light, the space behind his shoulders and most of the room blacked out with shadows. He’s beautiful.

Dean’s chest thuds painlessly and the icy cold of his extremities floods with blood as his heart pumps, healthy and strong. His cheeks and neck flush warm under the cool touch of Elijah’s hand and heat settles between his legs. He’s never been more glad to be wearing loose-fitted clothes.

He blinks and the tent sharpens back into focus around him. Elijah is just a man, pulling his hand away and stepping back so Sam can haul Dean back to his feet.

“I’m fine,” he mumbles, staring at Elijah, who hasn’t stopped looking at Dean since he came up on stage—until Sue Ann gets up from her chair and pulls Elijah back, her mouth pinched. Dean swallows back the urge to reach out when Elijah breaks eye contact and sinks back into that same cold indifference from before. Nothing feels right about this.

Le Grange steps back up to the pulpit and picks up where he left off, diving into the immorality of homosexuality with the earnest fervor of a true believer. Dean’s skin crawls, but there’s a thrill of satisfaction in knowing he’s exactly what they’re preaching against one way or another, even if he doesn’t swing that way.

Elijah goes back to staring at Le Grange. Dean tunes out the sermon and focuses on studying him instead. He only looks at Dean once, when Le Grange takes a moment to actually preach something about love and trust. Dean doesn’t bother keeping the disbelieving sound he makes to himself this time.

When the service is over, Dean shoves himself out of his chair, fully intending to corner the healer, but Layla and her mother pull his attention away when they stand, and Mrs. Rourke gives him a indignant glare.

“We’ll come back this afternoon,” she assures her daughter, still drilling holes through Dean as they walk towards the entrance. “You need to rest now.”

When he looks back up at the stage, Elijah has vanished.

Despite Dean reassuring him multiple times, Sam insists they go to a walk-in clinic first thing Monday morning. A few tests and a lot of questions about what the hospital claimed to have found later, and he’s looking at a clean bill of health. Alarmingly clean. He’d even felt good enough to sleep more than his usual four hours, which had scared Sam more than the faded scars on Dean’s face.

“No sign there was ever anything wrong with your heart,” the doctor assures.

“And the rest?” Dean asks.

“Still don’t think you need that x-ray when your physical exam didn’t suggest any problem with your knees.” She peers at him from over the top edge of her clipboard. “Is this because of that guy in the paper?”

Dean doesn’t even bother to pretend he’s not curious. “Guy?”

The doctor nods, rambling a little when she explains. “Young guy around your age. Athletic. Paper reported it as a heart attack, but…” She hesitates, and Dean forces a guilty smile, ducking his chin down bashfully.

“You caught me, doc.”

She reaches out and pats him on the arm, trying for comfort and just coming across as awkward.

“I know the M.E. and believe me, it was a freak accident. There’ll be a correction in the paper tomorrow about it. Electrical fire. Burned his eyes out and everything.” She grimaces, and Dean nods in understanding, sucking in air between his teeth to feign disgust. “You’re fine.”


When she’s out of the room, Dean drops the pretense and turns the full force of his attention onto Sam, who’s trying to pretend he didn’t hear anything, flipping through a pamphlet with fake interest.

“That’s odd,” he accuses.

Sam drops the pamphlet into his lap.

“You heard her. It was a freak accident,” he argues, and Dean clenches his jaw to keep from snapping at him. “Do you really have to look this one in the mouth, Dean? Why can’t we take the win and move on?”

Because nothing good in their lives comes for free, and Dean’s been waiting for something to come up.

“Did you see anything when he healed me?” he demands.

“Uh,” Sam pauses, thinking. “Light from his hand. Maybe.”

“That’s it?”

Sam rears up defensively.

“Yeah, Dean, that’s it,” he insists. “I’ve been seeing a lot of awful stuff lately, okay. I’d have told you if I saw something, I swear.”

“Excuse me, psychic wonder, but from where I was kneeling, it looked like the guy had wings.”


“Yeah, and I’ve been a hunter long enough to trust a feeling. Something’s going on here.”

He stares Sam down until he slumps in defeat.

“Okay, fine, what do we do then?”

That’s easy. Dean kicks off from the clinic bed and shrugs back into his jacket before declaring, “I’m going to check out the healer. You look into the dead guy.”

It’s still raining when Dean pulls up to the Le Granges' farmhouse; a steady deluge of water that plasters his hair to his skull in the time it takes to walk from the car to the front steps. The crowd of vehicles in the yard has thinned since yesterday, but the RVs are still sitting where they were, and he spots at least one person sleeping in their car when he passes by. All these people have probably been here for weeks, maybe months even, hoping they’ll get lucky, and Dean strolled in and scored without even trying.

“You’re back.”

He looks up to the top of the steps and sees Elijah peering down at him, wearing the same clothes as yesterday. The only difference is that he's stripped off the jacket and the dark blue tie has managed to flip itself backwards. His hair, which had been at least sort of tamed Sunday, now looks like it went through a wind tunnel. Or someone put their hands in it. Unfortunately, even standing partially protected on the porch, the rain’s doing a good job of slowly ruining the effect.

“Yeah, I uh, I’m just trying to get a sense of what happened,” he explains hastily, taking the steps two at a time to get them back on more even footing. “And how you knew my name.”

Elijah grimaces and looks out across the lawn toward the tent. “When I look at people, I see everything they are. I can’t necessarily understand it all, but I know them.”

The ‘I know you’ is so intensely implied that Dean shivers when warm rainwater trickles down the back of his neck and under his jacket.

“You don’t—what, is this like a psychic thing?” He steps under the shelter of the house’s porch and out of the rain, into the space where Elijah hovers by the door. “Born with it or…?”

“I’m not like your brother, Dean.”

“No kidding.”

No one’s like Sam, least of all this guy with his prying eyes and frustratingly subtle expressions. His expression smooths when he looks back at Dean.

“I don’t remember anything before I came here, but Roy can tell you how I healed him and learned about my powers if you want,” he says. Dean nods, following Elijah to the screen door as he pulls it open with a rusty creak. Elijah touches the tips of his right pointer and middle finger to his mouth and presses them lightly to the door jamb before stepping inside. Dean blinks after him, startled, and then follows quickly after. It’s not… not something someone who lives in a house with a cross hanging in the entry hall would know how to do. Is it something left over from whatever he’s not remembering?

“Oh, you should have said we had a guest,” Sue Ann admonishes pleasantly when Dean’s led into the sitting room. It's quick, but Dean catches the way her face twists into an angry frown in Elijah's direction out of the corner of his eye. She smiles at Dean when he looks at her fully. She’s standing at a desk stirring a pitcher of tea while her husband sits in one of the chairs. Le Grange rises to offer Dean his hand, shaking it firmly and leading him toward the couch.

Elijah’s eyes widen and the square bracket of his shoulders curve forward with a hasty apology. Dean watches him retreat to the opposite side of the room near a wall of windows behind an empty armchair. It’s the same strange posture he had in the tent, arms hanging at his side, body stiff and alarmingly still.

“What brings you around to see us?” Le Grange asks, pulling his attention.

“Uh.” Dean tears his eyes away from Elijah and to the reverend. “Just… trying to get a sense of what happened.”

“Why, a miracle, Dean,” Sue Ann says cheerfully as she pours a glass and sets it down in front of Dean. She sits down in the chair in front of Elijah. She doesn’t offer anything to him. “Miracles have been coming to us ever since Elijah arrived.”

“Right, yeah, he mentioned that. Said I should ask you about that, Reverend—”

“Oh, just Roy’s fine, son,” Le Grange—Roy—insists gamely and adjusts to sit back a little in his chair. “Woke up one morning, stone blind. Doctors told me it was cancer. Gave me a month, maybe two if I was lucky, since we caught it so late. So, me and Sue Ann, we prayed for a miracle.”

“A miracle,” Dean repeats.

Roy nods. “Yep, and that’s exactly what happened. I went into a coma and the doctor was sure I wouldn’t wake up, but Sue Ann kept on praying, and one day she found Elijah out near the reservoir. Hit him with her car and everything. Well, she hustled him off the hospital and that’s where he found me.”

“That when he healed you?”

His gaze drifts back over to Elijah, feeling strange talking about him like he’s not part of the conversation. The healer’s turned slightly away from them during Dean’s distraction, staring out the window. He looks like he's two states away from all of them.

“God blessed us by sending Elijah here, and we’ve been able to share that blessing with others,” Roy finishes.

“And Roy's flock just swelled overnight,” Sue Ann breaks in excitedly, picking up her own glass and taking a deep sip. “This is only the beginning.”

Beginning of what? Dean doesn’t dare ask, but the question hangs there in his silence while he absorbs Roy’s story. What it might mean for his and Sam’s investigation. Was the reservoir important or just somewhere Sue Ann happened to be at the time? The plans for their little tent church don't have anything to do with Dean’s job. Let that pamphlet guy handle stopping the human monsters.

“Can I ask you a question, Elijah?” Quick as a blink, the healer focuses all his attention back on Dean. “Why me? Out of everyone in that tent, why save me?”

Elijah furrows his brows, obviously perplexed by the question, and Dean watches him, waiting until the creases in his forehead smooth out and his blue eyes widen with realization.

“You don’t think you deserve to be saved.”

“That's your answer?” Dean asks.

“Tzadik,” Elijah says, and the word curls out of his mouth with a guttural lilt. Dean licks his lips, and his next breath catches in the back of his throat. “You have important work to do. I'm certain of it.”

Who the fuck is this guy? Dean’s picked up a smattering of Hebrew and Yiddish over the years, but the word Elijah just called him isn’t part of his limited vocabulary. There’s a weight behind it. Like it means something. Like he means something to this complete stranger who might be something not human if Sam digs up anything to connect the dots being placed down before them.

Sue Ann clears her throat delicately. Dean jerks, feeling suddenly like he's been caught doing something he shouldn't and drops his eyes hastily from the healer to look at her. She sets down her glass onto the coaster in front of her on the coffee table.

“We have a lot of planning to do for our next service,” she says. Her eyes are cold when she lifts them back up to meet Dean's, and he knows he's being dismissed. He shoves himself up onto his feet and makes his own excuses to leave. Sue Ann though, she looks back at Elijah, her expression hard. Roy doesn't seem to have noticed the change in his wife's demeanor and tells him not to be a stranger.

Elijah follows him through the hallway toward the front door and doesn't stop until Dean's back out on the porch. It feels a little like being chased out.

“You know, a guy could get ideas,” he quips, hoping it’ll make the guy turn tail and run. Dean reaches the top of the steps and comes to a stop, turning to look at him. Elijah looks completely unfazed. His expression is blank, like he's been moving on automatic, and it's only the slight narrowing of his eyes that shows he even heard what Dean said. “What do you want?”

“I…” Elijah glances back into the house from where he’s hovering in the doorway and swallows, eyebrows knitting together. “Dig. Please.”

Damn it. He’d expected a threat. Maybe an ‘I’ll put the fear of God in you if you don’t respect me’, that kinda crap. Or a stern warning that he’d overstayed his welcome and should get out of town. The kind of thing that lets Dean know he’s on the right track pressing an issue. But this… he’s being asked for help. By the guy they’re fucking investigating.

He closes the distance between them in a few steps, his heart rate spiking and making his chest hurt hard enough that he questions if Elijah healed him right. Elijah tips his head up to keep their gazes locked.

“For what, Eli?”

Elijah shakes his head fiercely, jaw set. He reaches out and grips Dean's left shoulder hard enough he can feel the pressure of his fingertips through the heavy leather of his coat. “I can’t,” he grinds out. “I’m sorry. Keep digging.”

“Hey, hey, Eli, easy,” Dean reassures, raising his hand.


He jumps, jerking back guiltily and twisting to look down the steps towards Layla as she climbs up to them.

“Hey,” he squeezes out and slips an easy smile on his face, aiming for lecherousness and landing closer to desperate. She shoots him a politely amused smile and then ignores him when Elijah steps forward and reaches out for her hands, wrapping them gently into his.

“Yes, I’m here again,” she says, the exasperation and exhaustion written into the lines on her face. She sags tiredly.

“I knew you’d come.”

“Of course you did.”

“I would heal you if I could,” Elijah promises quietly.

“It’s okay, you know I’m—”

Her mother barrels up the steps toward Elijah, crowding close to Layla’s side in the process, desperation trembling through her body. “This is the sixth time. Elijah, please.”

“Have faith, Mrs. Rourke,” Sue Ann calls from the door, and all of them look up toward her as she pushes it open. “Elijah, come inside.”

Elijah releases Layla’s hand and extricates himself from Mrs. Rourke’s presence without a word. He spares Dean one more incalculable look when he walks past him. He steps around Sue Ann and into the house and she closes the door behind her, leaving them outside in the rain.

“Why are you still here?” Mrs. Rourke spits out when Dean reaches into his pocket for his keys. He freezes. “You got what you wanted, didn’t you? We’ve been to every single service and again and again Elijah chooses people like you over Layla.”

Like him. She doesn’t even know him. It’s aggravating on every level even while Dean’s agreeing with her. Especially because he is.

“Mom—” Layla pleads.

“No!” Mrs. Rourke glares hatefully at him. “What have you done to deserve to live more than my daughter?”

Dean gawks at her, incapable of answering. She turns away from him in disgust and leads Layla back towards their car. He waits until they’ve driven away, and the rain starts to soak through the outer layer of his coat and to the lining, before walking to his car.

His laptop battery is running low, but Sam doesn’t want to move and grab the cord from where it’s twisted on the floor behind him. He’s been scrounging through websites for information since he got back from the gym where Marshall Hall died. The city’s better about putting their records online than a lot of places they’ve been to, so pulling up obituaries and newspaper articles from the last year hadn’t taken long. It’s still a surprise that he beat Dean back to the hotel though, but here he is, staring at a stack of evidence that says his brother’s right.

“I’m sorry,” he says carefully when Dean unlocks the door and strips off his rain-soaked jacket, throwing it over the back of the chair on the other side of the table from where Sam’s sitting. Dean lifts his eyebrows at him. “Elijah’s healed six people in the last year. Two of them in the last month, including you.”

Dean retreats into the bathroom and pulls a towel down to scrub through his hair. “So, they’re happening closer together?”

“Yeah… and so are the deaths. Six of them. Usually the next day. All of them blamed on electrical fires or lightning strikes. Guess what else they have in common.”

“Eyes burned out?”

Sam makes a noise of confirmation and there’s a muffled curse as Dean presses the towel over his face and then tosses it into the sink before striding back out.

“Well, there goes my theory,” Dean grouses, throwing up his hands. “Thought maybe we had a reaper on our hands, but nothing adds up. The times of death should have been the same.”

“Wait, like the Grim Reaper? Angel of death, black robe, collect your soul, kind of reaper?”

“More like Joe Black,” Dean mutters and then scowls when Sam stares blankly at him, waiting for more information.

“The… baseball player?”

“Dude. Brad Pitt.” Sam watches him wave a hand and gesture at his own body like he’s trying to make him see something that's clearly only in Dean's imagination. “Black suit, deva— uh, doesn’t know how to act like a person?”

Sam barely bothered looking at the guy except for a grateful mumbled thanks after helping pick Dean up off the stage. Had he been wearing a black suit? He decides to ignore Dean and pulls his laptop back over, opening up a new tab and leaving the old research up just in case.

“Well, we don’t know for sure he’s killing people, but let’s go with that theory for a second.” He debates over search terms before he starts typing. There’s got to be some monsters that have wings and make a habit of setting people on fire. The internet takes its sweet time loading, but the first few results look promising when Sam starts clicking through them. “Hey, what about a phoenix? They're associated with healing, right?”

"Pretty sure he's not a bird.”

“You said he had wings.”

“Not flaming ones.”

“Yeah, okay, okay, maybe…” He chews his lip, thinking while Dean kicks off the rest of his wet clothes and changes. He opens another webpage and starts reading, sitting up excitedly once he’s gotten through a few paragraphs. “Hold on, what if… what if we’re both half-right?”

“What do you mean, half right?” He can feel Dean staring at him from across the room and ignores him, pulling up another search and looking for more information.

“Angels,” he clarifies. “Angels perform miracles all the time in scripture. It’s kinda what they’re known for.”

“Yeah, right. Besides, I thought we were going with Elijah being behind the murders. Aren’t angels all Michael Landon, It’s a Wonderful Life, harps on a cloud? This ain’t exactly angelic behavior here, Sam.”

“Depends on your perspective, I guess. According to some texts, angels acted on God’s orders to bring the plagues to Egypt. The whole smiting the first-born thing.”

“I know what Passover is, but it still doesn’t make any damn sense,” Dean insists, and Sam looks up from the screen at him, perplexed. It makes more sense than reapers.

“Why not? It fits, Dean. Wings, healing powers. The only thing that doesn’t make sense is why he’d even be here with the Le Granges.”

“Angels don’t exist.”

Sam groans in frustration. “There’s ten times more lore on angels than any other creatures we’ve actually hunted before,” he argues as Dean paces the room, clearly looking for something to do. Sam can think of at least a couple things, but Dean lingers over the weapons they brought inside, and then circles back around into the kitchenette before turning on him with an unimpressed look.

“There’s a ton of lore on fairies too, you gonna tell me those exist next?”

Well, geez, Dean, if you’re gonna make it easy for him…

“Pretty sure fairies exist, Dean. You’d know.”

Dean rears back with an offended huff and stalks towards the beds to start digging through the duffel bag. Sam smirks at his retreating back. It takes Dean a few minutes to say something while Sam debates reopening his laptop and trying to find evidence Dean can’t deny.

“If angels existed, Dad would have told us.”

Sam sighs. There it is: the Dad part of the equation to Dean’s bullshit.

“It's probably the best guess we have besides the really obvious one. That this is all a coincidence. Freak accidents, just like the doctor said. Maybe Elijah’s the real deal and completely harmless.”

“He’s not harmless,” Dean says, straightening up with a pair of socks. He sits down on the end of the bed and starts pulling them on. “He’s… look, one or two is a freak accident, Sam. Not six.”

“Why are you so dead set on believing there’s something wrong here?”

“Because Elijah all but told me there was.”

Sam sits up a little with interest. Dean did get something out of his visit.

“So, the guy you think might be killing people told you… what? What’d he tell you?”

“He…” Dean frowns at the floor. “He said please. Acted… acted like he was scared. And he called me something. Said I had a job to do. Maybe this job. So, we either let this go, which I can’t do, or we walk into it. We’ll put him down if we can connect him with the murders.”

“Dean. If what you’re saying is right, then… maybe he needs help.”

“Or it’s a trap.” There’s steel in Dean’s voice. A mimicry of John Winchester, down to the way Dean’s posture and expression changes. It makes Sam want to punch him. “A monster’s a monster, Sam.”

“What do you want to do?” Sam knows he’s going to follow Dean no matter how flimsy his reasons. There’s no point dragging it out, and the closer he stays to this, the better chance he has of convincing Dean that Elijah is the farthest thing that could possibly exist from the monsters they hunt, save God.

The Impala jostles on the gravel road leading up to the Le Grange house, Dean behind the wheel trying to keep it from sinking into a pothole while Sam watches out the window for anyone wandering around the property who might see them. Apparently, the Le Granges started holding services in the evenings a few times a week as well, which gives them a perfect window for breaking into the house to look for anything that might give them a clearer picture of what’s happening.

“Has it stopped raining at all since we got here?” Sam asks, breaking the silence.

Dean shakes his head. Sam debates pulling his phone out and checking if there’s a good enough signal to check the weather reports, but Dean pulls to a stop between the fence and an RV. He puts the car in park and pockets the keys, ducking out into the rain and leaving Sam to scramble out of the passenger side to follow him.

The flap of the tent isn’t quite closed, light spilling out across the wet mud and shining on a tire track filled with water.

“You check the house,” Dean instructs, slamming the door behind him and pulling up the collar of his canvas coat. “Spell books, altars, anything that might look important. I’ll keep an eye on Eli.”

Sam doesn’t remark on the nickname—it probably doesn't mean anything anyway—but he tucks the information away for later, and heads towards the house. The protester is still outside, holding a stack of pamphlets and looking sullen. Sam walks past him and up the steps as quickly as possible and starts checking windows. One of them is bound to be unlocked, and sure enough, the fourth window he tries opens with a smooth slide.

He climbs through and into the sitting room. There’s not much of a chance he’ll find anything in here, but he gives the room a quick look over, picking up a few interesting looking relics that turn out to be decorative and setting them carefully back into place. Satisfied there’s nothing here, he moves into the hall and checks rooms—kitchen, dining room—until he finds a room that clearly doubles as a study and library.

Dusty shelves filled with books, a filing cabinet in one corner, and a desk with a wicker back chair behind it. Bingo. Sam eases his way into the room and shuts the door behind him. There’s a book on the desk that turns out to be some old translation of the Bible and a notebook filled with cramped handwriting. He skims the page and decides Roy must be working on a new sermon. Nothing more sinister than the usual stuff guys like him preach.

He looks at the shelves. There’s an entire section of books that Sam knows are all related to Christian eschatology just from scanning the spines. None of them have been touched in years, judging by the thick dust layered along the front edge—except where a thick volume called ‘A History of Christianity’ is shelved. He pulls it down and flips it open to page after page of Latin. It’s an interesting find for sure, but there’s nothing supernatural about it.

Tucked away in the space where it was, however, is another, smaller book with no discernible title. Sam reaches for it and tucks the encyclopedia back into place. The leather bound text is a lot older than everything else in here. In fact, it might be older than most of the reference books he and Dean use. There are whole pages in languages Sam recognizes but doesn’t know, including a page with a drawing of a winged figure kneeling at someone’s feet.

Winged figure. Sam lets out a breathless laugh. Angel. It’s an angel. He has to be right. Flipping a few pages further reveals a collection of folded newspaper clippings. He pulls them out and pockets the book. They’re articles about the victims, from the openly gay teacher, Marshall Hall, who died the same day Dean was healed, to a woman, Patricia Wine, trying to open an abortion clinic in the area before her untimely death by lightning strike a few weeks before they got here. The most recent one is an interview with a guy named David Wright about Le Grange Ministries and his firm belief that they’re swindlers trying to take advantage of the good people of Ford City.


He pulls out his phone and calls Dean.

“What have you got?” Dean asks quietly.

“Soft ground.” He shoves the articles into the front pocket of his jeans and starts back through the house toward the window he came in through. “Pretty sure Roy’s picking victims he thinks are immoral and setting Elijah on them.”

“Great. His own personal attack dog.”

“I think I know who’s next. Remember the protestor?”

Dean’s silent on the other end and then, “The guy in the parking lot?”

“Yeah,” Sam confirms. “I’m gonna find him. You stick with Elijah.”

He hangs up and bolts across the lawn. The rain starts coming down harder, making his clothes heavier and his skin clammy. There are cars lined up and blocking his view, and Sam hits his leg against the bumper of an Oldsmobile as he passes a little too closely by it in order to keep on his current trajectory towards where he last saw the protestor.

Wright’s standing between a silver Chevy truck and a red sedan near the fence by the tent, the collar of his coat pulled up to keep the rain away from his neck. Sam can hear Roy through the tent fabric and the congregation's reply to the muffled sermon swells. Static crawls up his spine and down his arms. The sky rips open with a peal of thunder.

The ground vibrates under his feet, and it rolls through like the earth might tear open under their feet. Wright turns towards the sedan and starts digging into his pocket. A bolt of lightning flashes, making Sam jerk to a stop and close his eyes shut against it.

He prays.

A blast of humid rain is his answer. He forces his eyes back open and starts running. There’s a furious crack of sound, and Elijah snaps into view in the empty air just as Sam reaches Wright’s side. There’s nothing of the plain unassuming man Sam remembers from the day before. Elijah is a pillar of light and Heavenly wrath pouring itself down on to this muddy patch of land in Nebraska.

He throws himself forward and grabs the angel by the arm, thinking only that he has to stop him from killing Wright and give Dean enough time to figure out how to stop Roy. His phone rings in his pocket, barely audible over the wind and rain gusting around them.

It might be easier if he tried stopping the rain.

“Wait,” he grunts.

Elijah glances at him, face blank, and something flickers and tightens in his expression. The muscle under Sam's hand winds tight, and Sam pulls harder, shoulder straining with the force. For one fraction of an instant, he thinks wildly that he’s succeeded, and whatever’s compelling Elijah forward has lost. The next moment, he crashes to the ground and Wright hits the gravel a few feet away with a scream, Elijah on top of him.

The last thing Sam sees is the pitch-dark imprint of wings burning into his pupils as they stretch through the air above.

Dean screams his name and Sam jerks back into consciousness, helpless not to listen. He blinks his eyes open, the world swimming into focus as he takes inventory of himself. Clothes soaked through and cold with water as he lies on his back in the mud. Dean's leaning over him, patting his cheek frantically. He turns his head away from it with a groan and agony lances through him at the movement.

“Don’t move, Sammy, I got you,” Dean assures, and Sam's shirt pull against his skin when Dean curls his hand into it. He closes his eyes and Dean says something harsh and demanding. The words blur together into a cacophony of sound, and he realizes there are other people around them. Did Wright's scream bring them outside?

“—bulance on its way,” Layla says from somewhere in the haze.

There's a blissful silence, and the pain in Sam's skull beats a little softer for a moment before the noise picks back up. He opens his eyes, and Elijah is pushing his way into Sam’s field of vision. If moving didn’t feel so much like being flayed, Sam would try to get out of his range.

Elijah looks like a man. The kind who works a nine-to-five, Monday through Friday job, and goes home to his house in the suburbs to sit down to dinner with his wife and kids. It’s the sort of life Sam daydreams about having. Reconciling the man currently dropping down into the mud at his side with the angel whose wings are still showing up as spots in his vision every time he blinks is impossible.

“I’m sorry,” Elijah says forcefully as he wavers under the angry scowl Dean directs at him from across Sam’s body.

“Fix it,” Dean orders.

“I don’t—” Sam closes his eyes, so he won’t have to see the regretful expression cross Elijah’s face. “I don’t know if… God will let me.”

The deliberate way he says the words makes Dean’s trembling grip on Sam's shirt go still and then unwind completely. Sam bites back a whimper, and his eyes fly open in alarm as Dean shoves himself up onto his feet, pulling the comforting heat of his body away, and stalks out of sight.

Elijah remains beside him, blue eyes fixed in the direction Dean went. There’s a coiled energy under the skin containing him, and Sam doesn't look away from him even as voices, one of them Dean’s, start rising. He can’t make out what’s being said, but Sue Ann makes a shrill shout for help, and Elijah strikes. A warm palm presses to his forehead.

The last of his doubts that Elijah could be anything else fade with the flow of pure heat and light that dips into his body. It’s what he always imagined being dumped into a hot spring would feel like, though maybe all the water around him is coloring his perception. He sighs in relief when the pain fades and Elijah pulls his hand away. Elijah nods and gets up, ignoring the mud caked into the front of his dress pants, and walks away toward the Le Grange house.

Sam pushes up into a sitting position. There are people hovering nearby, murmuring prayers, and Wright’s body is—Sam makes himself look—the same as the others. Eyes burned out and gaping up into the rain-filled sky. He stands up hesitantly, testing his limbs for pain and finding none, and then starts looking for Dean.

He’s been apprehended near the tent by the local police. Sam vaguely remembers seeing them Sunday. No one’s handcuffed Dean, but the older cop has his left wrist bent at an awkward angle when he shoves Dean forward. Sue Ann is gathering herself together a few yards away, clutching a silver circle that’s hanging around her neck. She tucks it under her sweater and walks over to where Dean’s being held.

“A man has died here today,” Sue Ann says when Sam gets close enough to hear her. “Elijah heals you, and this is how you return our favor?”

She’s almost convincing. Disappointed-sounding enough that plenty of people will believe she regrets the corpse lying dead in her yard.

“Ma’am?” the younger cop asks.

“You can let him go. I’m not gonna press charges.” She looks briefly over when Sam strips off his jacket to wipe the mud off it, and her eyes widen when she takes in the state of him. Soaking wet and completely uninjured. Something hardens behind her eyes when she looks back at Dean. “The Lord will deal with him as He sees fit.”

The ambulance pulls into the driveway slowly, and one of the cops tries his best to look intimidating as he threatens Dean. “We catch you 'round here again and we’ll put the fear of God in you. Understand?”

“Ain’t afraid of God here,” Dean snipes, ripping his arm out of the older cop's hands and crossing over to where Sam’s waiting for him. Sam's rattling out of his skin and desperate to talk.

Dean doesn’t offer a single complaint about Sam getting mud all over the vinyl and floorboards when they get into the car. Sam shoves his coat down by his feet and tries to ignore the mud in his hair as he waits until they’re a few miles down the road.

“So, what did you find?” Dean asks finally, and Sam bursts, twisting towards him in the passenger seat and pulling out Sue Ann’s book.

“This was hidden in their library. Haven’t had a chance to look through it much yet, but I’m pretty sure it was written by some priest in the late 1500s. There’s a couple references in the first few pages to—”

“Save the history lesson, Sam,” Dean cuts in.

Sam stop his explanation short and nods, flipping through the pages. “There's passages about King Solomon and a seal, but the parts I think we want are in Enochian and Aramaic. I’d need at least a couple reference books to take a shot at translating any of it.”


“It’s an angelic language,” Sam answers excitedly. “As in angels speak it.”

Dean looks quickly at him. “Anything in there about killing one?”

“Killing? We can’t kill him!” He snaps the book shut with a dull thunk of leather against parchment.

“That was before he almost killed you.”

“You’re a real jerk sometimes.” Sam scrubs at his mouth with the clean side of his hand and scowls, sitting back against the bench. “He healed me. Or were you too busy pushing Sue Ann around to notice that I’m not in an ambulance thanks to him?”

“I was distracting her so he could!” Dean yells. Sam keeps looking at him. “He couldn’t do anything until that bitch—fine, damn it, maybe you’re right. I wish you’d never brought me here. Okay, so Sue Ann’s controlling him. How do we break it or whatever?”

Sam exhales in a rush, surprised.

“I need help translating this,” he says, waving the book.

“You said six people died in the last year, right? But it’s been picking up.” Dean waits for Sam to hum in affirmation before going on. “Then let's hope Sue Ann’s not gonna risk letting Elijah off his leash on someone else too soon after that light show in the yard, so we—no, you take the car. Go to Lincoln and poke around the university. I’ll stay here.”

Sam squints suspiciously at him. They’ve been on too many hunts where he’s found a way to wiggle out of research so he can mess around.

“And do what exactly?”

“Ask around,” Dean says defensively. “Someone’s gotta know something useful. Maybe that Layla chick?”

Yeah, right. It’s so painfully normal that Sam can’t muster up the energy to be pissed off. Dean’s been acting off since the heart attack and only gotten more worked up since all this stuff with Elijah started. Especially after he went to the house and talked to him. Sam flips through the book, looking at various pages and trying to decide which ones to prioritize when he gets to Lincoln. Dean reaches out to tap one of the sigils drawn on the side of the page he’s currently on.

“You know, Sue Ann’s necklace had something like this etched on it,” he says. Sam studies the upside-down triangle drawn inside a double circle and the letters around it, unable to identify what any of it means.

“Maybe we could get it from her?” he suggests.

“Yeah, maybe. Find out what it means first. I don’t want to accidentally transfer fucking ownership.”

If this were a normal hunt, Dean absolutely would be sniffing up Layla’s skirt while Sam was off doing research in the capital, but nothing about this damn place has been normal. From the rain that never seems to let up, no matter how lightly it sprinkles, to the fact that the only answer they have is angels. He’s gonna be damn glad to see this place in the rear view mirror.

For now, though, he’s stuck here, walking the three miles from the hotel to the little ten block area that makes up what this place probably calls a downtown. Layla’s standing under an umbrella outside the pharmacy on Main Street, exactly where she said she’d be. He walks a little faster and ducks down under the wide curve of plastic when she tips it up to accommodate him.

“I’m surprised you’re still in town,” she says after they exchange a couple pleasantries. “What were you thinking, attacking Sue Ann like that?”

Dean shrugs regretfully. “I wish I could explain. I just wanted to ask you a couple questions. About Elijah. You’re probably the only person in town who’ll even talk to me right now.”

She looks up at him suspiciously. “What about him?”

He relaxes, grateful he doesn’t need to convince her to talk to him. “Since he got here, has anything…” he shifts back on his heels and tries to look like he’s not desperate for whatever information she'll give him. “Strange happened? Beside the healings.”

And the deaths.

Layla looks away and through the window of the pharmacy, wearing an expression Dean’s seen on a hundred people with something to tell and the fear that they won’t be believed. He eases into an approachable slouch, unclenching the muscles of his jaw and neck and loosening his shoulders. Nonjudgmental and trustworthy.

“It’s rained almost every day since he got here,” she admits, glancing at him to see how he’ll react. Dean nods encouragingly. “No one wants to say anything, but I’m not the only person who’s noticed and well, I think we’re all a little afraid to find out what it means.”

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” Dean supplies to Layla’s worried amusement.

“Something like that. You’re not supposed to question God,” she insists. Dean doesn’t argue, not wanting to alienate her any more than he already has at this point, but he knows down to the marrow in his bones that if there’s a God then questioning the bastard’s half the point. “Elijah’s wanted to heal me for months, but God hasn’t—it’s not the right time. My mother talks so much about how I deserve to be healed, but I’m starting to think it’s only putting off the inevitable.”

“Look, Layla, if anyone deserves it, it’s you,” Dean says, believing it as much as he does anything.

She smiles beatifically at him and then takes a small step away. Dean dips back out from under her umbrella and into the rain and she drops it back down to her height.

“That’s kind of you, but I think I’m okay without miracles now. Elijah’s done what he can to help us here, and he’s promised to be with me at the end.” Dean tries not to show how surprised he is by that. “Good luck, Dean. With whatever it is you’re still here for.”

Dean swallows and nods. “You too.”

A few hours later, he's sitting in a diner when he spots Elijah walking into the aptly-named Christian Books across the street. He’s out of his seat—tossing a few bills in the direction of his partially eaten meal—before he even decides he’s going to follow him. It’s maybe not the smartest idea, throwing himself in the path of Sue Ann’s leashed Great White, but Dean’s already halfway across the street and he’s still betting on her not pulling anything for at least a few days.


Too late to chicken out now. He pushes open the door and blinks uncomfortably at the shelf of VeggieTales DVDs that greets him. Yeah, okay, he should have expected that one. He kicks water off his boots and into the floor mat, scanning the store for his quarry. There’s a middle-aged woman reading a book while leaning over the counter by the register, ignoring the two customers that just walked into the building. Only, Dean can’t seem to find the other one from where he’s standing.

He walks the perimeter of the store, checking aisles as he passes them. Partway down the back wall, the hairs on his arms and neck stand up. He whips around, reaching for the gun holstered at the small of his back, and finds Elijah observing him from a few paces away. He looks just as windswept and wild as before, eyes over bright in the fluorescent lights as they flicker above them. Dean’s heart lurches uncomfortably against his ribs and he smothers his body’s reaction when Elijah’s eyes drift downward, sweeping over his chest and body.

He pulls his hand away from his gun and back into view. “My eyes are up here,” he cracks.

Elijah’s eyes flick back up to his face. “You’re following me,” he states, simple as you please, like Dean didn’t just nearly shoot him in a bookstore. Dean doesn’t have an explanation, and he sure doesn’t feel like giving one either, so he shrugs, daring Elijah to complain about it by lifting his chin and staring him down. Instead of backing up or looking away, Elijah just keeps puzzling over Dean, a problem he can’t solve. “I think this is where I should say something about getting ideas, yes?”

Dean gapes at him. Elijah raises his eyebrows and waits patiently for a reaction, looking pleased and just a little smug at being able to throw Dean’s earlier words back at him. It occurs to him that Elijah does know what’s being implied and by whom, which makes it nearly impossible to resist coming back with, “Only if you’ve got the budget for them.”

Which is decidedly not the sort of thing he’d normally say to a guy in a place like this. Especially not to maybe-angels while standing next to a shelf of life advice for bible thumpers. He grabs a book and waves it awkwardly through the air between them.

“Doing a little shopping?”

Maybe there is a God because Elijah only looks amused by the faux pas, lowering his head and letting out a quiet exhale of almost-laughter. When he looks back up, his eyes are glittering, and he reaches out and takes the book from Dean’s hand, turning it over to read the back. Dean smiles nervously at him, watching the way his eyes squint while he’s focusing. With the heavy weight of Elijah’s stare off him, it’s too easy to forget what he might be talking to.

“My people skills are very 'rusty'.” He makes actual air quotes with his free hand when he says the word 'rusty'. Really? Where did he learn to be human? Chris Farley? “I was told that I need to make an effort to interact without Sue Ann around to smooth over my mistakes, and there’s very few places here that are… appropriate.”

Dean snorts. “That your opinion or Sue Ann’s?”

Elijah frowns and shelves the book. “I appreciate your interest in my well-being. It’s undeserved after what happened yesterday.”

The reminder sobers Dean a little, thinking of Sam’s unconscious body lying in the mud. “Yeah, well, you did what you could,” he forces out, and then checks that the cashier isn’t paying attention before shuffling a few inches closer to Elijah. He lowers his voice pointedly. “Look, Eli, me and Sam are hanging around a few more days. Looking into a job.”

Elijah reaches out toward him and Dean freezes, caught between rocking forward to meet him and stumbling back out of his space. The heat of his palm is a brand when it wraps around the lower curve of his shoulder, and Elijah moves forward while reeling him half a stumbling step closer.

His voice is whiskey rough when he murmurs into Dean’s ear, “I’m not attending the service tomorrow evening.”

Dean knows rationally what Elijah means. He’s too good of a hunter not to, which means Sue Ann’s getting reckless—but his mind zeroes in on every point of contact between their bodies simultaneously. Sweat breaks out across his hairline, prickling the skin under his arms and down his back. There’s a few inches between their stomachs and Dean’s hyper-aware of how easily he could grab the corner of Elijah’s open suit jacket and close the distance. Just a little more and he could slip his hand right under the damp wool fabric, and to the white dress shirt underneath.

Fuck. Fuck, no.

“Whoa, hey,” he stammers and steps back. Elijah’s hand drops away with a reluctant slide down his arm that ends with fingers brushing the back of Dean’s wrist. He takes another step back and directly into the edge of a bookshelf, jarring his elbow and shoulder hard enough to rattle the display. “Getting ideas. I’m not…”

“Your arm,” Elijah says, reaching for him again, and Dean throws up a hand palm-out and halts him in his tracks. Nope, he absolutely cannot do this. Not like this, not ever, and definitely not with whatever the hell Elijah might be. There are two very firm strikes against the guy, and Dean isn’t even counting the part where he has memory loss and might be being forced to kill people.

“No. It’s cool, I’m fine, just a—it’s not you, it’s me,” he assures hastily, falling back on tried-and-true rejections that have worked in the past. “Wrong, uh, species? I don’t do…” he gestures between them with a nervous laugh. “Only gay for p—holy shit, forget I said that, okay?”

Elijah arches one thick eyebrow at him and cants his head to the side. Dean takes another step away from him. Something behind Elijah’s eyes clears, like he’s slotted some piece about Dean into place.

“I’m not passing judgement on you.” Elijah’s clearly trying for reassuring, and it might have worked if he hadn’t followed up his first sentence with, “Your father didn’t abandon you because he found out about the prostitution, Dean. He believes he’s protec—”

“Shut your fucking mouth,” Dean snarls.

He knows, without a doubt, that the cashier must be looking at them now, but he doesn’t dare check. What he does do is draw his shoulders back and pull himself up to his full height, using all two of the extra inches he has on Elijah—and the added half inch from his boots—to stare him down until he finally, finally catches on that he’s stepped in it. Elijah doesn’t catch on though. He just keeps staring intensely at him, like he doesn’t understand why Dean’s angry.

Dean knows better than this, too. From the moment Elijah laid eyes on him in that tent, he’s had that stripped-down-bare feeling of being studied crawling over his skin. He’d let himself get drawn in by a pair of pretty blue eyes and a plea for help, overriding everything he’s been taught. If Elijah had been a werewolf, Dean would have shot him without daring to second guess.

He has the sense to lower his voice before continuing. “You don’t know shit about me or my dad. I might be a whore, but at least I ain’t a murderer.

Elijah flinches back at his tone. “Aren’t you?” He starts, and the social incompetence sloughs off. He lifts his chin and meets Dean’s glare straight on. There’s something calculating and seething behind the steady calm of his eyes. “Knowing good and evil and having the freedom to choose between them are vastly different things. You may be tzadik, but that doesn’t absolve you of your actions.”

Dean grinds his molars together. “Don’t fucking preach to me, you dick. Do you even care about those people you killed?”

“I can’t,” Elijah answers flatly. “You have to understand. If I do, it’ll—” He clenches his jaw and jerks his head away from Dean.

“It’ll what? Make you realize you’re just as much of a monster as I am?” Dean demands. It’s not what he means to say, but when is half the shit that comes out of his mouth what he really means?

“You aren’t a monster, Dean. You’re human.”

“Yeah? Well, what are you then?”

Elijah stalls, completely thrown by the question and all that it implies. For one wild second, Dean feels guilty, and then he’s just done. With this conversation and this job. He should have walked away as soon as Elijah opened his mouth and dared to say anything about John Winchester.

“Enjoy your fucking bible or whatever weird crap you’re buying. I gotta… I gotta go.”

“I don’t buy anything,” Elijah corrects irritably. It’s an odd enough statement that Dean slows down his pissed-off retreat long enough to wait for Elijah to say more. “The painting.”

He points behind Dean.

Mounted to the wall in the space between two shelves is a framed painting of a person wreathed in flames and an angel reaching down to grip them by the arm. Massive white wings curve through the air behind the angel, and the human’s palms are pressed together, praying for salvation. Demons sit hidden amongst the flames in the dark spaces of the canvas. Dean shudders.

“Why?” he asks. The anger’s still there, but he tamps it down and focuses on Elijah offering a piece of the bigger picture. He won’t leave the damn job undone.

“It’s familiar. In a way that most things since coming here haven’t been,” Elijah answers, looking at Dean again, and that scraped out feeling slinks back full force.

There’s no lightning strike or earth-shattering realization. It just slots into place: angels aren’t unicorn levels of bullshit. They’re real, and one of them is standing a few feet away from him, washed-out and pale as he looks at this painting like it’s the answer to a question he doesn’t even know how to ask.

Dean thinks about telling him, gets so far as to open his mouth and feel the shape of the sentence, but it sticks there. He swallows it down with a click.

“Talking to people is difficult," Elijah adds sullenly. There’s no apology in him, so Dean’s not even sure why he’s still standing here.

“Sure is.”

Turning away is easier this time, though Dean has to force himself to walk casually. He is not fleeing the conversation. The cashier doesn’t acknowledge him when he walks past her and out the door.

“You were almost right about the time frame, Mr. Winchester. 1597, shortly after Pope Clement the Eighth expelled the Jewish people from most of the papal states. The texts this priest mentions stealing were taken from a small community just north of Rome and, well,” Professor Callaghan pauses, sucking on her teeth before continuing, “it’s hard to know exactly what he took with only this book for reference, but he’s clearly mixing Christian magic with whatever he’s picking out of these Jewish texts. It’s a little icky.”

Professor Rebecca Callaghan of Lincoln University had been extremely happy to help Sam out when he’d approached her after her class on Christian history had ended. She’s been poring over the book for an hour in silence while Sam stews from a chair in her office.

“Anything about the symbol I showed you?”

She hums and nods, flipping through the pages and marveling over how well preserved they were. Sam doesn't dare speculate on the reason for that.

“It’s one of the pentacles of Solomon. Well, supposedly.” She rolls her eyes. “King Solomon had a signet ring with a six-pointed star on it, but stories do as they do, and things take a turn for the magical. Multiple pentacles written into a text called the Key of Solomon. All with different uses. Typical Renaissance Era magic, if you ask me, which you did.”

“Magical?” Sam prompts curiously. It’s always so easy to get folks like the professor to talk at length about a subject.

“Oh yeah, it was believed he used the seal to command demons and spirits, so the pentacles were an expansion on the idea. This one in particular? It’s meant to do exactly what the seal did. Funny thing is the rest of the text here. It’s written in Aramaic and talks about binding something specific.”

Bingo. Sam widens his eyes and gets up from his seat to look down at the page she’s reading through.

“Let’s see,” she murmurs, shifting slightly so Sam can read over her shoulder more easily. “If I’m translating this correctly, he was trying to bind a demon… no, not a demon. Djinn? There’s some crossover. I think he means an angel. Let’s see, dead, dying? Probably death. Angel of death. Or a reaper. Stories overlap on that if you look in the right places, so it’s an easy mix up. Explains why he wrote this part in Aramaic though. Angels can’t understand Aramaic.”

“Wouldn’t angels be able to understand every language?”

Professor Callaghan chuckles and chews on the edge of her thumbnail thoughtfully.

“Maybe humans didn’t want angels overhearing some of their prayers?” she suggests wryly, and then laughs before Sam can think too far on what angels could possibly be doing that would make humans invent a whole language to avoid them. “Nah, it was just the priests at the time trying to keep Hebrew from becoming too dominant a language.”

“Is there anything in there about how to break the seal? Er, pentacle?” Sam asks. Interesting as the bit about the Aramaic is, it doesn’t help right now. “I could definitely use something like this in a book I’m writing, but I’d like to be a little accurate, you know.”

She goes back to a section of text near the beginning and points with a pale green fingernail to part of it.

“There’s a whole bit in Enochian—oh, I should have known this was about binding an angel from the beginning, sorry, I swear I actually know this stuff, but I mostly teach the historical, not the theoretical and definitely not the magical, but yeah, it’s all about the names of angels and how important they are. Cause you see, if you know an angel’s name, you can use it to summon them. Or control them, in this case. At least that’s what this priest of yours was trying to do anyway.”


“Well, I’d say combining the pentacle and the angel’s name is enough to set the spell, but breaking it on the other hand…” She skims through several pages while Sam waits impatiently. “Okay, think I found it. Gift—no, giving. Giving the name back,” she answers, nodding to herself and then flipping back to the spell for creating the seal. The ingredients had made Sam’s stomach turn when he’d translated it last night. Way too many animal parts for his taste. “It’s all pretty damn simple if you don’t mind the blood and bird mangling. Can you imagine if this stuff actually worked?”

Sam grimaces at the back of her head. “Yeah, imagine.”

He calls Dean on the walk back to the car, a stack of scans from the book in a folder under one arm and the book tucked securely in his pocket. He explains as much of the professor’s rambling answers as Dean will tolerate. Dean sounds agitated over the phone and Sam wonders how badly picking up Layla went if he’s still ticked off about it.

“How the hell do you give back a name?” Dean grouses. “He’s already fucking got it, right?”

That’s the part Sam was puzzling over before he spent some time in the university’s library.

“That’s the best part. Get this. Elijah? Dude was a prophet. There’s some stories about him becoming an angel, but I don’t think it’s his real name.”

“You think Sue Ann gave it to him, then?”

He grimaces down the line. “Maybe. I’m gonna call Missouri. If a psychic can suss out a demon’s name, why not an angel’s?”

Dean is quiet on the other end while Sam unlocks the car and climbs in, tossing the folder into the backseat and slamming the door behind him.

“Yeah, okay, then get back here. We’ve got until tomorrow to figure this out.”

Her voice sounds tinny and staticky when Missouri picks up the phone. “Sam, this had better be good, honey.”

He chokes a little, impressed. “How’d you know it was me?”

“What, you think I don’t have caller ID?” she asks, and Sam laughs at himself. “You boys really put your foot in it out there. I’m not gonna be able to do much from where I’m at.”

“Okay, so…” Taking Missouri through the events of the last couple days takes half the time Sam expects. Mostly because Missouri guesses a few key things before Sam can even get to them. She takes the angel thing a lot smoother than either he or Dean did and Sam wonders, not for the first time, if maybe being as powerful as she is means she’s aware of some things that hunters might not be.

“Divining a name isn’t something just anyone can do,” she says once he’s finished. “The memory loss isn’t a problem. Your angel’s gonna know its name if you can dig deep enough.”

“But you could, right?”

“Naturally. If I were there. The key to learning a name is getting in physical contact with something it’s touched. With demons, the host is more than enough most of the time. He has a body, right?”

“But if he’s being controlled, it’s too risky trying to do that,” Sam argues.

Missouri presses on. “If you have something else he touched…”

“Well, there’s me, but there’s also… Dean.”

Missouri hums musically down the line at him. “Your brother’s gonna be a lot easier for you to read than yourself.”

He straightens up in the seat and fumbles the phone, nearly dropping it in his haste to protest. “Wait what? No, I can’t—I’ve had a couple visions, Missouri. I don’t have any kind of control to read an angel or whatever.”

“Sam,” Missouri says firmly, and Sam snaps his mouth shut. “You're much more powerful than you think. You can do this.”

He nods into the silence of the car. Searching for another psychic will take time they don’t have, and Missouri’s hours away. He groans, pulling his hand away from the wheel long enough to swipe it through his hair and suck in a breath to calm down. Missouri waits patiently on the other end for him to pull himself together.

“Okay. How do I do it?”

Ford City’s just as damp and unpleasant as it was when Sam left this morning, a heavy drizzle tapping on the roof of the Impala as he pulls into an empty spot outside of the hotel. Dean’s waiting for him in the room, one leg curled under him where he’s perched on the bed, Sam’s laptop balanced carefully on his knee while he types.

“You better not be looking at porn,” Sam threatens, closing the door behind him and shucking his dripping coat off onto a chair.

“Nah. That’s later,” Dean quips back without missing a beat.


Dean grins viciously at him and slams the laptop lid down, ignoring Sam’s injured protest when he tosses it on to Sam’s bed. Sam snatches it back up and checks that Dean didn’t do any damage. Dean might enjoy relying on credit card fraud for all his purchases these days, but a new laptop is gonna push the balance on those things and Sam would rather save his cash for something else. The machine’s fine, but he still flips Dean off while relocating it to the safety of the table.

“All right, so how do we figure out Rumpelstiltskin’s name?” Dean asks, which is how they wind up sitting across from one another in the middle of the floor, a chalk pentagram drawn around them, Sam’s right hand cradling the side of Dean’s face.

“Dude, this is kinda gay,” Dean mutters uncomfortably, jaw bouncing off the heel of Sam’s palm.

“Oh?” Sam doesn’t bother to pretend he isn’t enjoying every second of Dean’s obvious discomfort. “How gay was it when the guy who isn’t your brother did this while you were on your knees?”

He feels the warmth when Dean blushes and doesn’t hold back his giggle when Dean tries to shove him away. Just grabs him by the sleeve of his shirt to keep him from moving too far away. It's gonna be annoying if they have to redraw the chalk lines because he couldn’t resist poking at Dean’s stupid machismo.

“Watch it,” he chastises with a gasp of laughter. Dean mutters something rude at him and screws his eyes up so they’re not looking at each other. “Oh my God, Dean, get a grip.”

“Just get on with it, psychic wonder. Your hands are cold.”

“Oh, is that the problem?” Sam asks, widening his eyes and lifting his eyebrows in a guileless expression. Dean scowls. “Want me to warm them up for you?”

“Dude, I’m gonna put Nair in your shampoo if you don't stop.”

“Okay, okay,” he says and sucks in a breath to calm down, closing his eyes.

It’s about willpower, Missouri said. The words and accessories are just extra. Useful for the folks who need them, but not necessary, and don’t be ashamed if you use them. His power’s right there, simmering under the surface, waiting to be used. He doesn’t need to be passive and wait for a thing to happen. He just needs to reach out and grab it.

Dean’s holding as still as he can in the silence, still pissed about Sam’s teasing, but trembling with bored energy. Sam concentrates on the spot where Elijah laid his hand and only feels the scratchy stubble Dean’s too lazy to take a razor to. He exhales with frustration when nothing happens.


Sam shushes him. It’s okay to use the help. Missouri had made him repeat the words until Sam had them memorized. This isn’t a failure that he needs them.

“I invoke, conjure, and command thee. Tell me your name,” he says. There’s a spark under his fingers. Not electricity. Light. Holy and blisteringly alien.

It’s a link. The image of Dean on the stage in the Le Grange church flashes across the back of his eyelids and he gasps, wincing. The angel made this when he healed Dean. Anchored itself to something bright and pure at the center of Dean’s body. It’s so intrinsically Dean that Sam forgets what he’s doing and reaches for it. Dean hisses, jerking away, but comes back before the connection breaks. His jaw and arm are tense. Sam pulls away from the beautiful light with a muttered, “Sorry,” and tries to follow the connection outside of Dean’s body. “I invoke, conjure, and command thee.”

Something massive lurks there in the darkness between Dean and the angel. Not even the light from the link is enough to illuminate it, but Sam gets a sense of how insignificantly small it makes him feel. He strains to see how far out it stretches from where it’s pinned in place. The chains binding it are different than the one he’s grabbed onto, choking it and holding it place where it struggles like a mouse in a glue trap. The connection with Dean goes straight through it, light piercing through the hidden cavity of its form, and Sam realizes with a start that this isn’t between him and the angel. It is the angel.

A high sound stabs at the back of his head and he grabs the thread harder and pulls, repeating the words a third time. Wisps of light break away and reach towards him.

“C’mon,” he mutters when nothing happens except the heavy terrifying feeling of something turning all its attention onto him. “Tell me your name.”

I Don’t Know.

“Yes, you do. Tell me your name,” Sam demands. He draws closer, the light burning so bright he can feel it ache behind his eyes, and there’s the sound of wings bursting open in the space above him. The angel makes a shrill rattling sound of pain.

Don’t Look!

Sam flinches, twists his face away, and a whisper of sound brushes against the shell of his ear. Claws rip him free from the connection and push him away and he slams into the awareness of his own body. Sweat and blood drips down his face, soaking the collar of his shirt, and his hands are ice cold. He opens his eyes and grins victoriously at the question Dean’s asking with his eyes.

“I’ve got it,” he pants.

They drive back to the Le Grange house for hopefully the last time, Dean parking on the edge of the property to avoid attracting attention. It means having to hike the rest of the way on foot and creep through the sea of vehicles. There’s a few new cars and a dingy RV pulled up into the grassy parking lot. Roy’s starting to get attention, just like Sue Ann wanted.

Everyone’s gathered inside the tent and out of the rain, so Dean peeks through the still-open flap. Almost everyone. It’s only Roy on the stage, talking to some member of the congregation with a smile on his face. Layla isn’t anywhere he can see, either.

He motions Sam towards the house. It’s gonna be harder to get in with the cops lurking around, but confronting Sue Ann without an audience is gonna go a hell of a lot smoother than trying anything else. It’s tempting to send Sam up to the house alone and lead the cops away to where a couple of RVs are parked together in a semicircle, but he doesn’t trust himself to be fast enough. Not with how quick the angel’s proven to be.

So he goes with Sam, waiting the extra time it takes for the cops to clear the area around the house, and they go through the same window Sam used to break in on their last visit.

The house is dead quiet save for the hum of an AC unit in the window of the living room. Dean strains to hear something else, lifting his hand up and then slowly lowering it down, palm facing the floor, as Sam clambers in after him. He reaches back for his gun and lets Sam lead them through the door into the hall and back towards the lit-up, open doorway ahead of them.

“The library,” Sam mouths, nodding toward it.

Sue Ann is standing at the desk, looking at the massive book opened on it. She glances up when he steps into the room and looks deliberately back down towards the text.

“The triumph of the wicked is short,” she quotes, reaching up to touch the silver chain hanging around her neck with the tips of her fingers. At least, Dean assumes she’s quoting something. It sure sounds pretentious enough. When she finishes, she looks back up at him. “The Lord led me to this when He sickened my husband. He sent me an angel to command so I could reward the just.”

She smiles, self-assured in her faith. “And to punish the wicked. And you are wicked, Dean. Blasphemy. Theft.”

Dean scoffs. He didn’t even steal the book, but she ain’t exactly wrong.

“That the worst you got?”

“You’ve looked upon one of God’s own angels with lust in your eyes,” she accuses, composed and unfailingly certain. “I should never have let him lay a hand upon you. There’s no healing the sickness festering in your soul.”

Dean can add a few things to her list that he’ll admit to proudly. He’s helped more than a few people commit their fair share of adultery and never blinked. That was their problem; he’s just the lucky beneficiary of their indiscretion. Hell, he might not even argue terribly hard on being called a murderer—but not this. This isn't who Dean is, it can’t be. But she knows, and the appropriate denial doesn’t want to make it out of his mouth.

He swallows. Sam heard. Sam, standing a few feet behind him at the door, watching his back.

Footsteps. Fast and heavy behind him. He tenses, preparing for a blow—but it doesn't come. Sam shoulders past him and toward Sue Ann. His brother grabs her by the arm, his face ugly with fury, and the verse drips with sarcasm as he spits it into her face, “With his mouth the impious man destroyeth his neighbor; But through knowledge shall the righteous be delivered.”

It’s so unbelievably Sam to come back at someone with a fucking scripture one liner that Dean huffs in stunned amazement. Then Sue Ann tries to tear away from Sam with a scream and the room erupts.

The light bulbs in the fan above their heads pop with a shatter of glass and crackling electricity, sending sparks down onto their hair and clothes. Dean flinches away and ducks his head, squeezing his eyes shut right right as something slams into him, and sends him crashing to the floor.

The air in his lungs leaves his body in a rush and blood, thick and salty, fills his mouth. He forces his eyes open and looks up into a nest of wavy dark hair and vivid blue eyes. His breath hitches when he tries to inhale, jaw aching, and realizes there's a hand around his neck, and it's squeezing. Barely contained power pulses against his skin and the blood trickling down his throat start to burn.

Dean chokes on the angel’s name.


A flicker of recognition and fear twists the pale face above him, and Dean reaches up to grab at the sleeve of his suit jacket and pulls. Something skitters across the floor and hits him in the hip. He thinks Sam is yelling his name, but everything has narrowed down to the conflicted figure above him and the necklace now lying on the floor beside him.

He pulls on the angel’s sleeve again. There’s a wrenching feeling in his wrist as he loses his grip on the wool. The room whites out as light pours from the angel above him and the inside of his chest throbs as something wraps around him from the inside. His mouth tastes like ash. He gets his hand around Sue Ann’s necklace and lifts it shakily.

“Casti—” he gags, grits his teeth, and shoves the necklace up into the angel’s chest. “Damn it, Cas, take i—take it back.”

The grip on his neck disappears so suddenly that Dean drags in too much air and starts coughing. Cas reels back and away, clutching the necklace to his chest and staring wide eyed in astonishment at him. Dean twists aside and coughs blood out onto Sue Ann’s hardwood floor.

Nausea rolls through him as he forces himself back onto his feet. His neck throbs. Moving his head in any direction makes frissons of pain shiver down his chest. Sue Ann’s shrunk down into the corner between the wall and the bookcase, and Dean can’t really blame her for it: Cas has hauled himself up from the floor and his expression promises violence. Sam puts himself between them and widens his eyes at Dean, briefly looking at Cas and back. Dean nods painfully.

Cas pockets the necklace and starts toward Sue Ann, something silver and sharp dropping into his hand as he advances. She shrieks and tries to press herself back into the books, and Dean's almost tempted to let Cas have his way, but they can't afford more deaths here. Not even this bitch, shitty as she is, should wind up a smear on the wall. He catches Cas by the arm, expecting the angel to break his hold without even flinching, but Cas halts his rampage and twists around to face him, aiming the full force of his wrath at Dean, who blinks stupidly at him in surprise.

“Let me go,” Cas orders.

Dean clutches at him harder. “She’s done.”

“She enslaved me.”

Dean coughs and blood wets his lips. He winces at the torn up feeling in his throat. The anger on Cas’ face collapses, the pinched corners of his mouth softening into something Dean could almost mistake for concern if he didn’t know better. He steps closer to Dean and presses a hand to his cheek. The bones in Dean's jaw fit back together and he exhales shakily at the soothing wash of healing energy over his tongue and down his esophagus. The tightness is still there when he tries to turn out of Cas’ touch.

Cas swipes his thumb across Dean's jugular and is gone with a rustle of feathers when Dean blinks. Dean's clenches his hand shut around empty air.

Sue Ann refuses to move from the spot where she’s collapsed, praying feverishly—so with a few silent exchanges of eye contact, Dean and Sam decide to leave her there. Getting out of town before someone finds her or she regathers her wits is their number one priority now, anyway. The job’s as good as done, even if Dean feels like there’s something missing as they retreat.

The rain’s stopped by the time Dean aims the Impala toward the hotel, and he goes as fast as the speed limit will allow. Sam tries to say something after a couple of minutes, but Dean reaches over to crank up the volume on the tape deck, drowning him out. He doesn’t stop looking over at Dean, though, even if there’s no conversation to be had with the Stooges rattling the windows.

When they get back to the room, Sam starts tossing clothes into the duffel bag without bothering to fold them. Dean motions towards the bathroom, making a gesture like he’s turning on a shower. Sam stares at him for a second, before going back to packing, and Dean retreats into the bathroom, cranking it up as hot as the water heater will allow and starts stripping off his clothes. He catches sight of himself in the mirror as he’s pulling his t-shirt off and stops, dropping the shirt back down and leaning toward the glass.

In the mirror, a keloid scar wraps securely around his neck in the shape of a hand.

Tipping his head from one side to another to examine it, he feels the taut pull that’s been bothering him since the house. Four fingers spread across the skin over his jugular on the left side and the tip of the thumb sits right in the dip where the bottom corner of his jaw meets his neck on the other side. The imprint of Cas’ palm is a wide spread of tissue pressed over his larynx and trachea.

“Sonuvabitch,” he murmurs, staring until the mirror fog up and his eyes sting.

He spends five minutes scrubbing the last week of his life down the drain, and by the time he’s tugging on a fresh flannel and stepping out of the bathroom, Sam’s finally got the nerve to say something.

“You okay?”

Dean glares at him. “Peachy.”

“Dean,” Sam presses, hoisting the duffel bag up onto his shoulder. “Are you okay?”

Instead of answering right away, Dean goes and retrieves his jacket. He slips it on, then dumps the hotel room keys on the bedside table. He pauses. “We’re not telling Dad.”

“Okay,” Sam agrees. He doesn’t even look surprised. They load up the Impala in silence.

It takes Dean three hours before he relaxes enough to convince himself that Sam isn’t going to say anything else about what happened. Or mention the scar, though he keeps shooting it looks when he thinks Dean isn’t paying attention. A giddy feeling of relief settles over him. Like he got away with something.

Seeing Cassie again is what he thinks falling in love must feel like: quick, painful, and over way sooner than Dean wants. She’s still as quick witted and gorgeous as Dean remembers, and falling back into her orbit is an old habit he doesn’t want to break. That she helps fill the empty space gnawing at him since Nebraska helps, and neither she nor Sam notice the way he throws himself at her just a little bit harder than necessary. It feels good, being the sort of man he tells himself he wants to be.

She doesn’t touch his neck, either, after his expression shutters when she asks about it. Dean’s more grateful than he wants to be. Whatever emotions are wrapped up into that, he’s not going to deal with, yet.

He’s still surprised when she tells him, “We had a great couple of weeks three years ago, Dean, but I’m gonna be a realist. I don’t see much hope for us.”

There are a few promises he wants to keep and won’t that he throws out there to make the goodbye hurt a little less, but ultimately, he does exactly what he knew he would from the beginning: he gets into the car with Sam and leaves.

The case in Pennsylvania when they finally make it up there is a bust, so Dean sulks in the motel room while Sam visits the library to copy some books he found.

He turns the TV on. The signal’s good enough that Hogan’s Heroes is almost watchable. It makes for good background noise while he sorts through his and Sam’s clothes to determine what’s worth saving. Sometimes, not even Dean can get the blood splatters off a pair of jeans or shirt and regular wear breaks down everything eventually. Which is why Dean isn’t prepared for John Banner’s voice to fade into static and the bed to dip with extra weight as feathers rustle through the air.

Cas is perched on the edge of the bed like he belongs there, and it’s enough to make Dean grind his teeth together. He drinks in the sight of the angel helplessly. Somewhere in the weeks since Nebraska, he’s lost the black suit in favor of a pair of dark jeans and a faded white button down layered over a plain black t-shirt. The dark red hoodie almost pulls the whole thing together, except the strings for it are hanging at completely different lengths down his chest. Dean flexes his fingers around the hilt of his gun and glares at him from down the barrel.

“Ever heard of knocking?” he demands, following the wave of dark hair across Cas’ forehead, where it frames the curiously indifferent expression he’s wearing at the weapon pointed right at him. Dean’s not even sure it would sting if he pulled the trigger.

“I didn’t think you’d let me in after our last talk,” Cas admits, blue eyes flicking away from the gun and to Dean’s face, pinning him with the intensity of it.

“Which one? When you called me a hooker or when you fucking branded me?”

Cas has the decency to look a little embarrassed, and his pupils widen when he dips his gaze down to the scar before looking back up guiltily. Dean holsters the gun and picks up the blue flannel shirt he’s been tearing the seams out of for the last few minutes. He rips the sleeve in half a little more viciously than necessary and tosses the stained piece into the garbage can at his feet.

“The first one,” Cas answers decisively. “Though I didn’t call you a hooker. I said—"

“I know what you said, and you weren’t wrong, so shut the hell up about it. Why're you here? Figured you went back to...” He jerks his head toward the ceiling, deliberately trying to not think about the reality of a single angel meaning that Heaven and God must exist, too. He’s been edging around the thought for weeks and he’s going to keep doing it for as long as life will allow it.

“No. I considered it, but it’s likely that would require submitting myself for… re-education, and I’m not certain it would work after what you did.”

Dean looks up quickly at him. “Freeing you?”

“In more ways than you meant to, I’m sure." Cas' cool indifference cracks into a brittle smile as he pulls Sue Ann’s necklace from the pocket of his oversized hoodie. The silver circle hanging from the chain catches the light as Cas flips it over in his palm and brushes his thumb across the Hebrew letters spelling out his name. “Mixing magics can have unforeseen consequences. Her work was desperate and sloppy, based off the already sloppy work before her. That priest never should have stolen what he did. She didn’t just bind my name, she stripped it from me.”

“Well, yeah, that’s why I—me and Sam,” he corrects hastily, “had to give it back to you.”

Cas looks up from the necklace and across the bed at him, steady as a lighthouse in a storm when he meets Dean’s eyes. “Dean, you renamed me.”

Dean's thoughts skid to a halt at the conviction in Cas’ voice and he stares back at him, waiting for some explanation that makes more sense.

“I… what? That’s not how names work,” he insists.

“I’m an angel, Dean,” Cas says impatiently, like Dean forgot that little fact in the minutes since Cas flew into the room. “Those of us who receive names when we’re created… it defines us to the very first atoms of our true form.”

Okay, that’s a lot. Dean refuses to derail the conversation based on the implications of that right now, but it’s a close thing. He has to start folding clothes to keep silent. He smooths the lines on a t-shirt across his thigh and rolls it tightly into a cylinder before tossing it across the room and into the open mouth of the duffel bag.

“So, instead of Castiel…?”

“Shield of God,” Cas translates, tipping the medallion so Dean can see his, apparently old, name more fully. “Now I’m the shield of nothing.”

Dean's stomach sinks. “Shit, look, that was… was kind of your fault with the choking thing, okay, but… Sorry?” he offers halfheartedly. Cas reaches out and wraps his fingers around his wrist. Dean imagines pressing his hand over Cas' and his palm itches with the desire. He folds another shirt.

“It wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t accepted it.”

“You wanted to be nothing?”

“I want to be myself.”

That’s something Dean can’t exactly argue or apologize for, so he nods and lets himself accept the gratitude that Cas is trying to express.

“So, what now?” Dean asks and Cas smiles, small and easy. It brings out a dimple on Cas' cheek. Dean wonders if Cas can feel the way his pulse quickens.

“I don’t know,” Cas admits and tips his head thoughtfully. “I would like to thank Sam for his part, and I’ll need to seek revelation and speak with some of my siblings. Find out what Heaven believes happened to me, and why they didn’t act when I was enslaved. Without alerting too many of them to my status.”

Cas’ expression hardens on the last part.

“What a bunch of dicks,” Dean says. It’s unhelpful, but he doesn’t know how to make the hurt feelings Cas is probably struggling with go away. Whole situation sucks.

Impulsively, Dean wants to ask him to come with them. Cas has more than proved capable of handling himself, so there’s no fear he’d be out of his depth. Except he’d probably be an awkward bastard around people. A year in a shitty fundie town ain’t socializing, and their last conversation showed that Cas is about as smooth as the back end of a porcupine.

But on the other hand, who could help them better against a demon than an angel?

But there’s Dad, and that puts a stop to Dean’s brief fantasy. Dean can barely handle the fact that he’s been looking at Cas and seeing someone instead of something. Maybe they could lie, say Cas is a hunter, but Dad would have him marked as non-human faster than Dean had. If he didn’t try and kill him, he’d find a way to do something worse.

And the bastard that killed Mom is family business.

“Sounds like you’ve got a plan then,” he manages, when the quiet settles into something too comfortable. Cas looks thoughtfully down at where he’s still clasping Dean’s wrist.

“If you or Sam need me for anything—” he starts.

“No.” Dean cuts him off quickly, then tries to smooth it over with a hastily added, “It’s cool. Find yourself or whatever. We’ll keep in touch.”

Cas’ expression shutters when he looks up at Dean’s face.

“Dean…” he starts, only to stop and look at him more carefully, and Dean realizes he’s digging into him a little. Prying where Dean can’t exactly stop him and getting ready to pull his ‘I know things’ crap. Cas nods like he’s figured something out. “I understand.”

Bullshit. No one fucking understands. Not even Dean.

Cas’ grip loosens and Dean nearly lets him pull away. End it right there and move on from the whole mess—but the raw hurt from Cassie has made him desperate to pull someone, anyone, close. It’s too early to hit a bar and pick up a chick and definitely not late enough to look for a guy with dark hair and blue eyes and a couple bills to spend.

He twists around and knees up onto the mattress and into Cas’ space. A thrill of satisfaction zips up his spine when Cas widens his eyes and sits back, letting Dean push him back until he hits the headboard with a thump. The deep blue of his eyes darkens as he narrows them in a wordless question. Dean straddles his thighs and grabs the shorten end of Cas’ hoodie string between his fingers. He reaches back through Cas' hair to keep the hood in place while he pulls until they're even.

Cas watches him. Dean avoids eye contact to focus on what his hands are doing. Which is not brushing his fingers against the back of Cas' neck and watching his throat bob when he swallows. Do angels even need to swallow?

“Remember that thing about ideas?” Dean asks. Cas dips his chin once in a quick nod. “Well, I got a couple to pass the time before Sam gets back if you’re interested. Consider it a welcome to Earth freebie for saving my brother’s life.”

He’s nice enough to leave off the implied ‘after you nearly killed him’, but there’s a guilty bow in Cas’ eyebrows that lasts long enough for Dean to notice.

“A freebie.” Cas tests the word out and reaches up to push Dean’s hands away from his collar so he can cup Dean’s face in his hands. Dean stills, heart thudding heavy in his throat at the intimacy of the action. “Do you want this?”

Dean scoffs, aiming his eyes toward the ceiling and away from the deep blue trying to search out something he isn’t at all prepared to give.

“You wanna talk about feelings and braid hair, Cas, I’ll put on Lifetime and call Sam to bring some beads and nail polish when he comes back.”

It’s only the firm hands on his face that keep him from leaping up.

“This does not have to be a transaction, Dean, but if you need it to be.” Dean blinks hard, his vision blurring unexpectedly as pressure between his eyes makes him twist his face up to hold it in. The last person to use the room must have had a cat with them, he’s sure of it, and it’s only now that his body started to react. He slaps Cas’ hands away and pins them to the mattress.

“Jesus, you’re really bad at this.”

Cas glances down at Dean’s hands wrapped around his, and Dean tightens his grip, waiting for a reaction. The angel could break all his fingers and throw him across the room if he wanted. He probably should. Instead, he awkwardly rolls his shoulders and admits, “I’ve never done this.”

Dean stares. Cas looks back at him. He’s pouting. It’s subtle, but Dean knows a pout when he sees one. Sam’s been doing them as part of his bitch face routine for years. The one on Cas’ face is the most hilarious thing Dean’s seen in weeks.

“You’re kidding?” he asks, rubbing quickly at the wetness around his eyes that he didn’t manage to blink away. Cas’ gaze drops. “Holy shit. You’re not kidding.”

“Angels aren’t supposed to engage in relations with humans,” he argues defensively. “It tends to create abominations.”

“Well, you’ve got the cheapest expert around to teach you then, but you knock me up and I’m gonna take your name back.”

The pleased huffs of quiet laughter he gets at that make Dean want to lean in close and press his lips to the creases it makes at the corner of Cas’ eyes.

“That shouldn’t be an issue,” Cas assures, and he reaches out to touch the sleeve of Dean’s flannel. “I’ve observed Earth for millions of years. Just because I’ve never engaged in sex, doesn’t mean I don’t know what it involves. What would you like to do?”

That’s a leading question with way too many answers and Dean’s caught on to the fact that Cas keeps trying to turn this crap back around on him. Make this into something Dean isn’t going to let it be. Did he want this? What did he want to do? Idiot. He settles firmly over Cas’ lap and runs a hand down his chest, catching the zipper and dragging it down.

“Ain’t about what I want, sweetheart,” he says, working the hoodie and dress shirt off Cas’ shoulders. He moves willingly when Dean touches him, arching forward and pressing his face into Dean's shoulder, mouth dangerously close to the scar on Dean’s neck. Dean tugs both tops of Cas' free and tosses them to the floor. Cas inhales deeply against Dean’s shoulder and then follows it up with another short sniff before sweeping aside the collar of Dean's flannel shirt.

Not the weirdest thing a dude’s done to his neck, but it’s the weirdest thing Cas has done in the last couple of minutes, so Dean has trouble ignoring it. He fails spectacularly when Cas slips his hand down under his t-shirt and to the soft flesh above his hip. Bold move for a virgin, Jesus. A flash of heat flickers under his skin and disperses through his middle so fast his body doesn't have time to react.

“What the fuck?” he hisses.

“You had a kidney stone,” Cas mumbles into his collarbone. Dean muffles a curse into his hair and starts pulling at his belt. He’s not sure if he’s exasperated or some other muddle of emotions.

“Okay, lesson number one: Don’t sniff people unless they’re into it.”

“Are you into it?”

Dean ignores him. “Number two: Stop asking stupid questions and help me get you undressed.”

Cas complies easier than Dean expects him to, and together, they get him down to his boxers with only a little shuffling. Then Dean’s kneeling over him and reaching under the band to wrap a hand around his cock. Cas grabs at his shirt hard enough that the cotton fibers creak.

“Dean.” Cas sighs and tips his head back against the wall.

“That’s it, sweetheart. You look so good. Come on. You want my mouth or you wanna come like this?” Dean murmurs, the words bubbling up instinctively while Cas keeps tugging at his clothes. He manages to wrestle Dean out of his layers and down to his jeans and undershirt. Dean expects Cas to let him get back to the business of getting him off, but Cas lifts Dean’s free arm and kisses his knuckles. The bones shift effortlessly back into place without pain, and Dean sucks in a breath. There’s no ache in the joints when he clenches his hand into a fist until the skin turns white.

“I can sense your appreciation. You don’t need to tell me so vividly,” Cas says, low and easy against the pulse point of Dean’s wrist, clearly thinking it’s okay to talk like that. Dean shudders and sinks into the tingling sensation that sweeps down his spine with warm breath and soft lips following the median vein up his arm.

He loses track of what he’s supposed to be doing for Cas in the wake of the angel’s studious exploration, mind gone hazy and distracted. Cas finishes with a wet kiss to his collarbone that leaves Dean shivering when the old break corrects itself, and then Cas unwraps Dean’s fingers from around his dick and does the whole thing over with the right arm.

“Shit,” Dean slurs when Cas cradles the side of his face. “You really like doing that, don’t you?”

“This is how I held you when I healed your heart,” Cas answers, voice a deep purr. Dean thinks of long drives in the Impala with the windows down, the vibration of the engine in his bones and the open road to anywhere at his fingertips. “I can’t see most human souls when I’m envesseled, but you shone so brightly, Tzadik.”

Dean chokes on a wet laugh. He knows that one now. Only took a couple Hebrew to English dictionary searches and one put-upon rabbi to do it.

“Ain’t nothing righteous about me, Cas.”

Cas kisses the center of his chest in reply, and the tips of his fingers skim down across the smooth keloid tissue on his throat. Things blur a little after that. Dean pulls and pushes Cas until he stretches out across the bed, and Cas lets Dean pin him down by one wrist and curl a fist into his hair to pull his head back and suck a mark high up his neck. Payback for the scar, he jokes, and Cas grits his teeth and goes tense under him until he’s satisfied. The mark fades in a flicker of white energy that makes his skin momentarily transparent. Cas tells him to do it again. Dean chuckles and leaves a fading trail of them down Cas' body, then shoulders between Cas’ thighs to put his mouth to gentler use.

Cas tries to return the favor, but not even Dean’s instructions are good enough to make a first-time blowjob more than passable. A lack of gag reflex only accounts for so much anyway, so Cas makes up for it with the healing he seems intent on performing across every spare inch of Dean’s body he can reach. He drops kisses to every ache and pain he can find, from the ankle Dean turned in Mississippi to the shoulder he’s dislocated too many times to count.

He comes with Cas’ hand around him and the zing of scar tissue healing as Cas mouths at the puckered wound below his navel where a werewolf tore open his stomach when he was sixteen.

Dean drags him into the shower after Cas cleans them up with some clever bit of magic. Because apparently a year on Earth didn’t teach him a damn thing about the joys of a passable water heater.

“Think I might need to owe you a couple more with those abysmal oral skills, Cas,” Dean says amiably while he watches Cas dress. He's still dripping water into the shitty motel carpet, but he doesn't seem to care if his clothes get damp, he just pulls them on. Maybe he can use his mojo on that too. “Never left a customer or a partner unsatisfied and neither should you.”

Cas pulls his hoodie back on and the illusion of humanity completes itself a little, except for the intensity in his eyes when he looks at Dean. Nothing human about that level of focus being directed at him. That’s gonna take some getting used to.

“If you insist.”

Dean absolutely does.

The last thing Sam expects when he unlocks the motel door is to find Castiel sitting on the end of Dean’s bed, legs folded up like a pretzel with his elbows on his knees and watching TV. Wearing a hoodie. An angel in a hoodie. Sam tries to imagine that one in stained glass in some church in Rome and has to take a second. Mostly to absorb the fact that the angel’s watching MASH reruns while Dean field strips and cleans their guns on the rest of the untaken mattress space.

“Uh…” he starts eloquently, then Castiel is unfolding and walking over to him with intent. Sam freezes. The angel. The one he talked to in his head. He musters up words. “Hey, it’s you! Castiel. You came back.”

Fumbling to unshoulder his backpack, he offers Castiel his hand. The angel takes a second to blink down and then he’s wrapping it up in both of his. Sam stutters instead of asking his next question.

“It’s just Cas, now.”

Sam nods. “Are you… staying?”

He glances at Dean and raises both his eyebrows. Dean shakes his head minutely and, okay, so they don’t need to start budgeting for a second room yet. Sam’s been oblivious, but he’s not stupid. Gives him time to think about how to explain Cas to Dad anyway, though Sam’s still sure he’s gonna blow up no matter what.

“You surprised me, Sam.”

“I surprised you?” Sam echoes.

“Very few psychics can speak to me in my true form.”

“Oh!” Sam laughs a little helplessly. “You’re welcome, Cas.”

“Hopefully, we don’t need to do that again ever,” Dean mutters from the bed.

“You’re telling me,” Sam agrees and then looks at Cas hastily. “No offense, Cas, but that was a… a lot.”

“It was,” Cas agrees. He glances over at Dean, and Sam watches his expression relax even further before he snaps his gaze toward the door. Sam realizes Cas was waiting for him to get back before leaving. It’s a humbling feeling. “There’s several things I still need to do. I already told Dean, but I wanted to—”

“Oh, right!” Dean interrupts sets aside the pistol he’s pieced back together and jumps up to pass Sam and Cas—his shoulder bumping Cas’ as he passes—to get to the duffel bag now sitting packed and closed on the floor. He crouches down to dig through one of the side pockets, pulling out a cellphone that Sam recognizes as Dean’s other other cell. Standing up, he offers it to Cas, who accepts it with a confused frown. Sam grins in delight and ignores Dean’s suspicious glare.

“What’s this for?” Cas asks.

“Chanukah,” Dean replies sarcastically before looking sheepish. “It’s a cellphone. Call me. Me and Sam. Our cell numbers are already programmed in, and I can show you how to add more minutes if you want.”

“I’ve been on Earth for a year. I know what a cellphone is.” Cas pockets the phone with a pleased smile. “Thank you, Dean.”

He’s gone before Sam can muster up another word. Maybe he can write a list or something of stuff to ask Cas about when he, uh, apparently flies back in. There’s so much more they could add to Dad’s journal, including a new entry about angels.

Dean glances at him warily and Sam chews the inside of his cheek, thinking. They haven’t talked about anything that happened with Sue Ann, but Sam’s been wondering about what he knows of Dean's relationship history—especially now that he's met Cassie—and trying to find a way to tell Dean they’re gonna be okay without getting called a girl in the process. He hasn’t managed to figure it out, yet.

“Call me, huh?” he asks with a grin that he knows is full of shit. Dean barks at him to finish cleaning the guns if he wants to be a little bitch. Sam yells good-naturedly after him when he slams the bathroom door behind him. “Screw you too, jerk!”

They’ll figure it out. Dean has the time.