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Glory Upon Wings

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Lawrence, the stronghold of House Winchester, is located within a large valley, surrounded by strategically chosen crags of rock and dense forest. Lookout towers litter the surrounding landscape, peaking just above the tree tops. Not too far beyond the forests were large prairies with buildings such as farms or mills peppering their landscape, some giving off light in the dwindling sunlight. The few rivers that passed through the prairies into the forests and out of view, reflected the pale pinks and purples of tonight's sunset.

The castle Lawrence was the brightest beacon in the spectacular view, it's terraces giving signs of life as the guard's changed for the night. Beyond their movement the smaller buildings of the castle grounds seemed to be stagnant, a light in window here and a window there. The castle residing in the heart of a sleepy settlement seemed to still beat however, it's oak doors open to reveal a large hall.

The hall itself is beautiful, oaken bracers holding up a high shadowed ceiling, strong stone walls fortified by symbols crafted hidden underneath handmade tapestries of the territory. The focus of the hall however wasn't on the tapestries but rather the large throne towards the heart of the entryway.

Sitting upon the large, oaken throne was possibly one of the scariest men all time; Lord John Winchester the Righteous, Lord of Lawrence, Commander of the Hunters, Protector of the Humans and Watcher of central Xiatus. He was a gruff man in his later 50s, a weathered face and tired eyes to prove his times in war. He wore more practical clothing with muted browns, reds and greens with furs covering his shoulders, held there by a sterling silver anti-possession symbol, the Winchester family crest.

In front of John was a man, his bald head shined in the light, his brow furrowing as he continued to talk to John. "...The family has been exhibiting signs, hearing scratching from inside the walls, cold spots, objects flying-"

Whatever the man was about to say was cut off by Lord Winchester, holding a hand up to stop the bombardment of worried words.

"I will send a hunter soon, hopefully within the next fortnight, now it has been a long day, goodnight Mr. Panowski."

 

Jerry Panowski, who was once saved by John and his eldest son Dean, nods in understanding. "Thank you sire." John nods in response and finally makes a move to stand, grunting while he does so. He turns to his right, peeking over his shoulder as a smaller, unnoticed, form stands.

 

"Night my lady." Jerry says now, watching as the Lady of the House comes from the shadows.

She smiles bobbing her blonde head as she responds, "And to you sir."

Mary Winchester, formerly of House Campbell, has aged with grace. Her features were still undeniably attractive, despite the softer skin that comes with time. Her blonde hair is pulled up easily with a fashionable embroidered leather strap, making waves of blonde cascade down her shoulders. Her outfit matches John's uniform, a combination of muted colors and functionality. Mary however, carries a grace in her movements, the polar opposite to John's sure and steady steps.

She joins her husband, wrapping her arm around his and sharing a look only those who have loved for a long time can. “Goodnight Mr. Panowski, we will send help.” She promises to the worried subject before both exit the hall. Making their way down a smaller hall towards their living quarters she speaks up. "Is it just me or are hauntings occurring more and more?" She wonders aloud, her voice kept low enough for only those that walk through the halls to hear.

John sighs, stopping to turn to his wife and place a kiss on her forehead. Mary Winchester might look soft, she could be perceived as weak but make no mistake, out of all the Winchesters, Mary is by far the mastermind behind the family ruling. She might not be as intimidating as her husband, not as strong as her two growing sons but she was an anchor for the entire family, she led them with a gentle hand to the desired goal. She was able to eclipse the natural brash attitude that Winchesters held with her sweet words and veiled threats.

John seemed to think on Mary's words before replying, his face bunching up in thought. "I was thinking the same. It might be wise to add to the hunter recruits." Mary frowns, lowering her head, "I believe you're right... I just-"

John nods understanding, placing his bear paws upon her shoulders, making the smaller woman look up. "I know, but sometimes people are needed, no matter how comfortable their lives are." With that being stated the two parents share a look, and as if quietly deciding it was time for bed they started the walk down the rest of the hall towards their chambers, unaware of the hidden eavesdropper.

 

Dean Winchester, the first born of the Winchester sons and fifth in line for king, had been spying on his parents at the very mature age of 23. Dean had always kept an eye on his parents, making sure they worked like a well oiled machine. His father would get Dean's masculine praise and his mother would get his soft hugs and gentle words. It's just how it was, Dean was the eldest and therefore he had to keep things together. That's why he had been snooping on his parents, listening to their hushed concerns.

Because the Winchester family was renown for being the best hunters both Dean and Sam had undergone vigorous training with both parents and several tutors. Dean knew he could handle this particular concern his parents had, he could settle the haunting. All he had to do was get his dad alone and convince him before Mary could dispel any of Dean's hopes.

So, making his way to his own room, Dean started to plan. He was young and ambitious, he wanted to be an adventurer, he wanted to explore the world and not be stuck as a successor with no real world experience. That didn't mean he didn't want to call Lawrence home, he just wanted to see what the world had to offer.

When Dean was a child he'd hear all sorts of stories from both parents, his mother's tales of the grandiose capital while his father's involved wars with supernatural creatures. He'd hear about the dragonriders located in the large cliff buildings across the bay from the capital castle. He'd hear about the vampire nests his father removed over his time abroad, fighting for the King. It wasn't that Dean wanted all the fame and glory, but he wanted to help people, make their lives easier because he knew how the world could effect the smaller people. Okay, so a small part of him wanted a title like his dad, The Righteous John Winchester of Lawrence, but still, it was mainly about helping people. Dean entered his own room, shrugging off his clothing and quickly discarding it in favor of night cloths.

Once dressed Dean headed towards the balcony, exiting his room and entering the fresh air. Because of Lawrence's location the air was sweet with the smells of wildflowers and wheat. It smelt like home.

The world was largely dark, as the sun had finally set, giving the few lights in the landscape the appearance of faraway stars. Taking a deep breath Dean closes his eyes, feeling the cool air pass over his freckled skin. After many moments of drinking in the smells and feeling of Lawrence, Dean opens his eyes. With the comforting atmosphere taking power over the eldest Winchester, he leaves the view and goes inside for some sleep.

 


The next morning Dean woke up, dressed and headed down for breakfast with determination in his mind. As normal Mary wasn't there, as she often had chest pains in the morning and had a hard time with the actual process of waking up. Sam was there already, stuffing his face with eggs, bacon and some of those really nice muffins the cook makes. John sits in the middle of the table, eating at a lower rate than his son.

"Good morning sir." Dean greets his father as he takes his seat, forgoing the normally mumbled 'morning'. Sam's face pops up automatically, his 19 year old face giving away the fact he just knows Dean is up to something. John, either ignoring or just missing the oddity in the morning retinue sipped at his coffee before answering.

"Morning Dean, how'd ya sleep?"

Dean thought about diving right into the conversation but eventually decided against such a bold move, "Good, you?" He grabbed food from the large plates set out on the table in front of them before stuffing his face with some cooked potatoes.

John sits back now, rubbing his face in an thoughtful manner before replying, "Tiring, I have to go to the Roadhouse soon." The Roadhouse, headquarters to the Hunters, was about a three day trip northwest by horse.

Because Dean's mouth was filled with food at this point in time Sam was able to muscle his way into the conversation. "Something going on dad?"

Turning his attention towards the youngest son, John lets out a sigh, "Just have to talk to Bobby about some new cases."

 

Sam's face scrunches up in confusion but it's time for Dean to interrupt his brother so, like the very mature older brother he is, he does. "Ya know, I could help...sir." The atmosphere in the room changes immediately, John becoming more alert to this new situation, turns to his oldest to size him up.

"You think so?" His face is serious but not the 'no Dean' way, more like his mind was working and realizing the opportunities placed in front of him by his son.

 

The freckled Winchester nods, slowing down on his food intake. "I think so..." Dean clears his throat, ignoring Sam's face as he takes on a more professional tone. "As the eldest Winchester I believe that I should do some groundwork with the people. Setting an example and all that." Dean faltered slightly, so concentrated on watching his father's reaction he forgot his carefully planned words. His father stayed silent so Dean continued, figuring he might as well. "I already have hunter training, the people already kind of expect me to do something. Plus, how am I supposed to take care of this place without knowing what's out there?"

 

John barks out a laugh, shaking his head, "I'm not dead yet Dean, I still got a few years ahead of me."

Dean shrinks at that, of course his dad would be around for a long time, Dean couldn't imagine a time without his father. "It's not that, I just think I should go do things now. Instead of sitting around and just training."

John was nodding, becoming more relaxed as he picks at his own food. "I know Dean, and I think you do bring up a good point. An involved king is better than an unrelatable one."

 

Yes. Yes. Dean might actually get to go. But then of course, Sam had to add something.

"Dean can't go alone! I want to go with him."

 

Shit.

 

Lord Winchester turns to his youngest, eyes final and sharp, despite the fact Dean knew Sam was his favorite. "No." His voice was crisp, like it was when dealing with soldiers.

"Why not?!" Sam, god bless him with his long mane of hair, bristles like an agitated animal. Dean would say dog, but even now Sam resembled more of a moose than dog.

 

John sighs, sipping at his drink before giving his reasoning, his eyes set upon the youngest. "It's going to be hard enough to convince Mary to let Dean go. Do you honestly think your mother will allow not only her oldest but her baby to go and fight monsters?"

 

Sam's shoulders raised more, true annoyance crossing his face. Dean sighed, knowing John and Sam's tendency to fight. "I'm not a baby!" Growled Sam, glaring through his brown shaggy hair.

 

"Yeah you are." Dean cleared up before John even could respond. Sam's furry turned to his brother, a confused glare gracing his expression now. Dean wanted Sam to come, he really did, Sam would treat Dean like Dean and not some posh successor. But Dean knew it'd be hard enough to convince Mary and besides Sam was still the baby, no matter if he was 3 or 87. He'd be the baby until no older Winchesters were around, that's just how it was.

 

John nodded, flashing a hand in Dean’s direction, like his point was proven in his words. Which it was. Sam looked like he was gearing up to cause a real fight when their mother entered. She was slightly ashen, like normal in the mornings but she still had a smile plastered on her face. She noticed the tension in the room and tutted, shaking her head as she headed towards their table.

 

"Are my boys fighting again?" She muses easily, sitting down next to her husband and receiving her normal morning kiss on the temple. When no one answers she shakes her head once more, reaching over to the muffins (they were her favorite as well). "I guess you wouldn't be Winchesters otherwise."

 

That earned her a chuckle from John and a soft smile from her boys. For the rest of breakfast the conversation was dropped. They talked their normal while eating their fill, the atmosphere switching to a more calming vibe what with Mary's soft smiles and positive personality.

 


It was about noon that John found the courage to speak up to Mary. While parents shouldn't have favorites, John knew that Dean had a special place in Mary's heart. He knew what to say to her when she was having a bad day, what to do when John and Mary would get into fights. He knew not having Dean around would cause more stress at the castle, especially with Sam. But John wasn't stupid, he knew Dean wanted this, the excuse to feel free from the bureaucracy that followed with his title. He knew Dean just wanted to experience life, truly and fully before settling down on the oaken throne and listen to other's problems. Before he would have to smile and nod and control his voice.

Mary was out in the castle garden when John found her. A book in her hand as she hid under the large tree in the center, giving her a comfortable shadow to rest in under the noon sun.

John, joining his wife on the bench, looks over, waiting for her to place down her book. She eventually does once she finishes whatever she was reading. Sticking in a silk bookmark, she turns towards her husband. "I'm assuming this is about Dean." She didn't even bother hiding the fact she somehow had an idea of what was going on. John had to remind himself that Mary was a hunter as well, strong and insightful. That, just because she was wearing expensive dresses, she was still a hunter and her training didn’t just disappear. No matter how many years passed, no matter how many physical problems she had, she could still see past people's walls and straight to the center of whatever was going on.

 

Sighing and letting his shoulders relax John nods,  "He wants to help the hunters."

Mary frowned.

John continues, "And I believe it'd be good for him."

 

Silence fills the air around them, along with a sharpness that can only be caused by confrontation. "No." Mary mumbles, looking down at her ringed fingers. "He's too young."

 

"Mary...." It was time for John to show some control. His wife could be so stubborn sometimes, "The boys aren't kids anymore, Dean's 23 now. He should be married, and he's already commanding a third of our forces!" It was true, the soldiers loved Dean. The eldest Winchester would often join the men at the local tavern and have and few drinks. Hell, even the Hunters were close to Dean and watched after him. "Besides, Bobby and Ellen would keep a trained eye on him. It's not like Dean would be going and fighting dragons."

 

Mary laughed without humor. "There's worse things out there than dragons and demons John. And you know that."

"True. People are worse." That seemed to quiet Mary, making her rethink her statement. She shakes her head however, still refusing the thought.

 

"No."

 

"Mary-"

 

"I said no!"

 


Dean could hear the fighting from the training area. The screams and shouts of his parents bickering. Soon it got too constant for Dean to even concentrate on his training, making him falter in his parry.

"Fuck!" Dean calls, holding his head as he glares at Commander Deacon.

Deacon, one of the soldiers that fought alongside John since, well forever, grins deviously, "Don't leave your back open like that! Come on Dean!"

Dean groans, rubbing his back as he glares at his opponent, "Dude, that was so unfair!"

 

Deacon shrugged, giving a smirk towards the younger. "War ain't fair boy, just ask your daddy." Dean's frown deepened, Deacon has some pretty nasty scars from previous wars, so did John, but his were more mundane. They always alluded to the "things" that happened but neither man ever actually said what had happened. Dean knew the wars, what happened and who won. He knew that Lawrence was singlehandedly one of the most secure keeps in Potesta and that no major force has ever even attempted to take the castle and the surrounding town. He also knew that the majority of the fights the two veterans had been involved in took place for the crown against the demons of Seven Gates and barbarians of Chion. He knew that the battle with Seven Gates officially ended but hostilities had never changed, that their king, Lucifer the Morning Star, was still an ass and continued to send small insurgent groups to attack smaller human towns. He knew that the demons still possessed people, that their attacks had only gotten more secretive with the end of outward fighting. As for Chion, it was still a barbaric wasteland of monsters. With the Winchesters and their hunters keeping all supernatural beasts out of Potesta they had no where to go except Seven Gates or Chion. The beasts who wished to follow no one, or were too terrified of Lucifer's unfamous wrath, went to Chion. Dean had never seen Chion, or Seven Gates for that matter, but from what he has heard there is a constant mist surrounding the forests of Chion, so thick the sun never truly touches the forest floor.

Just like Seven Gates, John and Deacon with their forces weren't actually able to clear the area of monsters. They simply pushed them back enough to set sentries along their border, keeping the monsters out with the help of skillful hunters.

 

"Yeah, yeah sir." Dean speaks up, sheathing his sword before giving Deacon a respectful nod, "I'm gonna go check up on my mom." By this time the yelling had subsided, leaving an eerie silence behind.

Deacon nods, understanding Dean's impulsive need to take care of his family. "Same time tomorrow kid." He dismisses Dean and heads over to a couple guards sparring to comment on their form while Dean heads through the castle to his parents room, where his mother was most likely located.

She wasn't and that worried Dean. However the young soldier didn't need to look far to find his mother. Walking down the hall and passing the hallway that led towards his and Sam's rooms he caught a glance of his open door. Making the right he walks towards his room, he calls out a 'mom?' In hopes his mother will respond. She does.

 

"Dean, good, come here."

 

Dean enters his own bedroom to find his mother sitting on the side of his bed, her hands clasped together in her lap as she watches him expectantly. She pats the brown and red comforter next to her as a signal for Dean to join her, which he does.

 

Gently settling down to his mother, Dean allows their shoulders to meet, giving them both that physical comfort of having someone there. Of course Mary, being a mother, did the stereotypical thing of not saying anything and allowing Dean to drudge the conversation up himself. "What's up mom?" He asked several moments later, steeling himself for the talk to come.

"Do you really want to go and help the hunters?" Her voice was soft, more concerned than upset and it dug at Dean like a knife.

 

"Yes."

 

Mary watches her son for a long time, as if trying to decipher Dean's reasons through his face, which she probably can.

A sigh escapes Mary's lips and she looks from Dean to her hands, playing with her wedding band as she seems to decide something. Giving a little nod without looking towards her eldest she clears her throat, giving yet another nod in confirmation to her own thoughts. "Okay."

 

O-okay? What. "What?"

 

Mary laughs gently, the humor not reaching her eyes, "Okay, you can go." She reiterates, her words stronger now.

"It's that easy?" Dean jokes and Mary let out another laugh, this one even more humorless.

"I don't want you to have the life of a hunter. It's horrible, bloody and ends badly. But you are my son and you deserve to see the world. You don't have to be a hunter, maybe you'll be good with just the one case but..." She locks eyes with Dean's as she continues. "Once you're in the life it's hard to leave. And I'm worried for you Dean, you'll take it personal. I just know it."

Dean doubted it, and voiced his opinion right away as they bounced shoulders. "Come on mom, like I could stay away from the cook's pies for a week."

This made Mary actually laugh, bringing light back into her eyes before she leaned over and pressed her lips against her son's forehead. "I love you."

 

"I love you too mom."

 


The next two weeks were hectic, what with Dean getting new official 'Winchester worthy war gear' from the castle blacksmith. His mother planned it all, ensuring the armor would allow Dean to move freely while keeping his vitals protected. While that was being done John went around getting a 'surprise' ready for Dean, keeping whatever it was so under wraps that Dean had absolutely no idea what it could be. Sam, in the mean time, was being the biggest whiney bitch Dean had come in contact with for awhile. He snapped at John more regularly, even Dean sometimes, which really shocked the elder brother. However, a week into the preparations and Sam's attitude suddenly changed. He wasn't around as much, he would leave right after breakfast and be gone until dinner. Everyone was so busy they barely even noticed Sam's absence, Dean, of course, noticed, but didn't have any extra time to actually talk to him.

 

One of the most aggravating things about leaving, which Dean should have remembered but totally forgot about, was all the political shit. It only came up when Dean was walking through the large entrance hall and saw his mother directing workers with large bundles of just stuff. There were long silken banners of blood reds, golds and rich browns, large vases of the heather that grew freely in the prairies of Lawrence, mixed with red gladiolus flowers. There were some other flowers mixed in there, but those were the ones that popped with color, and Dean wasn't like Sam. He wasn't into that girly shit.

There were others working as well, people carrying in chairs and tables and nice china that was never brought out unless it was a big occasion. Dean's stomach dropped. Oh no.

Quickly making his way through the bustling servants, the eldest son finally came close to his mother, making her turn like she felt his presence. "Hi honey." She almost coos, her hair stacked up simply with the her average leather band, her clothing nothing too fancy for the day. She was holding a book and quill in her hand, marking things off as she watched people pass.

"Hi mom." Dean responded, wrapping an arm gently around her to place a soft kiss on her temple. "What the hell is going on?"

Mary gives him a look for the language but doesn't say anything on the matter and rather just answers the question. "Well, your going away party of course!"

Dean's face lost all color.

Mary laughs.

She slows down eventually and pats her son's closest cheek, smiling like the little trickster she was. "Oh don't worry Dean..." Her smile turned into a devious grin, making Dean even more nervous, "I already sent out the order for your clothing."

"Mom..." Dean whined. He didn't want this, he didn't want to have to shake hands and play proper. He didn't want to have to explain himself to dozens of people thousands of times. Mary just shook her head and grabbed the attention of some rather lost looking helper.

She looks quickly at her son, placing her hand upon on his shoulder, "Honey, you have to do this. It's only one night. I think you can remember which fork to use." She gives him one last glowing smile before gracefully dancing away towards the confused servant, reassuring their attention with a gentle touch to the arm.

Dean stands there for awhile, one stagnant stone in a river of moving bodies. If Dean was more selfish he'd refused, he'd dig his feet in the sand and ignore everyone else's opinions. But this is his mother who was planning this, she was the one that officially was letting Dean go, she was the one who would have to suffer the most. She was the one that would have to put up with Sam and John's bullshit all by herself and that's exactly why Dean didn't say anything. Why he didn't smack down the objects the busy bodies were carrying around and instead decided to leave the clusterfuck and flee the sight.

By the end of the day Dean didn't think it would be such a bad thing, he heard that several ladies of the courts were going to make an appearance to wish him luck. Now that was something Dean could look forward to, they were all so beautiful and sexually repressed, an illness Dean could totally help with. He also learned that Lord Robinson would be there with his daughter Cassie, and Dean knew she'd want to give him a proper goodbye as they had always been inappropriately close. But Mary liked Cassie and never said anything negative about her or her darker skin, which was a plus, because if his mother didn't like her Dean wouldn't even consider it. Cassie also happened to be one of Dean's intended, and while nothing was set in stone, Dean wouldn't mind marrying her. She was beautiful, fiery, and could take what Dean could give. She was a little too stubborn, and very much herself, perfectly free. Her father even said when their betrothal was brought up by John that if she didn't want to, it didn't matter what money or status she'd get from being connected to the Winchesters, he wouldn't allow it. Dean really respected that, and so did Cassie. Maybe that's why Dean was a little more excited to see her than the other women that would be making an appearance, not that he'd tell anyone.

 

For the next few days Dean would have to spend a couple hours with the castle tailor, getting his outfit formed to his body. Being designed by Mary the uniform was simple, but complimented Dean to a tee. His pants -a warm brown- hugged to his legs, a black stripe running down the sides on either side, leading the eye to his boots and all the way up to his deep green tunic. The tunic itself had red accents, including the inside of his cuffs and stitching that ran along the seams. They tied the outfit together with a red ascot, which Dean hated but knew he would have to wear it, making him despise it even more. The jacket was actually the only thing Dean didn't mind wearing, it was black and made out of the same fabric as the stripes down his legs. The inside was the same dark red that complimented his green tunic, but was made out of a silk, with swirly, lighter red markings, making it more intricate than the other fabrics were (aside the ascot, which had the same patterning).

 

Dean hated this whole process, he really did, but he couldn't help but think that his mother had done good. Brown and red were his family's colors, brown for the hardwork and sweat from their brow while the red represented the blood and passion they had given to the people. But Mary knew Dean looked good in green, that it helped his eyes so she took that and ran with it. He'd have to thank her sometime.

 


The castle was buzzing the next day, flowers had to be freshened, food had to be made and all the servers were dressed in their best, along with all other occupants behind the walls. Dean knew Sam's outfit would be much like his own, but watered down because he wasn't leaving with Dean. He wasn't going. Shit, ow. Luckily for Dean, he could distract himself with watching the crowds roaming around the castle.

The Robinsons were the first to make an appearance since their lands were adjacent to Lawrence. Dean didn't bother leaving his room balcony for them, he'd see Cassie later, instead he stayed and watched as one by one royalty began to appear. The LaCroix household was the next to join the festivities. They were from the capital, and the money managers for the royal family. Dean disliked every single one and their status grabbing hands. He definitely wasn't going down now. Dean was thinking about going downstairs when the Blakes, MacGregors and Pikes showed up. He didn't have to for another hour or so as his mother always gave him a grace period so that he wasn't bombarded by leeches trying to get their bloodlines to mesh with that of the Winchesters. His mom was awesome.

The oncoming families weren't the reason he didn't go downstairs, it was the gentle knocking on the door that distracted him. Dean was tempted to act like he wasn't there, to just ignore whomever it was, but that was just Dean's choices and not those of the person behind the door. Another knock, harder this time, sounded from the wooden door before the knob moved and his cover was blown. It wasn't who he expected, not in the least, but that's usually how it goes with her.

 

Cassie Robinson enters without a second thought and she is one of the prettiest things Dean had ever seen. Her hair, which Dean knows is wild and beautiful like her, is pulled back, not tight enough for the curls to go straight, but enough to show off her smooth skin and graceful facial features. Dressed in golds and deep purples she seems like a goddess, or what Dean would assume one to look like. The dress that adorned her body cut up smoothly to her hip, golden lace letting her ebony skin shine through with her every movement.

"Cassie!" Dean blurts out, quickly pulling his legs out from between the columns of the balcony railing so that he can stand. Self consciously patting himself down to remove any dirt, he moves over towards the beautiful woman, a grin on his face now that the shock had dissipated.

"Hi Dean." She smiles softly, unable to help herself with Dean grinning goofily like that. Her smile grows fonder as the taller male takes her hand in his and kisses the back in proper greeting, even though she should totally not be in his room.

"You shouldn't be in here." Dean teases, leaning forward to run his lips ever so lightly over the arch of her cheek. Cassie just smiles, raising her hands to touch Dean's chest.

"I won't tell if you don't."

 

Dean grins, nodding as he walks around the slender figure that almost looked out of place in his bedroom. Making sure that the door was closed (which it was) and locked (which it wasn't), Dean turned back to Cassie, smiling. "Got to say this is a nice surprise." Dean couldn't help himself, it was true. While Cassie had been in Dean's bed a handful of times before she had never come up there with no coaxing and this was completely 110% her idea. Dean would have thought about it, he really would have, but Cassie decided at that exact moment (like she could see his brain cogs moving) to reach up and undo the clasp that held the heavy fabric of her dress up. The thick velvet-like cloth pools around her golden heels, reminding Dean how beautiful she was, naked in front of him and exposing herself to him. With that Dean's upper brain started to wane in decision making, letting his lower brain to take control.

 

"Son of a bitch." Dean mumbles, coming closer to her lean body and placing his lips against the dark skin of her neck before continuing, "You're so beautiful." Cassie hums in lieu of a response, moving her mouth to catch Dean's making everything turn to friction, heat and passion.

 


Despite the fact Dean had a soft spot for cuddling both parties were well aware of the time limit they had together. So, with chests heaving, they pull themselves away from the bed, Cassie dressing in her gown while Dean actually dressed in his formal clothing his mother had prepared. While Dean's back was turned he heard the door creak open. He automatically turned, fearful his mother or father had gotten in despite the door being locked. Instead it was Cassie leaving. She suddenly look so distant and even with Dean's sex rattled brain he knew something was changing.

"Goodbye Dean." Lady Cassie Robinson speaks up, only meeting Dean's eyes for a second before the door closed behind her, giving Dean a sickeningly lonely feeling. He ignores it, like he normally does, and finishes dressing.

Making sure his hair doesn't look messed up like he just had sex, Dean let's out a little huff of air, steeling himself for the crowds before heading down to the festivities.

 

Just as the eldest Winchester child suspected, he was bombarded the moment the announcer spoke his name. And, of course, it was the LaCroix family that hooked their claws unto him.

 

“You look absolutely delicious Dean.”  

 

"Is this just some kind of stunt or something?"

 

"So is this your little adventure before settling down?"

 

"You know, despite her age Heddy is very...nimble."

 

Dean almost threw up in his mouth, but he ignored the questions in favor for excusing himself to inform his mother he had joined the mortal coil. They all rolled their eyes and made snide comments but let him go, which was a fucking blessing. With that out of the way Dean went to find his mother. She wasn't hard to find, not with her being the most beautiful female in the room.

Mary’s hair was moved to one side of her head, cascading down her bare shoulders and curling in large ringlets. Her dress, a deep crimson with a thick brown waist, showed off how she was a mother, giving her hips the attention they needed. There was a crystal necklace gracing her neck along with the tear drop earrings that hung from her revealed ears, making her just shine. She turns to Dean, like she can feel him coming, and gives him a large smile before giving him a quick once over.

She sips on whatever amber liquid was in her glass. "About time you join the festivities." She teases, watching his face before she speaks up, "I just noticed that Lady Robinson has made an appearance as well." Heat rose to Dean's ears and his relaxed body suddenly tensed, oh no. "So I'm guessing you should greet her properly in front of her father before he thinks you're being disrespectful." Her voice isn't chastising or even disappointed but more just motherly, with a gentle twinge of humor.

 

" 'Ight mom." He mumbles, kissing her temple like he always does before looking around for Lord Robinson. With Dean's height it wasn't hard for him to see the black haired head bobbing along with the other attendees, especially since his father was standing next to him, a serious expression on his face as he nodded curtly to whatever the elder man was saying. Lord Robinson's position in royalty was a respectable one, unlike his father who had killed for the King, Martin had saved the Crown.

Having been a slave from Nivelon, Martin had became a rather large informer of the culture and rituals that took place in the land of believers. He was moved to the capital, given a title and a nice sum of money. For years apparently he was looked down on, not being Potestian but when Cyrus Dorian (a Nivelon supporter) tried to kill the King for his god it was Lord Robinson who saved him. Cyrus was publicly executed and Martin was raised to a position of Lord, to rule over Cyrus' old lands and report to the King whenever called upon. Dean thought it was pretty awesome. But knowing his story didn't make him any less intimidating, not with thick wrinkles from the sun and the poker face he normally wore.

The feeling of 'chatty party' changed to that of a 'serious political' the moment Dean even neared the two. Cassie wasn't far from the two men, chatting with Ms. Talbot. When Dean was spotted, it was by his father, whose face became even more serious upon seeing his eldest. "Dean." John orders, his poster that of an officer as he watches Dean join the two lords.

"Pleasure to see you Lord Robinson." Dean starts, holding his hand out for Lord Robinson to take, which he does.

"Same Dean, I was just talking to your father about your upcoming travels." Martin greets.John's face screws up for a second but falls back into proper indifference shortly after that. Oh so this is what made the air thinner here. "I also had a talk with my daughter."

"Oh?" Dean piped up, glancing towards Cassie to see her purposely looking everywhere but him. This wasn't good.

Martin bobs his head, his hands moving to behind his back as he explains, "Yes. Cassie does not feel comfortable with being betrothed to someone that chooses the life of a hunter." Dean's stomach plummets but he doesn't take his eyes off of the Lord, not to even look at his own father, he knew the rules. "And, as you know, I respect my daughter's opinion. She doesn't want to be married to that lifestyle, it would be too rough on her. I'm sorry Dean, but this engagement is off."

Dean wanted to hit something. This was bullshit! He wasn't even taking the hunter initiation! He wasn't going to be a hunter he was just going to help them out! And what the fuck Cassie? Was that goodbye sex? Dean felt dirty all of sudden, and really wanted to scratch his skin clean. This little trip was causing a lot more problems than he expected, but now it was too late to back down. The politics had been involved.

 

Dean didn't know how long his thoughts dictated his brain but once he snapped out of it he looked Lord Robinson right in the eyes. "I understand sir." His voice was carefully put together, covering any negative tones with political politeness.

 

Lord Robinson seemed pretty pleased by the reaction, and seemed to believe it was a good time to lighten the conversation. "I do wish you the best of luck Dean. The endeavor you are about to embark on changes a man. And I believe you'll better yourself from the experience, just understand my daughter cannot have a part in it."

"Thank you sir, I hope to do just that."

Martin chuckles politely, placing a hand on Dean's shoulder as he speaks up yet again. "If you need any help with Nivelon myth, I'm always a letter away."

"Thank you."

In the time that Dean and Martin had shared their little conversation John had left, forgoing proper edict in his current mood. Lord Robinson didn't seem to mind however as he moves his hand to pat Dean on the back, "Now, go enjoy the party. There's plenty of women here who take interest in your expedition." Dean nodded, trying to give a genuine smile. Unable to conjure any sort of light in his eyes, Dean was happy with an excuse to leave. Giving a goodbye to Lord Robinson he disappears into the crowds, unwilling to even sneak a peek towards Cassie. Lord Robinson had no idea how much Dean truly cared for his daughter, he had no ability to know because Cassie was more careful in covering her tracks while Dean let the chips lay where they may with only minimal effort to hide it. Mary knew, Sam definitely knew and John... well, Dean had made sure he wouldn't know, since he was so unsure of what the reaction might be.

 

Despite all the pretty women dancing around him and batting their eyelashes in his direction,  Dean couldn't help but not give a shit. Now that doesn't mean he was rude, he smiled and winked whenever it was required, but his heart wasn't in it and he wanted an out. As if the Fates found some sick fascination with giving Dean exactly what he wanted, he was given an out. Just not exactly how he thought it would pan out.

 

In his travels through the people he somehow ended up near his mother, but this time she wasn't alone. John, arm wrapped around her's, chest puffed out in pride (or agitation, Dean could never tell), was staring directly at his son. Dean knew that look, and watched as his father made his way towards one of the exits. Dean followed, his mother’s eyes traveling her eldest with understanding written deep within.

 

The two Winchesters walked out into the little patio that surrounded the castle gardens. Blissfully there were no guests sitting on the stone benches pressed against the wall and John leads his son towards one that is farther away from the door they just exited. Sitting down, John waits until Dean has joined him before speaking up. "So..." Surprisingly his voice isn't aggressive nor even mad, "...you and Cassie..." It was a statement, but sounded more like a question, so Dean nodded once, staring at his feet. "Sam told me a couple years ago." John's voice is so matter of fact that Dean almost doesn't realize it.

He does however, oh he does, and his head pops up. "What?" Shock colors his voice and for some reason it makes John laugh, like really laugh.

"He was mad at you. You had just cut off all his hair and to get back at you he told me. I didn't rely on it because of how furious he was, so I thought nothing of it." His voice suddenly became more serious but not in anger. "If I'm counting right that means you two have been doing this for three years...."

Like Dean needed a reminder. "Yeah."

John nods to visibly show he heard his son, but doesn't talk for a long moment, leaving Dean to his own thoughts.

 

"When I was younger and more rambunctious-" Dean gave a shocked look towards his father but his dad just blunders on (a trait Dean did gain from him), "There was a woman... Kate." John frowns, remembering something long forgotten, "I thought I loved her. I thought we would get married and have a boy and name him Adam and the whole thing." Dean's shock was evident in his face and John held up a finger so his son didn't interrupt him. "When I joined the King's military she gave me an ultimatum, don't join and stay with her, or join and never see her again." That hit Dean a little, even though Cassie had just left and hadn't even given him an option. "I was gonna stay with her. But then the town over was going through some hard times with a nest." He shakes his head, "You could hear the screams. See people almost make it to safety before those beasts took them down." Now Dean was frowning, he thought that maybe his father had joined because his own dad had disappeared at a young age but now he could see how that very memory hardened his father, made him determined to free the people from that kind of worry. "I couldn't say no to Samuel then, not with knowing what was really going on. So I left Kate and didn't look back. Because I knew that I had a job to do." He smiles slightly now, "And then I fought along side your mother, and I knew that what I had with Kate could never surmount to the love I have for Mary." He shrugs giving his son a look, "Your world is about to get very big Dean, places, people, powers you have never seen will appear. Don't limit yourself to the girl next door, and if she tries to limit you, you know she's not the one." Never in a thousand years, did Dean ever expect his father to say such a profound statement. And for all that heart spilling Dean didn't know what to say, what to do. It helped, it really did, but this wasn't his mother, this was his dad.

"...Thanks dad." Seemed to the best thing for Dean to say and John accepted it.

Rising from his seat, John patted Dean's knee."Just thought you should know." He leaves after that, allowing Dean to have his thoughts.

His father was right, there were plenty of women out there, plenty of women to take to bed and there would be one that he could settle down with. It didn't change the fact it still hurt. With a couple of deep breaths Dean hoisted himself up with his hands on his knees, swinging them uselessly as he entered into the crowds once again.

 

The rest of the party went on without a hitch, matter of fact, it got pretty awesome once Hunter Commander Bobby Singer showed up as an officiant for the Hunters, even if John controlled their numbers. The moment that the announcer said 'Hunter Commander' Dean's head had whipped towards the door, Bobby hardly ever came out of the Roadhouse, especially for political shit but here he was. His hair, which was usually placed under some sort of hat, is horribly slicked back, making his older face more visible. He scowls, stepping down into the crowds and directly towards the man of the hour.

"Bobby!" Dean calls, wrapping his arm around the gruff man in greeting, proper etiquette be damned. The older man grunts slightly, passing the younger on the back roughly like he usually does.

"Heya Dean." Bobby greets, giving a little squeeze to Dean before letting go and following it with a pat on his shoulder. "Damn good to see ya." Dean knew he meant it, "Quite interested in why you want to be a hunter in the first place too."

Dean sighed, he hadn't expect this from Bobby, but he should have. Bobby was Dean's old tutor, as well as Sam's. He had helped raised the boys, especially when John was out hunting. When John stopped leaving and the hunters needed a mentor Bobby went, replaced with Deacon. It had been a sad time but they stayed in contact and even though the letters had waned in time, the connection was still there. Dean open and closes his mouth on as he thought of a proper response but Bobby cut him off before that could happen. "Seems like an offly stupid thing to do."

Dean's shoulders sag, "Awh come on Bobby." He groans, dropping his head, making the elder give him the stink eye.

"Don't try to pull that with me boy. I ain't taking your shit." Sometimes Bobby's no nonsense attitude was really appreciated by Dean, this time was no different.

 

"I'm just so tired of seeing these walls and hearing about all the places outside. I hear of the chaos outside and I send other people to fix it. I don't have any kids, no wife and I won't become a Lord until my father dies." He shrugs, "I got nothing going on."

Bobby's face screws up for a second but the tension relaxes, being replaced with a deep chuckle and the shake of his head. "Such a damn Winchester." He grumbles out, taking one of the glasses a passing servant was offering. "Well boy," he takes a swig, "I guess it's a good enough time to tell ya that I'll be your commander. You got to listen to me now." He gives a gruesome smile, making Dean nervous. While John followed things by the book and his tactic was blood and sweat, Bobby's was far more elaborate. Not only would Dean be out in the field but he'd have to spend countless hours studying and god forbid... eating healthy. Of course there would be more liquor involved with Bobby's training along with some up close examining so maybe Dean wouldn't be too dog tired by the week's end.

It kind of excited him actually, "Yes sir." Dean saluted the hunter commander, a glint in his eye much like that of Mary's.

The old man grunts at that, rolling his eyes in loving agitation. "Get out of here ya idjit, go have some fun while you can."

 

Dean did, he so did. Not long after running into Bobby Sam popped up, acting like a hyperactive puppy. "Dean!" He grinned, shoving a pint of whatever his way, clutching to his own with giant hands.

Dean took the drink gratefully, chugging some of it down before giving his brother a wicked grin. "Wanna see now many shots we can take without anyone noticing?"

 

"Yes."

 

The Winchester brothers, the legacy of the line, ended up getting kicked out of their own shindig. It counted as theirs since Dean was now able to actually hang out with his brother for the first time in what felt like ever. They didn't mind being kicked out and instead headed to the kitchens. Susan, the head cook, was so busy she didn't even notice when a couple bottles of their hardest liquor went missing. With their stock replenished the two headed up to Dean’s room and out to the balcony.



They were down two and a half bottles when they were pretty much at giggle level.

 

"He-ey Sammeh-" Dean snickers, "Remember that time you're hair was purple?" Sam frowned, his face wrinkling more like a baby's than that of an old man. He takes a swig of a bottle and laughs like a child, remembering something.

 

"Hey Dean," the younger sticks his head out a little farther, grinning, remember when uh... when Dad took us on that pack-mule ride?”


Dean groans, he does remember but he can’t comprehend how Sam remembered, “Dude, you were like six.”

The comment don’t bother Sam and the younger breaks out into heavy laughter. “You rode a farty donkey!”

 

They shot embarrassing or funny stories for a good hour, Dean losing the jacket and ascot while Sam removed his jacket and over shirt; Dean hadn't bothered with an undershirt after Cassie had stopped by and not having it gave him a nice breeze. Leaning against the banister both boys took a swig, letting the light chatter and clatter of the castle party be their static noise. The giggles had worn off quite awhile ago, letting their comfortable brotherly bond fill the void. And then Sammy shattered it.

 

"I heard about Cassie." He grumbled out, staring down at the pint glass in his hand. "That sucks.".

 

It did, still does. But right now the liquor covers up any burns and Dean is with his brother and all is fine. "Yeah man, but it's ‘ll good ya know? I got a lot ta see whats out d’ere and shit."

Sam smiles softly at that, "Yeah, bet it's gonna be beautiful." He doesn't seemed pained, or even worried, but farther away, like he was going to see the beauties of the world as well. Maybe one day he was, and Dean would do his best to explain everything to his curious little brother.

"Ya know," Dean speaks up, rolling the bottle neck between his palms. "I could start taking notes for your nerdy ass and send ‘em to you."

Sam guffaws, his body shaking with whatever mirth he found in that sentence. "You? Take notes!" More laughing, and Sam adapts his voice to mimic Dean. "It's big, scary and freakishly hairy... like you Sam. Haha." It's Dean's turn to laugh loudly, rocking back against the stone to his back, enjoying how the coolness feels against his heated skin.

 

"That's only if I run across any neanderthals." Dean beams, watching his brother's face display his emotions.

 

"Bitch!"

 

"Jerk!"

 

They said goodnight soon after that, Sam wishing Dean a good time on his trip and Dean wishing Sam pleasant dreams with hookers.

 

It was when Dean was lying in bed that the not so fun part of alcohol hit him. His brain wandered towards Cassie. A dull thunk in his heart told him that despite his dad's words, it would still hurt. Especially since she didn't even really say goodbye. And yeah, it wouldn't be that hard to find another girl, he knew he was attractive, but he liked Cassie. Fuck he probably loved her and that didn't happen often. Suddenly he was glad he would be leaving soon, things here still stunk of her. With that thought in mind, Dean closed his eyes and fell asleep.

 


The next morning Dean woke with a headache the size of a thousand year old dragon. His eyes were puffy and his mouth tasted like he ate cotton balls as a nighttime snack. After trudging his way down for breakfast he had to listen to how both parents were embarrassed they had to say goodnight to the party for Dean since he was too drunk. Sam wasn't there.

Dean took it easily, knowing that they weren't really upset, they just needed him to know the etiquette for the night. Which he did.

Once Dean was feeling more human he started on his day's schedule. Luckily today Dean got to go to the stables. It was one of his favorite places and if he didn't have to prepare his horse for a the journey, he wouldn't be able to go there, so he was lucky with that.

Dean loved the stables, with the musty smell of animal and hay. Sure, there was also the unpleasant smell of bodily functions at some times, but it was still comforting.

Entering the stable a couple minutes late, Dean ripped his formal jacket off, feeling the light fabric of his undershirt breathe at the release. He automatically felt more comfortable in his own skin, and even more himself upon seeing a large black head pick up from the farthest stall. Impala, Dean's horse since colt-hood, was a direct offspring of John's loyal war horse Chevy,

who was currently out in the fields enjoying his life. Impala however, was at her prime, her coat a silk black with grey covering her ears, hooves and near her eyes. Her mane and tail a mixture of blacks, greys and whites.

Dean walked as fast as he could towards the bulky steed and offered her an apology, "Sorry I was little late baby." Impala whinnies, stomping her foot in affirmation. "Yeah, I know. It sucks we can't go anywhere right now." Dean reaches over and gently strokes the side of her head, before letting his fingers trace the grey marking between her eyes. "But that's only cause we're gonna be gone for awhile and we want to make sure everything is up to snuff. Ya know?"

She makes another sound in acknowledgement and Dean starts his work. Much like his father, Dean preferred to take care of his horse himself. So, grabbing the equipment needed to clean her hooves and coat, he sets up a stool in the open area of the barn, placing the objects on the stool. Grabbing a lead Dean walks back into Impala’s stall, gently rubbing her down until he knew she was relaxed enough to move her into the bigger part of the barn. The sounds of hooves, Dean moving and the other horses was the only thing to be heard for awhile. Dean preferred to work with Impala in silence, only mumbling words of encouragement or praise. In Dean's mind, Impala could do no wrong.

Clipping her up to the hanging ropes, the eldest Winchester son grabs the pick and heads to her front hoof. Rubbing her side gently he runs his hand down her leg, tapping the back in a warning. Of course Impala knows what he's about to do and squares herself so Dean can pick up her hoof. Using his fingers he works from heel to toe, removing the crap between the more sensitive parts. Once that was complete he moves on to using the pick, removing any small rocks that got stuck between shoe and hoof.

Okay, Dean liked to work in 'silence' and everyone knew not to disturb him while doing such things but Dean had the habit of humming while laboring. Sometimes they were actual songs, sometimes he'd just hum whatever came to mind. Today was one of those days.

Humming softly Dean does a double check. Impala's shoes had been done recently but not recently enough for them to be considered new and she was scheduled for a shoe change tomorrow. Dean didn't have to clean her hooves, he knew the farrier would probably do it again tomorrow, but he wanted to. "Tomorrow I'm gonna ask the farrier how the fuck I could change your shoes on the road. Just in case some shit happens." He mentions offhandedly as he places her hoof gently down, touching her side as he heads towards the back. "Would you be okay with me changing your shoes and not some 'master' doing it?" Impala tried to look backwards, but it failed because of the rope so she just settled with a shake of her head. Sometimes that horse was smarter than the humans around Dean. He smiles, repeating the process for the next three hooves. It was all reasonably easy, Impala only had small pebbles at worst. The majority of the mess was dirt or pieces of hay or grass that got stuck in there, being held in place by dried mud.

Patting her flank once Dean places the pick down, grabbing the rough brush to bring up any dirt or god knows what stuck her coat. Moving the curry brush in small circular motions, Dean started to hum once more, losing himself in the regularity of the process. The black steed didn't seem to mind the absence of her rider's brain, just enjoying as he worked out the knots near her joints. As soon as all the gunk stuck in her hair was raised to the surface, Dean moved onto the hard brush, combing all the grime off of her and onto the surrounding floor.

 

Dean didn't talk again, not until he was done with the whole process, the soft brush, mane and tail; combing and all. Grabbing a damp washcloth he moved to her front to clean her face. "Feeling better baby?" He questions, moving his empty hand to help steady her face. Impala didn't react this time, and instead settled for staring at him with her large amber eyes, reminding Dean of torch lights. She didn't need to respond as Dean was her rider and they grew up together, they just knew. "Good, I'm glad." Cleaning out the eye boogers gently from the corner in which they hid he gave her a good once over, making sure her black coat shined.

Nodding, Dean speaks up again, more to himself than Impala, "Good." Going over to a small brown pouch he reaches in and grabs a couple sugar cubes, bringing them over for his good girl. She happily eats them and willingly follows him into her stall after he unclips her from the hanging ropes.

Giving her one more pat down for good measure he says his goodbyes and leaves, heading towards the castle.

 

Another thing on Dean's endless list of 'things to do before leaving' was stop at the castle blacksmith. The blacksmith was an older man, maybe ten years older than Dean’s father, and he definitely was shaped different. Shaw, the blacksmith, had more of a gut, his belly just asking to be released from the confounds of the blacksmith smock. Despite his flammable job he had a rather decent collection of grizzly white and grey hair surrounding his jaw and mixing with the choppily cut hair on the top of his head. His eyes were inset more, so they looked almost beady, and his face carried more torture than John's ever did.

Dean knew Shaw's story, how his father had saved him from a Wendigo when John had just started out. Dean knew how Shaw had refused to become a hunter, and instead followed his family's passion for metalwork.

"Hello sire." Shaw rumbled, ambling around his workshop, collecting certain objects.

"Hey Shaw, you got something for me?"

Shaw nods numbly, removing a sword from the cooling rack. "Matter of fact, I do." He turns around, holding the blade in the palms of his hands so Dean can get a look.

The first thing that registers is that it's sturdy. Lawrence was a territory of warriors, and when filled with soldiers the weapons needed to be strong and true. This was no exception. The blade shined with newness, having the light of the fire dance off its curves as Dean reaches forward to take it by the hilt. The hilt has an inlay of pearl on either side, making the silver of the metal look almost milky. With a engraved grip it ends with the Winchester symbol, some sort of black metal pressed into the lighter material. "Damn Shaw, it's beautiful."

Shaw doesn't smile, his face is normally in a perpetual frown, so the fact his lip curls up on the side means something. "Ain't she though? Damn near the best thing I've ever made."

"Whatcha name her?" Dean knew that sometimes people gave pet names to the weapons they were crafting before the official owner was to dub it, and Dean really wanted to know her making name.

"Called her Taurus. Ain't gotta call her that though, just seemed like like a Tarsus to me."

Dean couldn't help but agree. "I think I'll keep it." He nods,, giving Shaw one of his classic Dean Winchester smiles.

Shaw just grunts, bowing his head slightly, "it's an honor sir."

 


The next day Dean learns all he can about changing a horse's shoes, the ferrier even gave Dean an extra kit. It made Dean a little nervous, not because he'd forget what to do or he was afraid she'd get mad at him, but because this is his baby and the removing and replacing always seemed like such a violent process. Impala seemed indifferent to the whole thing, keeping her golden eyes set on Dean as the farrier explained what was going on and why.

Dean couldn't stay long after that, he had to pack food provisions since he was leaving in a day's time. It felt weird for it actually be happening, to actually be leaving Lawrence, to leave his family to go on an adventure. But he'd be lying if he said he wasn't excited. Just him, baby, and the open road. A thought wormed it's way into his brain, the same thought that bothered him the night of his party and he frowned. Sam. His stomach dropped. Sam should be in this equation, and now that it was time to go, Dean couldn't imagine leaving his brother alone. Especially with how John and him acted even with Dean around. He'd have to talk to Sammy later, for right now he needed to eat and pack some food.

 

As the Fates would have it Sammy showed up in the kitchen not long after Dean finished his lunch and started to pack the canvas sack he had brought. The castle cook, who loved Dean's gusto towards food, had packed all the preserved food in cloth, making Dean's life easier. The only thing was, she made way too much. Like, way too much, you'd need a separate horse to take it all.

"Damn Susan." He muttered. Hearing the heavy door open, Dean peaked around the corner to see his mop of a brother enter. "Sammy?"

Sam jumped, turning wide eyed towards Dean like he got caught doing something. "Dean?" He almost, swear to god, squeaked. He was always shit at getting caught when it came to Dean, maybe because Dean was normally in on it. "What are you doing here?"

Dean laughed, opting to hold up some of the wrapped goods as an explanation, while countering, "What are you doing?"

Sammy, now that Dean had a good view of his brother, was carrying a canvas sack, much like Dean's and had a sheepish look upon his young features."I ah....am getting food cause I'm gonna...um have a picnic soon." The eldest brother wouldn't have believed it if Sam's face didn't start to turn a light shade of pink.

The disbelief on Dean's face turned into a shit eating grin. "Who ya taking on your girly date Samantha?"

Sam's pinkish face want to his legendary bitch face in 2.1 seconds. "No one Dean." There was a teasing laugh on Dean's end, maybe he enjoyed making fun of his brother's choices, it made them feel normal.

"Yeah right.'" Dean snarked, "Tell me, are you gonna give her wildflowers that you picked yourself on your little journey or are they going to come from mom's garden?"

The taller, younger Winchester, puffs his chest out, walking over to the supplies as he shot back defensively, "I'm not even gonna dignify that with a response."

Letting out one last chuckle, Dean goes back to packing, muttering out a "Whatever, jerk."

"Bitch."

The brothers worked silently together, packing in sync, both left to their own thoughts.There was no way to tell what Sammy was thinking about, his face schooled to reveal nothing, Dean however, was frowning to himself. It felt like they were leaving together, with the conversation they had the night of his party and now packing together but Dean knew they weren't and it made the silence almost uncomfortable. So, of course, Dean has to open his big mouth. "I wish you were coming too."

Shit. The moment he said it Dean regretted it. This was too dangerous for Sammy, hell, it might be too dangerous for Dean. But then Sam said something that hurt Dean more than his brain or codependency could.

"I don't want to go."

"Oh."

Dean felt nauseous, and Sam was still standing there, staring hard at the food in front of him, refusing to even look towards his brother. Dean loved his family and above all else Sam. They were best friends, Dean would willingly go through hell to save his little brother, and to hear him so cold, so distant.... the eldest pushed the sickening feeling crawling up his chest down, and with a few short movements, finished packing. Tying the strings to the opening, Dean didn't waste any time on hosting it on his shoulder and turning towards the door. Dean wouldn't have stopped his stride to the exit if his conscious wasn't screaming, 'You might not see him again Dean! Say goodbye! Don't be a jackass!' This gave him pause at the door. Maybe he should say goodbye.

The sickening feeling in his stomach turned into an ugly rage. No, if Sam didn't care about Dean, Dean wouldn't care about Sammy. Without anymore thought, he pushed his way out of the kitchen, not looking back once.

 


Sammy wasn't there for dinner and it put Dean in an even worse mood. Luckily for him both parents knew why the young man was cranky and didn't bring up his mood once. Instead they talked about Dean's upcoming travels.

It seemed that Mary has gone from silently being concerned to informative. She went over every creature she knew, whether he knew it already or not. She went over the dragons of Xiatus, which were plentiful. Dragons, much like humans, we're filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly of all sorts. Because of the pure power contained inside their scaled bodies many held positions of power or acted as paid guard dogs for certain towns and provinces.

Not all dragons played by the rules however, sometimes they got greedy and would break their contracts with the town they swore to protect. They'd pick off a couple villagers or burn a couple fields, maybe steal a person to become their personal entertainment. Dean didn't trust wild dragons, or those who had lost their riders. Matter of fact, he only trusted those in the capital. Dean had never seen a dragon up close, but he did occasionally see one flying over Lawrence on a mission to help the hunters.

While John controlled the hunters he had literally no control over the riders, that was King Samuel Campbell's territory and Lord Winchester had zero jurisdiction. The king often took people from the hunters when a new dragon came to the capital, that or one of his chosen soldiers, even family members.

It still mystified Dean that Samuel never put Dean and Sam in the hatchery, but maybe Mary had already refused and since she was his favorite child, maybe he listened.

Besides the dragons, Mary went over the vampires (cut off their heads, no known cure), demons (insta-kill or exorcism), witches (Mary's least favorite, "watch out for hex bags Dean. They'll make your insides your outsides") and any other beast she could think of. She also reinforced Dean's knowledge about the regions and their rules. Chion was a kill zone, the sands around Seven Gates were a suicide trip, Paradiso wasn't worth it with it's ruins and magical properties. All in all, the only thing Dean really learned for the first time was the fact demons could actually be killed.

"Wait what?" Had been his very intellectual response to Mary's statement, which made her smile and nod.

"There are some objects, well weapons really, that can kill 'em." She winks, leaning back in her seat before continuing, "I only know of one, the Colt. Which is some kind of contraption that uses a combustible powder that fires these little shots of metal." Dean had never heard of such a weapon before but he had to say it sounded awesome, and he said just that, making his mother's smile broaden. "It is isn't it?"

Sometimes Mary and Dean were the same person, they loved baked goods, sunny days and really cool things. They shared a smile and continued to eat their last meal together for who knows how long. That reminded Dean that Sam wasn't there and that killed him inside.

 

The rest of dinner went on without a hitch and soon Dean was kissing his mother goodnight and promising to see her in the morning. John however stayed when Mary left, motioning for his son to follow him. Dean did, like the good little soldier he was.

 

They walked in silence down the darkened halls of the castle until they reached the study door. John, opening the heavy door, held it open long enough for his son to follow before the wooden door closed behind them with a gentle thunk. Heading behind the desk, Lord Winchester reached into one of the drawers, pulling out a small leather bound book.

For the first time since dinner someone spoke up and it was John who paved the way. "Here." He grunts, holding the book out for his eldest. "It's all my field notes from the cases I've been on, all the info I've gained as a soldier." Watching Dean's expression with some kind of personal restraint, John shrugs. "You can keep it, add to it, whatever. It might help." Dean couldn't remember the last time that Lord John Winchester actually felt like a father, but this moment definitely was it. Right now he wasn't the leader of a small militia and the Guardian of Lawrence, he was just Dean's dad.

It felt good, and the corner of Dean's lip quirked up. "Thanks dad."

John, sitting down in his large leather bound chair, grabbed at a small stack of papers on his immaculate desk. "Now, go get some sleep. Ya got a long trip in front of you." It was a dismissal but there was a softness in his voice, giving a hint to how much John actually cared. Focusing on that and not Sam's absence in all of this, Dean leaves, heading straight for his room.

 

Packing the small journal in his bag, he places Taurus besides it, not wanting to forget the beautifully casted blade.

Removing his shirt and pants he walked out onto his balcony. How many times had he run out here when he was young child and couldn't take the drama of his life? How many times did he kiss Cassie in this exact spot? How many hours did Dean spend out here shooting the wind with his brother? Standing out over his world, Dean allowed the view to distract his thoughts, even for a moment.

Tonight a mist set over the far away fields, making all the little lights seem more distant and muted. Suddenly Dean knew that there was no turning back from this, his dad was expecting him to do this, Sam had made his peace and Cassie left. Dean wanted to leave. He wanted to prove himself, to himself and to everyone. He wanted to do something with his life, to help others and be considered a positive force rather than a stagnant one who sent others in their place.

With one last breath of sweet country air, Dean goes back into the sanctuary of the castle, ready to sleep the six hours before leaving.

 


He actually didn't get that much sleep that night, with his body resting his mind went everywhere, from events at the party two nights ago to the conversation he had first had with his father and all the way to Sam's rejection. But Dean had to go to sleep, he was traveling on his own tomorrow. So, with his eyes drooping, Dean was able to get the rest he needed.

 

Dean woke up to a gentle knocking on his bedroom door, a sliver of golden light hitting his face as the door opens. "Sweetie?" Mary's voice wakes her son up automatically, making his eyes  pop open.

"Mom?" Despite his active movements, Dean's alertness was down, trusting his mother above all else.

Mary, making her way towards the side of the bed, reaches over and rubs his shoulder. "It's time to get ready." She coaxes, turning her head to stare at Dean the way only a mother could. It kinda felt like the nail in the coffin, but at the same time strangely freeing.

"Okay." Dean mumbles, sitting up more and wrapping his arms around his mother. He gives her a soft squeeze, mindful of her fragile chest, before moving up out of the bed and towards the folded clothing set out for him. His mother respectably turns her eyes towards the open balcony, waiting for her son to change and be decent. There wasn't anything really going on outside, Dean knew this time was even too early for farmers.

Something managed to hold Mary's attention, and when Dean was finally done dressing himself he wandered over towards his mother. Taking a seat, Dean follows his mother's eye line, bringing his attention towards the stars that litter the sky. The mist that covered Lawrence a couple hours ago had dissipated, giving way to a large crystal black sky, shards of brilliant lights speckling the canvas.

"When I was a child..." Mary starts, her eyes concentrating on the faraway dots. "I thought stars were angels." She smiles, moving so her head rests upon Dean's shoulder, her eye line unbroken. "I still do."

Dean holds his hand out towards his mother, which she gladly takes, squeezing his fingers in thanks. They don't talk for a while and they didn't need to. Mary was the hardest thing to leave besides Sam, she was Dean’s biggest security blanket. Mary was the one to calm Dean down, she was the one that taught him how to play with others, she was the one to always make sure there was a pie in the kitchen. She was his neverending ray of sunshine, and he'd miss her and worry horribly.

"Will you be okay?" Dean asks suddenly, his body unmoving so not to jostle his comfortable mother. She laughs and gives Dean another hand squeeze, sitting up straight now.

"Oh honey," she reaches over with slender fingers, brushing away invisible hairs that weren't in Dean's face. "I'll miss you terribly, but I won't let anything happen in Lawrence until you get back." Her voice turns teasing, whether to cover up her pain or just bring up another conversation, Dean didn't know. "You better get your butt in gear, Impala is probably biting at the bit... literally." Her smile turns into a grin, realizing the metaphor worked perfectly for this exact occasion.

Her smile was infectious, making her son send a crooked grin back. But all things have to end and soon Mary stands, pulling Dean up with her via their connected hands. "You got people to save."

 


An hour later and Dean was standing in front of the gates of Lawrence with his parents. Sammy wasn't there, apparently he refused to come out of his room. It put a heavy weight on Dean's heart and he tries his best to ignore it, to remember this wasn't his choice but his brother's. That didn't help.

"Remember to send a bird when you get there!" Mary's voice is light but her mother's worry still shown through.

"Yeah, of course mom." Dean responds, wrapping his mother tightly in his arms, breathing in the smell of juniper berries and wildflowers that was so uniquely her.

"Good." She mumbles into his shoulder, raising her head to whisper something into his ear, "Remember, angels are watching over you."

As a kid, Dean would be reminded every night before bed that the angels were watching over him. He didn't exactly believe it. Demons he had heard stories about, but angels? Maybe they existed once in Paradiso, but they were long gone now, it was the world of dragons and demons, with no divine intervention for thousands of years. Of course Dean didn't voice his thoughts on the subject and let his mother continue to believe in such a silly concept, his arms reluctant to leave her. "I'll be fine." She adds after a couple of seconds. That comforts Dean more than fluffy winged humanoids and he drops his arms, turning towards his father for his goodbyes.

John, who was tall compared to others was the same height as Dean now, and their eyes were able to connect without changing their level. Dean knew his dad was shit at goodbyes, he always had been and actually had a tendency to pissed people off while they were departing. John wasn't going to do that, not to his first born. Instead he holds out an arm, giving Dean the opportunity to hug his father. John was a brick house still, despite the fact he was no longer an active soldier he still trained for hours, practiced new moves and ate right. As Dean wrapped his arm around his father he wondered if that would be his life under the reign of the hunters, probably, if he wasn't kidding himself. John's rough voice is what pulled him away from his revelry, "Make me proud."

With a pat on his father's broad back Dean pulled away, giving him a curt nod, "I will."

"Good...good." John's normal emotionless slate of a face turns down and he can't help but bring up the one thing Dean didn't want to talk about. "Sammy's gonna be a little shit with you gone..."

Dean knew it but he didn't need to be reminded, so he pulled away, keeping his face schooled. Mary was frowning, and sending a "you idiot" look towards her husband but he was the only

Winchester not to pick up on it. "Well, I guess I should shove off than." Dean starts, going over to Impala, who was patiently waiting. She seemed to be the most excited, her amber eyes staring down the road in front of them as if it was a whole new chapter of their lives. It was, this was going to change everything and everyone.

Climbing onto the back of his horse with ease, Dean maneuvered the bags strapped to her sides, getting comfortable for the trip ahead. Once he was settled he gave a last look at his parents, they looked so different from the back of a horse, so small and far away.

"Be safe!" Mary calls as a last ditch effort to protect her son.

"I will mom." He tries his best convincing smile but it didn't meet his eyes, Sam wasn't here, it wasn't a proper goodbye. His father gives a final nod, knowing that words might not be the best, which Dean secretly thanks his father for.

With one last look at his family, at the castle he had spent nearly his entire life in, he takes off, heading down the darkened path and out into the world.

 


He makes it to the border of the Lawrence farms when the sun starts to kiss the sky with this warm tendrils. Dean takes a pause, stopping to look back at the far away castle that is now just a small shiny dot on the horizon. The wind was stronger here, without large walls and trees to give it pause. It's nice, the cool night air caressing his skin and invigorating him. With a large hand he pats Impala's flank. "Just you, me and the open road mhmm? See? I promised you baby, it was gonna be a trip."

Impala whinnies, as if agreeing and even she sounds excited, revved up from finally being free. Her response is good enough for Dean to turn her away from their home, to look towards the empty lands in front of them. "It's gonna be one hell of a change." She stomps her foot, telling her rider it's time for some action. Dean couldn't agree more.

 

They don't stop officially until they're through the Robinson's territory. There's a river that runs through both lands, big enough for it to be difficult to swim across but not impossible. They stop there so Impala can drink and Dean can catch some shade, the sun well over halfway across the sky. Dean has been to Girardeau, the Robinson's lands, before but that was on a hunting excursion with his father and Lord Robinson. It was much more different to travel it by yourself. Unlike Lawrence, Girardeau was a lot more rocky, and while it retained the form of planes that Lawrence had, there were a lot more trees. Dean didn't mind the trees one bit, the shade they gave was god sent for a trip in the middle of the day. The bad thing was it reminded Dean of Cassie. His stomach turned. "Hey baby..." He speaks up, throwing a rock or two into the river in front of him. "You think letting Cassie go was a good thing?" Impala just continues to lap up the water in front of her so he takes it as a yes. Dean stretches, getting the kinks of travel out of him while he still can. "I mean, dad's right, there's a bunch of girls out there. I guess I'm just worried no one will be as good as her you know?"

Impala at this point, seemed tired of Dean's fears, so leaving the running water, she joins her companion, nudging her large head into his arm. It grants her a small smile from Dean, and a gentle pet down as he finishes his thought, "But I mean, you're the only woman I need in my life right?" Impala nickers contently at that comment, officially ending the conversation.

 

They didn't really stop again until they were out on the border of Girardeau. There were about two more smaller kingdoms to go through and then they'd reach the King's Land. The King's Land was the last territory for them to really get through before reaching the Roadhouse. No lords ruled that land and it encompassed the entire western border of King Campbell's relam in a thick uneven crescent shape. There would be guard posts and random towns throughout its terrain even with towns being small as well as far and few between. Hunters often made their home in this area, due to being close to the Roadhouse and only having to listen to the King's law and not that of a lord's. Basically it was one of the safest places to go, despite being so close to Chion.

Now however, at the western border of Girardeau, all Dean could see to the west was the tall mountains before the King's land, with the moon just peaking above its crags. As soon as he passed over those mountains he'd be a little over halfway there. Dean, because of his youth could make the trip in two days, arriving at the Roadhouse either late at night or early in the morning, he had no idea. That all really depended on Impala's willingness to go on.

Making himself comfortable underneath an oak tree with his duffle of clothing as back support, Dean closes his eyes and clocks right out.

 

He wakes sometime around early morning, and the crick in Dean’s neck makes it impossible to fall back into slumber. Quickly packing everything up they head out, Dean snacking on some preserved meat.

 

The mountains were a bitch, as nearly everyone had warned him. The mountains weren’t even that big, but the trails weren't really made properly for horses, and while others had trucked their way over the pass, Dean doubted it sometimes, what with Impala's wide body. She made it of course, and the way down was much easier.

The high slopes turned into more reasonable hillsides, trees covering the area in a dense blanket. With such a high cluster of trees the sun didn't really hit the forest floor, only shining through the leaves, giving the world an emerald hue and kept the hottest part of the day from even reaching Dean's skin.

Eventually the forests thinned out, the road becoming more prominent and Dean knows he had reached the King's land. A couple miles in and there was a small town, where he rested Impala and had a couple drinks at the tavern. It was cute little place, mainly farmers and non-deployed soldiers. There were children running around at this time, and sometimes one of them would randomly scream, reminding Dean they were there.

The tavern in the town had an average mood to it, there wasn't any heaviness nor joy, it was just quietly tinkling with a low undercurrent of murmurs. Nothing happened there, not a single person came over to Dean, no one asked what a heir of Lawrence was doing here so far from home. If Dean was at home, no matter what he was doing, someone would come and bother him. Not that he really minded it usually, but to have no one stop him... it reminded him how small he truly was. How unknown. He paid for his drinks and gave the pretty bartender a few coins extra before dipping out and checking on Impala.

She wasn't looking like she was having a good time, and when Dean got back she visibly relaxed. It had been such a long time that Impala had been in another stable that it kinda freaked her out. Suddenly feeling guilty he gives her some sugar cubes he had nicked at one point. She seemed to relax even more than and butts her head against his back lovingly. "I'm sorry baby, I didn't know." He gives her a good pat down, dropping her tether over a post, finding no need to actually tie it. "But you're gonna have to get used to other horses and different stables." He works on quickly cleaning her hooves with his fingers, giving her the average warning. "There's gonna be a lot of them when we get to the Roadhouse." Impala seems to understand, dropping her head slightly as she obediently picks up her feet. They leave soon after Dean finishes with her hooves.

 

They get to the Roadhouse when the moon looms the highest in the sky. The actual Roadhouse used to be a pub, still is, but it's where the Hunters got their start. Where his father sat around with Lord Harvelle, Rufus Turner and Bobby Singer and made the actual organization. The old building still stood strong despite its dilapidation with "Harvelle's Roadhouse" painted on a sign over the door. There were large stone structures around it, making the old wooden building look a little out of place while strangely making it seem more important. Tying up Impala to one of the rungs set outside of the place he doesn't even bother looking for the stable. Impala could get some time to adjust to the new place and Dean would actually be able to keep an eye on her from the Roadhouse windows.

With that done, Dean squares his shoulders and heads in, changing his life forever.

 

The place was as dead as you expected it to be in the middle of the night, there was a man sleeping on a games table and an older woman with mousy brown hair scrubbing the bar top. She notices him first, of course and stiffens, before her shoulders settle down and she smiles. "Guessin' you’re Dean than? Lot taller than I expected." She squints at him, "But definitely a Winchester." Dean walked closer, holding a hand out for her.

"Yeah I am, and you are...?"

The woman's face drops and she frowns, "John ain't ever said anything to you about me?" She shakes her head. "We were like family once." She sighs, taking Dean's hand in a firm fashion, oh, she was totally a hunter. "Name's Ellen Harvelle and I run this joint with Bobby." That really gives Dean pause, if Ellen ran the place with Bobby why had his father neglected to tell Dean about her? He pushed the thought away, his brain too focused on the now rather than the then.

"Pleasure Ellen, glad to finally be here."

Ellen laughs, her weathered face still beautiful despite all the hardships she must have been through. "Same to you Dean, now let's get you settled in." She drops Dean's hand, and looks over his shoulder towards the sleeping man. "Ash!" She calls, startling the sleeping mass awake.

"Yeah I'm up!" He called sleepily, rubbing his eyes and turning towards the two bodies by the bar. His hair, now that Dean noticed, was short in the front and long in the back, making him look rather ridiculous in his cut off shirt.

Dean can't help but smile and lean towards Ellen, "That's an Ash?"

Apparently the man heard him, and walking over the he states proudly, "Actually it's technically Ashland but I prefer Ash."

Dean barks out a laugh, grinning at the man. At least he had a sense of humor.

Ellen found it amusing as well, her face curving up in a smirk. "Ash could ya show Dean to his room," she nods towards the front if the Roadhouse, "And show him where to hitch his horse." It was an order, and both boys knew it.

"Aye aye ma'am!" Ash salutes, handing towards the exit. "Come on Dean, we got shit to do."

 

The stables weren't that far away, hidden behind one of the stone buildings to protect the steeds from any tampering, which Dean really liked. Settling Impala in was easy, the ride had been trying for her and to get a good rest, fresh water and hay, was a nice change. And the best part for her was the fact that the saddle could be removed for more than a couple hours, and she wouldn't have to carry as much, not that she would mind, she was huge.

Dean never noticed the difference in her size compared to the horses back at Lawrence but now.... she was a tank, nearly a foot taller than the others and with her black hair, she looked rather intimidating and awesome. He leaves her once she's comfortable and follows Ash through a wooden door, into the large stone buildings.

"Ya got a nice horse." Comments Ash as the ascend the stairs, the air cool from the surrounding stone.

"Yeah, had her since she was a colt."

"Sweet."

 

They walk down the darkened hall, past nearly a dozen doors until they reached the end. Making a left they headed down another corridor, stopping at the third door in. "And this is going to be your residence for however long you decide to chill with us hunters." Ash grins, popping the door open before standing back and flourishing his hand into the dark room. "If ya need anything I'm down the hall, I gotta sign." The grin deepens, "you'll know. See ya bright and early for Bobby's introduction of you to the crew." Dean doesn't bother mentioning that he knows a couple of them already, he doesn't need to. Their greeting should be enough.

Saying goodnight to Ash, Dean heads into the room, it's dark and only has one window, the light shining through from the tired moon. Knowing he won't get a good look at the room he plops down his bags onto the wooden floor, hearing it creak in annoyance.

Dean would have to make sure no one was underneath him before bringing someone up here. Maybe there was a single and completely willing woman below him, that'd be fun. Too tired to really think on it, he shuffles towards the bed. Kicking off his boots and ripping off the sticky and smelly clothing he falls onto the covers and clocks out.

 


Dean expected the wake up to be early, but it was still hell to hear a loud gong sound reverberate through the building. There was sudden sounds of people from the hall, like these people were up before the forsaken thing. Upon opening his eyes Dean sees that the sun is just waking up as well. He couldn't see the sun, his room was apparently to the west, but the world was starting to reveal itself under the yellow light.

Groaning he rolls out of bed and hits the ground, "Fuckkkk." He growls into the wood below his cheek. Everything hurt, he was too tired before from the entire trip before to even really feel the soreness in his muscles, but now with a proper bed under his weight, his body was able to just give up. He ignored it, and stood, looking around the room with blurry eyes.

It was just the bare bones of a room, there was an empty wash bin in the corner, placed upon a medium sized dresser. The dresser wasn't like the one at home, this was simple and made hastily, it looked sturdy though, what with the random knife marks upon the counter top. Guess the furniture stayed when the hunter left. There was a chamber pot in the far corner, which Dean prays is empty and probably is since the room didn't smell. There were also candles, lots of them, and nearly every flat surface had some kind of wax dripped onto it. There was a three single candlesticks resting on a little bedside table, made in the same style as the dresser. The last thing in the room was a singular chair, it's wicker seat fraying slightly but even then it looked durable enough to survive for a few more years. Now that he was focused on the chair he could see the stack of clothing placed upon it.

Shuffling over, slowly getting over the kinks in his bones, he grabs the clothing to get a good look at it. It was hunter made, with hard leather protecting the inside while the outside was a mesh of brown and black fabrics that sucked in the light instead of reflect it like silk does. The pants were of a dark brown, thicker material and on further examination, was much like canvas if canvas was a little tougher to cut. Dean slips the outfit on, tying the leather bands that held the harder leather together before securing the mixed cloth. He couldn't help but notice how the black fabric had multiple layers of cloth, probably placed there for some super sleuthy propose that Dean had no notion about. He let's it fall to the wayside, focusing on getting where he needs to.

Finally leaving his room the halls appear empty, like everyone had already headed out for the daily grind. Shit, and Dean had no idea where to go. Luckily for him a door a couple down from his opened and a tiny blonde woman steps out. She couldn't be more than her early 20's, small and compact and looking a little overburderned, her hair going every which way as she tries to put it up in a bun, a dagger between her teeth.

"Hey!" Dean calls, startling the girl to look towards him. She blinks and pulls the dagger out between her teeth to talk. "You're the new guy right?" Dean nods and the girl smiles, "Good. So I'll bring you there and you'll say I was helping you." It seemed reasonable enough, and not at all fictitious.

"Sounds like a plan." Dean agrees, walking towards her with ease, his mind ignoring any physical pain he has now. The girl places the dagger between her legs to quickly tie up her hair before reaching over and holding out a hand.

"Name's Jo Harvelle."

Oh shit so she was Ellen's kid? "Dean Winchester."

"Pleasure."

"Likewise."

 


Jo leads Dean through the labyrinth that is the Roadhouse with ease, and Dean guessed as much since she was raised here. They make it to the meeting area (a little clearing between the buildings) only a minute and a half late. Which was awesome, but not ideal. The hunters, or the ones at this location, were all standing around in a mishmosh of people, no real military lines like his father's soldiers had.

"Settle down!" Bobby, at the head, orders. Everyone shuts up real quick. With a quick eye at the remaining upstarts, Bobby turns his attention to Jo and Dean. "Ah Dean! So sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep." The other hunters all whipped their heads around to stare and whisper. Oh. So this is how Bobby's training differs from his father's. He wasn't sure what talking back would get him, and he wasn't exactly excited to find out, so he kept his mouth shut and stared at Bobby.

Realizing he wasn't going to get something from Dean the commander turns towards Jo, "And I'm assuming you also slept in and are using Dean as an excuse?"

Jo, giving a quick look towards Dean before turning back and shaking her head, "No sir."

"Horse shit."

Jo stood strong, glaring at Bobby with an intense need to prove herself. It was the wrong look, "You know what Harvelle? I think your mother needs help moving the casts from yesterday's shipment. Why don't you go do that? By yourself."

Jo looks murderous for a second, but nods. "Fine." She doesn't bother sticking around after that and storms off towards where Dean assumes the Roadhouse is.

"That's bullshit Bobby. She wasn't lying!" Okay, now who was lying? The bearded man stares towards Dean, his eyes mixed with annoyance and fatherly disappointment.

"Not for nothin' Dean but I got real good at catching your lies when you were eight." He rumbles out, all the hunters surrounding them so silent you could hear a pin drop. Dean can't think of anything clever to say. "You go help Ms. Harvelle and after that I want you to jog around the Roadhouse until sundown. And then maybe you can come back and tell me the truth."

Dean wasn't sure how long he was standing there slack jawed, but it must have been a quick minute. Closing his mouth he nods, understanding that this was Bobby demonstrating how he didn't pick favorites. With that Dean bows his head, leaving the meeting area the same way that Jo did, and not once does he look back.

He feels guilty, he hasn't been here for more than a day and he's already lied to Bobby and caused a scene. Great first impression Dean, the hunters much really respect you.

He broods the whole way to the front of the Roadhouse where he gets distracted by someone cursing under their breath.

Turning a corner Dean sees two rather large doors open, revealing a storage building. Jo is inside, throwing her dagger at just about every hard surface. "Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!" She growls, more daggers seeming to just appear at her fingertips.

Without a sound Dean walks in, not exactly sure if he should call her attention towards himself if she's throwing daggers. Of course it backfires, and he steps on a particularly fresh spot of hay, making it crunch under his boot.

Jo whips around, a dagger ready to be let loose in her fingers. She relaxes automatically upon seeing him however, and drops the dagger to the ground. "How'd you end up here?"

"Tried to defend your honor." Dean responds, sitting on one of the large barrels he and Jo would have to carry.

"How noble of you." She deadpans, picking up the dagger to scrape it against the floor uselessly. For some reason Jo doesn't feel like a woman, or maybe he should say a woman he can have sex with, she just seems so much like a little sister and he has a feeling that'd just continue as they knew each other.

Because of this Dean doesn't cop out, he instead looks straight into her eyes, making sure to gain her attention. "Hey, at least you don't have to run around the Roadhouse until the sun is down."

Jo smiles slightly, finding Dean's punishment amusing, "He always comes up with the best tortures on the spot."

Dean laughs and nods, "Hell yeah he does, he used to be my teacher back in Lawrence and shit you not, he made me and Sammy run up and down the towers carrying little cups of water. If they spilt we'd have to refill it and do it all over again." Okay, Bobby was a satanist when it came to punishment, but they were just ridiculous sometimes. "He only stopped us when my mom scolded him and said that the rock was wet and we could slip."

"Sammy is your little brother?" She asks, unable to not question the name due to the fondness is conjured in Dean.

"Yeah, he's my little brother but he's actually taller than me now. And he's got this large mop of hair that I should have cut off of him before I left." Dean motions as as he explains, giving a proper description in height and hair length just because he memorized his brother's features incase he never got to see him again. Maybe he wouldn't. He didn't even get to a say goodbye.

The falter in Dean's enthusiasm really caught Jo's attention, and losing the little bit of aggravation she had left she now looks concerned.

"You aren't used to being away from him are you?" It wasn't really a question, well it was, but she already knew the answer.

"Yeah." Dean sighs, rubbing the back of his head and deciding it was time for a distraction. Standing up he nods towards the barrels. "Lets go bring these over and first drink is on me."

She sends him a smile. Dean had intended to help Jo out, but instead she helped him, it was an odd switch.

 

 


They were able to roll about two casts over before they started to get lazy. Apparently, because of how close the Roadhouse was to Chion, the humidity here could become down right horrid. It wasn't that bad at night, but the moment the sun started to peak over the tree line, things got sticky. It was disgusting and both Dean and Jo removed their interior hardened leather in order to let their cloths actually breath. It helped, a lot, but the humidity still kicked their asses and slowed them down some.

On the last cast of whatever alcohol they were dragging over to the Roadhouse they heard the sound of an approaching horse, making both look up. Jo's face was filled with confusion but Dean, Dean knew that silhouette anywhere.

"Sam?!" He didn't bother hiding his shock at seeing his brother. Dropping everything and suddenly having the energy, Dean races the rest of the way to Sam and his horse Stanford. "Holy shit!" Dean couldn't help himself, this was insane. "Holy shit, what the fuck are you doing here?"

Sam, slowing down his caramel horse, smiled down sheepishly at his brother. "This ah... was kinda the plan all along."

Dean laughed, actually laughed, in disbelief, running his fingers through his short hair as if that would help. He was overjoyed. His brother was here. "Damn, it's good to see you."

His brother removes himself from his horse, wrapping Dean in a large mammoth hug the moment he touches ground.

They hug it out, Dean knows that the stunt in the castle kitchens was just that, an act. He knows that the drunk Sammy, staring out at the world like it was a whole new place to explore, was his Sammy. His brother wouldn't let him go this alone. He would be by his side till the very end, and maybe even than same.

"I'm sorry to interrupt this brotherly love fest but...." Jo's voice reminded Dean about the surrounding world, about the sweat pooling under his arms and around his neck. It reminded him of exactly where he was and what he was supposed to be doing.

"Shit Sammy, this is Jo." He gestures to her for her to walk over, which Jo does before holding out a slender hand to Sam.

"Hi Sam." She smiles, her eyes glued how Sam's hand envelops hers. "Damn he wasn't kidding about you being tall."

"I call him Samsquash." Dean pipes up, sending a mocking grin towards his brother's bitch face. Sam's case isn't really helped when Jo breaks out into quiet laughter, "Samsquash..haha."

 

With Sam there they finished moving the casts into the Roadhouse, getting them onto their stands and helping Ellen tap them. Of course, since Ellen knew everyone that came through here Sam had to be introduced to her. "Sam this is Ellen Harvelle, she's second in command and Jo's mom."

"Nice to meet you Sam." She smiles, holding out a hand, "I didn't know we were getting both the Winchester boys."

That comment reminded Dean that no one, not even his parents knew. His face pales, his mom.

"Sam." He blurts out before he can stop himself, "Can I talk to you for a second?"

Furrowing his brow Sam nods, "Yeah of course." They ignore the looks from Ellen and Jo and leave the building, finding sanctuary outside.

Dean's the first to talk, beginning the conversation Sam was most likely trying to avoid. "Does mom and dad know?"

Blinking and suddenly registering what Dean had asked he nods, "I left a note."

That wasn't good enough, "Oh god they're probably freaked." Dean groans, rubbing his face in agitation.

Sam shakes his head, his hair doing a little twirl with the movement, "It's a long note Dean, I explained the whole thing. Where I was going, why I was going, how they just had to let it happen." He ignores Dean's face and plows on, "They'll be better without me there, you know how bad me and dad get."

It was true, they had some serious blow outs, and if Dean wasn't there to stop them... it had been a fear of Dean's when he left and suddenly he felt better. John and Mary would be fine, they loved each other and without the kids causing problems, it'd be like a get away.

Dean nods and Sam knows he's won, his face softening. "Come on, we can send them a letter together later."

"Yeah, alright."

They walked back into the Roadhouse together, this was going to be so different from what Dean expected.

 


Bobby had a shit fit when he found out, and got even more red in the face when he realized Dean hasn't done his run. He made both Winchesters run the course, and they would have to do it until he said so. So even when the sun set they still ran, dog tired and breathing heavy. They rounded the meeting zone for what feels and quite possibly is the tenth time when they see Bobby standing there, arms crossed and frown on his lips.

They stop but don't say anything, panting in front of the older man. "You two idjits are gonna be a handful I can tell that much." He was scolding them, all three men knew it, the two younger ones allowing it to happen. "And I ain't gonna take shit from either of you." He gives them the stink eye. "But I ain't gonna be cruel, ain't my department. So get your nasty asses cleaned up and come have some grub."

"Yes Sir." The boys chimed, both turning on their heels and walking towards the bath house. Luckily their run had helped them understand the outside layout of the place and they got there with ease. Quickly washing away any sweat and muck that covered them they dressed themselves in the same stinky stuff they were wearing. "Dude." Dean complained, "Where's your bags?" Sam, who had just finished shaking his head and running his fingers through his hair looks over at his brother. "I think Jo said she was gonna bring it up to wherever I'm sleeping."

Dean sighs at that, knowing it could be anywhere in the housing building, but starts off there anyway. "Alright."

May the gods of Nivelon forever smile down on that little blonde because when they found Sam's stuff they realized it was one door over from Dean's.

"Sweet." Voices Dean, kicking open his room’s door with his foot, "See ya when you're nice and fresh Sammy."

"Jerk."

"Bitch."

 

The Winchester boys, when doing something, often take the same amount of time and this is no different. The moment Dean finishes and opens his door his brother joins him out in the hallway. They're both wearing their regular clothing, simple pants with a unassuming or average shirt. They might be sons of a Lord, but they didn't want to be treated different.

Heading down to the Roadhouse they noticed that while there were people around, doing their own thing, the majority of the noise was coming from the little rundown pub. Upon entering they find out exactly what’s going on.

"Winchesters!" The crowd of hunters call, all raising different glasses of what can be assumed is liquor. Jo happens to be close to the boys and she wraps her small arms around them, squeezing them with a frightening amount of strength.

"This is the real hunter greeting boys!" She grins cheekily, her face a shade redder from her own consumption of alcohol.

"Sweet!" Dean responds, heading straight to the bar where Ellen held up two full-to-the-brim pints in one hand. That woman was terrifying. Dean takes them with a grin and when he opens his mouth to ask how much Ellen shuts him up.

"It's your welcoming party Dean. Your drinks are free." And that, that was pretty awesome.

 

Throughout the course of the night they met all the hunters stationed at the Roadhouse. There was The Chambers, a father and daughter duo (his daughter Krissy was in training and only like... ten). Ash showed up at one point and introduced himself as Doctor Badass grinning wildly at Sam's confused expression. Jo helped them avoid that conversation by telling him that Ellen needed help at the bar. There was also Martin Creaser, who the boys already knew because of his visits to Lawrence. With Martin as the introducer they also met a man Victor Henriksen, who's serious face and uninterested eyes gave the boys enough initiative to search out Bobby. He wasn't that hard to find, but they knew where to look.

In one of the back corners of the pub they found the old man sitting with another hunter. The other hunter seemed about Bobby’s age, his skin dark like burnt wood, especially with how battered his skin was. "Dean, Sam." Bobby greeted, nodding to each as he said their names before downing a good helping of whatever was in his flask. "This ah here is Rufus Turner." He reaches up and pats the other man on the back making him look up.

"Ah good, Winchesters. Gonna bring the shit storm are ya?" Rufus wasn't joking, and despite the fact he was obviously drinking, it sounded dark.

"The hell that mean?" Dean jumps, unable to control himself, especially with the drink in him.

Rufus barks, his head rolling back before coming to look Dean straight in the eye, his finger moving between both of them. "You're Winchesters, ya get the job done but hell, if I don't feel the winds a changing with these two."

Bobby rolls his eyes and pushes a new glass towards his friend, "Shut it Rufus, you know that's just lady liquor fuckin' with ya."

Rufus grunts and downs half the bottle, slapping his knee at the zing that goes through him. "Ah! Maybe it is!" He moves so his elbows are resting on the table. "But are ya boys ready for trouble?"

Dean and Sam look at each other, silently communicating before looking towards the two older men. "We got this." They said in unison, Dean's voice more cocky while Sam's somber.

"Good." Rufus falls back into his seat more, sipping on his drink, "Now drink up, ya only get three free drink days, the day ya join, if ya almost die and if ya die." He grins viciously, a twinkle in his eye that could only mean the man was half sane.

"Amen to that." Dean salutes, downing his drink with Sammy not far behind.

With a lull in the conversation Dean's mind wanders, he had seen Martin and even Caleb at one point, but there wasn't hide nor hair on Pamela. "Hey Bobby," Bobby's head turns towards Dean and he pushes forward. "Where's Pamela?"

Both Rufus and Bobby's faces darken, oh shit. Sam opens his mouth, ready to give an apology for Dean when Bobby speaks up, effectively cutting Sam off. "An elder dragon showed up at the Capital, it wouldn't even let any of the King's men try to connect. Apparently King Samuel decided Pamela would be a good match for him. He summoned about two months back. She hasn't been heard from again." Bobby's frown deepens, making him even more wrinkly. "But they send back the ones that don't work. So I guess she's a dragonrider now."

"Pam... wow." Sam mutters by Dean's side, his words expressing Dean's shock. It was one thing to hear about the recruitment, it's another to have a friend taken by it. And they didn't even know until right now.

"Shit." Dean adds, needing to express his own feelings on the topic.

Bobby shrugs, "Ain't that different for the life of a hunter I suspect. Just ya got more scaly creatures involved in it."

The conversation was dropped then and they went on to talk about hunter training and exactly what the boys could expect. However the moment Ellen joined it became a party. She kept Bobby and Rufus level headed in their rantings and poked fun at the boys when need be. For the rest of the night everyone enjoyed themselves, avoiding past scars like the plague, and laughing away any tears once shed.

Chapter Text

 

Dean and Sam didn't go back to Lawrence, not officially. They'd stop by when passing through but otherwise kept in contact with their parents via letters.

Three years as official hunters and the boys have their fair share of scars and lost causes. They had to deal with everything from vampire uprisings to dragon disorderlies, psycho humans to vengeful spirits. While the boys tended to work by themselves, for the last four months Jo had joined them. She was a great addition to the Winchesters, what with their intimidation techniques and her sleath.

The most recent mission they were sent to do was comb the northern region of Potesta for any supernatural activity. That wasn't hard to come upon in that mountainous landscape. The middle of Potesta was flat and filled with prairies and an occasional mountain here and there, while the north was much worse. A large portion of the mountains were snow topped and far too dangerous to pass over, making travel difficult. The weather also didn’t help as it was a lot more difficult to foresee due to their horizon being filled with mountains and some of the tallest trees Dean had ever seen.

As for today it was nice, the weather was cooperating, making it hot when they stood still but comfortable the moment air touched skin. The group of hunters were in the mountains near

the small town of Pontiac, who had hired them to take care of a disorderly dragon. The beast lay in front of them now, it's crystal blue eyes clouded over and it's straw colored body bent at an odd angle from the fall it had taken. She wasn't huge, Dean had seen larger dragons by this time, but came in at about 15 feet including the tail. If she was to be placed standing next to Impala the horse's head would reach to about her mid-shoulder.

Jo, who was checking the dragon's teeth and then removing the canines spoke up now, "Think she was nearing 50 or so, her teeth aren’t that big."

"You only say that cause you didn’t have to get close to her." Sam sassed, leaning down to get a better look at her paw. Her talons, because they were talon more than claw, were an opaque tan, reminding Dean of the skin beneath his own fingers.

Jo snorts, violently digging into the gums of the dragon to remove the tooth, "Whatever Winchester." She pops one of the teeth out, root and all, all while skillfully avoiding the blood that gushes forth. "You two should check out the lair, I'm fine here."

As a whole, being a hunter wasn't a lavish lifestyle, there were no crystal glasses or satin sheets. Hunters worked for free and donations, which were slim. Normally, when working a job they can take another in the same town, gaining money that way before departing. The Winchesters weren't like that, sure they had to sometimes, but the majority of the time they depended on their kill to get them through the week. That's why Jo is dissecting the creature with a steady hand and a firm grip. It was also why, if the creature had a lair, the boys would pay it a visit. Supernatural creatures, especially dragons, kept hoards of important and valuable things, and since they were dead... they didn't need them.

"I saw her coming out from over there." Sam announces, covering his eyes to point towards a dip in a nearby mountain.

Dean nods, dropping his bag near the dead dragon. " ’Ight. Jo, be careful. We'll be back before sunset."

The female snorts, not taking her eyes off her work. "Yes mother hen." The only proper response Dean can think of is to make a face in her direction before picking up an empty duffel bag and hoisting it over his shoulder. Sam, mimicking the same, stands next to his brother for a moment before they start off towards the mountains.

The forest here is denser, making it impossible to see farther than a couple feet. Eventually the ground started to rise and the trees dissipate, revealing a rocky mountainside. Dragons often had cave lairs in the side of mountains and the boys were used to having to climb their way up to it. But there wasn't a cave the farther they climbed, no instead the way became easier with broken stairs leading them farther up. Dean had learned that dragons, due to their power, were sometimes worshiped as gods, having temple lairs built for them by their followers. Dean had thought it was bullshit, but passing through a massive archway he started to doubt himself.

The walls were made from the stone, literally carving into the mountain with the excess stone being used as another built wall.

"Son of a bitch." Dean whistles, hand on Taurus in case any other creatures inhabited the structure.

Sam, who's bow was cocked and ready, nodded. "This place is huge." They walked back to back now, strides in step and their eyes catching everything. The building was ancient and Dean imagined that it looked something akin to the ruins in Paradiso. Except this was immaculately clean and well lit. Like someone lived here.

"Sam." He warns, but his brother nods, already understanding. The room gets larger now, opening up with rather large archways leading to other spacious rooms filled with things that shined pretty in the light. Because of the angle of the attached rooms they knew someone could be hiding inside, so splitting up, they check the rooms on their chosen side.

The rooms on the left, which Dean had to check, were dimmer, filled with silk and drapes of all kinds. No big statues were contained in those rooms, rather just small baubles, a couple chests and stacks of books. Why a dragon would hold onto books, Dean had no idea. With Taurus unsheathed, he checked all the hidden places before deciding the area was clear.

Reaching the last room, which was by far the biggest besides the entry hall, Dean discovered something that might help.

Carved from an odd marble a statue of a dragon stood. It was only eight feet tall, but standing on a five foot pedestal helped it loom over Dean. The carved dragon was sitting on it's hind legs, large black wings outstretched. The white that normally resides in black marble is instead replaced with an electric blue, running through the black like some kind of intricate system of veins. The dragon's neck is coiled, it's head facing towards the sky with large sapphires place as eyes. A silver chained necklace hung from around the neck of the stone beast, a beautiful luminous blue stone hung from the cord, held by thin metal wires formed into a sort of metal net. Attracted to the radiant crystal Dean lowers his weapon to his side and walks closer. So absorbed in his examination, Dean doesn't hear the footsteps behind him. Matter of fact, Dean didn't know anyone was there until he made a move to touch the dangling object.

"That would be unwise." A voice rumbles, sounding way too close for comfort. Dean whips around, coming face to face with a bearded man. He shouldn't say face to face, because Dean did have to look down a couple inches, but it wasn't uncomfortable. He tries to step back, to get more space between them, and notices the man is unarmed and dressed in rags.

"What the fuck!" Dean roared, his instinct kicking in.

The man tilts his head, giving him an almost bird like quality. "You were the one who invaded my home." His voice is rough, more than you would expect in the smaller man such as him. And his eyes, they're just as crystal blue as the sapphires in the dragon statue, except more real, and unthreatening.

They seem to deflate Dean's wariness. "I thought this was a dragon's den."

"You aren't wrong." The man says, still staring at Dean like he's never seen another human in his life before. "Rachel resides here with me."

Oh. This was gonna be awkward. Of course the moment Dean opens his mouth Sam comes in, bow pointed directly at the stranger's head.

Automatically Dean holds up a hand and Sam lowers his weapon, trusting his brother's decision. The stranger looks over at Sam, registering him before turning back to Dean. It seems like something clicks to the stranger and it causes him to frown. "But by your appearance I can assume she will not be returning?" So the guy did know about hunters, that that was convenient.

Sheathing his sword, Dean moves his head to answer the man's question, watching as disappointment washes over his face. It hurts strangely, like Dean understands his pain without the man verbalizing it.

The man, who turns again to witness Sam's movement, gives a side eye to Dean. "She was acting up recently. I was worried, and tried to talk to her. She refused any of my help." He shakes his head, bowing it down slightly in personal shame.

"What exactly do you do?" Sam interjects, far too curious to stay silent.

The stranger now moves his body so he can easily talk to both men. "Ah, I haven't introduced myself." He bows now, freaking bows to them. "I am Castiel, worshipper of the Watcher."

Dean wanted to comment on how weird the man's name was but Sam, being the nerd he is, excitedly asks who the Watcher is exactly. "He's a dragon deity, one of the younger ones who were asked to watch over Xiatus without interaction."

"Sounds boring." Dean utters quietly but Castiel seems to still hear him.

"It may seem that way to a hunter, but I help mend traveling dragons, I hear their stories, experience their adventures through their words. It can be a very intriguing." Castiel, who's dark hair was unkempt, just like the beard upon his face, locked eyes with both Winchesters, looking back and forth between them as he speaks. "I am, however, very intrigued in what I should call you two."

He had every right to, this was his home, and he seemed legitimate. He had done nothing wrong and they came in here to steal his shit. "I'm Sam Winchester and this is my brother Dean." Sam beat Dean to it.

"Hello Dean." Castiel greets, taking a moment for their eyes to meet before turning to Sam. "Hello Sam, while I cannot say it's a pleasure, I can at the very least say it's interesting."

"I could say the same." Sam grins, prompting a handshake which Castiel reciprocates, smiling slightly as well. The youngest Winchester's brow furrows as they drop hands a thought suddenly occurring to him. "Hey Castiel, was there another, older dragon, here at some point? Maybe he said something about signing a contract...?"

Castiel was already shaking his head, making Sam's shoulders droop. "There once was, but he left soon before I arrived, I sadly was not able to catch a glimpse on my way there."

"Wait how did you know he was there before you arrived?" Sam was on the quest for knowledge and he was gonna get it.

Castiel blinks but turns thoughtful, "Dragons give off constant heat, and if they bed in one place for a certain amount of time the heat soaks into the walls and the stones. Sometimes making them untouchable." Sam's eyes are huge, this was almost like talking to a dragonrider for Sam, something he's always wanted to do but never had the chance. Till now. Kinda. "When I arrived they were maybe four hours cold, possibly five."

"How long had Rachel been here with you?"

Castiel flinches at how easily Sam uses past tense and the learning moment is over, even Dean can tell.

"I've known Rachel for many seasons. I don't keep track of the years, there is no need to when constantly interacting with the immortal." He walks out into the hall, past Sam and turns, giving them an expectant look. Both hunters follow him, confusion on their faces. "Out of pure curiosity, why did you two come up here?"

Time to come clean.

Dean doesn't even try to make himself look good and just explains it. "This job isn't exactly well paying, and dragons... ya know... hoard things. And sometimes we just like to get first pickings helps us stay alive." He shrugs, even though being under Castiel's gaze was excruciating.

"We also look for magical ideas that dragons can possess but humans can't contain."

Castiel's head snaps so fast towards Sam Dean almost hears a crack. "For what purpose?" He's almost demanding the answer, and Sam moves uncomfortably under Castiel's scrutiny.

Sam answers truthfully, making sure his eyes meet Castiel's. "We send them to the Men of Letters." Castiel's head tilts, shock transforming to understanding.

"Wise, but I doubt dragons know this, and that is something they should be informed of." Both brothers relax at Castiel's response.

"And hey man, we won't take anything since you're here." Dean can't help himself, this seems like such an invasion of privacy. The place started to look more like a home the longer he stood here. He realized that while dragons didn't read books, a human could, those were Castiel's books. The lit lanterns were sparked by him. The silks and tapestries that covered the walls had been Castiel's doing. It felt wrong.

The smaller human shocks him however, "Take whatever you wish. I only have two requirements  and one proposition." He pauses for any objections, and when there are none he carries on. "I do not wish to go into Pontiac and neither of you are to touch the necklace upon the Watcher's statue." That was obviously the requirements and neither of them seem to have issue with it. "And I wish to join you on your endeavors." That one was a little hard to register, and at first Dean thought he was making it up.

"You want to come with us?" Okay, so if Sam was saying that then he really did just say it.

Castiel shrugs matter of factly, like this wasn't odd at all. "I do not wish to become an official hunter, but I could be essential for knowledge upon the creatures you will face."

Dean doesn't mean to laugh in a mean way, but this guy, in his oversized, handsewn canvas outfit fighting a nest of vampires or dealing with a poltergeist? No way. "No offense man, but I don't know if you can handle the life of a hunter."

Castiel didn't take kindly to Dean's words, and huffing himself up a little he stands his ground.

"I may not look it Dean Winchester, but I have been in more fights, more wars, then you will you will ever be." Dean didn't need to question it, the air around Castiel has changed drastically, like a thunderstorm was rolling in. Before Sam can even open his mouth to ask about the new information he had received, Castiel denied any farther continuation of the current conversation. "There will be no answer to any questions directed towards that part of my life. It is my past and I wish to keep it that way." Simmering down on that smitty vibe he was giving off, Castiel drops his shoulders, "It's been such a long time since I've seen the world, and if I could do some help along the way I would know I was doing the best I could." Dean shares a look with Sammy. They share a whole conversation with their eyes and facial expressions.

Finally, with a conclusion in place Dean stands a little taller, a little more professional like his father taught him. "You can join us, but you'll have to listen to what me and Sam say. Ya also got to understand that the things we do are because we need to. If you have a problem with anything you can leave, but don't try to stop us. That won't end well." It wasn't even a real threat, and Dean felt like Cas knew that. It was a fact, to get in front of a hard headed Winchester would only result in death or broken limbs. "Ya also can only take what you need, don't go bringing things that'll just slow you down. There's gonna be a lot of time on the road."

Dean would feel bad if it was anyone else, but as he ticked off some of his rules the other man seemed completely untroubled. "Understood on all counts." He gives a nod to further prove his understanding. "I should go pack. While I do that feel free to look around and take what you wish; except the necklace."

"Alright." Dean agrees, connecting eyes with the stranger before Castiel turns and leaves towards the far right corner of the hall. Once they're sure he's far enough away Sam leans over, whispering "Jo is gonna be thrilled."

Dean chuckles deeply, shaking his head in amusement. "The guy looks like a lost cat. She's gonna have a field day with her new boy toy."

Sam rolls his eyes in disbelief and separates himself from his brother. "Come on, we got work to do." They did, and heading to their different sides, they give the place a good once over. Dean found some rather nice jewelry, a couple gems, a few spell scrolls and a nice set of dragonbone daggers. There was sums of money laying around that Dean helped himself to since Cas was leaving the place to the wolves.

Entering the very last room Dean takes another look at the dragon statue. It kinda seems sad to leave it in this place, where it would slowly collect dust and dull with time. He knew it wasn't possible to bring the statue with them, so completely ignoring the necklace hanging around the dragon's neck, he looks towards the accompanying table. It's set up like an offerings table, a silk blue and silver cloth under a skillfully crafted bowl. Resting all around and inside the bowl were crystals, moon crystals. Moon crystals aren't actually from the moon but rather form where a dragon's body decays. They're extremely rare and powerful, known for channeling great power. He feels guilty for taking them, and his hand hovers over them until the roughened voice of Castiel speaks up.

"Go ahead, take what you need. Since I'm the last remaining resident I give you permission."

Grabbing the stones and throwing them into his bag Dean looks around, finding Castiel staring at the statue. He is still dressed in his rags, and his beard and hair are as equally untouched, but he now carries a sword upon his hip and holds a small bag, too small to even really carry essentials in. There's a moment where Dean thinks about voicing his opinion but it passes as he watches Castiel's slender fingers reach out and remove the necklace around the dragon's neck, placing it around his own. The strange man breathes in deeply, Dean wasn't sure if it was that of burden or relief or maybe even both.

Crystal blues turn their attention onto Dean, feeling too old against his young skin. "Ready when you are." He nods his head towards Dean, eyes only breaking in the lower half of the movement before returning to Dean. It should feel awkward, and on some level it still is, but for some reason, Dean feels for Cas. Automatically. Like a silver thread connected them in ways they couldn't even see.

"I'm good. Unless you got any suggestions."

Once again, Castiel leads him out of the room and to the hall, where, the shorter points to each room as he describes. "In the third room that way, there's a wide variety of jewelry in chests. The door in the middle contains some dragon scales. That room," he changes to the left side, "has books about dragon myth and some of the stories dragons have dictated to me." A warm smile passes over his face and Dean has to ask. Just has to.

"And you aren't gonna take any of the books?"

Castiel blinks, turning his head towards Dean in a confused manner, "I wrote them, I remember every story exquisitely. Why would i want to bring them?" He doesn't sound condescending at all, his voice concerned like after all the years he spent locked away something might have changed.

A smile touches Dean's lips and he gets an idea, "Hey actually... which one is your favorite?" More confusion on Castiel's side, but he thinks for a minute and soon there's a curl to his lip.

"I have to say the one depicting the advancement of humans from the perspective of a dragon is rather intriguing."

Dean's mouth drops, how old were the dragons that came through here? "Damn." Is the only wise remark he can come up with.

Castiel seems to enjoy it however and nods, "Sadly it is shorter than most would hope. Only describing key moments of involvement. The dragon did not wish to ruffle too many feathers while proclaiming it was history." Understandable. Despite Nivelon being the land of the gods, people still worshiped here, though a large portion believed in Paradiso's old myths of a God and his angels. Dean excuses himself with a look towards Cas, which the other understands perfectly well, and heads into the room Cas pointed out. Now that Castiel had told Dean the contents of the books he couldn't help but notice how many of them there were.

Thick books that Dean would never read because of their length, held the bases of large book piles. Sometimes there'd be two smaller books between the bigger ones and Dean assumed that they were there because of time order. Large bookcases also lined a wall, holding more average sized books and none of them had titles. He didn't even know what the book looks like.

"It's the rust red one on the second shelf." He hears Cas easily, despite their distance and he grabs at the book, not bothering to turn around and see if Cas got closer or not. Instead he flips through the pages of the book. The paper is handmade along with the leather cover that protected it, did Castiel make the book as well?

Leaving the book room Dean continues to thumb through the pages, seeing the elegant script that must be Castiel's handwriting. He ends up standing here his original placement besides the man, shaking his head slightly. "And you made the entire thing?"

Castiel nods, as if it was to be expected. "I would ask the dragons that went hunting to bring me back the skins." He nods towards another room on the right, "There's plenty of pelts over there if you expect us to enter cold territories."

Dean couldn't help himself, this guy was a jack of all trades and it was damn near impressive. "What can't you do?"

It was either sass or Castiel legitimately having to think on the subject but it took him a moment, "I can't dance." His face is so innocent and truthful that Dean can't help himself.

Dean erupts into laughter, bending over and everything to allow the guffaws out. Once he calms down he gives the now concerned Castiel a bleary smile. "Neither can Sam."

As if on cue his little brother walks over, "Do you know how much this place echos Dean? You're freaking obnoxious." Apparently he'd heard the conversation.

Dean, grinning even more now that his brother was annoyed, gives him a challenging look, "You're just mad you can't take your girly dates out dancing cause you'll look like a moose with four left feet."

Groaning Sam's shoulders lower, attracting Dean to the two bags he had filled along with the furs that were tied up at one side and thrown over Sam's shoulder.  Sam looks at Dean's full bag, set by his side, and then to the book in his hand. Raising an eyebrow, it becomes apparent Sam found ammo. "What? Is Castiel gonna teach you how to read complicated books?"

"I can freaking read books Sammy!" Dean could, he used to read to Sam when thunderstorms were happening, or their mom had to be left alone because her condition was acting up. And Dean had read more "advanced" books before too, he had to! So while Dean wasn't as advanced as Sam who was starting to understand Ancient, he still could understand these books perfectly fine.

"Did you take all you needed?" Castiel cuts in, saving Dean from having to defend himself again. The eldest Winchester can't help but send a wave of thankfulness towards the newbe, which for some odd reason felt like it was actually received and recognized with a gentle assurance.

Sam nods, his eyes on Castiel now. "You have an impressive collection of... everything." He hoists the pelts up, revealing a large selection from rabbit to bear and even boar.

Castiel bows his head at the attention and gives a humble smile. "Thank you Sam."

They leave after that, heading back to where Rachel's body fell. Dean felt Cas tense up, knew this was going to be painful and tried to send off calming vibes. It seemed to work and Sam was none the wiser.

 

Entering the small clearing Rachel has caused in her final movements they witnessed Jo rising, her front bloodsoaked, a couple spots of blood dirtying her face. She looks directly at Cas and then to Dean, who she just happened to trust more. "Who the hell is that?" She gestures towards Castiel with one of her carving knives, blood flying over the dragon carcass and leaving a weird trail.

"Castiel." Dean responds easily, nearing her. "He's joining the crew." Jo, astounded by this, looks at Sam for confirmation, which he gives.

She blinks, taking the information in before sighing in annoyance. "No one tells me shit." Rubbing her hands on her dark pants she gets the majority of blood off and holds a hand out for Castiel. Castiel, trying his best to ignore Rachel, extends a hand. "I'm Jo Harvelle."

"Castiel, as before mentioned." He takes her hand, shaking it in his own clean mitts before dropping her hand and changing the position of his bag. Dean knows it's an excuse not to get Rachel's blood literally on his hands.

"What did you get?" Sam asks Jo, knowing this was part of their routine. Do recon, ask Jo how her scavenging went.

Jo shrugs, reaching down to grab a leather bag. "Got some good teeth, a nice couple rows of dragon scale and some pints of blood.

Like before Dean could tell Castiel wasn't happy, he didn't really show it but for some odd reason Dean just knew. He also knew that Castiel had to be trying very hard not to say something. "Hey me and Cas are gonna go set up the rest of camp alright?"

Jo frowns, placing a hand on her hip that reminds Dean of Ellen. "The town isn't that far. Why don't we just stay there tonight? Sell our shit and head out."

For some reason Dean feels like he should be wary of going into town, and he takes that feeling and runs with it. "Do you realize how many times we're gonna have to tell people how we killed the dragon?" Jo and Sam seem to deflate at that, both so not up for repeating an average hunt over and over again. To put the nail in the coffin Dean brings up one more fact, "And if we sell our stuff and stay people might think we have a lot of gold us. Making them more viable to try and steal that shit."

Jo sighs, scrunching her face up. "Fine. But I get to go in and sell stuff. And I get to take a bath. No way am I sleeping out here smelling like dead dragon all night."

Castiel's face colors slightly, with rage if Dean could tell right and Dean hastily nods. "Yep sure." He drops his bundle of stuff, holding onto the small book he had also stashed. "Take my shit too, there's some old coins in there and some supernatural shit so don't go uttering any spells while poking through it."

Rolling her eyes Jo nods exasperatedly, "Yes dad." Dean makes an immature face back at Jo before turning to Castiel.

Placing a hand on his back he directs the newest member to the tree line, heading towards where they kept the horses. The hand drops soon after they're far enough to not see Rachel's dissected form. Castiel sighs, letting Dean know that it did bother him even if he did not speak up. Or that's what Dean thought, until they were far enough into the trees that they could see neither the clearing or the upcoming camp. "Do you treat all dragons with such disregard?" He wasn't as venomous as Dean expected, just sad and that kinda pulled at Dean's heart strings harder.

"We don't hunt all dragons Cas. Only those that attack humans." It seemed righteous enough but Cas let's out a resigned sigh, like Dean wasn't seeing something.

"Do you ever ask the dragon if the humans were the ones to break the contract?"

No he didn't, but in all fairness the dragons weren't usually in the mood to talk. "It's hard to sit a dragon down when they're spewing shit at you."

"You are a hunter. That is for certain." Castiel mumbles, waves of disappointment flowing from him.

"The fuck does that mean?" It hurt, Castiel didn't even know him and here he was judging him.

The other man doesn't stop walking in the direction Dean had sent them as he continues, looking forward with distant eyes. "Hunters only care for the affairs of humans. They have no concept of how their brash decisions can affect the supernatural world. How much it has affected it."

Dean couldn't help himself, he was not going to let Cas do this shit. "No offense man, but it seems like you're doing exactly what I told you not to. If what we do is going to upset you so much maybe you should take your own way." Castiel becomes quiet at that, slowing down so that he's now following Dean.

There were a couple of tense minutes before Dean felt Castiel relax. He'd stay, Dean had a feeling.

 

Reaching camp not soon after Dean hears Impala whiny at their arrival. Removing his hunter layers so that he's just in his undershirt he moves towards his girl. "Hey baby, have a good rest today?" The horse snorts, and Dean smiles, petting her flank. "Good."

Impala now turns her attention towards the new, nearing, face. She doesn’t seem to view him like she does with everyone else, her stance is tense but not to show any real stress, than, out of all things, Castiel bows his head, revealing the skin at the nape of his neck. Impala seems to respond to this and lets out a snort, as if that was a sign for Castiel to move, which he does and steps closer to the large beast in front of them.

“What is her name?” Castiel breaks the still that had set over the campsite and the area around during the interaction.

“Ah-” Dean clears his throat, “Impala.”

Castiel nods, looking away from Dean and back to the horse. Advancing slowly he stands by her shoulder, “Hello Impala.” He doesn’t touch her yet, his voice soothing like a brook in the middle of a forest, babbling over tiny pebbles. “I do not think I can even recall a finer horse from my memory.” His words work like sugar cubes, melting on Impala’s tongue and making her more complacent. Making his move now, Castiel reaches up and touches her shoulder, she doesn’t mind one bit and Castiel takes that as permission to get a closer look.

He doesn’t spend much more time with Impala, wishing to give her space and he steps away from the steed and towards where he dropped his bag a little ways away. Picking the sack up Cas turns back around and looks a tad bit lost, like he had no idea what to do.

Dean couldn’t help himself from smiling, and raising a hand to the back of his head he rubs his hair a little. “So Cas, what’d ya bring?”

The crease between Castiel’s eyes deepens, and his head tilts, “Clothing. The necklace. A sword.” He taps at the hilt of the sword attached to his form. “Some essentials for healing…” His frown deepens and he shrugs, “That is it I believe.”

Dean blinked, astounded by this. “Cas! No offense but it wasn’t like there wasn’t a shit ton of stuff lying around over there.”

The other man shrugs, “I don’t need it.” It was so simple, so pure, it had to be true to Castiel. But was he mentally okay? This wasn’t a kind climate, people die from the frost all the time in these parts.

“Dude you don’t have anything to sleep on.”

“I am used to much worse if you can believe it.”

“I don’t.” Dean shoots back, his eyes on the man. He’d think he was insane, he really would, if he didn’t have this feeling. Ever since Dean laid eyes upon Castiel he had a connection with the other man. Nothing like…. sexual or anything, Dean didn’t swing that way thank you very much. It was more of an understanding, not even necessarily of their thoughts, but their reasonings behind the reaction. Dean knew that Castiel wasn’t going to harm anyone of their group, he could see it in those eyes, hear it in the breaths he took. Like some kind of sense he felt comfortable around the other man despite all the walls Dean had built. Castiel would have to climb mountains to get behind those and he was still so far away from even touching that protective shell.

Castiel slumps his shoulders and Dean literally feels aggravation flowing from the other body. “Dean Winchester.” He suddenly speaks, getting closer and looking more frightening. “You ask me not to judge your motives and talents and yet you cannot accept mine?” He shakes his head but his eyes don’t leave Dean’s. “I do not want you to treat me any more special than any other, all I ask is to have some semblance of respect among your party.”

It all seemed reasonable and Dean was a little embarrassed, but it was his job to doubt the abilities of civilians, not until they were truly proven. “Tell you what,” Dean starts, slightly hating himself for the walls he was adding. “You prove yourself in combat and I’ll trust you to watch my back.” It was the wrong thing to say, that much was obvious because even Impala seemed to become nervous, eyeing Castiel from her safe distance. A sharp feeling of anger hit Dean, making his chest twist and coil in pain. Castiel, blue eyes almost blazing, now unsheathes the sword attached to his hip, holding it at rest he nods towards Dean.

“Let us do that now.” His face is straight now, no agitation, no anger, nothing except determination. His eyes were a different story however, his eyes shone like some ridiculously hot fire, heavy with a desire to prove himself. Dean understood, had they been switched, he would have done the same. But with a lot more curse words.

Dean nods, unsheathing Tarsus and stretching his wrist with her weight. “Alright, but I ain’t gonna go easy on you.”

Castiel actually laughs, and Dean suspects if the other man wasn’t so pissed it would have been genuine. “I will.” Was he teasing? He wasn’t actually smiling, and there wasn’t exactly pride behind his eyes, but an understanding of his limits. It made Dean mad and with that being mixed with the unexplained anger in his chest, he was glad he didn’t have to hold back with this man, it’d help get it out. Castiel seemed to know this, and settling his body into a comfortable position, he waited.

 

Dean was the first to strike, making a pass at Castiel’s right arm. Castiel easily deflects it, sidestepping and trying to made a sweep at Dean’s open back. Maneuvering his way around Castiel’s arch, Dean can’t help but notice that Castiel wasn’t lying with his abilities. He moves like a dancer, grace and poise all wrapped in one being. Dean knows this dance however, and with his years of training with his father and now the hunters, he is able to keep in step with the other. While Castiel’s movements flowed like water, Dean’s were strong and heavy, like rocks, or the relentless sun. Despite this, his movements weren’t choppy or amateur in any fashion, just in a different style, power where Castiel had grace, strength where Castiel held balance.

If anyone was watching they must think these two have fought many a time, the way they moved together, how they balanced each other out with just being themselves, losing themselves in the fluidity.  

 

Something happened during this dance, as Castiel had to lean back almost completely to keep his face unmarred. The anger in Dean died, both his own and the other, being replaced by a feeling of completeness. They weren’t sparring anymore to prove themselves but to simply understand each other. The moves were still real however, there was no sugar coating, only the faith that they wouldn’t cut each other, and they didn’t. It almost felt like they were talking, Dean would feel Castiel’s next move, and Dean knew that same was occurring to Castiel. He just knew.

This freaks him out a bit, and he misses a step.

 

He should have lost an ear, but somehow, someway, Castiel knows and stops the oncoming blade just a millisecond before it reaches skin. Dean can feel the coolness of the blade, and he stares forward towards his sparring partner, eyes locked and breathing heavily. The feeling between them gets weirder, because Castiel knew to stay the blade and Dean just can’t take his eyes off the other man’s. They held so much, and for some reason Dean knows they’ve seen generations come and go, that somehow he’s so much older than his 30 year old body betrays. It’s something Dean can over look for now, instead focusing in on the swirls of blues that integrate into each other, making Castiel’s eyes very much like two pools of water. The color plays them as shallow pools, but Dean knows what misconceptions can bring, knows there’s so much more than that, lurking under those blue lakes.

Neither has any idea how long they stood there, their breathing slowing as their bodies relaxed from the previous interaction. All they knew was something monumental had happened, and Dean feels a warmth pool in his brain, humming and happy, just as Castiel smiles. The hunter can’t help it and smiles back, allowing the cloudy feelings in his head warm his heart. “Where’d ya learn to fight like that?” The warmth in his mind sharpens for a second, like it grew a spike before calming down. It hurt for that second and Dean rubs his forehead.

“As I said before, I have been in many battles. You don’t make it through all of them without learning a thing or two.” Castiel’s smile returns, and he seems to come to the decision to end the conversation. “What do I need to do to help set up the camp?”

Dean allows the change, Castiel was traveling with him, he’d eventually learn what he wanted to. “Oh shit yeah, okay.” Clapping his hands once he feels an overwhelming sense of gratefulness, Dean can only respond with another smile towards Castiel and the gentle brushing of ‘I got you’ in his brain. “Alright we need to get ya a bed.”

 

They spend the next hour trying to set up a bed for Castiel. Since there were no more tents and Cas didn’t bring one (“I have never needed a tent.” “Never? How?” “I am surprisingly resistant to the weather.” “Yeah, okay.”) they set him up under a tree.

The tree was a large pine with large protective branches rising up into the air. Dean had actually set up his tent directly under the thing before the gang had gone on their hunt. There was some space to the left where the majority of branches leaned over, creating a decent canopy above the spot. Knowing the decaying pine needles would create a softer bed than hard ground and the tree above would shield him from the worst of the weather Dean rummaged around in his tent until he found some pelts. They weren’t as impressive as the ones Castiel had in his abode but they’d work. Setting them down as a sort of mattress Dean grabs one of the blankets from his tent, throwing it at Castiel. “Ya can use that, I don’t really give a shit about blankets.”

Castiel blinks, rather owlishly at the fabric in his hands before looking towards Dean. “Are you sure?” It was like he couldn’t believe it, like this was just so much assistance he didn’t know what to do or how to react.

With humor in his face Dean turns his head towards his companion, “I gave it to you didn’t I?”

Castiel nods, looking up from the blanket to Dean, “True. Thank you Dean.”

“It’s no problem.”

 

Sam and Jo returned a little after the sun officially sets. Dean had started a fire, sitting around it while watching the fire come up and dance in the night air. "We come bearing provisions!" Sam announced, gaining both Dean and Castiel's attention.

Castiel, who had been hanging out around Impala, turns to look towards Sam, "I hope everything went as planned?"

It was Jo's turn to speak up as she plops down a couple bags and takes the spot next to Dean. "Yeah! I got my bath in and everything." She sighs contentedly, shaking her head so she sprays some water onto Dean. She ignores his indignant look and turns her attention onto Castiel, her hair reminding Dean of wavy string. "So Castiel..."

Castiel smiles, his eyes already upon the female. "Yes?" He seems good natured in his reply, like the fact that she had to clean herself because she dissected his friend had little effect on him.

Jo, whether she knew or didn't, smiled kindly towards the newcomer. "You excited to see the world with us hunters?"

Her question seemed to shock Castiel, like he wasn't expecting it. Dean didn't need to look at Castiel to feel the rush of thoughts. Cas takes a moment's pause, thinking over his response before even starting. "Yes, it will be interesting to say the least."

Well if that wasn't one of the most accurate vague statements ever... Jo snorts and rolls her eyes, "You have no idea. Just wait for these two," she holds two fingers up, pointing at both Winchesters. "to cause some serious problems." Both boys roll their eyes and Castiel let's a soft smile replace the one he was sporting on his face. He seems like he's planning a retort but Dean, ever so classy, cuts him off.

"Shut up Jo, you get us into shit all the time!" He sounded slightly whiney but he didn't care. She wasn't going to lay all the blame on them, no way in hell.

Because hunters are very mature soldiers made to defeat all things supernatural, Jo turns her head towards Dean, blowing air out from the side of her mouth. “Yeah, whatever Winchester.”

It makes Dean fume more, especially with that cheeky smile she sends his way but he’s able to contain any sassy remarks back, what with waves of calm gently lapping against his consciousness.

Seeming to decide it was time to curve the conversation, Castiel speaks up once again. “Where do you plan on heading now that you have finished your business here?”

That question really did get all three hunters involved and they all shifted positions, as if settling in for the more serious conversation. Sam shares a look with Dean, one of those ‘I got something’ looks before he actually speaks up. “Jo and I talked about it on our way into town.” He holds up the original bag, which makes a rather odd ruckus, reminding Dean of the moon crystals. “Since we got so much stuff for the Men of Letters we should head by the Roadhouse.”

Jo nods, slipping a couple stray pieces of hair behind her ear, adds on, “Plus, with winter coming, it would be smart to head down south before the storms come.”

Pontiac was located on the northwest corner of Xiatus, just a couple miles east of one of the largest lakes in the region and almost a two day journey south west from the border of Paradiso. The temperature would drop drastically the moment the seasons changed, largely being affected by the freezing winds from the abandoned lands. It wasn’t a bad idea and would save them from having to get Castiel winter clothing.

Dean nods, locating his flask before taking a swig. “Sounds like a plan, we can get Cas good clothing when we stop by the Roadhouse.”

Nodding Jo turns towards Castiel, “Hunter armor is the easiest to move around in.”

Castiel smile and nods, but Dean can’t help but feel like Castiel wants to comment on something, like the waves of emotion Dean feels lightly touching his consciousness were being held back by something. He shakes the thoughts from his brain and turns towards his brother, “Guess we’ll head out at sunrise?”

The youngest Winchester nods, holding a hand out for the flask in Dean’s hands, which the eldest hands over so Sam can take a sip. “Yeah, so we’ll probably get to the Roadhouse in two days, depending on the weather.”  

Sam hands over the flask after taking his dose, and Dean takes a gulp in salute. “Awesome.”

 

The night continues with small talk. Castiel asks questions about the world, how old rulers are, current treaties and disagreements. He asked about the hunter's position in it all and the amount of dragons left roaming. He was pleased by the number count of living dragons at least.

Jo brought up her bath several more times, her hair slowly drying as the time past. She also seemed a little honed in on Castiel, like he was something awe inspiring. Dean would think it was a crush, but he knew Jo’s body movements and knew they weren’t beaconing Castiel but rather relaxed. He answered her questions with ease, being vague on time zones and name dropping but otherwise replying adequately.

Dean and Sam were the ones to call it a night first. Sam was the one to suggest it, standing up and stretching like some behemoth. “Alright guys,” He yawns loudly, letting out a little sigh as his back cracks. “I’m hitting the hay.” He sends a smile towards Castiel, “It’s a pleasure to have met you, and I look forward to your advice. Goodnight.” He smiles towards Jo now, ignoring as Dean rises from his seat. “Night Jo, try not to stay up too late.”

She rolls her eyes, flicking her hair over her shoulder before giving him the bird. “Night Sam.”

Sam smiles to himself, shaking his shaggy head before peering at his brother. Dean, who was now finishing up on unclipping his excess weapons from around his chest, hoists the leather straps over his shoulder, nodding his head towards the two remaining people.

“Yeah I should probably get some shut eye. Night Jo.” He gives her a wink, which makes her lip curl up in amusement. Turning so that his eyes meet Castiel’s Dean forgets the simple words, and he wants to stay up. He wants to learn more about the gravelly voiced stranger who went from taking care of dragons to associating with hunters. But Dean knows he can’t, it’s just difficult when those eyes are so damn intense. “Night Cas.”

“Goodnight Dean.” Castiel rolls out, his voice lowered to accompany the ‘getting ready for bed’ atmosphere. Dean only looks away when Castiel breaks the eye contact, turning his shaggy head towards Jo. “Are there different kinds of hunter armor at this Roadhouse?”

Jo smiles and nods, “Yeah, and some people, like Dean and Sam have two sets, battle and hunting. I don’t need the heavier battle armor because I don’t use brute force like they do.”

Castiel nods and Jo continues, but Dean stops paying attention, ripping out his boot laces just enough so he can yank them off his feet and place them just inside the entrance before crawling into his tent. Settling down, Dean moves his hands to behind his head, calling out once he heard Sam’s rustling settle down. “Night Sammy.”

“Night Dean.”

Dean fell asleep soon after that, his body exhausted from the battle, the climb up the mountains and the lugging back of objects. The last thing he hears is the gentle murmuring of Jo and Castiel and for some reason, it feels like home.

 


 

People always think Sam is the early riser of the two Winchesters and they’re not terribly wrong, but sometimes if the sun doesn’t hit him or if there isn’t an alarm he will sleep till the sun is halfway across the sky. Dean on the other hand, likes to sleep in if there is nothing pushing at his consciousness, which is rare, so very rare. This morning was no different, he woke with the startling realization that Castiel did not have a horse. Fuck. It’s enough of a problem that Dean gives up on sleep and slips out of his tent, quickly putting his shoes on before touching the damp grass. Oh shit, it must have rained a little last night, enough to not make a sound but enough to get through the tree and change the color of his tent ever so slightly. Cas didn’t have a tent.

Dean automatically whips his head towards where he had set up the newest members bed to find it empty. Panic fills Dean, Cas did say something about not going into town, what if someone stumbled onto him? What if he left? The moment the thoughts touch his brain he feels the waves at the corner of his mind rise in opposition. There wasn’t any annoyance, no anger, but a softness and it calmed Dean. His shoulders slumped.

“Good morning Dean.” It’s softly spoken, like he’s right behind him but when Dean turns around Castiel is just stepping out of the woods, his eyes clicking with Dean’s the instant he clears the brush. Dean just lets the oddity go, Castiel was weird, maybe he knew how to talk in a low whisper? Okay, even to Dean that sounded bad, so then he blamed it on his slow brain trying to keep up with the happenings and new problems around him. Castiel continues to near Dean, and it’s then that the hunter notices the bag slung over the shorter man’s shoulder.

“Whatcha got in the bag?” Dean yawns, he can’t help it, and he feels slightly guilty for not saying ‘good morning’ first or you know, ‘how’d you sleep’? No, straight to business, you guys aren’t friends.

Castiel doesn’t seem to mind, and as soon as he is close enough, he opens the fabric to reveal some golden coins along with some rather nice looking jewelry and a fur pelt. “I went back to the temple, I realized this morning that I was without a horse and wished to compensate for any aggravation along with pay for a horse.” He takes a pause, locking eyes with Dean, “I do not wish to stop in Pontiac and I wish be there when the horse is picked. I need to ensure we get along.”

Dean smiles, it is important to ensure the horse and rider get along, but the way Cas looks when he talks about it… It’s like the world rests upon this friendship, like he’s concerned it will take awhile to find a horse that will accept him. “Dude, Impala likes you. I wouldn’t worry too much about finding a horse that will like you.”

The connection of emotions, whatever this weird thing between them was, seems to bristle and Dean can see it in Castiel’s posture. He didn’t even know what he did wrong, but he knows he did it. Thinking as quickly as he can, Dean blurts out, “We’ll check at the Roadhouse. Sometimes horses are brought there to be sold, some are even donated.” Donated was a lie, if you didn’t pay your taxes and you bred horses, King Campbell would take half the stock and proportion it out to his military branches. But Cas didn’t need to know that and he seemed to calm, the waves pressing against Dean’s head ebbing slightly in verositicy.

“Perhaps they will be more capable than other steeds.” Castiel offers offhandedly, his shoulders drooping slightly in doubt.

Dean wants to make a joke, wants to tease about the capability of what? But he holds his comments to himself and nods. "I wouldn't worry about it Cas. Seriously."

 

They spend the next couple minutes packing their personal items, Dean making enough noise with packing away his tent to wake up their two sleeping comrades. Soon, before the sun even gets past the tree tops, the troop of four head out.

Castiel had ended up joining Dean on Impala, as Stanford was more capable carrying just Sam and supplies instead of Sam and another human being. Jo’s horse Reo, a iron grey steed with splotches of white, wasn’t even in the picture. Reo wasn’t of the same stock as the Winchester steeds, who were bred to carry larger men into battle while Reo was more… average.

Impala didn't seem to mind the new passenger, matter of fact if Dean was right, she liked Castiel. That could possibly be because Castiel was an excellent traveler. He knew proper footing, and held on in such a way his arms didn’t need to wrap around Dean’s middle. He would ask questions, but it seemed to be more banter than anything else.

 

“So Potesta is still at ends with Seven Gates?” Castiel asked by the time they had moved out of the mountains that surrounded Pontiac. The path became easier here, allowing for all three steeds to form a walking wall.

Sam looks over at Dean, his eyes raising before turning his head the little bit more to look at Castiel. “Yeah. So far as I know that tirant hasn’t let any of Campbell’s emissaries through the desert.”

Dean feels Castiel nod behind him, “King Campbell should hire dragons as emissaries. The storms of Nemeris have no effect on older generations.”

That was something none of them knew, and Dean’s heaves himself around enough to look at Castiel. “What?”

The shabby man nods his head soberly, “Those storms are not natural, there are certain magical properties one must have in order to be allowed into those deserts.”

Jo pipes up now, “My dad told me normal people are allowed to pass through if they had permission from the King.”

Castiel nods again, and Dean turns around, content to just hear the conversation. “This is also true, but the storms are not the only concern in those lands.”

Sam can’t help himself, “What else is there?” There’s an actual pause now, like Castiel isn’t sure if he should have mentioned this. Dean feels hesitation at the corner of his mind and can’t help but poke it with curiosity.

“Seven Gates it’s own watchdogs of sorts, called hellhounds. They’re invisible to humans, and are vicious.” Castiel starts, staring somewhere far off to the south, as if he could see the wastelands of Seven Gates. “There is also a man, he controls the territory between humans and the abominations.” There was some real venom in Castiel’s voice now and Dean was pretty sure his companion was glaring daggers towards the general direction. “He wraps people in hallucinations before turning them over to the rack.”

 

No one asks any questions, Castiel’s words seeming to rattle them into a stunned hush. Dean had always been concerned with the inhabitants of Seven Gates, he grew up with the man that helped push them back after all. John had told Dean from first hand experience the vast expanse of the deserts before someone could even enter the actual lands. The mountains on either side were craggy, sharp as razor blades. The mountains were so far apart it took John near a week to go from one to the other. The sands set between the cragged mountains was no better, blistering hot the moment the sun rose till the moment it set, where it would cool down to freezing temperatures. John had commented about how he had set a glass of water in the sand overnight to see it frozen by the morning. It was a terrifying place, somewhere Dean never wanted to go, somewhere only dragons and the supernatural could survive.

“Hey Cas.” He speaks up, breaking however many minutes of silence had gone by. “Not that I ain’t grateful for the intel but how the fuck did you find all this out?” Dean feels the waves of emotion wane and a sort of wall build, cutting him off. It’s strange how much Dean missed the feeling even though it had only taken up residence a day ago.

“I lived with dragons Dean, and like I said, they can cross the border.”

“But you said only the older ones.” Dean can’t help but poke, and Castiel’s relaxed pose turns to stone.

“Not all dragons are strong enough, Rachel would have been unable to survive. Younger dragons cannot fly for too long, and there have been stories relayed to me…” Dean doesn’t need the connection to know this hurts. “Of dragonlings trying to make the pilgrimage and taking rests in the wasteland.” The bitterness from before mixes into his voice once again, “Only to be devoured by the beasts who reside there.”

In Dean’s opinion the conversation should have ended there, Castiel was way too upset. But Sam, ever the curious one speaks up. “Pilgrimage to where?”

“I don’t know.” It was a flat out lie, Dean knew it, but Castiel’s voice was as final as the edge of sword against someone’s jugular and the conversation was dropped.

 

They rest that night in a field, Dean would have pushed further but Sam was a primadonna when it came to giving everyone proper sleep. So Dean instead took first watch. They didn’t really need to keep watch in the King’s Land and they didn’t have a watch when they were leaving for Pontiac but Dean wasn’t ready for sleep. Instead he wished everyone a good night and stared at the sky.

He felt the walls Castiel had built before sliding down as the campsite fell to gentle, even breaths and the music of crickets. Dean didn’t dare say anything, he didn’t want to, instead ignoring the gentle lapping of Castiel’s consciousness to focus on the stars. He wondered if his mother was right about angels, Castiel would probably know. There had to be a dragon old enough to have met them if they were real right? Part of Dean didn’t want to know, didn’t want to kill that part of him his mother had tried so hard to build. Faith. Ha. Dean pulls out his flask, taking a quick swing before taking in his surroundings.

The party had decided upon a hilltop to set up camp, where there was about 15 trees in total, separated into small clusters. The trees gave the camp some cover while allowing Dean to still see past them to the expansive fields of high grass. The wind, while often stronger in these lands, was calm tonight, swaying the grass and making it look like some kind of earth cloud.

It was peaceful, the land silent in it’s darker hours. It relaxed Dean despite himself, he knew what hid in the shadows, and knew they weren’t here. Right now Dean’s friends, family and acquaintance were safe and that was good enough for him.

 


 

Jo was on watch when the sun rose so Dean has no idea who woke up first but when he did wake he found that everyone was packed and ready. “The fuck,” Dean grumbles, rubbing the sleep from his face, “why didn’t you guys wake me up?”

Jo, who was closer to Dean than everyone else, answered. “We knew you needed your beauty sleep. You looked like shit.”

Dean, being mature as ever, throws his makeshift pillow at the blonde woman. She dodges it, a smug look on her face as the clothing sails through the air, landing directly in Castiel’s hand to everyone’s surprise. Castiel doesn’t even look as he tosses it back to Dean, busy writing something in a small book he had brought. All three hunters share a look, Dean gives a little “Thanks Cas.” Receiving a risen hand as acknowledgement from Castiel, Dean gets up and off his ass so he can finally pack.

It doesn’t take Dean long and they head out no more than 30 minutes after the eldest Winchester wakes. The travel was nice at this time, too early to be hot and late enough for the grass to have dried slightly from the nightly dew. Castiel had stopped his writing when Dean had been packing, and had even prepared Impala for the trip. He did an excellent job, not that it was exactly hard, but Impala was a tad bit moody with who touched her.

Dean decides to make a comment about it after some time en route. “Cas?”

“Yes Dean?” The response is almost automatic, which it should be, just because he’s literally two inches away from the hunter.

“You know how you said you were worried about horses not liking you?” Dean doesn’t need Cas to reply, and Castiel knows this, choosing to nod. Dean feels the movements and continues, giving Impala a gentle pat on her neck, “Well, not for nothin’ but she seems to like ya.”

Apparently Dean forgot that Jo and Sam were there and could hear everything, not that he was trying to hide anything, it just seemed like a private conversation. It wasn’t.

“And Impala usually doesn’t like new people.” Sam adds, actually helping Dean’s case while Jo just sits there on Reo, smirking slightly.

Castiel opts to not say anything, but Dean feels appreciation radiate off of his traveling companion as the other man gently strokes Impala in thanks. Dean can’t help but smile.

 

They take a break as the sun sets, letting the horses get a good rest before starting out on the last leg to the Roadhouse. Dean always forgets how large the plains of the King’s Land were, with no mountains or any real obstacles time would travel oddly, especially on cloudy days or dark nights. Sure, there were towns and farms along with the guard posts, but they were far and few between in the most northern sections. They had recently passed a town, but all four decided that if they stopped in an actual town they wouldn’t want leave till the next day so that was a no go.

The place they picked had a small creek running through the rocks, bushes and other shrubs growing around the water source. Some areas led directly to the waterside, and all the travelers had set up shop with their perspective steeds. Stanford was chugging down as much water as physically possible while Sam washes his face, Jo was sitting next to Reo, cupping her hands to pour the cool liquid all over her overheating companion. She was also talking to Castiel, who knew that Dean wished to take care of Impala himself, and therefore had taken a place on a boulder near Jo.

“So you’re going to let me?” She sounded excited and Dean wished he knew what she was talking about.

Castiel nods, smiling at the bright eyed woman. “I see no reason why not, if it has to be done, why not let you take care of it?”

Jo grins, biting her lip in excitement. “Awesome.”

Now, the Winchester brothers don’t miss much, but apparently both had been too preoccupied with their own thoughts to listen in on the discussion long even to have a clue what was going on. “What are you two giggling about?” Dean calls over, feeling suddenly like Bobby.

Jo, still grinning, turns her head towards Dean, sighing dramatically. “None of your damn business.”

Dean makes a face and turns to Cas, his mind reaching out for an answer. He’s not that gentle, his curiosity more exasperated than anything else. Castiel frowns and his mind recedes slightly, making Dean soften his curiosity.

Castiel still doesn’t answer, “You will eventually find out.”

“Shush Cas!” Jo says, pausing her duties in order to flick some water towards her conspirator. “Don’t tell them anything!” She sends a wink towards the boys before moving over to Reo’s other side.

The conversation drops then and none take it’s place until they leave. When they do eventually have some form of conversation it isn’t anything troubling, or in depth, just banter essentially.

 

The lights of the Roadhouse come into view when the moon was nearing the halfway point across the sky. While the waves of emotions from Cas seemed pretty content the entire trip they started to pick up a real nervousness. Dean could understand that, this was Castiel’s first time walking into a hunter’s nest, the headquarters for the sake of the gods, it must be terrifying. Dean doesn’t say anything, but sends a comforting mental feeling out to the anxious Castiel, because it must be Castiel in his brain, it’s the only explanation. It feels like him, which kind of freaks Dean out, but he feels his companion’s body relax and pushes aside his own problems for the time being.

Hitching the horses up in the stable and removing their traveling gear all four party members are pretty tired out, but they still trudge their way back over to the pub, bags over their shoulders. Jo enters first, heading straight for her mother and giving her a hug. “Hey mom.” She mumbles into her mother’s shoulder as the boys trail in, Castiel holding up the end.

“Hey honey.” Ellen responds, giving her a daughter a good squeeze before letting her eyes check over the boys. She notices Castiel within seconds and takes in his ragtag appearance. “Ya boys pickin’ up lost pups now?” She teases, giving Jo another squeeze before letting her go and heading over. She stands directly in front of Castiel, sizing him up.

He’s wearing the same clothing he was the day before and he kind of smells, but it hasn’t grown too noticeable. His facial hair is still untamed and makes him slightly look like a hermit, which he was nearly four days ago.

“My name is Castiel.” Cas greets, standing awkwardly by Dean, the waves of tension turning more into panic now with Ellen staring him down like she was gonna eat him, and not in the good way.

“And why the hell are ya here?” Apparently Ellen wasn’t too kind to strangers and it made Dean cringe for Castiel’s discomfort.

“He helped us on our last hunt.” Kinda lie. “And he asked to join us to lend his assistance.” Dean ignores the looks from Sam and Jo, staring directly at the owner of the bar.  

Ellen turns her attention onto Dean now, her eyes squinting to judge him properly. “He doesn’t look like he can do much.”

The waves turn slightly hostile in his mind and Dean tries to settle them down with reassurance, “I thought the same thing, but I got a feeling he’s tougher than he looks.”

“What is so demeaning about my appearance?”

Dean doesn’t answer Castiel’s question out loud, instead holds his remark in his brain to use later, “Like Ellen said, you look like a drowned puppy.”

“Oh.”

Dean’s head whips towards Castiel. That wasn’t said out loud, he knows it wasn’t. Suddenly Dean is way too freaked out to even be tired. He didn’t say that out loud. Castiel’s eyes are there to connect with Dean’s the moment the taller turns his head and they stare at each other.

“What the actual fuck Cas?”

There’s a sigh, a freaking sigh, in Dean’s mind and Castiel speaks up again. Once again in Dean’s brain. “I’ll explain it while we’re alone. Otherwise this might go… awkwardly.”

Sam’s cough breaks the eye contact, making both men look towards him. “I’m gonna go to bed, I’m bushed.”

Ellen, who is staring at Dean and Castiel like they have four heads, turns towards Sam. “I bet kid, catch some sleep before Bobby comes kicking down your door.”

“Aye aye ma’am.” Sam comments, yawning as he heads towards the doors.

Jo seems to realize that sleep is now an option and jumps off of the stool she had occupied. “I think Sam’s got a good idea. Night!” She waves towards the dwindling group of three before heading towards the same door as Sam, catching it just in time to sneak through without having to use appendages. With five turned to three, Dean looks over at Ellen, waiting for whatever she has to say.

Just as expected the older woman looks back the two, crossing her arms. “Well Dean, you’re gonna have to explain this shit to Bobby because I’m just too tired.” She looks at Castiel, “As for you.” She shuffles slightly to rest against one of the tables scattered around the room. “There’s a room next to Dean’s that’s currently vacated. You can use it for the night. Just don’t touch nothin’.”

Castiel relaxes and relief floods Dean’s mind. “Thank you Ellen.” He voices, his vocals as rough as always.

Ellen waves a hand at the man and walks back to the bar, picking up the rag she had dropped when Jo came over. “Don’t thank me yet. We gotta see how ya do with Bobby.”

“Night Ellen.” Dean calls towards the woman, nodding his head towards the door Sam and Jo had left from. “Come on Cas, I’ll show ya you’re room.” Castiel nods and follows Dean to the door without another word. They exit the original Roadhouse and head towards the housing.

 

Dean doesn’t dare speak to Cas until they reached the proper rooms. He nods towards the room Ellen had spoken of, “That’s where you’ll be staying.” He opens his own room up with a key and holds it wide enough for Cas to know he can come in. Which he does.

Over the years Dean had made his room his own, some hunters preferred switching room, or leaving it bland incase Bobby or Ellen needed the room but Dean didn’t work like that. He liked nesting a little, and had added furs on the floor and trinkets on table tops mixed in with candles. Dropping his bags down he lights the surround candles with the flint he kept on the dresser.

Once the room was comfortably lit Dean nods for Castiel to close the door and come closer, which the other follows obediently, like he can see the steps in Dean’s head. What if he could? More panic filled Dean and the waves of what could only be Castiel came to comfort.

“What the fuck man?" He whispers, even though the walls are thick enough to cover their conversation.

Castiel seems softer in this light and everything about him is radiating calm. "What you are experiencing is a connection." That didn’t tell Dean jack shit, and while Castiel’s voice was calming, Dean was now only more determined to find out what was going on.

"No shit." Dean barks as quietly as he could.

Castiel holds up his hands and continues, "It’s something I can do.” He pauses, licking his lips to give his mind the proper way to word it. “I have the ability to talk to dragons as well, and am abnormally strong.”

Dean’s head is whirling and the constant calm coming off of Castiel makes him want to put his walls up but he decides against it, deciding to focus on it. “Can you knock it off?” He shoots, glaring at Castiel before moving over to the bed where he can sit.

The waves of calm end, and Castiel chooses this moment to sit down as well, grabbing the chair that had been left in the room by the pervious owner. Setting it down so that he can face Dean, Castiel wastes no time in staring at the other’s face, his brow furrowed and concern written in the wrinkles of his face.

The hunter wasn’t having that and rubbing his face he holds up a hand, smacking it onto his knee. “Alright, so what? You can do that with just random people?” Castiel’s already shaking his head and Dean knows it isn’t because he read his mind or anything, it was just natural to ask.

“No, only with you and o- dragons.”

“Why?”

Castiel shrugs, leaning back slightly, his posture still very uncomfortable. “Guess we have similarities, or differences that make us compatible for it.”  

There is no time wasted before Dean starts to roll his eyes, “Great.” The venom makes Castiel cringe and the waves in Dean’s head to ripple unhappily. It reminds Dean of yet another question, “Will it always be on?” Green meets blue as Dean raises his eyes to the other man. “And what the hell with the talking in my brain?"

“As you already know, it can be turned purposefully off.” There was something there, in those bright blues, a commitment that Dean didn’t sign on for. “However the only permanent route to end it is if one of us die, or I find someone that I can connect with before ours finalizes.”

“Finalizes?” Dean can’t help but interrupt. The fuck? He did not sign up for this.

“Yes.” Castiel sighs out, his shoulders dropping slightly at Dean’s reactions. “It becomes finalized once we look through each other’s eyes.” Dean’s finally quiet and Castiel takes the time to explain Dean’s other question. “As for talking… emotions are the most basic of connections. Talking is a little more difficult, especially in front of others. It takes practice to decipher from the outside world and the one in your mind.” He seems to take an inventory of Dean’s facial expressions before continuing. “We will be able to share what we see eventually, completing the connection. But your thoughts will always be your own, only those you wish to share with me will be.”

Dean digests all this information, and screams every curse word he knows in the safety of his private brain part... because that’s what it is right? Castiel’s face doesn’t change so Dean assumes that’s what it is. The next thing on Dean’s list of things to do is take a deep breath, which he does. “Is there anything else I should know about it?”

Castiel nods soberly, “When I say emotions I mean them all Dean, pain, hunger, love, joy. If your arm gets hurt, I will feel it. If my heart breaks, your’s will.” He wasn’t sugarcoating things, that much was evident and it helped Dean decide.

“Well,” He starts, running a hand over the back of his head, “The way I see it is…” he wouldn’t sugar coat this either, “it’d be freakin’ awesome if you could find someone else… but I get that you might not be able to and accept it.” There’s a long moment where the two men just stare at each other, Castiel’s eyes sad with something Dean didn’t want to place, knowing it would hurt if he did.

“I understand.” Castiel finally breathes out, lowering his head, “You never asked for this, you just wanted to plunder a dragon’s den and now you have another person’s thoughts attached to your’s.” He stands up, twirling the chair back against the wall with his wrist as he heads towards the door. He sounds mad, and Dean doesn’t understand why but let’s it be, watching as the walls around Castiel’s brain build. Castiel turns around once he reaches the door frame, “Goodnight Dean.” It’s the last thing said as he closes the door, leaving the hunter in his own thoughts.

 

That night Dean dreams of flying. It’s a foreign experience to say for sure, especially with his fear of heights. But there is nothing terrifying about this, it felt comfortable, like he was revisiting an old memory. He watches as the mountains of the frozen north turn into the wild forests and clifftops of northern Potesta. He witnesses as the empty plains of the King’s Land pass underneath him and for the first time Dean feels a freedom he has never experienced. Dean is tied down to earthly travel because he likes it, he trusts Impala under his weight. The sky, so open and clear, has nothing to support him and to feel comfortable up here, in the clouds. It’s something entirely different.

The dream only lasts until Dean becomes self aware, and with a comfortable blackness surrounding him, he fades to the embrace of sleep.

 


 

The sound of the morning gong brings Dean back to reality with a familiarity that should comfort him but instead succeeds in pissing him off. He decides he’s going to ignore it and find his way back to the land of sleep. That is, of course, before he hear's Castiel’s voice.

“What was that?” It was a whisper, tired and grumpy from being woken up.

Dean rolls over, shoving his face into the pillow but still replies, unwilling to be an asshole this early in the morning. “It’s the training gong. We don’t have to go. We’re not on training schedule."

“Oh...sleep well Dean.”

“Same to you Cas."

 

The next time Dean wakes up it’s with someone knocking on his door. "Dammit boy open the door!” It’s Bobby and that’s why Dean actually does roll out of bed, stumbling over to the door to unlatch it.

In the three years that the Winchester brothers have been hunters Bobby’s brown hair had turned more grey, mixing in with the ginger that hid in his beard and revealing itself at his temples. He’s wearing his shaggy commanders hat, which covers up the fact his widows peak had grown as well over the years. But at least he’s still alive, hunters don’t normally get to his age. “Morning Bobby.”

“It’s actually noon Dean.” Bobby corrects, shoving his hands into his trouser pockets.

With a snarky grin the younger hunter shrugs with little worry, “Whoops.”

Commander Singer rolls his eyes at the laissez-faire attitude, and leans back into a more comfortable standing position, looking at the eldest Winchester. He opts to ignore Dean’s sass and instead head for the more important intel. “I hear ya got a new member to your little ramshackle crew.”

As if on cue Castiel’s door opens and the scraggly man steps out, looking rather bleary eyed and confused. Dean smiles as the newest conversational partner and turns towards his tutor, “Yep.” He pats Castiel on the back once to further the confirmation, and waves of gratitude roll over his mind, which he does except.

"My name is Castiel." This time Castiel actually holds out a hand, which the commander takes and shakes.

Bobby's brow furrows and he drops the other's hand. "Castiel eh? I feel like I've heard that name before."

Castiel's completely calm and at ease, but emotionless, like this was something he had awaited for. "It is a once a common name."

Dean doubted it and so did Bobby, who's face was layered in scepticism. "Sure thing." Bobby grumbles, switching to more important business."Now how ya gonna help my boys?"

With a quick sideways glance at Dean, Castiel directs his words towards Commander Singer. "I have a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the supernatural. I am also fluent in dragon and fae."

Bobby's caterpillar eyebrow raises, and he speaks three simple words that remind Dean of bells, or lullabies. Castiel responds in length to whatever Bobby had spoken, the words falling so easily from his mouth it almost seemed like his first language. It takes both hunters back a peg, but at least Bobby understood what Cas said in the first place.

"Where did you even learn that?" Dean can't help himself, he has to interject on this little bonding moment.

A small smile appears on Castiel's lips, which was difficult to see with the beard in the way. "You pick up things."

Bobby chuckles at that, shaking his head in amusement, "Seems like the Winchesters have already started to affect ya." The moment of humor passes and Bobby turns serious once again, sizing up Castiel. "Well you're gonna need to prove yourself if you're caravaning with three of my best." His lip quirks but it's more teasing than pleasant and it reminds Dean of the time he had to run around the Roadhouse. "Ya gotta get outfitted as well. Ain't having a hobo scuffing up our hunter outlook."

Castiel just nods, accepting his fate from Bobby graciously. "Understood sir."

Bobby was used to Dean's quibs and probably expected Castiel to be the same. He was wrong. Castiel stood like a proper soldier in front of his commanding officer. There was no stress behind his movements or hidden in his emotions, just a welcoming sort of familiarity.  

"Good." Bobby nods, almost unsure of how easy this had been. "Jo will meet you in the Roadhouse. She said something about helping you get your clothing and getting cleaned up."

Castiel nods curtly once again but doesn't move, not until Bobby gives him an expectant look. "Go."

The shaggy man looks from Bobby to Dean now and Dean knows he's not comfortable with the thought of leaving Dean. "Jo's gonna be there Cas, come on." Dean thinks it out loud before he can stop himself and Castiel sends him an understanding look.

He leaves than, and the moment he's out of earshot Bobby relaxes into his more unprofessional look. "Damn Dean, where did you even find this guy?"

The younger hunter shrugs, trying to cover up the true oddity it all was. "He was living with the dragon we killed in Pontiac."

"Excuse me boy?" Bobby growls, his face reddening slightly. "Did it ever occur to you he could want revenge? Maybe that was his dragon!"

Dean laughs, laughs so hard it peaks Castiel's consciousness in his own. Dean assures Castiel's curiosity it was nothing and speaks up to combat Bobby's remarks, knowing for a deep rooted fact Castiel wasn't Rachel's rider. "No Bobby, it ain't possible."

"Oh it sure as shit is possible." Bobby rumbles back, his arms crossed in front of his chest.

"No Bobby it isn't." Dean knows this whole brain thing is fucked, but it helps him understand his strange new companion better than an interrogation. "He wants to see the world Bobby, he wants to help people. He's not some psychotic rider, he would have killed me awhile ago if that was true."

It seems like that's enough to keep Bobby content, or at least from asking more questions on that subject. So with one final worrying Bobby turns to the reason Dean was here. "So Sam mentioned some magical items you guys picked up..."

Dean nods, heading back into his room to retrieve the bag he had dropped the night before. Coming back with it he reaches in, pulling out the moon crystals he had taken. "Got some ancient texts and shit like that too." He shrugs and hands the sack over to his old mentor.

Bobby peaks in, taking an overview inventory before giving a short head nod. "Good. I'll have someone sort this out and get sent to its proper locations."

It's the closing time for their conversation, Dean raises a hand towards Bobby, “Alright, I’m just gonna get dressed and shit and than I’ll head down to the pub.”

Bobby acknowledges this with a little nod, “Alright Dean, it’s damn good to see ya.”

“You too Bobby.”

With that said the eldest hunter leaves to perform his own duties around the stronghold.

For about the next ten minutes Dean washes his face and changes into slightly more comfortable clothing, abandoning the hunter garb for the next couple hours.

He ends up choosing a simple grey shirt and some thick canvas pants but it's like paradise to not be wearing all that extra armor. With that done he fixes his hair, half out of habit and half because it was easy to do. Quickly grabbing the book Dean had personally taken from the dragon temple he makes it down the stairs and towards Ash's room.

As Ash had told Dean years ago there was a distinguishing sign plastered upon his door. And today it read "Dr. Badass is 'IN'." Dean expected it, as Ash was actually allowed to sleep in later due to his nightly watch. But Dean knows Ash doesn't sleep, he power naps or falls into comas and that's why he bangs so hard on the door to get the other man's attention.

Ash opens the door before Dean even has to make any threats, which is awesome. "Hiya Dean." Ash grumbles, resting his head against the door frame. "What can I do you for at such a spectacular hour?" He was obviously sleeping and had been woken up by Dean's banging. The hunter should feel bad but Ash was always up for something and this was one of those times. "I need something delivered to my mom. But I want to make sure no one tries to intercept it."

Ash rolls his head back, letting out a lazy yawn. "Easy as cake, it'll be the first thing I get done for ya Deano."

Dean had known Ash would be up for it, but it was still a pleasant surprise every time he responded with gusto. "Thanks Ash."

"Ain't a problem, I am the master."

Dean snorts and departs from his place in front of Ash's room, giving a little wave towards Ash as he walks down the hall. "Sure are."

 


 

When Dean finally gets down to the Roadhouse he discovers that both Harvelle's are missing, along with Castiel. Luckily Sam was there, stuffing his face full with a hearty lunch.

"Morning Sammy."

Sam, who had watched Dean enter from the comfort of a seat smirks. "It's a little past noon Dean."

"Shut up." Dean fires back teasingly, sitting next to his brother and grabbing a couple slices of bacon. "Where's Jo and them?" He asks around the food stuffed into his mouth.

Sam rolls his eyes in disgust, making Dean smile largely. "They left. I don't know where, but I do know that Bobby intends to have a show of Castiel sparring at sundown to judge his physical abilities.”

“Ohh sounds kinky.” Dean quips before he can help it and the moment he sees Sam’s face he wishes he hadn’t. Sam’s watching Dean in the way he does when he’s confused about Dean’s actions and wants to have a heart to heart. Great.

“You know…” Sam starts, his eyes moving from the glass in front of him to his elder brother, “I’m glad we have Cas with us and everything, like he’s got knowledge we didn’t even know still exists…” Dean feels it coming on, “but don’t you think it’s kinda… odd?”

“How?” Dean asks mechanically, keeping his face calm while his mind races. It’s enough to attract Castiel’s attention, and bring his thoughts to Dean. Instead of words Dean sends emotions, explaining the uncomfortableness of this conversation. Castiel responds with comforting warmth and the impression that either way, he would stand by him.

Dean doesn’t know if it’s because of the brain thing, but Dean knows it’s true, that this man he met only four days ago would accept whatever Dean told Sam, understanding the bond they had as brothers. It’s one of the more comforting feeling Dean has ever experienced.

“See and you’ve been doing a lot of that shit.” Sam breaks Dean’s connection with Castiel, watching his elder brother with concerned puppy dog eyes.

“What shit?” Dean bites back, no real malice in his voice.

The youngest Winchester gives a class 'A' bitch face at that, eyeing his brother. "You just randomly seem to clock out. Like you're having a conversation in your head or something..." Sam shrugs, knowing that to anyone else it would sound stupid but for Dean it rang truer than anything else.

Dean knows he should come clean but he had to be careful about it or Sam would worry or even get defensive of Dean. But how? How do you tell your little brother you’re talking to a scruffy little man who’s being rather evasive of his past? You don’t.

“Don’t know man.” Dean shrugs, letting a cocky grin spread across his face. “I think I gotta just stop by a cathouse or something.”

As Dean planned Sam makes a sound is disgust, “Dude, I don’t need to know that.”

“You’re the one that brought it up.”

“Jerk.”

“Bitch.”

 


 

Ellen eventually shows up and goes about heating up some leftovers of the lunch for Dean in the back. She gives Dean the food along with a pint for both of them, knowing the boys well enough to tell they needed one. The three sit and chat for awhile, Ellen catching the boys up on the hunters that came through as well as places of high activity. “I hear the border around Seven Gates is getting a little more attention.” She leans forward, resting her naked elbows on the counter. “Rufus actually asked Bobby to send more hunters down to Whitefish.” Whitefish was another hunter’s base, located on the edge of the last lake before the sands of Seven Gates in a territory known as Canaan, which was under the control of some Lord that Dean couldn’t remember.

“No shit.” Dean grumbles, dropping his hand to hit the counter ever so slightly, so he can turn and head a better look at Ellen.

“We were actually thinking of heading down there after we stopped here.” Sam adds, looking towards his brother for a confirmation nod, which he gets.

Both boys look back towards Ellen, who is now shaking her head, “We’ve been getting a little bit more business from Chion lately and quite frankly, I don’t trust it.” She frowns, staring down at her weathered hands for a moment. “But it all depends on what Bobby says.”

“Do ya know where the old man is?” Dean inquires while on the subject.

“Nope, can’t say I do.” Dean frowns and Ellen just shrugs, going about her business.

They fall into a silence, and once Dean finishes his drink he says goodbye, leaving with intentions of finding not only Bobby but Castiel.

 

As it turns out, both people are reasonably difficult to find. Castiel is literally no where and Dean’s checked the bathrooms, Castiel’s current room, the sparring arena and the surrounding training areas. But there wasn’t hide nor hair of the man. So Dean drops that cause and searches exclusively for Bobby. Bobby is substantially easier to find, but it still takes Dean a while to figure out he’d be in his office.

Dean’s just approaching the room when the door opens and Bobby steps out. He turns towards Dean and walks over, giving the boy a confused look. “What’cha doin boy?”

“Heard you might need help on the Chion border.”

Bobby sighs loudly, shaking his head before heading towards the stairs, Dean trailing behind him. “Also got problems on the desert border, either one, take ya pick.” Bobby didn’t exactly seem in the mood to talk about business as he headed towards the door that would lead out to the meeting area.

“Where are you going?” Dean asks, too curious for his own good.

The hunter commander doesn’t stop, instead just gives Dean a weird look. “Well, put up Cas for sparring now. So I’m gonna go see how strong this guy really is.”

Holy shit that’s right.

 

Dean follows Bobby to the sparring area, witnessing the small crowd that had already shown up around the circle. Both men seem to make their way through the bodies with ease but Dean stays on the sidelines as Bobby heads out to where a man was standing. Dean doesn’t recognize the man at first glance but then Jo bounds up next to him and Dean has the startling realization that it’s Cas.

The peach fuzz is gone and without it Castiel’s face becomes much more angled and strong. His hair is cut shorter but not by much and it still seems to do it’s own thing when it comes to staying in place.

It seems that Castiel could feel Dean’s eyes on him, because those electric blue eyes hit Dean like a tidal wave. Castiel’s emotions were always there in Dean’s head, but it seemed to lose potency if they weren’t together. The connection wasn’t lost, just weakened and to be looking at him again… it’s almost magical. Dean hates how it sounds, how pansy it is, but it’s true. Dean feels better with Cas around.

“You nervous?” Dean asks in his head, hoping that Cas gets it. Dean watches Castiel’s face as shock passes through and he becomes more locked onto Dean.

“No…” Castiel mutters in their shared space, his voice a little awed.

“Then what’s up?” Dean pushes lightly, slightly concerned for his friend while also dreadfully curious.

“I just did not expect you to make an attempt to communicate this way.”

Dean knew what he was getting at and he shrugged, which Castiel could obviously see, since they were still staring at each other. “Ah come on man, I gotta wish you good luck when you’re about to fight some crazy ass hunters.” He watches as Castiel’s lip quirks and can’t help but smile back.

“I believe Bobby is offering to let volunteers challenge me.” Castiel pauses, flicking his eyes towards Bobby before going back to Dean’s eyes. “I believe it’d be a good time to see if we can communicate and fight.”

Dean doesn’t mean to look owlish, but the thought of trying to do this, talk in their brains, in front of all the hunters of the Roadhouse sounded insane… and slightly exhilarating. "I'll take you on second round, sound good?" Dean responds before dropping the concentration he has with Cas in favor to watch the hands rise for the first volunteer. Martin has his arm raised despite the fact his other is currently in a sling. Gordon Walker also raised his hand but Bobby skimmed over him, probably feeling he'd be too much for Castiel to handle and Dean was kind of grateful. This was a test, not a real match, but Gordon took everything as the real fight. Dean notices that not only did Sam have his hand up, but Jo as well, who was now standing next to Sam right on the circle edge to the other side. Dean gives them a curious eyebrow raise and the both shrug. Dean decides to turn his attention back to Bobby, who seems to have made his decision.

"Krissy Chambers." He calls out, looking towards the 13 year old. Krissy was young and still low on experience but she could do her own damage. Would she beat Cas? Not before Seven Gates froze over.

Krissy steps forward, lowering her hand as she does so. She has a determined look on her face, one Dean knows all too well, she'll sure as hell put up a fight.

 

With both contestants standing in front of Bobby the commander starts to lay down the ground rules. "Good now, this little test we're putting on is going to be friendly fire, which means no cheating or kill shots. Understood?" He gives an eye to everyone in the crowd as well as both Krissy and Castiel. Castiel nods somberly, his face even more expressive without his beard. Dean can see the little pop of his jaw as he nods. He looks so clean Dean can't get over it, who knew that scraggly man could turn out to be one of the best looking men in the Roadhouse?

"Alright you two," Bobby says to both parties, "the sparring match ends when I say it does or one of you tap-out." Both nod again and the older man decides that's enough prep work for the match and steps back into the crowds around the area. Castiel moves farther away from Krissy and stretches, much like a cat, before unsheathing his sword. He's not wearing the hunter uniform, well, he's wearing the pants, but his shirt isn't from the uniform. It's white, first of all, and falls loosely around his body. It kind of reminds Dean of what pirates wear, since it does show a decent amount of Castiel's chest. But because of this Dean is able to see the necklace that still hangs around Castiel’s neck, the one real piece of memorabilia from his temple home.

Castiel stands and nods towards Krissy, he doesn't seem to mind being put against a 13 year old and treats her like a proper hunter. She responds with a similar nod and they both set up. Castiel holds his sword low as Krissy cocks her bow. There seems to be a moment of calm, as normally happens before a storm and then something clicks and Krissy releases her bow.

The arrow goes sailing through the air, directly to Castiel's sword arm. He easily deflects it with a flick of his wrist, his face so calm it's as if the movement never happened. Krissy doesn't bat an eye at Castiel's easy deflection and instead pulls out her daggers, sending one to his left shoulder and the other to his shin. Castiel moves with easy grace still, using his blade to block the lower dagger while his shoulder moves back to miss the shot. Krissy is even closer and Castiel is finally able to make his own move.

He goes for her side, an obvious attack which she sidesteps. Castiel is warming up now, getting into his flow, he rolls with her defence and stabs at her arm. Catching fabric, Krissy's eyes go wide. Castiel pulls back, giving the child another chance. She takes it, her agitation at Castiel's easy pose making her attack more fervently. She misses every single mark.

Dean's kind of impressed, he expected Castiel to do good against Krissy but this was too easy for Castiel. It was like a game of cat and mouse, where the cat just humors the mouse with letting it go before inflicting bodily harm. Castiel just stands there, watching as Krissy becomes more and more brazen in her moves.

The loud sound of clanging metal comes from between the two, Krissy making the ballsy move of swinging for Castiel's face. Using his sword to stop the blade, Castiel presses down, disarming the girl. He reaches forward, grabbing the falling blade.

The hunters stay quiet, it's obviously the end of the sparring match and Krissy is spitting mad, her face red with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. Castiel stays silent, nodding his head towards his adversary before flipping her sword so the hilt faced towards its owner. Krissy grabs the hilt, sliding it out of Castiel's hand.

Crimson appears on the blade and Krissy's face whitens, looking up towards the stranger. "I'm sorry." She croaks out, completely mortified by what her actions have caused. Dean's palm hurts, and he knows that the cut is deep. Castiel pushes the pain away from Dean, leaving a dull pulse behind along with the itch of an old wound.

"It's all right." Castiel remarks, finally speaking up to Krissy. "it will heal."

Bobby steps forward now, surveying the damage. It was Krissy's annoyance at herself for losing the fight that caused Castiel to bleed. In her hurry to remove herself from the center of attention she had acted too hastily. "Krissy ya got to be more careful." Bobby reminds her, making the thirteen year old look even more embarrassed. Bobby turns to Castiel now, "You're hand okay?"

Castiel doesn't even pause before his nod, "It will not stop me from performing this test.” He was so sure, so unperturbed by the incident it was like he never was cut, but Dean could feel it. Despite Castiel dulling the pain for Dean he knew, he could see the red drip down his fingertips. The injured man, as if feeling Dean's eyes on his hand, makes an even tighter fist, not allowing anything to slip through. The hunters around the circle have started to talk, their whispers turning into a low roar.

Bobby gives him a look but nods, starting to get a grip on Castiel's personality. "Alright, well..." He looks around, "any volunteers?" Bobby's eyes land on Dean the moment he raises his hand. "Come on Dean." He motions for the hunter to come forward, hushing those surrounding them.

Dean, who is only wearing his civil outfit looks towards the crowds in hope of a weapon. Sam comes through and hands Dean his blade, hilt towards his brother. "Thanks Sammy." Dean grunts, nodding his head in thanks. Sam doesn't seem bothered and shrugs, letting Dean turn towards Bobby and Castiel.

Once Dean faced them Bobby speaks up, "Same rules as before. Be good boys." He pulls away, dipping to the side while both Dean and Castiel add space between each other.

"Are you ready?" Castiel questions in Dean's head.

"As ready as I'll ever be." He comments, the words ringing in his head until he's sure Castiel hears them. Cas doesn't waste any time on Dean like he did for Krissy, he automatically attacks, heading directly for Dean's side.

Dean dodges it, making sparks fly as their swords collide.

"Good job." Castiel rumbles in their shared space.

Dean smirks, unable to curb his egotism. "Phh, not hard at all."

A smile creeps onto Castiel's face and like a flash of white light, he twirls away from the blades, allowing his hand to be overthrown. Dust rises under Castiel's new black shoes, scuffing the fresh leather in the process of turning towards his opponent. "You think so?" Muses Castiel, his voice reminding Dean of a very large cat. Dean doesn't dare say anything. Instead he readies himself, Cas had something big brewing.

They circle each other, Dean's face outwardly cocky while Castiel's eyes reflect his own smugness. Castiel shoots forward and Dean barely has any time to react. He does however, his sword clashing with Castiel's.

This time Castiel obviously has the advantage, Dean notices as their swords clash. "What the fuck?" Dean rumbles, confusion and physical exertion mixing. Looking up, Dean is confronted by Castiel's eyes. They're wide, but in the sense that adrenaline runs through his every tendent, the feeling is mutual.

"This," Castiel starts, pushing Dean's defensive even farther down as if it was nothing. "Is only some of the strength I retain."

It was hard to believe, especially with Dean's arms shaking so violently with the exertion of holding Castiel back, but he couldn't fucking take his eyes away from Castiel's. He couldn't formulate any proper reaction except to stare into those blue orbs.

Dean had never been to the beach and he had only seen the sea from a distance, but he imagined Castiel's eyes were much like those large bodies of water. They were too deep and clear to be considered a lake, which Dean had been to thank you very much. No, instead they held this knowledge of the unknown, somewhere hidden under those sunburst blues.

"That being said," Castiel starts up again. He doesn't move but the pressure he placed upon his weapon wanes. "I will never use any of my abilities to harm you, or your family." It was a promise and both knew it. Dean nods and it seems to break whatever was going on between them.

Castiel raises his blade, just enough for Dean to push back, giving their fight more regularity to their onlookers. Dean automatically makes a move, focusing on the fight instead of Castiel or the faces around them. Castiel dodges as always, and Dean growls. Cas was good at evading but... Dean hits Castiel's wrist with the hilt of his sword.

Finally Castiel looks taken off guard as his sword falls. While Dean's faced with some of the same pain he inflicted on Castiel, it's dulled in comparison and Dean uses that time to kick away the blade. It's a mistake because, with a flick of his wrist, a smaller dagger looking thing falls into Castiel's hand. Dean's pretty sure he's never seen a blade like it before and judging by the confused mumbles around them, the other hunters hadn't.

Without a sword Castiel has more movability and he shows this by ducking under Dean's next blow and hitting him directly in the chest with the pummel. It's not sharp and the end is smoothed out, but it still hurts like a bitch and knocks the wind out of Dean. He stumbles back, dazed, and Castiel takes this opportunity to hit the revealed inside of Dean's elbow, effectively numbing Dean’s hand and knocking his sword out of his grasp.

Castiel mimics Dean by kicking the sword away, but he doesn't attack, instead he pauses, watching Dean to see his next move.

There's a dagger in Dean's boot, and he could reach it if he wanted but this wasn't sparring anymore, even Bobby knew, this was Dean and Cas discovering just exactly who they had signed on for. Dean knows that Castiel wants him to react just as he would in a true fight. So, Dean does now what he would do with anyone, he punches Cas in the face.

Castiel stumbles back, his already wounded hand coming up to place pressure on his lip. After examining the fresh crimson on his fingertips Castiel peers up, his blues so much more electric with the red. He drops the dagger, forsaking it with this new development in favor of stepping forward and making a move towards Dean's side.

Dean should have known it was a distraction, it was far too obvious for Castiel, but he didn't think on it and that's why he falls straight on his ass, Castiel's legs sweeping right under Dean and knocking him off balance. But the eldest Winchester doesn't go down without a fight and grabs onto his opponent's arm, yanking Cas down with him.

They land in a puddle, Dean throwing punches while Castiel hits with equal veracity. Both bodies hurt, both felt the pain from the other, but the combined adrenaline had overpowered the pain some time ago, making it manageable.

That is until Bobby's voice rings out, "Boys!" and both men freeze, realizing they were acting like children. Castiel stands up first, quickly patting myself free of the dirt that stuck to his white shirt. Dean stood up soon after that, repeating Castiel's movements but keeping his head up high.

Dean knew there was blood marring his face, along with a couple forming bruises (like the one Cas had growing on his chin and lower cheek) but he didn't back down from Bobby's eye contact, oh no.

Bobby was sporting a rather odd look, and while Dean couldn't tell some of it, the prominent tone was annoyance. "I think ya have beaten the shit out of each other enough for the day." He was using 'I'm in charge' voice so Dean didn't give any lip, and Castiel nodded at Dean's side. Bobby turned to the crowds now, "There won't be any more sparring for the night so go get some rest or drinks or whatever the hell ya want." Some of the hunters dispersed but some stuck around, like Sam and Jo. They didn't approach their crew members but Dean could tell that the cogs in Sam's mammoth brain were turning.

With the large portion of hunters clearing out Bobby speaks up again, turning his attention back to the battered and bruised boys in front of him, his commander facade falling. "The fuck were you boys doing out there?" He demands, but he doesn't stop there. Turning his eyes onto Cas he glares, "You're new here boy, but the shit you have pulled already is more ballsy than what most people accomplish here." Castiel hangs his head, but says nothing, suffering in silence.

Bobby now turns his head towards Dean and taking on a much more fatherly tone, he bellows, "And the fuck was up with you breaking those rules Dean?!"

It's time for Dean to speak up, now that there weren't that many hunters around to hear and make assumptions. “Look Bobby,” He holds a hand up vaguely, “We just signed Cas on, it looked like a good time to see how our fighting styles work.”

“Yeah,” Sam says, having walked over when Dean was distracted. “And this was the first time Jo and I got to see Cas fight.”

Bobby turns to face Sam, who came to stand next to Dean’s right while Cas occupied Dean’s left. “Is that so?” His voice had lowered a couple measures, like he knew that Sam and Dean together were an unstoppable force. “Don’t excuse them from being downright idjits.”

Dean could literally see Sam’s brain trying to work out how to get out of this situation and since Dean was no help he turned to Castiel.

Castiel seemed to have a speech ready at this point and he gladly voiced it to help the Winchesters. “Excuse me sir,” He cuts in, making Bobby’s head swivel towards the shortest in the line. “But you wished to see what I could offer in combat, you know full well that placing me against Krissy hampered my ability to truly show you.” He gives a sideways glance towards Dean before locking eyes with Bobby, his body radiating sureness. “That is why I did what I did, because Dean is a proper sparring partner whom I feel comfortable with.”

Dean nods, adding in his own two cents. “He couldn’t really elbow Krissy in the face, she’s freaking thirteen Bobby.” He points to his bleeding nose as if to further the point.

“Don’t let Krissy hear ya say that, she’ll gut you in your sleep.” Bobby remarks towards Dean before addressing Castiel. “I do see your point, but ya did break the rules.”

Castiel blinks but seemed to give up on that fight, knowing that Bobby was right. “I am aware, and I am deeply regretful of breaking the rules placed.”

Bobby didn’t expect that and seemed to be taken back a step before collecting himself. “I forgive ya, you’re new here.”

“What?” Both Winchester’s said in shock. They had always had to deal with repercussions when they broke the rules, but Cas got off with an ‘I forgive you’? Bobby seemed to expect this reaction from them and rolls his eyes, facing them both.

“Ya idjits don’t upfront apologize, not until I make ya do something.” He shakes his head, “Maybe Castiel will be good for ya after all.”

It wasn’t outright acceptance but it was enough, and Dean let go of a breath he didn’t know he was holding, looking towards Castiel with a small smile on his face. Castiel returned the gesture and nodded towards Bobby, telling him he understood the words without having to respond.

Clearing his throat Bobby cut the conversation short, “I’m gonna go make sure Krissy ain’t pouting around because you got more fight time.” He’s talking about Dean and they all know it. “But I expect y'all to get rest if you’re leaving tomorrow.”

That reminds Dean of what Ellen had informed him this morning and what he had tried to talk to Bobby about before. “Wait Bobby,” the old man turns towards Dean, his caterpillar eyebrows bunching up, “Ellen said you were having problems on the Chion border, I was thinking maybe me and Sammy could go over there and help out for a day or so.”

Bobby nods at that, “It’d work, Ellen probably would like Jo sticking around abit.” Reaching up he scratches at his salt and pepper ginger beard. “Ya boys would be going west towards Manning, there's been some odd activity over the wall I would like you to check out. And just be wary in town there's been vampire attacks there lately."

This was no difficult task, the Winchester boys had been to the Chion border multiple times, it was kind of a hunter's initiation in some respects. Hunters of all ages would go there, Krissy included, to test their skills. Maybe people's first-time cases were there, as they are often clear cut. Dean and Sam themselves had only crossed the border itself once, and even then it was still in view of the large stone wall.

"How far are we going into Chion?" Sam voices, obviously thinking the same thing. Speaking of thinking Dean now notices how the lifeline between Castiel and him had grown smaller, how Castiel's waves were too calm. Something was up but he'd deal with it later, since he had a feeling he already knew what it was.

"Ya'd be heading into Malnemus, but that's all I know right now, ain't heard shit from Elkins in awhile."

Daniel Elkins was the commanding officer over the hunters that resided in the small village of Manning and was a famed vampire hunter. But he was more than that, he was a good man.

"You think something's up?" Dean asks, receiving a solemn nod from Bobby.

"Daniel isn't the spring chicken he used to be and if the attacks are getting as bad as gossip tells it..." Bobby shakes his head, "But that's just rumors, I'd like you two to check it out."

"What about me?" Castiel's voice comes through suddenly, sounding more strained than normal. He's still standing besides Dean, but Jo is there now, her posture slightly defensive.

Dean didn't want Cas coming, not to Chion. It's not that Dean doesn't think Cas can handle it, but.... despite all the promises and the fact they got along, Dean wasn't sure he wanted this still. It scared him and just seemed to be too good to be true. Yeah, the whole sharing pain thing kinda sucked now that the adrenaline was wearing off but Castiel wasn't letting a lick of his pain shine through to Dean so it didn't have to be shared. Still, maybe some separation would be good... just to see.

"You'd stay here." Dean answers shortly, feeling slightly bad for the finality in his voice.

Rage smashed itself against Dean's brain, rattling him slightly. But it wasn't Cas who speaks up next, no, it's Jo.

"Well since they're being jackasses, you can hang out with me." She emphasizes in the 'jackasses' and makes sure she's starring Dean down like a hawk. Sometimes, when Jo would get simmering mad, she would remind Dean of Ellen and that was frankly terrifying. "And I'll tell you all the lovely stories I know about the Winchesters." Now that was a threat, or at least felt like it.

"Joanna..." Dean warns, giving her his best older brother face.

Jo, being a surrogate sibling responds as any little sister would, "What? So we can't go with you and you think you can control what we talk about while you’re gone?"

"Not that I don't love it when ya guys do this but I don't need to be here." Bobby says honestly, only Sam and Cas turning to look at him and nod. The commanding hunter starts to walk away, leaving the argumentative traveling companions.

"So you're gonna blackmail me!?" Dean growls at Jo, his arms crossing.

A smug look grows upon the female's features, "Just said stories Dean, don't need to get so defensive."

Dean knew he was acting like a child, and he didn't care. Jo had walked into his life just when Dean got to experience freedom. He didn't want Jo telling Cas about all the women, all the alcohol and mistakes he had made in his first years of independence. "Don't give me that bullshit Jo." Dean counters, glaring.

Jo shrugs, grabbing onto Castiel's arm, "Whatever Dean." She looks up at Castiel, who had turned to her with wide eyes when she grabbed onto his shirt. "Come on Cas, let's go get you cleaned up and I'll buy you a drink for punching Dean in the face."

"Thank you Jo." Castiel rumbles, his voice betraying none of his emotions.

The eldest Winchester splutters but watches as his two party members turn about face and head towards the pub. The connection between him and Castiel seems to close, Castiel’s walls forming and effectively keeping Dean out of contact.

Dean makes a move to follow them but a firm hand grabs onto his shoulder. "Dean," Of course Sammy's voice is measured, like he's trying to talk sense with just his brother's name. "Let them go. Why does it even matter if she tells him stories?"

Dean's shoulders drop and he sighs, watching the retreating bodies. He didn't want Castiel to think less of him that's why. He shared a freaky brain thing with the guy. He didn't want him judge Dean for the things he has done but rather the person he is. It kinda seemed hypocritical, since Dean was doing this to weaken that same connection. He should actually be happy that Jo would be telling Cas how bad and unjust Dean was, it would scare Castiel away. But still, a part of him didn't want that and he had to bury it. "You're right."

"I know." Sam sasses, patting Dean on the back, "You look like shit."

"Yeah, I'm gonna go get clean and I'll meet you in the Roadhouse?"

"Sounds like a plan."

Dean knew Sam was holding his tongue about something but honestly, Dean didn't want to deal with it right now. He was tired and sore and ready to clean himself of this entire mess. So he leaves and heads to the bathing houses.

The bathing houses, which were at the corner of the Roadhouse campus, had the only public mirrors on the grounds. Since Dean didn't own a mirror big enough to really see his wounds (he owned one for shaving, but that was only a hand's width big) he uses those to look at his bruises.

By this time Dean's nose is starting to change hues, which he figured would happen since Cas knocked him a good one with his shoulder when they were on the ground. He's also got a few abrasions over his skin, along with the split lip and a rather dark mark forming on his chest.

If one thing was certain, Cas could really pack a punch. He’d probably be fine in Chion, he’d probably be able to freaking survive in Seven Gates for all intents and purposes, especially with the strength he restrained with ease. But Dean didn't want to subject Cas to the life of a hunter, Cas said he didn't want to be a hunter and taking him to Chion would be just that, getting him involved with the business of a hunter.

It was kind of an excuse, or maybe just a really small reason compared to the whole communication thing, but it was still there in Dean's brain nevertheless.

 

After removing all the sweat, grime and blood from the sparring match, Dean dresses in his previous clothing and heads towards the Roadhouse.

Warm light comes from the open door, sounds of talking and plates clattering come out of the open windows. It's dinner time now and since hunters like their food with some alcohol, the majority of the soldiers were seated in the cramped pub. Dean entered the mess of mismatched tables with their resident hunters with ease, heading towards the table that he and Sam often call dibs on. Sam's there of course, a two course meal placed in front of him as he stuffs his face, reading an open book to his right. What a nerd.

Jo is usually there as well but not today, and when Dean plops himself down on one of the corners he looks around for the blonde Harvelle. She was at the bar, a row of small glasses in front of her, and her sitting companion; freaking Castiel. Ellen stands on the other side of the bar, staring at Castiel was a challenging expression.

"It seems Ellen is putting Castiel to the test." Sam speaks up, closing his book so he can look at his brother and where is eyeline is going.

"I see that." Dean bites back, his eyes trained on the interaction across the room.

Sam whistles, "Touchy." But Dean ignores it in favor of watching Cas take the row of unclouded shots like it was water. Ellen's reaction was more reserved but Jo claps Cas on, making some of the other inebriated hunters cheer around the room. Castiel says something and both Ellen and Jo break into laughter, Ellen pouring more clear liquid into the glasses in front of Castiel.

"Damn, didn't know Cas had it in him." Sam comments yet again, this time getting a retort from his brother.

"Neither did I."

 

A couple lines of liquid in and Ellen calls a break to the madness at the bar, coming over to the Winchester boys.

"Hey boys. Was the meal good Sam?" She tilts her head to the youngest and he nods, placing his discarded plates into an orderly pile for Ellen to take.

"Very much, thanks Ellen."

"No problem," she hums, turning towards Dean now, "Now whatcha want Dean?" She wasn't rude, she just knew he must be starving.

"Whatever ya got Ellen, with a pint of ya don't mind." Dean answers, giving her a forced smile.

Ellen, never one for confronting feelings and knowing Dean likes it even less, continues on like nothing was off.

"Sure don't, I'll have Ash bring it out for ya."

"Thanks Ellen."

"Ain't nothing."

 


 

Like Ellen said, Ash comes over in a couple of minutes, carrying two plates filled with food and a generous pint. Dean has no idea how Ash doesn't spill the whole mess, especially since he was drunk ninety-eight percent of the time. Somehow he manages to keep his balance until he places the food in front of Dean. "One Winchester sized dinner up!" He jokes, shoving the pint towards Dean.

Dean nods, reaching for a slice of steak,"Thanks Ash."

"No problemo Deano." Ash counters with ease, "Got that thing done for ya as well."

"Awesome." Dean means it, Ash didn't fuck around when it came to getting shit done. Ash grins and gives them a salute, turning on his heels and heading back towards the bar.

"What'd you ask him to do?" Sam voices just as Dean sticks a chicken leg in his mouth. Slumping his shoulders Dean gives his little brother a look.

Sam doesn't give a shit so Dean swallows and speaks up, "Sent a book to mom." He shrugs and goes back to eating. Dean's pretty sure Sam doesn't exactly believe that but he let's it slide so Dean can eat in peace.

The peace Dean receives is fictitious however as the very moment Dean actually starts to relax, Krissy is at the table, looking like a thunder storm.

"Winchesters." She greets, plopping down with more force than necessary.

"Hey Krissy." Sam responds first.

"Hey kiddo." Dean greets second, earning a death glare from the girl. "What?" He asks, a little shocked.

"I ain't a kid." She snaps, acting very much a teenager.

"Sure." Dean scoffs, going in for the kill on his mashed potatoes.

He can feel both Sam and Krissy roll their eyes, but Sam is the first to get to the bottom of Krissy's arrival. "So what's up?" He asks, his brow furrowing and making him look like a concerned puppy, especially with the long hair and freaking muttonchops.

"Well," Krissy speaks up, leaning closer to the boys. "You guys travel with Castiel right?" Dean’s guard is up automatically, his head rising to stare at the girl across from him.

"Yeah, we do." Sam's forehead grows more wrinkles, "Why?"

"You know how I hurt his hand before?" Sam nods, making Krissy continue. "He doesn't have any wrappings on it or anything." Both Winchesters turn to look towards Castiel. He is certainly not wearing any medical anything across his palm and is even using it to reach for his next glass.

"So?" Dean now interjects, making the two others look at him.

"I cut him pretty bad, Dean." She clarifies, huffing out slightly in annoyance.

"Apparently not." Dean grunts into his pint, earning a heated glare from Krissy. She takes a pause, probably counting backwards from ten to calm down or something.

"So... what exactly are you suggesting?" Sam asks, far too curious for Dean's liking.

Dean feels eyes on the back of his head and turning around he sees Castiel staring directly at him as if Cas felt Dean's distress.

The connection between them floods open and Dean feels Castiel's concern. "Are you alright Dean?" The hunter almost shakes his head but remembers his place and turns towards his company before responding.

"How's your hand?" Dean inquires, ignoring Castiel's own question.

Surprise, the kind you have when discovering someone cares (because Dean can tell what exact feeling Cas is having as this point) shoots through their connection before that strange calm takes control. "Fine. The bleeding stopped during our fight."

Krissy's voice brings Dean back to the table he's sitting at. "I just wanted to know if you've seen anything else...odd about him."

"There's nothing wrong with him." Dean announces before he can stop himself, the words reverberating to Castiel in his head. The other stays quiet however, waiting for more information from Dean's side. Dean can't concentrate on that right now, and pulls away from the connection to instead dread the look his brother is most likely giving him.

Sam is, of course, giving Dean a weird look, but he turns to Krissy and shakes his head. "I haven't seen anything, sorry Krissy."

People can say whatever they want about Krissy but they can't say she's a bad hunter because she damn well isn't, not with skeptical look she's giving both boys. Cas isn't a demon, Dean knows this, demons can't talk in people's brains they can only possess people at will and torture them with hallucinations and shit like that, none of which, Castiel had done in their time together. He wasn't a vampire, the sun had no effect on him and werewolf was out of the question. Castiel was just special and shit.

Krissy sighs when no one gives her anymore information and stands, "Well, thanks boys. I'm gonna go find my dad." She gives them a short wave before disappearing into the crowds in search of her father.

Sam stays quiet until he sees Krissy pop up again at the other side of the room and once he’s sure she’s out of earshot he turns towards his brother. “Dean…” Oh no, here comes the inquisition Dean had so carefully avoided. “Is there anything I should know?”

Dean doesn’t even think about it, “Nope.” Maybe Dean would have told Sam something at this point if the building wasn’t filled to the gills with hunters and Sammy seems to pick up on this.

“Alright.”

 


 

The Winchesters stay until the Roadhouse is basically empty, save the normals and Castiel. Dean rises from his seat, he’s had a couple pints at this time but due to his tolerance they only help remove the body aches he has now and not his judgement. Sam joins his brother and they walk out, waving goodnight to both Jo and Cas as they leave. The two boys make it to the housing buildings with no need for shared words. This is how it used to be, before Cas, and the feeling of familiarity reminds Dean that even with Cas here and their creepy head thing, Sam was still Sam and he was still Dean. They’d be brother’s forever, no matter what and that’s more comforting than the voice inside of his head.

Arriving at their designated rooms both boys open their doors. Sammy’s the one to speak first, looking down at his hands before up at his brother. “What time should we leave?”

Chion was a little over half a day’s travel west from the Roadhouse, “When the sun rises, so wake me up if you’re freaky health schedule wakes you up before me.”

Sam smiles, more to himself than his brother and nods, “Alright, night Dean.”

“Night Sammy.”

 

Dean was in his room for about five minutes before the connection in his head starts to vibrate, informing him that Castiel was trying to talk to him. Dean sighs, pushing his head into his pillow before allowing their minds to melt. ”Hey Cas.”

”Hello Dean.” The thing about this brain link that was so off was the fact that, no matter what, it sounded like Castiel was right next to him. His rumbling voice sounded so near that he could be whispering into his ear. ”May I come in?”

Green eyes reopened at the question and Dean groans as he removes himself from the bed he had so ungracefully plopped onto. Heading towards the door Dean unlatches the little lock, swinging it open to reveal the other man. Dean expected Castiel to look like shit, just like Dean did but to his surprise, the other’s scars and bruises looked older, like they were a week's worth of healed instead of only a couple hours old. Dean doesn’t comment on them until Castiel is safely in his room and the door is shut.

“Dude the fuck?” He asks, looking at the markings with distrust.

“I should not stay here while you’re gone Dean.” Castiel cuts off, his brow furrowing in concern.

“Why?” Dean doesn’t mean to sound crass, but there he goes.

Castiel takes pause, sighing as if this was inconvenient. “You remember how I told you I have abilities?” There was literally no way Dean could forget that, they freaking talked in their brains. His feelings towards the comment seemed to show on his face along with flow over their connection, letting Castiel know his reaction. “Healing is another one.”

“You’re just a tank aren’t you?” Dean reckoned, watching his friend’s face.

“In a form, yes.” Castiel doesn’t even miss a beat.

“What are you?” Dean asks before he can stop himself, if he had done this beforehand, before they became traveling partners, it would have been easier, but of course, Dean had to now drudge this up because it was important.

There’s a torn expression on Castiel’s face for a second but it disappears under that emotionless mask. “I just have abilities.”

“Bullshit.”  

Castiel sighs, his shoulder slumping. "Dean, I'm not a demon, I'm here to help you. Can't you just accept that?"

"No!" Dean doesn't mean to yell, but he does and he cringes at is own reaction while Castiel stands like a stone statue.

"Fine. I will stay here and be prosecuted by these hunters." Castiel shakes his head, "I know you're leaving because this," The words reverberate through Dean's head as well, just to prove a point. "Concerns you and I understand that you wish for space."

"That doesn't answer my question Cas." Dean hedges, keeping a careful eye on his counterpart.

Castiel's already shaking his head, "I will not give you an answer to that Dean, for personal safety." For some reason it didn't just sound like Castiel's safety but Dean's as well. "I have presented my case and how I can help. But if you wish to remain close minded to the possibility someone isn't willing to tell all their secrets-" Castiel's eyes, normally calming and sure, are a storm of darker emotions, rage, pain, disappointment.  "Than perhaps I chose wrong."

That hurt Dean more than he ever expected it to, “Maybe you did.” Dean bites back, covering his own pain with anger.

They stand there for a moment, Castiel’s eyes trained on Dean’s despite the hunter’s discomfort. “What’s the matter?” He speaks up, tilting his head to the side, “ You don't think you deserve to be saved? You think you don’t deserve to relieve some of that weight on your shoulders?”

Dean knew the answer, but bypasses it with a question, “Why do you want to help so bad?”

There is no pause, no doubt in Castiel as he stands up straighter, his shoulders back and his voice righteous. “Because I believe you are the right choice, although you are incredibly stubborn and self loathing."

Dean would have fought back, he really would have, but the drinks are making him tired and Cas isn't wrong, so why should he continue to fight for a façade he couldn't keep up?

"I'll ask Sam about it tomorrow, don't sleep in." With that, Dean points to the door. Castiel sighs, but accepts what he can get before walking to the door.

Castiel stops at the frame, door already opened by his hand, "Goodnight Dean."

"Night Cas."

With that, Dean is finally alone and he collapses onto his bed. Letting out a little groan as he tries to fall asleep.

 


 

Dean's up early, he knows it the moment he cracks his eyes open. He doesn't bother trying to get back to sleep and instead, packs for the upcoming day. Suddenly the events of last night wash over the hunter, he had to figure out what to do. Manning, the hunter town before the border, would be a good home base for Cas. The hunters there wouldn't know about the sparring match, and if anyone asked Dean could just say they were on a hunt and that's why they have varying degrees of bruises and bumps. Dean would demand that Castiel stays in Manning while he and Sam enter Chion. He didn't want Cas heading in there.

So with a heavy sigh and fresh clothes on his back, Dean heads out of his room with his bag over his shoulder, ready as ever for the adventure in front of him.

 

 

Chapter Text

The morning isn't actually that rough on Dean, he heads down to the Roadhouse for some grub, and finds Castiel already awake, eating and packed. They eat their breakfast in silence together, sitting across from one another and sharing their complacent morning moods. Sam eventually comes down, dressed and ready like his two companions. Of course Sam takes in Castiel's presence and sends his brother an odd look.

Dean doesn't want to have this conversation, because he's not even sure he could word it right, so he doesn't and just gives the rounded explanation. "Cas is gonna come with us to Manning." Sam picks up on the 'not Chion' look Dean gives him and nods.

"Alright." He pauses in sitting down to get a better look towards Castiel. Cas, at this time, had basically healed and while he wore a hooded jacket with light fabric hiding the majority of his neck, the disappearing marks were hard to cover. "How'd-?"

"Don't worry." Dean cuts his brother off, and Sam looks pissed enough to say something but Cas, of course, saves Dean.

"I am rather good at recovering from wounds."

Sam doesn't believe it but it's good enough of an answer for Dean and he cuts in once again, this time ensuring Sam can't voice his worries. "Hey Cas, while we're getting Sandford and Impala ready do you want to look at the other horses? See if you like any of 'em?"

Castiel turns towards the speaking man and nods in agreement, "Yes."

"Awesome." Dean slides the seat out from under him so he can stand, "We should do that now. Sammy, we'll meet you at the stables."

The youngest Winchester didn't look too happy at the idea but Ash at this time was bringing over a plate for the man, so he quiets down.

 

The moment they leave the pub Castiel turns towards Dean, rather than communicating with him in Dean's head. "You haven't discussed that with him, I assume."

Dean nods, shoving his hands into his pant pockets. "Nah, it ain't right yet."

"I see."

Dean doubted it, but the conversation was dropped and they walked without a word the rest of the way to the stables.

 

Impala had been informed yesterday by Dean that they were leaving today and she seemed to understand. She stood there proud and ready, her black coat still flawless due to Dean's obsessive care. "Hey Baby." It's the words that break the tension and Castiel greets the black horse as well.

"Greetings Impala."

The leading lady snorts and tries to step forward, hitting her knees on the surrounding wooden fencing. Dean automatically turns his attention towards getting Impala ready, but can't help but watch Cas out of the corner of his eye.

The man, who had lived with dragons, seemed out of his element here, the horses around Cas seemed too small and too large at the same time. It was odd, watching the self sure male walk around with his eyes respectfully low, until her retrieved a response.

Dean wasn't able to watch the entire interaction between Castiel and the horses as he was busy saddling Impala up.

Just when he's finishing placing his bare essentials on her back, Dean looks up to witness a rather dejected Castiel. His head is shaking already to the question in Dean's head. "No, I did not connect with any of them."

Dean doubted none of the horses fitted Castiel's criteria, but he let it slide, Impala wouldn't mind Cas joining and it was one less thing to take of.

 

While fixing Impala's bags so that Cas could join Dean easily, Sam shows up. He, just like Dean, heads straight for his horse. "You're riding with Dean?" Sam asks towards the two as he lifts his saddle onto Stanford's back.

"As it appears, yes." Castiel answers, his voice careful.

Sam notices but doesn't say anything and instead nods, "Alright."

Once Stanford was ready the three men set off towards the west. While they did talk periodically throughout their travels it was rather innocent in subject. That is, of course, until they reached the empty fields that took up the majority of the middle of Kings Land.

 

"Ya know Cas, I haven't seen anything... natural heal as quickly as you have." Sam speaks up, making the other man shrink slightly. Dean sighs, he figured Sam would want to talk to them when there was no escape and this was it.

"Are you suggesting something?" Cas asks his voice carefully void of worry and any real answer, this was Dean's job.

"Oh come on guys." Sam groans, looking rather exasperated. "Don't pull that, no one is around and you can trust me." His words end as his eyes hit his brother, the mastered puppy dog eyes wearing away Dean's resolve.

"He-" Dean doesn't know how to explain it. "Has some talents." Dean rolled his own eyes at that, stupid response.

Sam follows suit as his brown eyes touch the sky before looking back at his brother. "I figured that out all by myself." Sam sasses before he can help himself. "But what are you exactly?"

"Nothing that will ever harm the Winchesters." Castiel clarifies, his voice more finalized than it had ever been with Dean.

Sam seems taken aback from this and turns towards Dean, "And you're okay with this?"

"Not necessarily." Dean comments in his head before he can stop himself, earning him a look from Cas. "Yeah." He sighs finally, turning towards his brother, "Look Sam, he ain't telling us what he is. And it would normally freak me out but I got this feeling we're better with him than without him."

Shock infiltrates the party of three, both Sam and Castiel radiating the surprise they felt from Dean's statement.

"...Alright." Sam nods, looking from his brother back to Cas before returning to his brother. There were times in Dean's life that made him realize how amazing his brother was, and this was one of those times. Despite all his questions, Sam would still follow his brother into whatever mess he put them in and Dean could never really express how much that mattered to him.

Dean doesn't dare speak, afraid he could ruin what he so carefully just set up. Instead he stares straight ahead, opening his mind for Castiel.

The first words the moment they connected officially were "Thank you." And Castiel spoke them so softly he sounded far away, small almost, with a graduated twice his size.

"Ain't a problem."

"What isn't?" Sam asks and Dean curses inside his head.

"I said something to him." Cas admits, omitting the fact it wasn't out loud.

Sam seemed to think the same thing, "I didn't hear you."

Cas shrugs easily, "The wind is blowing away from you." Sam's face scrunches up in disbelief but he nods.

"That was close." Dean comments the moment his brother turns his attention towards the skyline.

"You will eventually have to inform him. I have noticed that Sam is very attentive. Especially when it comes to you, his brother." Castiel replies rather quickly, but his voice was more matter of fact than attack so Dean doesn't put up his emotional walls.

Dean stares straight forward, his brow furrowing slightly, "I'll be honest with ya, I don't know what his reaction will be."

He feels Castiel nod behind him, "Nor do I, but I feel as though he will be more concerned if you are not truthful."

"Yeah, I know."

"You do what you believe is right Dean. He is your brother before he was my acquaintance."

The conversation drops but the connection doesn't and the two fall into a calming stream of emotions.

 

The King's Land was a beautiful place, the tall grass moving in the wind while clusters of trees appeared wherever the roots could take hold.  The path to Chion was clear, and easy to follow, as it was big enough for three horses to ride side by side, much like the two Winchesters did now. The closer they got to Chion the weirder the weather became. Chion was a land of constant twilight, some supernatural force or some shit that Dean didn't really understand. All he knew was, the closer you got, the better you could see the darkening clouds that perpetually held residence above the forsaken land.

 

They were almost to Manning now, which because of the closeness to Chion, had almost perpetual twilight as well. The sun was halfway across the sky at this time, but you couldn't really tell, not with the clouds defusing it so much.

Dean actually expected Castiel to comment on such an oddity, but instead he stayed silent, eyes trained on the darkest clouds to the west. "Even when I walk through the darkest valley..." Castiel's rumbling voice rings out like a hymn, reminding Dean of old words coated in dust.

"What?"

Castiel didn't answer, and Dean doesn't pursue the matter, instead he stares ahead towards the mass of grey between sky and earth. Farms and mills appear on the landscape now, covering the grey with their own structures. Manning was still too far away to see now, despite being just across the valley.

 

With the nearing of Manning Dean could feel Castiel's tension rise, slowly becoming more and more obvious, even to Sam.

"Manning is famed for vampire hunters," Dean starts, attracting the two other men's attentions. "Officer Daniel Elkins runs the place."

Sam seems to catch up quickly and nods, giving a look towards Castiel. "He's an expert on all things vampiric, killed more nests than anyone else ever has."

Castiel's voice rumbles behind Dean, vibrating his chest with the closeness. "Being so close to the largest population of vampires, I would assume he is very efficient in curbing their numbers."

Dean can't help but snort, shaking his head slightly before glancing back at Castiel. "That's one way of putting it, Cas."

"Hence why I said it." Cas snarks, earning a low chuckle from Dean. If he receives any odd looks Dean purposefully ignores them, blundering on into the subject before.

"Manning ain't got much in the way of shops, it's all essentials...which really upsets Sammy since he can't put all those natural oils he sticks in his hair."

Sam gave Dean the exact reaction he was hoping for. "Shut up Dean."

"Oh, so defensive Sammy."

 

They eventually get close enough to Manning to finally see it. It's buildings are much like that of the Roadhouse, sturdy stone with iron or silver door handles so supernatural creatures couldn’t enter. There's a small bakers stop, set next to the blacksmith and jail. The main hunter building of Manning was actually connected to the western wall, allowing hunters easy access to the pathways within the stone to get out into Chion. There's a stable right outside and close to the main door, making it easy for messengers to come and go.

The Winchesters set their steeds there, removing all trappings on the beasts so they can properly rest. Castiel's already holding all their equipment when the two boys finish and so they just head in.

The first room is much like that of a stuffy common room, there's mismatched chairs and soft benches. There's papers scattered through the room along with empty liquor bottles the hunters forget to discard. Elkins wasn't one to hound the passing hunters and the place showed it, Dean was pretty sure Elkins only cleaned if Bobby or Ellen was showing up. Because of the overall atmosphere of being so close to Chion the air felt stagnant and heavy, like the dust particles never really set, just floated around and softened the lighting.

"Dean?" The gruff voice of Elkins comes from his office, the very man exiting soon after. Like many of the older hunters, Daniel's face is haggard, there's no scars marring his face but the toll of being a hunter shows in his eyes and the frown lines around his mouth. His hair is a mixture of his original brown, but grey and white have started to make their inevitable change. "Sam." Daniel greets now, seeing Sam standing besides Dean. "Did Bobby send ya over?"

"Yeah, he said you were having trouble so we came to see if we can help."

"Bless that man." Elkins mumbles, moving from the door frame towards the troop of three. He takes in Castiel now. "New recruit?"

"This is Castiel." Dean introduces, stepping aside just enough for Cas to be really seen but for Dean to still protect him from any wrongdoing. "Cas this is Officer Daniel Elkins."

"Pleasure." Castiel greets, nodding his head towards Daniel. "I have heard you are well known for vampire slaying.”

Daniel let's out a sick chuckle, frowning suddenly. "Damn vampires."

Dean knows Cas is trying to keep the conversation from getting back onto him and Dean can't help but agree. "Is that who you're having problems with currently?"

The officer snorts, slumping his shoulders. "When are they not?" Daniel nods his head towards Castiel before tilting it towards his office. "Why don't ya drop those and the lot of ya come into the office so I can explain this clusterfuck?"

Castiel does just that, dropping the supplies onto one of the benches before following the hunters into the office. Sam and Daniel head in right away, but Dean waits until Castiel enters the room to follow him in. He felt kinda like a mother hen, but Cas is new to the hunters and until Dean is sure the man will do fine here, he isn't leaving his side.

Daniel sits down with a heavy thump, rubbing his head before reaching for a bottle of amber liquid. He grabs four glasses and pours one for each of them, handing them out before getting down to business. "Well ya know how they have all have their own nests and kinda wander like tribes." Daniel starts, pulling out a map. "In the last month a large band of them from the south west, run by some vamp called the Old Man, has shown up." Daniel takes his shot and all men follow suite. "Luther, a bastard vampire I've been hunting for years, showed up but disappeared the moment this Old Man appeared."

"You think they're teaming up? Or that this Old Man killed Luther?" Sam asks in the pause.

Elkins nods, "They might be teaming up. I don't know this Old Man for shit, but to be called that ya got to be important right?"

"Or he just looks really old." Dean comments despite himself, making Sam rolls his eyes.

"Doubt it."

"Shut up."

"Mature, really mature."

"This Luther, may I ask why you have been hunting him for years?" Castiel cuts in, effectively shutting both Winchesters up.

Daniel blinks but answers, “He's the only one left of his original nest. I know he's trying to build up another one, and he does have a name for himself so it isn't difficult for him. As I know he has at minimum six followers."

Castiel nods, "Do you know how many follow this Old Man?"

"Not a damn clue."

Castiel frowns, turning towards Dean. "I already know you do not wish for me to join you. But I believe, with such little information known, I should accompany you."

Fuck. Dean did not want this conversation to happen in front of his brother and especially Daniel. "I'll have to see, Cas." Dean turns towards Daniel now, "What exactly do you want to know?"

Daniel frowns, "I want to know why this Old Man is here and I wish to neutralize any forces that are pushing against the wall." Both Winchesters could manage that and nod in sync. "I want ya both to gather any intel you can about what is going on in there." Daniel's still frowning, "If this Old Man is as big as his name suggests, that means major players are moving around in that hell hole for some reason. And I want to know what."

"Understood." Dean responds, he personally knew jack shit about the politics over there, only that they moved around and some were more feared than others.

"Good." Elkins nods, "I suppose you can go whenever ya see fit. Ya know how time works there." Chion, as stated before, only has twilight, however there were times (prominently in winter) when it's forests were as black as a bottomless hole, allowing only those with night vision to see. Hunters didn't travel into Chion at this time unless it was of extreme importance. Luckily it was mid-summer when the Winchesters arrived, and the twilight ruled all hours of the day, making it possible for hunters to travel in whenever they were well rested enough for the fight that was guaranteed to ensue.

"Well," Dean starts, "I think we should get set up and then head out "

Sam nods, giving a look between Castiel and Dean before turning towards Elkins, "We'll figure this out Daniel.” He promises making Officer Elkins laugh.

There was no humor in his chuckles but instead some odd knowing. "Ain't got a doubt about that boys, the Winchesters get shit done."

"Don't you know it!" Dean booms, looking back to where Dean knew Cas would be standing he speaks up, his tone more goal orientated. "Come on Cas I'll show you where everything is.” The two man exit the room shoulder to shoulder, heading towards the discarded bags.

 


 

 

For the next hour Dean took Cas on a tour of the small town of Manning. First they dropped off their bags in the room they'd be sharing (the rooms in Manning's barracks were bunks that fit four comfortably). Then, Dean showed Cas the rooms inside of the hunter's building. The armory, mess hall (which was about the size of an average kitchen), the washrooms, library, etc. It was onto the small town after that, and the conversation, while largely informative before, now turned slowly towards subjects Dean did not want to breach.

The sun was setting, you could tell by the darkness that was eating up the eastern sky. Towards the west, where the sun light should be pushing out its beautiful hues was nothing but the clouds and grey bricks of bordering wall. It wasn’t illuminated like you’d expect from the area to stay in constant twilight, instead the clouds bogged the light down, holding it underneath it’s weight. Manning also had the same light, but no one knew where it came from. It just was. The shops were closing now, and windows were being closed and curtains drawn. No civilian left their house after this time, the time might be wonky here but the designated ‘nighttime hours’ held many dangers. Because Potesta was settled into darkness at this time, even if Chion and Manning were only in twilight, the creatures from Chion would often attack now. They’d either attack Manning and head back into the safety of Chion or push on farther, until the hunters of the Roadhouse inevitably rode out to greet them with a proper death.

They had stopped outside of the closed bakers so that Dean could sit down and tie his shoe. Castiel stands next to him, eyes surveying the area for anything too suspicious while he waits.

A silence has fallen over the entire town, including both men. It wasn’t exactly fear, but a sort of weariness, like a dog who had been beaten. “This town has seen much.” Castiel comments, bringing Dean out from the concentration of ‘tying shoe world’ to look up at his companion.

Dean finishes with securing his shoe’s laces and stands up, getting a better look at Castiel’s face. He seems older, even without the beard. It’s in his eyes, Dean knows this, Castiel's skin is far too perfect and taunt to exhibit any true age.

"Yeah, hell of a place to settle down."

Castiel shakes his head, his voice rough. "This is a place where heroes go to die."

Dean's taken aback, and looks at his companion with concern. Their connection, while still there, is currently relaying nothing for Dean to go off of. "Whoa man, what's with all the doom and gloom?"

Those blue orbs that Dean still isn't use to, turn onto him. "This 'Chion' has been here a lot longer than people believe. Many dragons don't even wish to venture into its depths." His voice is so serious, his eyes so piercing, his words actually worry Dean.

Dean, being Dean, shrugs off the feeling. "Ohhh scary." He jests, giving Cas a smile that isn't reciprocated. "I've been in there several times man, it ain't that scary."

"How far have you been into those wilds, Dean?" Castiel wasn’t having Dean’s light remarks, his face showing his inner turmoil. Suddenly Dean wished he could just jump into Castiel’s mind, understand why he was so against not going on this trip. But maybe Dean didn’t want to know, and that scared him even more.

“Come on Cas,” Dean sighs, letting his joking facade drop. “I’ll be fine.”

Castiel shakes his head, “I cannot be as sure as you.” There’s a pause as Castiel looks away, towards the walls that blacken the sunset, “Have you heard of the leviathan?” The smaller man had never displayed fear before, but there it is, coloring his voice as Dean shakes his head.

“Ain’t they some giant fish thing?”

“‘And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.’”. Castiel quotes like it’s etched into his memory. He turns his eyes back onto Dean, and allows the connection to flood with knowledge.

It’s almost overwhelming, the feeling of deep understanding being transferred. It isn’t straight out knowledge, it isn’t just there, instead it explains through feelings, snippets. A rocky shore on a stormy night, the feeling of salt and cool air. The eerie dread as an ear shattering roar mixes with crashing waves and thunder. The feeling of snow falling covers Dean, weighted with what feels like heavy armor. He feels the adrenaline of war, the fear for brothers and sisters as the sound of wings beat furiously against the wind and the sounds of battle. It’s the overwhelming feeling of loss.

“These creatures have no drive besides their own personal gain.” Castiel’s voice brings Dean back from the nausea of loss. “They only know how to conquer and spread their destruction.”

“So?” Dean counters, rubbing his head to help shake off the feelings he had just received. Cas, whether it was his goal or not, had spooked Dean, making him hyper aware of his body and their surroundings.

“They inhabit Chion.”

Boom. There it was. “What?” Dean’s head snaps up, meeting Castiel’s eyes. “Why haven’t they crossed the border than?”

“They can’t,” Dean’s shoulders relax and Castiel continues, “They are trapped there by forces much stronger than what resides in Potesta. They don’t leave the northern border of Chion.”

“Oh good, that’s a relief.” Dean snaps, “Then why tell me?”

It’s time for the other man’s shoulders to drop, but this time in exasperation. “Because if this Old Man is of importance to Chion, he might know of them and what they are doing. He might… have ‘teamed up’ with them.” Castiel raises his hands to quote the words, and despite the serious atmosphere, it helps Dean relax.

“Do you really think that?”

“No.” Castiel answers truthfully, “Leviathans believe they are a master race, and spit on those below them but… if there was a way to leave Chion with the help of this Old Man, they might set up a temporary agreement.”

This was way too much info for Dean to handle, and his head was spinning. Plopping down back onto the bench behind him he sits, putting his head in his hands. “How the ever loving fuck do you know this shit? I don’t even think Elkins knows about this.”

Castiel joins Dean on the seat, sighing softly as he looks towards the empty streets. “Chion has a political system and once dragons were aware of it but dragons cannot enter Chion, not without attracting the attention of the Leviathan.”

“So you heard all this shit for a dragon?” Suddenly the feelings of the ocean, the snow and war from before felt even weirder, was that from a connection Cas had with a dragon? Who was it? What was the battle of?

“In a way, yes but that doesn’t weaken the truth, Dean.” Castiel answers, pulling Dean away from his thoughts.

Dean doesn’t respond, instead he digs the heels of his hand into his eye sockets. This was just too much, he needed some sort of familiarity. He needed to do something simple, easy. Standing up Dean looks at Cas, nodding his head towards the hunter barracks, “Come on, Sammy’s probably pissing himself at how long we’re taking.”

There’s a look in Castiel’s eyes, but he stands, “Alright.”

 

When they enter the main room there’s a couple people placed in the mixed chairs. Annie Hawkins was there, sitting across from Travis, sharing some sort of story.

“So I was stuck right? Giant freakin’ werewolf coming at me and-” Annie notices Dean’s entry and rises automatically to greet him. “Dean!”

“Hey Annie.” Dean approaches, wrapping her in a hug. Annie might be older than Dean, but she was one fine looking woman with her honey hair and hourglass figure.

“Who’s this fine looking man?” She comments pulling her head away from Dean’s chest to look at Castiel.

“Annie, this is Castiel, Cas this is Annie Hawkins, one fine ass hunter.” Dean can’t help but smirk, hey, it was true on both accounts.

Either Cas had no idea what Dean was alluding too or he just didn’t care because he sends a respectful head nod her way. “It’s nice to meet you Ms. Hawkins.”

Annie laughs, reaching out to gently touch Cas on the arm. “Oh honey, don’t you go calling me miss, it’s just Annie sugarcakes.”

“Annie than.” Castiel corrects, staring down at where she was touching him.

Travis at this time had stood up to join the group of people, “Hey Dean, saw your brother before.”

“Cas this is Travis, he mainly hunts rougarus.” Castiel nods and Dean turns his attention back onto Travis, “Where’d ya see him?”

“When I was passing the library, it’s hard to miss him.”

Dean laughs and nods, putting a hand on Castiel’s back to steer him towards the library, “I know whatcha’ mean. I’m gonna find the Samsquash and than we’re gonna head out.”

Travis and Annie nod, both heading back to their seats. Annie however is the one to respond, “It was quiet when I left.”

“Good to know!” Dean calls back as they leave the room, his hand dropping from Castiel’s back the moment they’re away from everyone. ”See? And it’s not like I have to go too far in.”

Castiel sighs, shaking his head, “I am well aware that you believe you will remain unharmed.”

It was time for Dean to roll his eyes, Cas could be a sassmaster when he wanted to be.

 

Reaching the library, Dean swings the oaken door open, revealing the dusty room with bookshelves lining the walls. This library wasn’t like the one at the Roadhouse, it’s shelves weren’t full to bursting and the few books that were there had layers of dust on them, only some having fingerprints of removed dust.

Sam sat in the middle of the room, hunched over a stack of books, his finger following what he was reading. Whenever Sam was reading, especially when he was concentrating this hard, his brow furrows. The opening of the door makes Sam look up suddenly, his shoulders relaxing upon seeing Dean and Castiel.

“Heya Sammy.” Dean calls, walking the rest of the way towards the table before plopping down in one of the chairs, which squeaks at the sudden stress of a body.

Placing a thin bookmark into the book he was reading, Sam closes the book, sitting up straight as he looks at his brother to Castiel. “About time.” He comments, standing.

“I was giving you time to read your freaking poetry.” Dean teases easily, making Sam sigh.

It seems like Sam has to take a couple seconds to hold back whatever retort he was going to give, but once he does talk, it’s about the case. “Let’s just get out there, patrol hasn’t noticed anyone yet so it’d be a good time to establish ourselves.”

 

All three men walked back to the room they shared, where both Winchesters changed into their proper armor while Castiel stood there, sulking. Castiel doesn’t sulk like children do, no, he stays silent while looking ridiculously pissed. He doesn’t sit either, instead he just stands there, only moving when he’s in someone’s way.

Dean knows Sam wants to ask what exactly is going on, but he gets the general idea shortly when the boys go to leave the room. Castiel’s hot behind Dean’s heels when they reach the door frame and Dean turns around. “I want you to stay here.”

Castiel balks, “Excuse me?”

“You don’t know jack shit about the hunters here, I don’t want you accidently saying something that would catch their attention.”

Castiel looks like he’s really ready to punch the shit out of Dean, his hands formed into fists by his sides. “I will not be confined to one room, Dean. I have already complied to not going into Chion with you, but I will not be left in a room like some sort of weak maidan. I have survived with dragons longer than you have held a sword, humans are not my worry.”

That comment makes Sam’s head pop up like a prairie dog, but both Dean and Castiel ignore it in order to glare at each other. There’s a battle of eyes and Dean could have won, but he didn’t have time for this and lets Castiel make him cave. “Fucking fine. But you’re putting your ass on the line.”

An air of accomplishment rolls over their connection from Castiel’s end and it irks Dean more than he lets on. Castiel however, just nods. “Understood. I will walk with you to the door.”

 

He does just that, and when they reach the door he stops, watching from the open door as both Winchesters continue on.

“Bye Castiel.” Sam calls, holding up a hand to the now dejected looking man. Dean doesn’t want to say goodbye, he doesn’t want to see the look on Castiel’s face so he instead latches onto the anger he held before.

“Stay safe!” Dean demands, daring to look at him. Just as Dean expected, Castiel looks like a kicked puppy, sure, he was able to walk around Manning now, but it was obvious he would prefer to be with Dean himself.

Dean turns back around, his eyes shying away from Castiel’s. Castiel seems to reaffirm his comments from their walk before now. ”I am more concerned for  you. Please, if you need assistance, just ask.”

”Cas, you’re acting like my wife, calm down.”

”You don’t have a wife.”

”Guess that’s why I have you.”

 

The land in front of the two Winchester boys is just as it ever was, a vast expanse of what looks like nothing but forest. The trees, largely pine, grow too tall for their branches to be touched, the clouds from outside look more like mist in here, making it difficult to see perfectly. Grass didn’t seem to exist in this area of Xiatus, since there was no sunlight it was impossible for the green plant to grow and the browns of decaying leaves and pine needles took over the color scheme. The trees had green attached to their needles, but it wasn’t strong enough to take away from the overall dreariness of this place.

“Bobby said we had to head into Malnemus right?” Dean speaks up, making his brother look over at him to nod.

“Yeah, but the thing is….” Sam’s frowning, “I have no idea where it starts and stops.”

Dean snorts, keeping his hand upon the pommel of Tarsus. “I guess it’s when the trees break.”

“Guess so.” Sam responds before both start to venture farther into the trees.

They walk until they can’t see the wall at their backs beyond the trees and even still nothing has attacked them.

“It’s really quiet.” The youngest comments, frowning, “It’s never this quiet.”

“Agreed.” Dean confirms, remembering Castiel’s warnings about the Leviathans. Chion was filled with every baddy you could imagine, vampires, werewolves, faes, and none were giving any signs of life. It worried Dean. But of course, as they traveled and nothing continued to happen, Sam wanted to talk.

“So how old is Cas?”

Dean groans, letting his head bow dramatically, “Sam this isn’t the time.”

“It’s never the time, come on! Cas isn’t around, and I’m your brother I deserve to know.” Sam wasn’t letting this go and Dean really didn’t want to get into this while walking through enemy lines.

“I don’t know.”

“Dean-”

“I don’t freaking know okay? He doesn’t want to tell me jackshit.” That stunned Sam, because he knew Dean wasn’t lying. Stopping in his tracks the younger Winchester waits for his brother to stop as well.

Once Dean finally does halt and turn towards his younger sibling, Sam speaks up, “Then why do we trust him so much?”

It was the question that plagued Dean’s mind late at night ever since they picked up the stranger, but it wasn’t like Cas had much time to prove himself, after all Dean refused his help for this mission.

“He promised.” Dean answers, shrugging, “Look Sammy, he hasn’t even been with us a week, he hasn’t had much time to prove anything to anyone yet.”

“He proved he can kick your ass.” Sam shoots back, unabashed.

It makes Dean cringe but he shrugs it off. “Yeah and I think it’s better if we keep him close because of that fact.”

“But what if we return to Manning and he’s slaughtered everyone cause he was waiting for you to leave him alone!” Sam’s still worried, his brow creasing even more with anxiousness.

”Cas are you killing people right now?”

The reply comes almost immediately and while Cas doesn’t sound as close as he usually does, he still sounds strong, like he was only a foot away. ”No? I am a bit confused by your question, but I am with Annie at the moment. She has very interesting stories.” Dean’s shoulders visibly relaxed and the unease that Dean ran over the connection settled down.

”Hopefully nothing about me.”

There’s a pause now, and Dean begins to fret slightly but this time for different reasons, ”She did inform me of the case where you two had intercourse.”

Dean grimaces.

“What is going on?!” Sam nearly yells to get Dean’s attention.

“What?” Dean bursts, breaking his concentration away from Cas.

“You disappeared again! It’s like one moment you’re here and the next you’re not. What is happening to you Dean?”

Dean’s not ready to tackle this pile of bullshit just yet with his brother, it’d be too weird, so instead he returns to the previous topic. “Dude, look, Cas is probably talking with the other hunters right now. How much you wanna bet Annie roped him into listening to some of her crazy adventure stories?”

“That’s probably true, but it doesn’t explain where you go randomly?”

Sighing with an air of childlike exasperation Dean gives his little brother a look. “If you must know I go to my special place when you’re annoying me. There’s these women with-” Dean moves his hands to his chest, sticking his pointer fingers out over his nipples.

"Oh I so didn’t need to know that!”

“You asked!” Dean chuckles despite himself, that is until he hears the sound of a twig breaking to his right. Suddenly the joking air around them changes, both men reaching for their weapons. Dean unsheathes Tarsus, her pearl inlays muted in this lighting. Nodding his head towards Sam, Dean takes point as Sam notches an arrow.

The good thing about Chion is that the monsters that infested it usually didn’t waist time with attacking. They only saw food when humans wander into their lands and that’s exactly why the werewolf attacks automatically.

The beast comes from the tree behind Dean, running straight for him. The brawler manages to divert the werewolf’s jaws from his neck and grabbing onto the fleshy skin at the nape he manages to position it’s forehead above his own shoulder. There’s not a lot of room, but it’s enough for Sam to lose an arrow directly into the creature’s forehead. The body goes limp and Dean lets it fall onto the forest floor with a sickening thump.

“Good call on the silver arrows, Sammy.” Dean comments, grabbing the shaft of the arrow and twirling it inside of the werewolf’s cranium. It’s disgusting, and Dean’s pretty sure that gushy stuff is it’s freaking brain, but just yanking the arrow out won’t keep the silver tip on it and that’s the entire point of these rather expensive arrows.

Sam walks over, sticking his fingers inside of the wound in order to help the arrow out. It comes out with the new room Sam gives it and Dean wipes the blood and whatever matter on the werewolf’s clothing. “Ugh, so fucking nasty.” Dean complains, handing the arrow back to his brother. Sam nods, looking rather pale in the face, sometimes Dean wondered how his brother ever actually ate meat. Knowing his brother needs a good distraction Dean nods his head farther into the woods, “Come on, we got shit to do.”

 

They started their silent walk, eyes and ears open to any foreign sounds that might come their way. That is, of course, until Dean is distracted by Cas.

”How is the case?” Castiel’s voice comes through softer, and it feels more like a gentle thought than a full bodied conversation, like something Dean could pay only half attention to.

”We got attacked by a werewolf, but it was only one.”

”They usually travel in packs, are their no signs of others?”

”There’s a whole lot of nothing out here. It’s freaking dead.”

Worry crosses from Castiel’s side of the conversation, ”But Bobby said it was really busy over there.”

That was bothering Dean too, ”Yeah, I don’t like it. But once we find that Old Man or Luther, or any freaking vampire, it’ll be easier.”

The worry still doesn’t dissipate. ”Dean, I wish to stay connected with you while you are over there.”

”No. You take away from my concentration.”

Dean can hear the sigh from the other side of the line and it makes him smile, Cas probably looked so done right now. ”Only if you let it, don’t act like I’m a different person, act like I am you.”

”Are you going to take over my body Cas?” Dean teases, because let’s be honest, that was one hell of a creepy statement.

”No, perhaps I should say part of you. Your mind won’t accept me unless you accept it.” Dean frowns but tries to think of how that would exactly work in the first place.

”How do you expect my mind to just accept you?”

Another sigh, this time Dean doesn’t pay much attention to it, as he’s too busy climbing over a fallen tree branch.

”Focus on the you and not me, it will come naturally.”

”So says mister know-it-all.” Dean huffs before doing what Castiel asked. It’s difficult not to pay attention to the warm buzz of another in your head, but Dean focuses on the blood that has dried on his face from the werewolf, the overall damp feeling that hangs in Chion. He listens to the eerie sounds of Chion, the way the wind rustling the leaves and the sounds of faraway water.

”Head north, to your right.” Castiel speaks up, this time his voice closer but more like a thought than actual words placed together.

Dean nods, “We have to head north.” He declares to his brother, earning a weird look but there’s an accepting nod and both head right.

“How do you know?” Dean asks Castiel now, thinking the words rather than putting them consciously together.

”I have better hearing than you.” Castiel quips back, his tone snarky but still good natured.

Dean smirks, and looks towards his horizon, or as much of it as he can see. There’s a dip in the land before them, leading Dean to believe it’s actually a river of some sorts, maybe a brook that just fought it’s way through the earth until it came into being.

Dean signals for Sam to get down as they near the brook and both drop, army crawling until they come to the overlook. Voices can be heard now, they’re muffled and still pretty far away but they’re there.

Dean turns towards his brother and points to the north before himself, he then motions with both hands towards the south, letting Sam know to flank. Sam nods, standing up just enough to move faster. Dean does the same. ”Can you tell what’s going on with Sam?” Dean asks, worry evident in his mind.

”Yes and no, I do not hear him, which means he’s moving properly.”

”Good.” Dean continues around the area of investigation, keep as quiet as he could.

“Sire, we found him.”

“Good. Sorento, bring him to me.”

“Yes sire.”

”Looks like they were looking for someone.” Dean thinks, receiving a wave of agreement from Castiel.

”I wonder who… Do you think it could be Luther?” The other suggests.

”Don’t know, I guess we’ll have to find out.”

Dean nears the camp now, it’s not actually a camp, but rather just a small clearing in the almost constant tree line. Dean sees Sam now, he’s directly across from Dean and moving just as close as Dean is to the camp. Damn, he had a good brother.

”Fuck. No offence Cas, but I wish I had this with Sam. It’d be easier.”

Castiel rolls his eyes so strongly Dean can just feel it. ”If I was there, this would be easier. But you refused. Besides, you and Sam already understand each other well enough to do this with confidence.” Dean wants to know how Cas would just assume that, but maybe it was that obvious to an outsider. Sam was an extension of Dean, just like Cas was trying to be. He wasn’t trying to take Sam’s place, or even reduce the bond between the two brothers, as he seemed to have a great respect of their brotherly bond.

Suddenly Dean could hear the sounds of struggle and looked towards the west side of the camp, “He was nearing the border sire.” A darker man speaks, dragging another man on the ground. There was another vampire behind him, keeping the hostage for escaping.

The vampire, presumably Sorento, stops when they near the man who seems to command the nest. This man is younger, looking like he was no more than in his early 20s but Dean knew, he knew the age one looked didn’t mean jack shit when you’re a vampire.

”That’s the Old Man.” Castiel hums, and Dean knew it was true, felt it, like that monster was giving off an aura. Was that what Cas saw?

Sorento pulls off the canvas bag covering the hostage's face and throws it to the ground, a black hat rolling out of the lighter canvas. The hostage, a vampire and not human, looked to be in his mid-30s. He’s stockier than the others around him and just breaths old world, despite the fact he’s surrounded by vampires probably centuries old. “Hello father.” The man speaks, his voice reminding Dean of the citizens in the ports south of King’s Land.

“Benny. I have no words.”

The hostage, Benny, laughs, “Now, I know that ain’t true.”

Sorento takes out a flaying knife, holding it near Benny’s throat, his fangs bared.

“Relax So-so.” The commanding vampire orders, making Sorento drop the knife. “You can understand why he’s so bitter, you were his captain after all.” Benny scoffs, his eyes never leaving his sire, especially now that he continues. “Running off and marrying a fae.” The Old Man tisks, “Well, that’s the definition of mutiny, isn’t it?” A fae? Wait? The bastards of Chion got married? “All of this has me feeling so… tired.”

Benny glares now, fighting the ropes around his wrist. “You should have let me go. You should have let us go.”

“But, Benny, I don't let things go.” The leading vampire moves closer, his voice and expression trying to be energetic but instead coming across as forced.

Benny, who is now perfectly still, keeps his eyes locked with the Old Man. “I said you should have, but it’s too late for that.” Suddenly the ropes surrounding the man’s wrist fall to the ground, and turning his body Benny knocks the flaying knife from Sorento’s hands, knocking the vampire back into a tree.

Dean makes his move now, rushing the fallen Sorento and chopping off his head just as Sam fires a shot into the man behind Benny, stunning him slightly. The captive vampire seemed to take all of this in stride, kneeing the man Sam just shot in the crotch. “Fuck you Quentin.” Benny growls, grabbing onto his wrist and breaking it with ease. Quentin had been holding a larger, more malicious looking weapon, it’s blades seemingly made out of obsidian. Benny grabs the falling weapon with easy and twisting it in his hand to get better control Benny cuts Quentin’s head off.

In the mayhem of the fight, Sam had taken out one or two vamps, but another seemed to pop out of nowhere and had knocked him unconscious. Dean makes a move to go near his brother, but Castiel’s voice comes to him in a hurried harsh tone. ”Do not move Dean. He will be fine. Allow this fight to happen.” Every muscle in Dean’s body wants to disobey, but his brain knows it’s true, and so he stands still. Benny had taken care of the vampire who had attacked Sam as it came after Benny before worrying about Sam. Benny had easily dodged it’s attacks and with a steady hand the vampire’s head falls to the ground. Now there was only Benny and the Old Man and Dean watched as Benny turns on the Old Man and surprisingly, drops his blade.

“You just gonna sit there?” His voice it rough, filled with such a hatred Dean can feel the burn.

The Old Man sighs like he’s communicating with an upset adolescent, “I am evil, after all. At least I've had that much to keep me cold at night. You never had that, did you? Everything had to be thought about, considered.”

Benny’s hand was twitching, but he stands fast. “Ya know what they say about life not bein’ considered sir.”

The elder laughs, making Dean think of a teacher who laughs instead of nurtures. “Yes. But what we have in us? Benny, that's not life. That's what you still don't get. That's why it's always been so hard for you, my poor Benjamin.”

The stockier man snarls, sending a mean right hook into his elder, making the sire laugh. "You think you're can kill me? This is my story you gnat!"

"Oh I don't think it's anyone's story." Benny growls, watching as the Old Man holds onto his face. "You took away mine, and for that, misery won't come easy."

"Wait." Dean calls out as Benny takes a threatening step towards the man, "I need to talk to him."

Benny now turns his attention towards Dean, his fangs bared, "No offense kid, but I've been waiting for this for 40 years, ya ain't taken this away from me."

Dean wants to argue with him but Castiel sends a warning over their connection. "Do not interrupt him, I cannot tell what the outcome will be." So the eldest Winchester holds his tongue, moving now towards Sam as Benny turns back to the Old Man.

Dean has heard of torture, he's interrogated monsters before, but what Benny does isn't torture nor interrogation, it’s just rage and pain, making the Old Man scream in agony. When Benny has his fill he picks up the previously discarded blade and lops his master's head off.

With that out of the way Benny reaches down and grabs the hat that had been on the ground. Placing the captains hat on his head the vamp now turns to the conscious Winchester, who rises to the challenge, sword in hand.

Benny seems taken aback by that and raises his hands, weapon still in his blood soaked hand. "Hey now, I ain't got a problem with you."

Dean sneers, his body protectively between the vampire and his brother. "Doesn't mean you won't do anything stupid." Dean counters, watching as Benny drops his hands, but continues to hold onto his weapon.

"Why don't I offer a trade then? A show of faith.”

”Dean-” Dean severs the connection between himself and Castiel, he doesn’t have any real reasoning except he didn’t need Castiel clucking like a worried hen.

“What kind of trade?” Dean states, lowering his weapon just enough to be comfortable.

“You wanted some info from the Old Man? I might know it.” Benny shrugs, leaning against a tree near him. “But I want to know what your name is first.”

“Dean Winchester.” Dean responds, his eyes narrowed.

“Benny Lafitte.” Benny responds, bowing slightly, “Now what were ya gonna ask my maker?”

It was so civil and it felt so wrong, Dean had never talked with a monster this long and with this must civility, it was odd, especially in a land of only monsters.

“Do you know anything about the Leviathan?”

Dean didn’t except Benny’s face to lose color, he didn’t know vampires could lose any more color to their skin, but Benny proves him wrong on that. “Don’t say that.” Benny warns, “They know when you’re talking about them.” Benny looks around at the bodies around them and back to Dean, “Would ya actually mind if we moved base? This place will be swarmed soon by all nasty types of critters.”

“I can’t leave my brother.” Dean jerks his head towards Sam, who is still out cold, he must have been hit really hard.

“I’ll help ya carry him.” Benny offers, walking closer, making Dean raise his weapon again. Benny rolls his eyes, “If I wanted to kill ya I would have done it before killing the Old Man. Like I said, I ain’t got a problem with you hunters.”

That brings up a question for Dean and he can’t help but find out the answer, “You know we’re hunters?”

Benny laughs, his head falling back, “You’re humans. In Chion. Ain’t a human alive besides a hunter that heads in here and doesn’t die within the first five minutes.” Hooking the blade to his belt, Benny holds up his empty hands, “I’m keepin’ the blade, but I promise not to hurt ya, or ya brother.”  

Dean wouldn’t have accepted the help, but he hears the very distinct howl of a werewolf at this point and knows that if they don’t move, they will be swarmed like Benny had warned. “Fine.”

Dean sheaths his own weapon, and Benny comes closer while Dean pulls Sam up onto his feet. Benny moves to Sam’s left, moving his arm around his neck and wrapping an arm around his waist to hold him there.

“Those things ya want to know about.” Benny continues as they start towards the border, “They usually stay to the north, nearest to Paradiso.”

Dean nods, “I heard that.”

Benny chuckles, shaking his head like Dean doesn’t understand, “They’ve been moving recently, spreading their blackened bodies across Chion.” He pauses to help Dean get Sam over a fallen tree. “Eve-”

“Eve?” Dean asks, cutting Benny off and making the vampire give him a look.

“The Mother of All.”

“That sounds dark.” Dean jokes, making Benny smile in amusement.

“Oh she is brother, she made all of us.”

“All vampires?”

“No, all of us. Vampires, werewolves, every beast that plagues you humans.” He pauses, “Besides ghosts and those things you asked about before. They don’t get along.”

That surprises Dean and he turns to look better at Benny from around his brother, “Why’s that?”

Benny shrugs, “I ain’t ever seen Eve, don’t ever want to. She’s a monster.”

Dean snorts, “You’re one to talk.”

Benny’s already shaking his head, “I ain’t remotely close to that woman. Wherever she goes mayhem follows, half the creatures in here are terrified of her, and she’s our mother.”

Dean did not like the sound of that, “Where is she?”

“She moves around, she’s got a place in the mountains to the south, but she doesn’t stay there, ya never know where she’ll be until ya feel it.”

“Great.” Dean sighs, “Anything else I should know?” Dean asks, shouldering Sam a little to make the walk easier.

“You humans,” Benny starts, watching Sam as if he sees a change, “shouldn’t be in this neck of the woods. Ya never were supposed to be in Chion, it don’t like ya being here.”

Dean wants to make a sassy comment but Sam’s head lulls slightly and Benny starts to remove himself from giving Sam support. “I think I’ve helped ya enough and he seems to be wakin’ up. I suggest you leave, count your winnings while ya still got ‘em.” Dean nods, moving his arm to hold his brother’s body better, even though he feels his brother coming into consciousness.

“Thank you Benny.” He doesn’t know why he thanks a monster, but Benny just seems different and while if they meet again Dean might kill him, for now he is safe.

“Ain’t a problem,” Benny tips his hat towards Dean, “And no offense, but I hope I don’t see ya again.”

The two share a pause to look at each other and Dean nods, “Diddo.” Benny smiles again, nodding his head once more before turning around and walking into the misted forest of Malnemus, away from Dean’s human eyes. Sam makes a serious stirring in Dean’s arms and the eldest Winchester places a hand on his brother’s face.

“Sammy?” He grunts, patting the taut skin of his brother’s face with a little more force in order to wake him up quicker. Sam, just as Dean hoped, comes too, his fists grabbing onto Dean’s clothing so he can get adjusted to the world around him. Sam’s eyes flash open and he takes in the difference of scenery with wide eyes.

Pulling away Sam whirls around, “Where are we? What happened?”

It’s this moment Dean has to make a choice, tell Sam he let a monster help them (which would then make Sam worry more about if Cas is a monster) or be increasingly vague. He decides on the latter, “You went and got yourself knocked out, and that vamp killed the Old Man and then ran off.” Dean smiles, patting his brother on the back, “Smooth move by the way.”

Sam rolls his eyes, “But how’d we get here?” He almost sounds like he’s whining but it’s not quite at that octave so Dean answers it truthfully, kinda.

“We couldn’t just sit there, anything within that area probably heard the fight. We’d get swarmed.”

Sam seemed to respect that and nods, now looking around for anything to distinguish their location, which was to say nothing. “So where are we?”

Dean sighs and instead of answering, just starts to walk in the direction of the wall, “The wall is this way.”

Both Winchesters start their walk towards the wall, still treading as lightly as they had while entering, knowing that just because they were leaving didn’t mean they couldn’t get attacked. It was in this time that Dean dares to let his walls down, letting Castiel swarm his brain. Swarm is the proper word, because the moment those walls fall Castiel’s consciousness is pressing against Dean’s. Dean can feel it, the mental once over of Dean’s vitals, ensuring if there were wounds. He doesn’t say anything but instead sends a mixture of frustration and relief, waiting for Dean to respond first. Dean doesn’t, he’s not even sure he knows what to tell Cas. So instead the entire walk back to the barracks is silent on both sides, only the footsteps of the Winchesters and Dean’s thoughts there to keep the eldest sane.

When they do see the grey bricks of the wall, it’s windows are still barred with iron and doors are still closed, well, all except for one. The only open door shines a noticeable candlelight out in the darkness of Chion, the shadow of a body Dean already knows blocking some of the streams of light.

"Hey Cas." He greets, as if nothing is wrong. Cas doesn't seem to think that's a smart reply and gives his hunter an agitated look.

"I'm glad to see neither of you managed to get yourselves killed." The man comments, his eyes stationary on Dean as the two hunters pass by him into the building.

Dean just scoffs, "We've done this before."

"And it seems that you have an excellent amount of good luck."

"Yeah, if that's what you want to call it." Sam comments now, breaking up the little quarrel the two had been having.

"Something wrong Sammy?" Dean questions, noticing his brother's posture.

Sam shakes his head, "Nah, I'm gonna go to bed."

"Dude, you might have a concussion."

"'I'll be fine Dean." Sam waves his hand towards Dean, removing his bow from the shoulder strap that holds it to his back.

"You don't have a concussion." Castiel states, as if it was the weather.

It seems to tick Sam off a little bit and he gestures towards Cas, "Great and he's suddenly a medic too now."

Castiel just blinks and takes the tone with ease, "I can simply tell that you are physically okay Sam. There is no need to sound so accusing. I have done no wrong." That seems to strike a chord with Sam.

The youngest let's out a rather forced laugh before turning on his heels and stalking down the hall. "Goodnight!"

Soon enough it's just Dean and Cas standing in the corridor of the wall. Dean doesn't even bother speaking out loud as he heads towards the door, he knows Cas will follow. He does, just as projected and the two make their way towards the common room as to give Sam some space.

 

"Ah Dean I see you made it!" Annie calls out from the barstool she currently occupies. She smiles widely as he and Castiel look towards her. "I got to spend some quality time with Castiel while you were gone."

Dean's mind immediately went to the dirtiest place imaginable and he didn't bother hiding it from his blue eyed companion.

"No, I did not have sex with her Dean. I do not just bed people."

Well, that was a relief. Dean let's a cocky grin slide across his face, life was hard, flirting was easy. "Oh come now Annie, you know ya prefer my entertainment the most."

The female bursts out in laughter and nods, "Dean Winchester, oh how I've missed you." It's genuine and makes Dean feel a tad bit better about himself.

His voice gets softer now, "It's good to see you too." While Dean would never pursue an actual relationship with Annie she was a good person, a good hunter and a very good lay. He could respect that. Annie raises the small glass in her hand and shoots it down, signalling that Dean could leave the conversation. Dean clears his throat now, before heading towards Elkins' closed office door, after all they had to report.

"Cas." Dean calls tentatively as they near the door.

"Yes?"

"Not everything I'm gonna say in there is true, okay? But you can't rat me out."

"I had no intentions of such a thing."

Dean smiles despite himself, "Thanks Cas."

"It is not a problem, Dean."

They reach the door and Dean gives a quick knock, which is shortly followed by a "Come in" from Daniel.

Both men enter and Dean easily plops himself into the seats in front of Daniel's desk.

"So how'd it go?" Elkins asks, looking up from whatever he was writing.

"Well, The Old Man is dead." Dean starts, making Elkins look shocked.

"How the hell did ya do that?"

Dean explains everything, he gives the direction they went in, how they located the nest and what he saw when they brought Benny out. However he made no mention of Benny telling him the information he had learned, instead saying he got it out of the Old Man himself before killing him. He also said he killed the Old Man himself and left Benny's escape unmentioned. Castiel made no motion nor comment towards this and instead stayed silent, since he technically wasn't there.

 

"But ya didn't learn anything on Luther?" Elkins asks as Dean ends his story, making the Winchester frown, shit.

Cas speaks up now, his voice coming strong and sure. "From what I understand the Old Man came into Malnemus to locate this Benny. Luther had no involvement in the matter."

Dean's nodding before Castiel even finishes his statement, making it more believable to Daniel.

The elder hunter sighs and nods, accepting the report with a little resignation, "Well, I assume you boys want to get going, but thank you for looking into it. And thank your brother for me too." Elkins stands up now, leaning across the desk to shake their hands.

Dean reaches out first, wrapping his hand around his superior's. "It's no problem Daniel, we had the time."

Castiel takes Daniel's hand now, shaking it with purpose. "It was a pleasure Hunter Elkins."

Elkins smiles, shaking Castiel's hand before dropping it and returning to his seat. "Good crowd you're running with Castiel. Make sure they stay that way." It seemed that while both Winchester boys had been out in Chion, Elkins had shared a private conversation with the dark haired man.

Castiel nods soberly, "I will try my best." Daniel gives a curt nod to that and the subject is dropped, allowing the two travelers to leave the dinghy office.

Upon entering the common room the two are stopped again, this time by an even more intoxicated Annie. "Whatcha boys up to?" She teases, calling over to them from her perch upon her stool.

Dean makes it over first, leaning against the counter to communicate with the female hunter better. "Having a rough night?"

Annie frowns, blowing out of her mouth to make the skin of her lips vibrate. "What makes you think that? I'm fantastic." She ignores the frown that crosses over Dean's face in favor of looking towards Cas. A slow grin crosses over her face now, "Hi Castiel." She nearly purrs, making Dean slightly uncomfortable. "How are you tonight?" It would alarm Dean if Cas hadn't specifically said he was talking to Annie before, Annie was a huge flirt and she has subjected many men to her charm. It makes perfect sense she'd try to catch Cas.

"I am..." Castiel's eyes dart to Dean before returning to the trashed hunter, "alright. Thank you for asking Annie."  

"Pphhh," Annie starts, pushing her half finished drink towards Castiel. "Yeah right kid, you looked pretty pissed before." She hums, nodding her head towards the drink. "Go ahead."

Castiel eyes the drink but is already shaking his head, "I do not-"

Annie's leaning over the bar located in the common room, and pours a whole bottle of something amber to top the glass. "Take it." She's not messing around and Castiel's shoulders drop in defeat.

"I don't think it'll even get him drunk." Dean comments making Annie turn towards him, a Cheshire grin crossing her face. "Well, what does?"

Dean doesn't know, and he actually wonders what drunk Castiel would be like, if he'd be that cuddly drunk or if he would let loose and start a brawl. He'd have to try it sometime but when there was less people. For some odd reason (that Dean doesn't want to think about) he thinks it should be a private thing, after all humanity can be a curious thing, especially when you've been away from it for awhile.

Castiel seemed to have the same thought process and shook his head. "I shouldn't become too inebriated tonight Annie. Since I believe the Winchesters wish to go to the Roadhouse tomorrow." Even with such a high tolerance to alcohol Castiel's reasoning is still spot on for any human, low or high tolerance.

This of course, makes Annie pout and she sighs heavily, resting her head in the palm of her hand as she looks at the two men, her eyes landing on Castiel.

"But you still haven't told me why you said what you said before." She's almost whining and the alcohol isn't helping any. Dean's not exactly paying attention to their tones of voice however, he's too stuck on what Annie and Castiel's previous conversation was about.

"What’d he say?" Dean asks, receiving looks from both parties.

Annie giggles, actually giggles and shakes her head, "Nope, can't help you there Dean, that's between him and me." It turns out that sentence makes Dean's hackles rise even more, he was the one with the connection with Cas. He was the one that could talk to Cas in his brain. It was slightly childish and very hypocritical (hey, Dean never claimed to be a saint) but now Dean really wanted to know.

"Well what did you guys even talk about?" He counters, hoping to get something, anything out of this.

Annie just waves her hand towards the taller hunter, "You know, the normal stuff." When Dean just gives her a look as Annie doesn't talk 'normal stuff' to men and she sighs loudly, rubbing her palm over her eyes before continuing. "I asked him how he liked the Roadhouse, how Ellen and Bobby are, what it's like traveling with you." She shrugs, sitting up more to take a drink of her newly refreshed drink since Cas wasn’t touching it. "And I told him how bendy you can be." She mentions the last thing with an air of ease, as if discussing the weather. Dean wasn't fooled and he felt his ears turn pink. He shouldn't be embarrassed there was no reason to be, but just the thought of Cas learning....

"You could just compliment me to my face and not tell my friends." Dean teases, as if to help brush off how the comment effected him. Dean isnt the only uncomfortable one, Castiel doesn't even meet Dean's eyes and it strikes the eldest Winchester as odd, Cas loves eye contact.

"I couldn't help myself." Annie teases back, "I just had to tell him." There seems to be more to that than either participant is willing to admit and Dean realizes he might have to get Annie away from Cas, or the other way around.

Dean stages a yawn, stretching to help prove the point. "Well, not that I don't love playing 20 questions with you guys but we should probably go to sleep soon if we're leaving in the morning."

Castiel nods, apparently grateful for the change in subject. "I believe that is wise."

Both remove themselves from their comfortable positions around the bar and Annie. The woman frowns, leaning back before swinging around to get a good look at both of them. She takes a moment to give them a good once over before a smile crawls across her features now. "Alright you boys have fun." Her eyes land on Castiel and her smile turns into a grin. The flush that fills Castiel's face ever so slightly in the amber at light confuses Dean but he let's it slip, favoring the fact that they should just leave.

"Sure will Annie. Night." Dean waves, heading towards the hall door.

"Good night Annie." Castiel states, close behind Dean on the path to the rooms.

 

They walk the way to the room in silence, not even really connecting their minds with words. That is until they actually get to the door of their room.

”Hey wait.” Dean starts, turning around to face his companion. ”Let’s go for a walk.”

Castiel nods, his attention upon Dean as they continue down the hall until they find a door leading out into the actual town.

Manning was still light, not overbearingly like if the sun was actually touching the ground, but more like a clear moonlit night. Of course the source of the light was unexplainable because it didn’t come from Chion, it was just there. Even with the light the streets were still dead, no one moved down it’s thoroughfares except for the two men. The buildings, largely made from stone or wood, were dark themselves. Not a curtain stirred as they continued, allowing the relaxed air to be their words until they reach the baker’s front.

“What is it Dean?” Castiel asks, his voice isn’t accusatory but is still measured, just like the emotions flowing between them.

Now that they’re alone, at the outskirts of a sleeping town where no one can overhear them, Dean doesn’t exactly know what he wanted to say or if he wanted to talk about anything. It was nice to just be with Cas, as actually experiencing the absence of his physical being had gone nearly unnoticed in Chion. But now, when they were together, Dean realizes just how much he liked having the other man close. That wasn’t something Dean would tell anyone, they'd take it the wrong way, but Dean liked the security of him being actually there.

"Benny told me the Leviathans stay up north." His voice sounds too loud to him, even if he's knows he's trying to be quiet. Castiel only nods, looking at Dean with all of his attention. "Near Paradiso apparently. There's also this woman called Eve who's got a place in the mountains to the west." Castiel nods and Dean's eyes widened, "You know about her?"

"Not much. She is an old legend, the Woman of Chion, Mother of Monsters. She had no interest in the politics of man."

Dean chuckles in disbelief, shaking his head. "You're something else Cas, ya know that?" Dean wasn't exactly mad, as he could feel that Cas didn't think it was necessary at the time.

"I did not believe you would need to know, from my understanding she never travels past the Malnemus forest."

"Yeah I get that." Dean mutters off hand, letting the conversation drop for awhile before picking up on the original subject. "But Benny led me to the wall and left soon after that."

Castiel doesn't react automatically, instead letting himself digest the information before saying anything. "I am glad he did not turn on you."

"Same."

 

Both men pick up walking once again, this time farther away from the city and more into the open plains of the King’s Land. The high grass sways in the night air, still slightly illuminated from the glow of Manning. There's something so calming about the silence around them now, and both men find a small rock wall to sit on, their backs to Manning and their eyes to the King's Land.

Both men are shrouded in a sort of underwater color, the blues and silvers of the night highlighting only the strongest of their features while leaving the other, softer plains, in darkness. Castiel's face turns towards the sky, eyes trained on the low clouds that usually infest the territory around Manning. He looks wistful, like there's something up there for him.

"You okay Cas?" Dean inquired, his voice still holding onto the quieter side. The dark haired man turns towards Dean, his eyes still visibly blue even in this lighting.

"Surprisingly..." He looks down at his folded hands, "Yes.The world is not exactly how I once remember it but... it is nice to be back, to be doing something."

A smile crosses Dean's lips and he nods, elbowing Cas in the shoulder. "I'm glad you're out and about and not locked away in some temple waiting for a dragon to show up."

"It could be terribly lonely up there sometimes." Castiel comments, his voice truthful and whispered like a hidden secret.

"You shouldn't have to be alone." It's out of Dean's mouth before he can really think on it but he doesn't regret it for the world, not with the look he gets from Castiel. He looks so thankful, like Dean just saved him or reminded him how to breathe.

"Thank you Dean."

"It's the truth Cas."

 

They walk back into Manning soon after that, the streets are still empty and the buildings show little light. Dean and Castiel walk through the abandoned streets and towards the wall and their sleeping quarters. It doesn't take long for them to get there, Manning was a small town after all, and they head inside, Dean holding the door open for Castiel.

"And we are leaving in the morning?" Castiel questions, using their connection rather than speaking out and accidentally waking someone.

Dean nods to this, walking towards the door of their room and propping it open with his foot so Cas can enter. "Sam will probably wake up at that time and wake our asses up."

"I will probably be up before that."

Dean snorts and it sounds odd in the complete silence of the room. "So confident aren't we?"

Castiel's by his own bunk now, and he turns just so Dean can see his eye roll, "I know my body Dean."

Dean let's the conversation drop in exchange for getting dressed (or rather undressed) for bed. He's still dirty from Chion but he doesn't care, and just removing the several layers of clothing helps Dean feel better. He's now only in his underpants and shirt, and he removes the shirt, glad to feel the cool air on his skin. He doesn't bother doing anything else and crawls into bed.

Turning Dean watches as Castiel, dressed in essentially the same things as Dean, climbs up gracefully into his bunk. Dean doesn't do top bunks, heights aren't his thing, but Castiel doesn't seem to mind as he pats and moves the fabric around him until he makes a sort of nest. It's almost funny to Dean, watching the other man in the soft light from the outside as he gets ready for bed. He kind of reminds Dean of a dragon, and it just makes him smile more. Dean would have commented on it, but he sees a faint glow coming from Castiel's bunk now, and Dean recognizes that it's coming from the necklace around his neck.

The necklace is almost never in sight since they left the temple, and when it is, it's usually in a well lit place. But in the darkness of this room it shone as brightly as the moon, being no longer constricted by Castiel's clothing.

"Night Cas." Dean hums, making a mental note to ask Castiel about the necklace for some other time, when they're not tired as all hell.

"Sleep well Dean." Castiel responds, his eyes still open from across the room. His hand reaches out to the necklace and encloses it in his palm, the light disappearing.

It's the last thing Dean sees before he closes his eyes and falls into the darkness of sleep.

 

Dean dreams again that night. He’s back in Lawrence, walking through their stone-paved streets. It’s not like Manning, these streets thrive with life, with vendors trying to sell flowers and little kids playing tag through the congested crowds. He’s not alone, Sam is there, of course, along with Jo and Castiel. The two princes are welcomed with open arms, while their companions, with little title to their names, are ignored. It relieves Dean that Castiel isn’t being studied by the masses and they continue on their trek to the family castle.

There’s no big greeting, no fanfare, but both his mother and father stand at the door, an out of breath messenger standing next to them.

“Welcome home my sons.” Greets Mary, moving quickly down the steps until she is stands in front of them. She raises her hand to Dean’s face, leaning forward to place a kiss on his forehead before turning to Sam and enveloping him in a hug.

“Hi mom.” Dean greets, grateful to see his mother well.

Lord John Winchester joins his wife, a smile upon his lips as he bestows his greeting upon his boys, “It’s been awhile since you boys decided to grace us with your presence.” He hugs both Dean and Sam, starting with Sam and ending with a pat on the back of Dean.

“Joanna Harvelle is that you?” Mary asks, a smile crossing her face when Jo nods. “I haven’t seen you since you were in pigtails!” Lady Winchester exclaims, enveloping the younger woman in her arms before turning her attention to Castiel. “Dean you haven’t introduced us.”

Dean’s mind fills with panic, what would his parents say to Castiel? What would his father think of their first interaction.

The dream dies, swirling into black at Dean’s fear. He just doesn’t know what would happen if they met, and it terrifies Dean.

 


 

Dean wakes up when the sun rises and the first thing in his mind is that they can’t go back to Lawrence yet, not until word of Castiel’s helpful involvement reached to his parents and they learn of his good deeds. It would smooth over any confusion at his joining the boys and his odd beginning with them might not be as judged. Dean’s eyes aren’t open yet, but he knows his other companions are up, as he hears both his brother and Castiel talking in hushed tones.

“So what’d you do when we were gone?” Sam whispers, a rustling coming from the same location as his voice.

“I went to the library for a time, but Annie found me there and dragged me into the common room.” Castiel says with equal measure, even though he knew Dean was up, maybe that’s why he was saying it in the first place.

Sam lets out a low laugh and the rustling stops for a second. “What did Annie do to you?”

Dean’s eyes open now and he witnesses Sam looking directly above him to the now sitting Castiel.

Castiel’s eyes are upon Sam, his face soft and unworried. “She asked me about my past and when she couldn’t get what she wanted from that…. she asked about my sexuality.”

Sam whistles at that, shaking his head, “Yeah she’s rough like that.”

“She asked me if I wanted to engage in sexual intercourse.”

The youngest Winchester stays silent, staring up at Castiel for a moment, “And?”

“I said no of course.” Castiel answers indignantly, “She is not my ‘type’.” He uses air quotes for ‘type’, which makes Dean smirk. Castiel sighs, jumping silently down from his perch so he now has to look up at Sam. “I was saved for a time by Elkins.”

Sam nods and goes back to packing his bag, already being dressed. “What’d you talk to Daniel about?”

The dark haired man was moving as well now, reaching for his own small bag in order to get properly dressed. “We talked about Chion, I was able to help him fill in some of the gaps in his political understanding in that damned place.”

Sam takes another break from packing to look at Castiel, “You know about what’s going on over there?” There’s was evident shock in Sam’s voice, but it was more curious rather than distrust.

Castiel nods, sliding on his shirt before stepping into his pants. “I know the basic outline, it’s very fuzzy due to the fact no dragons visit the area.”

“Why’s that?”

Now Castiel really does pause, his eyes meeting with Dean’s for a split second before looking at Sam. “Dragons are like stars in that abyss, they attract the attention of any creature within a day’s travel towards them.”

Sam’s shaking his head, apparently missing the connection between Castiel and Dean’s eyes before the shorter man’s explanation. “But some dragons are evil, wouldn’t they want to go there?”

Castiel is already shaking his head, adding his belt to his pants before attaching his sword belt with the scabbard still connected. “These ‘evil’ dragons wouldn’t travel to Chion still, there is nothing to gain there. The area is congested enough with supernatural creatures.” Reaching for his shoes he opens them up better to stick his feet through, “No, those with malicious intentions would probably travel to Seven Gates.”

‘It’s really that bad over there?” Sam asks, his voice now more concerned.

“Saddly, yes. Their king is a master of persuasion and the father of lies.” Castiel’s voice doesn’t sound as venomous as it should, there’s actually a sadness to it, not that Sam notices, but Dean does.

“That sounds...bad.” Sam says without really knowing what to say before returning back to his packing.

Dean decides it’s time to ‘wake up’ and stirs, making Castiel’s eyes gravitate towards him. “Good morning Dean.” He greets in a louder voice than before and Sam turns to witness his ‘wakening’ brother.

“Morning.” Dean yawns, making his cover up more believable, which it does. “How long have you guys been up?”

Sam shrugs, “Not too long, sorry if we woke you.” He doesn’t really sound sorry in all actuality, sounding more sassy than anything else.

“Oh, it’s no problem Sammy.” Dean pipes up, keeping it more joking than agitated, making both his brother and Castiel smile. Though Castiel is smiling for different reasons, since he knew just how long the eldest Winchester was actually up. Dean stands up now, grabbing his own bag and ripping it open to get some fresh clothing. The room turns hushed now, as all hunters prepare for their travels.

Once they finishing pack up they head out to the kitchens, as most hunter barracks didn’t have a personal cook. The Roadhouse was the only place where a hunter wouldn’t have to prepare their own meals and Dean blessed Ellen silently for her years of feeding the rowdy hunters. Dean decided that grabbing a loaf of bread would be good enough for himself while Sam actually made some eggs. “You want anything Castiel?” Sam asks, watching as the eggs sizzles on top of the heated stone slab in front of him.

Castiel nods but stays still, unsure of what exactly he could do. Dean sighs, handing his bag over to Castiel. “You bring these to the horses and get them ready, when you’re done I’ll have breakfast ready.” Dean places his untouched bread on the counter, heading towards the door before turning and pointing at Sam, “And you best be ready for a real meal too.” Sam rolls his eyes but doesn’t move from his place while Castiel follows after Dean with the bags before turning towards the stables.

Dean makes his way to the butcher’s shop, knowing that he’d have exactly what Dean needed in order to give his companions a proper meal. Dean was all for quick meals to get to The Roadhouse and real food, but if they were going to wait for Cas to find stuff around a kitchen he had no idea how to use, Dean would just pick up the mantel, he was probably a better cook anyway.

The butcher didn’t have the kind of supplies that the Roadhouse or Lawrence had but it was enough for Dean to do what he wanted and that was good. A few coins shorter and a few bags heavier Dean makes it back to the kitchen in record time. Sam’s eggs are already done and he’s sitting down to eat them just as Dean enters. Dean clucks at the pathetic breakfast.

“Sammy? What are you a bird?”

Sam just rolls his eyes. “Birds don’t eat their young.”

 

Dean’s no Ellen, or Susan for that matter, but he has to give himself some credit, he fucking made a masterpiece. There was sausage, ham with a honey drizzle and perfectly toasted bread laid out into three plates. Dean still made Sam his plate, because there was no way that behemoth wasn't still hungry. As if on cue Sam digs in happily, attacking the food with force.

"Thanks Dean." He mumbles after devouring a piece of the link sausage.

Dean nods and smiles, "Ain't a problem." Sitting down in front of his own plate, Dean pauses in his consumption of food in order to get in contact with Cas.  "Foods ready." He calls over the connection he and Castiel shared.

A mumbled "Thank you Dean." Comes across not long after, followed by a, "Impala is fed and dressed for travel."

"Awesome, now get your ass in here and eat."

A low laugh comes from Castiel at that, "As you wish."

Castiel gets there just as Dean digs down into the ham, stuffing his face happily. "Goof' timehn." Dean tries to get out with a mouth of food.

Sam makes a noise in disgust, rolling his eyes, "Dude! Not with your mouth full!"

Dean just smiles, his lips held together, before turning to witness Cas sitting in front of his own plate to Dean's right.

"This looks very appetizing." He comments before cutting a piece of his own ham and plopping a slice into his mouth. He groans, actually freaking groans at the taste of the ham. He takes an abnormally long time to chew and when he finally does swallow his adam's apple drops dramatically. "I love the honey." Well, that much was obvious. Castiel continues to eat but he doesn't stop talking. "I don't often have honey, but I do appreciate it when it is available."

"Good to know." Dean responds before digging back into his food.

 

When the three men finish they head to the stables were Impala and Stanford stand ready in wait. Both have their saddles on but Stanford's back also contained both Dean and Castiel's bags. Dean heads towards Impala, greeting her with pets and affection before pulling her out of the stable. Sam places his bag upon Stanford's back with the other bags before pulling him out of the stable as well.

"I fed him while I took care of Impala." Castiel notes, making Sam smile at him.

"Thanks."

Castiel returns his attention back to Dean and Impala, nearing as Dean nods for him to come over. Dean helps Castiel up onto Impala's back since she is higher than other steeds. He follows suit by jumping onto her back as well. Giving her flank a good pat Dean looks over at Sam.

"Ready when you are." Sam says in way of answering Dean's unvoiced question.

"Good." Dean responds, his mind now reaching out to ensure Castiel is ready. A steady wave of confidence rolls over Dean in response and he clicks his tongue to take off towards the Roadhouse.

 


 

This time on the way to headquarters the three men talked more, seemingly opening up more to each other.

"So Cas, got any good stories about Chion?" Dean voices once the conversational lull, wanting to hear someone talk, especially Castiel.

A hmm comes across the connection and Castiel speaks up for all to hear, "I have some."

"I'd love to hear them." Sam pipes up, trying to reign in his own excitement at the thought.

Castiel’s conscious reaches out for Dean and the elder Winchester gives him the mental 'go'.

"Long ago, before man could walk-" Castiel's tone takes on a sureness, his voice reverberating through Dean with every syllable. "Xiatus was made of one, Paradiso, where the Most Holy resides." Dean wasn't expecting God to show up, this was supposed to be a dragon story... but what if God did exist and Castiel had talked to dragons that knew him? Dean had heard this story before and Castiel seems to understand, speeding up the story for his friend. "But Chion, the land of the supernatural and Seven Gates, the home for the damned grew. Each one had their leaders and Chion, it had Eve.” His voice is measured, even and factual. “The Mother of all monsters made the werewolves, the vampires and almost every unholy creature you can imagine. Except for demons.” Sam shares a look with Dean at this, but both stay silent as Castiel continues, “She is older than the story of angels, even dragons. She is credited with their birth.”

“Wait really?” Dean asks, unable to stop himself.

“Yes and while I have been informed there are some dragons she did create, those beasts are rare.”

“So you’re saying not all the dragons came from her?” Sam blurts, now far too interesting in the information Castiel is giving him.

“They are a different breed of dragon than those I communicate with.” Castiel sighs, “Without sounding bias the dragon-beasts she created are nothing like those that live in Potesta or even Seven Gates. They may collect treasures and be physically stronger like the dragons I know but they have little mortality or any political sense. They kill and gain only for themselves or their queen. They are essentially her dogs.”

It sounded all good and happy but Dean still had questions, “How do you tell the difference between hers and the dragons you work with?”

The question seems to make Castiel happy, or at least the interest does, “They do not have the will or ability to have riders, as Eve is essentially their master. They also look visibly sick, their scales are often missing and their eyes misted over from living in the lighting of Chion.”

“I thought you said no dragons went into Chion?” Sam voices what Dean thinks, what if Castiel had lied to them?

“I do not consider her beasts true dragons. They are but a shell of the potential a real dragon holds, the more ferial version.” Castiel’s voice is sure and despite the promise of being unbiased Dean can hear Castiel’s condescending tone, he must really not like them. “They have not been seen in over 700 years, I do not believe that they are much of a concern now, if they still exist.”

 

The Winchester brother’s share a look now, knowing that Castiel would rather have them change the subject, or at least redirect it. With Sam’s curiosity this was easy. “Did you ever deal with dragons that lost their riders?”

Maybe it wasn’t the best switch of conversation, Dean could literally feel the sympathy pain radiating off of Castiel.

“Yes. It was not pleasant.” Castiel’s mind gently wraps itself around Dean, as if to comfort himself, which Dean doesn’t judge, whatever it means. “All dragons who lose their rider react negatively, but on different levels. I have met some where they swear off humans all together, leaving for Seven Gates or Paradiso to escape the reminders of the human race. I have seen some go to the your capital in hopes of finding a replacement, but its impact on them is deep.” Dean feels Castiel’s head move towards Sam, and Dean looks towards his brother to see his reaction to whatever Castiel tells him next. “How much to do you know of dragons and their riders?”

Dean knows the answer, he doesn’t need to look at Sam’s face to know. Sam had always found dragons interesting and any information he could get he digested and held close.

“I know that they start to connect the moment they see each other if they are compatible, and from that moment on they work to make their relationship more constructed until they think as one… right?”

It sounds vaguely familiar for Dean, but Cas wasn’t a dragon, so maybe he just trying to relate it to his life.

"Accurate." Castiel states, sounding oddly amused  "And after that?"

Sam shrugs, "Well, they do what King Samuel wants them too."

Castiel goes stiff behind Dean and the eldest Winchester knows that was the wrong thing to say to a man of Castiel's knowledge.

"King Samuel only uses the power of the dragons and their riders for his doing." Castiel's voice is more clipped just as Dean knew it would be. "His control has nothing to do with the connection and growth between the two." Castiel fixes himself behind Dean, stature as tall as he could before continuing. "The bond between dragons and their riders are beyond what a mortal can comprehend, more often than not a dragon who loses their rider will die themselves, unwilling to go on without their rider. King Campbell knows this and allows them to fight for their lives, for their friendship in his name." Castiel's eyes are boring into Sam, Dean can feel the lasers passing by his shoulder. "They are meant to be peace keepers, the glue that holds man and beast from overstepping."

With that, silence grows between the travelers all thinking about things that each had never experienced.

Sam of course, breaks it, unable to keep his interest silent. "So you've seen dragons purposefully kill themselves after losing their rider?"

Dean feels the pain that radiates from Castiel's soul and he comforts it, like gently running a hand down someone's arm to remind them someone else is there. "Yes, many years ago." Castiel let's go, his voice soft and far away despite his closeness. "He lost his rider during a war and instead of continuing on and trying to find another he plunged head first into the battle, dying for what they thought was right." A small pause, "He was a great beast, with many righteous qualities but he could not live without his other. He simply could not handle it."

"I'm sorry Cas." Dean mumbles between them, making the other hold more tightly onto their bond.

"It is not your fault."

 

They don't talk of dragons for the rest of the way to the Roadhouse. Matter of fact, they barely talk at all. The Winchester boys do discuss what to do when they get to the Roadhouse, which is to eat, grab Jo and their supplies and head out in hopes of reaching the end of the King's Land before they grow too weary.

When they reach the Roadhouse they don't bother really undressing the horses, just lightening their load until they depart once again. Reo is still left in his own stable, undressed and looking rather bored.

"Hey Reo, how's it kicking?" Dean teases as they head towards the Roadhouse. Reo just whinnies at his name being called and Dean smiles before passing out of sight from the steeds.

The Roadhouse is absolutely dead at this time of day, noon was only for trainees and hunters arriving back early from their own adventures. Krissy wasn't even at any of the Roadhouse tables when they entered, only Jo, Ash, Ellen and Bobby were there.

"Finally!" Jo exclaims, jumping off of her seat to hurry over to the boys. "Can we please go kill something?"

Dean smiles, wrapping an arm around Jo and bringing her close, "Not until we eat." He teases, making the woman's shoulders drop.

"Of course." She clips, turning to look at Cas. "And you! You didn't even say you were leaving!" She sounds genuinely upset at that and Dean feels the remorse rolls off of the smaller man.

"I know, I am sorry but you were still sleeping when we left."

Jo rolls her eyes but it doesn't have as much bite as before. "It's fine Castiel, I'll just have to tell you all the stories when we're on the road."

Dean's about to make a comment but by this time they have reached where Ellen and Bobby are located and those two had something to say.

"Damn Dean your face is still pretty messed up." Ellen starts, helping catapult Bobby's next comment.

"And Cas ain't hardly got a mark on him."

Dean's body freezes and fear ruptures from Castiel's carefully build emotional stance.

"Yeah I was going easy on him." It was the save of all saves and Castiel nods, internally eager to cover up the continuity of his own healing.

Both veteran hunters share a look with each other but say nothing and instead Bobby brings up another topic of interest.

"So how'd it go in Manning?"

 


 

For the next hour the three traveling men ate their hearts out of Ellen's food, explaining the travel and case to their superiors. Ellen had already finished the main meals a little while ago and so all Ash had to do was reheat the food over the kitchen fire. He did just that and brought the plates out, along with five nice sized pints for everyone. Castiel politely refused his own but Dean was quick enough to take it for himself.

Jo listened in rapture, only making comments to how she could have assisted and especially at how Castiel had to stay behind. "So you went to Manning and didn't even help them?"

Dean, by this time, was feeling a tad bit protective of Cas, as both Bobby and Ellen had been sharing looks every time he spoke up. "Hey, he knows a shit ton about the area."

Blinking like an owl Castiel looks from his food towards Dean, his eyes grateful while his voice stays silent. Dean feels the appreciation swarm their connection and Dean responds with the simple feelings that, it was no big deal, they were friends. A sort of awe crosses over their bond but is clamped down almost automatically, making Dean think he might have made it up. He had a feeling he didn’t, and holds the graditude close to his chest for another day.

 

Soon enough the plates are scraped clean and the pints are empty, Dean leaning back happily to pat his stomach. “Damn Ellen, I missed your food.” It earns a smile from Ellen.

"I damn well know it's one of the only ways to get you boys over here." She doesn't say how they never visit their actual home, but it reminds Dean anyway. His heart aches and Castiel can feel it, Dean doesn't bother hiding it. The best thing about Cas was he seemed to understand how Dean worked, and wiping his mouth with a napkin he turns to address their party of four. "Shall we get ready?"

Jo snorts and rolls her eyes before nodding her head towards the bar. "My bags are packed. I'm dying for some freedom."

"Joanna..." Warns Ellen, which Jo ignores in favor of standing up, which the three boys follow suit.

"Cas is right." Sam acknowledges, putting his mess with Jo's and Castiel's so it's an easy clean up. Dean's already busy with collecting all the plates to bring to the currently sleeping Ash behind the bar.

"Yo Ash!" He yells louder than he needs to to startle the sleeping man.

"Whatisit? Didsomeonecutmyhair?" Ash rushes, touching the long hair at the back of his head in a panic.

Dean can’t help but laugh, shaking his head, “No, we’re just leaving and I wanted to make sure  you knew.” He smirks, “Since Jo threw such a hissy fit the last time.”

“Hey!’ Jo calls but Dean just gives a knowing smile towards Ash before turning back around.

His hands rise in way of standing down and walks over towards the waiting three.

“You best be careful boys.” Bobby growls, more fatherly than annoyed.

“We’ll do our best.” Sam responds, giving a confirming nod towards the older man.

“Yeah, we’ll be fine.” Dean backs up Sam as they all start to migrate towards the door.

“And you keep care of my girl you hear!” Ellen adds as the door opens and Jo slips out. Dean knows Ellen’s worries, the life of the hunter wasn’t the safest and just like Dean and Sam, she didn’t have to be in this world. Jo could easily stay at the Roadhouse, safe from harm and help her mother take care of the passing by hunters. But that just wasn’t Jo, Dean knew that now, what he used to think was some sick romanticism of the life of hunter was just her determination to do good. Which, wasn’t very far from Dean’s own goals.

“Wouldn’t dream of it Ellen!” He calls back, his voice teasing but his words true. In Dean’s mind, Jo was a sister to him, sure nothing like the blood he and Sam shared but she still mattered, he’d still protected her.

They reach the stables now and Dean redresses Impala with Castiel’s help as Sam and Jo also ready their steeds. It took Jo a little longer and the boys, already on their horses and outside of the stable called to her.

“Come on slow poke!” Dean yells, receiving an irritated growl from Jo.

“If I knew you guys were gonna be that ready I would have put Reo’s staddle on earlier!” She calls, “Now shut your pie-hole!”
That was one of Dean’s insults and he leans back stunned slightly by his use of words directed at him. He’s so dramatically stunned he actually forgets that Castiel is even there and tips into him. The eldest Winchester doesn’t go too far however, as slender fingers secure themselves around his upper-chest and arm to give him an unintended balance.

“Are you alright Dean?” Castiel’s voice is tender and concerned, his breath hot on Dean’s ear due to his physical placement. For some odd reason it reminds Dean of Cassie, probably because she was the only one he ever noticed those kind of things around.

That freaks Dean out enough for him to pull forward, making Castiel’s hands drop in response. “I’m good Cas, thanks.” He didn’t sound mad, or even disgusted, but more stoic. Castiel doesn’t respond back to that, only nods, which Dean feels only due to their closeness.

Thankfully Jo comes out of the stable now, as Sam looked like he very much wanted to comment on the whole situation. “Freakin’ finally!” Dean teases, getting the reaction he had been hoping for.

Jo clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth and gently pats her heels into her steed, directing him towards Dean so she could slap his arm.

“Jackass.” She grumbles, making Dean laugh. Turning Impala around so that she was facing the same way as Reo, Dean makes a similar clicking sound, Impala knew Dean better than anyone and starts to trot, warming herself up. Reo follows close behind as Stanford makes a large turn to join them. Picking up speed all three horses take off towards the south, towards Whitefish.

 

Chapter Text

The first town the group of four reach is Manitoc, a forest settlement with marshland and small lakes surrounding its southern border. While the troop had been traveling a messenger who had been riding to the Roadhouse stopped them, recognizing their clothing. From his description the hunters can make the assumption it's some sort of spirit, meticulously killing off people in the town. Spirits are the most common supernatural creature in Potesta, as Lord Winchester had pushed the other beasts back into Chion and Seven Gates. Of course some things slipped through, but 9 out of 10 times it was spirits.

By the time they reached Manitoc a day and a quarter had passed. They had taken a break somewhere near halfway, in a small town called Red Lodge so they were reasonably rested for the day ahead.

The first place to stop, as all hunters know, is the pub. It was the best place to gather information, especially since people tended to drink away their sorrows. The messenger, who had continued onto the Roadhouse to inform Bobby that the Winchesters were taking care of the case, had given very little information about what exactly was happening. All he said was that people were dying, including his sister and it was something “unnatural” in his terms.

After hitching the horses up the four started towards the little ramble shackle pub. This shouldn’t be too difficult, they had dealt with worse creatures on just as much information.

Still, Dean went over the list of things that could go wrong and with Castiel’s lack of Hunter training? It didn’t matter he was a soldier, there was a certain face you had to wear while being a Hunter. “Alright Cas, you ain’t had much in the way of training.” Zero actually, but Dean continues on his speech, walking backwards so he could look towards his companion. Castiel’s eyes met with Dean’s but he said nothing, seeming to understand that Dean wasn’t coming from a place of malice. “So just let us ask the questions okay?”

“Understood.” Castiel agrees, and that satisfies Dean enough for him to turn back around and shoulder the door open. Manitoc was a damn small town and with such a small population, the pub was reasonably empty. Dean plops himself down at one of the bar stools, attracting the barmaid’s attention towards him and his posse. Sam joins Dean at the bar while both Castiel and Jo, who seemed to be having their own conversation, sat down at one of the tables in the empty room.

“What can I get ya?” The barkeep hums, her shirt revealing a little bit more than would be appropriate, not that Dean minded.

“Well, I’d like a glass of your strongest. And he’ll,” Dean nods his head towards Sam, “have a glass of water.”

Sam slumps slightly, rolling his eyes, but turns towards the expectant woman. “Yeah, let him get drunk.”

The dark haired woman from behind the bar smiles softly, and nods, grabbing a pint to fill for Dean. “Alright sweet cheeks.”

“Can we get two pints of the same thing?” Jo calls from the table she claimed with Castiel, making Cas frown slightly but keeping his tongue at bay.

”I highly doubt this will do anything for me.” Castiel comments in Dean’s mind, sounding a little disgruntled.

“Thank you ma’am.” Dean responds as the bartender places a pint in front of him and he passes her some nice gold coins. ”Yeah, but people are more likely to trust you when you’re drunk.”

“Should I act like it is affecting me than?”

A smirk crawls up Dean’s features, ”I don’t think that’s necessary right now, plus, me and Sam got the drunk act down pat.”

”Oh.”

Dean doesn’t respond but instead lets thankfulness wash over Castiel’s side of the mental connection and it seems to work, gratitude flowing back. Taking a sip from his drink Dean gets to work and takes in his surroundings. The bartender is dropping off the two glasses at Jo and Castiel’s table. There’s a stout man sitting by his lonesome at a table near the unlit fireplace. He looks sad but not ‘ghosts are killing my friends’ sad, so Dean turns his attention to another older man. This man looks like he’s in his mid-50s and he sits at the far end of the bar, nursing what looks like his fourth pint with several small dry glasses surrounding him. The barmaid doesn’t go over to him, not unless he looks at her purposefully and when that does happen she doesn’t do anything but fill his glass, her face sympathetic. Sam nudges his brother at this and Dean agrees so he gains the barkeeper's attention and she comes over.

“The drink’s fine I hope.” She asks noticing how his glass is only halfway empty, her voice is polite and upbeat however, so Dean knows he wasn’t bothering the young lady. The eldest Winchester is already nodding to that and sends her one of his award winning Dean Winchester smiles, which she takes with grace.

“No the meads fine,” Dean answers, leaning into the bar so that his next words are more private. “I was wondering about that poor sop over there.” He nods his head towards the man in the corner, who seems to be completely oblivious to the world around him.

"Oh..." The brunette’s shoulders drop, obviously knowing the answer before leaning closer, so that her and Dean are closer. "That's Bill Carlton. He lost his daughter about a week ago." Dean makes a surprised face and it spurs the conversation forward. "Some freak accident or something. He's saying there's something in the swamp."

Sam, who was included in on this conversation for good or for bad now speaks. "Do you believe him?"

At this point the woman looks uncertain. "I don't know what to think."

"She knows something." Castiel's voice comes through strong and Dean trusts the certainty in his tone.

"What is it?" Dean plays the sympathetic angle and it gives him the goods.

"There's just a lot of weird stuff happening."

Sam jumps on the concerned train and gives her his classic puppy dog eyes, “Like what?”

Hunters had the right to ask these questions out front to get right to the center of things but that was something only burn outs did, that or if it was dire. Dean didn’t even like telling town sheriffs who he was, there would be too many questions as to why the second in line for the lands of Lawrence would be mucking it with Hunters. That’s also why Dean avoided cases in Lawrence like they were the plague, he did not need that. He liked this way of getting information, plus, people were less likely to panic, after all, not everyone knew what a Hunter looked like.

Now that Sam had his super powers at work the bartender seemed to break down, whispering. “Well… about a month or so ago, Andra’s husband drowned around the same place.” She bites her lip, “And the inn hasn’t been getting good business either.”

That confuses both Winchesters but Dean’s the one to first speak up, “Why is that weird? I mean it’s a small town.”

The woman is already shaking her head at that, “No, I mean people don’t come out of there… especially if they’re female.” That, of course, attracts Jo’s attention, and Dean can feel her eyes on the back of his head.

“What do you mean?” Sam asks, making the brunette turn towards him, her eyes soft and troubled.

“I’ve just noticed that some of the women that go in there don’t… come back.” Dean wants to push on this but he feels Castiel disagreeing with it in his head, so he reins himself in just enough to converse with Castiel first.

”What is it?” He asks, really wanting to turn around and see the expression on his friend’s face but controlling himself.

”I have been talking to Jo, maybe you should check out Bill’s story while Jo and I investigate this inn.”

”But she just said women were going missing, last time I checked Jo’s a female Cas, she can’t go.”

Castiel stops the responses and it makes Dean curious enough to turn around. It’s a mistake because Jo motions for Dean to come over.

“Excuse me.” Dean mutters to the female and Sam before pulling himself off of his seat and heading towards the table of two. Both Jo and Castiel stand up but Jo is the one to speak, tilting her head towards the door.

“Can I talk to you outside for a minute?”

Dean sighs, knowing what was to come and willing subjecting himself to it. “Alright.”

The three of them held out into the streets of the small town, people were still moving around at this point, it was only noon but Jo doesn’t care as she turns on Dean. “So there’s two cases here?”

Dean suddenly realizes that Jo probably couldn’t actually hear what he, Sam and the barkeep had been talking about and his eyes snap to Cas. ”Wait did you tell her what we were saying?”

”I have exquisite hearing and Jo wished to know what was happening.”

Dean closes his eyes in frustration, of course. Reaching up Dean grabs onto the bridge of his nose, holding to the sturdy cartilage. “That’s what it looks like.” He won’t lie to Jo, but this was exactly what he didn’t want. He wanted an easy case for Cas to start on and if they were split up, Dean couldn’t promise that.

Jo seems content though, a sure smile crossing her face. “Okay, well I’ll take the one in town and you can go check on the creepy swamp.”

“No.” Dean responds before he really has an argument, which is his downfall because Jo is not letting go of this one.

“Dean.” She starts, adopting the tone she inherited from her mother, “I’ve done hunts by myself before and I won’t be alone. I know Castiel will have my back.”

“But she said they were attacking females Jo!”

“Perfect!” The blonde pipes up, looking all together too cheery for this. “Who better to try and see what it is?”

Dean’s pretty sure his eyes are double their normal size right now. “You want to be bait?”

Jo rolls her eyes and lulls her head towards Castiel, “Will you let it get me?”

“I will ensure your safety.” Castiel clears, nodding in affirmative.

”Damnit Cas, you’re supposed to be on my side!”

”When are you ever on mine?”

That hit harder than Dean expected it to and it leaves him silent for a moment, the words working through his mind as he tries to digest them. “I don’t like it.” He maintains, his words strong but also leaving a pathway that Jo will most definitely will take.

“Don’t matter! I’m an adult, I can handle this.”

Jo and Dean have a staring contest now, there’s no glares or insults or what have you, between them, just two strong willed people duking it out with stares.

“Fine. But don’t fucking tell your mother or she’ll have my balls.”

Jo’s glad she’s won and smiles, heading towards the door back into the bar. “Not that that matters, you’re not planning on kids anyway.” Dean forgot he had told Jo that, that he pretty much knew he’d never have kids. But that was on one drunken night when he first became a Hunter. It was rebellion against his father, he did not need her blurting it out like that.

The door of the pub closes behind Jo, leaving Dean alone with Castiel for the first time in nearly 30 hours. Neither of them really make a move to head back in and Dean leans against the wall. “I hope you know that if anything happens to Jo Ellen will personally break your neck.”

Castiel’s quiet now, staring at the ground in front of them until racking his eyes up to Dean’s. Castiel’s eyes were the worst, they made you feel things, like he saw every string that makes Dean dance, like he knows where the puncture wounds are. Like he knows who Dean is. Except he doesn’t really, not yet. “What did Jo mean about you not wanting kids?”

It shouldn’t rattle Dean as much as it does when Castiel says it, but it does and Dean’s pretty sure it’s because he just finds it hard to not tell Castiel. It was better to explain himself to the newest member instead of holding it close like with so many others. “I don’t know man…I’ll- later or something.” And once again Dean cops out.

Castiel seems to understand however and just nods, “As you wish.”

They stand there for a moment more before Dean can’t take it, the waiting. “I’m gonna head in, you coming?”

“Of course.” Castiel responds, moving so that he is out of Dean’s way to the door.

The two men enter now to find Jo sitting in Dean’s place, talking to Sam and the bartender. Jo turns when Dean enters and slides off the seat to join him, her voice low enough for only Dean and Castiel to hear. “Sam said we should all stay at the inn at night while we’re doing the cases and than we can split up.”

Dean liked that idea, as night was the most common time for people to disappear and this meant he, himself could keep an eye on Jo. “Good old’ Sammy.” He smiles, receiving a smirk from Jo, she knows she’s won. Dean however, knows there’s work to be done so instead of taking his seat he grabs his glass and heads towards Bill Carlton. Taking the seat next to the older man Dean notes how Cas and Jo sit with Sam now, conversing in low enough tones that no one really can hear them, of course Dean has some idea of what’s going on, especially since Cas was letting the conversation drift over their connection.

”So you guys are okay working together?” Sam sounds like he’s far away, but his voice is still understandable, just more like an echo.

”Yeah of course!” Jo’s voice comes across just like Sam’s more echo than real time.

Dean lets the chit chat go to the back of his mind, so it’s still there but not the only thing he’s focusing on.

“Bill Carlton?” Dean asks but the man doesn’t respond, staring at his glass like he was still alone, Dean pushes a little more. “I heard you lost your daughter?”

The older man doesn’t turn towards Dean but he seems to become aware of his surroundings a little. “Sophie.”

Dean frowns, okay well at least he got that, “Yeah, Sophie… what happened?” Dean cringes at the lack of finesse but Bill seems like he’s been awaken a little bit so that helps.

“She’s a damn good swimmer.” Bill mumbles, not excepting the past tense. “There’s no way she could have drowned in those waters.”

Alright, so it was the swamp, or one of the lakes surrounding the area. “Was she tired maybe?”

Bill’s shaking his head, “It was her early morning swim, she was fine.” He takes a deep gulp of his drink and Dean knows he’s done talking about it.

“I’m sorry for your loss Mr. Carlton.”

Bill doesn’t respond so Dean takes a sip of his own drink and heads back towards his brother.

“Do you know about spirits Castiel?” Sam’s asking as Dean gets closer, his voice echoing in Dean’s head while doubling in real life. That was weird. Castiel seems to feel Dean’s confusion and stops the repeat of the words in his head, turning towards Dean before responding to Sam.

“They connect to objects or places and are weakened by salt and iron.”

“Good.” Sam praises, seeming content.

Dean interjects now, ready to get this show on the road. “You kids about ready to head out?”

’I am not a kid.” Castiel nearly lectures but he stands up from his seat nonetheless. “Yes.”

Jo and Sam also stand up, nodding towards Dean.

“Sweet, let's do this.” Dean grins, walking towards the door, “Have a good one ma’am!” He calls to the bartender who smiles and gives them a little wave.

“Good luck!”

 

Their first stop is the inn, where they remove their bags from their steeds and get a room. They get two rooms with two beds, and a door connecting the rooms. It’s a nice set up as they usually don’t get that luxury.

The bartender wasn’t joking when she said that business was slow at the inn, so that's why they could do this. Dean shares a room with Jo this time, so he can personally ensure her safety at night while Sam and Castiel share the other.

“Now we’re gonna keep this open just so we don’t have any problems.” Dean says, placing a chair so that the door between the rooms doesn’t slam. “Cause the last thing we need is something separating us.”

“Awe, you’re such a romantic.” Jo mocks, making Dean’s ears turn pink for some reason.

“Ha Ha, you could get a job with that humor Jo.”

Jo smiles brightly, accepting Dean’s challenge. “Being a jester doesn’t make as much money as hunting.”

Sam snorts, “There’s no money in this.”

“Exactly.” Jo doesn’t miss a beat as she places her bags down on the bed. She starts to shift through its contents until she finds her extra hunting gear, and placing it on the covers of the bed. She turns to look at Dean, hand on her hip. “We’re gonna go do some recon tonight right? No one is going ganking yet?”

Dean snorts, shaking his head as he throws his own bag onto a small table, not really bothering to settle in as he’s all ready for a good fight. “Well unless you know exactly what we’re up against I think we have to get some more intel.”

It’s time for Jo to grow quiet without a good retort and she finishes adding her knives to the belt around her hips.

Castiel is the only one who seems to be perfectly still, he already moved his bags to a safe location and was now just standing by the door, unsure what to do. Jo notices this as well by following Dean’s eyeline towards the other man and a small smile crosses her lips. She bounds over to the shortest male and hooks her arm under his before he could say a word, “Ready to go on your first official hunt Cas?” Suddenly Dean wasn’t sure if he really wanted Castiel and Jo to do this case together, maybe he should be with Cas? But if something happened to Sammy…. No, Dean had to go with Sam, end of story.

Castiel looks from Jo to Dean, eyes locking like they commonly do with those two. Dean’s the first to speak however, his body turned towards Cas as he points to his brain-buddy. “You make sure she comes out of this alive alright?”

Castiel nods, “We already went over this Dean, I will ensure her safety.”

“Just double checking.” Dean growls, ignoring the death glare Jo is giving him.

Jo is having none of this and sighs dramatically, her head turning to take in Sam. “So this is what it’s like to be the younger sibling.”

Sam smiles, “Welcome to The Younger Sibling Society.”

The female breaks down at this, laughing hysterically at the comment while Castiel turns his head towards Sam, his head tilting slightly as confusion crosses his face. “Should I join this society?”

That made Sam blink and Jo stop her psychotic laughter at Dean’s expense to look at Castiel. Sam asks the question first, “Do you have siblings?”

Castiel nods, as if this was obvious or something. “Several.”

This was news to everyone in the room, even Dean. “Are you the youngest?” Jo prods, her light brown eyes focused on the man she happens to be holding onto.

It’s time for Castiel to take a pause, one Dean recognizes as his ‘I’m-not -sure-what-to-say’ one, but he does eventually answer the question. “On the spectrum of my family's lineage... I am close to being the youngest, yes.”  

Sam keeps up with Castiel’s comment better than Dean or Jo do and he asks the next biggest question on everyone’s mind. “Does that mean you have a lot of siblings?”

Castiel nods, “More than the average household.” His voice gets softer now and Dean knows it’s almost likely a distraction technique. “That is one of the many reasons I sought the temple of the Watcher, as no one would notice my absence.” And right there Castiel earns the sympathy of every single human in the room. Dean, while not the youngest, couldn’t fathom not being close to Sam, to not have that security of his brother and while Jo had no blood-siblings, she had Dean and Sam, who both treated her as a sister. Sam, of course, had Dean and knew the full extent of how Dean envisioned the role of being an older brother.

“Well, ya got us now.” Dean says before he can stop himself, after all, Cas deserved that certainty as well. Sure, he was new. Sure, he hadn’t exactly proven that he’d go to the end of the world with Dean like Sam had, but given the opportunity, Dean knew he would and deep down, that’s exactly why Dean said it.

The feeling of overwhelming gratitude flows from Castiel and nearly knocks Dean over. It was warm and loving and felt like a woolen blanket over his shoulders on a cold day. Like a fire in the middle of a snowstorm, somehow sustaining enough heat to make Dean’s fingers tips itch with warmth. He'd be lying if he said he didn't like it, he'd also be lying if he said it didn't frighten him slightly. But Dean also wants more of it, like adrenaline in the middle of climax, it's better having it. But Dean knows he can't focus on that right now, not with all these people around and definitely not with Cas looking at him the way he is.

"Thank you Dean." Castiel rumbles, his voice showing as much of his awe at Dean's words as his mind did. Dean just shrugs, but Castiel understands, he usually does.

"Awe aren't you two cute?" Jo comments, shattering the moment and Dean's pride. She seems to know this reaction was to happen so she quickly sidesteps the inevitable backlash by turning towards Castiel, "Ready to go?"

There's no hesitation in Castiel's affirmative, his eyes moving from Dean's to Jo's face. "I believe so." He rests his hand on the pommel of his sword as if to prove the fact further.

Jo just smiles and nods, "Awesome! So we'll see you giants later." She teases, her arm still wrapped in Castiel's so she can easily drag him along.

"Don't do anything stupid!" Dean calls as the door opens and Jo pulls Castiel out. She flips Dean off without turning around and the door slams behind them, making the perfect dramatic exit. Dean doesn't let it go however and gently reaching out for Cas in his mind, gets his attention. "Keep me updated on what's going on please?"

There's a smugness to Castiel's words and maybe it was bad to put Cas and Jo together. "I already planned on it Dean, but since you asked she is currently 'bitching' about how she is a fully functioning adult and does not enjoy your coddling."

"Ouch." The tone Dean’s uses shows he doesn't really mean it and humor comes from Cas. Dean knows he's smirking at that one and it makes the eldest Winchester smile to himself.

"Where do you want to start Dean?" Sam's voice reminds Dean that he is in fact, is not physically alone and that bantering with Castiel might not be the best if Dean wanted to look sane in front of his brother.

Dean clears his throat, shuffling slightly so that his clothing slides into their comfortable spots on his body. He actually walks into Sam's room room now and stares at his brother, ready to get into the grind of hunting. "I figured we'd stop by the sheriff and see if he could shed any light on the the whole kit and caboodle."

Sam nods to that, his bow placed in the sling across his back. "Alright, and we should probably check the swamp and lakes around here later, just to make sure there isn't anything... really weird there." Dean knew what Sam meant, sometimes if it wasn't a spirit it could be witches or any manner of 'call to' beasts that require writings, carvings or even altars. It was always smart to just check.

 

The two Winchesters head out soon after that, walking the small streets until they find the stone faced sheriff's building. Sam actually enters first, but he holds the door open for Dean who then takes lead towards the main desk where the town sheriff sits.

The man sitting at the table was older than both Winchesters, with salt and pepper hair, his face placed into a nearly permanent frown. He looks up when the door opens and stands almost automatically.  “Can I help you boys?”

“Hunter Ford, this is Hunter Hamil.” Dean greets, pointing to his brother when stating the second alias. Some years ago both Dean and Sam had come to the decision they would use different surnames while traveling through Potesta, just to avoid attention or biases from forming.

The sheriff seems none the wiser to the little lie and speaks up, “Hunters? Well it’s an honor boys.” He reaches over and shakes their hands one by one. Being a Hunter, while unprofitable, had one perk and that was that Hunters were largely respected. Well, areas of little congestion seemed to be where Hunters were more popular, while in larger cities they were viewed as nothing more than workhorses.

“Thank you Sheriff…?”

“Sheriff Jake Devins.” The man answers, relaxing into a more comfortable position before continuing. “Now what brings you to the small town of Manitoc?” It almost sounded like the Sheriff didn’t think anything was actually happening and it automatically got Dean’s attention.

“We ran into a messenger on our way down south, he said you guys were having some sort of supernatural activity.” Dean clarifies, his eyes glued onto the man. Dean can’t help himself and reaches out for Castiel’s attention. It works and Dean can almost feel Castiel there with him, except he wasn’t, but he could still hear what was happening due to Dean’s proximity.

The sheriff sighs at that, “Was this messenger a kid in like his early 20s? Stocky with black hair?”

Both Winchesters and Castiel are put off by this but Sam is the one to confirm Jake’s suspicions. “Yes.”

Sheriff Devins is shaking his head, his brow furrowed and sympathy on his face. “That was Will Carlton.” He turns to both Dean and Sam, looking each one in the eye as he explains. “Look, I know the Carltons, I grew up with Bill, but blaming this on spirits or something fanciful like that isn’t going to bring Sophie back. Accidents happen.”

”He has doubts.” Castiel comments now, a whisper in Dean’s conscious.

“Well, that might be so, but we would still like the deaths records in this area for the last three years.” When John had married Mary, King Campbell and Lord Winchester had a meeting to discuss how to make the job of a Hunter easier. One of these rules made it so it was mandatory in all settlements to write the deaths of townspeople or travelers down. Some would slip through the cracks, or have the date of death wrong due to not being discovered for awhile but they were still recorded.

The Sheriff doesn’t seem too happy about this, but another perk of being a Hunter was having the right to those papers, especially if they could involve a truly supernatural beast. So the older man sighs and drops his shoulders, heading towards a bookshelf. Pulling out a large leather binder the Sheriff heads back over to the two hunters. “These are the deaths from today to when I started my career as a sheriff.”

“What about missing persons?” Sam asks, making the Sheriff turn directly to the younger Winchester. Missing persons was a nearly impossible practice in Potesta, not all the towns had communication with each other and often people went unnoticed because it cost money to send flyers.

“I’ll give you what I got.” Sheriff Devins assures, leaning down into a desk to pull out a couple flyers and written notes. “Lots of these were only reported.” Reported was different than producing the flyers, it was more like alerting the law enforcement than putting them into action. Dean always thought it was stupid procedure to make the concerned family member or friend who files the missing persons report pay for the flyers. But, Dean wasn’t King nor did he have a say in the matter at all, despite his blood relation to the King. Castiel knows Dean’s annoyed, feels exactly why he’s upset and comforts him with soft feelings of comprehension and agreement. It helps Dean keep his tongue.

The eldest Winchester grabs the missing persons reports while Sam takes the folder of deaths.

Dean's about to say something cheeky, he feels it growing in him like a sickness but just as he formulates what to say, the door to the building opens and all three men turn to see a young woman and a boy enter.

"Excuse me." Jake says, moving from around the desk to greet the two. He reaches for the woman, who hugs him gently and hands him a small bag.

"I figured you wouldn't feed yourself so I made you dinner." The squirrelish woman speaks up, talking to the Sheriff while also attracting both the Winchester’s attention. The two younger men now walk forward, making the Sheriff introduce the woman.

“Gentleman, this is my daughter Andrea Barr. Andrea, this is Hunter Ford and Hamil.”

Dean smiles his award winning smile and bows to the female. She gives him a smile, nothing coy but rather amused. “Hello.”

The Sheriff now motions towards the little boy, who is sticking reasonably close behind his mother before introducing of two strangers, “And this my grandson Lucas.”

The boy only peaks around his mother and Dean leans down, so that they are more eye to eye. “Hey Lucas.”

The boy doesn’t even meet Dean’s eyes but instead walks past him, his mother following his silent stroll, muttering a soft ‘excuse me’ as she moves through the two hunters. Dean stand and boys separate, watching as Lucas waits expectantly by a shelf for his mother. Andrea reaches up and grabs a jar of colored sticks, handing it to Lucas as well as some fresh paper.

"Is he okay?" Sam asks, frowning. Dean stays silent, watching the boy, he's not put off by Lucas's attitude, simply curious and thankfully Sam asked the question.

The Sheriff shifts, watching his daughter and grandson before saying anything, “He’s been through a lot, all of us have.” The hunters watch as the little boy starts to draw, his mother watching over him until she is sure he’s comfortable. Once he is settled in Andrea heads back over to her father and the two other men.

Dean feels no need to continue the hunting conversation and instead turns his full attention towards Andrea. She's beautiful in a compact way, she has long dark brown hair which reminds Dean of someone and deep brown eyes that don't remind him of anyone. But he finds her attractive and for that very reason he says what he does next.

"Well, we best be getting off." He starts, his eyes moving to Sam to share something before turning back to Jake. "It was a pleasure Sheriff."

“Likewise boys, if you need any help, let me know.” Jake reaches forward and shakes the hands of both Winchesters in the formal fashion he is supposed to.

Dean now turns his attention to Andrea, a small smile sneaking up his features. “Well, I was actually wondering if you’d be able to direct us to the nearest inn.”

It’s a miracle that no one sees the bitchface that Sam sports for a couple seconds before he schools his face, however Andrea seemed just as convinced. “It’s the big white brick building on the left when you enter town.”

“I didn’t see it. Do you think you could maybe walk us there?”

It’s time for Andrea to sport her own true bitchface but she sighs and nods, “I guess so, if you’re gonna have that much trouble finding the only white building in town.”

Sam snorts at the comment but Dean acts as if he doesn’t hear his little brother, “Thank you ma’am.”

Andrea shrugs and hugs her father, “I’ll be back soon.” Sheriff Devins nods and heads back towards where Lucas is drawing and the group of three head out into the streets.

“You’ve got a cute kid.” Dean starts, literally out of nowhere as the three trample on.

“Thank you.” She says cooly, eyes upon the white building that is already coming into view.

“Kids are pretty awesome.” Dean tries to continue, but this time Andrea doesn’t acknowledge this and instead points to the building.

“There it is, the biggest building in town.” She's got enough sass in the sentence to tranquilize a baby elephant but she doesn't even stop there, "If you find your way to a good pickup line let me know." She turns towards back to the direction they had just came from and Dean watches her go, too shocked to say anything.

"You don't even like kids." Sam speaks up, causing Dean to whip his head towards his brother.

"Yeah I do!" Dean exclaims, making Sam smirk. Dean really did like kids, he just shouldn't have them, that's all. He had experience with kids, after all he did raise Sammy when his mother was on her sickbed. Dean doesn't say this however and instead heads into the inn.

"Hey Cas what's going on?" This entire time the two had been connected and while they didn't share information Dean could tell the emotions that flowed from Castiel.

"We are currently investigating the location. We have found ectoplasm." He's emotionless as he does when he's upset, but Dean knows it's not with the case, there'd be panic instead of this cold-shoulder shit.

"Well, it's obviously a strong spirit than."

"I am aware."

Dean doesn't want to start shit so he directs the conversation elsewhere. "Where exactly are you guys now?"

"In the room, we have done what we can for today."

Both Winchesters are heading into the building now and towards the rooms they share with the other two. "Alright, we got the town's death records and reported missing persons."

"That would greatly help our case as well."

"I know."

Their conversation dies now, since both know they will see each other soon enough.

"Do you think Jo and Cas found anything?" Sam voices as they walk through the halls. Dean shrugs, unsure of if he should chance telling his brother what Cas had said.

"Even if they do they'll probably need these records to help them."

It seems like a good enough answer for Sam and he nods, "And sticking those two together? I mean it's Castiel's very first hunter case."

Ah, something Dean didn't want to talk about, great. "Yeah well, they all got to learn sometime."

"I guess." Was all the youngest Winchester replied as they neared the door, dropping the subject so neither Jo or Castiel can hear.

They enter the room to reveal both Castiel and Jo sitting on Castiel's bed, “And then he said “I guess I've got fifty one hours-’” Jo stops where she was in the retelling the moment she sees Dean enter. Dean knows that conversation, he had it with Jo a couple months after first meeting her, but things had changed, he never went through with it, Jo was like a sister.

“I see the girls are sharing gossip.” Dean comments, grabbing a chair and pulling it over to the two so that he can sit. Castiel seemed unperturbed by the snide remark, but than again, he seems pretty unemotional about anything Dean said and this time not in a good way.

Jo was always ready for a fight with Dean and giving him a rather disgusting stink eye she speaks up, “Just because you hold everything in doesn’t make it better.” She went with a real insult this time and Dean wondered why she was so venomous.

“What crawled up your ass and died?”

“Your attitude.” Jo shot back a second later.

Sam seemed rather tired of the argument and sighs loudly enough to get everyone’s attention. “Come on guys, people are dying.”

Castiel seemed to realize that maybe this is the inopportune time for Jo to rip Dean a new ass and turns so his attention is on Sam and not that green eyed hunter where his eyes had rested the majority of this time. “Are those the death records?”

Sam’s face scrunches up in confusion as he hands the folder over to Castiel, “How’d you know that?”

Dean’s eyes go to Castiel immediately as his heart catches up speed. ”Don’t.”

Castiel seems completely comfortable under Sam’s scrutiny as he looks directly at Sam, eyes unwavering. “I assumed. Was I incorrect?” ”I am no fool Dean. While I would wish to not lie to your brother these are your conditions of this connection and I shall not disrespect them.”

It was the most profound and sure thing Dean had heard Castiel just spit out in their heads and it humbles him enough to stay silent, eyes stationed upon Castiel’s face.

“No…” Sam says, a tint of shame in his tone due to his prosecution of Castiel. He nods his head towards Dean, “We also have the missing persons records.”

“Gimme.” Jo says to Dean, holding her hand out to her eldest adopted brother, making Dean realize suddenly that she had been looking at him this entire time. The entire time he was staring at Cas. Shit. He hands the papers over to Jo without a word. “Cas you should probably just give that folder back, we need missing persons more than people actually proven dead.” Jo says to Castiel as she flips through the leaflets.

The blue eyed man nods, handing the folder to Dean, “This is true.”

“So did you guys find anything?” Sam brings up, sitting on his own bed so that they’re in some sort of oblong circle.

“Only that it’s got be some strong spirit, there was ectoplasm by the coal chute.”

“The coal chute?” Sam repeats, a little shocked.

Jo’s nodding at that, “I know it’s weird right?”

“When isn’t the job freakish weird?” Dean comments, tapping the book against his fingers before handing it off to Sam. After all, Dean hated research. Sam rolls his eyes but takes the book, skimming to see if there is anything to help them.

 

The room grows quiet after that, each investigator falling into their groves of research. Sam pulls out all the death records dealing with water while Jo and Castiel pull out all the females that went missing in town.

If Dean's didn't have the connection with Cas he would be as uninformed as the others. However, Dean was linked to the man and could feel the excitement of discovery along with overwhelming fear. "They're all blonds." Castiel rumbles, his voice shocking in the quite.

"What?" All three hunters say insync, turning towards the speaker with varying amounts of confusion and concern. Dean knew what Cas meant, the explanation came to him the second Castiel had even registered the fact, but still Castiel explained, for the benefit of the rest of the class.

"All the women that disappeared here were blonds. Jo is blond." Castiel looks towards Jo, concern folding his brow. He turns to Dean now, eyes locking.

"Maybe we should do these cases together then." Sam starts, which makes Dean nod vigorously, even if his were still trained on Cas.

"Damn right we should." Dean agrees, looking towards Jo since she would probably come at him like a whirlwind.

"Excuse me?" Jo starts and Dean has to count to ten, sometimes she just didn't get it. "Just because I am the literal perfect bait does not make us suddenly incapable of taking care of this haunt!" Jo bites, her voice gaining more venom as the brothers share a doubtful look.

“Jo it’s not that it’s just-” Sam starts, like he’s trying to calm her down.

“No! I don’t want to hear it!” She slaps the papers in her hand down, her back straight and eyes piercing. “I know you’re just bullshitting me! I was hunting before I joined up with you guys and you’re acting like I’m some fucking civi! I can take care of myself!”

“Yeah and what about Cas huh?” Dean shoots before he could even realize it was a bad idea. He should have told Cas he was using him as an excuse. Except Castiel might not believe it because Dean didn't believe it himself. Dean knew Cas was good with a sword, he was good at defending himself as well. But what about the supernatural creatures of the world? Could he actually take that on? Dean wasn’t quite sure yet.

"Dean-" growls out Castiel, voice warning. He didn't get to say anything else on the subject however as Jo comes to intervene their man struggles.

"You guys are acting like your manly tightie whities are in a bunch, get over it. You do realize that Castiel and I aren't children? We can fucking handle ourselves thank you very much."

The room falls into silence at this, like no one dared to continue the conversation. Castiel even locked Dean out of his mind, presenting a thick wall between him and their connection. It unsettled Dean because he knew Castiel was mad and not even just at the most recent fuck up, but before that.

"Cas." No response. "Cas." Still nothing, the walls stood strong and Dean let it go, turning his attention towards the death records.

“There was some drownings at a ice fishing festival, a little girl drowned a couple months ago and Christopher Barr died on the lake in May." Sam speaks up, making Dean lean over to look at the papers in his hands.

"That sounds familiar."

Both Winchesters search the hand written paper, until Sam makes a sound in realization, pointer finger landing on what he had found. "He was Andrea's husband."  He scans the paper faster, "Apparently he took Lucas out for a swim." He frowns, eyes jumping word to word. "Lucas was on the dock when Chris died..."

"Poor kid." Dean sympathises, voice low enough for it to be conceived as the eldest Winchester mumbling to himself.

Sam nods, "He must has witnessed the whole thing."

It was like a shot to the heart, the memories that flew up at the suggestion. And just like that, Dean remembers the horrible events that took place at Lawrence over two decades ago.

 

Dean had been four at the time and Sam was only six months old when Lawrence was infiltrated by a demon troop. No one really knew what the motive was, or who exactly the demons were, if they worked with the King of Seven Gates or were an independent faction. Whomever they were, they made it into the castle of Lawrence somehow. The way John had explained it to Dean when he grew older was the only reason the demons were caught was because his mother, Mary had wandered into Sam's nursery. The details were fuzzy as they were relayed to Dean through years of begging his parents for information but all he knew was the confrontation led to a fire in the nursery and nearly his mother’s demise.

All Dean actually remembered of the actual event, his role in the horrible play, was taking Sammy from his father before escaping the royal wing. John had gone back for Mary and Dean had been left there in the courtyard, standing still as servants and soldiers tried desperately to quench the flames. He remembered watching the yellow flames lick behind stained glass, he remembers the heat and fear of losing both parents, he remembers--

 

”Dean.” Castiel’s voice cuts through Dean’s thoughts, whisking them away like a breeze does to clouds. Dean hadn’t even notice Castiel’s walls go down and to make matters worse, Dean had no idea how long he was even lost in his thoughts. Judging by the looks he was receiving from all three companions, he knew it had to be a couple seconds.

“I said, we should talk to Lucas.” Sam reiterates, his voice soft and concerned.

Dean wasn’t having any of that mushy shit and clears his throat, standing up to adjust his collar. “Yeah, good idea Sammy.” He doesn’t let Sam get a word in edgewise and instead turns towards Jo and Castiel, pointing fingers at the both of them. “If your end goes tits up you get us okay?”

Castiel has retreated his mind back behind his walls, his face far too stoic for Dean’s liking.

There’s no time to comment towards it, nor does Dean generally want to open that can of worms, but Jo thankfully makes his life easier. “Yes dad.” Her voice was full of a spiteful venom that made Dean kinda glad to be leaving. He follows Sam out of the conjoining rooms and takes the lead as they head down the stairs.

Try as he might, he couldn’t escape Sam’s curiosity. "What's going on Dean?"

Dean wasn't having it, and took the stairs two at a time to distance himself from the inquisitor. "Dude," Dean turns to Sam now, plastering his most seriously-done face as he looks his brother in the eye. "You're being paranoid. I'm fine." Sam just sighs, giving his brother a pointed look before letting the conversation drop.

 

The Winchesters are out and about the town only for a couple minutes when they finally run into the very people they're looking for.

There's a small park-like plot of land near the sheriff's building, it has some small unpaved walkways and a few benches, one of which was occupied by a dark haired woman. It's Andrea of course, Dean can see Lucas' blond mop in the general vicinity of the woman. As they near Dean notices the boy still has the colored sticks and paper from the sheriff’s office and he is still drawing.

“Evening ma’am.” Sam greats once they stop near Andrea. The woman turns, expressing her surprise as seeing them. She nods in greeting and looks like she’s gearing up for a response but Dean doesn’t wait for that and instead cuts in.

“Mind if I go say hi to the kid?” Andra nods once again and Dean heads towards Lucas, moving out of the range of being able to hear his brother and Andrea talk. Instead he walks over to the kid, who seems to not notice Dean nearing, Dean knew better though. “Hey Lucas, mind if I join you?” Lucas says nothing so Dean joins the boy, noticing small carved soldiers and their steeds that surround the boy. “Oh man I used to love these things.” He grabs one of the wooden soldiers and makes the sounds of swords flashing, which is surprisingly difficult to do. Lucas doesn’t react yet again so Dean moves onto looking at Lucas’ drawing. There’s several papers covered in colored drawings, one a large dark hole that can only mean the kid is effected by something, the second of one of a red ball on a stone wall. “Well I’ll be damned, these are pretty cool.” He smiles towards Lucas, “Chicks dig artists.” Dean knows Lucas isn’t going to respond to this either and he doesn’t really mind. “Is it cool if I do artsy stuff with you?” Of course the boy stays silent so Dean just grabs an unused piece of paper and one of the colored sticks and starts to draw.

He’s not really paying attention to the drawing but instead on what to say to Lucas, but Dean knows, he knows. “I think you can hear me and you just don’t want to say anything.” He pauses, “What happened to your dad, it was something really bad, and I know how you feel... something happened to my mom a while back.” Another pause, his eyes shooting up towards Lucas, “Did you see something scary?” Lucas only pauses in his drawing, still unwilling to look up at Dean. The eldest Winchester doesn’t falter however and pushes the point. “I know how sometimes you’re afraid to say anything or if anyone will believe you… But I want you to know that I will listen, even if you don’t say anything. You could draw it.” Lucas still doesn’t look towards Dean and at this point has continued on his art.

The picture Dean had been drawing is now finished, it’s nothing that would be hung up on a wall, it’s just four stick figures, but the meaning behind the second-rate drawing is still there. “This is for you.” He holds it out to the boy, his fingers pointing to each figure, “That’s my mom, my dad, me and my geek brother Sammy.” Lucas doesn’t look up and it would hurt any other person, but Dean remembers a time when he was exactly the same as Lucas, where he didn’t want to talk, where he was too afraid to look anyone in the eyes. “Okay, so I know it’s pretty sucky,” He places the picture down in front of Lucas and stands, “I’ll see you around Lucas.”

The eldest Winchester heads back towards Andrea and Sam and this time Andrea starts the conversation. “He hasn’t said a word to anyone even me, after what happened to his father.”

Dean nods, at that, shoving his hands in the pockets of his pants, “Kids are stronger than they look, you’d be surprised with what they can deal with.”

Andrea’s frowning, shaking her head at Dean’s comment, “He used to be so different before, he had such life… it was difficult for me to keep up with him but now-” She pauses in her statement, giving a small smile to someone behind Dean. “Hi sweetie.”

Dean turns to discover Lucas behind him, “Hey kiddo.” Lucas doesn’t respond or look at any of the adults but instead just holds up a picture to Dean, his head cast down.

This surprises Dean, he didn’t expect Lucas to really respond to him, especially this fast. “Th-Thanks Lucas.” The boy doesn’t react to Dean’s thanks and turns on his heels, walking back to his original bench.

Dean now takes the time to look at the picture, to register that it’s a cabin near some sort of wooded area, with a lake in the background. Possibly the lake that has been causing all these problems. Dean folds the picture, placing it in his pocket before turning his attention towards Andrea, “I think we should head out, it was nice to see you and Lucas ma’am.” He tips his head slightly towards the woman and he’s not as flirty as before, more concerned with the outcome of what Lucas’ involvement is in this case. He wants to figure this out and doesn’t exactly have time to court.

Sam stands now, heading towards Dean’s side, “Have a good day Andrea.”

“Yeah… you too.” She states, giving them both a curious look.

Dean doesn’t focus on the look and instead turns towards the hotel, “Thankfully I know where the inn is.” He can’t help but tease before heading towards that very building.

 


 

There's not much any of the hunters can do this first night as none of them know exactly what's going on. Sure, blond females are disappearing from the inn and people were drowning in the lake but they don't know exactly what is causing it and therefore can't react like a proper Hunter should. So instead they sleep, someone taking shifts to ensure that Jo doesn't go disappearing on them either, which she doesn't but she wasn't the only blond in the inn.

When they all wake at sunrise Jo learns from the rather creepy innkeeper that a female named Katherine with blond hair has disappeared from the inn, no payment, no nothing, she's just gone. Dean counted it as a double edged sword, at least it wasn't Jo because they didn't even know how to combat this spirit but at the same time, a civilian was taken and they were innocent in this whole debacle.

That wasn't the only thing to happen that night, as the boys find out within an hour that the lake had taken yet another life, this time Will Carlton, Bill Carlton's son and only remaining heir.

"Great. Just great." Dean grounds out as he reenters the inn room, throwing the written report down on the messy bedsheets. He sighs heavily, rubbing his face and ignoring the looks from the others around him.

"Well, I think it's safe to say that this whatever is going after families." Sam speaks up, his brow furrowed.

"Why you say that?" Dean voices, looking towards his brother.

Sam shrugs, "This just doesn't seem random, two Carltons within a week?" He shrugs again, showing that he's kind of guessing, which happens in this job.

"Let's go check it out." Dean grumbles, running a hand through his hair in aggravation.

"While you guys do that, we're gonna check out Katherine's room." Jo states now, looking towards Castiel to see him rising from his seat.

"I believe that is wise." The blue eyed man comments, his gaze set upon only Jo. Ever since yesterday Castiel's mind has been cut off from Dean's, there aren't walls exactly but more of an agitated "don't" between them, which Dean in all his infinite wisdom, complies to.

"Alright, be careful." He can't help himself and he receives an eye roll from Jo because of it.

"No offense Dean, but the more you say that the more I want to kick you in the nuts."

Dean whistles at that, a smile creeping across his face, "If you wanted to kill me you would have already done so."

"Kicking you in the jewels is different than killing you Dean." Jo shoots back, glaring.

“Eh, whatever.” Dean shrugs, placing his sword in the hilt attached to his side. He knew his indifference would piss Jo off more than anything and she rises quickly from her seat.

She doesn’t give into the temptation of yelling at Dean and instead speaks to Castiel. “You ready Cas?”  

The blue eyed man nods somberly, his sword already attached to his hip. “Yes.” Despite the fact that Dean knew Castiel was fully awake his companion didn’t look it, not with his hair exactly the same as when he woke up. Jo seems to notice this at the same time as Dean and she reaches up to try and tame Castiel’s wild locks. Something twists instead of Dean and he heads towards the door, since both Winchesters were supposed to have left already.

Dean doesn’t look back.

 

This time Sam doesn’t push anything, allowing his brother this rest, which Dean takes gratefully. They’re nearing the Carlton house when conversation is struck up, what with Dean stopping suddenly to frown and push his hands into his pockets. “What is it Dean?” Sam asks as he rounds to his brother’s shoulder to see the piece of parchment he pulls out.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Dean croaks, looking up from the picture Lucas had given him the day before. He holds up the childish drawing for Sam to see the similarities in their surroundings.

“Do you think he can… predict these things?” The youngest Winchester is an equal mess of intrigue and concern for the child as he looks towards his brother.
“I don’t know.” Dean answers truthfully, “But I think we should take a look around and then go talk to Lucas.”

 

The Winchesters both agree with that and head towards the Carlton's residence. The brothers knew the sheriff had already come by, since he had been the one to leave the report for the hunters. It made it easier for the them to either be there right after the murder or after the locals had left, there was no need for their help, this wasn't something that needed the manpower of the surrounding law enforcement.

Sam reached the front door first, knocking loudly only to receive no response. He knocks again. No answer. "You think he's home?" Sam voices after no sign of life from the other side of the door.

"Yeah." Dean answers as he steps forward and knocks on the door himself, his knocks just as loud as Sam's but a little more violent.

Sam rolls his eyes, "Because he'll answer to that."

Bill Carlton doesn't answer the door and Dean ignores the looks he gets from from Sam because of it and instead starts around the building. "Maybe he's outside." Dean comments to which Sam silently agrees and follows his brother.

They make it around the ramshackle building just in time to see Bill's slouched body on the dock before him. Dean can tell he’s muttering something but what it is exactly alludes him as he doesn’t have Castiel’s hearing. Both Winchester’s start walking with more purpose towards the old man, both equally concerned and they had a right to be, as Bill now stands and heads towards the end of the dock.

As the boys near they can hear the words that Bill now speaks, “I see what you want, you took my family from me and now you want me.”

“Bill!” Dean calls as Sam calls out a “Mr. Carlton!” Neither of their calls stop the older man however as he jumps off the end of the dock and starts to swim towards the middle of the lake with a force of a man who has nothing left to lose. The hunters make it to the end of the dock just in time to watch as Bill gets startled, and then dragged under.

"Shit." Dean growls as the water stills almost automatically, Bill Carlton already gone.

"Should we--?" Sam's sentence trails off, knowing the answer.

They stare over the water for a good couple of minutes before one of them speak up and it's Dean. "We gotta figure out what's going on."

 


 

The Winchesters don't have much to go on, except this is some sort of revenge thing and therefore had to be a spirit (which they knew from the very beginning. They had the picture from Lucas though, and that's the lead they follow.

 

They make it to the Barr house and enter when Andrea invites them in. "So..." She starts, turning towards the two men. "Not to sound rude but, what are you doing here?"

Dean and Sam don't have to plan this kinda interaction beforehand, they've been in this situation many times, maybe not with a kid that could possibly predict deaths, but still. "I was wondering if I could talk to Lucas." Dean starts, receiving an odd look from Andrea.

"He won't say anything." She comments, and Dean nods.

"I know, but I just want him to hear me out." The confusion that crosses Andrea's face is genuine and Dean pushes forward. "Where is he?"

"In his room upstairs. I'll show you."

Andrea leads both hunters upstairs, her house is older, the stairs creak and the walls seemed worn with time. Lucas' room is much the same, but it seems more... childlike with drawn pictures strewn across the floor and toys on every flat surface.

Lucas sits in the middle of his room, the coloring papers surrounding him as he draws another. "Hey Lucas." Dean greets, kneeling down to look at the boy. Lucas doesn't look up, but Dean doesn't mind, he gets it. "You remember that picture you gave me?" Dean reaches into the folds of his clothing, pulling out the piece of paper Lucas had given him before. He carefully unfolds the paper and holds it in Lucas' view. "Well, I need your help again." Dean pauses to look at the child's face, his eyes soft.

At this time Dean hears the muttered conversation that both Sam and Andrea out in the hall. "I just don't think this is necessary, my husband, the others... it was all accidents."

Sam doesn't falter in his response, but his voice is gentle and generally reminds Dean of a concerned therapist. "Do you really believe that Andrea?"

The woman doesn't respond and Dean turns all of his attention back onto the boy. There are two pictures around him that contain the red ball, one by the stonewall and another floating in the waters of what looks like the lake. "I know you saw something really scary." Dean starts, his voice softer, but still gruff in a fatherly way. "When I was a kid, I saw something really scary and when that happened I didn't feel like talking much either." Flashes of memories sear themselves into Dean's vision, the white lace curtains of his mother's bed rest room, the glass of water crashing on the ground. The endless nights of his mother screaming in pain, the bench in the gardens Dean spent the majority of his time staring into nothing for hours until his father found him. "But I knew I had to be strong for my mom. Because I know she wanted me to be brave. I think about that every day." Dean pushes the painful memories away and remembers his mother is alive and happy with his father. "You don't even have to say anything, just shake your head yes or no. Sound good?"

Lucas reacts for the first time, looking straight up at Dean before handing him the picture he was currently making. It's a little boy holding that damned red ball, this time however he's standing in front of a fenced house, a large willow tree placed in the front with a noticeably gnarled branch. The boy is frowning as he stares straight ahead out of the picture, and sure, it was a kid's drawing and not the Mona Lisa, but it seem felt slightly creepy.

Dean takes this lull in one way conversation to reach out to Cas, who is partially dealing with Dean at this point. "Cas, if you have the chance, could you look at the death records and see if a kid died a couple years ago?"

He didn't actually expect an answer, let alone the response he receives. "Jo and I are in the room right now, I will check." He's still a little too... formal still, but his annoyance at Dean had obviously ebbed slightly.

"Thanks Lucas, I'll see you around." Dean says as he stands up, slightly grunting when his young bones crack from past wounds. "If you need anything, I'm in town." Lucas, of course,gives no acknowledgment but Dean doesn't mind and heads back to Andrea and Sam.

"Thanks Andrea." Sam starts now that his elder brother has joined the adults.

"Yeah, and if anything happens. You tell us." Dean reinstates to the mother of the quiet boy. His tone isn't flirty anymore, this is serious now, Lucas reminded Dean too much of himself.

"...Alright. "

 

The two Winchesters leave the Barr residence after that and as they walk, Castiel comes up with the information Dean was looking for. Like before in Chion, it's not really words, but more of just knowing. "There are no deaths of children near the lake, but a boy named Peter Sweeney vanished many years ago and is assumed to have died."

Dean does respond with words, sort of, sending the feelings in such a way that Castiel understands. "That sounds like a lead, thanks Cas."

"It is no problem."

Walking next to his brother Dean suddenly stops and looks at the picture in his hands, making Sam look towards him worriedly. "What's wrong Dean?"

"I remember a kid named Peter Sweeney in the death records." He holds the picture towards his brother. "What if this is him?"

Sam makes a face in indifferent agreement, "Best lead we have."

"Alright, well let's go try to find this house." Dean pokes at the picture to put emphasis on his findings.

 

Now that that was decided they start to wander around the town, looking for the very house drawn in the picture. It takes them awhile despite the size of Manitoc, the houses were quite separated, more country than anything really rural, except for where the shops and municipal buildings were located. The house, distinguished by the sickly looking willow tree in the front yard, was closer to the swamps. Dean couldn't help but notice that you had to actually walk past the lake in suspect to even get to the house, which gave him even more reason to believe they were on the right track.

“That’s kinda spooky isn’t it?” Dean jokes as he holds the picture of the house up to the actual one, showing the uncanny resemblance. He doesn't let Sam really respond (not that Sam would to Dean's antics) and folds up the picture to stuff it within his clothing.

They walk to the front door together, and when Dean knocks twice the door opens, revealing a frail old woman. “Oh dear.” She sighs with her hand place on her lower back like she’s in pain. “Suppose you boys want to talk don’t you?” With their shocked faces towards her back the old woman turns back around, heading into the open parlor and sitting down. The Winchesters share a look but both enter, weapons sheathed. The grey haired woman had left the loveseat across from her open, so both boys fit themselves comfortably in the seat.

Sam speaks up now, too curious to not ask, “Ma’am how’d you know we’d want to talk to you?”

Maybe it was her age, maybe it was the large amount of wrinkles that cut her face with shadow but she seemed wise. Wise not in the fact that she knew how to hunt supernatural creatures, not wise in the way that she conversed with dragons, but wise in the fact she was aware of the true nature of the world.

“Well, before I answer that, I believe introductions are in order. You may call me Mrs. Sweeney.”

Being the older brother that he is, Dean answers her calls for names. “I’m Dean and this is Sam.”  

“Nice to meet you.” She positions herself better on her seat before returning to the previous topic. ”Now, no one visits me unless they’ve come to talk.” She answers simply, “And you are not from around here and for that, I can assume you’re here to talk about Peter.”

Dean’s head was swimming suddenly and he reaches out for Castiel; for the stability. Castiel, who normally moves all of his attention onto Dean when they are conversing and not together, doesn’t seem to pay much attention to Dean. There’s a sort of business, a concentration on something else. Probably hunting, Dean guesses and focuses on the old woman. “Peter?”

“My son,” She states, her eyes low with sadness, “He disappeared nearly three decades ago.”

“What happened to him?” Sam asked quietly, his face furrowed in concern.

“When he disappeared… it was during the fights that Lord Winchester was wagging,” Dean’s heart stopped for a second, “His disappearance was caught up in all the war drama, so no one really investigated it not that any of us had any idea of where to start.” As the woman explained more, the more she seemed to become upset, the memories drowning her. “Losing him...it's worse than dying.”

Dean looks towards Sam now, as both draw inspiration from her words. Sam turns back to Mrs. Sweeney first and with his puppy dog eyes going strong, asks the next question. “Did he disappear from the house?”

She shakes her frail head, “No, he was with the other village boys watching as King Samuel’s soldiers marched. He was supposed to come home before the sun was to set. But he- he never…” She stops to grab a lace handkerchief, dabbing at her eyes to compose herself.

“Who were the other boys?” Dean asks, his voice low but more business than pleasant now.

Mrs. Sweeney looks up, blinking and confused by his question, but she still answers anyway. “Well let’s see now, there was Bill Carlton… oh that dear boy with the blond hair… what was his name…?” She’s frowning now, her memory obviously faded over time. “I can’t remember his name, but there was a little blond boy.”

Dean would have loved to get the name of the boy but Bill Carlton's was good enough. Enough to prove that the ghost had to be Peter, just not who was on the list.

Sam's obviously about to push the issue of the older woman's memory when Dean feels a searing fear flash white hot across his connection with Castiel.

"Jo was taken." Castiel calls over the connection, horror and fear dripping from his voice. "I am going to find her." There was such a sureness in it Dean knew Jo would be brought back to them, but he didn't know about Castiel's own safety.

"Wait for us Cas." Dean stands up and Sam knows something is wrong. "Sorry Mrs. Sweeney, we have to leave, but we'll tell you if we discover anything about Peter okay?" Dean doesn't wait for a response and instead heads directly for the door, Sam following him and spewing out apologies.

"Sorry Mrs. Sweeney, have a good day."

 

They exit and Dean's already jogging slightly towards the inn, knowing that if he runs too fast he'll be unable to fight properly. "What's going on Cas?"

"What the hell is going on Dean?!" Sam asks, his moose legs carrying him faster than Dean's bowlegs can.

"Cas and Jo are in trouble." Dean breathes out. "What? Why? How do you know?"

"CAS." No response but he's still alive and connected. The connection isn't carrying emotions now, rather colors. Bright reds and electric blues and purples he can't place.

"I just know okay." Dean fires back at his brother, his feet gaining speed.

Sam's not having it and reaches forward, grabbing onto Dean's shoulder and making him stop in his tracks.

"Don't give me that bullshit Dean! I know you! There's something you're not telling me!"

Dean, being the mature man he is, yanks his arm away from his brother. "Sam. They're in danger and the more you made us wait the more of a chance they will die!" Dean's heading back on his path now and Sam finally just follows.

The entire time they're traveling Dean tries to contact Castiel with no real response except for the flow of colors, which seems to be more natural than actual communication.

They enter the rooms they share and notice it is empty. "Cas?!" Dean screams out loud, panic now clearly evident. "Where the fuck are you?!" Dean responds not only out loud but in his mind, pushing his own panic towards Castiel to show him that he needs to respond.

"There is a tunnel system under the building, used once by miners. I believe he took her down there."

"You're there? And Jo?" Dean's shoulders relax and he grabs the bags of rock salt located by his bed before turning around and heading out of the room.

"Yes to both. There was a man by the name of Holmes that lived in this town. He used to kidnap and kill women, and now in death he does the same. He was a miner and that is why I believe he is down there."

"We're coming Cas, don't do anything stupid." Castiel doesn't respond and Dean pushes on. "There's a tunnel somewhere, he's there."

Sam doesn't even bother asking Dean anymore but simply follows, and when they're outside of the building they find a uncovered manhole that was once covered by forlorn boards that now sat by its side. "Here." Dean states, grabbing onto the decrepit wooden ladder to go down. Sam waits until Dean hits bottom before following, so not to put too much stress upon the wood. It's dark down there and Dean curses himself for not bringing any source of light.

There is however what looks like a small fire towards the right and Dean heads right for it. "We're here Cas."

No response, but there is a scream, Jo's scream and Dean takes off now at his full fastness. Ellen would kill him. Dean would never forgive himself. "JO!"

"DEAN HE'S OUT THERE." Her voice responds, cracking from stress.

Dean skids to a halt in front of a large gate where the light shines through to reveal a circular room. There's a pair of eyes looking through a crack directly across the room from him and Dean knows they're Jo's but if she's alive...

"Where's Cas?" He asks as he shakes the gate, looking for a weak spot in the metal. No luck.

"He's chasing Holmes. They went off that way."

"Chasing him?" Sam repeats, looking for some sort of lever for the gate. "Like the ghost is afraid of Cas?"

Jo nods, her eyes disconnecting from Dean's as she does so. "...Yeah." Dean couldn't follow Castiel with the gate in his way and so he hits at it harder, possibly bruising his shoulder.

"Dean." Sam calls for his brother's attention and motions towards a hanging chain that had been severed from the lever at some time. Walking over Dean removes one of the cloth strips from around his leg, and slips it through one of the chain links so that they could get a proper hold onto it. The chain is rusted and probably made a lot of noise going down, but now it was even harder to pull up.

“Shit.” Dean grunts as he puts all his muscle behind moving the chain, once it’s close enough Sam joins and that makes the gate easier to pull up with their combined strength.

The moment the chain is low enough for them to hook it onto a metal hook on the wall they head in and both brothers rush towards Jo. She’s in some sort of furnace thing in the wall and it’s locked by a padlock. “Are you okay Jo?” Dean asks as Sam fiddles with the lock.

“Well, he knocked me out with chloroform so I’m a little dizzy right now, but otherwise I’m just dandy.” She counters, sounding a tad bit venomous. While the two bicker Sam grabs a hammer from the bag slung over his shoulder (Dean wasn’t the only one to grab supplies from the room before heading down there).

The sound of protesting metal comes from farther down the tunnel, where Castiel and Holmes had presumably gone. The connection was there still but Castiel was fading more and more, maybe it was the distance (doubtful) or maybe he was losing concentration on his link with Dean (possible) or maybe he was gravely injured and unable to stay conscious (Dean’s fear).

His emotions seemed to show on his face as Sam answers the unasked question. “Go get Cas, I can get her out of here.”

“How we gonna kill him? Are there remains?” Dean asks as he starts towards the tunnel, turning back to them to see if Jo knew anything. “We couldn’t find anything on his body or any personal objects!” Jo calls out, her voice echoing oddly because of her positioning in the wall.

“Fuck.” Dean growls, turning back towards the tunnel and running into the darkness, where Cas was.

 

It’s so dark down there Dean can’t run, the ground is reasonable flat, and the tunnel is about the size of two men high, but Dean knows about the random holes that appear in mines and he’s just not taking the chance. There had been a time in his endeavor that he dropped one of the bags of rock salt. Dean hadn’t been able to find the blasted thing so he soldiers on, figuring that the rock salt wasn't the only thing he had to stop the ghost. He walks slowly, his feet testing the ground as his brain screams towards the unresponsive Castiel. ”Please Cas, answer me.” Even the voice in his head sounds rugged with worry and jagged like rocks.

”Dean.” It’s like a breath of fresh air, his voice isn’t it’s normal stoic and sounds rather agitated (not towards Dean, Dean knows this, but it’s still Castiel’s voice all the same.

”How can I get to you?” Dean doesn’t want to sound desperate but he’s lost in the complete nothingness dark and he has no idea what is up or down and would just greatly appreciate seeing Castiel’s familiar face.

”Stay where you are, I will take care of Holmes and lead you out.”

Dean wasn’t taking that for an answer and keeps marching on, slowly but surely. Castiel seems to sense this and sighs over the connection but doesn’t respond. Instead as Dean steps slowly farther into the tunnels he sees a bright light along with another clatter of metal but this time it isn’t like it’s on hinges and sounds more like it just dropped. The light is what takes main importance however, because nothing, no candle, no burning castle, no bonfire could ever be that bright. It’s not even red or orange like natural fires give off, it’s white, like clouds on a sunny day.

Luckily it’s not directly facing him and so it lights up the surrounding area while not blinding him completely. It’s still a shock, but Dean acts so he can use the lighting to his advantage and starts off running. Now that he knows there’s really is nothing in his way he makes a beeline for where the light and sound came from.

There’s a large turn in the tunnel (something Dean only knew because of the lighting before) and he makes the proper right to continue down the path. Now he keeps a hand to the wall, gently running his fingers across it to make sure nothing gets in his way. This time it isn’t as much of a black pit as before, there seems to be some form of illumination coming from where the bright light had just shined. It wasn’t the same sinless white as before, but rather that natural orange one would expect with fire. It doesn’t really help Dean see persay, but it leads the way to Castiel, just as the original light had helped him.

The nearer he gets the more things come to light, literally. The metal dropping from before was from another gate that had been disconnected. Unlike how Dean and Sam took care of the last one however, this one had the center of it’s bars burned out, giving enough room for a man to comfortably walk through. Dean steps through the melted bars and watches his footing carefully, making sure not to step on the fallen bars that had made the previous clattering sound.

Looking up now it’s just like the room that Jo was kept in, circular, but this time none of the tunnel entrances were open. Some of them were do to cave ins but Dean couldn’t help but notice that a couple of them were just never finished, just left with the bare imprints of workers.

It also came to Dean’s attention that the room was actually lit. The torches that were left on the walls all burned bright, like someone had doused them in fire to get them lit. Now that he’s in the room and can see everything perfectly he sees something he expected to see. Castiel, his shirt dirty and his hair ruffled with some blood crusting his forehead stands tall with the figure of what Dean can only assume is Holmes in front of him.

The ghost is creepy looking, like most ghosts, except this guy is haggered in all the wrong ways, his face blotchy red with his eyes slightly yellowed from liver failure (if ghosts had livers). His hair is greasy with wiry greys filling the long locks and crazy beard. He’s look more frightening, Dean imagined, if he wasn’t cowering like a beaten beggar.

“Cas…” Dean starts, but is silenced by Castiel raising a hand towards him.

“Not now Dean. Close your eyes.”

“What?”

“Close. Your. Eyes.” Castiel’s voice is so demanding, intimidating even, that Dean almost does as he’s told right away. He squints first, curious as to what Castiel is exactly about to do and, just like curiosity killed the cat, Dean finds out. Castiel, who hadn’t taken his eyes off of the ghost raises the same hand towards the ghost, receiving a wail in distress because of it. The next thing Dean hears is Castiel muttering something and his palm glows bright, the same bright as Dean had seen before.

Now Dean really does close his eyes, knowing that this kind of voltage would possibly blind him. He hears the screams of the ghost, shrill and pained and then nothing, the light from behind his eyelids dissipating.

Once he's sure the light is gone he opens his eyes once more, revealing Cas in the same place while a pile of ash lays where the ghost was cowering.

"How-?"

Castiel turns to Dean now, his face grimy from the tunnels and the blood caked on his face. "Magic."

It'd be a joke if anyone else said it, hell if Cas used a joking tone it'd be okay. But he was completely serious about this.

"You... can use magic?" Dean's pretty slack jawed right now and Castiel can tell this was maybe something he should have mentioned before hand.

"Yes, but only basic stuff."

"That did not look basic." Dean doesn't believe for a second that white light was basic, he had never seen it before. Magic wasn't an unheard of thing, in the lands of demons and dragons you need a little magic, but it was still uncommon.

"Complicated basic things." Castiel says in way of smoothing over the conversation. Dean rolls his eyes, and he was he vague one, alright. "Come on, we should go find Jo and Sam." Castiel gestures his head towards the door, but not before grabbing one of torches so they could see the way.

 

There’s a silence between them, Dean wanting to know everything about what just happened and Cas wishing obviously not to share it.

“So… you’re a witch?” Dean asks, the walk would take awhile despite the lighted way.

“Wizard would be the proper term for male.” Castiel sighs, “But no, I do not identify with the witch or wizard. My power do not come from nature and the forces around me; It comes from me.”

Castiel might be more powerful than Dean thought. "What else can you do?" Castiel doesn't say anything and the silence is enough to really get Dean going. "Wait, so let me get this straight, just in case I'm confused." Dean's voice is full of sarcasm. "You can heal almost automatically. You can use magic." Dean is now counting these things on his fingers, just to add to his case. "You're stronger than normal people and you can just kill a ghost with a blinding light?"

"Yes." Castiel states, giving Dean no more or less.

"Fuck Cas what else are you not gonna tell me? I can't keep lying to my brother if I don't even know for myself."

Castiel stops and turns, nearly colliding with Dean in the process. He obviously doesn't find this funny. "I have been hesitant to tell you everything because you seemed to react negatively to truly connecting. What is the purpose to reveal myself to you if you will simply 'drop me'?" Cas uses those freaking air quotes again and it'd be funnier if he didn't look so freaking pissed.

"So you hide things from me in hopes that I'll trust you more? Tell me Cas does that actually make sense?" Dean thought it was a pretty good argument.

"Have I given you a reason yet to distrust me? Yes, I have not told you the full extent of my powers, but I have followed your rules. I have defeated the ghost that has threatened Jo's life with swiftness. Have I really done something so distrusting that you assume my joining you is malicious?" There's still is that anger from before, but disappointment shows through stronger and that's what kills Dean.

"So, because I won't see through your eyes or whatever you can't trust me yet?" This was a horrible circle of pointing fingers.

"No. It is because you view this," He motions towards Dean and then himself, "As a strategic move. This is not a friendship to you, and I fear that as soon as I am unuseful you will wish me gone." That got too real too quickly and kind of hit Dean sideways.

"You think that?" Dean's voice is softer, more injured than anything else. It makes Castiel pause in his words, as if he's suddenly unsure.

"Yes?"

Dean's shoulders drop and he sighs, "Dude, I came looking for you didn't I?"

"Yes but-"

Dean's shaking his head, "No ‘but’s, yeah sure we wanted to make sure Jo was okay and Sam's taking care of her now, but I came looking for you the moment I knew I could. This isn't just a like, military move or anything, Cas. You're my friend."

This seemed to break new ground for them, like Castiel couldn't have believed it until it escaped Dean's mouth. It wasn't enough for him to actually be relieved as that seemed it would take some time still, but Dean knows he got somewhere with his comment. He hates chick flick moments, but this, this was worth it because something could finally be fixed and with no real heavy lifting.

 

They eventually make it back to Jo and Sam, who, while they were waiting for Dean and Castiel to show up, had freed Katherine. She was pretty panicky still, but seemed to be more comfortable the closer she was to Sam. Dean notes this as soon as they see the three, their own light giving off a signal.

“There you are!” Jo proclaimed the moment the two entered the light, her hands flying above her head to exaggerate her statement. “What happened?”

This was a big decision time now, he could lie completely to everyone or just wait until later. “Basically Cas and I trapped the fucker back there with rock salt.”

Castiel stands up a little straighter, which is a dead give away to Dean but not to anyone else, so they’re lucky in that respect. He doesn’t comment on the situation however, and presses the conversation onward. “Shouldn’t we get out of the tunnels, show these women some sky?”

It was an openly caring statement and made Dean realize that, yeah, they should. “Good idea, Cas.”

The entire group does not bring up Holmes, not even when they do reach the surface. Instead Sam and Dean both move the boards back over the hole. “How are we gonna stop people from going in?” Sam questions and Dean honestly has no idea, but apparently Cas does.

“I can do it.” He doesn’t give any explanation and instead turns towards Jo, who was standing there looking rather uncomfortable. “Does your arm hurt?” He asks, diverting the attention of everyone towards their previously kidnapped companions. Sam turns to Katherine, giving her a look to ask her the same.

While both Sam and Castiel put on their medic hats (from what Dean sees, Castiel wears it better) Dean works on standing there and figuring out how exactly to tell Jo and Sam what happened. ”Are you really going to seal the tunnel?” Dean asks Castiel before he can help himself.

Castiel doesn’t even look bothered by Dean’s random burst and continues to chat with Jo as he wraps up her arm. “I believe a bath would be your next course of action but please do not put this in the water. ”Only if you feel it necessary.” He states simply, acting as neutral as he can.

”I’ll tell them.” Dean decides, receiving an appreciative feeling from Castiel. Now that was decided, he just had to figure out how to explain Castiel killing a ghost with a bright beam of light.

 

Once Katerine was checked over she separates from the boys to collect her stuff and get the hell out of dodge. The rest of the troop make their way back to the rooms they share. Jo’s already grabbing her fresh clothing and bag of bath soaps when Dean closes the door connecting them to the civilian world. Dean clears his throat now, ready to make the speech he has prepared, except he had no idea how to really start it.

Sam saves him the trouble, “Dean if this is gonna be another excuse I don’t want to hear it.” He assumed partly right, but Dean wasn’t going to make excuses this time.

"I was gonna tell you the ghost is actually gone but if you want an excuse I can do that too."

Sam's head whips towards Dean now, eyes wide with surprise. "What do you mean gone?" Jo turns too, her eyes darting back and forth between Dean and Castiel.

Dean shrugs, playing it off like no big deal, "Yeah, Cas made it combust with magic so we only gotta focus on Peter Sweeney now."

"With magic?" Sam parrots, seeming a little shell shocked.

"Yep."

Jo blessedly speaks up now, removing some of the awkward from the situation. "Well, that's fucking sweet."

It smooths over the conversation rather nicely, and Dean realizes that maybe he should react a little bit more like Jo has. She doesn't seem concerned with this new knowledge, like it's just some extra piece of information about Castiel instead of some hidden fact. Now that was out in the open and Dean was done explaining himself, Jo heads towards the door to the bathing room to drop off her supplies before reentering the room. "I'm going to get some water for a bath, do you guys need me to join you for your case?"

Dean's already shaking his head, "Nah, you rest, you really got the short end of the stick today."

"Thanks for noticing." She sasses back, exiting the room in search of warm water. Now that the topic of Peter Sweeney has been brought the remaining boys start to talk about their next step.

"So we know that Bill probably had something to do with Peter's death but Mrs. Sweeney said something about a blond haired boy, should we start there?"

Dean shrugs, plopping himself on Castiel's bed so he can relax and throw ideas back at Sam. Castiel joins Dean on the bed, sitting reasonably close. Close enough for Dean to feel the heat of his skin.

"Cas. Personal space." Dean comments, giving Cas a pointed look.

The dark haired man moves slightly away, muttering out a "Sorry."

Dean doesn't respond to that out loud but instead pushes the feeling of 'mistakes happen' across their connection before answering his brother's question. "Well, since everyone from that generation has grey hair now, it'll be a little difficult to tell who it exactly was." Dean rubs the stubble attached to his jaw, the rough feeling giving some relief to his mental agitation.

"Maybe the sheriff would know something about this Peter? Has he made any mention of moving to this town?" Castiel suggests, looking back and forth between the two Winchesters.

Sometimes lawmen move to a new town once they have their training, but it's rare since they usually just understudy the current sheriff of their town until they're ready to pass on the torch.

Sam's nodding in agreement, impressed by Castiel's suggestion. "Yeah probably, it's a good place to go." Both he and Dean now stand, grabbing some simple weapons.

"Let's hit the road than." Dean grunts, nodding his head towards the door. "You coming Cas?"

Cas, who hadn't moved from the bed like the boys had, looks up towards the eldest Winchester, his eyes questioning quietly.

Dean gives a curt nod and the other man rises fluidly, walking towards them and the door.

 

They leave the inn, passing by Jo who's got two employees walking behind her with steaming buckets.

"Don't burn yourself!" Dean shoots at her when they start to separate from each other and Jo laughs coolly.

"Speak for yourself!" Jo counters, making little sense to Dean at this time. He throws the remark from his mind, thinking it's just some horrible comeback.

Sheriff Jake Devins is actually still at the office, despite the fact that the sun should be setting soon. He looks up in time to see the three men enter, looking a little confused now at the fact they had added yet another man to their troop.

"How many Hunters are in this town?" He comments in some manner of making a joke, except he sounds slightly annoyed at the fact.

Dean shrugs and takes the vague threat route, "As many as there needs to be."

Sheriff Devins' eyebrows rise, crinkling his forehead. "Well, what can I help you boys with?" The Winchester brothers don't need to communicate through their brains to know who's going to play good cop and who will play bad cop, they have a system.

"Where you around when Peter Sweeney went missing?"

It takes Jake a moment to collect himself and Castiel's body straightens next to Dean. "He knows something."

Dean frowns, his eyes darting sideways towards Castiel before looking back at Jake Devins. "How you know?"

"I just do." Castiel responds, his eyes locked onto the sheriff. The Sheriff himself seems to be avoiding Castiel's gaze as hard as he can, something both Winchesters pick up.

"I was just a boy when that happened." Jake frowns, a little faked, "Why does that matter?"

Dean picks up on the attack, his words more aggressive than Sam's gentle curiousity. "You might not know this, but as a Hunter sometimes we need to look way back, uncover some dirty work done decades ago, sometimes centuries." The sheriff gets paler and more defensive, just like Dean knew he would.

"Are you accusing me of something?"

And now for the switch, where Dean's aggression would be put to the wayside for Sam to come in with emotion.

"Of course not Sheriff, but we would like to know who ran with Bill Carlton in his childhood."

"You think Bill killed Peter?" No one says anything and Jake seems to be infuriated by the assumption. "Bill was a good man! How dare you come into my town and insult our dead!"

"Bill wasn't dead when we got here." Dean shoots back, making Jake’s grizzled head whip towards him.

"What are you implying?"

Sam.

"Nothing sir." Sam's playing his part flawlessly, his puppy dog face in full gear. "Just that, if anyone was involved with the death of Peter Sweeney it seems their family is killed off before they are."

Dean steps up to the plate now, adding in the rather accurate threat. "And it doesn't seem like Peter's stopping, not until all those at fault are dead."

The sheriff isn't having it, not anymore and he slams his fist on the table, "That's it! I want you boys out of this town now!"

Oh did Dean love this part, "Sorry sir, but you can't kick us out. We're on a job. You out of all people should know the rules."

"Then get out of my office!" Jake roars, which is in his legal right since the haunt isn't taking place there.

"We're leaving." Dean states, looking directly into the eyes of the sheriff. "But we ain't leaving this town till this is stopped. Innocent people are dying. Come on Sammy." Dean nods and they head towards the door. Luckily, as Dean imagined, Castiel moves at the same exact time as Dean, their shoulders nearly touching as they leave. Exiting the three now are free to converse the actual case and where they intend to go now.

Dean sighs heavily, it was fun to play good and bad guy but they still upset the law so that'd make life a little more difficult. "Maybe Lucas has the next place Peter's gonna hit, we should check up with him." It's as good as they're gonna get for getting information, since the sheriff was now at odds with them.

They all seem to think it’s a good idea and Dean starts walking towards the general direction of the house. “Smooth move by the way.” Sam comments as they start to make their way.

“What do you mean?” Dean plays coy, but he’s pretty sure Sam’s talking about the Sheriff; Dean was right.

“You could have done without being so… assertive. Maybe he wouldn’t hate us as much.”

Dean shrugs and tries to come up with a good, sassy, comeback but he’s silent just a little too long for Castiel, who comes to Dean’s defense surprisingly. “I think it actually helped prove the Sheriff’s guilt. Didn’t his son in law die out on the lake just when this started?”

Dean didn’t think of that and it suddenly made sense. “Andrea is Jake’s daughter… if he’s cursed-”

“She’ll be next.” Sam finishes, looking over at his brother with a horrified look. They don’t share any more words and instead all take off running towards the house. This was in a way, more serious than Jo, because at least Jo knew how to defend herself against supernatural creatures. But these were civilians, and there was a child involved and that made Dean run even faster.

 

By this time the sky is settling into the darkness of night the boys reached the house. It’s that time of day when it’s harder to see things but you can still see them without a torch. They make it to the Barr residence within ten minutes and when they get there they are sadly not disappointed.

Lucas has just burst out of the house, breathing heavily as he runs straight for Dean. Dean picks up speed he didn’t know he had to get closer to the kid. “Lucas wasn’t wrong?” The kid is essentially hyperventilating at this point but motions uselessly at the house before running back in, Dean on his tail. Sam and Castiel follow Dean and Lucas in and they all make it to the second floor, where Lucas starts to bang on a closed door.

Dean grabs Lucas by the shoulders and directs him out of the way. “Hold on kiddo.” Lucas listens and waits as Dean bashes his shoulder into the door. Doors were thick beasts and Dean kinda hates them but he eventually gets the thing open and rushes in with Sam and Castiel hot on his heals.

Andrea, who had apparently gotten into the bath was under the water, struggling with some unknown force. Both Castiel and Sam, whose balance wasn’t ruined by bashing into the door both go straight for her and with their combined strength, get her out. Castiel however is the one to shield her body from any indecency.

Dean’s breathing heavy and both his partners are drenched in water from the splashing but they can take a break now, the girl was safe and her son was right out in the hallway.

Castiel, who is now gently patting on Andrea’s back has her bent forward enough for the water in her system to leave and she breathes in shakily.  “Wh-what happened?”

No one responds, but that's because Lucas is watching and Dean personally doesn't want to scare the kid.

Castiel, who Andrea has taken a real liking to, gives her a towel and helps her up once she is covered. “We will explain once everyone has settled down.”

She seems to understand and nods, “I'd like to get dressed than.”

She leaves the room and now Dean's attention is turned onto Lucas, who's standing in the hall, wide eyed and pretty freaked out.

“Hey Lucas.” Dean greets, nearing the boy slowly so not to scare him. “Your mom is fine and we're here now. We're not gonna let anything happen alright?”

Lucas nods once and in a surprising display, latches onto Dean, his arms circling around Dean's lower torso. Dean doesn't hesitate to reciprocate the hug and gets down on his knee to hug the kid.

At least they knew who was next on the list of people Peter Sweeney intended to kill.

 

When Andrea was dressed and Lucas had finally unlatched himself from Dean the adults congregate in the kitchen. Lucas had gone into his room by this time so everyone was free to speak about exactly what was going on. Some time during the whole ordeal Castiel had introduced himself to Andrea and she seemed to stick around him, like he naturally gave off a protective force, which Dean guessed, he did.

“So you're saying that there's a ghost that's killing the families of the people who have wronged him?” She asks, shock peppering her voice as she pours hot water into a couple of mugs for tea.

All three men nod but Sam is the one to speak up. “He went after Bill Carlton's kids before Bill himself and now he went after you…”

Andrea drops the spoon she had in her hand to look up at both Winchesters. “Are you saying my dad killed someone...when he was a kid?” There was obvious doubt in her voice, “My father is a good man.”

Dean gets it, people make mistakes, no one's dad is perfect, he knows first hand but when mistakes are swept under the rug and innocent people die… he can't stand for that. “We believe Peter is inflicting the same amount of pain that his mom had to go through.”

Andrea makes a face but says nothing more on the topic of her father's innocence. Instead she turns to the topic of the ghost itself. “How do you even kill a ghost?”

Ah civilians, they were so naive. “Normally you just torch the bones, but sometimes it's an object.” Sam answers, happily informing anyone he can about how to protect themselves.

“But we don't know what is keeping Peter here, since his body was never discovered we need to know where it was left. Because there has to be a body.”

Castiel's head twitches slightly, as if he was trying to hear something better. Dean picks up on it and watches as Castiel leaves the room to look out in the hallway.

”What is it?” Dean asks his dark haired companion, his eyes on the entrance of the room where Castiel had disappeared.

”The door opened. I believe it was Lucas.”

Dean's not going to even chance this and follows Castiel out in the hallway, both walk towards the door and look out from the glass surrounding the frame. Sure enough, there's Lucas, walking right towards the swampy part of the lake.

Dean opens the door but doesn't advance, not yet. “Lucas!” He calls, attracting both Andrea and Sam. The two of them enter the hall and the moment Andrea sees Lucas continuing on his walk she calls out herself.

“Lucas!” He doesn't turn around and she doesn't hesitate, running straight for him, shoeless. The hunters follow suite (except they do have shoes on) and start after the boy, Cas hot on their heals.

Lucas isn't running himself but he apparently gets to where he wants to before anyone reaches him. He's by the side of the lake and reaches over for a red colored ball that bobs in the gentle water waves. He struggles a bit since the incline is intense but he finally makes a grab for it and it moves out of his grasp, sliding across the water into the lake farther.

“Lucas wait!” Sam calls, but it's too late, the boy falls in.

It seems fine for a second, it really does, but as soon as Lucas grabs the evasive ball he gets pulled under.

“Lucas!” Dean, Castiel and Andrea screamed in near unison. The situation itself had to get worse, of course it did, because no sooner has the water splashed around Lucas’ form than Sheriff Jake Devins appears, looking mad as hell that the three men are there.

Dean doesn't give a shit at this point and jumps into the water, swimming directly for where Lucas had gone under. Sam in the meantime turns to the Sheriff while Castiel restrains Andrea from running into the lake after her son.

“Andrea you will only make it harder. The ghost is going after you and your son, he will definitely get one of you if you both go in.” it stops Andrea but the Sheriff is looking pretty terrified now.

“What's going on?!” He yells as Sam creates a barrier between him and the water. Sam is no longer playing games and he has his serious face on.

“Because of your involvement in Peter's death he's hunting your family!”

Jake watches Dean come up empty handed from his search and pushes Sam back. “We didn't mean to do it!” He exclaims as he stops by the water's edge. “It was an accident Peter!” Dean's stuck in the water right now and determined to find Lucas, so he dives under once again. It's in this exact second that Jake steps into the water, swimming directly for the center of the lake. It was impossible for Dean himself to hear what was said as he was underwater at the time, but Castiel's hearing enables Dean to hear Jake’s words like he was standing with Castiel. “Take me but leave Lucas! He doesn't deserve this! Pleas-” Jake’s voice is cut off and Castiel's consciousness relays that Sheriff Jake Devins has been taken underwater. The very second Jake is taken under Dean sees Lucas’ arm from out in the muck. He grabs onto the arm and guides his small frame to his so he doesn't get injured in transit. Pushing them both to the surface took a lot of strength from Dean, he didn't think he'd get to the top fast enough. Lucas was under for at least a minute. Dean suddenly feels a surge of power, not from his body or his mind but from Castiel. Like he somehow infused Dean with his own abilities. Dean has never been so grateful in his life as he breaches the surface of the lake. He automatically starts to kick towards the beach and to his surprise, Castiel is jumping into the water now, swimming out to meet Dean.

They wordlessly exchange the boy so Dean has less to carry. Castiel, who does seem to be hopped on some supernatural power, makes it to the shore with Lucas like it was a walk in the park. Dean was trudging behind Cas now, he wasn't going to stress his body out anymore, he didn't need to. Lucas was now on dry land and it wasn't like Peter was going to attack Dean, not that Peter was even around now with the death of Jake Devins.

Castiel is now focusing on getting the water out of Lucas’ body and breathing again. “Someone help Dean.” Castiel orders even though he knows Dean can make it. It's a classic case of distraction as both Andrea turn to look. Dean is still staring straight towards Castiel and sees a glow coming from his hand. The very moment the glow comes, it fades away and Lucas coughs out the water, his breath heavy. Andrea and Sam of course turn back to the boy but completely miss the little miracle Castiel just performed.

Dean didn't though and he's also thankful that Castiel knew it would turn everyone's attention away from Dean getting unceremoniously out of the lake. The green eyed hunter staggers onto the shore just as Andrea wraps her arms around Lucas and just breaks down.

”It must be hard.” Castiel states, watching the two interact. Sending a confused response Castiel continues to explain for Dean. ”She almost lost her life, then her son’s life and now she truly has lost her father. But her father is also the reason her husband is dead. There must be a lot of mixed emotions.”

Dean didn't think of it that way and he has to agree, nodding slightly so Castiel can see his outwardly agreement.

 

The troop of five take the short hike back to Andrea's house and the everyone stays until they know everything is fine. Part of the Hunter way was to do a psych test of the victims just to make sure they’re okay. Andrea’s shaken up but she’s mentally fine, just gonna have an altered memory of her father. Lucas, still didn’t say a word, but he seemed much more attentive now, eyes flicking to each speaker. He does, much like his mother, seem to like Castiel because he does pay attention to him and Dean a little more than Sam. But hey, Dean pulled him out of the water and Cas brought him back to life.

While Lucas doesn’t say anything now, Dean has faith that within the next day or so he will. Since all the hunters were dog tired they probably wouldn’t leave until tomorrow morning or even afternoon. Dean could quickly check on the boy before they left.

With that thought Dean stands, fixing his shirt while his brother and Castiel take the cue and rise as well. “We best be off. We’ll be leaving around late morn.” Dean mentions, making Sam nod as he totally agrees without words that sleeping in sounded nice.

It’s at this time that Lucas makes a move and rushes towards Dean, his arms encircling the unsuspecting hunter... “Thank you.”

It's so quiet and gentle that Dean thinks he made it up for a second, but Castiel gives off the vibe that, indeed Lucas just said something. Guess he got his voice chords back, that was good. “No problem Lucas, you made your dad proud.”

 

The moon, which they could blissfully see (Dean had missed it while in Manning) was a good distance up in the sky when the boys finally reached the inn. “Think Jo’s out of her bath yet?” Dean teases while they climb the stairs to the room.

“The water has to be freezing.” Sam replies, smirking.

“Guess we’re gonna find out.” Dean says as they reach the doors, Dean picks his door of course instead of the one that Sammy is renting, and opens the thick wooden door. Jo’s actually already in bed and makes an obvious yawn at their entrance.
“Finally, I was wondering if I needed to save all three of your asses.” She puts emphasis on the fact there was three of them, basically hinting it would be ridiculous of all three of them to be in trouble.

“Yeeah,” Dean heads towards his bag and grabs some blessedly dry clothing. “That’s why you’re in bed.”

Jo shrugs, watching as all of the men now separate to do their own thing. Dean’s changing from his semi-drenched clothing as Sam and Castiel both head towards the room they share, undoubtedly getting changed from their own dirty clothing. “I see you two enjoyed your own baths today.” She comments sarcastically, noting that both Dean and Castiel look like previously drowned rats.

“Yeah well, I had to jump into a lake to save a kid.” Dean responds from behind the wall he had moved so not to show Jo or anyone else his bare ass.

“And I had to save Dean.” Castiel comments and by the stars he actually sounded like he was joking.

“No you didn’t!” Dean bites back, rather indignantly. No one says anything for a second and then, as if on cue, both Sam and Jo break out into laughter.

”I know.” Castiel comments simply over their connection and Dean nearly chokes. Asshole.

The group banters a little more as they all settle into their sleepwear and comfort.
“Guys can you be a little more quiet I’m trying to sleep here!” Jo throws at them once. Sam makes a comment towards how Dean should really get his beauty sleep, which Dean claims is just Sam projecting his own wishes. They do settle down eventually and fall into the quiet of restfulness.

Jo is the first one out, she was the most comfortable, but it takes Dean a minute; his brain going a mile a minute about the day’s events.

They would have to send a messenger or a bird to the capital telling them they need to instate a new sheriff. They would also have to get to Whitefish soon, if Rufus was having problems they shouldn't dawdle for too long, though they did save two lives today.

He’s actually entering the comfortable space between wakefulness and sleep when he hears the voices.

“Sam, are you sleeping?” It’s Castiel’s voice, he hasn’t bothered closing the connection but instead just holds this conversation away from Dean, so Dean has to depend on his own person to get the information.

“Not yet, what’s up Cas?” Sam’s voice is sleepy and if Dean didn’t know the guy inside and out, he wouldn’t have been able to make out the words.

Castiel’s voice gets quiet and Dean bets Castiel could just ask whatever he was about to in Sam’s head, but he can’t. Oh the irony. Dean actually doesn’t hear Castiel’s question but whatever it was makes Sam’s response sound surprised. He can hear some of the words in Sam’s response but he doesn’t exactly make sense, “....there are times I think he’s….” inaudible, “...I wonder sometimes if it’s just an…”.

Dean really wants to know what his brother and brain buddy are discussing but at the same time he doesn’t. It’s obviously about Dean, he can feel it, but maybe it wasn’t the best to get involved. Cas had a right to have private conversations with the others, especially if Dean wanted the same.

Castiel says a short response and the both of them fall into silence. Dean thinks it’s the end of the conversation and lets himself be pulled into sleep.

 


 

“Does Dean usually flirt with the women in the area of cases?” Castiel asks, his voice softer, he knows Dean’s awake, he also knows that Sam is pretty attentive right now, probably being kept up by the day’s events.

Sam responds how Castiel expects, shocked. He can feel it in Samuel’s aura, even without the other knowing. Sam sighs and does the exact opposite of what Castiel believed would occur. “Most of the time if they’re unattached and not actually involved in the case. There are times I think it’s his favorite part of being a Hunter but I wonder sometimes if it’s just an act of freedom. We were never able to act this way back home.” The information reaches Castiel but he doesn’t let himself react and instead whispers out a simple ‘ah’. Sam doesn’t respond, his own mind probably going back to his previous thought.

There’s a long break in which Dean falls asleep and Castiel and Sam are truly now alone.

Castiel wants to ask Sam everything, he wants to know everything about how this well oiled machine called The Winchesters worked. Castiel is ever so slightly afraid of asking Dean, for fear that Dean might take it wrongly.

Sam however, is the one to actually speak up after the several minutes of silence. “When we were with Andrea, Dean wasn’t flirting with her. He dropped that as soon as she actually became involved in the case. So how did you know about that?”

Castiel actually had a convenient truth for this but it made him a little sick that it wasn’t the exact time Castiel had found out. He knew the moment Dean took that flirting tone with Andrea, he could feel the interest rise in Dean, even if Dean didn’t know he let it show. It turned Castiel’s stomach and he just didn’t want to think about it.

Andrea had actually brought up Dean’s flirting to Castiel when they were alone. She basically had asked the same thing as Castiel, ‘Is Dean one of those ‘flirt with anything that walks’ kinda people?’.

It dug at Castiel’s insides despite his best attempt to ignore it but he covered for Dean, feeling sickly. ‘Not to my knowledge, no.’ Andrea had then went on to explain Dean’s horrible fail at flirting.

Castiel now speaks up to Sam, “Andrea told me in passing.”

“Oh.” Sam responds, finding that completely plausible, since Andrea seemed to hang around Castiel more than Dean or Sam himself. “Does that… bother you?” Sam asks, unable to hold back the question. Castiel doesn’t respond and it makes Sam shift in his bed to look over at Castiel. “Why?”

Castiel sighs, “I have never really understood the intense need to bed people, I feel as though it should be more of a bond than physical. I simply do not wish for him to get hurt.”

Sam laughs as quietly as he can, shaking his head and letting his shoulders drop, “Like I said Cas, we never got this back home. I think he’s just living the life before he has to take the throne.”

Castiel forgot about that, he completely forgot that Dean was some sort of heir to the Winchester throne. “And he will have to marry a woman of the courts choosing?”

Sam shrugs, “I’m pretty sure Dean’s not going to let anyone tell him who he can and can’t marry. Back in the day maybe, but now? Not at all.” Castiel nods at this and Sam can see it in the light from the moon outside.

“What about yourself Sam?” Castiel was curious, yes he and Dean did have a profound bond, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be curious about Sam’s life wishes.

Sam shrugs, “I have less restrictions than him I guess, but my dad would still prefer if I married into a well to do family.”

He doesn’t seem too happy about that and Castiel points out this fact. “But you would like to have all options open?”

Sam is the one to nod now, a small smile crossing his face. He drops back onto his pillow now, signalling it was time for sleep and Castiel can’t help but agree. “Goodnight Sam.” He calls quietly.

“Night Cas.”

 


 

When Dean wakes up both Jo and Castiel are already up and out of the room. He doesn't bother looking for them and instead changes into his traveling gear. Once that's done he collects all his discarded personal objects and shoves them into his bag, all except his weapons, which he places on his body for the journey.

Just as soon as he has nothing left to do the door opens and Jo walks in carrying a couple of bags a grin on her face. “Brought breakfast!” She calls, Castiel trailing behind her, carrying another bag of what Dean presumed was more food.

Dean hears Sam stur now so Dean doesn't feel bad for getting first picking. “What’d you get?”

They all eat without much hassle, though it's pretty funny that Sam is the only one eating in his pajamas. Once they finish devouring the food everyone save Sam heads to the stables to dress the horses.

“So what's the plan Dean?” Jo asks, strapping Reo up in his saddle.

Dean, who is doing the exact same thing as Jo, shrugs. “I want to stop at the Barr’s house but after that I figured we should start to get serious about getting to Whitefish.”

“Ight.” Jo says in passing, focusing more on getting Reo ready than continuing the conversation. Instead of standing around and feeling useless Castiel has started to dress Stanford. Funny how Cas said horses didn't like him but Stanford seemed completely comfortable with this ritual and Castiel performing it. Dean doesn't comment on it but Castiel looks up all the same, especially since Dean hasn't bothered hiding the thought from Castiel.

He doesn't comment but gives Dean a rather exasperated expression, which makes Dean chuckle because it was kinda adorable...in a completely heterosexual, you're my friend sort of way of course.

Sam shows up once all the horses are basically packed up and ready to go. He had done last looks of the room but came baring only his bags.

Everyone hops onto their respective horses at this time, since the gang is all here and ready to leave.

Sam seems to know that Dean wants to make the pit stop at the Barr’s house because he shows no surprise when Impala and Reo are steered in that direction.

They're on their way towards the residence when they actually run into Andrea and Lucas, both carrying bags. They slow the horses to a stop and Dean jumps off of Impala to converse with the Barrs better.

“We ah, packed you guys lunch. We didn't know there was another hunter but there should still be enough for all four of you.” Andrea greets, smiling sheepishly towards Dean.

Jo makes a sound to show she doesn't care and shrugs easily, “It's no big deal.” Dean knows that he has to share with Jo, she'd never live it down otherwise, especially when they get back to the Roadhouse.

“Thanks, it's still awesome.” Dean wasn't lying, any food was good food.

Andrea hands over the bags to Dean now, and he hands them to Castiel, who in turn, hands them to Sam for him to place on Standford’s back. Dean looks back towards the woman and smiles, she was pretty but he could see the stress he placed on her shoulders because of her father’s death. The Sheriff was being a dick but him dying shouldn’t have been the answer. Dean’s eyes travel down to Lucas, who looks like he’s gotten more color over the past day.

The eldest Winchester lowers himself slightly so that he is eye level with Lucas, a smile gracing his own features. “How you doing kid?”

Lucas grins towards Dean, “Mom made cookies today!”

Dean smiles at that and gives a quick look towards Andrea, only to look back at Lucas. “Sounds awesome Lucas, don’t eat too many of them at once.” He smiles once again, receiving one in return, before he rises and looks towards Andrea.

“I actually ah…” She speaks up, pulling Dean’s full attention towards her. She leans in now, placing her lips against Dean’s softly. “Thank you.” He’s not sure how to react, yeah he thought Andrea was pretty and sweet but he had something to do with her father’s death. Plus, he just didn’t feel into it. Not that he shows that to anyone, Andrea included.

They separate and Dean gives her a warm smile, or what could be viewed as warm to the outside world. “We best be going, gotta save people and all that.” Dean says as he steps back towards Impala and Castiel. Castiel, who now that Dean remembers him, isn’t giving anything over their brain waves, Dean didn’t even notice the wall go up but feels it now.

“Have a safe trip everyone!” Andrea wishes as both her and Lucas turn back around to their house. Dean doesn’t see this however, because he sneaks a look towards Castiel while everyone else is distracted. Castiel is looking at Andrea, waving to her with a smile on his face. But Dean knows something no one else does, that’s not Castiel’s real smile. Dean hadn’t really seen Castiel’s fake smile but he knew what his real one looked like and this was so far away from that it was on another planet. Dean looks away and jumps onto Impala’s back, being cut off now from casually glancing at Castiel’s face to see what the hell was going on.

“Get home safe!” Sam calls after the two remaining Barrs, completely oblivious to the lack of communication between his brother and Castiel. Once the two are far away enough for Sam to move Stanford safely he heads towards the direction of Whitefish with both Reo and Impala following. Dean however has his black beauty move a little slower so he takes the rear of the traveling party.

Once Dean passes from both Jo and Sam’s peripheral vision he turns around to look at Cas.

Castiel, bless his soul, tries to pull off a genuinely confused face, it doesn’t work and he looks rather like an agitated owl, what with his neck wrapped in a loose dark fabric. ‘What is it?’ Dean mouths and he knows Cas doesn’t understand what he just said, so he would have to break the wall between them.

It works.

”What did you just say?” Castiel asks, his voice even. Dean has to turn around now, and feels comfortable enough to pick up a little speed so he’s neck and neck with Sam.

”What is it?” Dean repeats.

“What is what?”

Dean rolls his eyes with some level of amusement, he’s pretty sure Castiel actually didn’t understand the question in the context he used. ”What is wrong?” At least he knew Castiel couldn’t not reply, not without Dean stopping the entire party.

”Nothing.”

”Bull shit Cas.”

Castiel sighs outwardly now and Sam’s head turns towards the two. For some reason Sam seems to understand what has Castiel in a bad mood because he’s the one to save Castiel from this conversation. “Do you know why Whitefish is called that?” Sam asks Castiel, a sympathetic look on his face. But for what reason?

Castiel nods, “I know the legend.”

Jo speaks up now, “There’s a legend to Whitefish?” She sounds shocked, Whitefish was old, one of the oldest structures in all of Potesta because of it’s location towards Seven Gates but it was a little hard to believe there was a legend surrounding it.

“Long before the humans even thought of abusing the powers of the dragon and rider, one such pair moved there. Many times this dragon would stay in the lake for long amounts of time, due to the heat of the sun.” He doesn’t seem too invested in this story, like there’s a sort of disgust towards the dragon and it’s rider. He still continues however, because the legend was obviously not done. “Because the pair were not exactly the kindest of people, many people feared those lands. They spread rumors of a large white fish that devoured those who were too adventurous.” It’s a pretty crazy story and Dean kinda doesn’t believe it, especially since he’s never heard this before. Dean must have strongly felt that over their connection because it makes Castiel respond as if Dean had said it outloud. “You haven’t heard of this before because it was many centuries before the Campbells came to power.” If that was true, it would have been more than 300 years ago.

“What happened to the rider and the dragon?” Jo asks, obviously curious.

“The rider sold his soul to a demon.” Castiel states cooly. “And was dragged off to Seven Gates ten years later.”

“That’s sad.” Jo comments, a little disappointed.

This is when Castiel says the most shocking thing, “I believe he is still alive from what I last heard, simply a demon.”

Sam’s slackjawed now, “Whoa wait, what?” Everyone in the group is now death locked on Castiel, Dean included.

“Yes, both the white dragon and it’s rider are alive.”

“A rider can be a demon?” Dean asks, his eyes locking with Castiel’s for a second.

Castiel nods, eyes on Dean’s. “Demons still have souls, simply twisted.”

That gives the whole group some food for thought and they fall into silence because of it.

Matter of fact, aside from occasional banter the trip was rather quiet until they called for a break. They're not at a town but instead a river. Dean really has to pee at this time so he leaves to the outskirts of the treeline so not to let anyone see anything.

Sam in the meantime does the same, just towards the other side of temporary camp. This leaves both Castiel and Jo alone, and when Dean comes back from relieving his bladder both of them are whispering like gossiping servants. “Whatcha two talking about?” He asks, heading over to the river to splash water on his face and neck. He does keep an eye on both of them.

“None of your business.” Jo shoots back, her hands on her hips as if that helped her point.

“Why not?” Dean counters, not really sounding aggressive but more just prodding.

“Because you’re stupid.” She quips and Dean takes the topic of whatever they’re talking about less critically. Jo would usually respond with that if it was something she wasn’t comfortable with.

“Right, tell me that next time I save your ass.” He can’t help but be proud of that comeback, because Jo actually has to pause and think of a response for that.

Sam, now comes into the picture, jumping on the back of Stanford and looking at the others. “Dean.” He says simply, making him sound like he’s the older or some shit.

“Sammy.” The eldest Winchester sasses, looking up towards Sam.

“Instead of antagonizing everyone maybe we should start to get going.”

“Who died and made you mother hen?” Dean huffs, jumping onto Impala, Castiel repeating the movements a couple seconds later.

“No one,” Sam starts, smirking towards his brother, “You just weren’t hovering enough.”

Jo snorts loudly to the jab and jumps onto Reo’s back so they’re all up and ready.

Dean drops the previous conversation, allowing a new one to blume. “Well, are ya’ll ready or what?”

“I believe so Dean.” Castiel says smoothly, with the smallest amount of condescending humor.

“Shut up.” Dean grunts without any actual maliciousness behind it. Clicking for Impala to take off, the troop of three horses and four people leave, now dead set on arriving at Whitefish.




Chapter Text

They don’t go to Whitefish directly, of course they don’t. Two more cases showed up between Manitoc and Whitefish, both dealing with stupid ghosts. Sam even makes note of how these spirits have been around for years, centuries even and they are now all popping their heads up. It worries Dean. It also doesn’t help that Castiel continues with the subject, informing everyone that yes, there’s a shift happening somewhere. Of course he is his normal evasive to answering the topic, but it's enough to spook everyone out a bit.

At least they eventually do make it to Whitefish. It's a lot hotter in these parts, the fields don't protect you from the heat and the trees that surround Whitefish are small and gnarled due to the constant winds that shoot up from the south.

Whitefish itself is pretty however, it's a castle turned military base right next to the water's edge. It's actually much bigger than the Roadhouse, despite the fact that the Roadhouse is the headquarters of the Hunter organization. Whitefish was also not as much of a ghost town as the Roadhouse but that was largely due to the fact that King Samuel’s soldiers also infested the castle and surrounding town. After all, Whitefish was the first true line of defense against Seven Gates.

Dean hates being involved with the Potestian forces, they often viewed the life of a hunter as dirty, or beneath them, despite their outward political stance.

The three horses trek through Whitefish with little problem and make it to the stables in the castle grounds completely fine. There is an upside to the involvement of the soldiers as there are actually stable boys where there are soldiers. Dean is pretty sure they're leaving Whitefish shortly so he doesn't bother changing Impala out of her gear and instead just hops off. He does help remove the bags from Stanford's back however, since any rest bit for the steed would be pleasant.

Once that's done they head towards the castle itself. The hunters are able to use any room they need, except for the militia's armory. Rufus, the head Hunter here, had his own office. The castle is busy but not crisis busy, just more bodies moving than the hunters are really used to. Dean heads into the castle first with Sam at his side, heading past the open foyer to the stairs. Dean has been to Whitefish three times in his life, once while he was a child with John and twice once he joined the Hunters, so he remembered where Rufus’ office was located. Heading up the stairs Dean feels Castiel’s conscious push at his own and knowing it most likely deals with their situation right now Dean opens up.

”Anything I should know before I head in here?” Castiel asks, not necessarily concerned but curious.

”Nah,” Dean starts, not really answering until they reach the top of the stairs, ”Only that Rufus is a little… eccentric.”

Castiel nods, which neither Jo or Sam notice, ”I do not think I will have a hard time with that.”

Dean smirks, heading for the last door on the right, ”I figured.”

The troop of four make it to the office door and Dean knocks, not even waiting for a response before opening the door.

“Knocking is useless if you’re gonna barge in here!” Rufus yells over from his desk just before realizing that it was in fact the Winchester brothers that stood in front of him. Lowering his shoulders he sighs, “Well it’s about time.” He shuffles some papers in front of him uselessly, glaring over at the boys in annoyance.

“Sorry Rufus.” Dean says without any real regret, instead he grabs one of the surrounding chairs and sits down in front of the darker skinned man. Sam joins him in the other seat while Jo and Castiel stood behind them.

“No ya ain’t.”Grumbles the older man, shaking his head. “Don’t matter I need you guys anyway.”

Dean makes a shocked sound, “You need us?”

Rufus rolls his eyes again and his voice sounds more agitated. “Well yeah, we’ve got demon sightings up the back door.”

All three hunter’s snort or make some sort of amused sound at this, except for Castiel who doesn’t seem to get the joke. Dean will explain later and Castiel picks up on this so stays silent.

Dean doesn’t find the fact that demons are showing up funny however and he turns the conversation onto that. “More demon sightings? Like more than normal?”

Rufus nods, rubbing a hand over his short bristled hair. “It’s getting pretty crazy out their boys and we have no idea why.” He holds up a letter to just show them, even if they can’t read the writing. “Suspected demon deals in Greenwood,” He holds up another, “And there have been random attacks in the neighboring town.” Rufus shrugs, “I got another six accounts from all over the southern border, but those are the last two I haven’t had anyone to deal with.” He hands the two pieces of paper over to Sam, who takes them and reads them over. Great, so they’d probably have to separate again.

“How frequent are those attacks?” Sam asks, reading the papers. He probably didn’t think it was wise to separate again either.

“Not often, once a week or something along those lines. It’s often travelers that go missing, no actual houses have been attacked yet.”

Good, that meant maybe they could delay that one a little bit and focus on the demon deals. Demon deals, Dean was pretty sure Castiel could feel Dean’s disgust at the subject. Who would willingly sell their souls to torment like that? For what good reason would you do that? Why should they help even help these stupid bastards?

“I guess we’ll head to Greenwood first then.” Dean comments, standing up. Greenwood was only a couple hours south east by horse and they could easily make it there before night.

Rufus moves his hand to show he doesn’t give a shit what they do, “Just get it done.” Rufus comments, grabbing a blue bottle. “But ya ain’t told me who the new guy is.”  

Ah that’s right, Rufus didn’t know who Cas was. “This is Castiel, he’s part of the group now.”

“Obviously.” Rufus mutters, reaching over his desk with a hand out for Castiel. Castiel takes it easily and shakes his hand, eyes locked on the other. Rufus cared about how you presented yourself and he seemed content with Castiel’s handshake, because he lets go and sits back down. “Maybe he’ll keep you boys out of trouble.” He looks up at Jo and gives her a quick wink, “Cause I know you never get into anything bad, right Jo?”

Rufus and Ellen had been good friends since they were young adults which meant that Rufus had known her for a long time, since she was a little girl for a matter of fact. So, of course, Rufus had her as one of his favorites. When the boys had joined the Hunters, Rufus had been a little calloused but that was because he didn't have much favor towards their father despite his involvement with the Hunter order itself.

“Yeah, yeah Rufus.” Dean starts, now heading for the door with Castiel directly behind him, “We’ll see you later.”

“If ya don't get killed!” Rufus shoots back in amusement.

“Bye Rufus!” Jo calls as she leaves behind the others. “He's funny.” She teases once the door closes behind all four of them. She says it more in a way to annoy the men of the group rather than making a comment towards Rufus’ actual character.

“You only think that cause he likes you.” Dean knows it's a tease and he responds as such, making Jo scrunch up her face in reply.

Just as Dean called, they were leaving right away, Whitefish wasn't some place you stayed at, rather just a place to stop and go. “So Greenwood first?” Sam asks, attracting the attention of a stable boy so he can help Sam with the loading of bags.

“Yeah, well, since Rufus wants us to check it out I guess.” Dean grumbles, jumping onto Impala and helping Castiel up with a hand.

“They still deserve to be saved.” Sam comments, knowing Dean's standing in the subject.

Dean shrugs but doesn't say anything, Cas does however. “Do you truly believe these people deserve to die?” His voice is concerned and Dean wonders what exactly Castiel's own stance was. He also thinks it must be a weird job to be a stable boy in a Hunter area. The kid looks shocked, but he still manages to do his work, which Dean gives him credit for.

“They sold their souls intentionally didn't they?” Dean looks behind himself to see Castiel looking rather torn.

“What if they sold their soul for another to live?”

It's time for Dean to lay down the hard rules and shakes his head. “What's dead should stay dead.”

“What if it was your mother?” Castiel's response is quick and spectacularly intuitive, making Dean's stomach turn. Mary has been barely brought up since Castiel joined but of course Cas could see that she was Dean's weak spot, just like Sam. No one, not Jo or Sam or Dean say anything in response to that and it completely gets dropped. It proves Castiel right in a way, which festers in Dean's moral fiber. They leave Whitefish without a word to each other or anyone else outside of their traveling band.

Heading towards Greenwood they still make no move for conversation but Dean is still fuming and because of that he can't stay quiet.

”Don't bring up my mother.” Dean states with a coldness he never normally uses for Castiel.

Castiel doesn't seem swayed by his reaction, as if he knew it was going to happen eventually. ”Why? Do the rules change when it comes to your own family?” There is no anger or annoyance in his voice, but rather more of a philosopher questioning one of the many, knowing and wise. It pisses Dean off more.

”Shut up.” Dean's giving a warning now and Castiel doesn't listen. It's so hard not to turn around and push the smaller man off of Impala but that'd be childish and he didn't actually want to hurt Cas. Though, Dean didn’t really believe he could actually hurt Cas if he tried.

It seems like Castiel gently steers the conversation to a safer subsection, leaving Dean’s family alone. ”Demons manipulate people Dean, it’s what they do. They see a weakness, they will prod at it until it bleeds.”

Dean makes a nasty face to this metaphor, because seriously? Due to how Dean was positioned within the horse pack, Sam is able to see the facial expression and promptly questions it.

“What?” At least he sounded more curious more than anything else.

Dean shrugs easily, “Did you fart? Cause I smelt something nasty and if wasn’t you it was probably something dead.”

Sam huffs much like a large horse or moose would but can’t keep a straight face and his lip curls up at the corner. Dean wasn’t expecting that and roars out in laughter at the straight chance of the moment. As if the moment couldn’t get any better the wind actually directs the legitimate stench towards Jo who suddenly coughs and covers her mouth.

“Awh nasty Sam!” She calls, her voice muffled by her sleeve. Dean gets hit by another wave of laughter at that and could feel Castiel’s chest vibrating with similar amusement.

Since southern Potesta was so damn hot Castiel had separated his body more, so that wind would move between them comfortably on their journey. But this didn’t mean Dean couldn’t feel his companions laughter, oh no, it was like waves. There was only one way Dean could think of the experience. It was like two puddles set side by side, they do not touch, but ripples from one can transport through the earth separating them and still effect the other. That was it, they were puddles. Dean didn’t mind, he got to share in Castiel’s entertainment and Castiel in his. Them being connected? It wasn’t that bad, and Dean actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t for the powers but because he knew that Castiel was genuinely happy, there was no guesswork about it and that made Dean more comfortable than anything else could.

Sam turns his head to look behind him and towards Jo. “Sorry!”

Once again, it triggers Dean into laughing, especially with Sam’s hair flying around his face like it does. “You are all immature.” Castiel adds in, a couple of chuckles following shortly after.

The laughing slows down after that and while it does bubble up every once in awhile it only gets quieter between them.

Dean couldn’t be mad at Cas, he really couldn’t, give Dean a minute and he will have more time  to process everything. Maybe Cas knew that, maybe not. Either way, somewhere in all those laughs Dean forgave Castiel’s intrusion because it wasn’t, they were going to basically melt their minds together. Why shouldn’t Castiel know about the most important woman in his life?

The realization suddenly hits Dean and while maybe he wasn’t ready for his parents to play 20 questions with Castiel’s backstory, he was ready to tell Castiel exactly what mattered to him the most.

”Sammy is my little brother.” Dean starts out, taking a pause to figure it all out.

”I am aware.” Castiel sounds confused but still interested in what Dean has to say, his whole mental attention directed at Dean.

Dean’s suddenly self conscious of the back of his head, as he feels Castiel’s eyes burning into him. ”Shut up,” It’s more joking in nature than before and Dean continues on. ”My mom is Lady Mary Winchester, formerly second in line to rule and from House Campbell. My dad is Lord John Winchester the Righteous, Lord of Lawrence, you know, started the Hunters and what have you.”

Castiel can’t seem to hold his tongue and cuts in when Dean takes a pause. ”He organized the hunters and made them legion. Hunters have been around since monster and human interacted.”

”I know.” Dean shoots back with no real malice before continuing. “I mean that’s what the Campbell’s are known for.”

”And your mother was previously from that house?” Castiel hints, showing Dean that he was listening.

”Yeah, she was a hunter with her dad and while she wasn’t a fan it, it gave her an excuse to leave the court sometimes.” Dean could relate. “Anyway, when dad organized the hunters and all that fun stuff mom joined him but vowed that was the last time she would pick up a sword. And when the war between Seven Gates and Potesta ended my mother put down her sword.” It still hung in Dean’s own room back in Lawrence, a reminder that his mother had put down the blade for him, for the domestic life. Parents got married, they moved to Lawrence and my mom had me shortly after.” He shrugs because he forgets they’re not having a vocal conversation. To cover up the mistake he adjusts his shirt as if it was bothering him. Dean doesn’t dare look towards his brother for fear of making eye contact. He just wanted to get this whole story done with. ”When I was four, Sammy was born and um…” Dean takes a pause, this part was going to be rough, it wasn’t a pleasant memory. There’s a soft reassurance from Castiel and Dean sinks into it, no questions asked. ”Demons snuck into the castle, and started a fire in Sammy’s nursery. My mom... she got hurt real bad during the whole thing.”

Castiel doesn’t even respond with words but instead just lets his sympathy for Dean’s past pain ripple across Dean’s psyche. This mind thing would really help people communicate better because Dean knows that while Castiel feels for Dean’s pain he isn’t pitying him. It makes Dean like the other man a little bit more. ”She was on bed rest for a long time, I mean a long time. I didn’t talk until I could see her, which was three months after the incident.” The white lace curtains come into his view, a flash from the past before being replaced with the view of his mother sitting up in bed. That was one of Dean’s favorite days, along with Sammy being born. ”She can’t breathe sometimes, and it’s really hard for her in the morning but she’s alive and happy.”

 

”I’m glad to hear it…” Castiel hesitates before finishing his statement, “I would like to meet her sometime.”

Dean’s not gonna tell Castiel that he’s stalling on going home, that he’s afraid of what Castiel is. But Castiel isn’t that unknown beast, not anymore. He’s just Cas now, and Dean has no idea how they got here but wouldn’t have it any other way.

 


 

Greenwood is directly south of Lake Tally from Whitefish but Impala doesn’t do boats so they just trekked around the water’s edge. They get there with a couple hours of sunlight left to burn and head directly to the inn. Instead of everyone hanging around until the horses were uncluttered Dean heads for the entrance of the inn while Castiel unloads Impala.

”Keep my baby happy.” Dean warns, turning to look at Castiel and send a wink before making his way towards the inn. Dean didn’t even think about the fact he just winked at Castiel without saying anything out loud. Hopefully no one saw it.

He gets his hands on two room keys, both with double beds and while they’re not connected, at least no one has to share a bed. Paying in advance just in case anything happens Dean exits the inn and heads for the stables, where Jo, Sam and Castiel stand with all their bags lined up and ready to go.

“I’m glad you guys can get shit down without me there.” Dean quibs, making the other two hunters roll their eyes.

“I just don’t know how we ever survived without you Dean!” Jo shoots back with her best swooning maiden impersonation.

“Ha Ha.” Dean sasses before holding out the two keys. “Alright, who wants to bunk with who?”

“I call Cas!” Jo sings happily, her hand shooting up in the air before taking a nosedive towards Castiel’s arm.

Dean rolls his eyes, “What? So you two can gossip all night?”

“Yep!” Jo giggles, a glint in her eye that Dean just didn’t trust.

“Great.” He says in perfect sync with Sam, who shares a grin with his brother. Dean now chucks one of the keys towards Jo.

“Alright let’s ship out.” Dean says in finalization, heading towards the inn door once again.

 

The rooms aren’t right next to each other, but they’re only three doors apart from each other, so it kind of works out. It really works out that Castiel and Dean share a bond that enables Dean to hear what is going on in the other room and if they need any assistance. Once they separate to open their own doors and Dean has done so successfully he looks towards the dark haired man.

“No hanky panky you two.” He warns before throwing himself into his own room.

Sam follows in, shaking out a laugh as he backs into the door to close it. “Really Dean?”

“What?” Dean asks, making a face towards his brother.

Sam rolls his eyes and heads towards the bed that was obviously his. “First of all, hanky panky? Really?” Sam’s face is one of receiving a priceless moment. That is before he continues, “Secondly, you think Jo and Cas would have sex?”

That felt wrong on several levels, so, so wrong and Dean didn’t know why. Probably because Jo was like a sister to him. “I had to come up with something on the spot.” Dean grumbles, grabbing a couple bags of salt from his duffle bag before packing the actual bag away in a drawer.

“Yeah okay.” Sam mutters under his breath, making Dean turn.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” This is exactly what Dean didn’t want to happen.

Sam shrugs, “You’re just really close with Castiel.” He plays it off like nothing as he busies himself with his own bag and removing the iron knuckle busters that are located somewhere in the folds of the canvas bag.

It’s time for Dean to shrug as he honestly doesn’t know what to say, “Guess it’s just cause I consider him part of the group.”

Sam doesn’t dignify that with a response and doesn’t even have the chance to, since there is a knock on the door as this time. Dean’s closest to the door so he’s the one that opens it, revealing both Jo and Castiel.

“You boys ready?” Jo asks, pushing her way past Dean and into the room.

Dean moves back from the door, heading over to his bag to grab a flask of holy water. “Yeah I think so.”

“Good.” Jo chirps, twirling one of her daggers in her hands. Dean knows it's the iron one, one her father had used against demons in his own hunts. Everything of Bill Harvelle’s had been given to his daughter the moment she was old enough to be a hunter. It was impossible for her not to get the weapons, she fought for them.

With one last weapons check the group of four heads out to find the easiest place a demon can make a deal; the local pub.

The place isn't exactly in the center of the town but rather connected from one of the main roads to a section farther away from congestion.

“There you go.” Dean comments to the group as they near the rundown looking pub. He points towards the road in front of them, making the other three look at the fact they were at a crossroads.

Castiel is the next one to make a movement as he nods his head towards the wild white flowers surrounding all four corners of the crossroads. “Yarrow is used in summoning.”

“Yeah…” Sam says, his eyes moving to the center of the crossroads. “Well I guess we found the place.”

“Lloyds Pub, sounds like a great place for a demon to settle down.” Jo sasses quietly so only her traveling companions can here.

“If there are any demons here I would be able to feel it.” All three hunters stop and turn towards the speaker, who of course, is Castiel. He seems to realize that he might have revealed something they would find odd and just continues on the path to the pub, ignoring the looks.

“Awesome.” Dean tacks on before following after the dark haired man, making the other two hunters move in pursuit. No one says anymore on the subject and they enter the pub.

It's average in every sense of the word, there's no blood splattered on the walls, no satanic hymns. It's just a normal, wooden walled pub with a mistrial playing softly in the corner. That's what makes it such a good place for a demon to hit, because this is where the sad and desperate go.

Dean heads over to the bar and orders a round for the group. The bartender, an older man in maybe his late 40s complies and forks over four pints of amber liquid. “Thank you.” Dean comments, passing all the drinks out before taking a sip of his own and turning back towards the barkeep. The place is reasonably packed, but that’s probably because most of the residents in Greenwood went here for their kicks. “Damn it's pretty busy here.” Dean comments to the bartender, who nods.

“Greenwood ain't got much in the way of entertainment.” The barkeep states, shrugging off the comment.

Dean nods as if he knows exactly what the other man is saying. “Bet it's hard to keep track of all the patrons.” It's an offhand comment but Dean knows it'll lead him to what he wants; if the conversation goes as planned.

“I try the best I can.” The older man responds, picking up a dirty glass and cleaning it out while talking to Dean.

“Ya ever notice anyone going around and making ridiculous deals?” It's a risk but not many bartenders know about demon deals so Dean's pretty sure he won't spook the man.

He doesn't as the bartender seems to think on the question, “Well, there was a girl, a few years back, who went around saying strange things and kissin’ people.” The bartender pauses as if recalling something that he had almost forgotten. “A man has been also showing up here recently asking people if they would like to do business.”

Bam, and like that Dean knew he was on the right track. It would make sense if a demon came through to collect the previously sold souls and contract more while on their version of a milk run. Dean knew this recent demon was more important than the one who had made the deals because he could actually stop the current one. “Do you know if this man is around?”

The bartender shrugs, putting the glass away, “He usually shows up sometime ‘round now.”

Dean taps the bar top twice, “Alright, thank you sir.”

“Ain’t a problem.” The man states before turning his attention towards other patrons. Dean makes a move to separate himself from the bar and head towards a table where all four travelers sit down. Castiel actually does drink some of his pint, but more to just fit in than to feel anything.

Once they all are comfortable Dean leans over for them to hear, “I say we stay here and check out to see if this demon shows up.”

Sam nods, “Yeah, and Cas you said you could tell?”

Castiel nods, “Yes, I will inform you if he enters.”

The youngest Winchester nods, his face filled with concern. “Okay.”

 

As time passes, Sam gets up to mingle with the patrons, trying to discover if any of them have sold their souls. It’s a weird business, Dean and Sam only have had a demon deal case once before and they couldn’t save those people, this time would probably be no different.

“So do you know a lot about demons?” Jo asks Castiel as she sips on her pint, since the other three were staying at the table.

Castiel nods to this, his eyes on Jo but flicking towards Dean on occasion. “Yes, there is much animosity between dragons and demons.”

That surprises both Jo and Dean, but the eldest Winchester asks the next question, “Why?”

The blue eyed man shrugs, “Dragons keep the world order, demons try to usurp that balance.”

“Makes sense, I mean they are evil.” Jo adds, giving a small smile towards Castiel.

Castiel returns the smile and nods, “Most demons cannot withstand the power of dragons, so they share a similar hostility.”

The conversation changes to something else for a time after that, that is until Castiel becomes straight as a board and turns towards the entrance of the pub.

A man, about 5'9" in height with short brown hair and a clean shaven face enters. He looks towards Castiel the moment he enters and a smirk crosses on his lips, creepy and not at all the normal smile a stranger would give.

”He’s a demon.” Castiel states to Dean, his eyes not leaving the man. The man on the other hand, doesn’t seem to give a shit about Castiel’s existence there and instead heads straight to the bar, ordering a drink.

Now the question was, do they openly kill him in front of everyone or do they try to trick a demon?

The decision is made for them, because as soon as the demon has a drink in his hands (some sort of fruity bullshit) he walks right over to the table.

“Well, well, what a pleasant surprise; hunters.” He's cocky sounding and unworried by their presence there, which pisses Dean off. Sam at this point notices the tension growing around the table and joins them, coming up behind the demon to block him in.

“You don't see suprised.” Jo says cooly, glaring at the man.

He just snorts, shaking his head, “I figured you chums would eventually learn about the deals here.” That was a level of disconcerting.

“And you still came?” Dean bites, his voice showing his aggression towards the demon.

The standing demon smiles, something twisted and knowing. “You don't scare me.”

“Crowley.” Castiel finally states, his voice just as disgusted as Dean's.

The demon, Crowley apparently, exaggerates the bow he now takes. “King of the Crossroads thank you very much Castiel.”

“You know each other?” Sam asks, shocked.

Crowley shakes his head, “Oh no, but his reputation precedes him.”

“Same as your's.” Castiel's voice is venomous and Dean can't help but notice a slight light coming from underneath Castiel's clothing where his necklace lays against his skin. Dean doesn't say anything on the matter and instead focuses on the fact that they aren't talking to a lower level demon but instead someone with a title. As if to prove this even further the demon smiles, his eyes flashing not the average black but a blood red.

“It's been good chatting boys,” He looks at Jo and nods towards her, “And lady. But I have work to do so if you would excuse me-”

“You're not going anywhere.” Sam growls from behind Crowley, his eyes dead set on him. They had him caged in but he seemed to care less, as if they were just children trying to do a real man's work.

“You think you can keep me here?” He asks, amusement dripping from his voice.

“I believe I can.” Castiel stands and now Crowley actually steps back into Sam, like there is a threat with him.

“Oh please Castiel.” Crowley breathes out, “You think you can stop me? What would my love have to say about that?”

This puts a pause in Castiel's steps and he's glaring. “She won't be able to find me.”

Crowley’s eyebrows jump to his hairline. “Ah but she will be able to figure out you were with the Winchesters. I wonder what would happen to Lawrence.”

Everyone's pissed now, Dean's ready to shiv this mother fucker while Sam's carefully placing the iron knuckles on his fingers. Jo already has her dagger placed on the table, a silent threat. Dean can see a sliver of Castiel's retractable dagger but it stays partially hidden as Crowley suddenly gives pause to his anger. “She would never travel that far into Potesta.”

Crowley grins at that, “Are you sure?” Castiel obviously isn’t, because he backs away, his eyes burning with a deep hatred.

“That's what I thought.” Crowley basically hums.

”Stand down.” Castiel says quietly to Dean, his eyes flicking towards him, ”His threats are troublesome.”

Dean doesn't respond but instead also glares at Crowley as he holds the flask of holy water under the table.

No one says anything now and Crowley seems to understand his words worked as well as he wanted. “Nice chat boys.” He takes an obnoxious sip of his drink and walks past Sam, who let's him go because of the look he shares with his brother.

Crowley heads towards the bar now and with no one in earshot Dean leans in once again. “Sam, can you try to stop him from making any deals? If we can't kill him we can at least make business slow.”

Castiel now takes his seat, his eyes locked on Crowley as Sam speaks. “Yeah. Try to figure out if we can get rid of him.” Two of the three sitting members nod to this, Castiel looking rather concentrated on his thoughts.

Sam takes this as leave and starts towards Crowley, ready to make the sales man’s profits plummet.

With the three hunters once again left alone it was time to figure out anything and everything they could. “Who was he talking about Cas?” Jo asks, her blonde hair cascading over her shoulder as she turns towards the blue eyed man.

“Lilith.” Castiel whispers, like it's it's a curse of some sorts. Dean knew that name, he knew it from his father's fights against Seven Gates.

“She's one of Lucifer’s generals correct?”

Castiel's shaking his head, “Lilith is his second in command. She has not left Seven Gates since her rider's demise.” Castiel's eyes flick to Crowley now and directly back to Dean, like he wished he hadn't done something as foolish. Because of Jo's location at the table she doesn't see the slight eye movement but Dean does.

He doesn't even need a second to catch on, ”Is Crowley the rider?” He doesn't know why he's not asking verbally, but maybe it was because he was worried for Jo.

Castiel’s eyes link with Dean's and much like before, it's a wave of knowledge without words. Crowley is indeed Lilith’s rider. They are the very pair that Whitefish was named after, before the world's powers were split. Lilith is also old, very old. It's a little profound how many years Dean can feel, like if a rock was a year, she would be like a beach. She rules with an iron fist and a deadly grin, controlling the vast populous of demons. She actually intimidates Castiel.

Jo suddenly jabs at both men’s arms, attracting their attention so she can be caught up. “Is Crowley Lilith’s rider?”

Whelp, there goes trying to shelter Jo, Dean should know better by now. “Yeah.” He nods and it makes her even more curious.

“How would you know that?” Her eyes are slitted and shift between Castiel and Dean.

Dean really didn’t have a good excuse for that and the other two knew it. So Dean does what he knows best and stands up, grabbing his empty pint. “I’m gonna get a refill, anyone else down for another?”

Jo holds up her own empty glass and Dean takes it. Castiel finished his awhile ago, acting like it was just water so Dean just grabs his glass, figuring it wouldn't matter.

 


 

Dean's gone all of 2.5 seconds and Jo has snuggled herself rather close to Castiel, her voice low. “What is going on between you two?” Castiel knows Dean's hearing is good but not that good, Crowley’s on the other hand? It worries Castiel and there was no way he'd give any hints to what they were in front of him. Ever.

“I will tell you later.” He says smoothly, his jaw touching the top of her blonde hair from her closeness. It gave Castiel a warm feeling, nothing like what Dean unintentionally caused but it was more familiar, like family. Castiel liked Jo, she was basically the female version of Dean but still different. That's why he chose Dean, something in his very core knew it was him the very moment Castiel drew breath and it terrified him.

Instead Castiel focuses on Jo, on the slight fragrance coming from her hair that smelt like a garden, on how her body was so small compared to his or Dean’s. How she almost felt like a little sister. Suddenly Castiel goes back, way back, and remembers someone he misses dearly. Red hair and pale skin, bright smiles and comfort.

“So do you have any idea of how to get rid of Crowley?” Jo speaks up, unintentionally saving Castiel. He silently praised her before nodding.

“I do not believe we have to. He knows the moment he leaves this pub his life expectancy is questionable. He probably will leave Potesta the moment he's done making deals.” Castiel could kill Crowley easily with the blade at his very finger tips and Crowley knows this. Crowley also knows Castiel's reputation and therefore doubts the potency of his own threat against the Winchesters. He would not stay longer than need be.

 


 

Dean, who had been getting the pints refilled has been watching as Sam follows around Crowley like a puppy. It was a stalemate, neither party could make a move without dooming something. It was pretty comical however, Sam looming over Crowley’s shoulder and interjecting whenever need be.

Now that all the pints are filled and paid for, Dean turns with all three held between his hands to witness Jo and Castiel.

They look comfortable, too comfortable for Dean's liking. Jo's within Castiel's personal space and shit, Cas has no idea that Jo is hitting on him, he needs to save the poor man.

With that thought in his mind Dean plows over to the table, dropping the glasses onto the table so they make some commotion but not enough to spill over.

Jo seems to take the hint since Castiel looks too confused to know that anything is going on. “Here ya go.” He grunts, sitting down before distributing the right glass of alcohol to the correct person.

“Thank you Dean.” Castiel rumbles before grabbing at his returned drink and taking a gulp. Jo is right behind him on this and Dean follows up.

“Cheers.” Dean grunts roughly.

 

They only last an hour or rather Crowley does. Since Sam was following him around like Peter Pan’s shadow all the deals he could have made became voided.

Dean knows this because he's been watching the pair make their rounds, Sam being the public little angel on Crowley’s shoulder. It made the demon seem like bit of a joke, which was possibly why Crowley’s face was all red when he stomps over to the table of hunters.

He sighs in exasperation, “I guess you blokes got the good end of the deal tonight. I'm leaving.”

“Oh good, and here I thought I'd have to stare at your ugly face all night.” Dean snaps, unable to control his sarcasm.

Crowley makes a face like he's so offended that he's actually not, “Such a tongue on you Dean. Tsk, tsk, tsk, maybe you need a dragon to rip it out.”

Dean opens his mouth to say some really witty comment back but he's stopped but a rumble. The room starts to actually rumble and if Dean's right, it's coming from Castiel. “Leave with your life Crowley.” Castiel has stood at some time when Dean wasn't paying attention and to be honest, he looks kind of scary.

Crowley seems to agree with this idea because he actually does shut up, or shut up as much as Crowley apparently does. “Touchy Castiel. I've seen that before.” There's something in that statement that Dean doesn't understand but Castiel does. Because the smaller man seems to grow a little bigger, or rather the room seems to get smaller. “I best be off, you Hunters have fun trying to stop those contracts from going through tomorrow.” Crowley seems to agree it's high time he got out of there because after that he heads straight for the door and exits.

Sam follows, but Dean has a feeling that Crowley just disappeared, like demons can if they are strong enough. And if Crowley had a dragon, who knew what his power level was at?

Castiel sits down when the door closes behind Crowley and Sam and he huffs out. He kind of reminds Dean of an agitated bird, their feathers all ruffled.

“Crowley is right about the contracts.” The blue eyed man says easily. “He cannot make any more deals. We should be concerned with those that are almost up.” Dean's not sure about this and sends his reasoning over to Castiel.

You see, the other cases working with crossroad demons hadn't turned out well, as the boys had arrived too late to save anyone and the demon was long gone. Dean had really no idea how to stop demon deals, he had never been there during one in progress.

“How?” Jo asks, making both men turn towards her. “I mean what exactly happens?”

Sam comes in how and shaking his head, proving that Castiel was right in his assumption that Crowley was gone. He sits down silently and takes his pint, which had been left untouched until Sam's own mitts grabbed for it.

“Those hounds that protect Seven Gates from intruders? They can be controlled by demons. They are the ones to come and collect the souls.” Castiel answers, knowing Sam can pick up where they were on subject. “They are invisible so they are effective but they can be killed.”

Jo, who had some to drink gets sidetracked by a topic connected with this one, “Have you ever killed one before?” She looks up at Castiel expectantly and he nods, making her smile.

“Yes. But I have advantages in fighting them.”

“Such as?” Sam asks, watching Castiel carefully.

Castiel thinks on this for a second before answering, his hand moving to reveal the blade kept up his sleeve somehow. “This blade can kill lesser demons and hellhounds.” He says smoothly, his eyes leaning towards Dean. ”I can also see them.” While his eyes stay on Dean, Cas now addresses the whole group. “And they do not feel comfortable in my presence.”

“Why's that?” Jo asks as apparently both her and Sam are playing 20 questions with Cas.

“I am a worshiper of The Watcher, that scares them.” There is no pause in Castiel's conviction in that fact but it doesn't feel right to Dean, like he's leaving out something. Dean doesn't press anything however and lets the conversation unfold, Castiel can take care of himself.

“That really intimidates them?” Sam pushes, seeming confused by the premise.

Castiel however sees no problem in Sam’s question and elaborates. “The Watcher is a dragon Sam, they can squash a hellhound easily and due to the fact that the Watcher is still around, it terrifies them.”

Now Dean's interested, “You mean this Watcher is just watching and doing nothing?” It was a little hard to comprehend.

Castiel gives Dean a look, “I would not say he is doing nothing. For a time he was, but I believe he has tried to involve himself in the mortal coil once again.” Like before, there was something in that sentence that went over Dean's head and he didn't know what it was exactly.

“So you think he's been helping you out recently or something?” Sam seemed more interested in this conversation than how to kill Crowley, but in his defence everyone was.

Once again, Castiel nods. “Very much so.”

“But you don't know right?” Jo asks, obviously feeding off of Sam’s questions.

“I do.” Castiel responds, finding everyone's interest in this a little odd. Probably because he views it as no big deal.

“But why?” Jo continues almost automatically.

“I just know.”

Dean makes a sound with his lips, attracting everyone’s attention towards him and away from Castiel. Dean can feel the thankfulness and responds with the same sentiment of ‘no big deal’ as before. “We should probably get back to the hotel rooms, since there’s those papers about those whose heads are  on the chopping block.”

Sam nods, “I know the demon attacks are happening probably tomorrow or the next day.”

“How do you know?” Dean asks, curious as to his brother would know such a thing.

Sam shrugs, “I guess it said it on the papers.” Dean didn’t see any date on the report papers, they barely had the names, how would they know the date of the deal? He doesn’t say anything on it, since Sam had to know about it from some form of deduction.

“Alright.” Dean shrugs, yawning, “Guess we can get some sleep for the whole fighting invisible dogs shindig tomorrow.”

Castiel nods at this and stands, “Agreed, sleep is necessary if we are to be on our ‘top game’ tomorrow.” Dean is so glad that both Jo and Sam got to see Castiel using air quotes because it was ridiculous. Dean snorts at that and all four of them get ready to leave. No one is really drunk, Jo and Dean have a buzz going but they know they can sober up the moment something happens.

Once everyone is ready to go they head back to the inn and separate into their different rooms. Dean however, holds Jo back from leaving his sights as both Castiel and Sam head into their rooms without much pause.

“Jo wait up.” Dean says quietly and she does just that, looking at him with bright brown eyes. She gives him a curious look and Dean continues on the moment both room doors close. “Don’t go trying to mess around with Cas, I don’t think he’s got an idea of that kinda thing.”

Jo looks more confused for a second and her face scrunches up before she realizes exactly what he means. When she does realize what he means she slaps his arm, the sound reverberating through the empty hall. “Ew no! Castiel is cute and all but he’s so not my type. I don’t think I’m his type!”

That throws Dean for a loop and he looks towards Jo, his own face altered by confusion. Jo and Dean just stare at each other, processing the information they learned from each other’s reactions.

“Why?” She asks suddenly, “Did you think something was going to happen?”

Dean suddenly wishes this conversation was gone and therefore feigns a yawn. “Oh just checking,” He shrugs, trying to pull it off, which only works because Dean’s a good liar to everyone but Sam and Mary.

Jo seems to let it slide and shrugs herself, “Alright, night Dean.”

“Night Jo.”

 

The rest of the night was nothing special, both Winchester boys get comfortable and into their separate beds. Normally the moment both their heads hit the pillow they’re out like a candle but tonight neither of them can sleep, not that either of them knew the other was up.

Things about today bothered Dean and when he reached out for Castiel there was little connection, only some humor and general joy from the other side. When Dean tried to gain his attention, Castiel simply brushed it off, giving the impression that he was busy. It wounded Dean a little, more than that time Castiel was talking to Sam. At least previously he could kinda see and hear what was going on, but now? He had no idea. And Jo was girl, what if something was going on and she just had covered up her plans before? Dean knew Jo wouldn’t do such a thing, like ever, but his can go to the imaginative side from time to time. He doesn’t get up however, doesn’t make a move, instead just lays there staring at the ceiling. Dean knew he’d fall asleep once he felt Castiel slip into unconsciousness and so he waits. There is one solidarity in Dean’s time by himself however and that is Castiel’s emotions lean towards entertainment rather than pleasure. So at least whatever was happening couldn’t be too bad.

Sam on the other hand, is having a much different experience in the dark. Ever since they passed Whitefish Sam hasn't been feeling right. He's been able to hide it easily because as of right now it's nothing big. He just feels off, like suddenly a part of him that has always been missing is near him. Like it was right over the sandy desert to the south and if he just walked he could arrive at that part of him. It wasn't the only thing different, Sam knew things, just knew it, like someone just slipped it in his knowledge banks when he wasn’t looking.

He knew Lilith, he knew her white scales and blonde hair. He knew her determination and devotion, he knew the thousands she has slain over the years. Disgust welled up in Sam and he focused on anything else. Like sleep and the sleep does come this time, easier than he expected.

Of course the dream itself is something abnormal, since there’s an unknown man involved. Sam don’t register any of his features, or even his voice. He does however feel a completeness with the other, something that made Sam’s skin crawl. He shouldn’t just feel like this. The form which he had taken for human seemed more like a lazy formation of dark shadow, a body without any true recognizable features.  

Whomever the ‘man’, he speaks but without using his voice. “Hello Sam.” He greets, his tone being all voices and none, as large as the ocean and as small as a cricket.

“Who are you?” Sam asks automatically, his head hurting from trying to focus on the male.

“Someone who has been waiting for you Sam. For many, many years.”

“Why?” Sam grabs at his head, still staring at the whatever, a headache blooming and threatening to become even worse the longer he looks.

The form steps forward making the headache get worse with his proximity. “Please look away Sam, for your own health.”

“Not until I know who you are.” Sam’s not giving up on this and the form seems to understand this.

The form sighs and while Sam feels like he should be annoyed at the being, he finds it slightly endearing.

“Sam...Sammy, I can’t have you hurting yourself on my account.” It’s like he’s teasingly chastising Sammy, like they’ve known each other for a time. “So I will leave you get to your sleep.”

The youngest Winchester didn’t want that, he wanted to know things, he wanted to know who this form was. No questions were answered and instead Sam spent the rest of his sleep looking for a man who was no longer there.

 

Not everyone was having a bad night, while the Winchesters dealt with their own trauma both Castiel and Jo were enjoying their night.

The two of them had unofficially planned the entire thing. Castiel had even witnessed Jo stealing a handle of amber liquid from the pub and had said nothing. It paid off now, as Jo had two cups and they chugged the liquid. It didn't effect Castiel as much as it did Jo, but Castiel didn't mind, he didn't need to be drunk to enjoy his time with Jo.

“So you have to tell me.” Jo giggles, cuddling up closer to Castiel as she adopts a scandalous tone. “What's you'd type?”

Jo was rather good at picking up cues and had somehow realized before the boys that Castiel wasn't into women. Maybe it was because Jo kept prying into that part of Castiel's life while Dean and Sam focused on his abilities. Or maybe someone had brought the question up in her mind and now she couldn’t hold back on asking anymore. Either way, Cas knew he had to answer Jo, he wanted to. He did trust her.

“I do not believe I have one.” Castiel confides, frowning at the wall in front of them, “There is no set guidelines for who I care for.” If Castiel was to be completely honest with Jo he would have to tell her he had never found really anyone interesting and that it was because his soul was programmed for one and one alone. Castiel knew it was common among his people, to know their counterpart without the other even being in existence yet. Some bide the time with distractions but Castiel could never do that, he felt dirty; unclean. Like the connection would than become tainted with the past memories. Some of his siblings had two, one of their own nature and another of humankind. That in itself made Castiel’s stomach turn, their other half should know both sides of the beast.

“Come on Cas there has to be something.” Jo is totally exaggerating her words, like she doesn’t believe Castiel.

Castiel shakes his head yet again, but maybe he did have something. Particular looks didn’t matter to Castiel, blonde hair, black hair, no hair, he didn’t really care. He was partial to light brown, but he didn’t state that for reasons. Over the years Castiel had dreamed of his other and because of dreams you do expect something, these are the things Castiel names now. “I simply wish to have someone loyal and who will entrust me even with all my faults.” Someone who can stand up against his family’s drama.

Jo took all this in stride but for some reason she seemed really disappointed at not getting a physical description. “More for characteristics mhmm?” She grins, taking another sip of her beverage (which Castiel follows in suit). “What do you think about them being protective?” Jo’s pushing towards something and Castiel, who’s terrible at human cues, doesn’t see it.

“I guess that would be appreciated.” Castiel shrugs, “As I will protect them against all odds.”

That makes Jo’s eyebrows rise and a grin crosses her lips, “Like their family getting attacked? You’d stop that?” Jo was definitely getting to something and poor Castiel had no idea.

“Yes, that would be part of it.”

“And for no harm to come to them?”

“Yes.”

Jo giggles, “Sooooo, basically what you told Dean.” Oh. Now Castiel can understand the disappointment at the lack of looks.

Castiel did not need Dean knowing this, he came to understand the hunter. He was obviously into women and did not do emotional. Castiel was also very positive that Jo believed this was sexual, it wasn’t. Castiel cared for Dean. “I believe I should protect Dean Winchester, yes.” He hopes he gets his point across.

Jo stares into Castiel’s face for a long moment, the shit eating grin turning into something softer and more sad. “I won’t tell him, I just wanted to know. Promise.” She reaches out now, pinky out. Castiel stares in confusion at the hand, he had no idea of what to do. Jo gets this and rolls her eyes, gesturing her hand more towards the man. “Take your pinky and wrap it around mine, than we touch thumbs to lock the promise.”

Castiel does just that but pauses just before their thumbs touch, “Is this some ritual?”

Jo laughs, her head falling back as she shakes. “No, no Cas this is called a pinky promise. It’s serious business but there is no magic behind it.” That makes Castiel feel better and he touches his thumb to her’s. The moment their thumbs leave each other Jo speaks up yet again, “Now that means I won’t bring it up to Dean until you want me to okay?” Jo’s looking very seriously at Castiel, but there’s a gentleness to it too. Jo had obviously had a fondness for Castiel and it made Castiel like Jo even more.

“Thank you.” Castiel says softly, his eyes on Jo. “I will protect you as well Jo.” He announces but both of them know it’s nowhere near the same context as it is for Dean.

“I know.”

Both Jo and Castiel stay up talking to each other for awhile, it never got as serious but by the end, Castiel definitely considered Jo a good friend. Once the two finally did call it quits Castiel lets his mind reach out for Dean, who, to Castiel’s despair, is still up. Neither say anything but Castiel knows the hunter is annoyed at being blocked out. Those were conversations he didn’t want Dean involved in, not until he was sure. So Castiel instead sends over relaxing emotions, which Dean stubbornly ignores. When Castiel does finally go to sleep, Dean is still awake, his attention fully on Castiel’s heart beat. Cas knows it.

 

Dean’s the first one to wake up the next day, despite the fact he was the last to sleep. That’s just one of the reasons he’s on the grumpy side today. Since Dean’s grumpy he doesn’t really give a shit that he’s being loud and therefore wakes Sam up, making the little brother groan in his sleep.

“Dean shut up.” Sam growls into his pillow, like he has a hangover or something.

“Come on Sammy, rise and shine!” Dean grunts, throwing one of his own pillows at his brother.

Sam just curses Dean under his breath, “Dude I have a massive headache. Leave me alone.”

“Becoming a lightweight Sammy?” Sam wasn’t a heavy drinker like Dean but it took him a couple rounds to really start feeling something.

“Shut up!” Sam yells into his pillow, using the one that Dean had thrown to cover the other side of his head. Dean rolls his eyes, at least that was a common reaction so Dean just lets the conversation drop.

Dressed and ready, Dean walks towards the door, grabbing his jacket and slipping it on easily. “I’m getting some hangover food for you Samantha.” Dean doesn’t wait for a response and instead slips out into the town of Greenwood.

Sometime while Dean had been getting ready he had read over the possible cases of previous demon deals and one of them, Silvia Pearlman, had opened a rather well-renowned restaurant called Pearlman’s Place in Greenwood ten years ago. Dean could kill two birds with one stone.

It turns out his aim is pretty shit, or the world just likes doing the exact opposite of what Dean wants because when he finally does reach Pearlman’s Place there’s a large ‘closed until further notice’ sign in the window of the door. He groans at the inconvenience, “Son of a bitch.”

“You’re not the first person to say that.” A woman speaks up, coming around the corner just in time to see Dean’s exasperation. She’s pretty but looks haggered from sleepless hours of work.  

“Oh?” Dean segways, turning towards the oncomer.

The woman walks over and nods, holding what look like business papers close to her chest. “Yes, I’m Silvia’s assistant, I run the restaurant with her.” Not all bad luck then, this could be really beneficial.

“Where is Silvia?” Dean asks, making the woman blink.

“I-” She pauses, “Don’t actually know. Last night she was panicking, saying she heard dogs.” The woman bites her lip and looks away from Dean, “I didn’t hear anything, but this morning when I went to her house….She was nowhere to be found.”  

“Do you think she’d skip town?” Dean asks next, making the woman shake her head.

“No, she loved this place too much and she didn’t have any family members left to go to… she just disappeared.”

Just to ensure all this information was good Dean looks the woman straight in the eyes and asks the big question, “Did this place really start taking off about ten years ago?”

The woman nods, “Yeah, used to be a shack, now look at it.” She gestures to the stone building, complete with glass windows to show off the yet to be displayed food.

“Where does she live?”

The woman answers and Dean departs, he doesn’t head to the inn room first, since he figures he would have to bring food to wake his brother up earlier, but since there was none, he’d just hold off for a bit.

Just like Pearlman’s Place, Silvia’s house was nice and showed the wealth she had gained over the years. When you’re a hunter you learn a few things, and you keep a couple tools. Dean was no exception and always carried a few select tools, one of them being a lock pick. It came in hand with situations like this, especially since Silvia kept her front door locked.

After getting into the house Dean does a once over. Silvia is indeed not there, but there was some odd things scattered around the house. Some objects were turned over, like something had walked through and knocked them over. There were also claw marks in the wooden floor by the bathroom, and guess what? The door was still locked. Using his trusty lock pick once again, Dean finally sees some definitive evidence of something gone horribly wrong. There’s a busted window, blood upon the tiled floor and a note placed upon a rather disgusting puddle of blood and pieces of skin. A fucking note sitting right on the window sill, where the the blood seems to be spread like something dragged a bloody body out of the room. Dean bypasses the blood splotches on the floor and picks up the piece of paper, noticing the distinct smell of sulfur.

 

Meat Suits-

I collected all the contracts last night  to ensure we wouldn’t have the unpleasantries of crossing paths.

Tah tah for now,

                                       Crowley.

 

There’s names and times listed on the corner, Silvia’s name among them at 12:01 that morning. They should have known Crowley was going to watch them, they should have gone out last night. Stupid. Kicking the side of the bathtub Dean turns and leaves the residence. There was no need to keep looking.

Dean does pick up food on his way to the inn, just from another place that probably isn’t as good as Pearlman’s Place would have been. During this time Dean feels Castiel wake, they don’t share anything really, both being a sort of separated polite. Dean also stops at the sheriff’s office to ask him to check up on Sean Boyden and Evan Hudson, since those two were also on the list of contracts to be collected. After doing that, he finally does head to his room to wake up Sam.

Opening the door Dean throws one of the bags as his sleeping brother, “Chow time Sammy.” Stepping back he unceremoniously slams the door behind himself and heads down the hall until he reaches Cas and Jo’s room. He didn't have their key so instead he just knocks. Dean knew Castiel would be the one to answer the door and Dean was not wrong.

A couple seconds later and Castiel answers the door, already looking to where Dean’s eyes are located. “Good morning Dean.” Castiel rumbles in the way he does. Yeah, Dean is still a little annoyed about last night's disconnection, but he can ignore it for now, especially with the Castiel being his average morning ruffled.

“Morning Cas, brought you guys some chow.” He lifts the other bag in his hand and Castiel moves aside so Dean can enter. Dean gives the room a quick once over too see if there was any signs of tomfoolery. One bed was immaculately done, like it wasn't touched while the other still contained Jo and was rather messy with covers strewn across the frame. Jo was clothed and that kept Dean's sanity. If anything happened someone would have to be naked.

Dean now chooses this time to send Castiel the events of this morning. They don't speak obviously, but Dean relays exactly what happened through memory and emotional flows.

It worries Castiel but he says nothing, instead sending that very worry towards Dean.

“Morning Jo!” Dean calls, grinning at the woman as she pops her head up from the pillow.

“I hate you.” She mumbles just before stuffing her face back into the pillow.

“Awe you're so sweet.” Dean teases, opening the bags to reveal the food.

“There was more alcohol consumption last night, Jo may be ‘hungover’.” Castiel states helpfully.

“Yes.” Grounds out Jo, shifting so that she is still laying down but is now looking at both men.

Dean shrugs at this, “Sam’s got one too.”

Confusion crosses Castiel's face and he turns his full attention on Dean. “Did he not only have a pint?”

Dean didn't think of that but still nods, “Yeah.” Then again maybe Sam just didn't have enough liquids in him to handle any amount of alcohol. Dean lets the thought cross borders and Castiel nods slightly to the introduction of evidence but he doesn't seem exactly convinced.

“Dean,” Castiel starts, reaching into the bag to grab a loaf of bread and some of the packaged sausages. ”Thank you.” He says in passing about the sausages before continuing as if nothing happened. “Learn anything this morning?” It’s a cover, because they do share thoughts but Jo still does have to learn about it. “Yeah, big stuff in fact, I’m just waiting for Sammy to get his ass in here to tell it.” Dean explains as he helps get the rest of the food out and onto the table.

As if he was summoned there's a knock on the door and Dean just knows it's Sam. He can tell not only from the knock but also from Castiel's own senses, which the other man sends over easily to Dean, revealing the very aura of Sam.

Dean takes the couple steps to the door and opens it for his brother, who comes walking in with a piece of bread shoved into his mouth.

“Foods helping?” Dean muses easily, making Sam nod. “Good.” Dean claps his hands before taking the seat next to Castiel at the table. “How we have things to discuss.”

He tells them everything he told Cas, the trip to the restaurant, to Silvia Pearlman’s house, the note that was found and eventually stopping at the Sheriff's office.

“I hate Crowley.” Sam grumbles out by the end of the explanation, making Jo nod in agreement.

“Yeah, what a prick.”
Dean snorts at that but continues on the topic of business. “So I figured we’d go to that town with all the demon attacks.” Dean had a feeling that Crowley would now keep his distance from the boys, especially with how he reacted to Castiel.

Castiel seems to agree, nodding as he finishes his food and throws away the leftover mess. “Do we know what is exactly happening to this town?”

It’s time for Sam to speak up, as he had apparently read the dossiers on the missions. “Just that travelers are often attacked while the townspeople have yet to have an interaction with the demons.” He pauses, “From what we know.”

“How far away is it?” Castiel asks, now heading over to his collection of things and packing them up. Jo had already packed up as Dean had explained and now she takes the vacated seat Castiel had been in.

“Only an hour or so from here.” Dean responds, he was good at calculating the time between locations, it was kinda a gift.

Castiel now rests himself at the corner of the closest bed to Dean, “We best leave soon to ensure no more attacks happen; demons rarely attack once.”

 

Everyone seems to agree with this so both Dean and Sam head back to their room to pack up. It doesn’t take long, it never does, and they both head back to Jo and Castiel’s room, meeting up with the two other members of their company. “Guess you guys are all ready?” Dean asks, shouldering his bag a little more.

Both Castiel and Jo nod but Cas is the one to talk. “Yes, we are quite efficient.”

That shot a large arrow of something through Dean, suddenly remembering the cold shoulder Castiel had given him the night before. All those doubts poured back into his mind and even though he kept them away from Castiel, Dean still became incomprehensibly annoyed.

“Yeah I bet.” Dean says mockingly, turning towards the stairs and vicariously the exit. He conveniently misses all the looks shared between the three other travelers. Dean doesn’t look at any of them until they’re at the stable. He shouldn’t be like this, he knows it’s just his imagination but another thing that was bothering him was…why was he so bothered? Why did it matter? Jo was like a sister and Castiel was a friend, they could totally hook-up if they wanted to. Maybe Dean just had some sexual frustrations of his own and was therefore subconsciously jealous? The eldest Winchester snorts, yeah okay. He doesn’t let his thoughts dig any deeper than that, figuring he can just find a one night stand or even brothel once the next town is rid of their supernatural pest.  

Heading to Impala Dean can’t help but let out a little smile at how she raises her head to attention the moment he comes into her line of sight. She tries to take a step closer but the walls of the stable block her. “Hi baby I missed you too.” He gushes as he reaches for the horse’s head. Impala obliges in lowering her massive black head towards her master, who lovingly pets the beast.

No one actually says anything, Sam goes to Stanford and Jo to Reo as Castiel sticks around Dean, looking rather useless.

Dean doesn’t want to say anything to anyone except for Impala yet. Sam seems to notice Castiel’s idleness and promptly helps the guy by asking a question. “So Cas, do you know how to deal with demons?”

Castiel blinks, apparently lost in thought and nods towards the taller Winchester. “Yes.”

Sam nods, “You know the exorcism?”

“Regna terrae, cantate Deo, psallite Domino qui fertis super caelum caeli ad Orientem. Ecce dabit voci Suae-”

“We get it Cas.” Dean grunts, cutting off the other man.

Castiel seems a little stunned at that but makes no move to confront it. Sam however, seems to have more questions for Castiel. “Did the dragons teach you?”

That gives Castiel pause, so much so that Dean finishes dressing Impala before he reaches an answer. “Demons have had a large effect on my life.” Castiel states cooly, “I have learned from personal experience and from the lifestyle of a dragon.” Dean can’t help but wonder about that wording of Castiel’s statement but cracks it up to Castiel being old fashion.

“Do dragons have to deal with demons often? I mean, there’s obviously Lilith and Crowley but…” Castiel nods, letting Sam trail off, he takes a minute to respond again, but this time it’s because he’s organizing the information in his head.

“Yes and no. The dragons in Potesta rarely deal with them, but those that reside in Seven Gates deal with them more than with humans. In Paradiso no dragons deal with demons unless it is outside of those frozen mountains.”

“What about in Chion?” Jo asks, directing Reo out passed Castiel and towards the entrance.

“I am not aware of any dragons in that area.” Castiel says, now walking over with her to wait.

Sam seems to be stuck on the dragons in Seven Gates however, because that’s the way he directs the conversation as he leads Stanford out beside Reo. “So there's more dragons in Seven Gates than just Lilith?”

Castiel nods, looking up at Sam. “The King's court has many dragons in their numbers, dragons and demons alike.”

This brings up a memory to Dean and as he brings Impala out to the others he voices the thought. “I heard the King was a dragon.”

Castiel doesn't respond, doesn't even look anywhere, just kinda shuts down for a quick second.

“I have no response to that.” And that was that, Dean knew he wasn't getting anything else about that subject so instead he jumps onto Impala's back and holds a hand out to Castiel.

“Come on, we got some demons to get rid of.”

 

They head out of Greenwood now, going directly east to the town of Prill. Prill was a ‘forest’ town, it was still extremely flat and the trees were more sparse and gnarled due to the winds. Houses were set closer to each other here, to ensure more of a community. The roads, while used, are still rough and difficult to get through due to the sand content within the dirt. The town of Prill is also swarming with Campbell's soldiers, there wasn't enough to withstand an army, but enough to be a force of some caliber.

Dean didn't bother talking to the soldiers and instead they go directly to the law man’s office, since they'd probably know more about what is going on than that of the soldiers. As it turns out, the Sheriff does .

The Sheriff of Prill is a strong woman with dark skin. She frowns when they enter her office and glares when she sees how many of them there are.

“‘Bout time you hunters came around.” She snips, “Though, seeing that there is four of you I’m wonderin’ why it took so long.”

Sam puts on his best puppy dog face and sits in one of the seats with care, his voice ernest. “Have there been more attacks?”

The woman, who’s built like a wrestler Dean notes, makes an exasperated sound, rolling her eyes for added measure. “Of course there’s been more attacks.”

Shit. Dean’s shoulders slump, he didn’t think they’d stay around, demons from Seven Gates come out for a week and attack several times but then crawl back into Seven Gates. But this meant that it’s been more than half a month since the first attack and they were still going at it.

“Is it every night?” Dean asks, going to stand behind his sitting brother.

The woman shakes her head, “Not for a long time, they attacked twice a week for the most part. Usually travelers heading in and out of Prill. But lately?” She shakes her head, “They’re getting dangerously close to my town.”

Jo pipes up now, “Have the soldiers tried to do anything?”

The sheriff shrugs, “They do the best they can, they ain’t Hunters though.”

“We’re here now ma’am.” Castiel rumbles, making everyone turn to look at him, “Where do the attacks commonly happen?”

For some reason the Sheriff just accepts Castiel’s word and answers with ease. “We don’t use the roads to the south often, but they happen there and to the west.”

”Yeah because those roads literally head towards the desert.” Dean thinks, making Castiel reach out and gently touch him with sureness.

”It will make our job easier.”

Suddenly Dean remembers how Castiel didn’t want to become a hunter, he was so against it but just slipped into the lifestyle. There were things about Castiel that Dean knew would be destroyed if this continued, but Dean couldn’t help but be a bit relieved. If Castiel wanted to be connected to Dean he would have to get used to this life, because this was Dean’s life. The royal court? The life of a heir? It wasn’t Dean’s thing, he couldn’t even imagine getting into formal dress right now. Let alone smile and be polite to all those masked faces. There was a darkness in Dean however, a little pit of worry because when those parts of Castiel were ripped so cruelly from him, it wouldn’t even be the monsters fault, it would be Dean’s.

“Do they attack only at night?” Sam speaks up, unknowingly saving his brother from the deep well of depression and bringing him back to the warm familiar distraction of a case.

“Like I said before, they used to. They’re getting braver though,” She leans back in her chair as she continues, “They sometimes walk those travelers right into town. The soldiers take care of them than.” The Sheriff frowns, “Ya don’t really kill a demon when ya destroy the body though, do you?”

“No.” Dean says right away, which Castiel follows.

“Only certain things can kill a demon ma’am.”

“That's what I thought.” She responds, interlocking her fingers in front of her. “Good thing you guys are here than.”

Both Sam and Dean nod at this and Sam gets up from the chair. “We’ll take care of it Sheriff.”

“I expect you will.” She responds, shifting so that she can pay attention to the paperwork in front of her.

They take that are the cue and file out of the room, Dean heading out first with Sam following, Castiel and Jo coming right behind. “So we break up into groups and take a road?” Sam asks the moment the door closes behind them.

Dean gives a nod to that, “Yeah I figure you and Jo can take the west entrance and Cas and I can take the south.” While Dean usually stuck Cas with anyone else but himself in order to know what was going on, Dean had a feeling that the southern road would be worse tonight, as it was the closest to Seven Gates.

Castiel seems to understand this and nods, “I believe that it a good idea.”

Sam and Jo also catch on, but their understanding is different. “You’re giving us the easier job.” Sam says simply, while Jo looks back and forth between Castiel and Dean.

Castiel’s eyes met Jo’s (Dean couldn’t help but notice) but Dean looks towards his brother, ignoring their looks as he speaks. “They could try to circle back once they realize there’s hunters here.”

Sam’s shoulders slump but he nods once, “Yeah.”

That conversation was dropped and the troop get an inn room set up. They had one room this time (two beds and one couch) so they knew they’d have to figure out sleeping arrangements. Jo decides to take a nap in one of the beds while Sam goes over their weapon itinerary on the other. Dean’s getting pretty hungry now and he opts to get food for the group, and Castiel, who seemed pretty bored, decides to go with him. They leave the room, and head down the hall towards the exit before anyone says anything.

“I should mention that I can kill demons the same way as I did with Mr. Homes.” Castiel speaks up when they’re away from any eavesdroppers.

Dean doesn’t feel shocked to learn that, sort of like he already knew it. He shrugs it off, “Makes our job easier.” Castiel blinks at that but accepts the response. “I mean, magic can do multiple things right?”

Castiel nods, “Yes.” Dean snorts at the finality in his companion's voice.

“What can’t you do Cas?” Dean jokes, gently nudging the other man in the side.

“Talk to my family.” Castiel deadpans, and Dean’s not sure if it’s a joke or seriously something he can’t do. Knowing Cas, it’s the latter.

“Why’s that?” The green eyed hunter asks, his hands in his pockets as they walked.

It’s Castiel’s turn to shrug and it looks odd on him, his eyes don’t meet Dean’s but instead squint forward, like he’s trying to see his siblings.

“They are very… scattered.” Castiel finally hedges, “And many of them do not see eye to eye. It makes family get together very difficult.”

Dean nods, remembering his brother and their dad and how that was always a fight. “Is there anyone who wouldn’t be a problem if you saw them?”

Castiel nods hesitantly, “My sister and brother, but they both disappeared years ago.” Castiel’s still squinting out into the distance, “I am sure my brother is alive, but my sister… she disappeared for different reasons.” That was too vague not to question and Castiel must have known it because he continues. “She was banished by my family, she went against the head of our house’s wishes.”

“And she got banished for that?” Dean was shocked this time, John had huge blow outs with Sam but John had never once thought of banishing him, never.

Castiel is very silent now and Dean lets it lie, not wanting to accidentally push the man away. They make it to the nearest eatery and get as much food as all four travelers needed. In was in their time walking back, when the streets were less crowded that Castiel continued. “My eldest brother took head of house when my father disappeared, he is rather… strict with his rules.”

This was dangerous which made Dean want to lighten the mood and the best way he knew how was to make a joke. “Does everyone in your family disappear?”  

“No, there was a civil war within my family once, where one of my brothers went against my father’s wishes. His rebellion is one of the reasons I believe my father left.”

Something about this seemed too familiar but Dean couldn’t put his thumb on it and therefore just let it go. “You got a lot of problems in your family don’t you?”

Castiel snorts, little humor behind his voice as he speaks, “Apocalypse worthy.”

“Yikes.” Dean breathes, reaching the main entrance to the inn. He holds the door open for Castiel, since the dark haired man was carrying the majority of the bags.

“Thank you.” The blue eyed man grunts as he steps through after Dean, Dean doesn’t bother saying anything but instead sends an ‘no problem’ sort of vibe through their connection. Talking to Castiel in person was different than using their connection, sure you got more emotions and thoughts through the connection but to just see their face as they talk, see dried lips move, it’s nice.

They make it to the room and Dean unlocks the door, holding it open once again for his counterpart. Castiel heads in with confidence and drops the bags gently onto the table in the room.

“Foods here.” Dean calls, making the sleeping form of Jo move.

“Good.” Sam says, cleaning his hands off on his pants as he stands, “I’m starving.” Sam heads right for the bags and starts sifting through, apparently looking for one thing in particular. He finds it, whatever it is, and pulls the package out happily. Dean automatically recognizing it as the steak they had ordered.

Yeah, the steak was for everyone (that’s why there was three of them in there) but Sam usually didn’t have the steak (again why there was three and not four) and instead goes for the stupid salads before having the leftovers of someone else’s steak. But today? Oh no, he was already starting on the biggest steak, Castiel watching in confusion as well.

“Dude.” Dean states, staring at his little brother.

Sam doesn’t even finish the bite he’s taking before replying. “What?”

Dean knows his little brother and he has manors, it’s one of the things that distinguishes Sam from Dean but right now he just didn’t seem to care. “When do you ever start on steak?” Dean asks, unabashed.

Sam shrugs, shoving another piece into his mouth and chewing some before responding, “I just really wanted steak today.” It’s a legitimate reason, Dean knows he has days when he wants steak more than something else, but it was just odd for Sam. Castiel, who hadn’t been with the boys long, had even sensed an oddness in Sam’s behavior but he said nothing and instead shared a look with Dean.

Jo however, didn’t seem to give two shakes about Sam’s food behavior because she just groggily gets out of bed, shuffles over and plops herself down next to the samsquatch. She grunts out something that neither Dean or Cas can understand but apparently Sam catches a look from Jo and understands, grabbing some bread and passing it over. Jo grunts again and this time all three know it’s in thanks.

Dean himself grabs a steak and passes the second one towards Cas, he got dibs. Castiel gives Dean a careful expression before taking the food and joining Sam and Jo at the table. “Was your nap nice Jo?” Castiel asks, cutting up his food as he waits for her to come to humanity. The bread seems to affect Jo at about the time Dean sits down at the table as well.

“Yeah.” She mumbles around her bread, whatever she says next neither Castiel or Dean have a clue but she motions her head towards Sam and they take that as something happened.

“Sam?” Dean asks, watching his brother finishing off the steak.

“Yeah?” The youngest Winchester looks up towards his brother, completely unaware of the conversation everyone was just having.

“Did anything happen when she was taking her nap?” Dean suddenly felt like a parent trying to get the story out of the older sibling; strange how he considered Sam like an older brother to Jo, he wondered if Jo or Sam felt that way.

Sam seems to get the parent vibe from Dean and rolls his eyes, swallowing the rest of the meat before saying anything. “Nope, I did wake her up once by moving around too much.”

Jo nods at this, backing up the story.

“Drama.” Dean whistles out playfully, grinning towards Jo.

It must be a thing whenever talking to Dean because Jo also rolls her eyes at him and nods, “You know it.” Before stuffing her face again with the bread.

 

When everyone is fed and ready they head out into Prill, the sun still has several hours but because of the frequency of the attacks lately it can’t hurt to be out early. They start out as a group, as the inn was on the northern border of the town and they all have to go somewhat the same way down.

“And if you guys need anything you get us okay?” Dean states, just finishing going over the plans.

Jo nods, her hair back in a pony tail. “Aye aye captain!” She retorts with ease, grabbing onto Sammy’s arm.

Sam smiles towards the female before looking up at his brother, “We will.” He promises, knowing Dean will worry otherwise.

Dean trusts that his brother will keep him informed so he now says his goodbyes, “Alright, see you guys.”

“Be safe.” Castiel stresses, making sure the two knew he wished them well too.

“Awe of course Cas!” Jo giggles, giving him a wink, “You too.”

Dean feels a slight stress come from Castiel but it quickly retracts as if fearful he would feel it. “Thank you Jo.”

The group of four separate into groups of two and head towards their watch points. Because of Castiel and Dean’s mind melt shit they are able to fan out and cover more ground without fear of losing each other.

”Anything Cas?” Dean asks when the sun starts to set.

”Nothing, I do not sense anything either.” Dean doesn’t like the sound of that and gets an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. Castiel feels the pain and reaches out his consciousness to sooth the anxiety. ”Do not worry Dean, I will be able to tell when they get closer, no matter what angle they come at.”

Castiel seems sure of himself and he hasn’t been wrong before so Dean relaxes and lets the gentle feelings of Castiel’s comfort take hold. It was like a warmness in his chest, spreading throughout his body, ending at the tips of his fingers and toes. A sense of electricity is there as well, from maybe Castiel’s powers or something else and it gave Dean that alertness to stay aware in the drowsy atmosphere of his brain.

 

An hour passes, and the sun is near down when Castiel’s attention suddenly goes on high alert. ”They’re coming.” He starts and Dean feels Castiel’s directions change so he is heading towards Dean. ”Southwest.” That’s in the opposite direction of Dean for Castiel so the hunter picks up speed, heading instead towards Castiel. Castiel realizes this and stops his movement. ”There are five, I do not believe they intend to perform a stakeout.”

“How do you know?” Dean turns a corner and sees Castiel, without a verbalized word they both head towards the same street and more towards the southwest border.

”I can sense each of their blackened souls. None are too powerful however, underlinings.”

”Good.” Dean looks over at the blue eyed man and nods, with Cas there was a sureness in the hunt, like mess ups were less likely. It felt nice to feel like he was on the winning end.

Castiel suddenly changes directions and heads more into the residential area of the town, his steps gaining enough speed for Dean to have to jog. ”They’re heading towards a house.”

That didn’t seem good and Dean picks up even more speed, unsheathing Taurus as he goes.

The smaller man takes a turn up a walkway and Dean knows that this is the house.

”They here yet?” Dean questions, now taking point towards the front door.

”No, they will be shortly, they are unaware of us being here yet.”

Dean bangs on the house door, loud and urgent but no one comes. Castiel leaves Dean’s side and starts around the house. He can’t go alone, Dean wouldn’t let that and leaves his post to follow the brown haired man. The moment he turns the corner towards the back of the building he sees them, five bodies walking towards them.

“Go and spare your lives.” Castiel barks, his own sword by his side as he moves between the house and the evil creatures.

A female with brown hair and a studious face laughs, her monk habit falling back. “Oh we have been warned of you Castiel.” She’s almost singing, and two of the five demons separate, heading in the opposite way of Dean.

Dean makes a move to follow them but the two demons (excluding the female) who stayed now step forward threateningly. Castiel makes a move to stand in the way of them getting to the hunter. The female finds that even funnier, “Oh please, we’re aware of your choices Castiel, most Unholy told us.”

Castiel now gets frightening, the sky seeming to get darker around him just by his emotions. “He knows nothing of me now.”

The female lets out yet another laugh while the two demons head closer to Dean and vicariously Castiel. It’s a mistake and Dean watches as Castiel knocks one of the demons onto the ground and the touches the other’s forehead with his palm. A flash of light comes from Castiel’s hand and Dean can see the demon dying in the meatsuit before it crashes to the ground. The fallen demon now kicks out at Castiel, making the man stumble back. The female demon takes this distraction to make a break for the house door. Dean doesn’t let her get passed him, his sword outstretched towards her throat.

“Oh but what about the nice monk girl I’m wearing? You know she’s really devout.” The demon nearly sings. Dean seems to think about it, his other hand busy behind his back with unscrewing a flask of holy water. “And rather pretty don’t you think?” She makes a step forward so her chin rests on the blade. Dean sees the flash of light from Castiel taking care of the other demon and knows it’s time for his move. The hunter violently jolts the container at the demon, making the holy liquid fall upon the female. She screams, and shrinks, writhing in pain, and Castiel grabs her hands, pulling them behind the woman’s back.

Both men recite the exorcism in perfect harmony, black smoke shooting out of the woman’s mouth and scattering across the ground. The meatsuit falls unconscious so Castiel sets her down on the grass. The very moment she is placed down a child’s scream can be heard from indoors. Horror strikes at both Castiel and Dean’s cores and they share a look before darting towards the backdoor. Castiel gets there first and banging his shoulder against the wooden plank, breaks it off the frame.

They were in a kitchen of sorts now and they could see exactly what was going on. There were five separate bodies, two demons, two adults and one child. The mother was sheltering the daughter who had just screamed and the man, who Dean could presume was the father, was laying the ground, bleeding out from his stomach. The bleeding man hears the new men enter and turns his head slowly towards them, his eyes landing on Castiel. Dean couldn’t help but see the creepy similarity between the man and Castiel, like they could be twins.

“Watcher help us.” The man speaks, coughing up blood as he does so. The girl lets out a squeak in distress and this seems to remind the demons to make their move. The bigger one steps threateningly towards the woman and child but Castiel doesn’t miss a beat. “Close your eyes.” He orders, light shining from his center. When the light flashes and dissipates Dean opens his eyes to see that the girl was staring straight towards Castiel her face filled with confusion. Castiel pays her no attention but instead steps towards the man, “Jimmy.” He says quietly, “The Watcher cannot heal your wounds.” His voice is low and sad, “They are too severe and he is too weak.”

The man nods, or nods as much as he can. He coughs up a little more blood, his blue eyes turning lighter as his life leaves him. “Can he protect m-my family?” He coughs more.

Castiel nods, “The Watcher will do all in his power, let me guide you to light brother.” He reaches up but Jimmy shrinks back, “Cla-Claire baby. Come here.” He seems to regain some of his color, like he remembers there is something to hold onto. The girl, who must be Claire, steps forward so she can look at her father’s face. She says nothing but her eyes are long past red with the tears that now stained her cheeks. “It’ll be okay sweetpee, alright? I love you.”

“I-I love you too daddy.” Claire finally pushes out, her voice cracking. It seems to be all Jimmy needs to hear because the moment the words are uttered the rest of his life force seems to leave. “Daddy!?” Screams Claire, unable to keep her sobs back. Castiel gently stands up, looking towards the corner of the room for a moment before turning his attention to Claire and the woman. The demons, who had been killed by the blast of light went unnoticed, this other interaction more otherworldly than they could ever be. Watching the life leave Jimmy was frightening for Dean, it was like watching Castiel die, seeing the very power in his body that has helped some many others finally give up on him. Fear hits the center of Dean, reverberating through his conscious all the way to Castiel. The other man sends comforting thoughts to Dean, nothing with actual verbal or visual substance but just remembrance that Castiel was alive and without a single scratch, much like Dean.

“Who- who are you? Why do you look like my husband?!” The woman asks, making Castiel step forward.

“I am one of the worshippers of the Watcher, like your late husband.” Dean knows Cas shouldn’t have preferred to him as dead so quickly but he already said it so, too late. “As for our physical similarities….” Castiel looks down to the body, “This is simply conquinitence.”

“Didn’t you call him brother?” Claire speaks up, having returned to her mother.

“Brother in worship, yes, brother in blood? No.” Dean would be as suspicious as the two females if he couldn’t basically read Castiel’s mind. Castiel was as confused as Dean was to the fact he had a near doppelganger. ”I heard rumors that there were people in the world that looked like you but I did not ever expect to run into one.” Castiel voices to Dean, making the other nod.

Castiel now looks around the room, “We will clear this mess out.” He states simply, as if looking at a list of things to do, “Dean, maybe you should get Sam and some guards to help with body removal.”

“He was alive not even five minutes ago! Don’t talk about him like he was nothing!” The woman screams, obviously and rightly still upset.

“I was not talking about Jimmy ma’am, simply the demons.” It shuts her up and Dean now takes it as his time to leave.

Using the front door Dean leaves the horror show and instead goes in search of his brother. It doesn’t stop him from talking to Castiel however. ”How did you know his name?” Dean asks as he rounds a corner towards the western border.

”As I said, he was a worshiper of the Watcher, I know all the present worshipers.”

”How?” It was only half an explanation, Dean knew the why but not the how.

This gives Castiel pause in their thoughts so Dean focuses more on finding Sam or Jo, who he hasn’t reached yet. He does find a patrol of soldiers however and informs of them of the event towards the southwest. They both take off running to inform their higher officers and Dean continues.

”I do not know how to explain it.” Castiel finally says, his emotions non-existent so that Dean doesn’t know if he’s lying or telling the truth. Dean thinks highly of Castiel and therefore gives him the benefit of the doubt. The conversation drops as they both pay more attention to the tasks at hand.

Dean does eventually find Sam and Jo, who are both set up to watch the road. “Dean?” Sam asks, coming out from behind a tree while Jo drops down from an overhanging branch.

“Demons came our way, we took care of it but some civilian died.” Dean catches them up and doesn’t even bother giving them pause before walking back the way he came.

“Really?” Jo asks, sheathing her daggers as she follows.

“Yeah in his house and everything, Cas is probably find out how it exactly went down.”

“Shouldn’t you guys have stopped them before they entered the house?” Sam asks and Dean has to look back because there’s something just off about his brother’s voice. He looks completely normal, and because of the tattoos inked into their chests Dean knew he couldn’t be possessed. Like before with Castiel, Dean lets the idea fall away, taking the other subject more seriously.

“There was five of them, we got stuck with three and the other two got away from us. It probably happened then.” Dean shrugs, yeah they fucked up but at least the whole family wasn’t dead.

They shot information back and forth on their way to the southwestern house and once they do reach the building they find Castiel busy building a pyre. “What the hell are you doing?” Dean asks, walking directly towards Castiel. “Amelia told me it was one of Jimmy’s wishes to be cremated, I thought it best for them if I performed it as I am the only worshipper of the Watcher in the area.” He says it easily and it sounds reasonable, so Dean asks the next question.

“What about the demons?”

“The girl who was exorcised was taken by the soldiers, the bodies have already been removed and disposed off.” Castiel does not stop his building so Sam joins him, helping stack the wood in it’s proper shape.

At this time the woman, who must be Amelia steps out of the house, her eyes red rimmed. “Would someone mind helping me carry out-” Her voice cracks and she takes a second to compose herself. “My husband please.”

Jo and Dean who aren’t involved with the building of the pyre, jump to attention and head in with her. Jimmy is now wrapped in clean cotton, his face blissfully covered (because it was like seeing Castiel dead and that scared Dean more than losing a civilian). Neither Jo or Dean say anything about the slowly forming blood stain in the middle and both carefully lift up the body. They carry him out with Amelia taking the end and carefully place him on the pyre.

“Claire.” Amelia calls back towards the house, making the blonde haired girl appear at the entrance, her face now emotionless in the bad way. She moves down the steps and carries herself across the land separating them, handing her mother the flint and steel for setting her father’s body ablaze.

It has to be hard on the kid, Dean thinks but says nothing as Amelia steps forward. Sam and Castiel seem to be done with the rest of the pyre and also step back, allowing room for Amelia to come near.

She says her goodbye, inaudible to Dean and Castiel seemed to purposefully ignore the private words in respect for the dead. She does eventually finish and turn towards her daughter, “Claire would you like to say anything?” Claire shakes her head once, simply staring towards the body wrapped in white. Amelia accepts this with a concerned understanding before turning back to her husband's body. Using the flint and steel she gets a flame going, stepping back as the flames rise. Castiel’s eyes are glued on the body, his mouth moving in silent words, words that Dean knows aren’t human.

The hunters stay until the body is largely gone, taking their leave as suddenly as they appeared. Amelia doesn’t let them walk away just yet however, “Sir.” She calls out, gaining Castiel’s attention, “If your Watcher is real, he doesn’t care and I don’t believe in him.” She states coldly, this whole event obviously affecting her.

Castiel takes pause in his steps and contemplates his own response, “I can assure you he does, he is simply too weak to bring someone back from the brink of death.”

Amelia shakes her head, disgust showing in her voice, “Than what kind of god is he?”

There’s sadness in Castiel’s eyes and voice as he speaks next, “One who usually only watches.” Amelia finds the response as a kind of cop out and turns away, facing the burning body of her husband. The band of four take this as their moment to leave and depart from the situation.

“Do you think the town is clean now?” Jo asks once they're several houses away, heading towards their inn room.

Dean shrugs, “One was exorcised but I can't see it coming back, not with four of it's buddies bein’ killed.”

“It is very unlikely.” Castiel agrees, prompting Sam to say something as well.

“They’re probably done with this town.” Sam tacks on like he knows for sure, like someone or something had informed him. Dean wants to bring it up but Jo distracts him with a completely new topic.

“Hey Dean did you know this place has a red-light district?” She looks over quickly to Castiel and Dean’s brain is now preoccupied with if she was trying to hint to something. Taking it on faith (and by the way, completely misinterpreting) Dean speaks up, including Castiel in the conversation.

“Sweet, Cas you’ve ever been?” There is nothing but stone silence from their traveling companion and Dean can tell there is a level of discomfort, a level of discomfort only a few select people could feign. Dean’s jaw drops and he stops completely in his tracks towards the inn. “Have you ever… you know? Done some seeding?” He’s trying to stare Castiel directly in the eye to get a truthful answer but his friend’s eyes wander, looking for only a millisecond towards Dean before glancing everywhere but. “Seriously dude?” Dean asks, astonished. Castiel was not bad looking, sure he looked frumpy and disheveled half the time but his features were pleasant and his body was made of lean muscle, which is often found attractive. Dean’s so distracted by this he doesn’t even notice as Jo pulls herself away from the conversation, her goal was… sort of met.

“There has not been an occasion.” Castiel states in defence,, taking Dean’s attitude as demeaning instead of just completely shocked. There were shades of pink in Castiel’s cheeks, even in the shit lighting of night he could still see it.

There’s only one course of action now, “Oh you got to come with me tonight.” Dean’s decided he’ll pay for Castiel’s first time, get him initiated into the Hunters the proper unofficial way. Jo snorts loudly, whether at Dean’s comment or towards the whole situation, she doesn’t say anything however.

“I do not feel as though that is necessary, Dean.” Castiel’s voice, which was more insulted before has now switched to a sort of panic.

“Awh come on now.” Dean grins, wrapping an arm around Castiel’s shoulders and pulling him closer in a joking matter. “What’s the worst that can happen?”

 


 

Dean finds out not two hours later. The eldest Winchester had set Castiel up with a woman named Chastity (Dean’s proud of that one) and had just been about to place his own order of sexual pleasures off the menu when he hears a scream. It’s a woman’s scream but Dean still worries about Castiel, he doubted that would go away anytime soon after Jimmy’s death. He bursts through the hall door just in time to see a more than normally disheveled Castiel standing there, Chastity hitting him over and over again with her hands. “Asshole!” She screams, hitting him once more before storming off past Dean. “AUGH!” She yells in his direction, Dean doesn’t give a shit and heads directly towards his partner.

“Dude what happened?”

Castiel looks lost and rather scared and for the first time Dean feels actually bad about this attempt. “I told her my...preferences.” He makes a face, “And informed her that her father left because he hated his job as a soldier.” A smile crosses Dean’s face and he wants to ask more about it but at that very moment two rather intimidating guards come pushing their way through the hall towards the hunter and his friend.

Knowing their faces only had a couple minutes to get away from a good punching Dean starts towards one of the exits, “Come on.” Castiel was already tailing Dean like a lost shadow so it makes their escape easy. The moment they get far enough away Dean lets out a laugh, a laugh so heavy he has to bend over for a second. “Man Cas,” He smiles up at the blue-eyed man, “You know that whole industry is based on absent fathers?”

“Maybe I should join.” Castiel deadpans, his face giving away the fact he wouldn’t even dream of it. His words do send Dean into another fit of laughter, so much so that Dean actually ends up coughing at one point.

“With tassles on your nipples?” Dean brings his hands to his chest, sticking out his pointer fingers just to give a visual. A smile creeps across Castiel’s face and it’s beautiful and pure and Dean is so happy he gets this moment.

“Only if you think it’s a good idea.”

Dean laughs, nodding his head. “They should be all shiny.”

“And perhaps in the shape of dragon eggs.” Castiel states without missing a beat.

The human hunter can’t even respond to that as he was laughing too hard. Dean had this overwhelming sense of pride swell in him, Castiel was finally getting used to the humor that came  with this particular hunting group and instead of being annoyed or upset he simply went along with it. Once the laughing does subside and they are closer to the inn Dean speaks up, his voice soft with truth. “Thanks man.”

“For what?” Castiel voices, confusion coming across their connection.

“Making this one of the best nights I’ve had in awhile.” It was true, and okay, kinda gushy, but Dean hadn’t felt happy endorphins like this for some time, like what feel like forever.

“Oh.” Castiel says simply, digesting Dean’s response. “I am glad.” He finally finishes, his own voice softer.

There’s no need to talk after that and Dean doesn’t like chick flick moments anyway. They head into the inn room to discover Sam sleeping on one of the beds while Jo has taken the couch, which is odd of her. Dean makes a face at the dilemma now, where were two other people going to sleep without sharing a bed? They should have drawn straws before.

”I can sleep on the floor.” Castiel says, getting the essentials of what Dean was thinking.

”Dude really?” Dean wasn’t going to exactly fight Castiel on this, but he wanted to make sure before he condemned this friend to floor duty.

Castiel nods, heading to the floor closest to the farthest wall (coincidentally on the right side of Dean’s bed). ”I barely used beds until I met you hunters, sleeping on the floor will have little effect on me.”

Dean accepts this, shrugging as he heads to the one unused bed, ”Hey man whatever you feel comfortable with.” Once again they fall into silence, busied with changing from their hunting clothing to that of sleepware. Dean crawls into bed first and while originally facing Sam, he turns to watch the other man getting ready. Castiel, who had slipped out of his pants and into another softer pair when Dean wasn’t looking was now busying himself with his top layers. Like Dean he wore several layers and with each added layer the longer it took. Eventually he got down to his basic shirt, a pale blue tunic. He stops shedding his layers at this time and instead sets up his sleeping place. Dean, realizing the poor sod doesn’t even have a pillow throws one of his extra ones in the direction of the man. Castiel catches it with little difficulty, already aware of Dean’s actions due to their connection.

”Thank you.” He softly states over the connection, placing the pillow down before following Dean’s suit. ”Good night Dean.” Castiel calls quietly over their link, warmth and comfort following with the words. Dean relaxes more into the sheets and nods, knowing that Castiel will just know.

“Night Cas.”

 


 

The next morning Dean isn't the first to wake up, matter of fact he only stirs when Sam opens the door to the room. Immediately the smells of breakfast food hit Dean's nose. It's enough to make the groggy hunter sit up and wander towards the table where Sam now stands. Sam’s digging in without delay, shifting through the food until he finds his own breakfast. Once Sam is done with his scavenger hunt Dean takes his place, looking for his own portion. Dean eventually finds some bread and steak and sits back comfortably looking over at his brother and his plate for the first time this morning.

It’s steak, bloody steak. There’s not only one but another half added onto the pile as Sam engorges himself on the cooked meats, unaware of his brother’s concerned eyes. “Dude seriously?” Dean comments, his voice rough as it was his first time speaking all day. “Again?” Sam ignores Dean’s remarks and continues to demolish the food in front of him. He looks like how Dean would imagine a hungry dragon ripping apart the carcass of its prey. Dean hadn’t quieted his voice at all when addressing his brother and because of this Jo starts to move around, awoken by their general loudness. Castiel’s conscious is awake but does not rely anything to Dean and since Dean doesn’t turn around the man could either be lying there or out and about the town for all the eldest Winchester knew. “Sam.” Dean calls, his brother ignoring him once again. “Sammy.” Dean warns, reaching over to put his hand between Sam and his food.

“Knock it off Dean!” Sam barks, his voice peppered with actual violence, alarming Dean enough for him to pull back his hand.

“The fuck Sam?!” The eldest Winchester is now standing, forgoing his food in order to reach his bag by his bed. There was something wrong with Sam, this was not his brother, couldn’t be. It wasn’t a shapeshifter, because the forks and knives they used during breakfast was silver (you’d think they were fancy except the butter knife had once cut off a changeling’s pinky finger).

“I was eating!” The younger Winchester exclaims, looking at his brother in annoyance before turning back to his food.

Dean doesn’t press the matter yet and reaches out for every test material known it a hunter. He grabs the holy water. There was no reason for Sam to be possessed but if he was, the holy water should help so Dean takes it and walks around his brother. Sam has continued to eat at this point and Dean pops open the container of holy liquid, pouring some down his brother’s neck and shirt.

Sam jumps right out of his chair at that and any hostility that was previously there dissipates, being replaced by real Sam. “Dean!” He says, shocked and mildly annoyed. He sees the holy water in his brother’s hand and raises an eyebrow. “You think I’m possessed?”

“Now I don’t.” Dean says, his voice still unsure. “You were acting pretty weird man.” Sam gives him a bitch face so Dean looks past his shoulder to the blonde sitting on the couch, a dagger hidden in the folds of her blankets. “Jo, wasn’t he acting weird?”

“Yeah.” Her voice while positive of that fact, sounded uneasy. It’s now that Dean notices that Castiel wasn’t lying on the ground where Dean had seen him last night. Matter of fact, all the bedding had been removed, as if Castiel had never slept there.

”Cas?” Dean calls, sudden panic gripping at his heart.

”Yes Dean?” The tight feeling in Dean’s chest subsides and he doesn’t bother talking back to Castiel per se, now that he knows his brain-buddy isn’t a figment of his imagination. Instead Dean lets emotions flow, the relief of hearing Castiel’s voice is the strongest and carefully masks the concerns about Sam.

“Sorry guys,” Sam sounds actually distressed, frowning as he looks at Dean. “I’ve just been really hungry lately.”

“You don’t say.” Dean grunts, stepping back a bit so he can circle the table and return to his food. There was two ways this conversation could go and Dean, loving his brother too much, takes the easier of the two routes. “Guess we need to get more food for the company giant.” Dean would always choose to outwardly ignore any wrongs his brother performed, he’d rather internalize everything than lose his brother.

“Ha ha, very funny Dean.” Sam responds, sitting back down himself in order to eat. He doesn’t take the same persona as before but instead continues to chat with his brother, the vibe of the room returning to as if nothing happened. “So what’s the plan?”

Dean shrugs and the door of the inn room opens, Castiel now walking in. He was already dressed for the day, which was apparently hot because the man was now carrying his jacket, along with a small book. Dean automatically connects eyes with the strange man before answering his brother’s question. “I was thinking we should stay here for today and maybe leave tomorrow or so. Just to make sure there aren’t any more attacks.” Dean had realized some time between the execution of those demons and now, that maybe the same demons weren’t attacking this place and it was instead part of a plan. If there was a plan, Dean wanted to stay and figure out what it was.

“I believe that would be a good course of action.” Castiel speaks up, heading towards the nook between wall and couch. He places his book inside of his bag (which he had crammed there for some reason) before placing his coat on the heap and turning towards the Winchesters.

“Doesn’t sound too stupid.” Jo comments offhandedly, dressing on the couch underneath her sleeping clothes (how she did that Dean would never understand).

“Awe thank you Jo, you know that means so much to me.” Dean jokes, placing his hand over his heart dramatically. Jo finishes whatever she’s clasping and once her hand is free throws the middle finger his way. In the little banter Dean failed to notice Sam’s attitude towards their plan, how his seems to seem slightly happy about it, just before going somewhere outside of their present.

“So Castiel, what were you doing?” Jo asks, putting emphasis on her friend’s name to tell Dean she was done talking to him.

Castiel shuffles slightly and in an effort to delay his response heads towards the food bag. As the silence grows Castiel knows he does have to answer the question and he does, “I went on a walk.”

Vague as ever. Dean thinks, earning a look from his companion. Jo seems to think the same, “That’s it?” She’s nearly complaining and it makes Castiel continue.

“I also wrote in my book.”

”Descriptive Cas.” Dean actually comments to his friend, who gives him a quick innocent glare. Dean gets it and covers for the man, sometimes things were private. “Come on Jo, the guy just wants to eat.” Jo makes a face but doesn’t respond, instead focusing on dressing herself so the boys can eat.

 

They all putz around the room a little more before doing anything and in that time Dean makes a note to Jo that she should get her own room for the next night, she doesn’t disagree. The rest of the day is reasonably uneventful, they do rounds and eventually split up, Dean with Sam and Jo with Castiel. Dean doesn’t say outloud that he wants to be with Sam to ensure his brother doesn’t do anything freakish but Jo knows and she is grateful. Dean and Sam both go to the soldiers barracks and round up any soldiers who wish to know how to get rid of a demon.

That doesn’t take that long (not a lot of soldiers volunteer, but there was around six of them so that was comforting) and soon after that they stop by the sheriff’s office to inform her of their plan. She seems grateful and the boys leave.

Dean had kept in contact with Castiel the entire day, checking in on him and Jo to make sure they were fine. They were, just Jo was a bit bored. With little concern about demons popping up Dean tells Castiel that they should meet at the local pub. Dean and Sam get there first and are about half way through a pint when Jo and Castiel show up.

“Would you look at that,” Dean jokes, holding up his glass to the two. He locks eyes with Castiel for a moment before turning and smiling at his brother. “I guess they know us.”

Sam snorts, taking another sip of his own drink. “This is like your favorite hang out spot.” Sam comments, thankfully unaware that Dean and Castiel had planned this.

“So how’d the day go?” Dean asks the moment Jo and Castiel sit down, fresh drinks in their hands.

“Boring.” Jo acknowledges, throwing down her head slightly to prove her point.

Dean snorts and nods, “That was an all around recurring theme.”

 

They sit and drink for a while but soon enough both Sam and Jo become tired (helped by the drinks) and decide to leave. “Want me to walk you back?” Dean asks, making sure Jo is comfortable with leaving with Sam.

“Oh no.” Jo says, flopping her hand uselessly at the eldest Winchester. “We’ll be fine.” She grins up to Sam, who grins back. Whatever hesitation Jo had in the morning seemed to have subsided as the day went by.

“Alright sleep well ya weaklings.” Dean says in lieu of goodnight, holding up his new drink as way of toasting their leaving.

Both Jo and Sam roll their eyes at this but Sam is the one to actually respond. “Night Dean.”

“Goodnight Cas!” Jo waves, grinning at the dark haired man like the cat who ate the canary. Dean puts it to the wayside because everyone has a couple drinks in them and instead watches as his brother and sister-in-bond leave the room.

The pub isn’t too filled but has enough people in it for both Dean and Castiel to be unnoticeable subsequently making Dean more comfortable. “So Cas,” Dean starts, looking over at his friend, “Just how much do you have to drink to get drunk?”

Castiel shrugs, “I am unsure, I have never been drunk.”

Dean’s eyes bulge out of his head at that. “What?” He asks, incredulous.

Castiel just nods solemnly, taking another sip of his own drink. “The courses in my life never really allowed me to.”

Dean’s already standing up, “Oh no, we’re gonna fix this.” It was the perfect excuse, there was two other hunters in town, if something happened someone would be able to take care of it. If something happened, and that was a big if as it did take awhile for anyone to get to the border of Seven Gates and visa versa. Plus, Dean has been looking for this excuse.

So now Dean heads to the bar and returns with a handle of some of their strongest along with a more than a dozen small glasses. He pours about five shots each but then gives Cas another five, full to the brim. “For every shot I take you have to take two.”

Dean knew Castiel could take this amount of liquor, after all he watched as he downed several shots and barely even blinked. “Sounds fair.” Castiel announces, now understanding the premise of what they were about to do. He takes another sip of his pint before placing it down and readying himself for the intake of several small shots of extremely hard liquor.

By the first line of shots Dean still knows what’s going on, by the second things start to get warm and when they hit the third Dean’s pretty damn amused. Dean isn’t a happy drinker, but he’s usually self medicating. This time it was for Castiel, which made it vastly different. Dean’s of course still coherent at this time and decides it’s a good idea to leave the pub, after all people were starting to notice how alcohol Castiel is downing. So instead Dean heads to the bar and just asks for two handles of their strongest whatever. She does and Dean pays, heading back towards the table he and Castiel had occupied for the last two hours. “Come on tiger.” He teases, nodding his head towards the exit. Castiel understands immediately and stands, following Dean out of the pub.

“Where are we going?” Castiel asks as soon as they meet the night air.

Dean doesn’t actually know and he stops, thinking for a good second before shrugging. “I have no idea, I just don’t think we should stay in there.” There’s another pause as Dean reaches up with bottle in hand to rub as the skin above his eyebrow. “Didn’t you go walking around this place this morning?”

“Yes.” Castiel answers easily, looking rather curious as to why Dean asked.

“Did you see any places that might be nice to just stay at? Away from people?”

This throws Castiel off guard and he seems to need a moment to collect himself before nodding, “Yes. Follow me.”

This time Dean follows Castiel and he is led throughout the closer buildings and then the more separated buildings until they reach the edge of town. They headed closer to the south than Dean expected but it is a beautiful place. The trees are still numerous and while they are short, they give enough cover for the two men to sit comfortably underneath their gnarled arms. The stars can still be seen from their location and a nice breeze sweeps in from the frigid desert in front of them. There’s still several leagues between this town and Nemeris (the official title of desert between Seven Gates and Potesta). “Damn, it is nice here.” Dean comments, breaking the silence that had surrounded them for their walk.

Castiel nods, looking up at the stars. “It is quite peaceful.”

Dean pops one of the handles open and hands it to Castiel, “Here ya go.” The blue eyed man takes the bottle with little hesitation and starts to drink is as if it’s water. It almost makes Dean nauseous but he gets over it by bringing up any subject he can think of. “So are you feeling anything Cas?” It was a good place to start.

Castiel pauses and after contemplating it for awhile nods, “I believe so or I am at least getting close.” Dean snorts at that, shaking his head before opening his own handle and taking a sip.

“I don't even understand how you are physically possible.” Dean states, suddenly overwhelmed by all the things that make Castiel, Cas.

The other man doesn't seem sure of how to take that, so after a moment's thought and a couple more swigs, he does speak up. “Thank you?” Castiel hedges making Dean laugh. He can't help it, Castiel’s face is all scrunched up and he seems so lost that Dean just finds it adorable.

“It was a compliment Cas.” Dean chuckles out, shaking his head slightly.

“Oh thank you.” He sounds more thankful now, trusting Dean’s words.

There's another moment's pause now as neither know what to say but Dean, after searching through the boxes in his brain realizes there are some things to talk to Cas about. “So that necklace of yours.” Dean looks down towards Castiel's chest, where he knows the necklace now hangs.

“What about it?” Castiel asks, seeming to try and play coy, which Dean can read through.

“Well what is? What does it do?” It has to do something, Dean knows that much, anything that glows can’t be nothing.

Castiel takes another sip of his liquor before responding. “It’s called the Eye of the Watcher.” He takes another drink but this time at the end reaches under his clothing to reveal the necklace, which is glowing in the darkness around them. “It’s said to hold the power of the Watcher in it.” Castiel shrugs, his mind seeming to be somewhere else.

“And you believe that?” Dean asks, sounding skeptical.

“Most definitely.” Castiel says without a doubt, looking at the necklace. It’s beautiful, especially in this night lighting. It’s bright and gives off blue, almost white light, giving both Dean and Castiel odd shadows on their faces. If Dean thought he could be the only one to ask questions he was wrong, because Castiel has his own questions for his partner. “May I ask you something myself?”

Dean, who’s actually affected by the liquor, nods, “Shoot.”

“Why is it that you do not want kids?” That’s right, Dean never explained that to Castiel but there was a reason for that.

“It’s not that I don’t want them...it’s just.” And here he goes, he might as well get it out in the open, “I don’t think my lifestyle permits for it.”

“What about when you inherit your father’s throne? Surely you will be able to have children.” Castiel seems indifferent to Dean’s choices, pushing for neither but rather just curious.

The eldest Winchester looks out before them, the stars brighter and acting like a celestial dust in the dark sky. “I don’t know man, this life seems pretty jinxed.”

“You and Sam turned out okay.” Castiel states, his brow pushed together in concern as his eyes scour Dean’s face.

Dean laughs with little humor at that and shakes his head, “You think so? I mean think of our childhoods man.” Dean looks over to Castiel, which was a mistake because now Castiel looks a little astounded.

The dark haired man shakes his head, both his hands set upon the handle between his legs. “You were wonderful with Lucas.”

“Didn’t say I wasn’t good with them, never said I don’t like ‘em either.” Dean says, his voice becoming softer. There’s no need for words, Castiel can feel how Dean sometimes dreams of children with an unknown face. He can feel how there is a deep maternal need for family, something that shines through with Sam, Jo and even Castiel.

When someone does speak again it’s Castiel and his words are soft, gentle and reassuring. “Whatever befalls you in life, I believe you will do the best you can.” It’s directed towards the children topic sure, but Dean can’t help but notice the absolute certainty Castiel speaks with. Maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe it’s just the rush of the moment but Dean doesn’t stop the words from sneaking out of his mouth, “Would you want… ya know, kids? Little Castiels runnin around?” Dean’s words fumble slightly as they reach air and he remedies this by take a swig of his own drink. It seems that Castiel has decided to take a drink every time Dean does because he follows suite before answering.

“I…” Castiel frowns, staring down at his hands now as if the keys to the universe were placed there. “No.”

That’s too weird of a reaction for Dean not to ask about it, “Why’s that?”

Color blumes across Castiel’s face and ears, and he takes a couple more gulps of liquor before even considering to reply. He rubs the excess liquid off his lips and silence fills the space, almost becoming awkward just because of Castiel’s embarrassment. “It would not be physically possible.”

“Dude Cas, just spit it out man.”

It’s the little bit of push Castiel needs to force himself to say it. “I prefer the company of men.”

Silence, dead silence.

Suddenly things make sense, why Jo was so touchy feely with Castiel without it being sexual, why she would give Castiel looks at different moments in their conversations. The whore named Chastity reacting so horribly- “Wait was that why the hooker called you an asshole?”

Apparently that wasn’t the reaction Castiel had expected and he blinks rather owlishly at it before tilting his head. “Yes.”

Dean starts to laugh, like really laugh, “Buddy, you know that they have those too. She was just mad at you for wasting her time.” Dean manages to get the last couple words out before being hit with another wave of merriment, the more he thought about it the funnier it was.

Castiel seems to be stuck on something, bothering him enough for him to voice the concern “You are alright with traveling with-?”

The laughing stops automatically and Dean turns to Castiel, “Really? Of course not. You don’t find Sam hot or anything right?” The look of complete mortification that passes over Castiel’s features proves that Dean doesn’t have to worry about his brother’s backdoor virginity. Dean raises the rim of his bottle to his lips and takes another good pull before tacking on a, “Then we don’t have a problem.”

This makes Castiel tilt his head and while Dean feels the relief coming off of Castiel in waves there’s a new curiosity blooming. “Would it be bad if your brother was a homosexual?”

Dean goffs at how Castiel just says it, but why should he pad his words? “No, no not exactly Cas, I just don’t want to get visions of you having sex with my brother.” The idea repulses Dean so much so that his body shakes as if to fight off the disgust.

Castiel laughs now, nothing too boisterous but rather airy and warm. It’s something that trickles into the very core of Dean’s bones, making him smile. “These are some weird ass conversations we’re having.” Dean muses, taking one final sip of his drink before placing the bottle down for a moment. The world was well past swimming at this moment and Dean knew he’d most likely feel this tomorrow but he wouldn’t forget this, there was no way. Castiel had already finished his own handle at this moment and so Dean hands over his own. “Damn champ, are you at least feeling that?”

“Oh yeah.” Castiel grunts, taking a couple swigs of the new bottle. Dean laughs at the octave change on his companion and reaches forward, patting the other man on the back.

“Welcome to the club.” Dean grins and both men start to laugh.

 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the town, in the sleepy inn, Sam Winchester has dreams. Not normal dreams. Like the night before, Sam wakes in his dreams in the hotel room and like last night, he is not the only one in the room. The vague whatever is there as well, darkening the other side of the room. “Hello Sam.” The voice speaks, sounding more masculine and defined than before. Sam in the meantime scrambles out of the bed and towards the opposite direction of the shadow. The headache, which is threatening to rear it’s ugly head lesses when Sam distances himself.

“Why is this happening?” Sam asks, both to the headaches and the mysterious appearance.

The man, spirit-being, whatever, does respond to this, his voice sympathetic. “I am sorry for that Sam, I have actually come up with a remedy if you are willing to hear it.”

“Depends on what it is.” Sam growls, his hand on his throbbing head.

The voice turns sweeter now, coxing of sort. “I will show you my power and the power that will vicariously move to you Sam.”

“Power?” Sam asks, looking at the mass and trying to understand what he says, making the headache worse.

 

The being nods and continues with his sweet words. “Yes, Sam I wish to give you a gift. So much more than you ever could have imagined.”

“What's the catch?” Sam grits out, standing his ground even though it's hard to piece his thoughts together with this head splitting pain.

“Very little Sam. All I ask is that you find me and keep these conversations private.”

Despite the pain, red flags still rise in the young hunter's mind. “Why?” He's not giving in easily, even if he can feel blood dripping from his nose.

The voice sounds genuinely concerned for Sam’s health and pushes on with his sale. “You travel with people who are not what they seem. I do not think it would be wise to your health.”

“Who? Cas?” Sam sounds disbelieving and the being focuses in on this.

“Castiel is not who he says. Ask him the name of this ‘Watcher’ he follows. You will see.”

Okay so maybe something was weird with Cas, Sam noticed it more than Dean allowed himself but Sam, he knew the moment Castiel stepped forward there was something off. He couldn't let himself get distracted however, “What about Dean? Why wouldn't I be able to tell him?”

“When has your brother ever let you do your own thing? His intentions are pure but he thinks of his own comfort over your advances.” The shadow seems closer or at least his voice is, whispering in his brain. “I could give you knowledge Sam, things saved for gods among men and all you have to do is promise you will find me. Please.”

It was too tempting, plus Sam would have to find the source of this mysterious voice regardless if he said yes or no, what harm could it be? “That's all? Find you and not tell Dean?”

“Yes.” The shadow relays, his voice hesitant to sound too hopeful.

“Okay, I'll do that.”

The inn disappears, melts around them and this time Sam is standing in a beautiful garden, flowers and budding fruits everywhere. There was an apple tree to his right but he paid it little heed as in front of him stood the shadow. Except it wasn't a shadow now, some undefined figure, but instead a hulking beast; a dragon.

Sam always expected dragons to be big but this creature was nearly the size of Lawrence castle. It most definitely could block out the sun if he tried. It was always he, it just came to Sam, simple knowledge flowing slightly between them in this imaginary world. There were scars marring the sand-colored scales, along with what looked like sickly boils showing irritated skin. Horns decorated the beast from snout to the tip of his rather intimidating tail, large enough to be the width of two thin human males. The scales near these horns gave off a metallic sheen as the light from the sky hits them while the smaller scales towards his claws became a pitch black. The claws themselves were like obsidian, sharp and dark like the bottom of a pit while the blackened scales crawling up his arms seemed to slowly fan out to the sandy color. The creatures eyes, which were surrounded by a sort of lighter tan where a beautiful blue, sort of like the sky on a summer's day. He'd be frightening, he was frightening except for the fact that Sam felt like he knew him. It was like Sam's entire being was made for this creature and Sam just suddenly realized it. He was a dragon rider.

“Am I--?” Sam can't even finish his sentence, too humble to even assume this but the dragon smiles, lying down in order to be eye to eye with Sam. It's odd, staring into the eyes of a creature whose literal eye was as tall as Sam’s height (and that’s just his eye).

“You are.” The voice rumbles. It's no longer a mass of confusion but instead crisp, it's his voice. It's rough and commanding, like that of a general or king. “I have been waiting a very long time for you Samuel. Centuries.” His words ring true and Sam feels sorrow for the creature, thousands of years wasted just with waiting. “Do you see now the precautions? I wish not to join the ranks of King Campbell. I have lived free too long for them to place me in his gilded cage.”

Sam automatically thinks of Castiel and his own words about King Campbell and his rules. Somehow the dragon seems to hear these thoughts because a low rumble comes out of the creature as the thought passes. “I guess Castiel does have a mind of his own.”

The youngest Winchester finds it odd how this dragon knows so much about Castiel but then again he just read his thoughts.

Ever since the group of hunters traveled south Sam has felt someone attached to his mind, it's nothing invasive, more like a gentle reassure. Sure the headaches happened randomly and without fail whenever Sam focused on it too much on the sensation but it didn't happen because it was a bad thing (how could this be a bad thing? Sam was going to be a dragon rider). Instead the pains probably came from their separation. “How far do I have to travel to get to you?” Sam asks curious to how far their connection spread. The dragon shifts, a slight clanking sound coming from the rubbing of scales.

“A good two weeks travel.” The dragon answers, his unblinking eyes upon Sam. “But I will have emissaries help you on your way and will greatly cut down travel time.”

The headache, which had been horrible while the dragon was in shadow form had dissipated to nothing more than a memory, his dragon form bringing instead comfort and heat.

Sam should concern himself with how this dragon has emissaries but now he pays attention to the wounds affecting his skin. There's scarred claw marks equal to that of a dragon larger or equal to the one laying down in front of Sam, they're terrifying and still look painful even if they were several centuries old.

“How'd this happen?” Sam asks, reaching forward to touch one of the raised marks. The dragon shies away for a moment, automatic aggression rearing up before a calm comes, as if the beast realizes Sam will not harm him, which right now, Sam has no intention of doing.

“My eldest brother did not take kindly to my opinions.” It rumbles out of the dragon a mixture of sadness and venom towards the other dragon. Shock colors Sam's reaction, he could never imagine Dean hurting him to this level. Suddenly Sam's grateful for his brother, and the dragon feels it. “I loved my brother very much. I still do despite the fact he reacted in such a way. I know it was never his intention. He was only doing what he was told.”

Something about this situation sounded familiar, like he had already heard the story somewhere, but how would he know it? He only just discovered the voice in his head was a dragon.

“That's...actually really sad.” Sam finally says, looking over all the scars be

fore meeting the dragon's eye. The sandy dragon chuckles, no humor involved. “It is only an excuse to do different, to not let their harm push you down but instead push you forward.”

A real laugh escaped Sam's lips once and he nods, “That is only zen way of putting it.”

The dragon in response, chuckles, nodding his massive head. “Oh I am still mad, very, very mad Sam. But… I have build something from my fall and I would very much like to share it with you.” his piercing blue eyes, which are lighter than that of Castiel's shine, some sort of fire burning deep inside of him.

Not one bit of Sam wants to say no, even though he knows he should so instead of saying yay or nay he changes the topic. “I don't even know your name.”

It seems as though the beast had been hoping this conversation wouldn't show up but he faces it with ease regardless. “You can call me Luc.”

“Luke.” Sam rolls across his tongue, “Nice to meet you.”

Luc smiles, it's broken from years of misery, twisted but genuinely trying to convey emotion. “And it's a pleasure to meet you Sam.” A sort of silence falls over the two creatures but it's simply verbal because at this exact moment Luc, opens the floodgates.

Dragons of all kinds, some with more wings than others, some significantly smaller, some bigger. Thousands of them filling beautiful rock mountaintops, their colorful scales shining in the daylight like thousands of gems. The peace, the revelry of whatever moment Luc had felt at the moment flowed over Sam, making he himself proud for the sandy dragon, for past victories. The moment fades and Sam feels the anguish and indignation of betrayal, the soul breaking defeat churning and tumbling in Sam's very being. There is no imagery to this, no sparkling dragons, just straight emotion. Sam suddenly misses his brother and Luc retracts the memories. ”I am sorry.” He states, sounding true in this space place they shared.

Sam, ever the curious one, responds in perfect clarity and understanding. ”Don't be, it happened to you after all.” Luc understands what Sam means, how Luc has every right to show Sam these painful memories. After all, Sam still had Dean.

The dragon nods and shifts slightly, ready for a new topic, ”Now is there anything I can help you understand? Dragon related perhaps?” Luc doesn't need Sam to talk to know his true excitement and the dragon smiles, “Well spit it out then.”

 

Across town and wide awake were Dean and Castiel, they hadn't moved from their secret spot since they sat their asses down. They were trading stories at this time, safe ones that brought joy instead of the so often pain. “There was this one time on a case with Sammy that there was a ghost of a jester in an abandoned castle.” Dean laughs, unable to control himself, “And this thing is really quite... “ He moves his arms uselessly,”ya know? Jesters are all nimble and shit, so it gets the jump on us and Sammy is the one closest to the damn thing and-” Dean breaks out in another roaring laugh, “His face was priceless he couldn’t move a muscle.”

“I assume you took care of the spirit?” Castiel asks, an unsure smile on his lips. The two men had gotten closer in their sitting position since their original conversation and now were touching legs, not that Dean noticed. Cause he didn't notice the heat that radiated from Cas like a furnace.

“No I let my brother die, he's been a ghost this entire time Cas.” Dean jokes, shoving his shoulder as gently as he can drunk into his partner. Castiel moves with the nudge and watches Dean’s face as the green eyed hunter continues to speak. “Come on buddy, of course I took care of the spirit. Do I look like an amateur to you?” Dean gestures to his body, attracting Castiel's eyes down before back up to Dean's face.

“No, even if you do act like a child.” Castiel muses, a teasing look shining in his eye.

Dean chuckles and stretches, resting his hands behind his head, “Yeah it's what keeps me young.”

Castiel laughs as well at this, shaking his head in amusement, his face rose tinted. “I do believe I enjoy the feeling of this alcohol.” The dark hair man mumbles, pulling up the bottle only to find it's empty. “When did this happen?” He asks, mainly to himself rather than Dean, but Dean replies anyway.

“When you were telling me about that bunny.”

Castiel gets sidetracked by the memory of the bunny and smiles, “I do like bunnies. Cats too.”

Dean snorts, shaking his head before placing a hand on his companion's shoulder. “I'm allergic to those little devils.” Now with Castiel's eyes back on Dean, the eldest Winchester nods his head in the very vague direction of the inn. “Come on crazy cat lady we should probably get some sleep.”

“I am not a lady Dean, remember our previous discussion.” The blue eyed man stands rising with Dean, both of them stepping over the tree trunk they had been sitting against, empty bottles in their hands.

Another laugh comes out of Dean and he nods, “It's an expression Cas, for someone who really likes cats.”

“I have never owned a cat.” Castiel states now, trying to watch his footing while simultaneously looking at Dean's face, confusion creating lines.

“Maybe you should get one when you get bored of us.” Dean suggests, after all, Castiel wasn't a real hunter and had no obligation to follow them around Potesta.

“I doubt I will.” Castiel responds with surprising sobriety. The conversation drops as both men fight their way out of the forested area and back onto the streets of Prill.

They walk through the deserted streets uninterrupted, just them with their thoughts and the ones they shared. The duo make it all the way back into the inn room without running into a single person. Silently entering they avoid lighting any candles as the moonlight was enough to see. Sam is fast asleep in his bed, drooling everything. It makes Dean snort in amusement.

Castiel, who had headed towards his own bag to change was halfway through getting his shirt on when he responds, too curious. ”What?”

”Sammy looks like he's getting some good Z’s.”

It's enough of a comment for Castiel to turn and look towards Sam, a kind smile growing on his face. ”So it appears.” Those blue eyes now turn onto Dean, who had just finished changing his pants. ”Where is Jo?”

Dean suddenly remembers that Cas hadn't been there this morning and that he also didn't exactly want to bring up such an odd event to his brain buddy. ”She wanted to sleep somewhere more comfortable.” It wasn't exactly a lie, but it still made Dean feel uncomfortable which did leak through to Castiel. He doesn't react negatively and gracefully ignores the slip. Dean does cover even more however, heading towards the couch and Castiel. He moves a hand on Castiel's hip to direct him slightly away from the plush (kinda) seats so that the green eyed hunter can lay down. ”You get the bed tonight.”

Maybe Dean should have waited like a minute or something because Castiel is now just pulling up his sleeping pants. Luckily for Dean the other man was wearing undergarments so Dean didn't see anything. Castiel however, while keeping his emotions sort of controlled seems oblivious to the moment and instead looks rather concerned. “Are you sure Dean?”

”Yeah of course.” It might be a bitch when Dean woke up with a massive hangover but he wanted to do something nice for the guy, he had been taking these hunting cases like a champ.

Castiel stands there for a moment more, looking down as Dean moves the covers to make himself comfortable. "Thank you.” His voice is soft and he takes one more second to look at Dean before turning towards the bed.

Dean watches him go, and lets his thoughts drift to all that he learned today about his friend. Dean couldn't find a single thing wrong with the guy, nothing wrong in the sense that he was dangerous. Yeah he liked cats which was weird but everyone had their thing and who was Dean to judge? As Dean's eyes slowly start to fall he sees the glow from Castiel's necklace, shining in the darkness of the room. A star among men.

Chapter Text

When morning comes neither Castiel or Dean are ready for it and that's exactly why they don't wake until noon. When the sun rises half way across the sky both Sam and Jo enter and draw back the curtains they had originally put down to let the two sleep in.

“No, go away.” Dean grumbles more to his pillow than to the two conspirators.

“Come on Dean, I brought hangover food!” Jo holds up a bag and Dean just knows it's bread and sausages. “Don't worry Cas, we got you some too.” Jo comments, turning to see Castiel in the bed. He had built a sort of a sheet nest which surrounded him so much that only his black hair showed beyond the sheets. ”No.” Castiel comments not even having enough willpower to say it out loud. Dean, ever the gentleman, comes to his rescue.

“Give him a minute, I'll eat.” He grumbles out, sitting up with a groan. Damn, he hated couches. Standing and walking over to the table like an 80 year old man, Dean plops himself down with a grunt. He reaches blindly for the bags Jo holds and she gives them over with little complaint.

Sam however, seems to find Castiel's hangover rather amusing and just can't help but comment. “So how is your first hangover?” He calls over, making Castiel bury his head farther into his pillow with a groan.

A low mumble comes from Castiel, it was so inaudible that if Dean wasn't connected to the guy through their brains he wouldn't have been able to make it out. “He said not now.” Dean relates. It's now that Dean realizes exactly why he's so not up for this hangover and that it could actually be tied to Castiel. Each one of them had a hangover but since Dean has been drinking regularly since he turned 18, he knew what to expect. Castiel however, had never experienced the morning after a night of drinking so the hangover hit him hard. When Dean had originally woken up it was a little difficult to discern whose pain belonged to which body. So yeah, while it was nice to feel Castiel's true happiness and joy it sucked that Dean got Castiel's hangovers. An idea springs into Dean’s mind that maybe it worked the other way for getting over a hangover. Determined to test this out he reaches for the sausage links.

Sam sits himself down now, content to just sit there as his brother pigs out on pig. He can't let it be silent however so he decides to inform Dean of what the day’s progressions were. “So this morning me and Jo got breakfast since we figured you guys would want to sleep in.” Dean grunts in thanks and Sam continues. “We stopped at the Sheriff's to see if anything else flew under our radar last night but there weren't any attacks or sighting last night.”

“Good.” Dean manages to fit in before shoving some bread into his mouth. Food did wonders on Dean's hangovers and he already started to feel the relief of food filling that empty spot liquor leaves in his stomach.

While Dean's digging into the bread Jo speaks up, informing Dean of another important event of the day. “When we stopped by the sheriff's she had a letter from Whitefish.” Dean looks up suddenly, eyes upon the speaking female. “Yeah my same reaction. It's actually forwarded from my mom, she wants me back for help on a case.” Ellen didn't really leave the Roadhouse but when she did she always hunted with Jo. Sometimes Bobby or Rufus (he was unlikely), would join but it wasn't a common occurrence. Jo gives Dean a second to digest this information before stating her opinion on the topic. “I was gonna leave right away but then Sam reminded me about you two and I just had to say goodbye!” She grins, finishing off with a teasing look in her eye.

Movement comes from the bed and Dean gets to witness the mop of black hair turn to reveal crinkly eyed Castiel. “That was very kind of you Jo.” Cas rumbles, sounding more like thunder than normal, but that was most likely due to the physical liquor beating they had both received.

Jo grins at Castiel, “You’re the one I’ll miss the most.” She teases, earning two appalled looks from Dean and Sam while Castiel sends the first smile of the day towards Jo.

“Awh are you guys like best friends forever?” Dean asks before shoving more food in his mouth. Jo’s eyes roll and she sits at the end of Sam’s already made bed, a smile threatening to show through her exterior cross looks.

Castiel eventually joins Dean at the table and partakes in eating as well. Silence fills the room as the two men chow down but it doesn’t last for long as Jo stands, “I think I’m actually gonna leave now, instead of watching you two eat. Cause that’s kinda weird.” She walks over to Dean and wraps an arm around his form, giving him an awkward hug as he continues to eat. “You be safe.” She comments, because surprise, surprise, Jo cared for Dean’s wellbeing as much as he did for hers.

“Yeah, yeah, you too.” Dean mumbles past the bread in his mouth, taking one hand to put it over Jo’s arm to reciprocate the hug. When his arm drops she lets go, heading towards Castiel who actually has some time to prepare. He seemed just as lost as he watches Jo near him.

She saves him the doubt by holding her arms open as she walks closer and Castiel stands. “You take care of yourself and ignore their bullshit okay?” Jo’s arms surround Castiel’s middle while his arms cover her like a shawl.

“Of course, so long as you do the same.”

Jo laughs, shaking her head as she drops her arms from around him, making Castiel do the same. “Oh trust me I know how these boys work, I’m fine.” She grins and steps away, shoving her hands in the pockets of her hunter jacket. She now turns to Sam, who she just bum rushes, her arms flying around his chest to pull him closer. “See you around Sam.” There’s something akin to a question in that and Sam nods, bringing the small blond female closer to his chest.

“You bet Jo.” He lets her go and smiles, as she is already heading towards the door.

“Bye boys don’t have too much fun without me!” The only female calls as she opens and exits through the inn door. There’s a chorus of three goodbyes as the door closes and the men are left alone. Both Dean and Castiel are almost done with the food they were given so Sam waits until their plates are clean before speaking up once again.

“So I figure we stay here one more night just to make sure and than we head out?” Sam asks, making Dean look over and shrug, “Yeah sure, if there was any other cases Rufus needed us to go on he would have mentioned something in that letter to Jo right?”

“Right.” Sam agrees, his head bobbing up and down in agreement. With that decided Dean moves his hands together to remove any crumbs that might have made it into the cracks of his hands.

“Well what do we want to do today?”

 

They all ended up just wandering around the town since there was no emergency or threat to look for. The conversation stayed largely at banter when they talked, and for a large portion of their walk they stayed silent. What with Cas and Dean talking in their shared space when conversation did arise. Even though they walked with Sam he seemed to be lost in his own world. It's in one of these lulls in general conversation that Sam speaks up, “Hey Cas, can I ask you something?”

”You just did.” Dean snarks only to Castiel. Sure, he says it in such a way that kinda portrayed that he wanted Cas to say it, but he didn't expect him too.

Of course Cas has his own weird lingo, but it's pretty much Dean's comment. “I believe you just did.”

Dean's snorts, amusement showing in both the mental world and physical. Sam flusters slightly, but continues with his own real question, completely ignoring their snide attitudes. “What's the name of your god? Like I know he's called the Watcher but he's got to go by something else right?”

This throws Castiel for a loop, making him stumble in his steps for a second before he gathers himself. The first thing he does is stem the flow of the link the two had, making it so only a few choice emotions show through, like the webbing of a dream catcher. “Cassiel is a common name, along with Castiel as an alternate spelling.” It felt like Cas was downplaying his own name but Dean didn't care because this was hilarious.

“Wait so you were named after a god of watching people? That's pretty stalkerish Cas.” Dean chuckles out, giving his brain buddy an award winning Winchester smile.

Castiel rolls his eyes but relaxes the netting between them as he nods once, “You could say that.”

Dean half expected Sam to keep on pushing the subject but he seems content with that answer, even if he seems a little quiet afterwards.

“Why do you ask?” Castiel finally questions, giving a rather odd look towards Sam, as if for the first time he was unsure of the youngest Winchester’s intentions.

“Just came to my mind.” Sam shrugs off and it sounds totally logical, Sam's mind could be anywhere at this moment and it might be relative to wherever that train of thought led.

Dean feels a trickle of doubt come from Castiel, but the blue eyed man words his question perfectly. “Do you wish to know anything else?”

“Well yeah, actually.” Sam hedges and Castiel does not seem shocked but simply waits for Sam to state his question. “I heard a couple years back about some dragons being able to transform into human forms and I was wondering if that was true.”

Castiel responds with scholarly rendition, showing no emotion on his face nor in his mind. “There are some dragons from before the rise of man that are able to shift their appearance, yes.”

“So only really old dragons?” Sam shoots back, his genuine curiosity making Castiel shy a smile.

“Age is not necessarily factor, while they are all ancient their power comes from an entirely different source.”

“What's that?”

Castiel actually fumbles in his response to this, his brow furrowing. “It is actually unnamed, but they hold properties of divine magic, making the dragon much stronger than others around them.”

Dean makes a face, he heard the rumor same as Sam, but he never paid it heed, it was too farfetched. Like all that dragon mass could fit into a small human body. Or some divine power making dragons, ha! Castiel catches the look but makes no complaints toward Dean's attitude. Sam however is not done with the conversation and pushes on a vaguely similar topic of riders. “Can they have riders like the other dragons?”

Castiel nods without missing a beat. “Their connection is more complicated than that of a rider and an average dragon.”

Sam seems genuinely interested by this and gives his traveling companion an inquisitive look. “How come?”

Bright blue eyes dart over to Dean, fast enough he barely notices. Just as the moment registers, Castiel is already looking towards Sam. “Because the bond is so strong between the two, they often need to be in physical contact with one another.”

“Sounds kinky.” Dean tosses in, giving a beaming smile to both Sam and Castiel as their heads turn. But now Dean is really curious and has his own questions. So after a short pause Dean finally voices his own question, which was surprisingly not related to sex. “So do these transforming dragons turn into what they want to look like or is it just their actual form?”

Castiel seems surprised in Dean's sudden contribution, but not at all displeased; rather proud in actuality. “Their true human selves bare some resemblance to their dragon form, though scars or marks tend to disappear in transformation. There are also some that can manipulate the way they are perceived by everyone. But there are very few who have mastered that.” This seems to give Sam some food for thought and the conversation dies, leaving them in the previous silence.

 

Much of the day was spent like that after this interaction, so much so that Dean starts to worry about Sam's silence.

“You okay Sammy?” Dean asks when they're on their town interior rounds.

“What? Oh yeah.” Sam glances at his brother for a second before he focuses his thoughts on their conversation. “Just wondering where we’ll go next.” Dean doesn't even realize it's a cover and answers it easily.

The eldest Winchester shrugs, “Dunno, wherever the next case is I suppose.”

“I figured.” Sam responds, giving his brother a knowing look. This is how hunters usually do their gig, wander until a case presents itself.

“Do you have any idea where there might be one Sam?” Castiel asks, his voice inquisitive but also assessing something.

Sam takes a moment to think and shakes his head, “Not really, I mean there's probably some cases farther down south but people there don't exactly follow anyone's rules.” There were one or two towns past this final boundary and while they were technically under King Campbell’s rule they didn't exactly listen to the rules. Nor were they exactly friendly to anyone, soldier, Hunter, or demon; it didn't matter, they didn't like you they'd kill you.

Castiel nods to this, “They have been their own entity for many centuries. It used to be bigger as well, but your King is good at weeding out undesirables.” There was no sympathy nor glee in Castiel’s voice but rather just a sensible knowledge.

It's just how Dean doesn't ask with any anger or defensiveness in his voice. “What do you mean?” Dean didn't exactly like his grandfather and if he was being honest, the guy was a bit of a dick.

“These people, they're usually outlaws but there are runaways and pariahs. Some are simply gifted and driven away from their homes.” Castiel shakes his head slowly, with sympathy now rearing it's head. “King Campbell sees in black and white and since these people are a grey, he doesn't mind their losses.” He makes a face, “I have heard from travelers that during the war, your King gave little thought to those townspeople. Their lives were the fodder for that war, nothing more than an excuse.” He shakes his head, disappointment evident.

“When you say travelers do you mean while we have been traveling?” Sam asks, not really remembering anytime this could have happened.

Castiel shakes his head, “I mean the dragons that passed by my temple.” The dark haired man responds, “Human affairs are talked about more than you would think.”

“Why's that?” Dean doesn't mind pushing the conversation, they had nothing better to do.

Castiel tilts his head slightly, more as if recalling a memory. “This is the time of man, of course we wonder what the humans are up to.” Dean figures the ‘we’ was a slip of the tongue, after all Cas had spent years with dragons, so both Winchesters ignored the mistake.

“What do they think?” Sam presses, watching Castiel as they walk.

This question makes Castiel make a face and he shrugs, “Dragons are like humans in the respects that they all have different opinions.” It’s totally a vague answer.

“Cas.” Dean hedges, knowing his friend has knowledge on this.

The dark haired man sighs, “The dragons in Potesta have very mixed feelings about the human race, but those in Seven Gates wish to gain riders or extort the human populace.” Castiel tilts his head to the side once again, “But there are some I would not put it past.”

“Sounds like they're a bunch of D-bags.” Dean comments off handedly.

“Very much so.” Castiel reflects, so low it sounds more to himself than anyone around him. Dean feels that there might be something personal there, just from the vibes coming across their link. Dean's curiosity seems to reach Castiel and those blue eyes turn directly towards Dean, holding his gaze for a moment. Castiel looks away but does not stay silent, at least not in his mind, ”My family was directly affected by those who lie and rebelled.”

Dean felt a connection to the civil war Castiel had brought up in his family but Dean doesn’t push. Family was one thing Dean wouldn’t prod at really, he knew what it was like. Castiel seems to grateful to the respectful silence Dean suplies.

 

The day continues and everyone seems to keep their questions to themselves. Eventually they’re all just bored. “Ugh. We should just leave tonight.” Dean comments, kicking at a little piece of rock on the unpaved walkways.

Sam frowns, “Dean, I know you want to kill something but if they’re going to attack it would most likely be tonight.”

“Didn’t you say you didn’t think they’d come back?” Dean shoots back, his eyes squinting slightly.

Sam shrugs and turns his head away from his brother, looking forward towards the end of the road. “Yeah but we decided to stay for two days, we should stick to the plan instead of just leaving because we’re bored.” If there was some other motivation behind Sam’s comments Dean didn’t pick up on it.

“Sam is right.” Castiel tacks on, unaware of any alternative reasoning.

Dean sighs dramatically, kicking the rock once more before it goes out of his walking range. “Fine.”

Sam seems to think on this and after a moment's deliberation he becomes Dean’s saving grace. “But we could do other things for the time being and just do rounds tonight.”

“Okay.” Dean voices, his step picking up at the prospect of being able to do anything besides walk around a town in circles, changing direction or no. “I think I’ll hit up the bar.”

Sam snorts, “Of course. Cas?” He looks towards the dragon scribe, his eyes interested.

Castiel seems to think on it, “I will probably head back to the inn and take a nap.” It was honest and made Dean smirk. There was no hangover left, that had left soon after they ate, but Dean could still feel a laziness surrounding his buddy. The eldest Winchester found it quite amusing.

“Cool.” Sam responds, not telling them his own plans. Dean doesn’t really care, he trusts his brother.

Castiel however, well, he’s curious. “What about you Sam?”

The brown haired giant that is Sam Winchester shrugs non-committedly, “Haven’t really figured it out yet. I was thinking of walking a bit to figure it out.” Sam sends a smile towards Castiel, “I just know Dean’s bored to shit right now.” Dean sends a grin over to his brother which makes the youngest smile despite himself.

Castiel instead nods, accepting Sam’s response. “I hope you find what you are looking for, Sam.”

“Me too.” Everyone notices the sincerity in Sam’s voice but no one says anything. They thought it was nothing, boy, were they wrong.

 

Dean gets to the bar and has had about two drinks before he feels Castiel slip into unconsciousness. It’s weird for Dean, he was used to this feeling when he was just waking up or going to sleep, but to have it happen while Dean was still wide awake? It was weird. Sleep was not like the walls that would rise between the two when demanding privacy, this was a subconscious thing. The daily connection between the two was usually formed by strings of thought, emotions, and physical health. In sleep however, thoughts were hard to catch up on, fleeting and barely formed. Colors showed a big presence in their connection, anything from the pale and opaque to the harshest bright to the darkest hue. The nice thing however is Dean isn’t actually involved with the hurricane in Castiel’s mind. It was much like the two puddles, with only tiny ripples making it across. If Dean wanted he could push himself closer-- feel it more, but if he was going to do that, he shouldn’t be sitting at a crowded pub. Hell no. Of course now Dean starts to feel bored with his surroundings. He didn’t have the appetite to hook up with anyone right now, his body was in post-hangover off, what with all the drinking he had decided to do. Now feeling even more off about his personal choices, Dean stands, heading for the door.

Once he exits, the hunter has no idea of where to go. He’s not actually tired, so going to the inn would be just annoying, as he’d have to stay quiet. Sam was no doubt meditating, or reading up about lore somewhere, in town and Dean was… Dean was doing what? He decides walking was the best course of action, even if he had protested it before, he now found it a good idea.

So, letting his feet take him where they wish, Dean takes in the scenery. He lets Castiel’s presence infect more of his attention, but not enough to distract him.

The sun was setting now, painting the sky in stricting warm colors, red as the base. It was all straight lines, some thicker than others, some brighter in hue, others darker. The actual blue of the sky still showed from behind the clouds, a noticeable pale blue. Light from this display painted the world around Dean in warmer blanket. Despite the heat of the south, the breeze still felt nice, cooling Dean down without any temperature difference. He wondered what the sunset looked like from the edges of Nemeris, if the flat planes of Seven Gates would make the sunset prettier or if it would turn terrifying, like some kind of grim warning.

Dean picks a spot, ironically the one Castiel had shown him, where the trees still cover the sight of the desert. Sitting on a more comfortable tree stump, Dean stares out over the scene. It's breathtaking and allows Dean a moment's rest. A moment of time where everything feels fresh, when the night is welcoming.

 


 

Dean wasn't the only one who felt like welcoming night. Sam, the moment he knew both Castiel and Dean were busy, had grabbed his already packed bag (since both other men slept in) and made a beeline for Stanford. Sam hadn't been able to set his house up in his traveling gear until now and as he did, he heard Impala whining in concern.

Sam always knew Impala was the perfect horse for Dean. “It's okay Impala, I’m just gonna go find someone and then I’ll be back, okay?” Sam might make fun of the way Dean talks to Impala sometimes but Sam knows she is a smart beast, with a lot of courage and love for both Winchesters. The black beauty snorts in annoyance, stomping her foot. Her own ruckus makes Stanford look up, his eyes looking directly at Sam’s. Sam sighs, damn horses. Sam gives Stanford a good couple pats and hefts his luggage onto the horse’s back. “We’re going across a desert, so I have to bring a lot of water.” He comments, hoisting a large sack about the size of a four foot person. “But I got you covered and some people will meet up with us to make sure you have time to rest.” He runs a hand down Stanford’s flank. “It’ll be okay, I promise.”

”It will Sam, I will ensure your horse is taken care of.” A voice speaks up, making Sam’s shoulders relax. Ever since Sam had that dream, he can talk to Luc, the very connection that Sam knew dragonriders received.

”Thank you.” Sam responds, now hoisting himself onto the large back of Stanford. Sam turns to Impala, her golden eyes attached to his face, she looked nervous, her hooves hitting the stable floor. “Take care of Dean.” Sam states as a way of goodbye before taking Stanford out of the building and into the town of Prill. Sam takes the western exit, knowing that if Dean and Cas are patrolling they would stay towards the south. Sam was right, regardless of what exactly Dean was doing and the way to the western roads was open. It took a moment longer, and was a bit more stressful, but by the time he reached the deserts of Nemeris the sun was setting. Reds, oranges, yellows shot across the sky in different thin lines and with the flatness of the desert it felt intimidating. The wind from these warmed sands are surprisingly cool, which Luc had warned Sam about. Luckily Sam had his jacket and since Stanford would be constantly moving and Sam was there, he would stay warm.

“Alright Ford, it’s time for our own adventure.” Sam pats Stanford’s neck soothingly before making the clicking sound and gently pressing his heels into his stead’s side. Stanford knows what Sam wishes and picks up speed easily, heading directly towards the star that Luc said would lead the way.

 

The deserts of Nemeris are vast with little reprieve from the sand, either flat like a plane or in rolling dunes, they were all made from one thing: sand. The winds was rough as well, but nothing like they were often described to Sam. It sort of feels as if the weather is purposefully still, like it knows not to disagree with Sam's entrance and traveling.

”So.” Sam starts, drawing Luc’s attention towards him.

”Yes Sam?” The voice hums, enjoying the short reprieve from whatever his daily duties were.

”Isn’t Nemeris supposed to be like… the most dangerous part of Seven Gates?”

A rumble crawls across their connection, warming Sam to the core, amusement radiating from the creature. ”Some would say.” His voice becomes serious, with a tad bit of wonder behind his words. ”You are special Sam, these lands know this and respect you for it.”

It's humbling, someone saying special instead of freak or weird. Sam’s core curls around the niceties, because why shouldn't he? His dragon was complimenting him. He can't help but question things and even though he knew Luc’s response. ”And these… hellhounds won't attack Stanford either?”

Luc sighs, but not in an agitated way, more just tired of stating it, ”The dogs will not attack you nor your stead.” His voice changes once again to something softer as he adds, ”I promised you protection. I do not back down from my word.”

Sam nods and once Luc feels Sam's confirmation he starts to settle back into the work he was doing. Sam, ever curious, can't help but ask, especially since Luc seemed to keep this information away from Sam with an all too delicate hand. ”So what are you doing?”

Luc’s attention turns back to Sam with some amusement, not unwelcoming. ”Work.”

Vague enough to rival Castiel's vague responses. Luc seems to feel this and with some indignation finally supplies Sam with something. ”I am ensuring that all is well within my city limits.”

Now that's too interesting for Sam to pass up, ”Your city?” He pokes, his thirst for knowledge evident.

”Ah yes,” Luc starts, ”You will see it soon enough.” The dragon's voice is playful, and his own excitement shines through. Sam has noticed something about Luc even in the short time they have their talks. The creature, while an expert at smooth talking and keeping his calm, felt things strongly. There were emotions he hid easier than others, but when he felt something pure, he couldn't hold it back and it seemed to shine through the netting of his heart. Maybe it was the connection.

”I'm excited to see it.” Sam says truthfully, making Luc grow even more softer.

”I am excited to be in your presence.” Luc rumbles, making Sam’s body run warm with a special kind of goosebumps. Knowing that Luc does have to get back to his work, Sam lets the conversation go but keeps his consciousness with his dragon, feeling the comfort of his very being.

 

There are several breaks in their trek, either for Sam to give Stanford water or to just take a break from the continuous traveling.Due to the cold, Sam does make the stops shorter, as it'd better to be moving and cold than stagnant and cold.

It's in one of these breaks that Luc becomes available for some conversation, his consciousness gently nudging at Sam. The hunter smiles to himself as he initiates the conversation, ”Paperwork done?”

A low hum comes from Luc, vibrating Sam's own rib cage. ”Yes.”

The youngest Winchester can't contain himself as he goes into his next question. ”So what are you doing now?” It's curiosity and boredom mixed into one.

Once again amusement comes from Luc’s side of their link, ”You will see.” He distracts Sam now, asking his own question. ”Aren’t you cold?”

“Yeah.” Sam responds. Since they were connected Sam could feel the constant heat radiating off Luc’s own body, just like Luc could feel the cold reaching for Sam’s bones, despite the miles between them.  

”I have a way to fix that.” The beast hums yet again, and now Sam experiences something very new to him. Suddenly Sam’s body feels like it’s wading into a warm spring, the water surrounding him without him actually getting wet. It’s heavenly and makes Sam sigh at the sudden relief, causing Luc to chuckle lowly. ”We have hot springs here.” He rumbles, and Sam feels his head finally go under the water as well. He could still breathe and see the desert in front of him, but he was immersed in the warmth, content.

”This… this is amazing.” Sam mutters happily, a small smile crossing his face as he eggs Stanford on. He really wants to get to this place… to his dragon.

”Pros of being a dragon’s chosen.” Luc mumbles, his voice turning carrying a hint of sexual connotations as he speaks.

Sam makes a noise in response but otherwise keeps quiet to the remark. Instead he just enjoys the feeling of warmth and sanctuary as he travels across the sandy wasteland.   

 

Sam stays course towards the star and when the moon, full and lighting the way, is half across the sky he finally sees something. Luc had taken a bath hours ago and while he was still connected to Sam he was starting to doze.

Soon enough however Sam sees a speck of light on the horizon.There's a fire with two horses and a singular body, female in nature. ”She will help you.” Luc suddenly mumbles,  his voice sure and soft. Sam has no doubts, having discussed this entire plan with Luc already.

He nears the woman and small fire, it takes him a little because she is rather far but when he does get closer he starts to take in the details. She's a blonde haired woman, her hair short to contrast the length her body presents.

She smiles as he nears and once Sam drops down from Stanford, she holds out a hand. “Sam Winchester?” Sam nods and she smiles, something that reminds Sam of a demon. “Name's Meg Masters.”

 


 

Somehow, someway, Dean had fallen into a trace. Well, Dean knew exactly why it happened. He had sat down to watch the sun set and as his mind wandered he got lost in Castiel’s dreams. The colors and emotions had become intriguing to Dean, flashes of reds, purples and blues all wrapped up in a disgruntled bow.

It wasn't hard to feel the dream, how it affected Cas. He could sooth it easily and Dean does so, muddling the colors and infusing calm. When Castiel’s subconscious relaxes itself, Dean gets an idea, just a thought. If he could push his own feelings towards Cas in an effort to make him calmer, could Dean dig deep enough to visit?

Closing his eyes and knowing no one will find him, he focuses on Castiel. Dean doesn’t meditate like Sam does, so it took him a moment to really focus. When he was losing patience with himself he decided to focus on Castiel and not himself. He just threw his being head first into the world of Castiel, the colors, the emotions, he just felt them like they were his own. The dream, recognizing Dean as some part of Castiel, envelopes the green hunter as well, dragging him down into another world.

Dean recognizes the temple where he had found Castiel. The building looks younger, more taken care of, with the stone steps up still in tact. Dean knows he's in a dream and he is well aware it's Castiel's. He is also aware of the fact he can willingly leave, like twine in a labyrinth.

The large doors that closed off the temple from the rest of the world were open and Dean could feel heat radiating from inside the building. He's not fearful however, as he is well aware of his placement in this world. As he steps towards the door he hears a sound, like shifting metal or plates and it makes Dean quicken his step.

When Dean finally does reach the door the clattering comes to a halt, but Dean is just too damn interested to stop now. So he takes the few more steps to see into the room.

The walls and the like are all the same, but the place looks more alive, less abandoned. As if to give proof of this, in the dead center of the room was Castiel. This Castiel, who is still Dean's Castiel, is wearing his worshipper clothing, though the fabric is still new. His face however is shaved, whether this be a dream of a memory or a memory based dream, Dean wasn't sure. All he knew was despite Castiel’s currently laid back look, the guy was resting on a freaking dragon.

It's totally not a big guy, he's maybe 15 feet in length, and lanky too, no real hard core muscles. He's sandy in color, but more of a light sandy than anything else. The scales around his face and joints give off the illusion of being frost bitten due to the white that slowly expanded there. Both Castiel and the dragon look up at the same time, but Castiel's eyes meet Dean’s first.

He automatically know how Dean entered this area and lets it go. “Dean,” Castiel calls as he reaches out to pet the dragon's head. “This is Samandriel. Sam, this is Dean.”

Dean blinks and looks at the dragon, “Your name is Sam?”

“Well, I prefer Sam to Samandriel. Cas doesn't often call me Sam however.” His voice is surprisingly young sounding, but then again he probably is only a couple centuries old.

“My little brother's name is Sam too.” Dean mentions, making Samandriel stand, nodding.

“I probably confuse you.” He states, nudging his face into Castiel's chest before looking at Dean. “I best be leaving, to not confuse you.” Samandriel smiles, or smiles as much as a dragon can before heading towards the cracked door. “I will see you again Castiel, it was nice to meet you Dean.”

Castiel smiles and nods, “Same to you Samandriel.” The dragon leaves and Dean takes this opportunity to sit next to Castiel on the floor, his elbows resting on his separated knees.

Dean doesn't voice the question on his mind, but he doesn't have to, because Castiel answers regardless. “This is a dream, Samandriel often visited me on occasion.” Castiel smiles sadly, “He has always come to me for knowledge. It is rather endearing.”

Dean shakes his head, his lip sneaking up at the corner, “Sounds like a younger brother.”

Castiel's face falls slightly and he nods, “Very much so.”

Silence fills the awkwardness of the conversation, because Dean knows he hit a chord with that comment, even if it was unintentional. It doesn't take Dean long to think of a new topic however and he voices his question as soon as it comes to his mind. “So do you always dream of this place at it’s best?” Dean questions, making Castiel look around, confusion on his face.

“This was how it always was, until a couple years ago when the Rachel moved in. She advised that it was unwise to make the place so tempting.” Castiel frowns, “I shouldn't have listened.”

Dean takes a look around again, and notices the excess of rugs closer to the fireplace, which was located farther back. “What's with the rugs?”

Castiel looks back and then to Dean, “You don't think dragons tire of sleeping on stone?”

Oh, that made sense and Dean makes a face to prove it does. Castiel's own features softens and he changes the topic. “I am… surprised you were able and willing to make this trip.”

“Huh?” Dean asks, as it is his turn to look confused.

“Coming into my dream, I did not dare attempt it on you, but I had yet to inform you that it was possible. Yet, you did it all by yourself.” There isn't any condescension in his voice, but a sort of pride that makes Dean slightly uncomfortable but at the same time confident.

“Awh thanks Cas.” Dean grins, pushing his shoulder into Castiel's.

The man smiles, shaking his head softly as he speaks once again, “This is one of the best ways to communicate, as I can show you places and people.”

Now that makes Dean curious and a tad bit excited. “Really?”

Castiel nods, “You have the same ability, however, it might be more difficult due to the fact this is not your dream.”

Dean can't help but want to know more, “Can you show me something?”

Castiel makes a thoughtful face before shrugging, clueless. “What would you like to see?”

Dean wasn't sure himself, because the first thing that came to his mind was family but Dean knew that was a touchy subject for his dream partner. So instead, he goes somewhere much more safer. “Maybe you could shown me one of your favorite places?”

This seemed to not only surprise Castiel but also generate enough joy to make him grin. “That is a wonderful idea.” The two men are still sitting side by side on the stone flooring of the temple when the world begins to change. A new reality fades in without Dean's real notice, one moment they're in a room and the next they are out in a valley, green, with the sounds of spring. Castiel stands up easily but it takes Dean a couple seconds to really regain himself. Once he does, he joins Castiel. The blue eyed dreamer heads towards a large oak, where the branches reach out to provide shade for the unrelenting sun. “I used to always go here.” Castiel voices, looking loftily at the tree.

“And do what?” The place was indeed beautiful, but Dean also found it hard to believe that someone just did nothing but take in nature.

Castiel seems to believe nearly the exact opposite as he speaks up once more.

“Read or write.” He starts, reaching down to pick up a small twig. “But I also appreciate a nice place to simply sit and think.” He sits down now under the tree, as if he found his old spot. “Most of the time I came here to witness what nature is, how humans and dragons effect it.”

Dean shakes his head, amusement and genuine affection feathering his tone. “Nerd.”

Castiel doesn’t take it as an insult and instead shakes his head, a soft smile covering his features. “Tis not the worst thing I could be.”

Dean laughs, a grin spreading across his features. “That’s true.”

 

Dean and Castiel sit there for a long time, both just enjoying each other’s presence. In this time Dean truly takes in his surroundings. The majority of trees are actually covered in fruits and while before Dean thought this place was just a part of a nondescript forest, he comes to the realization it’s actually a garden, one made to look completely natural. He notices the animals now, how deer cross just barely out of sight, how a bunny hops along in the tall grass to the right. Some sounds from the song birds as they cheered on the small ecosystem around them. “It’s very beautiful here.” Dean comments, breaking the silent moment.

Dark hair bobs as Castiel nods his head, “These are my father’s land.”

That shocks Dean and his view seems to change on the lands around him, “Really?”

“Yes, he was very much for the appreciation of nature.” Castiel replies, his own eyes taking in the area around them.

A new sort of wonder sets into Dean’s soul, because Castiel had taken him to a place he never expected to see. “Thank you.” Dean states quietly and Castiel doesn’t have to ask why.

The pause is shorter this time, Castiel speaking up, “I have many siblings,” He reminds Dean before getting to the meat of the conversation, “But only the ones close to me knew I would be here.” He’s staring out into the expanse of land in front of them, his mind thousands of miles away. “This is also the place where my second eldest brother revealed his plans to rebel against my father.”

“Did he ask you to join him or something?” Dean asks, his voice much softer as he knew he was treading on dangerous grounds.

Castiel nods once, stress showing itself in the way he clenches his jaw. “Yes.”

“And you said no?”

Another nod from Castiel, “He was disappointed.”

Dean makes a face, “He wanted you to go against your dad. Brothers shouldn’t do that.”

Castiel licks his lips, turning towards Dean to stare him in the eye. “I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I had gone with him.” Dean doesn’t say anything to that and Castiel continues, the words just coming out. “Regardless of my loyalty and love to my father he still left. If I had rebelled with my brother I cannot picture things turning out differently.”

“Would I have met you?” Dean asks, making Castiel blink.

“What?”

Dean reiterates, “If you had rebelled with your brother would I have met you still?”

That gives Castiel food for thought and he blinks, collecting his thoughts before replying. “Most likely not.”  

Dean shrugs, leaning back on the heels of his hands, “Then I’m glad you didn’t. Plus, it just feels better to do the right thing.”

Surprise colors their connection and Castiel spends a moment to just take in Dean. “I suppose you are right.”

“I know.” Dean grins, cheeky as ever.

 

Dean doesn’t leave Castiel’s dreams for a long time, there’s some banter between them but largely the time is simply spent in each other’s company. “Can we do this when we’re both asleep?” Dean asks.

“Yes.” Castiel responds easily, “It is actually significantly easier.”

Dean’s surprised, this wasn’t hard to do. He had actually completely forgotten about the outside world hours ago and had stayed here comfortably. Now that his attention was brought back to the physical world around him, he thought it might be better to just go back to the inn room and actually sleep. Castiel seems to have very little problems with this, and nods, “I believe that would be a good idea Dean. While this is somewhat rejuvenative, sleep would be wiser.”

“Thanks doc.” Dean grumbles as he stands up, wiping off anything that stuck to his back. “I’ll see you in a few, Cas.” Dean comments with more sincerity, softening his words and face and receiving such in return from Castiel.

“Sleep well, Dean.”

“Same to you.”

 

Dean opens his eyes and it's like he is in a completely new world. Well, kinda. It's the same place that Castiel had shown Dean, but the light of the sunset had long dissipated, leaving only the light from the moon. Dean didn't think it would be this late when he came back to reality but, things happen especially when one is dreaming.

If Sam had done his patrolling without Dean and Castiel he would have most likely returned to the inn room. Dean didn't really concern himself with it, there was no need, if a demon was coming into town it would have totally attacked Dean while he was in dream state.

With little concern, Dean heads down the moonlit path until he reaches the streets of the town. There were soldiers patrolling but it was the midnight shift, only one or two guards who could awaken the rest if trouble arose. Dean doesn't bother making contact with them and instead heads directly towards the inn, ready for bed.

Dean's body was relaxed at this time, the hours spent in unknowing meditation had really calmed his soul. Or was it Castiel? He wasn't sure. Climbing the stairs and grabbing the key from one of his pants pockets, Dean enters the inn room.

Castiel had apparently pulled the curtains before he took his nap and the room was much more difficult to see in. Dean heads in slowly, his hands moving to remove his sword belt. His hands pause however as he passes Sam’s bed. Even in this darkness Dean could tell something was wrong.

“Sam?” Dean whispers, dropping his hands from his belt to focus on the bed. “Sammy?”

There was no lump of Sam's sleeping body.

“Cas.” Dean nearly yells, turning towards the bed where the man slept. The panic both in Dean's voice and connection wakes up Castiel instantaneously, his blue eyes nearly shining in the darkness. “Cas, Sam's gone.”

 

Castiel mutters something and all the candles in the room burst into light, revealing they are the only two bodies in the room. Dean automatically looks to where Sam usually leaves his bag. It's gone and Dean has no idea when that happened.

“What the fuck?” Dean yells, more at himself than Castiel as he throws one of the pillows like it'd help.

It actually did in a way. “Dean.” Castiel voices.

“What?!” Dean turns to Castiel, who is now pointing towards where the pillow once was. There's a letter with ‘Dean’ written on the envelope.

Dean grabs the paper hungrily and Castiel stays silent as Dean reads, reading it himself through Dean's mind.

 

Dean,

Went to Seven Gates, no time to explain. I'll be back soon.

-Sam

 

“He's gonna die.” Dean mutters, terror acting on his body much like an ice bucket would. His little brother was going to die in those deserts and Dean let it happen. Dean wasn't paying attention to the world outside of his internal panic.

“Dean, Sam had to have a reason for going there “ Castiel's trying to be the voice of reason but Dean can't believe it.

“Yeah right, what if something tricked him into going there?” Dean starts towards his bag, grabbing all the weapons he had and placing them on his body.

“And you think you can stop it?” Castiel says cooly, his own fear coloring their connection. “Dean, you can't. Those lands swallow people whole.”

Dean throws his clothing into the bag as violently as he can with cloth and stares at Cas. “What about Sam, huh? If he’s gonna get eaten alive so am I.”

“He's going willingly, maybe there is a reason.” Castiel's voice sounds smaller, like he's unable to stop what's happening. Dean can feel the guilt, that Castiel was sleeping and unable to keep tabs on Sam. Dean doesn't blame Cas, if he wasn't here, the same thing would have happened.

Dean closes his emotional attachment off from Castiel. This was his brother, he needed to go, despite what Castiel obviously wanted. “He couldn't have gotten that far, Cas.”

The remaining hunter starts towards the door, making the dark haired man follow like a lost puppy. Castiel shakes his head, stopping by the door as Dean opens it. “Don't go.” The emotion that Dean tries to block pushes forward, revealing the true fear Castiel has about Dean's leaving.

Dean ignores the emotion of the conversation, emotionally incapable of handling Castiel and the stress of Sam's disappearance at the same time. “I'll get him and come back,” Dean licks his lips, shifting ever so slightly on his feet, “ if I'm not back in two days…”

Castiel's jaw locks, a deep breath rattling his rib cage.”I will feel what happens to you.”

They stare at each other for a moment, they don't need the connection to know that this might be the last time they see each other.

 

Even though Castiel has a good game face on, Dean can read the fear and anxiety with this new development. He knows that this is unfair to Castiel, that they had made an unspoken pact to be connected and here Dean was leaving. It must suck, it did suck. But Dean had to go, this was Sam they were talking about. Dean didn't know what to do besides look out for Sam.

While Castiel doesn’t like it, he seems to understand this need and gives Dean a gentle nod, “You are an excellent older brother.” Castiel states, saying something without saying what he truly wants to.

“I'll see you around Cas.” Dean promises with no real conviction. Don't get Dean wrong, he wants to see Castiel again, he doesn't want to lose their connection, but there is something deep seeded inside of Dean that pulls him towards his brother's side. There's no response from Castiel, his eyes just zoned in on Dean's and just when Dean can't take it, the dark haired man speaks up.

“You do realize I will come after you.” Castiel's voice show how it is truly calm inside of a hurricane.

Despite the resolution in Castiel's tone Dean can't help but stop and bicker with the man. “No you won't Cas.” Dean warns, pointing a finger towards the shorter. “This is my family’s business, not yours. You have no obligation to.”

“I have you.”

It shuts Dean down like there's a magical button, like all the cogs in him pause for a split second. Castiel never failed to impress Dean with his words, and this was no exception. Their eyes are locked again, a force making them gravitate towards each other. And despite the fact that Dean has put about a good five feet between the men in his failed escape, they seem closer than they were before.

“Dean,” Castiel starts, as if realizing that he might have the attention of the hunter.

The green eyed hunter doesn't let Castiel finish whatever he was going to say. Instead he cuts him off, “Goodbye Cas.” Dean doesn't look behind him this time, knowing the consequences would be greater the next time. So Dean just guns it for the stable and dresses Impala in her gear pronto.

The moment Dean enters the barn he knows she saw Sam leave, her head pointing towards the empty stable beside her. “I know Baby.” Dean soothes, giving her a couple good pats before placing the unfilled water skins on her back. He'd have to stop at a pump or well. “We're gonna go get them now okay?” He voices, to which she whinnies.

“That's my baby girl.”

 

They do stop at a public well on the corner of the town before heading straight towards Nemeris.

”What way do you think he went?” Dean asks, knowing that Castiel will be conscious for a very long time.

Castiel feels disgruntled but he doesn't hold back the information he knows. ”South west, he was most likely following the Morning Star.”

Dean looks up to the sky and frowns, ”I don't see the star.”

”You won't until you reach Nemeris.” Castiel responds almost instantaneously.

Dean's taps at Impala’s sides and she quickly reaches full speed and her body doesn't seem to mind, especially since she had a warm up. ”Why's that?”

”The Morning Star is not permitted out of Seven Gates.”

Dean snorts, that sounds ridiculous. ”What? Really? But it's bright enough to follow?” It seems just strange that a star, you know something in the sky, could only appear in certain lands. Didn't they change with the seasons?

”As soon as you enter Nemeris you will know.”

”Thanks Cas.”

”Be safe.”

 

The coldness of Nemeris settles in before the trees thin out completely. It's bone chilling and even Impala seems unsure of their travels. She whines but makes no move to change their course. ”Fuck.” Dean groans, pulling his layers closer to his body as he leans towards Impala's warm flank. She's warm, which is good for both of them. Except Dean can actually see the waves of heat radiating off of his stead.

"It will get colder.” Castiel comments, his voice torn. ”I can do what I can to help but I cannot promise anything after you pass through their borders.”

Dean's not chattering yet, so that's good. ”Why's that?”

A warmth starts to fill Dean’s very bones, as if Castiel’s body warmth was being shared, which shouldn’t be possible but in all honesty? Dean doesn’t give two shits about the science behind it and just basks in the warmth Castiel presents. ”I am unsure of what will happen but the border of Seven Gates has rumored to cause problems with our sort of connection.”

”Our sort of connection?” Dean parrots, ”There’s more people like us?” Now that was inconceivable idea, Dean would have totally heard of this if it was a common thing. Hell, it probably would have been one of the cases he previously took if it was a common thing. No way, no how.

”Yes.” Of course Castiel answers that with a clear cut answer, asshat. Cas leaves aspect of their conversation out to dry and turns onto the more pressing matter. ”There is a magic that surrounds-” Dean already knows this and Castiel seems to sense this, just skipping to the most important bit, ”it might scramble our connection, or make it harder to link. I am not sure.” There is a sort of trepidation in Castiel’s voice, his unease starting to unsettle Dean as well. Thankfully, it was easier to ignore without those ocean blues staring at your soul.

”We’ll make do.” Dean responds, turning his concentration to the lands in front of him. He’s nearly in Nemeris now, he can feel it in the way the winds change. There are no trees, no rocks, nothing but sand in Dean’s view. It doesn’t end, just sand for miles and Dean’s heart drops.

This was going to be a big deal wasn’t it? He had been lying to himself this entire time, praying to catch Sammy before he reached the border. It was too late for that now, wasn’t it? While the moon cast an eerie light upon the planes Dean could see no signs of life, no footprints or lights, save those in the sky.

The sky, Dean looks up, seeing the cloudless expanse of space. While the majority of the stars were outshined by the full moon there was one that stayed bright. It was resting  towards the south west, just as Castiel said.

Suddenly the winds pick up, dragging the sand up and into both Dean and Impala’s faces. The horse automatically slows. “It’s okay Baby.” He coos, covering his face as he rips off the shaw-like material that comes attached to the Hunter gear. Successfully removing the fabric Dean reaches forward until he knows the cloth lands around his horse’s eyes and nose. Sure, she really can’t see, but she’ll be able to make out large objects, and She’d still be able to breathe. Dean now worries about himself, he had covered up only when time permitted and he could already feel the grains of sand slipping down his back and getting stuck in his stubble. Luckily his uniform is made for all types of weather and while often bulky, was essential in times like this. Shoving his face the best he can into his shirt, Dean grabs for one of his daggers. He finds one and carefully balances himself better on Impala; securing his bow legs around her middle.

With his equilibrium in check Dean concentrates on cutting one of the layers of cloth on his chest. It has small pockets in it but Dean doesn’t use it often enough to carry anything in it. Separating the strip of fabric from the main section of the shirt he wraps the thinner fabric around his mouth, nose and his eyes. While Impala can run blind, Dean needs to see to direct her. They gain back some sort of pace again and for the first time Dean realizes that Castiel really isn’t saying something, despite the fact that Dean can feel him.

”Cas?” Dean calls, loud enough he hopes Castiel can hear.

Pain ruptures from Dean’s temple now but he does hear Castiel, even if the words are faint. ”I am here Dean.” The warmth in Dean’s bones remains as well, which probably means Cas has an equally, if not worse, headache. Dean doesn’t push the connection, knowing that neither of them want to really weaken themselves.

 

Dean doesn’t think it can get any worse at this moment, he’s been riding for what feels like hours. He’s freezing and can’t feel his fingers. The warmth that Castiel had shared with Dean is long gone, Castiel’s emotions and thoughts along with it. The only way Dean knows Castiel is still alive is because his very being is sure of it and Dean believes it. Dean slows the horse and drops down heavily.

Leaving Impala’s warmth was one of the biggest regrets of Dean’s life right now but he needed to give his baby water. Everything is difficult for the young hunter, his bones are stiff, his toes are probably going to be removed with his shoes, and he can’t stop shaking. He grabs one of the water skins from Impala’s back and lugs it over to her front. “Alright Baby.” Dean manages to get out between the chattering. “Y-y-you got-tta drink s-s-some of this.” He unclips the stopper and lifts the sack over his shoulder, placing the opening towards Impala’s mouth. She’s thirsty enough that she catches on fast, sticking her mouth right under the stream. “Good girl.” Impala was normally given the best feed and water her little heart could desire but she also knew the life of the hunter rather well, and so, she drank.

Dean’s mind, which is pretty slow because of the consistent cold, gets stuck on watching Impala drink, so much so he almost doesn’t hear the howl.

Almost.

Suddenly Dean’s body comes to life, and a pressure pushes on his temple. Dean ignores the pain, he knows it’s because Castiel has become aware of Dean’s situation. Dean drops the sac so that water still flows up and pools on the water bag itself. Impala can still drink and as of right now he doesn’t care about the wasted water. They could die, after all, that’s why Dean feels Castiel’s presence more, forcing Dean’s body to receive some heat. Dean unsheathes Tarsus, holding the blade ready as he looks around.

There’s another howl from the other side of Impala and Dean knows they’re circling the two foreigners. Impala seems to get a grapple of what is exactly happening and becomes attentive, her head swinging towards the loudest sound. She makes a couple uneasy sounds.

There is one good thing about the sand, and it’s the fact that Dean can see the footprints of these beasts. A small colt’s hoof print could easily fit into one of the sandy marks and that just freaks Dean out. Especially since he can’t see them. There’s a snarl towards Dean’s left and the man swings towards the sound.

“Iron.” Castiel manages to nearly scream over the connection. He sounds so far away, his voice is basically static. Dean understands though, and fighting through the pain of his body with the addition of the splitting headache, he quickly grabs one of the short swords that were attached to his back harness. Dean did bring all the weapons he could carry. Rolling around his stiff wrist he stares at the spot he knows the hound is at. There’s a growl from his right but it’s more distant than that of hound Dean is staring down currently. Dean remains silent, his eyes where the hellbeast's eyes most likely sat. There’s another snarl and the creature makes a lunge. Dean has been trained with the sword for the majority of his life and while he has to attack with his less dominant hand, the blow is still detrimental towards the invisible creature. Black blood gushes forward from the creature’s jugular, or what Dean assumes is the jugular due to the pulse of blood. In an attempt to take Dean down with him the creature lunges once again, and this time Dean stabs it not only with the iron dagger but Tarsus.

The demon dog to the right decides it’s a good time to bombard Dean, which Dean misses because he was pulling his weapons out of the invisible dead carcass. Did you hear that? Invisible, actually invisible. It blew Dean’s mind. Impala herself hasn’t been sitting pretty and now has separated herself from the hellhound attacks. The problem however is, Dean can’t protect her. There’s a whinny, a truly fearful whiny from his beautiful black companion and Dean’s head whips towards his baby. “Impala!” He yells as his horse whinnies again, rearing up to slam her hooves down on her attacker. Of course the lady could take care of herself, but Dean’s distraction was enough of a time for the threatening hellhound to attack him. It’s jaw encompasses the wrist that holds one of the weapons. Dean automatically tries to stab the beast with his free hand but the angle is off and no real damage would be inflicted. The dog drags Dean down to the ground, holding him there with it’s hold on his arm. Whether by blessing or curse the dogs don’t seem to be too interested in eating Impala or Dean alive, but instead act as a sort of invisible circle around them. Dean finds out why soon enough.

A whistle cuts through the air now and Dean whips his head to where the noise came from. Dean doesn't know where the fuck the man came from but he knows that he's bad news. He's lanky and maybe in his 40s, his hair is cut short and sand colored fabric wraps his head and face. Dean can still see the other man's eyes however and with a look like that, Dean knew this was only the tip of the iceberg.

“Oh don't mind them.” The man speaks, his voice slightly nasally with a lackadaisical air. “They just don't often get to smell fresh meat like yourself.” The man walks around the invisible hellhounds and squats next to Dean, grinning down sickeningly at him. Like some kind of twisted psychopathic wolf; staring down his next big meal.

Dean responds how he knows best, with sarcasm. “It's why all the chicks dig me.”  

The newcomer laughs, sounding sick and warped. “Ah clearly.” He turns in a dramatic fashion, open palms towards the sky above them. If Dean thought it couldn't get creepier he was wrong, because the man basically sings out his next words. “But these bitches can kill you.” He stands slightly straighter, placing his rough hands on his hips as he surveys Dean as if he was a piece of property and not a human being. “Too bad the boss says you can't die.” He leans over, crowding Dean's face, smelling like blood and sulfur. “But…” The man tilts his head up into the sky and back down towards Dean, serpentine in his movements  “I don't have to kill you to have fun.” The grin which had been plastered on his face returns and this time it brings a whole new level or horror with it.

“Fuck off.” Dean growls, moving his free hand ever so slightly. Hey, the man said he couldn’t kill Dean so the hunter could at least try. It was a bad decision through and through, because the moment Dena flexes his hand he can feel warmth on the side of his head, like dog breath and in the next second there’s jagged, invisible teeth in his shoulder. The hunter lets out a grunt of pain and as if to make it worse the headache grows tenfold with Castiel’s furiosity to be consciously there with him. The dog on his hand also bites down, enacting more pain upon Dean’s person.

The man tisks at this, smiling voraciously towards Dean. “Oh no, no, no Dean.” He takes up more space in Dean’s pain ridden eyes, ”You’re mine.”

The next thing Dean hears is Castiel screaming his name, a flash of a hand and then nothing.

 


 

Sam likes Meg, she’s witty and while she likes to flirt she’s not a bad companion. Sam has noticed however she is vague in her answers about Luc and it makes Sam wonder why. He doesn’t push it too hard however, because this is supposed to be an evil infested area.

The conversations they share stay in safe places for both parties, neither bringing up anything controversial. That is until the sun starts to rise and Meg strikes up the day's plans. “So Sam “ She smiles, sending a look towards the taller. “You ready to hear today's itinerary?”

Sam snorts but nods, “Yeah actually, since I have no idea where we are.”

Meg lets out a laugh and shrugs her shoulders. “Nemeris still, it's more than a week's journey to Luc on horseback.” Sam can't help but notice how her tone seems to carry some playful egotism, since this is her home and Sam doesn't even know how far away Luc’s territory was. “We’re gonna ride for the rest of the day, maybe take shifts on leading the horses, but we should reach Lethe by tomorrow night.” When Sam gives Meg a curious look she sighs, “It’s the biggest city to closest to Nemeris.”

“Who’s in charge?” Sam’s knows it’s partly because he’s curious but another part, the part that was a Hunter, told him there might be danger.

Meg rolls her eyes, which tells Sam he asked a stupid question. “Me, ya Sasquatch.”

“What?” If that was true, why was the viscount out getting just one man? Who was a hunter.

“Shocking right?” Meg teases, sounding more sarcastic than sincere. The woman rolls her eyes, “Look, haven’t you wondered why demons aren’t crawling out of the woodwork yet?”  Sam would be lying if he said no, but he hadn’t wanted to push the subject. He stays silent and that’s enough for Meg. She smiles, something akin to evil, but can be taken as just deviousness. Turning so her eyes are locking with Sam’s, they flicker black, showing who Meg really is, what Meg really is. Sam pales and Meg knows he’s ready to flee so she speaks quicker now, “Relax Sammy, if you were going to be killed you never would have made it through Nemeris. You’re special.”

There it was, the magic sentence that now Sam started to doubt, especially without Luc whispering and warming him like he normally does. “Yeah, I keep hearing that.” Sam bites, glaring towards Meg.

“It’s because you are.” Now she actually sounds sincere and Sam can’t help but listen to what she has to say. “Look, the dragon you’re paired with…” Meg fiddles with her reins for a second, “He’s important and lonely. No one has or ever will be more of a perfect for him than you.” It was starting to feel creepy and Sam was really thinking about turning around. However, the stress Sam was going through seems to have awoken Luc because Sam suddenly feels the dragon with him.

”You seem stressed.” Luc plays off, yawning loudly even between their brains.

Sam turns away from Meg but she doesn’t seem to mind, like she knows what he’s doing. ”Well, I did just find out I’m traveling with a demon.” Sam’s answer is snappy and Luc gives off the feeling of surprise but quickly covers himself.

”There are only demons in Seven Gates Sam, you are the only true human in this realm.”

”What about you?” Sam shoots and in retrospect it’s kinda stupid because even Luc finds his argument flawed.

”I’m a dragon Sam. Duh.” Luc seems to play off Sam’s concern for nothing big and while that would piss Sam off with any other person, with Luc it just seems all in good nature. Like Sam really didn’t have to worry about anything. Luc sighs in the small break of words before continuing. ”There are things I wish to tell you in person, that would be better shown than told. So please bare with me, while you are traveling with a demon she will protect you with her very life. She is loyal to her cause.

”What is her cause?” Sam manages to ask, despite the fact he can feel his doubt slipping away.

”To get you safely to me.” Lucifer responds with not at second’s delay.

Sam grows quiet and chances a look over to Meg. She feels his eyes on her and turns, her blonde hair shining bright in the morning light. “Oh are you done talking to him?” She asks, as if she already knew what Sam was doing. Which, he guessed she did.

“How’d you know?” Sam asks a little flabbergasted. Luc stays silent but let’s his amusement at their interaction flow over. The human just puts it to the wayside however, focusing on Meg.

She shrugs, “You had a glazed over look, I was told that’s what happens when someone is talking to their dragon.”

That reminded Sam of Dean and Cas, making Luc snort. ”What?” Sam asks, knowing that Luc has to know something.

”I think you know.” Responds the dragon, his voice teasing while retaining some of that wise essence.

Sam did know, he had known a while ago. There had always been rumors that dragons could change their form into human likenesses and Castiel had basically confirmed his own involvement when he had answered Sam's question on the matter.

”Cas is a dragon.” Sam states, receiving amusement from Luc.

”Ah yes, so there is an attentive Winchester, I was starting to worry.” Sam snorts both out loud and between the connection with Luc, making the dragon give off a rather smug vibe. ”I'm glad I got you.” Luc hums, his words acting like honey on Sam's ego. Meg seems to understand that Sam's back in his own little world because she simply focuses on their travels.

With Sam's attention being dragged over to Meg, Luc chuckles. ”Do I keep interrupting your conversation?” He muses, a rumble passing through the dragon to Sam, giving off a pleasant vibe.

”I don't mind.” Sam comments off handedly, because he didn't. Talking to Luc was freeing, to speak and share thoughts with another being without actually having to say them or even in the same room was amazing. This was literally also a dream of Sam's, he always wanted to bond with a dragon, to see through their eyes and feel the joy of flight.

Sam doesn't share that with Luc and dragon doesn't seem to mind the momentary silence but he does speak up. ”Did you think it would be this much desert?” Luc hums, simply keeping the conversation alive.

Sam's all for it and shrugs, ”Kinda, I mean no one in human history has ever written a report of walking through these lands. All we know is from demons and my dad's observations.”

”Ah yes, the great Lord Winchester.” Luc murmurs with a tad bit of sarcasm. With that out of the way Luc carries on with his thought. ”There is much more sand in front of you. It will get boring quickly.”

Sam rolls his eyes but in a more playful manner than anything else. ”I was bored of sand an hour into Nemeris.”

The beast snorts and understanding passes through the two, “It is near two days travel to get from your location to me. Within no time you will fly over those sands.”

Sam makes a face, which Meg sees and Luc feels. Luc had already explained that his work kept him at home but still, Sam wanted to meet him now.

”Soon Sam. Once we meet, your world will change.”

”Hopefully for the better.” Sam comments, unable to control himself.

”Most definitely.”

 

No one talks for a good while, both Sam and Luc allowing the silence to be comfortable while Meg just seems to wait for a signal from Sam to talk. Suddenly Luc calls for Sam as if he's saying his name but without words. Sam follows the call and turns his attention towards his dragon.

”I have work to attend to, if you need anything simply ask and I will come.”

Luc has a way of sweeping Sam off his feet with his words and while Sam's well aware it's intentional he can't help be feel his heart swell with something. ”Thank you.”

”Of course Sam.”

With the conversation dead between Luc and Sam the hunter turns to look at Meg. She feels his eyes and turns, smiling. “Have fun?” The blonde teases, reminding Sam of a demon version of Jo. Which makes his stomach turn so he focuses on her words. He shrugs and Meg snorts, rolling her eyes, “I don’t need to know the details, don’t worry.”

It’s time for Sam to roll his eyes and Meg smirks, content with annoying him slightly.

They stopped several times to give the horses water, though Sam noticed that the horses that Meg had didn’t even drink that much, as if they were completely fine with the long trek over desert. Stanford wasn’t actually doing that good, and Sam had to make sure the horse drank something so his body wouldn’t reject it later. “We’re gonna have to stop again soon.” Sam comments to Meg, running a hand down the brown mane of his horse.

Meg nods, “Alright.”

The whole interaction got Sam thinking and once they take off again he voices the question that’s been bothering him. “What’s going to happen to Stanford when we reach Luc?”

It actually looks like Sam took Meg by surprise with that but not like she hadn’t thought of a response. “We’ll probably leave him in Lethe. What happens to him then is up to you.”

“Will be be taken care of in Lethe?”

Meg snorts, giving Sam a knowing look. She reaches down and pets her own horse. Her horse, which like many, is smaller than Stanford, is leaner than most other horses. It’s almost unhealthy except Sam can see the muscles fat with bulk and it’s coat was a beautiful shine of black and grey. “Miner’s gonna stay with Stanford when we get to Lethe. So yes, your precious horse will be safe.”

Sam doesn’t bother responding with words and instead just nods, which she does catch.

 

Sam thinks of Dean for awhile, how he’s going to react, how Sam hopes Castiel will talk some sense into Dean. It was dangerous move to leave the way he did, but maybe Dean would actually listen for a change. It was doubtful.

Sam’s distress apparently attracted Luc’s attention towards him, because comfort starts to seep into Sam’s very bones.

"Your brother is strong. You know this.” Luc speaks, his words soothing.

”Yeah but he’s stubborn.” Sam responds, frowning at the sand in front of him.

”So are you.”

There was no reason to contest this, it was true and while their stubbornness had gotten them into shit tons of trouble, they always came out alright. Dean would be fine, Castiel would take care of him. This makes Luc smirk over their connection and Sam’s not sure what the underlying emotion is. ”Castiel has watched humankind of many years, so when he does act it will be very noticeable.”

”Do you know what they’re doing?”

Luc’s wording gave off the vibe that he knew something but he responds with the feeling of unsureness and only guessing. ”No, I can only guess. It was hard enough to contact you across the border of Nemeris, to reach towards Castiel would most likely not only cause me pain but you as well.”

That shocks Sam a little, ”Really?”

”Most definitely. Those headaches you received before? While it was also do to my form, much of it came from the barrier between Potesta and Seven Gates. Because both of us are connected my pain is yours, and your pain is mine.” Sam doesn’t respond as it in all honesty kinda freaks him out. Luc feels this and continues, “It is not the only thing we share, pleasure and euphoria are positive outcomes.” His words have a double meaning and Sam picks it up, or rather his body does.

Sam lets out a little cough, making Meg look over and Luc to chuckle. Meg doesn’t say anything but instead stares forward, allowing Sam to have his time with his dragon. Sam actually wouldn’t mind if Meg cut in, because Sam could feel the back of his neck warming up along with the rest of his body.

Luc seems to find the whole thing hopelessly amusing and he basically purrs his next words, making shivers run down Sam’s spin. ”Soon Sam, I will be with you soon.”

The dragon disconnects, or rather turns his mind towards the matters around his actual location to let Sam stew for a little. Which is exactly what the youngest Winchester was doing.

 

When the sun finally started to set Sam’s eyes began to droop, the sun had made him tired and while he wanted to be awake, he was slowly wishing for a comfortable bed instead the back of a horse. Meg seemed to notice this and smirks, “Ah lil’ human Sammy is getting all tired.”

“Sam.” Sam corrects, no way is a demon getting to call Sam Sammy, oh no.

Meg just responds with an eye roll before continuing. “Whatever, you should get some sleep.” Her eyes flash black again, “Since I don’t need it.” She grins wickedly but Sam knows she’s just doing it to creep him out. Which works, not that he’d tell her. He doesn’t even fight the suggestion and instead shuffles around the best he could to get even slightly more comfortable. “Drink some water before you conk out.” She tacts on almost like a concerned mother.

“Fine.” Sam mumbles, grabbing onto his flask and downing the liquid. Sam can’t help but notice how the flask doesn’t seem to lose any of the liquid, like some magic was keeping it refilled. He would have to ask Luc about that, but for the time being? Sam was going to sleep, and he was excited.

 

Pain. Screams. Dean knew the cries of anguish were his own but he doesn't connect with them, his body on a different level of pain that he had never experienced before. Pain was all that filled Dean's mind, Castiel couldn't even reach for him. The last time Dean had felt the other man there was so much anger, red hot with hatred. But now? Even now if Dean tried to connect Cas he wasn't sure that he'd be able to reach him. He was so weak… Cas was so far away.

Dean had learned the demon's name the first time he was laid out for torture. Alistair. Along with pain, Dean's own anger had grown cut by cut, hour by hour. Time wasn't a real thing now, despite the weather turning from cold to hot to freezing once again. Sometimes the sun’s light would wash over him, or the moon’s light, but he couldn’t tell how many days passed. There was no way to keep time, since the torture took place at random times and Dean would try to sleep the pain away. Alistair apparently liked to play with his food. He would tear into Dean, leaving him there to stew in the pain and just when Dean starts to calm, that ugly, twisted face appears yet again, smiling crookedly down at Dean.

 

This was one of those times, Dean couldn't move his hands, the tendons so damaged he couldn't move his fingers. “Mhmm and how are you today, Dean?” The nazzly voice calls, his voice so cheerful it makes Dean's stomach churn.

“Fuck you.” Dean coughs, his throat dry from lack of any liquids.

Alistair tisks, waving the curved knife in his hand to help dramatize his words. “Now, now, Dean and here I thought we were getting friendly.” He grins, his teeth glinting in the light.

“You wish.” Dean growls back, regretting the uses of his vocal chords.

Alistair’s still smiling, unbothered by Dean's attitude. “Always joking aren't we?” Dean doesn't give him the satisfaction of an answer and instead stays quiet. Saving his voice for more important things.

Alistair takes the moment’s reprieve to gather stock of his arsenal of torture instruments, humming softly as he does so. “Are you thirsty Dean?” The man grins, holding a bottle of normal looking water. Dean doesn't say anything, not showing his desperate need for liquid. Alistair comes over and pours some of the liquid into Dean's mouth.

His mouth burns, salt bringing out every cut in his mouth, his lips. To make it worse, Alistair pours some over Dean’s body and vicariously into his many open wounds. Some liquid sprays out of Dean’s mouth and when it does go flying out of Dean's mouth, it mainly goes to Alistair, causing smoke to hiss up from his body.

Dean can't even laugh at that but he tries anyway, the sound coming out not quite human. There was part of Dean that was sure this was an illusion, how else would his body be magically healed after Alistair was bored with his work?

This was one of those times, when Dean felt his body stitch it's self back together too full health. The pains stayed, as if they were carved into Dean's very soul.

At least Dean had his voice back. “You're so screwed when I get busted out of here.” He's not sure he can even leave, but he has to make Alistair believe that he believes it. It was the only thing keeping Dean's stanity, that or if he got to put Alistair on the rack instead.

Alistair, who has regained his composure twirls back towards Dean, that sickening smile plastered back on his face. “Oh yes, Castiel.” Alistair’s voice is just brimming with mirth. “What makes you even think he'll come for you?” Alistair snorts, taking his favorite carving knife to the inside of Dean's legs.

It's a very sexual place and Dean hates the proximity Alistair is to all his personal bits. Dean plays it off shrugging as if the cuts on his legs didn't make him want to scream in pain. “He will.”

Alistair smiles, looking up at Dean before slicing behind his calf, making Dean grunt. “He didn't leave with you, what makes you think he'd be willing to follow you here? This is the place he fears the most.”

Dean didn't know if that was a fact or just something Alistair had made up but right now he didn't care because he trusted Castiel. If he couldn't break Dean out at least he would try. Maybe Dean wouldn't be able to get out of here, but he knew Castiel would try. He had promised.

“He'll come.”

Alistair smirks, shaking his head slightly as he reaches for an instrument that looked vaguely like a cheese grater. “Whatever keeps you from crying, Dean.”

Dean knew he would never hate anyone as much as he hates this demon. “When I get out, cause I will. I will kill you.”

Alistair smirks, leaning into Dean as he places the grater against Dean's suddenly bare chest. “Oh but you are doing so well.” The smirk turns into a devious grin, the cold metal hitting Dean's skin before the new pain blooms from Dean's chest.

Screams pass over the desert, lost to the winds and sandy dunes.

 


 

It's night time when Sam wakes up, or early morning rather. He had slept on and off throughout the night but by this time he was just tired of not being able to sleep solid. Rising on his saddle Sam stretches in hopes to remove the crinks in his body.

Meg turns to Sam, raising an eyebrow. “You look like shit.”

“Morning to you too Meg.” Sam grumbles, reaching for his flask to take a quick drink of water.

“That too.” Meg comments, before picking a more serious topic. “When we get to Lethe, would you rather eat, sleep and then go to Luc? Or just eat and go and sleep there?”

Sam has no idea what would be better, but if he was being honest with himself he knew the answer already.

“I'll probably try to sleep through the day so we can just go.”

Meg makes a face but nods, “Great now I have to spend the entire day by myself.”

Sam smirks, “Oh poor you.” He can't help not feeling bad, she was a demon after all.

Meg rolls her eyes, “No wonder Luc likes you.” She grumbles more to herself than Sam.

Sam takes it as a compliment.

 

They have many conversations on and off throughout their travels. Sometimes silence was the best option. Other times they just bantered, keeping personal information to themselves.

While Sam trusted Meg to get him to Luc, he wasn't sure about her herself, she seemed to have a cocky air, like someone who's life is littered with important people. She's also rather sure of herself, treating Sam more as a human than a Hunter. She was funny and showed a passion for those who are her superiors.

“So you personally know Luke?” Sam brings up once.

Meg lets out a little laugh at that, “I would say so yes.”

“How?”

Meg’s smirking, her back held properly as she turns to look at Sam. “He's my superior general. The big Hoss.”

That confuses Sam, “What about the king? Don't you follow him?”

Meg makes a face, like is complicated, “Of course.”

“But Luke is your big boss?”

Meg nods, “You got it Sasquatch.”

There's a brief pause now but Sam just can't help himself. “What does the King think about me coming in here?”

“Into Seven Gates?” Meg asks, just to make sure.

“Yeah, I mean I'm a hunter, that's gotta be some stress.”

Meg shrugs, looking towards the horizon. For the last hour or so Sam has been able to see mountains, real mountains made of rock and dirt. He thought he saw some green, but he wasn't allowing himself the hope. Plus, if there was any, it was such a small amount that maybe there was ten trees tops. “Like I said, anything to get you to Luc.”

“He's that important?” Sam pushes, unsure as if to feel proud or fearful.

“You have no idea.”

 

More time passes and the mountains draw closer before the conversation turns constructive once again.

“So Sam,” Meg starts her voice teasing. “You know how deserts have mirages?” Sam nods, looking towards the woman with a confused eye, so she continues her thought, “And you know how they can look like oases?”

“Yeah.” Sam nods, trying to understand where she's getting with this.

“Well, some of those mirages lead to actual ways to travel around Seven Gates.” She gives Sam a look, “It's how we're gonna travel from Lethe to Luc.”

That didn't seem possible and Sam states just as much. “Yeah right.”

Meg smiles, finding his pessimism amusing. “Hope you got good swimming lungs.”

Sam does, Dean had taught Sam how to swim when they were kids. It had been scary at first but Dean had built up Sam's confidence with water until Sam fair surpassed Dean's own comfort level with water. “I think I'll be fine.”

“Oh I'm sure of that.” Meg responds, her voice coming easily.

 

The closer the two get to the mountains the bigger Sam realizes they are, that this mountain ridge continues past his eyeline. Nature makes more of a presence here, the sand mixing with dirt and rock, small bunches of dried grass sticking out from the cracks. It excites Sam, because Nemeris was the only thing humans really knew about Seven Gates. They knew the King's name Lucifer, knew he was a man with a keen eye for strategy and a force to rival the entirety of Potesta. Rumors circulate every once in awhile saying Lucifer is a dragon but John had seen Lucifer.

It was at the border, where the sands of Nemeris meet the grasslands of Potesta. While each group of soldiers prepared for war John had been able to use a spyglass to see the man.

Sam always remembered how his father had talked about Lucifer, how the King had given such a good speech that the demons just swarmed the humans. While John didn't necessarily like the dragon riders he does give them credit for turning the tide. The leader of the dragon order, Micheal with his rider fought with such ferociousness that Lucifer’s forces faltered, terrified by such a strong dragon. John always would go on a rant now, how Michael and his rider were too headstrong, as they passed over the enemy forces to attack Lucifer straight on.

Michael's rider died in their attempt. John was never sure as to how a dragon failed against a man but he did. Lucifer however did pull back, smart enough to know when he drew true blood. That was the last true battle between Seven Gates and Potesta. It was the battle that his mother put down her sword.

 

So it's understandable why Sam was excited to learn the layout. After all, his dad was the leader of the Hunters. “Lethe is about two hours southeast of here.” Meg speaks up, turning to look at Sam. “You should get as much sleep as you can.”

While the practical part of Sam's head said it was a wise idea, Sam's newfound excitement at learning unknown information wanted to win over.

Luc seemed to sense this, his attention turning onto Sam like a spot light. Sam noticed how much closer Luc felt, like he could hear and feel his heartbeat and the power that coursed through his veins. ”Sleep would be wise Sam.” He seems to understand Sam's wishes however and decides to compensate with the eager rider. ”I will show you all you wish when we meet.”

The idea of riding on a dragon's back and surveying the landscape sounded too tempting and Sam caves.

”Promise?” Sam asks before settling himself more into his seat.

Luc sends warmth over, comfort and relaxation before he speaks up once again. Despite the fact there was still a good distance away from each other, despite they have never physically met, Sam feels the very reverberations of Luc’s next words through his ribcage. ”Of course, I want to give you everything.” He said it so matter of factly that Sam doesn't have a doubt in his mind.

“Wake me up when we're close to Lethe.” Sam comments to Meg, moving into the most comfortable position he can find on a horse.

“Aye aye!” Meg salutes lazily, her words sounding sarcastic but still registering his request.

”Night Luke.” Sam comments in his head, causing humor on the other side of the line.

”Sleep well Sam. I will see you soon.”

 


 

Dean’s losing himself in pain, in the words of Alistair. He can barely remember who he is and he sure as shit doesn’t know where he is or what time it is. All he knows is that Alistair is cutting. Cutting deeper and deeper into the tissue, the muscles that hold Dean together. Dean’s not sure if he’s screaming or if there is someone else on the rack, he doesn’t know if he can take any more of this.

The headaches that come and go with Castiel’s conscious have been there just as long, if not longer than the pain that Alastair had inflicted. Dean doesn’t know anything.

Alastair is humming, some sickeningly sweet song. It doesn’t belong here in the pit. Dean doesn’t belong here. “Oh but you do.” Alastair sings, his words continuing with his hum perfectly. “You belong here with me.” He does a little dance in front of Dean, that evil grin plastered on his face, “And you will break, oh you will.” He drops the tunes and instead steps forward, letting his blade caress Dean’s face. “Forever.”  

There’s an explosion in Dean’s brain, a sudden breakthrough of white light, followed by the roar of some far off beast. He’s not sure if he’s imagining it, or if it’s coming from Castiel’s side. It might even be part of Alastair’s tricks so Dean ignores the hope that bubbles in him, pushing it down in favor for absolute loss.There’s not enough power in Dean for him to respond to Alastair’s comment so instead he spits, the blood and saliva barely making it past Dean’s body and no where near where Alastair is located, despite him being so close. The demon looks down at the failed attempt and looks back up towards Dean, teasing in both his facial expression and words. “Well, that was pathetic.” He sighs, angling the blade to cut into the skin by Dean’s jaw. “But that’s exactly what you are aren’t you Dean? Daddy’s broken little soldier.” His voice is clearly degrading as he slices away at other parts of Dean’s body, talking over the screams. “Always so weak, couldn’t even handle all those big wigs heh? Had to run away from mommy and daddy.”

Like before with the white light Dean’s mental attention is directed towards something else, and this time Dean knows what it is. The sharp pain of a migraine threatens Dean but he takes it, knowing that he has to endure pain either way. It becomes worse, like a pressure bound to pop, like Castiel was trying to contact him.

“Oh what’s wrong Deanie?” Alastair sings, distracting Dean from his own mind by placing pressure on Dean’s previously broken foot, courtesy of his torturer. “Can’t pay attention in class?” He stomps, breaking more of the fragile bones.

Dean screams, but this time it’s not only from his foot, but the pressure in his mind seems to explode, as Castiel breaks through whatever had separated him from Dean.

”Dean.” Castiel’s voice is more than a little panicked and while he seems furious his main concern seems to be Dean.

“CAS!” Dean screams with everything he has, which isn’t much and it comes out more as a feeble cry.

Alastair’s eyebrows rise but he doesn’t seem too threatened, taking it more of a plea for help than a greeting. Which, in his defence, is what it sounds like. “Oh, you got your boyfriend on the mind don’t you?”

”Dean.” Castiel says once more, and through their connection he relays how Dean cannot let Alastair know that Castiel was on his way. It was clear to Dean that Castiel planned on killing Dean’s torturer and if he was to know he could either move them or just disappear. Well, even if Dean was in crazy amounts of pain, he would not let that mother fucker go.

Maybe it’s the pain, maybe it’s the fact that Dean still can’t tell up from down but the connection Dean has with Castiel seems to be different, like they were almost there, wherever there is. He pays no mind to Alastair’s comment about Castiel and instead focuses his entire mind on Castiel. Alastair ups his pain output but Dean is still his stubborn self and clings onto Castiel like a lifeboat.

He can’t help but notice that his own pain is being transferred onto Castiel and for that Dean tries to hold it back, but it’s so hard. So very hard to hold back the pain now that he shares a brain with another.

Castiel doesn’t make it easier as he allows Dean to do this, taking his pain and passing over some of his own physical health. Dean blesses the feeling, allowing it to envelope him. Castiel sends a warning to Dean but Dean just can’t help it and Alastair retaliates by cutting deep into Dean’s arm and placing salt soaked rope into the wound, tightening it so the grains dig into the wound. It’s too hot, too intense, for Dean to distract himself from and he comes retching back to reality, becoming lightheaded from the sudden change in pain.

Alastair just clucks, as if he was a disappointed housewife. “Your lessons are important Dean, you should pay attention.”

“Fuck off.” Dean croaks, having to just live with the taste of vomit in his mouth. There was nothing in his stomach, he had no idea when he last ate or drank anything, he shouldn’t even be alive. Alastair shakes his head at Dean’s vulgar words, “Come now Dean we should remain professional.”

Dean wants to scream at the creature in front of him, he wants to beat his head in until there’s nothing left. Sadly Dean’s arms are tied to the rack along with his feet and legs. He can’t move. He settles for glaring, because anymore talking would destroy Dean’s vocal chords. Castiel picks up on this and gives an assurance that he will give Dean water the moment they are safe but now poses his next task. “I am not able to locate you.” Castiel seems to be trying, pushing his brain to figure it out, but since Dean doesn’t know, Castiel can’t get a handle on it. Castiel only knows that Dean was in Nemeris. There was an answer however and Dean didn’t need Castiel’s words to know. He remembered that thing Cas had said, how they aren’t truly connected until they look through each other’s eyes. Castiel sends confirmation to this new thought and Dean can feel Castiel hit sand. Dean doesn’t comment about it, how he feels the warmth and tiny grains on his feet, maybe Cas had jumped off a horse or something. Dean now focuses not only on the connection between him and Castiel but also his surroundings. He lets something sink in him and closing his eyes, somehow, opening them blue. Dean still controls the line of sight but he can feel Castiel sharing this with him, this wasn’t playing, this was full on being one. Dean doesn’t remove his eyes from Alastair however, knowing that’d be too much of a give away.

The demon seems to be contemplating something, having watched Dean this entire time. “I think it’s time for a lunch break don’t you?”

Dean only nods because he knows that’s what Alastair wants and right now Dean just wants to keep his torturer unaware. Luckily Alastair loves submission and seems too inthralled by Dean showing his weakness to care about the possible reasons. “Goood.” Alastair sings out, clapping his hands together dramatically. “Now don’t forget to study for your exams.” He says pointedly before walking behind Dean, leaving the area.

With the direction of the rack there seemed to be nothing but desert everywhere Dean looked, left, right, forward; it didn’t matter there was nothing but desert. With Castiel there now, Dean has more of a sense of what to do, so he skims the landscape to see if there are any landmarks. Castiel in the meantime suggests that Alastair is either disappearing or there is a building strategically placed behind Dean. Castiel,  however, seems to believe that Alastair is simply appearing and disappearing at will, which freaks Dean out more than it comforts Castiel.

”It means that he probably didn’t take you far from where he found you.” Castiel reasons, the feeling of sand disappearing from their feet to be replaced with tremblant winds and what Dean can only guess as a sand storm. Regardless Castiel seems to be moving fast, faster than he could on horse back.

Impala, Dean’s stomach dropped. The last time Dean saw her she was being surrounded by hellhounds. Castiel feels Dean’s fear and automatically comforts him, ”I waited for her. She went back to Prill, and is set up in the stable.” Because it seemed too convenient and impossible Castiel sends his own memories of the exact event, his own confusion evident. ”I would not lie to you Dean. I do not know how she made the trip back, especially with little ability to hydrate herself but she made it back with only a few scratches.” Dean sends worry at that comment and Castiel quickly elaborates with images. Dean sees Impala how Castiel had, looking rather exhausted and weak, a couple of dried wounds on her neck and thigh but over all fine. Relief floods Dean, along with pride because of course his Baby made it, she was one tough son of a bitch.

It seems as though Castiel believes it might have been something else that saved Impala but he does not voice this now, instead focusing solely on rescuing Dean.

 

Time passes fast when you’re not getting tortured and sadly Dean hears the ungodly sound of Alastair’s whistling before he sees him. “How is the pupil doing?” Alastair questions, too lively for anyone’s good. Dean says nothing and Alastair frowns, “I really don’t like this silent treatment Dean.” He reveals a flask he had at his hip, “So I brought something to wet your whistle.” He pops open the top and brings it reasonably close to Dean’s face before pausing. “Now what do we say?”

Dean doesn’t say anything and glares, he’d at least make Alastair work for it if Dean was going to play along with this sick mother fucker’s game. Castiel would be here soon, which helped bring back some of the previous vigor Dean had lost. Alastair just gives Dean a look and when that doesn’t work he pulls it away ever so slightly.

“Let me off the rack and I will.” Dean spits, glaring at this torturer and tutor.

“Good, I think we’re learning here Dean.” Alastair’s voice is still that sickeningly upbeat tone as he raises the flask a tad bit higher and pours it all over Dean’s face. Dean makes the best of it and grabs what he can. Sadly this is exactly what Alastair wants, watching Dean with a hungry eye as he slowly pours the liquid on Dean’s face.

For the first time Dean feels the true heat of Castiel’s anger, it wasn’t directed towards him but Cas just couldn’t seem to keep it in anymore. The very heat rose through Dean from his core, a disgust of impeccable measure making his body shake. It was intense and ever so scary because Castiel reins it in a bit. On the side of luck Alastair assumes Dean’s movements are for a different reason and pours out the water quicker, finishing the flask.

Dean licks the liquid off the corners of his mouth, pushing the moisture into the sandpaper of his lips. Alastair watches in sick fascination before pulling out a silver blade and flashing it in the light. “Refreshed for our activities today Dean?”

Castiel pushes harder and Dean can start to feel the physical exertion Castiel is putting himself through. ”Cas be careful.” Dean warns, he would love to be freed right now but he definitely wants Castiel up to sticking around awhile. Dean wants to have a talk with Alastair when he gets off this fucking rack.

It seems to have the opposite effect and Castiel seems to keep increasing his speed. Dean can’t focus too much on Castiel’s happens because it seems like Alastair remembers the rope and turns the knot to the right, scraping into the wound and making Dean bark out in pain. Fucking bastard.

Alastair’s still smiling, looking more like some deformed super villain rather than a normal demon. “Now do you really mean you want off the rack Dean?”

“YES!” Dean yells, if he gets off this rack maybe Castiel would have a better time rescuing him.

”Dean! No!” Castiel screams out, thunder going off far in the distance. Both Dean and Alastair assume is a desert storm and Alastair starts to untie the ropes, full-out singing a tune Dean has never heard before.

It’s too late however for Dean to retract his statement and Alastair is untying the salt soaked ropes around Dean’s wounds. Alastair undoes the leather straps that hold Dean down as well and steps back, allowing Dean to get off. Dean stumbles at the first step but the fact he was off the rack filled him with such joy and elation he didn’t even care. Alastair flips the knife in his hand so the hilt is towards Dean and he’s smiling. “Don’t think you can turn on me Dean, I can put you right back on there.” The demon hums, his voice definitely threatening. He instead nods his head towards the rack, which now that Dean looks back, has a woman suddenly tied up. There was no way for her to get there, this couldn’t be real. If Dean knew then what he knew now, he’d know the truth behind the whole thing.

Castiel is talking, he has been since his original outburst but Dean isn’t listening. If this woman was a figment of Alastair’s illusion why should Dean hold back? The rage that has built up in him, the contempt formed by the torture takes over. Dean just cuts.  

 

Time passes differently when you’re the one cutting. The woman soon becomes another, and then a man, and then another. Dean cuts them all, figuring they’re all just illusions presented by Alastair. It’s now however, as he sends the killing blow to his last victim, that Dean can literally feel Castiel coming closer and closer. Suddenly his skin felt electric, and he almost comes to, feeling a sudden wrongness in his doings. ”I will land shortly.”

Dean didn’t even have time to ask what the fuck Castiel had meant by landing, because at these words Dean looks around and sees a giant shadow crossing over the desert behind his torturer. Alastair has been standing slightly behind Dean and to the side, watching his pupil work. Dean quickly covers his search for the shadow by looking at Alastair, even if Dean wanted to look at whatever that was. “I do have to say, you’re one of my best students. You and Meg should swap notes.” He’s acting as if they’re friends and it makes Dean’s stomach twist.

“Hey Alastair.” Dean says, a smile twisted, inhuman smile crossing the hunter’s face.  A roar broke free from the creature, a dragon, Dean suddenly realizes. He feels no threat to himself however and with the dragon’s approach he screams over the noise towards his teacher. “Fuck you!” For the first time, Dean sees fear in his eyes. Dean doesn’t regret watching that, not one bit. He does look up now and sees a giant dark sapphire dragon flying directly down towards him. Alastair seems to get the hint that if he doesn’t move he’s going to get squashed, so he steps back and the dragon lands.

Sand flies everywhere (that is including at Dean) but the large body of the beast surrounds Dean easily, it’s tail flinging the rack out of the way. The dragon, Castiel, because Dean knows it’s Cas and he's the size of a small castle, his flank covering Dean’s view like a brick wall. Despite the fact that Dean was hidden under Castiel he could still hear the words shared outside of these protective walls.

“Well Castiel, I do have to say, you look different from when I last saw you.” Alastair hums, acting as if he was unbothered by Castiel’s interruption.

There’s a snarl from Castiel, making Dean vibrate from his proximity to the the dragon, Castiel talks regardless. “Still twisted as you always have been.” It’s still Castiel’s voice, his human voice, but it’s more booming, more of a power. Castiel knows that Dean wishes to see what is happening outside of the safety of Castiel’s body shield and so he opens his eyes to Dean.

First of all, it is very different from looking through the eyes of a human, details are much more intense, colors that weren’t noticeable suddenly become clear, you can see the magic of the world around them. Alastair stands in front of Castiel definitely and Dean sees something move out of the corner of Castiel’s eyes. Dean’s curiosity makes Castiel look for a split second and Dean suddenly knows what hellhounds look like. There’s an entire pack standing on the duns behind Alastair in a crescent moon shape.

Castiel does nothing but snort out smoke, looking down at Alastair with nothing but contempt in his voice. “You think you can scare me?” The ground shakes and even the hellhounds show some level of fear.

Alastair just grins up at Castiel, flashing his knife around, “Come on Cassie, you didn’t kill Crowley, why would you kill me?”

Indignation crosses from Castiel to Dean and he voices it in his next words, “There is no dragon attached to you Alastair. Do you really think the King would come after me if I killed you?”

Alastair smiles, as if he’s sure of this and it makes Castiel laugh, cold and heartless. “You are nothing more than a pawn that can be replaced. Your king holds no love for the likes of you.”

The large mass around Dean moves now, and suddenly Dean feels his body starting to give way. Alastair had never healed Dean after he had gotten off the rack, simply held that pain back and once Castiel had appeared, Alastair had taken it away. Castiel’s body had simply kept Dean up straight and once his body shifted, the pain came back. Dean now crumbles to the sandy ground due to his broken foot and right knee. It doesn’t matter though, not as Dean watches first hand as Castiel eats the hell hounds that come for him. Dean is no longer looking through Castiel’s eyes but he sees as blood gushes from around Castiel’s claws, revealing the invisible beasts as they are taken out by the sheer power of Castiel’s muscle. The large dragon’s head swings towards Alastair and Dean can see as black blood covers the blue of the scales. “You call yourself the master torturer.” Castiel steps forward towards the demon, who now takes a step back, all his hellhounds disposed off. “You are nothing more than a weakling who gets off on other’s pain.” Another step forward and Castiel leans down his head. “You are not going to like this.”

 

Dean doesn’t know how long Alastair is tortured, it’s different when the attacker is a dragon and the victim is the size of a normal human. It does end with a bright light, to which Dean closes his eyes for. When he opens them Alastair is dead, his body lying broken and bruised in front of Dean and his dragon. Alastair dies with his mouth open, fear and pain etched into his dead eyes.

Castiel turns his large head towards Dean. The blood that covered his scales before has since disappeared as if by magic, making him a lot more non-threatening and rather beautiful. Not that Dean was afraid of the dragon, he knew it was Castiel after all, could see it in his eyes. “So,” Dean starts, looking up from the place he had fallen, “You gonna help me up and explain what the fuck is going on or what?”

The beast blinks and clarity forms from the anger in Castiel's mind. Turning around with a little difficulty Castiel faces his body towards the broken man. “Lay down.” Castiel orders, obviously preferring to talk through their minds while in this form. Dean simply nods and does as his is told, it's a little bumpy and hurts like a bitch but Dean does eventually get comfortable in the sand.

”Close your eyes and relax.” Castiel continues, his own mind becoming calm, an ability he must have perfected through his time in the temple. The temple, oh, Dean would have to have a conversation about this with Cas. ”Focus Dean.”

Dean sighs heavily but pushes the thought from his brain, focusing on the marks on his body, on the molecules that make him... him. Castiel sends gentle reassure to Dean, proud of how quickly he was able to relax, even if it was painful. With one more large exhale Dean closes his eyes to the world. He hears words, words he can't understand passing through Castiel's mind, he can feel energy being transmitted through Castiel to Dean and a gentle breeze that just could not be natural.

The pains leave Dean as the wind passes over his body and he just has to open his eyes. It seems as though the wind came from Castiel as the dragon's mouth is still slightly parted, showing teeth the size of Dean's entire forearm and hand. ”Feeling better?” Castiel asks, a smirk appearing on his scaly face.

With the look Castiel had given Dean, the hunter can't help but look down at his body and see how he's…back to perfect. All the wounds he had received from Alastair were gone along the scars from previous encounters with supernatural creatures. He felt like a newborn baby, skin now soft and all the crinks in his bones gone.

“How the fuck did you do that?” Dean’s voice is even fine as if he hadn't been dying for drink for what seems like forever. Castiel shrugs his large shoulder, setting himself slightly up on his scaled joints.

”With a lot of exertion.” He responds easily, keeping a watchful eye on Dean. ”You'll probably become very tired yourself, your body isn't use to this kind of magical handling.” His words don't mean his own doing alone but Alastair’s as well, since Dean would often come to whole again only to be torn apart but the same creature. Dean's body does feel tired, very tired, it's the exact reason he didn't sit up at being cured. He knew his head would swim. However this brings a new problem to the table since they had to leave.

Castiel seems to have already thought of something and the moment it crosses into Dean's mind the hunter is shaking his head. “Oh hell no you aren't tying me to your back.”

”Would you prefer if I held you?” Castiel offers, finding this even more of a viable option. Because there's literally only being tied to Castiel's back or being held, Dean doesn't fight back too hard but he's still displeased. Castiel doesn't seem to be annoyed with Dean's trepidation as he can feel Dean's fear of flying.

”Perhaps you will fall asleep while we are traveling, that way you do not have to experience all of the flight.”

Dean doubts he'll be able to sleep but accepts Castiel's idea. “Alright. Let's just get the fuck out of here.”

Castiel rises now, shaking all the sand that had been kicked up off of himself,  his wings spreading to help the cause. Without Alastair there to distract Dean, the hunter now finally gets to see what Castiel looks like and he has to admit, he's gorgeous.

While the deep sapphire seems to be the main color of Castiel’s scales, there are spots on him that are almost black and if the sun wasn't beating down on them, he'd probably look it. His wings themselves are black and while they are more fleshy there are some raven-like feathers peppering the sinew at the tops and joints. His neck and head are both slender, less bulky than how Dean pictured a dragon. They often seemed chunky in stories, horns and scales pushing out of the body, but Castiel’s scales were perfectly smooth. There was a little outcropping of scales- like little rocks by his eyes and ears, which were located right below his horns. The horns themselves weren't too huge compared to the dragon himself and curled towards his head, more of a statement than a physical threat. While he was largely dark blue, his horns stood out as a sort of tan, not like sand but more canvas. Running down the back of the beast are raised scaled, formed from bristled hair and softened out around his shoulder blades, taking on a more fur like look. The closer the fur got to his hindquarters the darker it got, transforming into a sort of brown that actually matched his human hair.

Castiel now reaches out with his claws carefully placed so not to hurt Dean. ”It would be better if you tried to help.” Castiel comments, meaning it innocently enough for Dean not to say anything, he does roll his eyes however. The dragon misses the look but not the mental agitation that comes with it. Instead of saying anything he simply waits for Dean to essentially roll himself onto Castiel's paw, which Dean does with many a grunt. Castiel makes it as easy as he can, the bulk of his claw pushing into the sand so Dean doesn't have to actually get up.

Sooner rather than later Dean ends up on the warm appendage of the dragon. Castiel has four talons in general, three in the front and one in the back, unlike the average five fingered humans. All four wrap around Dean and surrounds him with his warm skin, which feels a little like sand, just less itchy.

”It will be bumpy taking off.” Castiel warns, sitting back on his hind legs slowly enough not to jostle Dean. Castiel checks to see if Dean is ready and knowing the man is going to complain about flying, just takes off.

It's a shock, Dean's body pushing against the small scales of Castiel's hand. The force of the take off hurts a little, but the moment they were in air the experience runs smooth. Castiel’s wings beat steadily harder until he caught a higher air current. ”I met some resistance while I was traveling in, if I am correct it will happen again. Especially as you are with me.” Dean frowns and Castiel can feel his concern, instead of responding with words he instead shows Dean the worst he faced.

Since Castiel flew the majority of the way and only landed once hellhounds, weren’t an issue, they’d rather cower instead of follow the dragon. What did hinder Castiel however were the storms, Dean vaguely remembers some discomfort from his friend’s side before but honestly, Dean’s own pain had covered it up well. Sandstorms, as far as the eye can see, which isn’t that far in front of Castiel’s face. The dragon for a long portion of the flight had actually closed his own eyes, flying blind.

”Are you gonna do that again?” Dean asks and he doesn’t need to see Castiel’s face to know he rolled his eyes.

”I have too. Traveling in this place… turning into this form…. finding and healing you… I am very drained and have little to no capability to use my abilities.” He could feel just how tired Castiel’s voice was and Dean understood the urgency of getting out of these lands to recover.

”What about Sam?” Dean voices, if he had such a hard time he could only imagine the horrors that befell his brother. There’s a mental hesitation from Castiel and Dean knows something is up. ”What?”

”I don’t think your brother in in trouble Dean, he came here of his own accord. Those who are called here can pass freely and I believe that is your brother’s case.”

"You’re saying someone called him here and we shouldn’t be worried?” Dean found it hard to believe, if Sam was called here there was much more to worry about than sandstorms.

That seems to be the exact reason Castiel had been hesitant about informing Dean and that worries Dean even more. ”Who would be calling him there anyway?”

The fact Castiel doesn't answer nearly sends Dean into a panic, but the dragon does speak up even if it's obvious he's just trying to sooth him. ”We will worry about it once you have rested. You should sleep Dean.” For once Dean actually listens to someone outside of his dad, mom and Bobby and allows his body to give into just how how tired he was.

 

If they pass through any storms Dean is totally unaware of it, matter of fact, he only wakes up when Castiel pokes at Dean's consciousness, informing him they were landing soon. This is the part Dean is the most freaked out about, not that Castiel knew until Dean had already woken up and was greeted by a fresh wave of panic. How was Cas even going to land with Dean in his hand?

”Carefully.” Castiel grunts sarcastically, noticeably tired now that Dean's pain and exhaustion wasn't demanding his attention. Dean wants to say something back to Cas but honestly he's so numbed from what has happened that he can't even string together a sentence and instead peaks over the thick hide of Castiel's claws.

They were really high up, like really high up. There were clouds still above them and maybe Castiel wasn't that high, but from here for a human, this was terrifying. The good news is that the dismal view of the desert was ending, revealing the large plains of Potesta. While it was a beautiful sight, no denying that, it made Dean's stomach flip and he crawls ever so slightly back from the ledge to the comfort and stability of Castiel's paw.

”I won't allow you to fall Dean.” Castiel sounds more serious than his sarcastic comment before and it makes Dean feel a little better. Emphasis on the little. Regardless, Castiel starts his descent and Dean automatically grips onto anything he can, which is really difficult.

”Lay straight so I can hold you better.” Castiel rumbles, and Dean does just that. He's not taking any chances, Cas was a dragon, so he obviously knew how to do this better than someone afraid of heights. Therefore Dean lays down on the palm of Castiel's giant dragon hands and let’s the calloused skin wrap around him securely. Dean actually feels pretty safe, probably because there's more than a foot of just solid mass between his body and the outside world.

”Why don't we just land in Lake Tally?” Dean asks, it wouldn't take them long to get there with Castiel's wings, and from Dean's last vantage point it looked like Castiel was heading for a more covered area, as if he was hiding.

”King Campbell's guards are there, if they discover I am your dragon and they will automatically want both of us to join the dragon riders.” Castiel's voice sounds slightly distracted as he focuses on his descent.

Dean doesn't really respond but sends the vibe that he gets it, which Castiel graciously accepts before letting the conversation die down. Bless Cas for not taking too sharp of a decent, it was more like a 70° angle than the straight drop Dean had expected. From the safety of the inside of Castiel's hand, Dean has to say, it's not bad at all. He gets jolted a little when the first steps of landing happens, but Castiel still manages to keep Dean's body protected. The moment their inertia slows, Castiel moves his hand down, opening his clawed fingers to reveal Dean to the gnarled trees between Nemeris and Prill. It's a little jarring to be honest, being in a desert for what felt like eternity and then suddenly seeing green; sickly green but still green. Once Dean is off Castiel's paw the dragon straightens himself, his arms holding him up comfortably while he looks down at Dean.

“So what's the plan?” Dean asks, suddenly realizing that this was why Castiel seemed to get bigger when he was agitated. He hadn't physically changed, but his dragon presence could not be contained by simple human skin.

Castiel's eyes, bright and powerful but kind, stare down at Dean, the scales making his face not fearsome but instead beautiful, the blacker scales softly defining his facial features. ”I will change back and we will go to town, where you will rest.”

“Can't we just rest here?” There was no reason for them to go to Prill, they had to get Sammy.

"Impala is in Prill.” Castiel answers automatically. ”I figured you would like to ensure her safety.”

“But you know she's fine so I know she's fine.”

Castiel nods, accepting this. ”Fine. But I will change regardless. I do not wish to be seen.”

Dean nods, Cas really didn't want to be with the dragon riders didn't he? And on the general principle of Castiel not liking it, neither did Dean.

There's a pause in everything, Dean staring at Castiel, Cas staring back. Dean wanted to watch Cas change his form, it was definitely something not many would see in their lifetimes. Dragons changing their forms was a myth, something many people thought to simply be a wives tale and nothing more. Even the Hunters largely didn't believe in it, Bobby included. But Castiel didn't seem to be too keen on the idea, as he just continued to stare back at Dean, though he did seem to be lost in some form of thought.

Dean clears his throat, bring Castiel back to the space between the two. It seems to make Castiel realize that no, Dean was not planning on looking away. There's a light gust of wind from Castiel's snout as he shifts his body. The scales ripple, slipping themselves into his skin as his limbs slowly start to shrink. The color of his scales seem to stick until he's about two feet taller than Sam, his claws retracting fast now instead of the slow they had been originally. The tail, which had shrunk into Castiel's body was all but gone. Soon, he gets to the height of Dean, his skin turning more pink and the body hair revealing itself from under the scales. His face is completely normal now, all but his eyes, which still have a reptile look to them, that is until he finally gets into his human form and they switch.

He's naked, which is probably why he was so hesitant about changing in front of Dean, and maybe Dean should be embarrassed as his eyes skim over Castiel's flaccid member within a dark haired forest. He was reasonable and Dean had to admit, it looked nice. Luckily his brain announced this only to the back of his brain, and didn't scream it out where Castiel could actually hear.

The good news however was that Castiel now turns, heading for a tree where he grabs a couple fallen branches and reveals a bag. He grabs it, opening it and grabs some clothing, quickly dressing his lower half before his upper section. It's now that Dean realizes there's no necklace and that's so unlike Castiel he has to say something. “Where's your necklace?”

Castiel turns, looking over at Dean as he slips his tunic on, his muscles rippling with the movement. “Gone. I had to break it in order to retrieve you.” He doesn't exactly sound sad, but there is a wariness in his tone, which makes Dean frown.

“Why?” He walks over gingerly to Castiel, his body still a little weak and off from the last couple of excursions.

“It held the majority of my powers.” He pauses his words as he starts to place on the other levels of the hunter clothing. “For my siblings and me our… abilities can be separated from our actual being. Sometimes by will, others by force.” So his siblings could turn into people too? Castiel nods, hearing the question in his own mind.

“Why was it separated from you?”

Castiel frowns, “I was tired of being a dragon, the responsibility and judgement that came with my blood relations. I did not wish to be found. So for thousands of years I stayed in that temple as a human, taking in wayward or abandoned dragons.” Of course Cas would do that, it just sounded like him.

Castiel finishes dressing and stands up from tying his shoes, stepping a little closer to Dean. “Now I do not doubt you have other questions, ask them now.” His eyes lock with Dean's and the hunter nods.

“Alright.”

 


 

“Sammy, it's time for you to get up.” Meg sings in her lower teasing tone. A smirk crossing her lips as she watches the behemoth of a man sit up on his horse's back. Sam wakes up almost instantaneously and once his eyes are opened he notices his surroundings haven't really changed, well, except for the fact that there were large walls in front of him. “Welcome to Lethe.” Meg snarks, leading the small party towards the large wooden doors. As she gets closer she moves her hand easily through the air, the door copying the movement. Sam doesn't say anything, but he's pretty sure that was just her showing off. The town is bustling and it looks almost normal, it really does, except every head turns towards Sam, black eyes shown.

Meg clears her throat and continues to lead the two adventurers through the town. The people, demons rather, seem to hold Meg in respect and after their original response they go about their business with little concern. It's weird. It's weird seeing demons working in shops, it's weird how everyone is just okay with it. It's weird because they're strangely human and this seems parallel to human towns. Except less food places, but they did pass three pubs, so Sam knew Dean would like it here. Dean.

Sam turns to look at Meg to bring up his concerns but the demon woman seems to have led them to their destination. She hops off her own horse and gives it a pat, looking at Sam expectantly. Sam copies the motion and thanks his horse with a gentle pat before turning his attention to Stanford. The caramel horse doesn't look too hot, or rather that's exactly what he looks like. He looks exhausted and thirsty and just generally done for the day.

“Oh I am so sorry.” He pats the horse's flank and it gives a little whiny, whether out of pain or acceptance he wasn't sure.

“Don't worry, we'll take care of him here. And you can either retrieve him or we can take him to your brother.”

“What?” Sam turns towards Meg, his hand still plastered on the side of the animal.

Meg shrugs, handing the reins over to a wiry man, who nods and also takes the reins of the horse Sam had ridden the majority of the way here. “Exactly what I just said Sammy, and you're supposed to be the listener.” She turns away to roll her eyes and watch the stable boy as he disappears into a barn with both horses.”It's up to you, where he goes.”

Sam turns to look at Stanford, with his doe brown eyes and understanding expressions. If Sam was going to have a dragon, Stanford would only be neglected. If Stanford went back to Dean at least he'd have someone properly taking care of him, someone Sam trusted. Sure, he was traveling with Meg, but that didn't mean he trusted her. Matter of fact, the only one he really trusted here was Luc and Sam hadn't even met him yet.

“Send him to Dean.” Sam finally says, rubbing his hand against the animal in a reassuring way. “And tell Dean I'm okay.”

Meg makes a face, “I'm not gonna do it.” She says with simple disgust. “But whomever is, will deliver the message for you.” She doesn't give him time to respond but instead bobs her head towards a small castle. It almost looks like a fort in all honesty, more militaristic than domestic. “Come on Winchester, let's get you fed up for your dragon.”

 

They enter the castle building soon enough after that and Sam maps the entire way to the kitchens in his mind, just in case. The kitchen is basic, very primitive but that doesn't mean he's disgusted to be there. In all honesty this helped him understand the demons, if they didn't really need food no wonder they never needed to trade with Potesta, they didn't need anything the bread basket offered. There's a old lady there or a demon who looks like an old lady, rather. “Ah you're here.” She only gives Sam a cursory look before bowing to Ruby, her eyes returning to Sam. “You are quite a pretty one aren't you?” She doesn't give Sam time to respond and instead heads towards several serving plates covered with a woven top. She lifts the covers up to reveal the food. This makes Sam realize just how hungry he really was. She gives him a nod to an empty plate. “I figured you'd just want an open bar sort of thing.” She guessed right and Sam takes the plate, turning towards the food.

“Thank you.” Sam mutters, it slightly blowing his mind that he said that to a demon, but he was too hungry to really care.

Sam gets to a table and starts to down the food, it's not the best, but it definitely tastes better than nothing. Meg didn't eat, she didn't need to and instead she sits her boney ass next to Sam at the table. She holds her tongue, which he guesses is good but it's kinda weird that there's two demons just silent as he's eating. It's uncomfortable. It's the exact reason Sam scarfs his food down in about five minutes.

“Impressive grazing.” Meg comments, her face twisted in a sort of devious smirk. Great.

Sam rolls his eyes, making sure it's seen because she wasn't Dean and couldn't feel the eye roll.

Sooner rather than later, Sam fills the capacity of his stomach with food and sits back, drinking some of the water that had be placed in front of him.

Meg shifts slightly, focusing her attention more on Sam. “Ready?” Her voice is surprisingly serious for the previous joking and even her eyes take on a more somber tone.

Sam nods, standing up which makes Meg stand up as well.

“Praise the Morning Star.” The old looking demon states, which Meg repeats to her.

“Praise the Morning Star.” Meg nods, leading Sam towards the door back out.

As soon as they are alone Sam speaks up, too curious to keep silently. “What was that about?”

Meg shrugs, “The Morning Star is our King, our Father, our Savior.”

Sam blinks, he didn't think that the demons were so devoted to their king. “You really believe that?” He asks, staring at her face to see if there is a tell of any kind.

Meg's face basically melts, showing a true wonder and love that Sam had never expected to see in a demon. “He is our creator, so yes, I do. The power he possesses much exceeds that of your human king.” She makes a face now, “King Campbell.” She says it out loud just to say it with disgust.

Here is where both Winchester brothers differ, because Sam liked Samuel, unlike Dean. “He was able to keep your King out of Potesta.” He thought that would be his trump card but Meg only barks out a sarcastic laugh.

“Only because he has that beast of a dragon on his pathetic side.” She spits with venom.

“What?” Sam asks, because that threw him off, was she talking about Michael?

Meg just shakes her head, opening a door and holding it open for the big man. “Luc has more knowledge on it than me.”

“Was he there?” They're not actually heading towards the stables, walking down unknown halls until they reach a servant's door. Meg goes through, followed by Sam and they're suddenly in the buzz of city, demonic bodies passing by with their black eyes.

As they pass the meat suits Meg answers, giving Sam Sama curt nod. “Sam, he's a dragon and a master strategist.” Oh, yeah that's right.

”I was there.” Luc speaks up, his mind suddenly connecting with Sam's. Questions flood the space between them but Luc gives nothing but an understanding feeling. ”I will explain whatever you wish when we meet. Until then, your questions will have to wait.” A pause. ”I am sorry Sam.”

It's Sam’s turn to send some feelings of understanding. Sam accepts his fate and looks towards where Meg is leading him. They're heading to the walls of the city, it's in a different direction than they came but regardless Sam could see the stone walls growing closer and closer. They finally reach a simple door, wooden and small. Meg slides through and Sam follows, suddenly out in the open. This open space however was green and lush, like they stepped into a small forest or… oasis.

That's exactly what it was was, an oasis, with green trees and grass and a large pool of liquid in front of them. It's a crystal blue but as Meg and Sam draw closer it starts to appear more and more murky until it was black in hue.

Sam steps back but Meg shakes her head like she had anticipated his distrust. “I know it seems spooky but it'll take you where we need to go.” She nears the water and sticks her hand in it, pulling the water up to show him it is indeed clear, that the black seems to come from the magic and not the liquid itself. “Stop being a baby Sammy.”

“Don't call me Sammy.” Sam cuts her off, disgruntled now. Only Dean and Luc could call him Sammy. Luc’s conscious was there but he stayed silent, listening to Sam's shared thoughts. It was kind of stupid to disagree this far in the game however, he was the farthest anyone had been in Seven Gates, to stop now would be a waste.

“What's gonna happen?” Sam asks Luc, making the dragon shift slightly in his conscious to focus on the question.

”You will swim and lose track of time.” Luc starts his voice sure. ”You will not feel the need to breathe until you get to your location, where you will surface and find me.”

Sam nods, he's so close to everything he’s ever wanted. It was something his soul knew and he chose to ignore, even now when he gives in.

“Alright.” He turns towards Meg who had stood there silently as Sam had the conversation in his head.

“Ah good.” She slaps her hands together before pointing to the pool. “In you go.” She herself walks in easily up to her knees, turning to ensure that Sam follows suit.

A second passes but Sam heads into the water. It's a weird feeling, it's like soft water, where it's that perfect temperature to match your skin. His cloths do get wet, he can feel it, but there is no gained weight. It's otherworldly. Meg gives Sam a smile before diving in farther. “Come on.” She calls diving down into the water and not coming back up.

”You should go with her before you lose her.” Luc comments off handedly, a whisper in Sam’s conscience. Sam listens and dives right into the dark waters.

 

Chapter Text

 

Dean did indeed ask a lot of questions, and Castiel answered them to the best of his abilities as they camped on the border of Potesta. Dean was almost done with asking when a thought came to mind, “Those siblings you mentioned…” He starts hoping Castiel will just jump into the subject. Sadly the man sits up straighter and simply stares at Dean for him to go on, despite the fact he can read his mind. Dean sighs and moves his eyes to show his annoyance. “Are they all dragons? Or can they switch like you?”

Castiel frowns at the question and ponders it, “There are regular dragons, ones who cannot change form, I do not consider them siblings.”

“But the ones that can, you do?” Dean asks because of course he has to ask to get the answer.

“Yes, though two of my siblings cannot change their form.” This spikes Dean's curiosity and this time he just pushes mentally for Castiel to explain. The dark haired man does, “My sister Anael … the ability was taken from her when she was disowned.”

There seems to be more and yet again, Dean pushes. He was a little annoyed at the whole fact that Castiel had kept this dragon thing from him so he wasn't letting this go.“Anyone else?”

Castiel nods and turns to face the hunter, his bright blue eyes showing the ancient soul within this human form. “My brother, the first to fall.” Dean didn't like the sound of this especially since Castiel nears and with a creased brow says the name that caused babes to cry. “Lucifer, King of Seven Gates.”

 


 

The water surrounding Sam was charged, so powerful that the hunter felt this wasn't even the extent of strength. As Luc said, Sam doesn't know how long he spends under the water, time seems to stop still in these waters. All movement except for his and Meg’s appendages seemed stagnant. He watched as the demon in front of him continues to glide forward in the liquid, showing Sam the way. Eventually she starts to raise and not long after that, Sam's own lungs started to warn him this type of traveling was a mistake.

Reserving his panic for another day, he follows Meg's footsteps and starts to swim up as well. Time is relevant but he eventually reaches the surface, inhaling deeply as he reaches air. Sam had closed his eyes for the breakthrough and running a hand over his wet face, the hunter opens his eyes to this new place.

To explain it simply, it was beautiful. He was literally in the middle of a city, there was a sort of garden around the oasis but beyond that there was sandstone walkways and beautiful light colored buildings. There were guards over this deep pool but with one look at Meg they drop their threatening stance and turn inquisitive eyes towards Sam Winchester. Both sneer but do little else before turning back around to take in the passing demons.

The moment Sam breathed new air he knew he was closer than he had ever been to Luc, an electricity filled the very space around him. Like he was moving through waves of electronic hums as he started towards a larger street without Meg’s lead. He knew where to go. Excitement, tangible from Luc buzzes in Sam’s mind.

”I must be honest with you Sam,” Luc starts, “I am excited to meet you officially.”

The quiet sincerity is enough to drive Sam on, people didn't talk to Sam like that, and to have someone who had no idea who Sam was to want him? It was exciting in itself.

He somehow knows where he's going and weaves in and out of the demon traffic with ease until he comes to a castle. Luc is in there, he knows it. It's by fair the biggest building in this territory, the large doors that have to be around 100 feet tall (no joke) are wide open, showing little fear to the outside. Sam feels like he's treading in the heart of Seven Gates suddenly and that the King is probably around and Sam really doesn't want anything to do with him. He wants his dragon, that's all he wants.

The doors, which are astonishing all on their own, appear to be made of some sort of oak, almost charred it is so black. The room however, resembles that of Castiel's temple just bigger and made of warmer material. It's strangely cold in the room however, probably because the sun has little hearsay in this cavern as it was largely lit by candles and large fiery lanterns. There is some sunlight however, bright and towards the top of the stairs. It appears that there's a open circle of space there, where the sunlight and moonlight would be able to shine upon anyone there. There was someone there, standing alone, his sandy blonde hair giving off a sort of golden halo under the light of the sun. “Sam Winchester.”

Sam knew that voice and he starts to walk closer, his stance more defensive as he reaches the bottom of the stairs, looking up into the circle of brighter light. The man leaves the light and comes into the warmth of the fire’s reds and oranges. Sam says nothing as he nears but holds his place, looking up. There was something wrong but something terribly right, this was Luc, this man in front of him, sending him a knowing and cocky smile. Luc holds Sam's unwavering gaze until Meg walks up tentatively, falling on her knee behind Sam. “My King.”

Sam had a feeling and he growls, “You lied to me.”

Lucifer turns his gaze back onto Sam, his expression one of shock. “I did no such thing.” He straightens slightly before bowing just as a king does at court. “My name is Lucifer the Morning Star, but as you know, you can call me Luc.”

Sam makes a sound of disgust and though he didn't show it, panic was bubbling inside of him. So much so that Lucifer, Lucifer the King of Seven Gates , could feel.

The man doesn't stop with his posturing but his voice softens tremendously as he talks with Sam, ignoring Meg for the time being. “Sammy,” He sighs, “Sam, let's talk before you decide to leave.” He gives Sam a pointed look, his brow creasing due to the expression.

Sam doesn't respond but he honestly sees no other option, if he was to leave he would have to go to the pools of water and pray the magic worked the other way back. His silence leads Lucifer to turn back onto Meg, “My child.” He gives her a look, it appears to be one of softness but Sam knows it's not , despite just meeting this man…. This man that was able to manipulate his dreams and make Sam think he was talking to a dragon. “I will address your loyalty later. For now,” He looks back at Sam and his look is still soft, except Sam sort of believes this one. He shouldn't, but he does. “I must clear things up with my rider.”

Shock comes across not only from Sam's mind but his facial features as well and it causes Lucifer to lock eyes with Sam as he speaks up again, this time only to Sam, only in their shared space. ”You are indeed a dragon rider Sam Winchester, simply powers are keeping your proper being at bay.”

“Yeah, you.” Sam speaks up publically, which makes Lucifer’s face twist in minor annoyance before quickly fixing itself to come across easy for the sake of Meg and Sam's own annoyance.

Lucifer moves closer to both Sam and Meg and even though Sam doesn't move an inch, Meg separates herself in order for her master to reach the bottom of the steps. Lucifer does just that and starts to head towards a door, turning to motion for Sam to follow. “Come with me Sam.”

Sam wants to say no , he wants to spit on this elegant marble (it's marble, Sam had finally figured it out once he was far enough in the room) but he doesn't and instead follows the blond man.

Sam is silent and holds himself proudly as it’s his sort of default when he was absolutely terrified. They walk in silence for quite awhile until the two walk into an open hall that seems to follow besides a garden. It's not the garden in the dream, the majority of the flora was spell based and while it looked pretty to the untrained eye, Sam knew what the plants were, regardless of their beauty. It's around this garden that Lucifer speaks, “I understand you believe everything I have told you is a lie. It is not.” He continues to walk down the hall but more in step with Sam rather than leading. “I am indeed a dragon.” He knows Sam had given him a look at that but he continues unperturbed. “I know I don't look the part.” He moves a hand to show off his body. “But my dragon form was taken from me.”

“How?” Sam asks, eyeing the other man up. Lucifer, King of Seven Gates, looked like he was in his mid-30s, the wrinkles of life invading his handsome face, his eyes very much the same stricting color Sam saw in his dreams.

Lucifer pauses for dramatics but his words are sure, like he practiced this, “You traveled with Castiel, tell me, did he look like a dragon?”

Sam barks out a forceful laugh, yeah, he had thought of the possibility but… He did not want to give Lucifer that satisfaction. The King doesn't give up however, “You know it Sam, he infiltrated your group to get close to Dean.” Sam makes a disbelieving sound and it seems to agitate Lucifer, making him explain it more. “You forget you share a mind with me, Sam. Does Dean normally blindly trust someone like that?”

“No but-”

Lucifer doesn't let him make the excuse, “Does he normally trust Jo and your safety with a stranger?” Sam shakes his head again, “But he does almost instantaneously with Castiel, almost like they could talk to each other between their minds.” Sam knows, he remembers all the times he had thought their interactions were missing something. “Didn't Castiel use magic to miraculously save you hunters? Where do you think he got it?”

“Cas is not a dragon.” Sam stands firm but he doubts his own words.

“He indeed is.” Lucifer contradicts. “He is my brother, I would know, I helped raise him.”

Silence. Sam feels Lucifer at his mind's edge, and despite his distrust, Sam still allows Lucifer to show him memories. He knows they're memories because Sam can feel everything Lucifer felt now and at the time, like even in the memories they're connected.

This one is simple, white halls with the most dazzling lights that come from no source. A dark haired teen runs down the hall towards Sam's location, which is right next to Lucifer. The boy, who could only be Castiel with those blue eyes, speaks and even then his voice was tremendous. “Brother!’” He hasn't received his wrinkles yet, and he looks downright euphoric, eyes wide and a bounce in his step. “Gabriel and Uriel have gone to Father’s! They sent me to find you so you could join them.” He breaths out a little but Lucifer, who is both past and present, reaches forward to ruffle Castiel’s still crazed hair.

“Thank you Cassie.” Lucifer rumbles, his voice much more… sad this time around. “Do you know why?” He looks towards Sam and the three start to walk down the hall, Castiel seems to be rushing a bit but with Sam's long legs he's able to keep up.

Castiel shakes his head, his brown, very wild hair, bouncing slightly with the breeze it caught. “They did not know.” He says, sounding that he himself, would not learn what it is. It makes both past and present Lucifer smirk. Sam feels the pain, the absolute gut wrenching pain that comes with loss, like Castiel was dead and not traveling with Dean. Whatever happened between them must have been horrific. It's such an interesting topic Sam has to ask.

Castiel cannot hear nor see Sam because he was not there but Lucifer can and he looks at Sam. “My brothers betrayed me. We must continue a little while, there is something I wish to show you as well.”

Sam nods and he can't say he isn't interested. Both Lucifer and Castiel were mysteries to him, to find out anything was a great opportunity. It seems that silence happens now as they walk and it gives Sam time to ask questions. “Where are we?”

“My old home. My Father's kingdom.” Lucifer answers easily, covering up whatever emotions he had of the place. Of course he was vague, which Sam recognizes from Castiel. He lets it slide now because he sees the end of the hall. It is quite literally an end and seems to just open up into the sky. Sam sees mountains and buildings of the same make across some sort of break in land but it's just odd. Lucifer however speaks up as they near the opening. “I may not be able to fly in the now Sam, but when we get to the end of this hall I will need you to get on my back.” It was the strangest request Sam had ever heard. Get on his back? He didn't get to question it however because Lucifer speaks yet again, this time to Castiel. “Don't worry brother, when I find out what it is I'll tell you.” It sounds repeated and empty coming out of current Lucifer’s mouth, like bile, something he regrets to this day. Castiel's face lights up regardless and Sam knows past Lucifer had meant it with serious sincerity.

“Thank you.” The younger bows his head in thanks to Lucifer and both of them start to really pick up speed. Lucifer motions with one hand for Sam to join them and calls out, “Ready?”

He's asking both Sam and past Castiel at the same time. While Sam's really unsure about this whole thing, Castiel looks rather excited and nods. There was little room to talk after that because both Lucifer and Castiel reach the edge of the hallway and just jump right on out. Sam panics for a second but just allows himself to jump, after all this is a memory, it isn't happening in real life. He falls straight above Lucifer but as the King’s falls his body starts to morph and quickly. Hiis skin starts to turn into sandy, nearly gold scales while his bulk grows exponentially. When Sam does land on Lucifer’s back he's about the size of a small castle while Castiel is around the equivalent to a large hut (excluding his tail). Castiel is like deep water, almost black in some areas while other spots are sapphire in nature. Both creatures are marvelous to look at and this freedom, the feeling of flight, it was incredible. The memory starts to fade away and Sam becomes more conscience of the fact that both he and the King had stopped somewhere in the darkened halls of Seven Gates.

“Castiel is a dragon and has hid in his human form for many years, he is not unlike me.” Sam scoffs, even he knew that wasn't true. Lucifer continues however, his brow creased but his words firm. “Tell me Sam, did Castiel not try to seek our your brother?” Sam wasn't sure about that, their meeting seemed more guided by fate than Castiel stalking Dean, but he lets Lucifer get his point across. “Castiel has taken his dragon form once again for your brother, how is that not like what I am trying to achieve with you?”

“You want your dragon form?” Sam asks, there's a lot of info to be digested and he's catching up now.

Lucifer nods and continues their walk, “Like Castiel's necklace, my ability to change has been locked away.”

“Where?”

They reach the end of the garden area and are by a flight of stairs, which Lucifer starts to climb and Sam follows. “There is a cage which holds my power away from me. I knew I wouldn't be able to open it without the help of my rider, which is you.” They have reached the top of the stairs before Lucifer stops and turns to Sam, one step above Sam reaching the landing. “I have waited centuries for you Sam and now that I've met you I want to give you everything I can.” There's a sort of heat in those words and it makes Sam uncomfortable, he doesn't know why. “We can help each other.”

Sam doesn't say anything for quite a while, his eyes locked on those of Lucifer’s. He doesn't make up his mind now, but what was the harm in hearing Lucifer out? “What would we have to do?”

 


 

They talked a little more but Dean largely slept during their time at the border of Seven Gates. But with sleep came dreams and the two continued their time together even when Dean falls victim to fatigue.

Both Castiel and Dean are sitting by the side of a lake, there are no ripples and it seems dead. It'd be creepy if it wasn't for the constant sound of summer insects in their ears. Castiel is standing there in human form while Dean sits on the beach, either of them talking as they stare out. At least Cas understands Dean needs time to digest all of this but, Dean isn't exactly done finding out about things either.

“Do you like your human form more than your…you know.” It was weird for Dean to say it in all honesty, and while he knew that the dragon form of Castiel was the same exact being as his human form, it just threw him off.

“There are limitations to each side.” Castiel starts, his brow furrowing as he looks over the lake. “I can now change at will into either, but before I broke the necklace…” He turns to Dean, “I was more human. I had less of my power, but I was hidden.” He shakes his head, “Dragons like me now know I am still alive, they can feel a shift in the world around them.”

Dean snorts, “There's a disturbance in the force.” He doesn't know why he says it or what it means, but it fits.

Castiel nods sagely to that, “One could say that, yes.”

“So Lucifer knows?” Yet again, it was hard for Dean to wrap his head around the fact that Castiel was brothers with the biggest bad.

“Most definitely. While he only has half of the power he once did, he will still be able to tell.” Castiel now sits down next to Dean in the dream, he doesn't cross his legs but places his arms over his angled knees. “We traveled into his territory, and he has many spies. If he wasn't able to feel it, someone would have told him.”

Alistair can't.” Dean says smugly, he was glad the bastard was dead.

Castiel smiles one of those sad little things and nods, “This is true.” Silence greets their conversations again and Castiel shifts, looking over at Dean. “I wish to share something with you.” He looks away, over the water and his brow is furrowed once again.

This will probably be bad, but Castiel was a part of Dean now, he guessed it was do or die “Shoot.”

Castiel sighs, his shoulders slumping. “Your brother was called to Seven Gates, if Lucifer called him there…” Castiel's face is filled with concern along with his tone of voice. “Lucifer is very convincing in everything he says, he is the father of lies.”

“What are you suggesting?” Dean asks and he doesn't even dare breathe because this could be bad.

“Lucifer might have called Sam there to be his dragon rider. To have help unleashing the power that has been kept from him for centuries.”

Dean makes a face, “Why Sam?” This is ridiculous, terrifying and ridiculous.

Castiel shrugs, “Maybe because of his bloodline.” He ends it there, peering over to Dean with those soft puppy eyes. It's not to the caliber of Sam's looks, but it still made Dean's insides melt a little. This was fucked, but Castiel was willing to stay and help. And, well, it could be so much worse.

“We'll figure something out.” Dean finally says, nudging his shoulder into Castiel’s. The dark haired man studies Dean's face in this moment and slowly nods.

“I hope we do.”

Time passes and as it does in sleep, the dream fades into darkness, true sleep comforting Dean.

 

When he wakes again, it's because Castiel literally transmits wakefulness into Dean's mind, causing him to stir in the real world.

“What's going on Cas?” Dean doesn't open his eyes right away, too comfortable for that. It was warm but not the kind of warmth that comes from the dessert, no, more like there was a heat source near.

“The sun set. It would be easiest for us to travel in the dark, less demons to notice us.”

“What they don't have night vision?” Dean grunts sarcastically as he rolls over, revealing that Castiel is no longer a human but already in his dragon form.

“They can see very well in the dark Dean, but my scales match the night sky. We might go unnoticed for some time.”

“What about the storms?” Dean stands up and sure he feels a little sore, but it's from sleeping on the ground and not from being tortured for what felt like years. That time with Alistair… it fucked Dean up, but he needed to worry about Sammy now and it was easier to ignore when there was something he had to do. Like go save Sam. He starts packing up as Castiel responds.

“I know how to avoid some of them. But beyond that.” He shakes his large head, one large eye landing on Dean as he continues. “I cannot promise Lucifer will make the path easy for us. But I know the way and I will get you to your brother.” It was a promise and Dean knew it. He nods and shoves the traveling bag against one of the tree trunks, not bothering to cover it cause who is going to go here? He walks over to Castiel and makes a face, unsure of how to go about this.

“I will be traveling fast, It might be best that we do what we did before.” Castiel's hulking mass shifts as he brings his platform-like hand towards Dean. Dean was a little bit more panicky about it now that he had his senses and Castiel could tell. “I promise I will not drop you.” Dean believes it as much as he did last time and climbs onto Castiel's palm. He's sitting in the middle and looking around. He wanted to see what he could of Seven Gates as they traveled and silently questions Castiel at how they would go about it.

”Facing the oncoming wind could blind you, especially if a storm was to hit. It is much better if you face backwards.”

Dean's stomach twists, how about no, he could barely handle flight and Cas wanted him to face the wrong way? He'd probably throw up.

The dragon shrugs at the thought, ”At least it wouldn't get on me.”

Dean scoffs at that but settles down much like he did before, facing the same way as Cas. “Can't you just, like, close your fingers when it gets really bad?”

Claws , Castiel corrects him in their mind without saying anything but he still nods. ”Inform me when the wind gets too rough, my eyes are more adjusted to this.”

“No shit.” Dean snorts, shaking his head before muttering to himself, “I need to get goggles.”

Castiel agrees with this and continues with the thought, ”And a saddle. But perhaps we should make it ourselves so your grandfather does not catch on.” Castiel's general dislike for King Campbell now made sense, what with Dean finding out Castiel was a dragon.

Dean had never thought of himself in the shoes of a dragon rider. He never wanted to, that was Sam's gig but as it turns out Dean's shoes were exactly those of a dragon rider so he has to worry about it.

He remembers Pamela, how she dropped off the map all those years ago and still, nothing. Dean at least did send letters to his parents every once in awhile, he stopped by too. He wasn't socially dead like Pamela was… maybe Pamela was dead.

Castiel does not comment on the thoughts crossing Dean's mind but instead closes his claws around Dean and preps himself for take off. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah.” As ready as he'd ever be. Castiel once again doesn't comment and instead takes off. It's definitely a jolt, especially from this little clearing they're in, but they get up into the air regardless. Castiel keeps climbing into the sky, and Dean's kinda glad everything below them is pitch black, just so he didn't know how high up they were.

”We should remain as quiet as possible.”

”You think they'll hear us from up here?” Dean asks a little shocked and while they're not even over Seven Gates yet, he still asks in the space between them.

Castiel's dragon head bobs, ”Yes, I intend to catch a current and hopefully glide the majority of the time over Seven Gates. They are trained to see the signs of a dragon.”

”Why's that?” Dean asks, cause, he might as well.

”Lucifer prefers the company of dragons over that of demons.”

“No way.” Dean says out loud which is kind of a mistake because the air is thinner up here and he's wasting breath.

Castiel sends concern and reminds Dean of the fact they're supposed to be silent. “He hates demons. They are simply tools to him.” Dean doesn't really believe it because isn't the entire populous of Seven Gates demons? ”Exactly. They are easily discarded, do you really think he has any consideration for twisted humans? They disgust him, I am most certain.”

 

The storms don't hit until they're about halfway through Nemeris. Matter of fact, there was no wind up until this point, not even a breeze. Because of this new development Castiel picks up speed to keep them moving. Dean even had asked Castiel to cover the opening to the outside. There were still cracks between the scales of Castiel's claws so Dean got fresh air, but it was much more protected than before. Being up this high anywhere else would probably make Dean extremely cold, with the heat of Castiel's dragon blood, he was comfortable. That is of course, until the storms catch on. Dean's not sure if Castiel had been evading them before or if the magic hadn't found them or whatever but when it hits, it's like a wall. The winds are coming from everywhere and Dean can feel Castiel's struggle against nature, the amount of pure muscle power he has to use just to continue... Dean asks Castiel to allow him into the dragon's sight and the creature agrees. When Castiel opens his eyes yet again, it's not only him looking, but Dean as well.

Castiel has night vision and even if the moon was out along with the stars and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it still helped. These stormy winds pushed Castiel side to side, making him perform a zig zag instead of a straight path. It pressured his eyes weirdly and just as it starts to get too rough a reptilian membrane completely covers Castiel's eyes. There was barely any light now and it’s not because of the nictitating membrane, but because of the storm. Feeling a nudge from Castiel, Dean looks towards the dragon’s mental line of sight. There's that star, the one Dean couldn't see until he crossed the border. It appeared now that Dean knew where they were heading, just like Cas had said, the star led the way.

 

The storms didn't let up when the sun rises and Castiel still fights on. His body is fatigued but his mind stays attentive. Even Dean had slept at some time turning their trip and it astounded him that Castiel did not seem tired.

”Dragons do not have the same sleep schedule as humans, we can stay aware for days, weeks, if we don't exert ourselves.”

”Yeah, but you are.” Dean licks his lips and damn they're dry. Guess that happens when you haven't opened your mouth in a while.

”I had many years of rest. This is important.” As if to prove the point further, Cas puts more strength into his wings, fighting the magical winds.

”Take it easy buddy.” Dean reaches palm out to touch the wall of rough skin that was Castiel’s hand. It isn't like holding hands Dean tells himself. He's just giving comfort to Cas that's all, plus you can't hold hands with a dragon .

The sun rises and is starting to set once more when Dean feels Castiel growing tired both physically and mentally. ”We will have to stop soon. I will look for somewhere easily defendable.”

That ended up being a mountain top and but they didn't find it until the night was already half done. Castiel doesn't bother warning Dean thing time but once you hear the constant flapping of wings go to silent, you kinda figure it out. Castiel touches ground several times but finally stops his momentum enough. Once the dragon comes to a full stop, he lowers his hand until it touches ground, opening his claws to reveal Dean to their new spot.

It was directly on the way to the star, Dean noted, and they were really high up and there was maybe 1/3rd of the sand as there was down below. No, this mountain was largely made of stone, which protruded from odd angles from the entire surface, all but where Castiel had landed. That area was reasonably smooth, it still had its own little bumps and ridges but, better than sleeping on hellhound level.

The moment Dean steps off of Castiel's palm the dragon starts to move, turning around in slight circles until he plops down and lets out a quiet sigh, his eyes closing almost right away.

Dean doesn't complain and heads over to Castiel, finding a perfect spot for him to sleep near Castiel's stomach. Just as Dean starts to settle down Castiel's wing moves, covering Dean in a sort of tarp of thick sinew. It's comforting despite the fact Dean can't see the stars anymore and he soon falls asleep.

When Dean wakes it’s to the sound of growling and the tensing of Castiel's large frame. ”Do not move. They might believe I am alone.” Castiel stays completely still otherwise as Dean hears the growls circling them. It sounded more like two hell hounds, but some might be staying silent, so Dean really didn’t know the number.

Castiel now shifts ever so slightly, he's still protecting Dean with his wing and side but Dean knows the dragon is moving his other side. “Leave.” He rumbles and there's a fearful whimper from the hellhounds, but it's a fight or flight thing and well, hellhounds don't back down. Dean hears one snarl and jump forward. Castiel's large scaled arm hits the beast, sending it right over the edge of the mountain side. Dean hears it's howls but not the thunk at the bottom. The other two make vicious sounds but Castiel doesn't seem to be having it. A sudden light makes Dean turn blue from the luminescence coming through the bluish sinew. There are more howls of sudden pain, a whimper and then nothing. Castiel's wing opens and reveals the world to Dean officially. Blood paints the rocky ground in front of them but Dean can't see the bodies, even when they're dead.

”It was might have been a patrol. We should leave.” Castiel stands up now, shaking himself into readiness before looking over at Dean with one eye. He holds the same clawed hand out for Dean and the man takes the hint, jumping in without question. Their take off goes a lot quicker this time and soon they're back up in the air, traveling. It's still dark but the sun is threatening the skyline, red painting even Castiel's blue scales red.

”Red sky at morn.” Dean repeats in his head, the old sailor phrase putting an unease in his heart.

”It's always red skies here Dean. Always.” Dean didn't know exactly what to say to that, so he doesn't and instead settles down. The storms had yet to come. Except the storms don't come and the air is stagnant no matter how high Castiel climbs. They followed the mountains ridge for a good time as apparently no one in Seven Gates wants a mountain peak view but soon enough Castiel asks Dean to join him in sight, so Dean does. Castiel brings Dean's attention to the left of his view. ”Do you see that?” Dean wasn't sure what exactly Cas was talking about because he did see a town but there was a light in the distance that looked almost like a fire snake crawling across the landscape.

”That is the city of Lethe, beyond that is the river Phleogethon.”

”That's a river?” Dean asks disbelieving, no way could a river cause that much light, even in the day with the water reflections. But that didn't look like water to begin with.

”It's blackened waters have been on fire since the day it was created.” Castiel continues sagely, his voice somber but also awed like he had only heard rumors of the river before.

It gives Dean a thought and since they are on the subject… ”Have you been to Seven Gates before?” Dean asks suddenly but it doesn't take Castiel by surprise.

”The first time I entered Seven Gates was to get you. I have only heard rumors, whispers about the locations in this place.” He pauses, ”When Lucifer fell my eldest brothers would discuss Seven Gates, most of us had never been here before and we absorbed the knowledge they told us.”

“What else do you know?”

”There are three other rivers with equal magical content. They often carry a certain feeling when one is around them. Sometimes despair, or hatred. To enter any one of these rivers would be suicide.”

”Better not go swimming then.” Dean jokes but honestly? Dean was still over swimming from that case with Lucas. He was good. Dean moves his eyes towards where Castiel was headed. The star was still out despite the sun’s company and shined proudly against the blue backdrop. Dean's so impressed he lets the thought drift over to Castiel who responds negatively.

”That is Lucifer.”

“What?” Dean asks out loud, which is useless because of not only the winds but Dean being encased in Castiel's hand. Luckily he also thought it too, that and Castiel has good hearing.

”Lucifer is not at full strength, that is why Potesta was able to push him forces back. His power is behind that star. It makes it easy to find him but…” It was a rather terrifying display of raw power. Dean lets out a mental ‘whoa’ but otherwise lets the conversation drop, looking over the landscape. No one, not even those that Castiel knew, had been this far. After Lethe the landscape is still pretty barren but towns and buildings were becoming more common, popping up where the landscape allows permanent fortifications. The wind also makes an appearance now, coming in fresher than when they were just in the desert. The further they got, the more it was more inhabitable. It was still hot, but Dean could see how it wouldn't be constantly insufferable. The two settle down must earlier this time, resting at noon on the top of yet another mountain. This time however it was much more natural, the stone being the average dark instead of the sandstone sort of vibe the mountain before had given off.

”It is best if we wait until sun down, the way will only become more and more populated as we go.”

Dean nods cause, of course it would, some part of Dean knew they were heading for the capital of Seven Gates. It only made sense, what with Lucifer being king and all. Dean just hopes that Sam's doing okay.

 


 

Sam didn't do much the rest of the day after reaching Lucifer. Lucifer actually showed Sam to his room, which was in the royalty wing, two doors away from Lucifer’s room. Sam was ever so curious about what that room contained as it was the only room Lucifer had flat out refused to let Sam enter. “Once things are sorted out.” Was his only comment towards why. Sam doesn't push it, no he doesn't need to agitate the King of the damned. Nope.

Sam's room itself is incredibly nice. Like the majority of the castle Sam's room is rather open, with high arch ceilings and warm colored walls. There was a balcony as well and the doors were open, moving the open curtains slightly with a breeze. It's not as lavish as one would expect from the King of complete pride but then again everything in the room was of quality make. The bed alone with gorgeous, what with dark wood intricately carved with designs of what looked like plants from a garden. Oddly enough apples seemed to top each bedpost, they were of the same dark wood as the rest of the bed and barely was noticeable unless you picked up on it.

Sam can't make a guess why apples would be on the bed in a kingdom that doesn't eat. He puts the thought aside as he investigates the rest of the room. It has its own bathroom and a little sitting area and some red couches to match the drapes. Sam can't help but walk over to the couch just to feel the warm fabric. It's velvet in nature and feels amazing under Sam's finger tips, if a little disjointing. Sam had been roughing it for days, even months, so to feel something soft in texture was a rare treat.

There's a bookcase made of the same wood near the bed that contains several books, all well taken care off. Sam wanders over and reads some of the the titles. Some he recognized, some he didn't, some were in other languages altogether. Sam could ask Lucifer right now about them, but he doesn't, as Lucifer had said he had business to take care of and Sam wasn't really one for interrupting people.

 


 

Lucifer did have business to take care of, there was a lot to do when you sort of kidnapped a Winchester. Especially if it was one of the boys. At least John Winchester didn't know, if he didn't know, the King wouldn't and if the King didn't know, neither did the dragon riders. And that was exactly where Lucifer wanted them to stay, in the dark.

Dean Winchester however knew and he had Castiel on his side, which was troublesome and was Lucifer’s main concern now. Castiel had sound morals but he was connected to Dean, who Lucifer knew would do anything for his little brother. After all, Lucifer had sent demons into Potesta just so see how far Dean would take his protective nature, it was impressive every time. The last batch of demons caught the boys separated, where Sam was with Jo and Dean and Castiel were together. It's the exact reason he had the demon's deliver the fake letter for Jo, so there would be one less variable to worry about. He had also wanted to push Castiel's buttons a little so, he had gone after Jimmy Novak, one of the very few worshippers of the Watcher, which just happened to be Castiel himself. What a shame as well, Jimmy Novak’s blood was connected to praising the Watcher for generations so with his death, Castiel's fan base grew smaller.

But that was all the past and now Sam was not only in Seven Gates but was sleeping two doors down from Lucifer. Granted Lucifer wanted Sam in his bed but, there was no rush, or so Lucifer thought.

The King of Seven Gates was walking down one of the halls when Meg Masters calls his name, “Father!”

Lucifer rolls his eyes when his back is to her but the moment he turns around he smiles, holding out his arms. “Yes child?” She moves so she's crowding his space and she is completely disgusting, smells of rotting flesh and twisted human soul. He still wears the smile and touches her shoulders with his hands once she's close enough.

“Castiel has been spotted again, heading towards you, my lordship.”

Well, Lucifer knew this would happen, he had Sam Winchester in the belly of the beast, of course Dean would come. “I want you to activate the storms and send a patrol of hellhounds after them, not too many, enough to cause a little trouble.”

Meg nods, not doubting him for a second, “Do you wish the storms to continue when the hellhounds arrive?” The storms were so rough that even the hellhounds were in danger and it wouldn't be helpful when fighting a dragon.

“No, how observant of you.” He coos as he feels bile rising in his throat, disgusting things.

Meg grins ear to ear at his praise and reminds Lucifer of a dog that wishes to please his master. How quaint. “Thank you father.” She bows her head, peering up at her savor with complete devotion.

“You are one of my most loyal followers.” He caresses her face with the back of his hand, just because he wouldn't dare reveal the soft of his palm to a creature like this. “I would also like for you to call your father and Lilith here when you are done.”

“And Crowley? He will want to come.”

Lucifer dislikes Meg but he distrusts Crowley. Out of all the demons in his kingdom he was the only one Lucifer did not put into his position. Crowley got his land because he was the best at the crossroads, not because of his connection to Lilith. He was a damn good salesman but he was too… self preserving for Lucifer’s tastes. Meg would let Lucifer slit her throat if it helped him rise to power once more, Crowley would probably turn tail. The good thing was Lilith was Lucifer’s most loyal servant and since she was connected to Crowley, Lucifer didn't have to worry about him yet.

“Tell him he needs to stay, his crossroad demons are vital to gathering information about what Hunters are doing.” It was true, unlike the majority of Lucifer’s troops that go to Potesta the crossroad demons were called upon. They had the farthest reach because of that.

Meg nods, “It will be done my King.” She stares right at his face, wonder in her eyes.

“Good girl.” Lucifer compliments before leaning forward and placing a very small peak on her forehead. It still sends her to the moon because all of Lucifer’s disgust is hidden. He was the father of lies after all. “Now go, see that it is done to.” Meg nods and without another word darts away towards the exit. They have a stockpile of live humans about 100 feet under the ground, people that they could use like cattle to make blood calls and other spells. They even had a virgin under there, she got proper treatment. But Lucifer has to get busy now and he heads straight for the alchemist quarters. Astaroth, or Tammi rather, was still working when Lucifer enters.

“My King.” She bows in his presence but otherwise goes about her business. Tammi and Azazel were two of the demons Lucifer actually liked. Well, liked is a powerful word, they were extremely useful.

“I need your help with some sigils.” Lucifer preferences as he walks over and leans on one of the empty counter tops.

“Anything.” She answers and they get down to work.

 


 

When Sam wakes up it's daylight again and he can hear the distant chatter of the city of demons out his window. He gets up and wanders over to the large wardrobe to the wall. Opening it reveals a large collection of clothing that looks around Sam's size. He's pretty impressed and grabs a white undershirt that looks thin. Grabbing another shirt he layers it on top, this shirt is different with an open front and a red and orange embroidered pattern. It's a button up and he buttons a couple of the bottoms buttons but it's just too tight to really go up any further, plus it looks fine, so he leaves it. He grabs a pair of pants that fit his legs just fine and while they're a little short at the bottom hem he's able to hide the fact with tucking them into his boots.

No sooner was Sam done dressing when someone knocked on his door. “Mr. Sam Winchester?” A nervous voice asks from the other side.

“Yes?” Sam responded, a little confused as to why a demon would sound nervous.

“The Master would like me to tell you breakfast is being served downstairs if you wish to join.”

“Thank you.” Sam responds, he has nothing better to do, so he leaves his room, seeing this servant for the first time. She was a small thing and looked rather mousy, all hidden in her clothing. “Are you afraid of me?” Sam asks, too curious and plus, he was pretty sure they had to answer him.

“Yes sir.” She mutters, staring at her feet with her hands behind her back.

“Why?” He was in a world of demons, why would the one hunter scare her?

“You kill my kind for a living sir.” She quietly responds, shame touching her face.

“I'm in your capital, thousands of demons are here aren't they?”

The demon nods in a proper fashion and gives him her rebuttal. “True, but the King has ordered a no kill on you.”

Sam could go kill all the demons here but he was pretty sure some of them would come after him regardless of what Lucifer said. Plus, it would probably piss Lucifer off anyway and Sam wasn't sure what would happen to himself if the King got wind of the idea. “Suppose you're right.” Sam answers, he wasn't going to comfort a demon. No matter what face it was wearing. The girl sort of shrinks but says nothing otherwise and Sam takes it as his time to leave and find breakfast.

He follows the very force of Lucifer, knowing that it would lead him to the food. It does, and Sam enters a large hall, rounded pillars holding up a darkened ceiling. In the very center was a large table where Lucifer sat quietly eating. The King of Seven Gates looks up as Sam enters and a smirk of amusement crosses his lips.

“Good morning Sam.” He says easily, placing his fork down to pat at his mouth with a napkin.

“Lucifer.” Sam greets as he nears, servants appearing from the shadows to see where Sam sits to serve him. Sam chooses a seat reasonably close to Lucifer, but with still enough room that if Sam wanted to bolt, not that he'd probably make it so far, he could at least try . Lucifer ignores the space between them and the reasons why and simply strikes up a conversation. “How did you sleep?”

Sam would be lying if he said anything negative, for the first time since they left Lawrence, maybe even before that, he had slept peacefully and completely; his mission done. “Fine, thank you.”

Lucifer smirks at the response, probably because he can feel just how energized and rested Sam feels. “I'm glad, eat.”

Now Sam had read books, he knows the legends that involve people eating the food of those involved in the unnatural and the bad things that come out. But... he had eaten food at Meg’s already, so he might as well eat now, and it also just didn't seem like Lucifer’s cup of tea. Sam looks at the food placed out in front of him by the servants and he has to admit it looks delicious. He can also recognize all the food; potatoes, steak, bacon, bread. The only thing that would be off was how rare the meat looked, but it didn't look bad. No, it looked fantastic. So Sam digs into the meal, focusing on the meat first, which called to him the most.

Lucifer watches for a time before he says anything but when he does he says it confidently as always. “You might have noticed your new preference of rawer meats.” Sam looks up but is still munching, albeit slower now as concern flits across his face. Lucifer continues since he senses Sam's concern. “It's a side effect of being my rider.” He answers, digging into his own food and shoving it into his mouth. “Let's just say it's the dragon coming out in you.” He sounds like he's actually teasing Sam but the human isn't sure what to think so he places his utensils down to look directly at the King.

“Oh?” He asks unsure what he's fishing for but fishing for something, any new intel, he guesses.

Lucifer nods with little distress as he pops another piece of his almost completely raw steak. Sam can see the blood pooling in the dip in the plate. “Each dragon has its own little rider quirks.”

“What's Castiel’s?” Sam asks, unable to stop himself.

It's good enough of a question that Lucifer pauses in everything and places his own fork down, leaning back and finishing what's in his mouth before continuing. “I do not know. Castiel has never had a rider before now.”

“And you have?” Sam asks, feeling slightly second rate.

Lucifer’s already shaking his head, “No, but as a dragon I am rather partial to rarer meats, which could be passed to you.”

“Oh.” Sam exhales and with nothing more to ask for now he continues with his food. Lucifer leans back and joins Sam in the quiet of eating. That is of course until he says something, but technically it was in their shared space, so maybe it didn't count.

”I would like to show you around Viti today.” The King suggests, only looking towards Sam for a second before returning his eyes to his plate.

Sam nods, still eating, ”Alright.”

”Good.”

 

If Sam said Viti was ugly he'd be lying out of his ass because the demon capital of the continent was breathtaking. There was barely any greenery in the lands Sam had seen since entering Seven Gates but Viti was thriving. He learned it was once largely imported but once its habitat was secured the plant life flourished. “The sea is towards the west.” Lucifer points towards what Sam can only see as mountain ridges to the left and forests directly in front of him, but he doesn't see anything peaking out in the distance beyond that, so he believes it. He thinks of how he's never been to the beach for fun and Lucifer comforts him, kinda. “I'll take you sometime. Once I have my wings we can go anywhere you want Sam.” He sounds so serious, he's staring at Sam with those eyes and Sam falls for it, how could he not?

“Yeah.”

The sea brought condensation towards Viti and was stopped by the mountains behind the capital, which is why the plants had the ability to grow. “There's also a river.” Lucifer comments, leading San through the streets of Seven Gates. The demons who infested the street parted quickly to allow Lucifer and Sam past, most either bowing or clucking their hands in front of them and lowering their heads as they move to the side.

There was much more of a disconnection between the people of Seven Gates and their King, like they respected him and loved him but feared him over all else. That was something that was very different from what Sam was used to. He was nobility after all, and while he was not King, he still had people who were classed below him, his ‘people’. Sam didn't have any distaste in those of a lower status and he viewed them all by their morals and not their class. For this, he was beloved by the people in Lawrence, and to have people demons treating him with fear instead of the general excitement was heart breaking. These demons looked like humans, they had no horns or red eyes or scaly skin. Maybe they were in meat suits and these were just people who had gone missing some time ago, he wasn't sure. Pushing that thought aside he still was reactive to their behavior because they still had facial features, they still shrunk away, demon or no.

It bothers him so much Lucifer picks up on it. The King, who walks right next to Sam, leans over, his mouth close to Sam's ear. Maybe the demons can't hear, maybe they can, but for some reason Lucifer says it out loud instead of in their heads. “They are not afraid of me, they are afraid of you.”  His breath is warm on Sam's neck and sends goosebumps up his spine, reasons unknown. As if he's aware of what he's doing Lucifer keeps his mouth there, words like honey humming out of the male. “They're afraid of what you'll do to me.”

“Yeah right.” Sam whispers back in disbelief but he can't help but think of the demon servant girl this morning.

They walk down the streets until they reach a bridge, it's not too fancy but the river that rolls underneath it is rather odd. Despite the amount of sand in this geographic area the bottom of the large river cannot be seen, it's waters too dark. It doesn't look sickly exactly but just kinda sad. There's buildings with walkways to the waterfront and there are boats resting in the water. “This river is attached to the river Styx so nothing alive lives in these waters but the water is  actually fine to drink. Just not in large qualities.” He pauses, “If it's heated up it is completely fine however.” He looks over at Sam now and seems to take in the human. “My lands is not hostile Sam, one just needs the knowledge to survive it.”

 

A shadow crosses over them now and the pair look up to see a beautiful white dragon flying overhead, straight for Lucifer’s castle. “Ah, perfect timing.” He mutters, his blue eyes scrunched up as he stares into the sky. He looks over at Sam with a lazy smile, nodding his head towards the capitol building. “Come. Let's meet the council.”

The council ended up only being two of the council members of Lucifer’s court, though both were of indispensable importance. It was Lilith and Azazel...

When Sam entered the castle he had expected the dragon but seeing her up this close... It was terrifying. Lilith’s scales, while they looked white, were actually simply translucent and with their overlapping it created the illusion of white. Maybe her very skin was white, Sam couldn’t tell. She was smaller than that of Lucifer’s dragon form but still intimidating, especially since she basically filled half the large hall, even with her wings fitted to her back.

Much like that of Lucifer’s form, she has horns infesting her body and giving her violent features around her eyes, snout, and crown. The spikes follow her back except for between her shoulder blades, where they seem to become nonexistent and are replaced with smaller scales. These horns and spikes that trail along her head and tail are not her scariest aspect. No, it's the fact that when she turns her head towards Sam her eyes are simple white orbs. He would assume she was blind, except that he could feel her looking at him, sizing him up.

“Lilith, darling, why don't you change and greet Sam Winchester?” Lucifer orders suggests to his underling. Lilith huffs a cold breeze before her body starts to shift. Lucifer moves a hand so that servants rush forward with a white robe, lined with some sort of soft looking fur. The dragon's eyes only leave Sam's when she turns a little towards Lucifer but her eyes turn right back as the body mass becomes smaller and the scales and wings shrink. She's a woman with blonde curly hair that falls around her shoulders, her eyes staying that pale white the entire time. She has a beautiful body which is revealed in the transformation and it causes some heat under Sam's collar. The servants rush forward to dress her however and soon she is clothed.

Sam hadn't been staring because he knew she would be born in nakedness but because this was his first officially time watching a dragon change. It looked painful no matter how creepily calm and serene Lilith looked. He was also able to pick up that the appendages seemed to be the last things to go, body mass and scales being first. Well that and the shortening of the neck, which was extreme in Lilith’s European build. Now that she was human and shorter than Sam, he had a moment to just take in how dragons could easily walk among humans. As if she can read his mind her white eyes roll back and reveal bright blue eyes. There's a general creepiness around Lilith, like she ate babies or something of that nature. She's also wearing this sort of ghastly grin just as raises her petite pale hand out to Sam.

“Pleasure.” She hums and Sam can't help but notice how her voice is not deep and rumbly like that of Lucifer or Castiel but is in fact rather high pitched. It wasn't exactly unpleasant but it definitely gave her that feminine touch, even childish. Sam did know how old this dragon was, despite her voice or youthful appearance, he wasn’t tricked into underestimating her.

He looks down with some disdain towards her hand but he was a man of court, so he wipes the expression off his face and reaches for her hand which he gently raises up as he leans. He sort of bows to her but does not give her a kiss on the hand. “It's fascinating to meet you.” Sam comments because at least he wasn't lying. To say it was a pleasure would be false as the terms “nice” and “happy” were not conjured with her appearance. Matter of fact, Sam would be much more happy to be alone with Lucifer right now. Lucifer does pick this up from their connection and Sam can feel his ego inflate and the feeling becomes mutual, except Lucifer approaches it with much more merth.

“I could say the same.” Lilith says easily, her voice sounding slightly facetious. “It is interesting to meet the one who is chosen for the King.”

Lucifer bristles at Lilith’s tone of voice towards Sam, like her attitude was funny at first but now was being disrespectful. The underling seems to realize her mistake and silences herself, looking over to Lucifer with a bowed head.

“Lilith is my second in command, the soldiers are as loyal to her as they are to me.” Lucifer compliments Lilith before insulting her, “But she does have a mouth on her.” He almost growls and Lilith hangs her head even lower. Lucifer’s lip was slightly curled but his face smooths as he turns around to motion towards another body. There had been a man standing near Lucifer’s original spot. He only now registers on Sam’s radar, which is sort of not good. The man, who’s gotta be about seven inches shorter than Sam, definitely looks older, like his father’s age. He actually looks kinda like he belongs in the hunter group… except Sam knew this man was bad news. What with the smile he was giving Sam, like he knew him. With Lucifer being the segway, the man steps forward and into the circle of people. “Sam, this is Azazel.” Unlike with Lilith, Lucifer didn’t really give any info on Azazel to Sam and he didn’t now either.

Azazel’s holding out his hand now, staring at Sam with this amusement that is rather offsetting. “Nice to see the Winchester boys are involved in hunting.” He mentions as they shake, which makes Sam’s brow furrow.

“What do you mean?” Sam asks and he can feel how Lucifer doesn’t even like where the conversation is going.

Azazel shrugs, dropping his hand from Sam’s and standing there with the self-assurance you get when you’re one of the King’s favorites. “Azazel is one of my most loyal, he performs his job with excellent efficiency.”

Sam wants to ask exactly what that means, but he doesn’t get the chance as the newest member speaks up to answer Sam’s question, “Well, your parents were Hunters, your mom never wanted you guys to join the life but,” He stops for emphasis. “Didn’t stop you boys, did it?”

Sam doesn’t like Azazel, maybe he even dislikes him more than Lilith and he knew what that bitch had done. But Azazel, Sam could feel the dirt under his fingernails.  

Lucifer looks a little agitated for a split second before he calms himself and turns back towards Sam. “I haven't shown you the library, do you wish to see it?”

Sam knows this is a way of “letting the adults talk” but he can't help but be a little excited, this was probably the best shot he had at learning some new. Exclusive information about Seven Gates, what more could a hunter want? Plus, he didn’t exactly want to be around these two elitists, especially is their job happens to be ruining human lives. So, it was understandable that the hunter wanted to back himself out of this demon power fest.

“Okay.” He says simply, looking at Lucifer as he continues between their heads, ”Trying to get me out of your hair?”

”Kingly business and all that, Sam.” Lucifer nearly purrs. ”You are not the power behind the throne,” Lucifer’s blue eyes lock with Sam’s, making the human's face heat up. ”Yet.”  “Come, it's this way.” He says, nodding his head for the group to follow him, which they do.

Lilith stays eerily quiet as they start off, keeping behind Sam with her eyes boring into his back. Azazel walks alongside Lilith but he does speak, not that it helps anything. It’s random things, like the weather or how many ‘newbies’ he’s seen recently. Just his voice grates away at Sam's stoic characteristics. Sam didn't complain to Lucifer about how awkward both council members were making him feel, like a lamb in front of mountain lions. It didn't get any better when Lilith did finally speak up, but at least it's business.

“Ruby has made a request for some magical supplies.” It appeared that Lilith mainly dealt with those Lucifer thought of as petty.

Lucifer eyes Lilith and the creepy blond goes into more detail, sounding a little hesitate to voice it in front of Sam, but doing so nevertheless. “She believes that she could possibly find Cain.”

Lucifer barks out loudly at that but Lilith shows no surprise at that. After he’s done with the laugh he looks back towards his second-in-command. “Leave the old geezer alone, he's not bothering us, we're not bothering him.”

“But sire-” And because Sam had turned to look at Lilith, he was able to see the interest in Azazel’s eyes, however the King's next words quashed whatever excitement the demon had.

Lucifer’s face goes stoney and he stops in his tracks, halting the party. “Enough.” The previous humor is long gone and he looks dangerous, even to Sam. Lucifer continues the group just then and they take off once again.

Lilith nodded to this, “Yes sire.” She says with obedience as she goes with the group. Azazel had simply stayed quiet, accepting whatever order Lucifer gave him without a second thought. Lilith pauses her update until they get up the stairs and go down a hall. “Soul sales have increased recently since Crowley-” she's still talking but Sam can't help but feel the annoyance over his connection with Lucifer.

Sam smirks, ”What? You don't like Crowley?”

Lucifer laughs out loud in their shared space and it warms Sam despite himself. Lucifer’s laugh was like the vibrations of the Earth’s crust, deep from his chest without sounding jolly but rather like a beaten soul finding humor in a dying world.

”I can't stand the guy.” Lucifer admits easily, ”But he's too good at his job to get rid of him.” He actually sounds like he's complaining which makes Sam smile, finding him rather human for a dragon king. ”Plus him and Blonde over here have been committing sin in the best ways so I can't exactly get rid of him without ruffling a few scales.”

Sam makes a face and looks over at Lucifer, ”I thought they were just bonded.”

Lucifer’s eyebrows raise in disbelief and he looks back at Lilith, interrupting her update. “Lilith.” She quiets right away, “Are you bonded with Crowley correct? Dragon and dragon rider right?”ke

Lilith blinks and looks a little unsure of where this came from, but she does as her king asks. “Yes, I am.”

“Do you take your human form often around your rider?” Lucifer’s words are dead set on an answer and Sam suddenly feels bad, because he knows where this is going.

“I do sire.” It seems Lilith is aware as well because she looks uncomfortable despite the fact she's trying her best to cover it up.

“Do you often perform sexual activities with your rider; Crowley?”

Sam can hear Lilith’s heartbeat through his connection with Lucifer. He'd feel worse if she was an innocent woman... but this was a dragon, an evil one at that. Lilith doesn't stammer or anything but walks proudly with the three men, her head held high. “When we have the time sire.” Azazel cheers a little bit at the comment, chuckling and clapping his hands once. It appeaared that he was the most comfortable with awkwardness.

Lucifer gestures towards Lilith with his hand, “There you have it Sam.” He almost teases, lightly tapping the Winchester on his shoulder. But he's not done, oh no, his voice turns to a sort of purr between them and even in this space, Sam feels the heat. ”Dragons and their riders can do more than just ride in the air.” He's teasing Sam and it should repulse him and make him want to leave but instead he got a thrill out of it. He could leave whenever he wanted, he just chose to stay here for now, you know, intel.

Lilith speaks up once again, this time with a sort of authority in realizing where he was going. “It is not uncommon at all when the dragon has the ability to shapeshift.” She pauses and a queer little smile pops up, “I believe your brother and Castiel will be joining that boat soon.”

“What?” Sam asks, now stopping the group on his own. He turns to look at her and even though he felt threatened before, he was not going to let that stand in the way of him protecting his brother.

Lilith however shoots a smile towards Lucifer over Sam's shoulder before breathing out easily, “Oh I was watching.” Suddenly Sam remembers the thing about dragons and their riders looking through each other's eyes so, yeah... she was at the bar with Crowley one night too. She lets out an air whistle instead of a real one so it wouldn't reverberate down the halls, “It's fascinating how attached they are, for them to not fuck that out would be against the very nature of life.”

Lucifer nods, “I am quite excited to see them interact to be perfectly honest.”

It felt weird to talk about Dean this way, but Sam had his fair share of running into Dean’s room while his brother was in the throes of passion. But something about Lucifer’s words catch Sam off, “What do you mean?”

“They're on their way right now.” Answers Lucifer like they're discussing the weather.

The first thing that comes to Sam’s mind is, are they hurt? Which he asks loud enough in his head to attract Lucifer’s attention.
“They went unnoticed for the first day, they’re not the only ones trying to sneak over the border you know.” Lucifer pauses and they stop in front of a pair of large wooden doors, which are dark in hue to contrast nicely with the lighter sand walls. “When the bodies of a hellhound patrol were found thrown over a mountain side we realized it must be them.” ”I stopped the storms from delaying their travel.” Lucifer adds, his piercing blue eyes landing on Sam for a second before his tone changes and he addresses the doors. “The library is through here. Feel free to look through all the tomes.” The doors open by themselves, or rather with some of Lucifer’s embedded magical abilities. It reveals bookcases as high as the walls along with random stands for either extremely important or invalueable importance. It was massive, something Sam would picture in the capital, though this one seemed a little bit… older. More sacred really, especially with the dust that layered the areas that were largely untouched. Sam was excited to see what these books held.

“Don't waste your whole day in here.” Lucifer warns teasingly, which Sam gives a sarcastic look towards the King before responding.

“Yeah well, until I find something else to do…” He walks forward and literally can feel the aura of scholarhood fill him. The fact that the castle sounds were muted in here, the thick books, walls and bookcases muffling much of the sound and giving Sam’s mind peace.

“If I don't see you before hand I will retrieve you at dinner time.” Lucifer says, his teasing voice turning a little serious, though the smirk remains on his lips. Sam simply looks over his shoulder towards the King and his two croans and nods, turning back around.

“Bye ya Sammy!” Azazel calls out before he hears the old doors close. Just a couple seconds was all it took for Sam to be alone in the room. With the doors closed there is absolutely no sound except for the muffled extremely loud city sounds. The light of the room was dim as it only came from the windows covering the ceiling. Sam therefore goes around and lights the surrounding torches until the room is better lit. With his scene set, Sam looks over the books until his eyes rest on one of particular interest. Sitting down at one of the dusty tables Sam gets comfortable, gently opening the book and falling into the words it held.

 


 

The weather remains clear for the rest of Dean and Castiel's travels, which is slightly disconcerting because they have passed several houses and even a small patrol. Yes, they were near the cloud line, but even then they would most likely be spotted.

”Lucifer must have sent word that we are here.” Castiel speaks up as they continue to follow the mountain range they had been one for quite some time.

”Is that a good or bad thing?” Dean asks, peeking through Castiel's clawed fingers.

”I am not sure, I just know we now lack the element of surprise.”

Dean nods and there's a slight pause before Dean can't help but ask. ”You think Sam is there?”

Castiel nods, ”I strongly believe so, yes.”

“Good.”

The landscape starts to become more green and hospitable as they continue south and soon the mountain ridge breaks, revealing a river and a tan city. Towards the west eastern side there's a building, which must be the capital's castle. After all, look at those large arches, Dean knew a dragon must live there. The city seems to sparkle, but in a dulled way, like it could never be returned to whatever glory it once displayed. The sun was starting it’s journey down but was not near the turning point to the beautiful hues of sunset. This caused the city to gain in shadow as they approached. Even if it was made out of warmer colored stones the shadows of the angled buildings covered the streets with ease, making people disappear in and out of the light and the hunter’s sight. Passing above the walls was terrifying, what with soldiers staring up, some with their hands up to block the sun. It only gets worse as they get lower, heading for the entrance hall of the castle. Castiel eventually touches paw to the tiled flooring, slowing until he stops and can open his protected hand to reveal Dean.

It's creepy how similar to human architecture the place was, how Dean didn't feel as off as he should. That is, until he notices the female watching them. She sneers, her short blonde hair looking too yellow in the light. “Oh lovely. The cavalry.”

Dean, when standing, still needed a moment to remember what legs were, so he simply glared. The female rolls her eyes, her hand on her hip as she waits, for what, no one knew.

“Where is your King?” Castiel asks, staying in his dragon form and towering over Dean protectively. The lights of this room reflected nicely off Castiel's scales, casting shards of blue off of the huge dragonic body.

“He is on his way, simply picking up his rider from the castle library.”

 


 

Sam's almost done with his third book when one of the large doors open and Lucifer steps in, Lilith acting like a shadow and staying out in the hall to peer in… Azazel seems to be gone as Sam doesn’t see him anywhere. “Sam,” Starts Lucifer, heading over to the human and his book, closing it on the hunter once he’s close enough. “Your brother is here.”

Sam would chastise Lucifer on any other day, at any other moment for closing the book on him, but this was a special case and Sam rises from his chair quickly.

“Let's go.” Sam comments, heading towards the door and Lilith with a confidence he didn't have before. Yes, this would put things in action, but Sam missed his brother and was glad to see his face soon. So the troop of three headed down the hall with Lucifer and Sam in the lead. For the first time Sam pays attention to how Lucifer feels and can sense the apprehension at the upcoming meeting. He looked his normal cocky and confident self on the outside, striding with ease with Sam but there appeared to be some things brooding under the skin. Sam didn't ask. He didn't want to open up that can of worms because he knew Lucifer would use it to his advantage. Since they were totally hauling ass, they reach the large hall much quicker than when they were leaving to go to the library. This time they were also entering from the top floor and not leaving from the bottom.

So, when Sam comes into sight of the room, he sees Castiel in all his glory, Dean looking very much like a protected cub between the two trunks of Castiel's front legs. Castiel, was huge, not as big as what Lucifer’s form appeared to be, but still a force to be reckoned with. His wings were close to his back and slightly folded, ready to act as a shield if need be. The large orbs of blue that were his eyes lock onto Lucifer the moment he comes waltzing into the room. For the first time, unseen minstrels play an entrance tune for the king. It's all a bit pretentious but Sam stays silent, walking towards the stairs that would lead him to his brother.

 


 

Dean looks up to see his brother coming around the corner and he makes a step closer to him and vicariously Lucifer as it appeared they were the welcoming committee. “Sam!” Dean calls, hurrying his brother down the stairs and into a quick, manly hug. They're separating when Castiel finally speaks up, his voice venomous.

“Lucifer.” He comments, his tone reverberating through Dean since he was so close to the dragon.

“Brother.” Greets Lucifer, now on top of the stairs, staring down at the three but particularly at Castiel. “I can see the human world has called you back to us.”

Castiel growls and lowers his body ever so slightly, crowding Dean and Sam a little. “You are the fallen one Lucifer. Not me.”

Lucifer tisks, stepping down slowly until he's on a step where he can stare at Castiel's large eyes on semi equal ground. “Yeah but without daddy around who's gonna tell you what's right and what's wrong?” Lucifer gives a teasing and rather childish frown at his comment before chuckling and clapping his hands together. “Come, let us talk like men.” Lucifer says with a certain level of satire. Out from the shadows steps a couple servants, holding a deep blue velvet robe. They look terrified but they come a little closer to Castiel and Dean, not too close however.

Castiel doesn't move and Dean doesn't comment on what Castiel can do, this was after all, his brother, he knew how to handle him the best. The problem with that sentiment is the idea that Castiel wouldn't be biased or cause a disruption. There's another growl out of Castiel and his claws make a loud clacking sound against the tiled floor. “No. I much prefer this form.” Castiel responds, making Lucifer sign dramatically.

“Come on Cassie, stop being such a diva.” Lucifer says with a little annoyance.

”If he's gonna be such a little bitch about it Cas…” Dean starts, fading off in their shared space. The blue dragon's shoulders slump and his dragon form starts to diminish before them and turn into that of his naked human form. Lucifer’s servants are on the ball despite their fear and cover Castiel just as his most private places start to materialize. Castiel wraps the fabric better around himself without the help of the demonic servants before glaring up at Lucifer. In his human form, barefoot in a velvet robe he looked adorable and tired. So very tired, with darker circles around his eyes and stubble growing in a bit.

“Ah now all we need is that smile of yours.” Jokes Lucifer, turning his attention onto Dean now and sizing him up. Dean wasn't surprised Lucifer was in human form, he had heard the King of Seven Gates was human, so he expected him to be as such. But… he was a dragon parading around as an immortal king, at least to the people of Potesta. Lucifer was taller then Castiel and was pretty much as the same height as Dean, he wasn't as bulky as Dean but while Dean was a linebacker in shape, Lucifer was the quarterback, without any true curve but just a wall of lean muscle. His blue eyes were a little like Castiel's, but at much brighter shade, like the color was sort of sucked out. Lucifer looked like nothing could surprise him, like no deed or motive was unknown to him. He was fucking creepy.

Now that Dean had Sam however, he was ready to leave and he can suddenly understand why Castiel didn't want to change from his dragon form. They were kinda stuck now, if they were ever free from the moment they crossed the border. “Well no offense, Lucifer, but now that I have my brother I think it's time we get going.”

A sly smile crosses Lucifer’s features, despite the insult of ignoring his title and practically purrs out his response, “Who says Sammy wants to leave?”

All heads turn to the tallest of the group and Sam seems to be rather interested in the wall behind Dean. “Sam?” Dean asks, his voice a little rough. When Sam doesn't answer he asks again, this time quieter. “Sam?”

“He is Lucifer’s rider.” Castiel says suddenly, like he knew this might happen from the very beginning.

Dean's shaking his head, “Can I talk to my brother alone for a moment?” He says it and feels the distress from Castiel, he did not want to be left alone with Lucifer.

“Of course.” Lucifer says with a joy that can only mean he knows he's inflicting pain. “Come Cassie, I will show you what I have done with the Hell Father gave me.”

”I will keep connected with you.” Dean promises but Castiel has already retreated behind his walls, whether because he was mad or to protect himself from Lucifer, Dean didn't know.

“We'll be quick.” Sam says suddenly, bumping his arm quickly into Dean's and nodding towards one of the small servant rooms.

“Stay here.” Dean orders which makes Lucifer’s eyes bulge for a second but Castiel seemed happy enough to dig his bare heels into the tile, sending a slight smile towards Lucifer. Lucifer didn't have to listen but it gave Cas the excuse of staying close to the Winchester's for safety.

Both Winchesters enter the room and close the door, checking everywhere for peep holes and servants before turning towards each other. Castiel and Lucifer seem to be talking outside which offers them a nice cover, courtesy of Castiel.

“Dean, this is the best chance we have at getting intel on Seven Gates, I can't just leave.”

Dean’s pretty shocked and it shows on his face, “Seriously Sammy? You want to stay in this hell hole?”

Sam enacts one of his many bitch faces, “I don't want to stay here. I just think it's our best option.”

“Our best option?” Dean openly mocks, making a ridiculous face to match the ridiculous notion. “Our best option is to hightail it out of here Sam!”

”I don't think we can.” Castiel suddenly interrupts. His conversation with Lucifer had separated from Dean but not so much that Castiel couldn’t comment.

Dean frowns and Sam knows somethings wrong. He doesn't say anything but instead waits, as if he recognizes as Dean focuses on Castiel. ”How you mean?”

Dean can feel the eye roll, ’Do you not recall how Lucifer is also the King of Seven Gates? And that he's got the power of a dragon behind his human bones? He is powerful Dean, and resourceful. Do not underestimate him because of his attitude.” Dean can also feel the grimace that graces Castiel's mental features.

“Cas says we probably won't be able to leave now, not easily at least.” Dean finally states to his brother, making the younger’s brow crease.

“Lucifer?” Sam doesn't even sound like he doubts it and the wrinkles fall from his forehead as he comes into some sort of horrible realization. Suddenly Sam turns around and heads towards the door and bangs it open, rushing towards Lucifer who frankly looks thrilled to see mad Sam, which skeeves Dean out a little. “You can't hold Castiel here.”

Lucifer blinks and turns his body towards the oncoming stampede of two. “I can't, his gr- power has been returned to his body. There are other ways that involve complicated spells and the murder of several supernatural creatures, but I simply don't have the time for that.” He talks with such easeful mockery, that Dean kinda wants to punch the smug fucker in the face. He wasn't as bad as Crowley, with his posh attitude, but he was definitely up there, especially with the threat to Castiel. Dean stands besides his brother, ready for anything.

Sam speaks up now, being the most confident with Lucifer. “So? I know you won't let us go.”

A flash of emotion crosses the King of Seven Gates’ face but the most prevalent in Dean's mind is the finishing smirk. “I was hoping that we could discuss that tomorrow.”

“No.” Castiel growls, his voice just as thunderous as his dragon one, simply on a quieter scale. Lucifer turns his head to Castiel and frowns, Dean feels like it's mocking but he's not quite sure.

“Oh come on Cassie,” He actually hits his own leg in exasperation, “It's been so long since I've seen you, can't we just play a bit of catch up?”

”You repulse me.” Castiel growls in his mind, while his physical lips stay pressed together thinly.

Lucifer pouts, unaware of the true destain Castiel contained in himself towards his kingly brother. Lucifer’s back straightens a bit and Dean can see him becoming more of a King, loosing a little bit of the playful attitude he had displayed before. “I must insist you stay the night, you are far too tired to get up and go today.” It was true, Dean could feel the secret agreement from Castiel, he was beyond tired and wouldn't get that far before needing a rest. “This is why I suggested waiting until everyone is refreshed tomorrow to discuss your departure.” No one responds and it prompts Lucifer to sigh loudly. “I had intended to take Sam on another tour but I assume you three wish not to separate.”

“Well, yeah.” Dean said looking over to Sam who doesn't seem so sure. ”Is there anyway I could talk to him like this?” Dean asks Castiel and he feels the negative.

”Not that I am aware of, unless I was to contact Lucifer to relay the message.”

”You guys can talk?”

”We're both dragons, so yes.”

Dean makes a face and Lucifer claps his hands to bring everyone to attention. “Well as much as I love watching you two whisper, I'm rather anxious to continue my day.”

Sam steps forward now, closer to Lucifer and turns to face Dean. “You guys are probably going to crash so I might as well.” He says, sounding tentative.

Lucifer seems pretty proud with Sam's choice and so he beckons the blond from the corner to come over, “Meg.”

She comes over proudly, standing tall in front of Lucifer. “Yes my King?”

Lucifer’s prideful personality eats it up and even Dean can tell there is no true affection behind Lucifer’s words. “Please take Hunter Dean and Castiel to their chambers.”

“Their?” Dean cuts in confused, he hadn't expected to be sharing a room with Castiel here. He didn't exactly care, but it was odd.

Lucifer lets out a short laugh and gestures his hand towards Dean, “In moral civilizations we don't separate the dragon and their rider. Isn't that right Cassie?” Somehow his every word felt teasing but still accurate and that it was slightly scary.

“What do you mean by that?” Sam asks, ever curious.

Lucifer loves the attention, so he easily recites the reason, “Why King Campbell separates the two halves of a whole. Dragons’ sleeping quarters and rider quarters.”

This actually seemed to be something Castiel could get behind, “He believes it makes it easier if the dragon was to die. Or visa versa. Instead it only causes turmoil and dissatisfaction.”

“See Cassie? At least I'm doing something good.” Lucifer practically purrs, making Castiel glare in agitation.

“Don't call me Cassie.”

“Touchy, touchy, Cassie Baby.” Lucifer actually sings, stepping away and swiping his arm so that an energy pushes Meg closer to Dean and Castiel. He looks quickly at Sam but starts towards the entrance, making Sam follow after him with a quick final look at Dean.

Dean glares after Lucifer with Castiel until Meg lets out a heavy sigh, “Boys, I get you're butt hurt, but I don't have all day to stand around and act like children. So giddy up.” She gestures up the stairs just before heading up herself, only to wait at the top for the two. “Come on!”

Both men finally react and turn, heading up the stairs together after Meg. “So is it a job requirement to be a bitch?” Dean asks with annoyance.

“Well I know it's a requirement for your's.” Meg spits back with equal fire.

Castiel does not like Meg's tone and states such, “Watch yourself.”

Meg snorts, “Oh handsome, you shouldn't threaten someone, what with the connections I have.”

Dean snorts, “Lucifer doesn't give a damn about you.”

It was obvious Meg didn't give a shit about Dean's words, but she produces someone who sounded very familiar. “My father is Azazel.”

At Dean's mental curiosity at the name, Castiel actually produces a face, a man with a rounder face covered in armor as he sneers over a battlefield. His eyes turning yellow. It's there but Dean can't remember and so he puts it away to think of later.

“That means nothing to me.” Dean says honestly and in such a way to convey it as an insult.

Meg’s smile becomes too big for Dean to be comfortable and she says nothing but walks with an easy and bubbly air.

“I suppose you know something, Meg.” Castiel says, much more diplomatic than before.

“I know a lot of things.” She hums, heading down a hall that must be the royal wing.

“Pertaining to the Winchesters?” Castiel pushes, and the only reason Dean stays quiet was because Castiel had directed him to do as such.

Meg stops at a double door room and takes a key from her pocket, unlocking the thing before pushing both doors open. She heads right into the middle of the room and turns around, her arms open slightly. “This is your room boys, a servant will come by for dinner if you wish to not join the King in dining. They will bring food up into here.”

Both Castiel and Dean enter the room and it is most definitely the nicest room Dean has ever been in, even in Lawrence. The walls were of a sandy color and the floor jet black stone secured in by the same sandy material. The wooden furnishings were all of a darker color to match with the tiles but there was also a lot of color. There was a noticeable indentation in the floor on the right side of the room that looked vaguely like a nest, with blankets and colorful pillows filling the area. There was also a balcony and several plants in colorful planters. It did not look like the Seven Gates he had passed over with Castiel.

Now that both men are in the room, Meg heads over to the large windows and balcony and pulls the curtains, which have a charcoal, golden, and red pattern on thick fabric. It completely cuts out the sun, which had been shining in this entire time. Once that is complete she places the key on the dining table between the bed and the nest-like area. She starts towards the door and just as she reaches the arch she turns to them. “Oh, and I've known that Sam would be Lucifer’s rider long before either of you Winchesters were born.” She steps back and offers Dean a very devious smile before flicking her fingers and slamming both doors close.

Dean makes a step towards the door but Castiel is already shaking his head, “She left.”

Dean curses under his breath, glaring at the floor before swinging around and heading back to Castiel, who is looming near the circular indent in the floor. “What the fuck do you think she meant?”

Castiel lets a little shrug jolt through his shoulders but he doesn't say anything else on the subject. He simply steps down on the little stairs leading to the bottom of the nest. He could jump in but that just wasn't Castiel's style. “You're gonna sleep there?” Dean asks, a little surprised.

“I have no doubt that this room was originally intended for my use. Lucifer knows my love for spots like this.” It did seem like a rather dragon-like thing to do, but at the same token the padded circle wasn't big enough for Castiel's current dragon state, so it was either made for smaller dragons or for a dragon who could switch into a smaller human form.

“You're not concerned about any of this?” Dean asks, referring to well, everything that happened today.

Castiel stops in the middle of the circle and starts to untie his robe, not that Dean can see because his back is to the hunter. “Dean, I have over exerted myself for the last couple days. You went through torture. I believe sleep is a good idea for both of us.” His velvet blue robe slides off his shoulders as soon as the knot is untied and Dean’s eyes are greeted by the beautiful slope of Castiel's back and bare bum. Heat rises suddenly from somewhere and Dean pushes it down so fast, he’s like lightening. Castiel takes no notice but simply lies down and covers himself with the blankets before fixing the pillows to his exact liking.

With Castiel covered, it's easy to forget what had spiked Dean’s interest and he cracks it up to the lack of sleep and the stress of what's going on. Nothing more. “Yeah I guess you're right.” Dean admits, turning and heading towards the empty king sized bed with several blankets of a variety of thicknesses. There's a dresser with a mirror over top on the left side of the bed and Dean, out of curiosity opens the drawers. There's some average size clothing that ranged from a little smaller than Castiel to maybe a fatter Sam. “Gotta say the King keeps shit here tight.”

Castiel hums and Dean knows he's already on his way out, “He's one of those ‘chicken in every kitchen’ type.”

“That doesn't sound bad.” Dean says.

“Yeah well, that's because it's not chickens, it's virgin sacrifices and town slaughters. Intestines.”

“Ew Cas, just ew.” Dean grabs a pair of sleeping pants and starts to undress.

A low tired chuckle comes from the nest. “Sorry Dean, I didn't realize you were squeamish.”

“Just go to bed Cas.” Dean says more lovingly than he intended but not even really noticing.

“You keep talking.” Castiel comments back, his voice softer but not because he was tired, not that Dean picked up on that.

“Alright well.” Dean lets out a pop sound between his lips and then keeps quiet as he sticks his legs through the sleeping pants. He assumed Castiel was asleep because he couldn't exactly feel him through their connection, but Dean had kinda pulled away before. Castiel hadn't taken it as an insult because it hadn't been a ‘hide’ pull away, but more like when you sneeze while talking, it takes you a moment to bring it back.

Dean takes the steps to get to the bed and moves the covers to the side so he can slip in. The bed's cold and even if the sun was out right now Dean felt very… wrong. He fusses for a moment, trying to get comfortable by smashing his head into the pillow. It doesn't work, nothing works, until Castiel's voice comes from across the room. “I will help you get your brother back. No matter what.” His voice, while still tired held such a seriousness to it that Dean did not doubt his dragon's words.

“Thanks Cas.”

“Anything for the Winchesters.” Castiel rumbles. While they were a couple yards from one another they still managed to drift off into sleep at the same time, finding comfort in each other.

 


 

Lilith had been ordered to fall back once Dean and Castiel arrived, to keep an eye on them. So while she watched them, they didn't even know she was there. It made her very happy. What doesn't make her happy is that they don't come out of the room after Meg leaves and she can feel as Castiel slips into sleep along with his rider. There was no fun in them sleeping so she instead sits down at a bench at the end of the hall and discusses the happenings with Crowley.

”Darling, Sam Winchester has been Lucifer’s main goal, now he will undoubtedly wish to regain his previous power.” She can hear the scribble of quill on parchment and smiles.

”Still working on our deals?”

”Oh, always. What else did the great King ask of his wonderful second in command?” While there is some distrust in the word ‘great’  while referring to Lucifer, Crowley did means the compliment towards Lilith, which makes her smile. That is before remembering. “He asked me to stay here until Dean and Castiel leave, that I have to watch them and ensure they don't fuck anything up.”

”Be careful my love, you are dealing with the Winchesters.”

Lilith snorts, shaking her head and even if Crowley isn't there he can feel her doubt. ”They are simply children, they have no idea what game they're in.”

”Yeah but Castiel's been around. He will help them.”

Lilith shrugs, smiling cockily, ”He will do anything for Dean. I don't know if he is in the proper mindset for political moves.”

”Still. He wasn't always like this, darling. He is not as innocent as he looks.”

Lilith rolls her eyes, ”I am aware Crowley. I am older than you.”

”And here I thought women don't like talking about their age.” He teases, making Lilith smile.

”We don't.” Pause. ”When I get home I feel rather in the mood for a baby banquet.”

Crowley nods in their personal space and the sounds of flitting paper are heard before some serious scribbling. ”I will ensure you get the freshest babies.”

”Oh you do know how to spoil me.” She purrs happily and Crowley returns the affection.

”Just be careful Lilith.”

”I will my love.”

 


 

Sam and Lucifer walked through the capital once again, this time the other way. Sam wants to talk about what Lucifer has planned but he knows it's not what the King wants to talk about, so Sam brings up something else. “I thought you would want to talk to your council of two.” Sam says, jokingly, kinda.

Lucifer senses Sam's curiosity and he smirks, “I have said all I need to.” He answers easily, his hands in his pockets until he points towards a building. “That is the demonic version of a temple. It's simply ghastly what they do in there.” His tone of voice was always so hard to catch, as it seemed to constantly contain some sort of superior humor.

From the time of their interaction with Dean and Castiel there had been something weighing heavily on Lucifer’s chest and now Sam had the time to dig into the issue. It was too interesting to stop himself, the King of Seven Gates. the leader of thousands of demon armies and yet he wasn't barbaric, he wasn't blatantly violent and his devilish smile was just too alluring.

The capital seems strangely empty in this area but Sam doesn't mind, it helps him voice his question aloud. “You don't want me to go with them do you?”

Lucifer hadn't expected this question and he pauses in his walk for a second, looking right at Sam's face before continuing. “Eh, I'd like you here but I foresee you wishing to travel with your brother.”

Sam's heart was beating rather fast due to his very survival and Lucifer’s emotions, but he doesn't stop the conversation or their continued walk. “So you're going to let me go?”

Lucifer sighs, stopping at the top of a flight of stairs, Sam can see that the less… advanced buildings were here. His attention turns to Lucifer again as he speaks. “It depends if you’re willing to come back.”

Sam blinks and his automatic reaction is to say no, but then he remembers his station and connection to the King of Seven Gates. “Isn't it hard for riders and dragons to be separated?”

The blond man nods his head, “Yes, but with the will of a Winchester I am not positive it will sway you. Hence why I wish for you to promise you will come back before I accept your wish to leave.” Sam can tell Lucifer had put thought into that sentence and so Sam puts thought into his own, retreating for a moment to think it over.

Maybe Sam could handle being separated from Lucifer, but why should he? Dean was to take their father’s position when John died. Granted Dean was now a dragon rider, but they planned to hide that right? Cas didn't seem to be keen on joining King Campbell’s forces. So Sam still had no obligations, would it not be better to go out and talk with his father before joining once more with Lucifer to gather intel? “Yes.” Sam says but Lucifer is not satisfied with just that, oh no.

“Yes what?” The King practically hums.

“Yes I will return at some point.”

Lucifer smiles widely now, “Good.” He wraps his arm around Sam's and even places a kiss on his cheek, making Sam's face heat up. “Now let's go further out mhm? See the hellhound nurseries.”

“Hellhound nurseries ?” Sam asks with astonishment.

“Well duh, they don't grow on apple trees.” Lucifer comments back, pulling Sam down the stairs with him, their arms still linked.

 


 

Dean wakes up when the sun is still asleep, he didn't need to move the curtains to know it had been a long time. He had some dried saliva on the side of his mouth to prove the time lapse. The first thing he realizes is that sleep is not going to come calling for him again, the second is that sleep has still enveloped Castiel and it was best not to bother him. So, Dean sits up and stretches, turning to slip out of the bed and carefully walk over to the dresser. Luckily Dean had seen an oil lamp placed with some matches and he finds them eventually. He carefully strikes a match and removes the glass from the oil lamp before lighting the wick that sticks out. He places the glass protector back on the lamp with the new light and focuses on getting clothed. Since they left their clothing in that bag in Potesta, the two literally only had the clothing on their backs and in Castiel's case, none at all.

With this thought Dean stops the search for his own clothing and instead finds a shirt and pair of pants that he thinks would fit Cas. He stacks them on top of the dresser before continuing his own search which turns up equally fruitful.

Soon Dean is dressed and in his shoes, and with the light from the lamp, Dean moves back the curtains back to reveal the night sky and the city with all its darkened windows. He opens the balcony door and the breeze that comes in is too nice to shut out, so instead Dean leaves it open by jamming a chair behind the handle. With the added light from the stars and moon Dean can see a sort of cabinet located in the corner, walking over and opening it up it reveals to be filled with candles and other necessities. He takes one of the candle stick holders that already have a candle and he sticks another in his back pocket, though he doubts he'll need it. With this done Dean picks up the clothes for Cas and brings them over to the nest. Seven Gates was hotter in nature and Dean had only slept with two light blankets. Castiel however had one light blanket and a heavier one located around his waist, revealing everything up. In the lighting of the pure white of the moon with the warmth of the candle. Castiel's pale skin stretches over his muscles softly, showing dips of shadow and ridges of highlights. Small pools of dark skin speckled over his body's landscape.

His dark hair was a mess, pressed into the pillows and sticking out every way. Affection flowed through Dean, poor guy. He was probably exhausted. He does look rather beautiful with the mixture of warmth and coolness, surrounded by pillows of warm colors while he uses his velvet robe as an actual pillow for his head. Dean places the clothing down and decides it's time to leave the room before he disturbs Castiel. He circles back to lower the wick of the lamp before grabbing the key and heading out of the room completely.

The hall is well lit still but is far less active as there isn't a soul in sight. Dean decides that a walk of the castle grounds is the best idea and he heads back the way they came until he reaches the staircase and the opened welcoming hall. It's empty much like the rest of the castle, except Dean does see guards posted on the other side of the entrance doors. He instead heads for a door off to the right of the room, it's open and clearly leads down a hall. Unknowingly he's heading towards the very garden Lucifer had taken Sam past. Dean recognizes the plants much like Sam had, but he stays to investigate. He luckily doesn't get too close, but under the moonlight they looked rather beautiful, despite their internal intentions. He doesn't spend too much time staring and continues on his walk through the halls.

He's rather misplaced when he comes upon a door that is guarded inside the castle. Of course, Dean's own curiosity gets the best of him and he heads over.

The demons seem fidgety the closer Dean is, until one of them speaks up, “You cannot pass this point.”

Dean has the choice to go innocent or cocky, he tries cockiness to match that of their King. “Lucifer never said we wouldn't be allowed to go places. Perhaps I should wake him or my brother and ask them.” He turns right around and the other guard calls out after him, rather rushed to avoid him contacting their King. “You can go through.”

“Dude.” The other comments, under his breath in rather “not cool” fashion.

Dean doesn't give them time to talk it over and instead swings around and heads right into the guarded room. It was, as Dean learns, some sort of museum of powerful weapons. Some looked rather archaic, with spikes and odd prints. Some were beautiful, swords of exquisite make. Some were cruel, made of animal parts and rather rudimentary. Dean stops at a display of the same swords as the one Castiel carries. There’s five of the blades in a wooden box lined with red velvet, resting on one of the pedestals. It's definitely not the centerpiece of the room and isn't even protected by glass like some of the other weapons. So of course Dean takes one. No evil flash of lightning happens, the guards weren't paying attention. The eldest Winchester easily slips the blade up his sleeve and walks out with ease. “You boys have a good night.” He calls over his shoulder. He knows they're demons but they look human and well, Dean was trying to be unnoticeable. He decides heading back to the room should be his first order of action and so he takes a new hall he believes will return him to the royalty wing. This time Dean does not pass the garden on the same floor but gets the balcony shot of the greenery. It looks much more innocent from up here, with the green leaves covering the bright flowers and harsh bark.

“Couldn't sleep Hunter?” A feminine voice calls out, making Dean turn to see a woman with light blond hair rolling over her nightgown, which leaves little to the imagination when it comes to her larger breasts. What keeps Dean from looking however, is the fact she feels all sorts of wrong . Call it being a Hunter or a Winchester or just a regularly intelligent being, he could tell there was just something wrong.

“Not particularly.” Dean hedges, turning his body to face her's. Dean had followed Castiel's example and stuck the blade up his sleeve. It's a great comfort to have a weapon right there, especially in front of something...someone like this.

The woman looks over Dean with a lustful eye and Dean knows he’ll probably feel really creeped out for the rest of the day. “So what does one do when they cannot sleep in the capital of their enemy?” She presses, her voice still sweet but with an underlying brattiness.

“See the sights, obviously.” Dean gestures to the garden with his lit candle, maybe this woman would assume he only just walked down the hall from his room.

The woman looks from Dean to the garden suspiciously, “Yes, I also find the allure of tree tops.” She sasses before turning around and motioning for him to follow. “Come now lost Hunter, we don't want to keep you from sleep.” She calls, her voice lofty but not in the sense she'd take a ‘no’ from him. Dean does have to go to his room anyway, so he does follow after the woman, his lips firmly locked.

They're almost to the door without incident but, Dean should have known it was too good to be true. “You know the only reason your guts aren't scattered on this tiled floor is because the King ordered it.” Lilith says with a coolness that can only come from those who truly have no respect for human life. A frightened and rather angry vibe rises from Dean and he clenches one hand around the candle holder, the other holding the blade at bay.

“Well, sucks for you.” Dean says, trying to act cool while internally freaking. Castiel seems to start to wake at the threat to Dean and he quickly covers the fear so not to wake his companion; they were almost to the room already.

“Lovely.” Lilith hums with a level of disgust. They stop in front of the door and the blond mutters something to herself, but Dean hears it regardless. “Out of all the humans my Lord had to have a Winchester.”

“We are a lovely bunch aren't we?” Dean smiles charmingly, knowing it often makes people want to punch him in the face. He takes the key from his pocket and unlocks the door, looking once more at Lilith. He's more confident now that he can slam a door between them at any time and Castiel is now at his back. “Must be scary.” He starts, “Knowing that not one, but both sons of the guy who pushed you guys back are behind your lines.” Dean didn't know who the woman was, but he knew she was someone of importance and power, it rolled off of her in waves.

The woman frowns and he can feel as she starts to anger at his comment.

“You are no concern of mine.” Lilith says coldly, a smile crossing her face to place fear into Dean. “You don't belong here.”

Dean responds by giving her a bright smile and slamming the door in her face, locking it right after. She probably could break through the door with little hardship if she tried, but she seemed complacent enough to let his disrespect wash over her. Soon Dean stopped worrying and left the door to go towards his bed. Castiel was still asleep at this time but he had moved during Dean's absence, now facing the door as if he subconsciously knew Dean was out and about. His face is completely covered in shadow now, but a thin sliver of moonlight is outlining the curve of his body. Dean just watched the gentle rise and fall of Castiel's body as the man… dragon… sleeps.

Maybe it was Dean watching, or the fact someone had come into the room, but Castiel shifts. Dean can feel Castiel's conscious slip from dream to consciousness. He doesn't say anything however, and simply stands there as Castiel shifts and leans up, yawning. “Is everything alright Dean?”

The hunter shifts, unsure what he should do. Castiel seems still rather drowsy so Dean quickly heads towards his bed, throwing the angel blade under the pillow for now. “I put some clothes out for you.” Dean offers in lieu of answering.

Dean feels Castiel's general disdain for clothing but also feels as the other body removes himself from the blankets. For respect reasons, Dean waits until Castiel has his pants on before turning around. Castiel is actually heading back into the nest of pillows as he puts his shirt on, yawning loudly. He didn't seem to want to push Dean into answering but… Castiel was his dragon, and that lady had freaked Dean out a bit.

“I ah, went for a walk and ran into his freaky lady who has a whole ‘doomsday’ vibe around her.” Dean finally says, going back towards the dresser to quickly drop off the candles and holder before heading to Castiel, who at this time, was sitting at the rim of the nest indent.

Castiel, who had now slid back down into the nest and was padding the pillows into a comfortable position, stops suddenly to look up at his rider. “Did she have blonde hair? And a rather disconcerting smile?” Castiel asks carefully, his brow furrowed.

Dean nods once to Castiel’s question, sitting down at the side of the nest himself, his hands netted together as he looks at his companion. Castiel frowns, “I thought I felt Lilith’s presence.” Castiel says offhandedly, “I expected her to come and greet me. She is not one for ‘beating around the bush’.” He adds with air quotes, shaking his head. “Did she threaten you?” Castiel asks with little pause between his words.

“Eh.” Dean shrugs, “Yeah, but she didn't actually do anything.”

Castiel's already nodding and he stands, balancing himself on the pillows with ease. “Lucifer probably told her that you Winchesters were off limits for the time being.” He starts towards the door, without his shoes, Dean noticed.

“Where are you going?”

Castiel stops at the door and turns to Dean, “I wish to speak with my brother. I do not know the parameters of your protection here.” He locks eyes with Dean, “Stay here, I'll get you for breakfast.”

Dean didn't like how he was suddenly thrusted into the “protectee” role but before he can even bitch, Castiel slips out of the room. Was it a coincidence? Unlikely, as Castiel could feel just how much Dean disliked the damsel in distress role. The hunter might be putting out a little more agitation than he really felt, but he was a slightly sour. Castiel wasn't having any of it however and quickly snips. “If this was your father's castle would you like me talking to your father or mother alone?” The drop of Dean's stomach and speed of his heart rate proved this point. “As I assumed.” Castiel says cooly, with a bit of spite in his tone, which made no sense to Dean. ”Get some sleep.” Castiel says in the lull before he completely kills the conversation.

”Fine.” Dean rumbles out and since he was rather disgruntled, he simply slips into the blankets and pillows of Castiel's nest as if it was a pool of water .It didn't take Dean long to get comfortable as the lifestyle of a hunter usually provided less habitable places.

 


 

Castiel had been coxing Dean into sleep, sending comforting vibes deep into the tissue of Dean's body. Years of meditation had helped Castiel fine tune his abilities. Unlike humans, Castiel has the ability to feel out people, it's something he does by judging the distance between his being and the that of the person he's looking for. When Castiel finds Lucifer the king is sitting on a bench, his hands clasped in his lap as he overlooks his city. “Lucifer.” Castiel greeted, knowing he can skip past the pretentious title by claiming blood; which Castiel was.

“Good morning Cassie.” Lucifer greets, looking over at his younger brother with his famous lackadaisical smirk. “How'd you sleep?”

Castiel rolls his eyes and refusing to join his brother on the bench at his moment. Instead standing there, his arms useless at his side. He preferred his dragon form to be honest, then he would use his arms to balance himself instead of stand on just his hind legs.

“As well as I can behind enemy lines.” Castiel jabs, he can't help it, after so many years the aggression has to come out somehow.

Lucifer doesn't react negatively but tuts and pats the seat besides him, “Stop being so melodramatic Cassie. It's so unlike you.” Lucifer coos, adding just a bit of a bite to his words. Castiel now does join his brother, but when he sits, he positions himself rather straight, uncomfortable with being near the very person who caused it all. “Thank you.” Lucifer says with a pleasant smile on his face, suddenly Castiel remembers the brother who comforted him when he was upset. He remembers the feeling of Lucifer’s large wings surrounding and protecting the once tiny Castiel. He remembers how much he idolized his brother, and how hard the fall had hurt him.

Castiel looks away from his brother and takes in the view in front of them, his brow furrowed from squinting. The sun was now coming up, painting the sky a lovely yellow, pink and red, which looked gorgeous with the sandy foreground of the city. Seven Gates was more beautiful than Castiel expected, he knew what laid under the surface, but with this view he couldn't help but be reminded that Lucifer was their father's favorite.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Lucifer chirps, too upbeat for his own good.

Castiel sighs, lowering his head and bowing his back, “I am concerned you will do something to injure either Dean or Sam.” Castiel was just going to be honest, this was his fear.

Lucifer seems taken aback, so aback that his sass has no filter, “Really?” He says, before clearing his throat and shaking his head, “Cassie, honestly.” Lucifer starts, “I don't want to hurt either of them.” Castiel to literally taste the stipulation he knew was to come next. “But,” Here it was. “I'm a little concerned myself that if I just allow you all to go, I will never get my rider back.” Castiel blinks. Well, he hadn't expected such a… sincere answer.

Castiel turns to his brother, looking straight into his lighter blue eyes. If Cas was going to say something he doesn’t get the chance to, as Lucifer dives right into it. “I will keep Dean here and you and Sam can go.”
“No!” Castiel speaks so suddenly and loudly it actually takes him aback for a second. Lucifer just smirks, apparently getting the reaction he wanted. “And yet you give me weird looks.” The King raises his hand as if to show something invisible to his brother as he continues, “Why should I have to be separated from my rider while you get to gallop into the sunset with two?” Lucifer growls, showing just a little of the agitation that plagued him. Maybe their dad had planned this all to be the worst torture for Lucifer. After all, Sam was the chosen rider, Castiel could feel it. For the first time, true sympathy passes between the brothers, Castiel could follow Dean from hell and back, Lucifer couldn’t do the same for Sam.

Castiel chooses to say nothing but instead relaxes his back, his elbows resting on his knees, hands clasped in front of him. “But you won’t do anything to either of them if he comes back?” Castiel cared for Sam, he really did, but bringing the hunter back here would not be the worst thing to do. Castiel knew Lucifer’s side on this, he knew the need to constantly be close to his rider. Cas knew he would do anything to ensure Dean’s safety, so he knew Lucifer would do the same.

“You’re getting it.” Lucifer hums, looking over his city as well. While Castiel is sitting comfortably in his bubble, Lucifer is sitting sprawled out, relaxed in his surroundings.

“How will I know it’s time to bring Sam back here?” Castiel asks, he’s already thinking of what exactly will have to happen but Lucifer seems unconcerned. “Sam will know when to come back. I only wish to ensure he is not delayed in his travels.” Lucifer gives Castiel a knowing look, “I would not put it above his older brother to force Sam to stay with him.”

Ah, yes. Dean. Dean would not like the idea at all and while Castiel had been able to convince Dean of sleeping, he knew this would be a complete failure. He inwardly cringes but luckily Dean is asleep. “I will ensure Sam comes back here.”

Lucifer nods, “And Dean will remain safe.” Castiel doesn’t want to even put the thought of what will happen to Dean if he doesn’t come through, but Lucifer voices it anyway. “I’ve been involved with the Winchester line much longer than yourself Cas. They’re all just a bunch of delicate dominoes.” Lucifer doesn’t have to say anything else for Castiel to understand. While traveling with Dean he had learned the details of the fire that caused a stress on the Winchester family. Deep down Castiel had a feeling it was his brother all along, having demons scope out his newly born true vessel. It took him a couple months but… Castiel stares forward and this time Lucifer does not know where Castiel’s mind is and instead just allows the two to rest in silence.

It’s sort of a mistake as Castiel is able to think about what he just promised. What would come of Sam after he came back to Seven Gates? Would he be allowed to leave? It opens a very large floodgate of doubt.

Castiel’s own doubt seems to help crack whatever wall was separating the sleeping Dean and awake Castiel because the dragon suddenly feels very wrong. Like the emotions Dean was experiencing was a mist or water oozing from his mind into Castiel's, fitting through the cracks. Pains appear all over Castiel’s body and suddenly he realizes.

Standing up, Castiel turns to his brother, looking down at the King of Seven Gates. Despite their posturing Castiel knew Lucifer could snap his fingers and make Castiel disappear bloody. “Did you know Dean was being tortured by Alastair?” Castiel asks, obviously frustrated..

For whatever reason, Lucifer just accepts the fact his brother is about to leave and responds in kind, rather quickly Castiel notes. “Not until I felt you in my territory.” Anger flashes across Castiel’s eyes, so his brother had time to stop Alastair but choose not to. Lucifer knows what Castiel is about to suggest, so he speaks up once again, “Well, I did have to give you an example of what would happen if Sam wasn’t returned to me.” True rage flits across every nerve in Castiel’s body for a quick second. It would have stayed longer but a pain that flows from Dean stows the anger.

“Do that again and I will personally ensure your life remains a living hell.” Castiel didn’t have to threaten to kill Lucifer, there was Sam now, not just Lucifer’s pride. Lucifer’s eyebrows rise in surprise at the blatant threat but seems to take it with little merit. Castiel was, after all, a less powerful force than that of Lucifer.

The younger says nothing else but leaves the scene, heading directly towards Dean and allowing the walls to officially crash, flooding himself with Dean’s raw emotions. They were raw, very raw, as painful if not worse, than when Dean was getting tortured. Worse, because they were hollow, broken and tattered on all sides. As soon as Castiel realizes that Dean is re-experiencing the terrors of Alastair’s torture he pushes every good feeling he has towards the hunter. Castiel can be rather impatient, especially when he wishes to disband any ailment that plagues Dean. Because of these need to be physically there Castiel spends some energy appearing directly behind the door in the front of  the room Dean that they shared. This is the exact reason Castiel chances such a powerful move near Dean, while it might freak out a conscious Dean, the hunter was far inside of his own thoughts. Castiel heads right towards the nest which he had resided in last night but now found Dean splayed out in the covers, his lower legs twisted in one of the blankets. The human dragon heads right into the recess in the floor and over the pillows to his r ider. While he sent the emotions, they could never be as strong as when he could physically send them through skin contact. The darker haired male finally reaches his counterpart’s side and rests on his knees, grabs Dean’s left shoulder. His grasp does push down on the skin, curving it to his hand. That’s not what matters, not to Cas at least, because the moment Castiel is connected to Dean he’s able to focus on calming the hunter and it works with ease. The nightmare clears up and the hunter relaxes, his body melting into the pillows.

Despite the success Castiel does not let go of the hunter, his eyes latched onto the freckled face. The freckles were at their most extreme right now, what with Alastair torturing Dean in the direct sunlight of Nemeris . They pepper all the curves of his shoulders and arms from the exposure as well but…. Dean’s face was one of Castiel’s favorite physical parts of Dean’s body. The stubble that grows in blonder in the desert, almost a subtle red. He loves the lashes that perform their purpose with excellent execution, saving those green orbs from dust and sand particles. He appreciates the curve of Dean’s mouth... when the corner curls once Dean finds something amusing. Castiel’s heart had ached before, when Lucifer had fallen, when their father left, when Rachel died. Strangely enough however, the thought of ever losing Dean stuck a far harsher knife into Castiel’s side. No. Never again would he ever allow his rider to go through the pain he suffered in Nemeris. With grave resolution Castiel drops his hand from Dean’s shoulder and shuffles the blankets and pillows around so that he can lay near the hunter. Once Castiel is comfortable he gently reaches forward again, placing his hand on Dean’s shoulder once more. It sits comfortably there and while Castiel could always waste time by counting Dean’s freckles, he allows himself to fall once more into sleep.

Chapter Text

When Dean wakes up, the sun is shining on him from the tall windows and there’s someone knocking at the door. He’s also extremely comfortable and extremely toasty. Something is tickling his chin but Dean’s too groggy to think much of it. As his brain starts to shift into gear the hunter realizes there’s a weight on his arm and side. Frowning, because he knew he didn’t go to sleep with someone there, he turns and opens his eyes. A short sea of dark hair greets Dean’s eyes and he makes the connection. Somehow, someway, Castiel and Dean had ended up cuddling. ` Castiel’s head rested on the left side of Dean’s chest, one arm lazily thrown over Dean as his chest expands and constricts against Dean’s own ribs. It’s now that Dean realizes that his arm had moved around Castiel in the night, ensuring the space between them was shortened even more. The knock comes again, harder this time and Castiel seems to stur, which in turn makes Dean bolt right up. He didn’t want it to be confused as anything, because if Cas was in his dragon form it’d be normal, so it didn’t matter… right? Dean just heads straight for the door, moving numbly just to separate himself from the weird feels that sat thereafter the comfort was gone.

Reaching out, Dean unlocks and opens the door, revealing Sam with a hand on his hip and a frown on his face. There was two servants behind him, one with a cart and the other holding two large serving plates. Sam steps in and sort of helps get Dean out of the doorway so the servants could fit in and bring the cart and plates towards the table. While they’re moving around Sam turns his complete attention towards his brother, his hands in his pockets. “You missed out on breakfast with Lucifer.”

Dean snorts, “Oh I’m devastated.” With the food passing under his nose the eldest hunter discovers that he was pretty hungry. “What time is it anyway?”

“Around ten.” Sam answers easily, looking over towards the now awake Castiel. As soon as the door was opened and the demons walked in, Castiel had been at full attention, as if their very presence set him on edge. Which made sense.

“Phh that’s not that bad.” Dean comments as the servants leave and he is able to sit down at the table. It reminded him very much of the castle Lawrence and very little of the hunter lifestyle. Dean takes away one of the plate covers and is greeted by the beautiful smell of eggs and meat; an all around hearty breakfast. Castiel finally crawls out from the nest and sits down as well.  pushing the other plate towards another sitting place before actually settling down in a chair.

As the two newly risers start to eat the group doesn’t share any words, not until Dean’s half way through his sausage links.

Of course it’s Sam, he’s the one that’s just sitting there. “So when you guys weren’t there at breakfast,” He looks down at his hand, which is resting on the table as he leans back in his chair. “We made a decision that we,” He moves his hand between the three of them at the table, “Should leave tomorrow.”

We,” Dean starts, swallowing whatever food was left in his mouth before pointing his fork between himself and Castiel, “Weren’t even there Sammy!”

Sam makes a face and shifts so that his spine is straight against the chair back. “I was tired when I traveled here, I can’t imagine how tired you guys are.” Sam says seriously, which makes both Castiel and Dean quiet. Especially since the eldest Winchester was pretty sure Sam had no idea what had happened to Dean in those sandy lands. He didn’t need to know, even if he was Lucifer’s rider. Ew, just even thinking about it made Dean’s skin crawl. But his brother is still talking and the eldest actually does listen. “So I can only imagine how hard it was with the storms and all.” Oh, so Lucifer had told Sam that . Both Dean and Castiel flashed the knowledge at each other and Dean managed to sneak in his own wish to keep the torture silent.

“Consider it done Dean.” Castiel answers so quickly Dean knew the dragon had decided the same. “He is not wrong.” Castiel speaks up honestly, “I doubt any storms will affect us on the way back, but carrying another person will make travel more difficult.” Dean could feel the phantom pains of arthritis of having to constantly have your hands (or in Castiel’s case, claws) clenched.

Dean still doesn’t like the idea however, “So? We just take it a little slow back.” Dean voices, his hand resting by his plate as he looks at his traveling companions.

Sam’s shaking his head however, “Lucifer said he could get us to the border easily, but he’d only help if we stayed another day.”

Dean groans, “Prick.” He picks up his fork again and stabs a piece of egg. Both Sam and Castiel watch Dean, unsure of what that actually meant in his over all choice. Dean finishes chewing before he lets them in on his thoughts. “I just get the feeling he’s planning something.”

Sam shrugs, “Maybe, but we’ll get back home quicker if Lucifer just gets us to the border.”

Castiel nods to this, “We might not like it, but I believe it might be in our best interests.”

There’s an overall silence and Dean’s back to eating. He doesn’t like it, but if both Sam and Castiel agree with the King, how is he to fight that? “Fucking whatever.” Dean grunts, “We’ll fucking stay.” He wants to throw his fork but that’s immature so he settles for stabbing a piece of steak this time.

Sam seems to think it’s a good time to leave, like he’s been only waiting for Dean to give his response before the youngest Winchester continues with this day. The tallest in the room stands and pushes in his chair, looking from Dean to Castiel, “I am going to stay with Lucifer to see if I can learn anything before we leave.”

Dean gets the sense that Castiel is against this idea just as much as Dean is, however the gigantor had already headed towards their door. Sam turns towards just as he’s passing over the threshold, “Just put all the stuff on the cart and leave it outside. Lucifer says he doesn’t want to have anyone come into your room while you’re not there so you can’t accuse him of anything.”
“Ouch.” Dean says but is rather grateful, really grateful. After all, he had stolen that sword. Luckily the thought doesn’t transfer over to Castiel, who just assumes the gratefulness was just because Dean hated Lucifer.  

“Don’t do anything stupid, we still have to be careful here.” Sam also says, pointing at Dean in particular. Dean scrunches up his nose.

“You’re the one that’s hanging around the King, I think I should worry the least.” Dean bites back with a little more venom than was really necessary. Sam choices to ignore it for one reason or another and disappears around the door, sending one final bitchface to Dean before heading to his destination.

The breakfast party of two stare at the doorway for a long moment before sharing words.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” Dean asks, finally tearing his eyes away to look at his lasting companion.

Castiel sighs, his eyes automatically on Dean when the hunter had turned. Castiel is rather worried for Sam’s safety but he knows one thing for sure. “He will be physically fine.”

 


 

Sam’s been spending a lot of time with Lucifer. When Castiel had left Lucifer’s side that morning the King had stayed for a little longer, watching as the sun completely rose. It was in this time that Sam had awaken and Lucifer shared the moment with Sam by having him look through the human dragon’s eyes. Seeing the colors reacting with the sandy buildings. It was a rather great way to start the day.

The youngest Winchester now heads down the hall towards the main entrance hall. Lucifer is already there, leaning against the railing, his face covered in that cocky smirk. “Ah and I was beginning to wonder if they had tied you up.” Lucifer teases despite the fact he was basically there for the entire thing, as Sam only cut out slivers of the conversation he had had with his traveling companions.

“Shut it.” Sam jokes back. Yes, Lucifer was King, he was a dragon and much more powerful than Castiel but Sam couldn’t help but be comfortable around the man. His intellectual sass was as good as Sam’s and actually challenged him. A low chuckle comes from the King and he shakes his head, giving Sam a look that managed to be sexual and lordly at the same time. Lucifer starts down the hall, heading towards the library but also towards the places in the castle Sam hasn’t been to yet. Sam follows without question, walking only slightly behind Lucifer since he doesn’t exactly know where they are going.

“We have a tower, I think you would like it.” Lucifer says with ease, checking over his shoulder to give Sam a little look. Before, when the two had only been sharing thoughts, Sam had thought the sexual innuendos just a paranoia but having spent some time with Lucifer… Sam wasn’t sure he was making them up after all. Not with the way Lucifer’s eyes scorched Sam’s body or the lingering touches shared between them. They passed through the halls and to a flight of spiral stairs, these stairs are less grand than those of the entrance and obviously are less used. They are still made of stone but the stones are much more block-like and Sam actually has to pick up his feet a bit more. Luckily Lucifer is a tall person as well, because when the castle was built it was a definite requirement for the King to keep his head up at all times, giving Sam a comfortable head room as well.

They ascend the stairs for quite some time but once they reach the top, but it’s all worth it. This tower is the tallest structure in the city and you could see for miles outside of the walls. There were large windows on all sides of the tower, making it more open.These windows did have shutters however, all an onyx black with golden handles. The room itself was nothing noteworthy, simple sandstone floors and walls. But there was a single chair, a deep velvet purple that looks perfect to slip into. Sam knew that very moment this would be his favorite room. Next to the chair was a side table, dark in color which made it pop from the light sand tones. On that table sat a little lamp which quickly jumps to life, though it’s light wasn’t exactly needed.

“You can do that?” Sam asks in their space. Lucifer nods and gives Sam a wink, heading over to the chair where he moves his hand. Another chair, this time in red, appears. This one has bigger arms, more cylinder than the purple’s basin shape. Sam doesn’t even have to ask Lucifer about this and that in itself makes Lucifer practically purr with pleasure. Things were different now that Sam and Lucifer were physically in each other’s presence. Sam still knew that this was thee evil his father wants to kill, he knew that Lucifer had planned the death of thousands of humans but on the same token…. He was Sam’s dragon. They had bonded . Maybe they hadn’t completely... but still, Sam knew that by this time, they were too far gone. Lucifer was his dragon, through their very connection Sam could feel the talons behind Lucifer’s fingernails, the fire behind his authority, the power in his footsteps.  

The King sighs as he falls back into the red seat, kicking his feet up on one of the window sills. Sam rolls his eyes but smirks regardless, joining Lucifer by taking his seat in the purple chair. Luc looks lazily over to Sam and grins, “You know Sam,” He starts, his voice rumbling in Sam’s very core, “You and me? We’d make great partners.”

Sam blinks and his heart picks up it’s beat tenfold, which of course Lucifer can feel himself. “What?” Sam breaths out and he can’t help but have the voice of Dean telling him in the back of his head to not act like a girl. Dean still didn’t get it, how emotion was ruler and reaction had nothing to do with if someone was manly or not. Sam didn’t think too much on the subject however, as Lucifer’s next words pulled him to a different thought process all together.

Sam had been hoping he meant it platonically but… “If I had more time I would court you. But with your brother here I do not think it’s a good idea.” The King drops his leg from the sill and turns a little more towards Sam, so their knees are touching. “Think about it Sam, where’s the wrong? So long as we’re both living we’re gonna be stuck together. We might as well have fun.” Sam’s heart was going too fast now and heat was rising everywhere, his skin getting claustrophobic under the constriction of the fabric.   

“Yeah but-” Sam says, stopping as soon as Lucifer makes a move. He’s off of his chair and suddenly shoving himself between Sam’s legs. He leans over the hunter, focusing the taller to lean back into the plush velvet.

“Oh come on Sam.” Lucifer hums, his fingertips marching up Sam’s leg until he reaches the center. Lucifer wastes no time cupping and squeezing Sam playfully, licking the rim of his ear at the same time. “I can offer you everything. This city could be your’s. I could make you free.” His voice is rough with want and Sam can’t help but feel the very need bolt down his spine. Lucifer’s very touch was pleasure, the closer he was the more sparks flew. Lucifer didn’t make any more of an advancement on Sam, his thumb rubbing against the rising fabric. He’s still in Sam’s space and Sam can feel the mixture of their pounding heartbeats. He wants the warmth, the pure lightening of their embrace.

“Fuck it.” Sam growls more to himself than Lucifer before grabbing forward and pulling Lucifer down, crashing their lips hungrily. Despite what everyone would expect Sam Winchester is not one to bend back often. Not saying he won’t, it’s just not on his current list of things to do. His fingers instead slide through Lucifer’s sandy hair, grabbing and holding the King there.

Luc seems to rather enjoy the rough hold Sam had adapted and simply moves one arm under Sam’s legs before they teleport to Lucifer’s room.

Sam’s not sure if it’s normal to be aroused by that but it worked. There was a feeling of power behind it, the pure electricity and awe that this was his dragon that just moved them to a completely different room. Lucifer just chuckles lowly and showers Sam’s shocked face with hungry little kisses, with the occasional nibble. The King is not idle however and now that they are both on top of a red silk bed, he starts to undress Sam. His fingers are nimble and make expert work of Sam’s pants and shirt before the hunter can really register all that’s going on. At least Lucifer is considerate enough to pause a bit now, even if it is to remove his own shirt. While Sam is almost pure muscle from the years of eating healthy and training Lucifer is stocky. He’s not out of shape and there are definite muscles in his movements… His body is just simply less defined, and built with a boxy shape in mind while Sam seems to taper. The hunter doesn’t exactly have time to discern the details, he’s too busy running his hands over the freshly revealed skin and kissing Lucifer. Sam’s hands do venture down as they continue, his fingers slipping under the fabric of Lucifer’s pants and through the sea of hair to touch the King’s erection. Pleasure takes hold of Sam. It was true, what one felt, the other definitely experienced, making this a whole new level of pleasure for both of them. Sam suddenly lifts his leg around Lucifer to pull him closer, his hand ripping Lucifer’s pants down to reveal Lucifer’s member to the air. Much like his partner, Sam doesn’t waste much time, shifting them so that their penises run parallel.

The youngest Winchester had never been with a man before, had no prior experience, but Lucifer did . The King found Sam’s sudden intensity enthralling and couldn’t help but feed him the possibilities for the two of them. The understanding, the pleasure, it was undeniable… to move their bodies and just know the feelings they are passing on to each other; the ecstasy. It’s no wonder why it doesn’t take long for both of them to cum, each splattering the other’s stomachs in the gooey white liquid.

Lucifer, who had been placed over Sam for that enter time now flops over onto his back besides his hunter, a chuckle rolling out of him. “If I had said that yesterday would it have worked?” Lucifer asks, it’s teasing and supposed to sound condescending but Sam knows the truth, that Lucifer secretly regrets the time wasted on sleeping alone.   

“Probably not.” Sam lies, stretching slightly on the comfortable bed. There was no embarrassment of being naked in front of each other, maybe it was the fact they were attached at the brain but Sam felt pretty confident. Probably because he knows the King likes what he sees. A cocky smirk crosses over Sam’s face, yeah, the king wanted him .

Lucifer nods, “Acceptable.” He reasons, looking from the ceiling towards Sam and now visually investigating all the interesting parts he hadn’t been able to properly see before.

Sam allows him, matter of fact, the hunter raises himself on his elbow, turning a little to look at the King laying next to him. Sam has had sex before, he had been in that afterglow before, but this was different. There was a completeness to it, no empty pockets of doubt. Lucifer’s pleasure was Sam’s and visa versa. They knew how the other felt, how the touching of skin made them equally like a live wire; undressed them down to their bare elemental needs and wants.

The youngest hunter is not done however, oh no, Sam has energy and after a couple minutes of just catching his breath and staring. He makes a move. “So.” The human starts, shifting a little to look Lucifer perfectly in the face, the King does the same. Maybe some awkwardness seeps in here but Sam continues right on his path, having a feeling it’d work out. “Do you think it’s possiblewecandothatagain?” He asks a little quickly, hooding his eyes by staring at Lucifer’s lips and not his piercing blue eyes.

When others openly laugh it usually makes the speaker uncomfortable but Sam doesn’t get that, instead he feels Lucifer’s triumphant amusement before the King flops himself right back over Sam.
“Anything and everything you wish.” Lucifer mumbles between a kiss, holding his hand out towards the front door of the room. The door locks and bright blue writing sears itself onto the walls before disappearing to the human eye. Lucifer now straddles Sam’s more slender waist, looking down at the tanned man. Lucifer is tanned as well, but his is more of a lighter warmer while Sam’s is a deeper brown. He runs his large hands down Sam’s flexed stomach towards the forest of dark hairs.

“Thousands of years I waited for you Sam.” The King hums, and at this time Sam can’t even tell if it’s in his head or out loud. To feel the electricity of being touched by such a powerful force... “To finally have you here…” Lucifer starts kissing a trail down Sam’s chest, moving his hot kisses farther down. “Is rather surreal.” A trembling excitement wafts over Sam and he becomes alive again, his heartbeat picking up to that of a hummingbird. “It’s a shame you have to leave.” Lucifer hums as he reaches around Sam’s naval. Lucifer’s hands had remained pretty dormant in the space between Sam’s slowly hardening penis and balls but now makes a movement, turning his palm up to ride along Sam’s shaft.

The human gasps at this and folds up a bit into Lucifer, unable to keep any sort of distance between their bodies. With one hand stroking Sam, Lucifer now moves his mouth down to leave kisses along the top length.

Blood shoots to the hunter’s member at the very experience of it all. His breath was quickening and his fingers found themselves in Lucifer’s raggedy hair. He’s looking down at a weird angle but what he sees is magnificent. Lucifer is raw power, Sam can feel it against his skin, trembling his nerves and to see this power now surrounding Sam’s member whole. It was ecstasy. Warmth emcampasses Sam's throbbing member and a slick tongue hugs the skin, sucking on the softer, more reactive spots. Sam makes a guttural moan, his mane of hair flinging back with his head as his fingers pull harder on Lucifer’s hair. Despite the compromising position Sam knew that Lucifer was still in charge, it didn't matter if he had Sam's dick in his mouth, vibrating the member with his throat. He was still the King, power and awe and golden.

That vast well of desire and pleasure deepens in Sam, a hunger that needs release. His hips jerk up into Lucifer’s enclosed mouth but it does nothing to the King who's too strong to be pushed around by Sam's uncontrolled movements. “Luke I'm gonna- fuck!” Sam warns, either out loud or in their space or maybe both, his head boiling over with sparks of pleasure and a deep seated desire.

The King stops now, completely pulls away to look at the hunter. Sam huffs,, his hair messy and slightly in his face but he lets the King go, watching him with intense eyes. Sam's far past the pre-cum stage and is rather shaky, his head swimming from the sudden change. “Wha--?”

Sam never gets to finish because Lucifer is swarming his personal zone, his hands raking over Sam and reminding the hunter that the rest of his body is also in need of touch. Sam hungrily pulls Lucifer’s newly freed lips up to his own, locking their lips. Now Sam runs his own hands towards his partner's erect member. Lucifer’s body hair is blonde in nature and while there are some tones that could be counted as light brown, it wasn't dark enough to be considered anywhere near just brown. He's also already wet with pre-cum and shivers as Sam's hand invasion, letting out a low gasp when Sam grabs on firmly. Lucifer however moves his own fingers further back on Sam's back section, and Sam suddenly feels unsure, making Lucifer stop. “No?” He asks, sounding rather disappointed. Sam could feel it, how it breaks Lucifer’s drive a little.

Sam, being Sam, wanted to fix the problem but he wasn't willing to do that just yet. “If there's any discomfort I will fix it.” Lucifer says smoothly and without much emotion. Sam strokes the still hard member within his hand and watches as Lucifer starts to get restless once again, the disappointment disappearing and being replaced by a desperate need. Sam spends a moment to think on it, instead looking down at the flushed penis in his hand. It's not the biggest dick in the world, and is actually a similar size to Sam's. It's not that threatening, it's not barbed or extremely large in girth. And if Sam said no? He would be leaving tomorrow and no one really knew when he'd be back… giving ihim no other time to really do anything.

He doesn't voice it, but instead kisses Lucifer on the lips once more before leaning forward to bite his jugular, leaning himself forward and spreading his legs open more as he does so. The King feels Sam’s acceptances and moves quickly, inserting a finger into Sam. For the first time during their does Sam does feel a little awkward, as his ass had never been this sort of touched before. His brow furrows and Lucifer starts to slip his fingers around. Sam now would like to make a mention that while he had gone to the bathroom before this whole experience he hadn't felt this empty before, like Lucifer somehow cleared his system with as some unknown, unassuming magic. Sam doesn't have time to focus on this though, not as Lucifer’s long finger hits far enough back that pleasure shoots through Sam, making his dick throb in need. Suddenly Sam realized the pleasure that came along with this and he spreads his legs even more. Sending between their brains for Luc to insert another. The King follows the order with vigor and starts focusing on just expanding the skin. Sam's hands had been only slightly attentive to Lucifer during this current experience but the King doesn't seem to mind, too fascinated by Sam's reactions to complain. Matter of fact, Sam knew it was getting him off more than being touched. Sam still does start to move his own hand, biting down on Luc’s shoulder whenever there is a bit of pain. Sam does however open easily enough for Lucifer’s magical fingers and once they’re both sure, the King removes his fingers. There's this emptiness in Sam now and there's an ache for it to be filled, to be stuffed with warmth and pleasure. Lucifer couldn't agree more and pulling Sam on top of his legs, they finally are the closest they've ever been. Lucifer’s member is a much different entity than that of just Lucifer’s fingers. It was filling and singlehandedly one of the most pleasurable things Sam has ever experienced. He lets out a shaky sigh, his nerves short circuiting slightly at the overhaul of pleasure. His legs feel like butter already, purely tensed but wobbly all the same.

Lucifer now takes command, sliding his own ass back so he's more at a tilt and Sam can place his legs neatly on either side of Lucifer. The King now reaches forward and grabs at either side of Sam's rib cage, digging in his nails there to signal Sam to move.

It should be better explained now, that when dragons and their riders perform sexual actions without walls placed, they feel everything the other does. Sam feels the pleasure of Lucifer embedding himself in him, he feels the pleasure of his own warmth. Lucifer’s own prostate reacts from the pure powerful response of Sam's. It's just what happens in the final throws of pure bonding. Because of this bonded pleasure neither of them last long in the thrusts and both soon exert themselves with blinding white bliss. This time the pleasure sent the two rocketing much farther off the scale than before and they needed several minutes just to catch their breath.

Lucifer is the first to speak, or rather laugh. He laughs, openly and heartily. Sam doesn’t even have to voice his curiosity for Lucifer to explain. “What a week.” He exclaims in amusement, sending a grin over to Sam, who just has to return the expression.
“You can say that again.” Sam says, his voice rather humorous before he bursts out into laughter as well. It really has been one hell of a week.

 


 

Unlike his brother, Dean is having a much different kind of day. After he had eaten with Castiel the two had headed out of the castle to investigate the grounds. They didn’t stop in any of the shops or talk to anyone but instead passed through vaguely noticed. It was hard to not get noticed when you’re the only human with a dragon parading around as a human as well. Maybe that’s why the two of them don’t really circle anything but sort of head directly for the walls. They can leave, the guards don’t tell them to stop. One guard does, however, call out after them. “The gates shut an hour after sunset!”

Dean just raises a hand to the guard and continues on the walk with his dragon. It’s actually green outside of Viti, but there aren’t a lot of trees. Unlike Potesta, which contains many dense forests, these Seven Gates ‘forests’ have maybe a cluster or two of extreme foliage and then space. The ground still made it hard for trees to really take hold and most trees’ leaves cannot handle the amount of sun Viti receives, burning up in the process. There is such a thing as shade however, as some older trees create an umbrella of sorts, blocking them from the sun and the prying eyes of the demon guards. Once there, Castiel sits with his back to the tree, leaving room for Dean to do the same. The hunter follows Castiel’s suggestion and sits down without a grunt, which was something he would never do before Castiel fixed him up. Dean doesn’t need to openly thank Castiel, the blue eyed man can feel it through the way Dean sits next to him, like the separation between the two was cracking, something they might not want, but wholeheartedly need. “You think Sam is okay?” Dean asks, because he really doesn’t know what to talk about in this moment, they hadn’t exactly planned it or anything. And what do you say to a guy who already knows your feelings?

There’s a pause as Castiel stares out in front of them. They had picked another good spot. Since Viti was the capital of Seven Gates, other settlements had formed around it. There was some land separating the populated areas but you could still see the shapes of the less grand buildings. “Words and feelings are not the same thing Dean.” Castiel finally says, turning to look at his rider. “As for Sam, I am sure he is safe. Wherever he may be.”

Dean blinks, “You don’t know where he is?”

Castiel shakes his head, “No, but from what I saw from a guard’s mind, they haven’t left the castle.”

Dean’s not sure if he likes that, but he can’t really do anything about it, can he? He then thinks of things he can do, which is not much until he gets out of Seven Gates. Dean looks away from those blue pools to ever so slightly rolling hills of rough green grass and the occasional clump of 10 to 30 trees. What were they going to do when they got back? That was a whole other subject he had yet to think about. Sudden panic sets in because they had left Impala by herself and who knows where Stanford is. What were they going to say when they go back to Bobby? That they went on holiday in Seven Gates? Ha! Dean lets out a sigh and looks at his hands, which are clasped in front of him. Rubbing his thumb over his knuckles the eldest Winchester son turns to Cas. “What are we gonna do when we get home?” He asks quietly, his eyes locking with Castiel’s before he looks back at his undamaged knuckles.

Castiel shrugs, “I paid the stable boy enough to take care of Impala for a week so I assume we will get her back and start back to either Whitefish or the Roadhouse.” Castiel sounds pretty confident in this.

“Can you tell what’s going on over there?” Dean asks now, his eyes locked back on Castiel’s face and expressions. The dragon’s jaw is locked, his brow furrowed tightly like he’s trying to figure something out.

“No, I have no real connections with the dragons that are there currently. Plus,” He locks eyes with Dean, “You’re not there.” Castiel probably meant it in the way that neither of them are over the border so neither of them knew what was going on but still… it did sound more personal than just informative. Dean nods at this, his eyes locked with Castiel’s the entire time until he looks back down at his hands. “So… what? We just work cases like before?” Dean asks, wishing he had a ring to twirl around his finger mindlessly. “After finding out you’re a dragon?”

Castiel’s nose wrinkles in disapproval. “That is exactly what we are going to do Dean. If your grandfather discovers that you have become a rider he will demand we join his ranks. Which I am not keen on.” He looks over at Dean’s face with a seriousness Dean knew was to not taken lightly.

Dean just sighs and hangs his head, “It’d just be cool to be hunting on a dragon I mean, come on Cas, it’s badass!”

Now Castiel smirks, shaking his head slightly as he looks back over the scene in front of them. “Perhaps you’re right.” He allows, but Dean’s gotta push, it’s who he is.

“I know I am. Dragons strike the fear of God into people man.” Castiel’s face drains a little but Dean doesn’t pick up on it in the shade of the tree.

There’s a pause in the conversation now and Dean just takes in the environment around them. It’s hot, really hot, but the shade helps a lot. Condensation slowly forms around hairlines and folded skin, including the folds of Dean’s eyelids. Luckily the hunter often carries a bandana to wipe the sweat away. “I’m not saying I enjoy this heat, but it’s not as hot as I expected.” Dean comments which makes his companion look over.

“I had a similar thought before.”

Dean’s eyebrows raised at the statement and he gives his partner a look. “Really?”

Castiel nods, notably not locking eyes with Dean as he continues to look at the nature in front of them. “I thought because Lucifer was banished to this place it would be… well, Hell.” He gestures a little with his hands around them, “But look at this!” He is starting to sound a little mad. “It’s just hotter here, and separated! But that’s it.” Cas makes a disgusted face, “I guess it just proves that Lucifer was our father’s favorite.”

Something hits Dean now, a realization that this entire time he’s been rather concerned with just himself and Sam, having no thoughts on what this whole experience was for Cas. After all… Lucifer was Castiel’s older brother. That’s all sorts of fucked. But how does one respond to this? Dean’s brother wasn’t banished, he didn’t have this sort of resignation towards him, he could only imagine how confusing it felt. “How you doing Cas?” Dean asks, gently bumping his shoulder into his companion, his eyes locking with Castiel’s as he looks over from the physical touch. As it often seems to go, there’s a long pause of dialogue between the two, their eyes locked so tightly that time stops and speeds up all at once. Dean feels the weight slowly dampening his shoulders, the fact that Castiel is the strongest of the group of three and therefore has the overwhelming need to be constantly vigilant and that was rather hard to do when one of the two was in relations with Lucifer. Dean sees the aggravation that colors Castiel’s blue eyes that richer hue, how despite the fact he is the most powerful he is still nothing compared to his brother. The incapability of it all.

But even with all of that Castiel was still glad to be here, sitting next to Dean and facing the wave together. It really hits Dean that if Castiel wasn’t here, if he wasn’t what he was, Sam would be lost to Dean. Possibly forever.

“I am here.” The dragon responds loosely, turning away from Dean but his eyes lingered on his rider. “I am here.” He sort of reminds himself the second time. It must be weird being behind enemy lines when those lines are set up to keep your brother at bay. “Do you remember when I told you I had doubts about joining my brother’s cause?” Castiel asks, which Dean responds to with a mental affirmative. “Being here now... it does not feel too different.” He’s frowning as he looks down at his own hands, which had mirrored Dean’s because he honestly didn’t know what to do with them. He makes a disgusted face, “I am breaking almost every single rule I had once set.”

Dean couldn’t help but feel slightly responsible for Castiel’s fall. After all, while Castiel had helped get Sam back what was the cost to Castiel? “I’m sorry Cas.” Dean rumbles out, sounding a little ashamed.

The dragon’s already shaking his human head, his dark brown hair fluffing around. “Do not be sorry. These are all choices I have made.” Dean can’t help but be unable to shake the guilt, so he instead hides it from Castiel, which is the classic Winchester way.

“Yeah.” Dean mumbles out, now thinking of his own domino's effect. When Castiel had first joined Dean had wanted to break Castiel into the role, make him more mortal. It makes Dean cringe, did Castiel deserve to fall to the humanity of the Hunter life? The sacrifice? Because that’s exactly what Dean was now making Castiel do, bend his back for mere people. Don’t get Dean wrong, he saves people all the time, but was Dean really worth it? The hunter wasn’t that sure. Sam was, he could rule Lawrence fairly, but Dean…. No, he was a bastard.

The dark cloud building above Dean must have be noticeable to his counterpart because Castiel frowns and, whether intentional or just a reaction, reaches out to grab Dean’s hand. Normally Dean only allowed his mother or a female to touch his hand for comfort, it was too awkward for a man to do such a caring and intimate gesture. Dean would normally pull away, laugh it off but he doesn’t this time. Instead he looks down at his own hand, which Castiel had gently snaked his own into and blinks. There is nothing wrong about this, matter of fact it is the most right thing Dean has done in the last week. He squeezes Castiel’s hand in his own calloused one and lets it drop in the space between them. “Thanks.” Dean states humbly in the space between them.

Anything.” Castiel hums back in their private place, his voice more comforting than anyone else's.

“Diddo, you nerd.”

 

Dean and Castiel don’t spend all of the day there, matter of fact, they only stay maybe an hour or so. A bell chimes at noon to inform the city and the surrounding area that it is lunch time. This is the first cultural difference between Potesta and Seven Gates.

As the two head back into the city a couple minutes after the bell, they are rather shocked by the deserted streets. Noon seems to be taken rather serious in the capital, but the two do see movement in shops and houses, so they safely assume that everyone just wishes to get out of the direct sunlight. There are canopies of fabric that stretch between certain houses in the market district but even they cannot protect the demons from the heat.

Dean whistles as they near the castle and still haven’t really seen anyone. “This is freaky.” He jokes, kinda.

Castiel nods, his brow once again furrowed in concentration. “It is rather odd.” They make it to the castle and everything seems normal, just the guards are all sitting down and eating. This is when things get a little nasty. Because the closer they get the more Dean can see the red, the red being blood. His jaw starts to slowly drop, as he recognizes the coiled flesh of a large intestine. He upchucks in his mouth a little before he can stop himself. He spits it out easily and turns his head towards the guards. “What the fuck !?” He yells, not getting any closer because that’s just fucking nasty.

“It’s lunch time.” The guard says, startled by Dean’s freak out.

The other guard, which looks to be eating the smaller intestine speaks up. “What? You thought that demons didn’t eat at all ?”

No!” Dean rumbles, throwing up his hands. “I didn’t fucking know! I haven’t seen a single fucking demon eating anyone’s innards!” This was fucking nasty. Yeah werewolves ate hearts and witches used dead things as well but…. Fuck.

“Dean.” Castiel starts, ever sounding like the voice of reason. “These are pishachas, they’re flesh eating demons.” These guards are still wearing their full helmets and gear so their faces and dark flesh are covered up by plating. However, now that Dean really starts to get a look, their eyes are not hidden in the shadow like an average demon, but instead are not only protruding a little but also shine red, a different red from that of the crossroad demons. Some light shone on one of demons’ cheeks and Dean can see the dark decaying flesh, the veins that bubble just near the surface. He feels overwhelmingly sick, he knew there were regular demons and crossroad demons and fucking white eyed demons but what the fuck?

“Pishachas follow the gods of the East, Lucifer must have made a deal with someone over there to get some.”

“Great!” Dean says again, out loud for the demons to know they were being talked about before he storms into the castle, right past the sitting guards. “Demons on lunch break. Fucking lovely.” Dean spits out once it’s just him and Castiel again.

“You should never watch me eat in dragon form than.” Castiel sort of changes the topic, looking at Dean with amusement, of all things, in his eyes. “As you are aware of what dragons eat.”

Dean’s jaw drops for a second time, “So like, you eat raw pigs and shit?”

Castiel nods, and fucking smirks . It’s one of the most charming things Dean has ever witnessed and he’s pretty sure Cas doesn’t even realize it’s a grade A move. “And people when the mood strikes me.” He answers with a sort of chirp in his tone.

“You’re kidding me.” Dean drops his tone and stops in his step for a second. Castiel continues on however, apparently following the trail of Lucifer or maybe Sam.

“Not in the slightest.” Castiel answers back, trying to hold his smile back, which isn’t exactly working. Luckily he’s leading the line of two to their destination so he doesn’t have to really hide it on his face, just in his voice. This didn’t mean that Dean couldn’t feel the amusement however, after all, they were connected.

Dean’s smiling, just at the pure enjoyment Castiel was getting out of this. The blue dragon never seemed to joke but damn, if he wasn’t picking up on it fast. They had dropped hands when they had gotten up from their place under the trees and hadn’t regained it since. Cas seemed to know that Dean wasn’t ready for that in public, no matter how comfortable they were in private. Gratefulness that Castiel was his dragon washes over Dean once more and he looks over at the shorter man. He looked so human, but so otherworldly at the same time. His skin soaked up the warm hues of the lights around them and his blue eyes seemed to darken their color in these shadows. They were so wise though, slightly wrinkled at the corners, leading to the laugh lines that appear every once and awhile. He held himself much like that of a dignitary here, straight back and tall.

This time they enter a sort of dining hall, with one single table in the middle. Lucifer and Sam were already sitting there, as well as the blonde woman from that morning. Dean sends that comment over to Cas and the dragon mentally confirms it. “That’s Lilith.”

“Great.”

“Oh good!” Lucifer pipes up, raising a goblet of red liquid towards the newcomers. “And here I thought we lost you to bush coitus.” Sam spits out his drink at the lewd comment and Lilith starts to giggle rather creepily.

“Nah we just watched some of your goons eating raw Intestines. It was lovely.” Dean combats, which is effective because Sam places his fork down to look at the King with astonishment.

Dean couldn't help but notice how Sam seemed to now have a say in Lucifer’s doings and it made Dean both smug and slightly concerned.

Dean’s attention is turned towards the servants, as they’re placing already made plates of food in front of both late comers. The hunter can't help but notice that Castiel's portion is nearly three times the amount Dean has and they didn't skimp out on the human. “You're gonna eat all that?” Dean asks with disbelief but he was self-conscious enough to keep the question between just them.

Castiel smiles from across the table, looking down at his plate before grabbing his fork and turning to his brother, responding to Dean in time. “Need I remind you I'm also a dragon?”

Guess so. Dean responds without responding as Lucifer digs into his own food, signaling for everyone else to eat.

There seems to be a grace period of silence as they all start to dig in but Lucifer does break it some time after Dean finishes his fish and moves to the spiced rice. “Oh,” He clasps his hands loudly together which makes everyone look towards the King. “Dean Winchester of Lawrence this is Lilith, ruler of New Harmony, my second in command and most beloved of my staff. Cassie, you've already met Lilith.”

Castiel snarls a little, he had placed himself next to Lilith to free Dean from the torture, as Dean was sitting next to his brother. His brother.

Dean choices to not say anything to Lilith and instead does a physical check of his brother. Sam had changed clothing sometime that morning but it also looked like he had taken a bath. Dean frowns as he guesses Lucifer lavished Sam in niceties instead of allowing the hunter to gather information. Sam seems to be a little put-off by Dean's examination but he ignores it as best as possible. The eldest brother also notices a light blush on Sam's cheeks, but then again, he had spat out his drink, which led to coughing. So the pink cheeks could just be there, or even just the heat. It's the exact reason Dean doesn't think much of it, if his brother was doing something bad he'd be acting a lot more stiff.

“I actually met Dean this morning.” Lilith cuts into Dean's thoughts, pulling him back into the group of people.

Lucifer finds this rather interesting and turns to look directly at Dean. Dean had gotten the least amount of face time with Lucifer, so, having his pale blue eyes piercing Dean's face was just downright uncomfortable. Like an ant under a magnify glass. “Oh? And how'd that happen?” He practically purrs, making Dean's skin crawl.

“I couldn't go back go sleep so I went on a walk.” Dean shrugs, but Lucifer keeps staring. He just keeps staring. The King doesn't exactly look like he believes Dean and in the silence of silent questioning Lilith speaks up.

“Filthy human.” She mumbles under her breath before returning to digging into her own food, which is smaller than Castiel's. Dean has the distinct feeling that she ate before lunch. He also feels the sudden heat of Castiel’s anger rise, and Dean can tell he’s about to say something but Lucifer gets there first.

Lucifer’s eyes now do switch their object of interest as they shoot towards Lilith, a snarl pulling his lip up. “Excuse me?”

Lilith’s crazily serene face suddenly drops and is replaced with a quieted anguish. She can't open her mouth for some odd reason and pure fear appears in her eyes. Her body starts to stress, like she was holding her stance against the pain. It does become too hard to bare eventually and she looks towards her master with tear filled eyes.

Lucifer moves his hand in the air and Lilith mouth seems to unglue itself and she gasps for air. Her aura of bitch only disappears for this moment but once she regains her composure she goes right back. “Humblest apologies.” She states coldly, looking towards Sam instead of Dean. Lucifer nods in acceptance at this and looks over to his brother, apparently done with picking on his general. It was rather frightening, if she was his most beloved what could… would he do to Sammy? Dean was never really for this whole connection thing between Lucifer and Sam before, but now he disliked it even more and to make it worse, it felt irreversible at this point. Maybe that was the whole point of Lucifer wanting Sam to stay that one extra day. Dean's heart is getting a little cold.

“So what did my lovely brother do with his rider today?”

Neither Castiel nor Dean particularly liked the wording of that question but give the answer all the same. It's Castiel who speaks as Lucifer had asked him, eyes locked and everything. “We went for a walk.” Cas doesn't give any emotion to his brother but instead stares back. Maybe they're communicating, Dean's not quite sure, but eventually both of them settle back into their seats like something became realized. Castiel seemed the more off of the two, looking at everyone at the table but his eyes lingering on the Winchesters the longest.

Lucifer now picks up the conversation with Dean again and makes a motion towards his plate. “Sam tells me you like pie.” Dean turns his head towards his brother in betrayal but gets his attention brought back to Lucifer by his next words. “If not, the cooks will be rather sore.” He claps his hands twice and a door to the side opens, revealing servants with carts covered in pies.

If Dean was a stronger man maybe he wouldn't have paid attention to the pies and instead would have seen the look that is shared between his brother and his dragon. It's the conversation Castiel needs and Dean doesn't notice so the new information gets placed away in Castiel's mind.

“Guess you're not all that bad.” Dean offers in a moment of confidence before cringing away from the look Lucifer gives.

“I guess.” The King responds, finding amusement in Dean's brazenness.

 


 

Dean's not the only one having trouble with other people's dragons. Sam, who had cleaned up and stopped having sex with Lucifer not even an hour ago is feeling rather uncomfortable. Lucifer had informed him that no matter what they did, no matter how much they cleaned, Cas would still know. Something about it being engraved in one's soul once they are officially bonded.

The King has also told Sam that he would convince Castiel to keep his mouth shut. So, when the two brother's had their staring match and Cas looks directly into Sam's eyes, Sam knows that he was told.

“He promises to keep it quiet for now .” Lucifer makes mention in passing to Sam, talking to Dean like it was easy to hold two different conversations.

Sam, instead of staring at his brother looked towards Castiel. It was a better choice than that of Lilith but Sam wasn't sure by much. The blue eyed man was staring Sam down and if the human was getting the right vibe he was not only appalled but also jealous. Sam's not sure if he's actually seeing this or the idea was pre-planted in his brain by the King, but he was pretty sure he could see it. The silent frustration that colored his eyes a deeper blue, a sadness at being the first to see their rider and the last to bond as such.

Lucifer had told Sam that dragons who can change form often consciously or subconsciously crave to have sex with their riders. A day ago and it would have been an odd prospect for Sam, but now he understood the need for that sort of connection. The mind and body mixing with that of  another. There was nothing like it. But Sam stops thinking about the wonderful sex he had with the King and focuses on Castiel, who's eyes haven't left Sam's face since Dean turned his head. It's obvious he wants to talk with Sam, but it'd be a little difficult since they weren’t connected as such. Sam thinks again about the topic of sex and dragons and how they had joked about it. They never had before... it was oddly never suggested when it came to King Campbell’s dragons.

Lucifer now hisses across their connection, sounding rather dragonic, which is fitting. “Dragons are forced to stay in their dragon form and are not allowed to sleep in the same room as their riders.” The King looks from Dean over to Sam for a quick second before returning to the guest he was currently entertaining. “So, no, you wouldn’t hear about it. It’s secretly banned.” That changes a lot of the relationship, not Sam and Lucifer’s, but that of Dean and Castiel. Sam couldn’t possibly join King Campbell’s riders because he was attached to Lucifer, you know, the force they were fighting. A pit suddenly opens up in his stomach. Oh no, their grandfather could induct Dean into his order and use Sam has a way to get to Lucifer. The only saving grace was that King Campbell was their grandfather and he might show some sympathy towards his grandsons. On the same token Samuel and Mary never really got along after she married John, they just rubbed each other the wrong way.

By this time Dean was digging into a freshly cut piece of pie and Lucifer can finally turn his attention towards Sam, which is particularly easy as the Winchesters are sitting next to each other. Sam can feel Lucifer’s eyes on him before he actually meets them, light browns connecting with vibrant blue. The King, who had been acting rather carefree now places a rather serious look upon his face, “Sam. You are my motivation to change this. I will not allow a single person to even think the thought of hurting you.” It was a tall promise from a man who wasn’t allowed to leave the sand.

There was doubt there and looking back on it, that’s probably what set off the King and not Dean’s fork scraping up the leftover filling. Regardless, within seconds the King has his first violent outburst.

 


 

Dean is totally trying to break up the staring fest between his brother and the fucking King of Seven Gates. King! He just didn’t expect such a violent reaction. He should have however, what with what had happened with Lilith.

One minute Dean is noisily clattering his fork into the metal plate with Castiel quietly chastising him and the next, all the food is pushed onto the floor in one violent outburst of power. In that very second of calamity the King had stood, breathing with an aggravation that reminded Dean very much of a hundred foot tall dragon. Lucifer doesn’t say anything and the moment the tantrum is over he seems to realize exactly what he’s done. He looks around, starting on Dean and Lilith, lingering on Castiel and flat out refusing to look towards Sam, which was not a very prideful thing to do.

The King flings up a hand as he’ turns to leave the room. “Someone get me Ruby!” Lilith took this as her job and rises from her seat like nothing had happened, stepping over the flung food until she reaches a safe section, where she continues to walk with purpose.

Once the general hubbub was dealt with and only the three remained with the servants working to clean up the miss, Dean speaks. “Great. Child King.”

“Hush!” Castiel chastises again, rises and monitoring the demons. Dean actually listens this time and watches as Castiel has his own internal struggle. Cas could easily clean up the mess with a flick of his wrist and would do so for any other servants, but these are demons .

He finally decides for it and does flick his wrist, all the food disappearing and the plates appearing fresh and cleaned on the table. No one was expecting that, not a single person in the room so when the incident did occur Castiel reacted much like his brother and hightailed it out. Both riders follow Cas out and down the hall until they are reasonably alone.

“That was really nice of you Cas.” Sam comments sincerely, like he somehow profoundly recognized the struggle.

Dean rolls his eyes because, come on, “Um, did you not just see your fucking dragon throw a one man food fight?” Both Castiel and Sam pull faces, one more indignant than the other.

“Well he is loosing his rider tomorrow.” Sam says right off the bat and rather cooly, like it was somehow Dean’s fault. Which, it was, kinda, because Dean was the one that gave Sam the out. But he wanted that out… right?

Dean’s suddenly hit by a whirlwind of ‘oh shit’s and crippling doubt. “Sammy?” He speaks up, frowning as he stares at his brother’s face. “Do you not want to go back?” Sam doesn’t answer right away and that’s the nail in the coffin. “We’re leaving tonight.” The eldest Hunter states which is met which much more resistance than he expected.

“No!” Sam states quickly, just at the same time as Castiel speaks, “If we leave we will upset Lucifer. It’s rather unwise. Plus, we have wasted precious traveling time already. We need Lucifer to send us to the border.”

Dean throws his hands up a little, shifting his weight as he throws down his two cents. “Exactly Cas! We’re wasting time! We should get going now! How do we even know he’ll take us to the border?”

“He will.” Sam says, his voice so loud it reverberates off the sand passageway they are located in. The tallest lowers his voice and stares down his older brother. “Dean, he wouldn’t lie to me. He really can’t, not since we’ve been connected.”

Dean feels like that’s true but at the same time… “Cas hides shit from me all the time.” It was a low blow just to prove his point and he can see the incredulousness in Castiel’s eyes as he glares at Dean.

“It’s not the same kind of connection.” Sam starts his sentence out strong but seems to regret it when it’s too late.

“What do you mean by that?” Dean asks, his voice now devoid of any emotion.

Castiel now steps in, “Lucifer is one of the most powerful dragons in existence.” Dean turns to his dragon but Castiel’s eyes are not exactly welcoming. “His power is more archaic.” When that doesn’t seem to explain it Castiel rolls his eyes, showing his agitation at Dean whenever he can. “Think of our connection as a singular rock of two different types.” He demonstrates with his hands as he continues, “It's rather hard to break the rock without taking some pieces of the other with it…” Castiel sighs deeply now, “Lucifer’s power…well, reacts more like...fusion…There is absolutely no way to separate them.” Something felt wrong, like there was something being left out, like awkwardly placed cliff notes.

Dean sighs, “I swear Cas sometimes I think you’re on his side.” It’s another blow, they just keep coming and the shorter man lifts up his chin and turns towards Sam.

“If either of you need me I’ll be sleeping off my disgust.” He gives no other form of goodbye and starts down the hall until he makes the right to take the stairs up. They hear his footsteps but say nothing until  they are long gone.

“Do you Sammy?” Dean asks again, he can’t feel Castiel now, just the leftover burn from Castiel's own hurt. His voice is a lot softer, more defeated with the leaving of Castiel.

Sam grabs the bridge of his nose and breathes out once before looking at his brother. “I don’t think…” He starts, “You have any right to tell a dragon how they should feel for leaving their rider.” Dean obviously still doesn’t get it and Sam lays it out for his emotionally inept brother. “You fighting this… it’s basically kinda telling Cas that you’d put him on the back burner. You realize… right?”

No, no Dean didn’t and he thought it was a pretty ridiculous notion. Dean snorts, “Yeah right, come on Cas is a good guy.”
Anger flashes across Sam’s face, “Maybe it’s not that black and white Dean. Did you ever think of that? Dragons spend their entire lives waiting for that one rider. If Lucifer’s one of the oldest how many years do you think he just had to sit on his thumb.”
“So? Yeah, he attacked our family , made our mom pick up the sword.”

“But he won’t need to now!” Sam explains, honestly wringing his hands. “Think on it Dean, if we can keep this low key we’ll outlive this bigotry. We can shape the future.”

It was a tall fucking order. Like a mountain and volcano and maybe Mars as well. “This isn’t just some family grudge Sam. This is years of embedded hatred.” For the first time in a very long time it was Dean to be stating the facts to his brother and not the other way around.

Dean doesn’t like the dread of the moment, doesn’t like to watch the light die in his brother’s eyes. “You’re confusing reality with a peek show, Sammy.” Dean smirks, giving his brother a quick wink and a nudge.

Sam takes Dean’s humor like he normally does and rolls his eyes, “Look Dean…” Sam starts, now connecting his eyes with his brother once more. “We’re not just hunters anymore, we’re dragonriders .” Of course he puts emphasis on this because Dean knew it was always a dream of Sammy’s. “Things that were difficult for us before can’t be any harder.”

Dean laughs a little desperately at that, “I don’t know Sam, it feels the exact opposite.”

Sam gives Dean a flat out bitchface, “That’s because you’re emotionally stunted.” For some reason it seems like Sam is trying to say something but Dean can’t really pick it out. I mean, emotionally stunted, it wasn’t a convenient joke. Sometimes Dean pushed things so far back he literally had to spend time searching for it.

Dean rolls his eyes, “Bitch.” He grunts, kicking at the scuffed floor.

“Jerk.” Sam responds with ease before reaching out and patting his brother’s shoulder. “I’m gonna go calm down Lucifer.” He gives his brother a look that’s edging on part bitchface. “You should apologize to Cas.”

It’s Dean’s turn to make a face, “Yeah, okay.” He says, starting towards the door to the town. Dean would get as drunk as possible before comforting Castiel because… well… cause. Sam doesn’t say anything to Dean’s retreating back, which the hunter is grateful for.  As the freckled hunter heads between the door guards he gives one of them (the one he had the conversation with) a dirty look because, dude, still not right.

 

Dean doesn’t even know where he’s really going. He had seen a lot of pubs on his walk with Castiel but he didn’t really want to take that exact road. He didn’t want to think about Cas. Who was Sam anyway? Telling Dean how Castiel feels. He wasn’t even connected to the stupid dragon! How the fuck would he know? Dean remembers Lucifer, who supposedly knew all and so, maybe Sam knew... Dean doesn’t like the thought and luckily gets distracted by finding a bar.

He enters and the entire place goes silent, so silent you could hear a pin drop. Every single face in the place had turned to Dean, some snarling, some looking rather fearful. Dean just holds his head high and walks to the bar where a woman with dark brown hair that fell over her rather revealing blouse. There was so much sin here, Dean could feel it in the very air.

The bartender is the first to speak up, her hand on her hip as she treats Dean like a regular patron. “What can I get you?”

“You guys give out growlers?” Dean asks, making the bartender laugh.

“Yeah, we do.” She pulls up the growler container, empty as of right now.

“Got anything on tap?” Dean asks, and he has to admit this demon seemed to stabilize whatever fear was plaguing the building as all the demons are now talking amongst themselves once again, some occasionally looking over to Dean. Most talking about him or other subjects of interest like Sam or ‘that blue dragon man’.

The bartender nods, tabbing on three large barrels. “There’s two more in the back.” She gestures to a door but Dean doesn’t want to be that guy so he shakes his head.

“Nah, I’ll just take the middle one.” It had a nice red handle, so why the fuck not?

The bartender cocks an eyebrow at Dean but smiles, “This one?”

“Yeah.” Dean nods, “That’s the one.” The bartender leans down now and opens the growler, allowing the liquid from the barrel to pour into the container. “So,” He starts, just to fill the time, “What’s your name?”

The woman chuckles to herself and stands up a moment to look him in the eye and nod her head, “Names Casey. Nice to meet you, Hunter Dean Winchester.”

Dean smirks, because he kinda understands the game she’s playing at. “Nice to meet you too, Demon Casey.”

She seems to appreciate the joke and goes back to filling the growler. Dean now takes this time to look around the bar, seeing just how many demons were doing absolutely nothing with their day except for invade a bar at noon. And here Dean thought demons were working around the clock to destroy all humanity but… no… After all, Dean had a demon pouring him a growler, so they all couldn’t be bad. Except for those that ate flesh. That was just fucked up.

“Do you eat people Casey?” Dean asks, getting more comfortable in their situation.

Casey, who was now removing the foam from the top of the growler looks over at Dean, “Not partially. I mean I’ve taken a chunk out of one guy's neck before.” She shrugs like they’re talking about the weather, “No, I much prefer to make it quick. Snap their neck or something.” She puts the growler on the counter and Dean starts touching his pockets. Ah, his coin purse. That might have been essential to this whole ordeal.

Casey raises an eyebrow as she realizes Dean’s predicament. “Don’t worry about it.” she says easily, “If you want to make a mention to the King that you didn’t pay that’d be nice but otherwise.” She gestures a little with her hand, “Don’t worry about it.”

But Dean actually liked this demon, she was pretty okay. Even if her humor was a little fucked, but then again, so was Dean’s. He grimaces. “If I have to talk to that asshole I’ll totally make mention of it.”

Casey frowns, “He’s not an asshole.” She corrects him, sounding more dangerous now. “I’d be careful Dean, most of us worship him as our god.”

Oh. Dean had forgotten that, forgotten that this King wasn’t just Sam’s brain buddy now who just happened to be a King, no, demons looked up to him like a god. Hell, even some humans did from time to time. “Lovely.” Dean states, tapping the counter as he pulls out of his lean. He hooks his finger within the little loop in the growler and bounces off the counter, tapping it once more. “I’ll keep his holiness in mind when I talk to him next.”

The bartender laughs once at this, shaking her head, “Oh, I’m sure you will.”

Dean raises a hand to the woman and leaves the bar without a look towards any other demon. He exists the door and makes it back to the castle with little problem. More demons were out on the street compared to the noon time but it’s still reasonably empty, with maybe 40 people tops on the streets around Dean.

Dean decides that he should drink some of the growler before he even confronts anyone so he heads towards a lonely bench by the castle wall, which overlooks the city but is hidden by the shade of the castle and it’s walls.

It’s here where Dean doesn’t have to worry about demons, or dragons or even his brother. Here he was hidden from sight, unless someone was looking up from the city for Dean. Dean isn’t found however and starts to down the hoppy liquid. While Dean hasn’t mastered explaining his feelings he had become quite fluent in not thinking of anything in particular, especially while drinking. The hunter had discovered young that if someone thinks of something bad while they’re drinking it’ll just stick there. So you gotta let it go, or at least let it eat away at some unknowing part of your brain.

That’s what Dean was doing just before he reaches the 1/4th mark. It’s now that his thoughts slide back to Castiel, which his mind had been blissfully free of for awhile. Castiel had placed up walls between the two and once the dragon had finally fallen into sleep he had somehow kept them up. It wasn’t as powerful of a wall and if Dean wanted to he could poke it and make the entire thing fall. He didn’t however, no, instead he turned away and focused on just his thoughts purely and that’s how he got here. But now… now Dean had opened a can of worms. With the drink either came complete certainty or crippling doubt and Dean was handed the fuller cup of doubt.

Dean knew Castiel had been always waiting for Dean, unknowingly but hopeful and now… Well, he was getting dragged through the mud wasn’t he? He had to suffer abuse from Dean’s personality and his own brotherly troubles from Lucifer. The only one who hadn’t given Cas shit was Sam. Dean wondered for a very split second that maybe Cas should have bonded with Sam but the moment he thinks it he tugs it back to his very core and disposes of it. No. Dean was too selfish to even think about giving Cas away. But there he went again! Giving. Castiel was not something to be given- ah, fuck. Dean rubs the palms of his hands on his eyes before picking up the growler bottle and downing a little more.

He doesn’t know anymore. One palm is still by his face so he rubs his eye once again, physically uncomfortable with his thoughts. Maybe thinking while drinking wasn’t Dean’s best idea as things start to get more confusing. So he focuses on the smoke from one of the city houses, watching as it dissipates into the light blue sky. With his eyes distracted Dean’s brain follows suit, marching to the tune of whatever Dean’s eyes see and only what they see.

It works for maybe… like five minutes before Dean is transported back into the world of shagrin. Maybe he didn’t do anything wrong, maybe they both did or something, maybe he did do everything wrong… Dean didn’t know but he did know that he didn’t want Castiel to be mad at him. He gets up enough spirit to possibly stand up when he realizes that maybe he should take another drink. One forms into another, which turns into Dean waiting to calm his stomach, making him have another sip causing him to forget the previous courage.

 

The next time Dean goes to stand it takes a lot more concentration to stay stable but once he’s up, he’s up. Dean Winchester is not only a master at hiding thoughts but also of drunk walking. He has learned how to keep his walk reasonably in check and underwraps. It’s not that he exactly hides the drinking from his family, but when you’re drunk in the middle of enemy territory you just don’t want them to know you’re not a hundred percent. It’s Dean’s second nature now as he passes by the guards,  giving a snarly smirk towards the demon. He doesn’t dare say anything and continues into the large room and up the stairs, heading towards his and Castiel’s room, growler in hand. Thankfully the only people Dean passes in the halls are servants and Lilith is nowhere to be seen, which was awesome.

The Winchester does slow his fast pace as he gets closer and closer to their door, where he comes to a full stop and stares, suddenly unsure. He blinks and looks down at the lighter bottle in his hand and back to the wood in front of him. He frowns and something his mother once said comes back to him. “Most of the time the result far outweighs the fear, sweetie.” It had been related to dating Cassie but Dean found it was relevant now more than ever. So, taking a deep breath he enters their room and is faced with darkness.

Castiel had drawn the curtains when he came in here so there was no light in the room aside from what the well lit hall was giving. The rider didn’t need the light to know where Castiel was. The moment he had decided to open those doors he had also gently pushed the bricks of the wall out, making it collapse easily. As soon as the wall was gone, Dean could feel his exact location compared to that of Castiel’s. Almost like he could feel the molecules separating them. He heads into the floor alcove just fine, but it’s the pillows that fuck him up. It was a subconscious thing, Dean wouldn’t even realize it while he was sober, so it should be said now, that he relaxed his facade as soon as the door had closed behind him. Dean could be himself around Cas, even if he didn’t realize it. The hunter ends up on his knees soon enough and he freezes, afraid he landed on Cas for a split second before he realizes that he didn’t feel anything so Cas didn’t. Since he took the tumble Dean re-evaluates the distance between himself and Cas before he continues. He keeps crawling and throwing pillows to the empty side until he can hear the soft breath of Castiel sleeping.

Now, Dean’s smart. He’s strong and he’s actually rather good at having a plan and sticking to it. The only problem? This entire time Dean had just been fighting on whether or not to talk to Cas about it all, not how he would. Fuck.

It was too late now, with Dean being this close Castiel’s body starts to stir, feeling the electricity of the physical closeness. Before Dean can even move, two orbs of blue reveal themselves from behind hooded eyes. “Dean?” Castiel grunts, shifting a little to sit up. Dean follows suit since it was a little awkward to have this conversation laying down.

But what should Dean say? What could he say? Anything he supposed, but he knew that wasn’t true, he could never lie to Cas. “I think working with Lucifer is wrong.” He starts, which makes Castiel frown but Dean isn’t done just yet. “But it’s not like.. I clump you guys together or anything. Yeah, you’re brothers but… you’re not the same guy Cas, you’re better.” Dean didn’t recall the words sounding so sincere in his mind, but he did mean them and Castiel could tell. “So yeah, I wanna ditch the King but not you.

Yeah, that covered it right? His undermining of any plan that involved the help of Lucifer was explained. Castiel doesn’t respond out loud right away, simply giving off slightly tired but understanding vibes. He had apparently hoped for this, but hadn’t expected. That in itself kinda hurts Dean. “Thank you for telling me Dean.” As if it’s mandatory the two don’t talk for a moment, simply connecting Castiel’s blues and hunter greens. Yeah, words and emotions are different and all that but Dean has to say, it’s much more relaxing when you can feel the forgiveness, the understanding. It does appear however that Castiel isn’t done, “I just wish for you to understand.” Castiel looks over Dean’s face, which makes Dean suddenly self conscious because there was such a look in his eyes. “I feel for Lucifer.” He finally states, “He might have collapsed my life and the lives of many others, but from one immortal to another….I understand his loneliness.” Dean goes to open his mouth but Castiel cocks one of his eyebrows and Dean is silenced, his head floating from the liquor still. Which uncharacteristically makes him a lot more complainant to Castiel apparently. “I know what it’s like to….” Castiel licks his lips and looks down for a second before reconnecting with Dean’s eyes, “Hate time.” Dean didn’t expect that, for some reason his heart was beating rather quickly, “You humans are so fragile, so set in time; constraints of age.” Cas looks heartbroken, for some reason, one Dean’s drunk brain can’t pick up on, he can kinda see without the light, maybe Cas had transmitted some night-vision to Dean or something. “So to have a rider… one you’ve been waiting for centuries for, only for them to be taken away from you so abruptly…”

It’s a big subject in this group of people, something many of them thought about and all despised. Of course Cas and Sam wanted to talk about it while Lucifer and Dean ran away from the subject, it was the one thing they unknowingly shared. The very dred and heartache that comes with having a ticking clock. It’s always there, it’s hands mechanically jerking forward with every minute.

Castiel does not say anything more but instead stares at Dean’s face, his expression willing Dean to understand this. It was hard to have sympathy for the devil, because that’s basically was Lucifer was, wasn’t he? The Devil. They shared a lot of similarities… Dean blinks...like a lot. He can’t focus on that now however, not with Castiel staring Dean down like he’s trying to will his years to the hunter. So Dean licks his lips, getting ready to talk, which automatically brings Castiel’s eyes down for a moment. They hold the line there for a bit before dragging themselves up to Dean’s eyes again. Cas was really cute when he first wakes up, Dean notices now that he’s looking near the dragon’s hair. It always goes this way and that like he buries his head in pillows or something, it’s rather endearing.

“Dean?” Castiel asks, a bit concerned, his forehead wrinkling, making him even more adorable.

Dean really needs to say something but… if felt like he’d fuck it up. Because, yeah it sucked to be Lucifer, that didn’t mean he exactly trusted him. There was a difference. He finally settles on the last topic, the one about time. “Is there anyway… that I could help?” He asks, unsure of what that even means. He wasn’t sure, but he just wanted to make things right and for some reason something felt wrong. He thought maybe it was the argument but he knew that was a done subject, they were good on that. So what was it?

Castiel helps Dean figure out, and it’s not at all what he expected. “Yes.” He holds out his hand, which is confusing until he finishes what he has to say. “Give me your hand.”  

The hunter does it automatically, if he didn’t it’d probably feel weird, Cas was even tentative and Dean doesn’t want Castiel to be afraid to tell him