fandomcorner: (Dean/Castiel by creativeelf)
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Most fairy tales start Once Upon A Time. This one started not so long ago.

The warehouse was a mess, the floor and walls slick with blood and the decapitated bodies of a dozen or more vampires littering the ground. Dean drew in a shaky breath and ran his fingers through his hair, leaving his face streaked red. “You okay, Sammy?”

Sam nodded as he sheathed his machete. “Yeah, I’m okay. You?”

“I’m good.” Dean stepped over the bodies and tried not to slip as he made his way over to his brother. “Man, I wish these things would burn up or melt or something. Where the hell are we going to bury all these things?”

“We could torch the place,” Sam suggested.

Dean shook his head. “We’re too close to the town. It could spread. I've got a better idea.”

He moved over to the middle of the room and closed his eyes. “Cas, I need you.”

A ruffle and a gust of wind later and they were joined by an angel. “Dean. Sam.” He greeted them with a nod.

“Can you clean this place up?” Dean asked. “Me and Sam are too beat to be hauling vampire corpses out into the woods.”

Castiel took in the mess around them and then looked back at Dean. “As you wish.”

It was always the same. Dean called Cas when he needed it and Cas replied with ‘as you wish.’ Dean was starting to wonder if Cas actually knew any other words.

“Awesome,” he replied. “Catch you later.”

And he dragged his brother out of the warehouse without another word.

* * *

The next time Dean called for Cas they were lost in the woods after hunting down a Wendigo and were in danger of coming down with hypothermia.

“Can you just get us back to my car,” Dean said between chattering teeth.

“As you wish.”

A moment later they were safe inside the Impala. Neither of them commented on the fact that the heat was on and there were two warm blankets on the seat.

* * *

“What’s the deal with you and Cas?” Sam asked on a relatively quiet night in their motel room.

Dean inched forward on the bed next to Sam’s. “What do you mean, what’s the deal?”

“Well, you basically treat him like a sherpa, and he still looks at you like you’re the only person in the universe. Is there something going on between you guys?”

“First of all, what the hell does that mean, I treat him like a what?”

“A Sherpa.” Sam laughed. “You know, one of those guys in the Himalayas who follows people around and carries all their things for them.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Anyway. You call him to clean up after us, or take us somewhere, or whenever you’ve got something you don’t feel like doing. He’s like your servant or something.”

“He’s not--" Dean cut himself off. “Nothing’s going on, Okay?”

“Really? Have you noticed the way he stares at you all the time? It’s kind of creepy.”

Dean shrugged. “It’s just Cas, Sam. You know what he’s like. He finds the whole human race fascinating or something.”

Sam didn’t point out that Castiel never stared at him the same way he stared at Dean, and after a couple of minutes of silence they both dropped the matter and went back to watching the lame action movie on TV.

* * *

Dean didn’t forget what Sam said, though, and the next time he called Cas, he made sure to pay a little more attention to the angel than usual. Yeah, okay, so Sam was right about the staring. It wasn’t like it bothered him or anything. That’s just how Cas was.

“Cas, we need you to translate this text so we know what we’re up against.”

Cas was still staring at him, like Dean was the only man in the world. OK, maybe now he was starting to feel a little uncomfortable, but it had never really occurred to him to mind before.

“Please,” he finally added. and the corners of Castiel’s lips quirked up into a smile.

“As you wish.”

* * *


Castiel wasn’t even there when Dean finally figured out what it all meant. Dean was alone, in a diner, waiting for a burger that was taking an absurdly long time. Almost as long as it was taking an old lady to shuffle across the floor behind her walker, tennis balls cushioning its slow rub along the ground. Her husband followed her, and Dean found himself watching the guy watch her, gentle patience in his eyes as he waited and waited for her to make her way, though he could probably have sprinted past her and be in his chair in ten seconds. It must be a pain in the ass, Dean thought. She was so slow, and needed so much attention, and still the guy was looking at her like-- like--

Like Castiel looked at him.

Exactly like Castiel looked at him.

When the woman glanced over her shoulder, her husband smiled, eyes crinkling , and said, “Take your time, dear.”

He wasn’t really saying take your time,, Dean realized.

Just like Castiel was never actually saying as you wish.

He was saying I love you.

And what was even more amazing than that realization was the realization that Dean didn’t even mind.

In fact, it felt pretty damn nice.

* * *

The next time Dean called for Cas, he made sure he was alone, having sent his brother off to enjoy a night at the movies so that they wouldn’t be disturbed.

He took a deep breath before saying the words. “Cas, I need you.”

As soon as the angel appeared in front of him, Dean knew this was right. He wasn’t sure why he’d never noticed it before, but the love in Castiel’s eyes was shining brighter than anything he’d ever seen before. Maybe it should have made him uncomfortable, but it didn’t, not even a little, and that’s what encouraged him to press forward.

“I need help with something,” he said. “Something personal.”

Castiel stepped forward, breaking through the personal space boundaries Dean had explained more than once. Only this time Dean didn’t care.

“As you wish,” Castiel breathed and Dean didn’t even bother to think of an excuse. He simply leaned forward and brushed his lips against Castiel’s.

“You never said anything,” Dean murmured. “All this time and you never said anything.”

Castiel simply smiled. “I knew you’d figure it out eventually.”

Dean kissed him again.

* * *
”So you were right about Cas,” Dean mentioned a few days later.

“What, that you treat him like a Sherpa?” Dean scowled. Sam winced visibly and then let out a laugh.

“That there was something going on.”

“Okay…” Sam waited for the other shoe to drop.

“Between us. Something--" Dean reddened. “Something between us.”

“Oh.” Sam raised an eyebrow at him. “Really? That?”

Dean looked away. “Yeah. Really. That.”

Sam slapped him on the back, making Dean lurch forward and choke. “Well, it took you guys long enough. Guess I’ll be getting a different motel room for a while.”

“Shut up,” Dean grumbled, but he couldn’t keep the grin off his face much longer than that.

Sam did start sleeping in a separate motel room, as promised. Dean was really starting to think he had an awesome little brother.

“I wish we could stay like this always,” Castiel said softly as they lay in bed one night. “It may be blasphemous to say such things, but I miss you when I am called away to attend to my duties in Heaven.”

Dean pressed a kiss to Castiel’s shoulder. “I guess we just have to make the most of the time we have, then.”

Castiel rolled over on top of Dean. “I think I can manage that.”

* * *

When Dean woke up the next morning, his first instinct, as always, was to reach for Castiel. His fingers found only an empty pillow. He sat up and found Cas standing at the window, his face illuminated by the pink light of dawn while he idly twisted his tie around his fingers.

“Cas? What are you doing?”

Something was different, Dean didn’t know how he knew, but something twisted in his gut when Castiel turned to face him, and he knew it would be bad news.

“I’ve been recalled to Heaven,” Castiel said quietly, barely able to look at Dean. “Indefinitely. I don’t know when I’ll be able to return.”

A coldness blanketed Dean that froze him to the spot in his bed.

“Heaven is on the brink of a civil war,” Castiel continued. “You know I care for you more than anything else, Dean, but my brothers need me.”

Dean didn’t want to be a dick about it, and he knew full well that if Sam needed him, he’d leave Cas behind in an instant. So he bit down the snarky comment that was bubbling on his lips and simply nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak.

“I would give anything not to have to do this,” Castiel said sadly.

Dean nodded. “I know.”

He couldn’t tell Cas it was okay, because it wasn’t. It had taken them so fucking long to get to this point and now Cas had to leave.

Castiel crossed the room and dipped his head to kiss Dean. “Whatever happens, know that I will always love you.”

Dean closed his eyes. “Cas, I-“

When he opened them, Castiel was already gone.

Fuck.

* * *

“Dean, come on, you need to take a break or you’re going to burn yourself out. We’ve been hunting non-stop for weeks.”

Dean simply grunted and continued poring over the book he’d been staring at for the past hour. He wasn’t really taking in the words he was reading, but it was something to focus on other than the concerned look he knew Sam was sending him.

“I know you miss Cas,” Sam continued. Damn, that kid never did know when to let something drop. “I miss him too, but you can’t keep going on like this.”

“Can,” Dean muttered, aware that he sounded like a surly child but too tired to care.

“Come on,” Sam said, and he covered the page Dean was starting at with one ginormous hand. “Just a couple of hours off. We can get some food, have a couple of beers. Please?”

Dean sighed. He’d been fighting this battle with Sam ever since Cas left, because Sam was convinced that sitting down and talking about Dean’s feelings would make everything better. “Will you shut up if we go and have a burger and a couple of beers?”

“For a while, at least,” Sam grinned, and Dean couldn’t stop his own smile.

“Fine, let’s go, but you’re paying.”

Sam shrugged. “It’s a fake credit card anyway.”

“Awesome.”

* * *

Somehow a burger and a couple of beers turned into a burger, several beers and a few whisky chasers.

“You just wan’ed me to get wasted,” Dean slurred, clinging to his brother as they stumbled back to the motel. “I’s a trick to get me to talk about my feelings and shit.”

“I definitely don’t want you to talk about your shit,” Sam chuckled. “And it wasn’t a trick. I just wanted to take your mind off Cas for a little while.”

Dean sniffed. “I miss him.”

“I know you do, man.”

“Well, that’s good, because you’ll both be joining him very soon.”

Dean sobered at the sound of the new voice and released the hold he had on his brother. Their path was blocked by a man in a plain black suit, his sword glinting in the moonlight.

Angel.

“Don’t worry,” the angel continued as Dean slowly pulled his knife from the back of his jeans. “I’ll make it quick. You won’t suffer the way he did.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Sam snapped.

The angel smiled in a way that was far from angelic. “All of Heaven is celebrating the victory. Zachariah struck down Castiel and rid us of the rebellion’s leader. Not before he tortured him of course. A lot.”

For a moment Dean thought he was going to throw up. There was no way Cas could be dead. No way at all. “You’re lying.” But as soon as he said it, he could feel the futility of his words washing over him. He was trying to convince himself it wasn’t true. And that meant it probably was.

The angel shrugged. “I have no reason to lie, but it makes no difference what you believe. Castiel can’t protect you now, which means I get to deliver you to Michael so you can fulfill your role as his vessel.”

Sam charged before the angel even knew what was happening, and Dean’s body went into autopilot as he cut his arm and painted the sigil Cas had taught him onto the nearest wall.

“Hey,” he yelled when he was done. “You tell Zachariah that I won’t sleep until his wings are fried.”

And he slammed his palm onto the sigil, banishing the angel in a flash of blinding light.

“He was lying,” Sam said when he jogged back over to Dean and wrapped an arm around his waist.

“No,” Dean replied sadly. “He wasn’t.”

* * *

Dean didn’t feel a thing as Sam took him back to the motel room and patched up the cut on his arm. Cas was gone. For real this time. There was no bringing him back, no deals to be made, he was just gone.

Sam was hovering beside him like he was expecting Dean to shatter into a million pieces at any moment. Dean wasn’t actually sure that wasn’t going to happen.

“Can I get you anything?” Sam asked gently. “Do anything? Talk to me, man, please.”

Dean shook his head. “I’m tired, Sammy, I just wanna sleep.”

They both knew it was a lie, but they both went along with the pretense anyway. Dean kicked off his shoes and lay down while Sam got into the other bed. Dean didn’t sleep, and he was pretty sure Sam didn’t either.

* * *

Dean didn’t have the luxury of taking time off to grieve, no matter how much Sam nagged him to. There were still sons of bitches out there that needed ganking, and every town they went to Dean kept an eye out for Zachariah, even though he knew the bastard wasn’t stupid enough to show his face.

The only time he allowed himself a break was for an hour each night while Sam had a shower and some dinner. Then, and only then, Dean drove to the highest point he could find figuring it was as close to Heaven as he could get. He’d sit on the hood of his car, drink a beer and talk to Cas while listening to Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison. It was the only song in Dean’s entire collection that Cas had actually liked, and it suited his mood.

“Not sure what it is we’re hunting,” Dean said that night. It was a warm evening and clear so Dean could see the stars. “I really wish you were here, Cas. We could use some help.”

Of course there was no answer, and there never would be, but Dean never dwelled on that. He couldn’t. It was easier to sit here and just pretend that Cas was still up in Heaven listening to him.

Dean sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve, pretending that it was pollen that was making his eyes sting. “I really miss you, dude.”

“Well, isn’t this a touching scene.”

Dean’s hand was on his gun before his dropped beer even hit the ground. He pointed the barrel toward the voice – which belonged to Crowley, he realized, with the sinking sensation and a pang of regret that he didn’t have Ruby’s knife on him.

“Yes, terrifying,” Crowley sighed. “You know I do wonder how you and your moose survived this long. Rock salt? Against a demon? Really, Dean?”

“What the hell do you want?” Dean growled. Yeah, the rock salt rounds wouldn’t kill Crowley but they would sting enough to buy Dean some time.

“An interesting question, actually,” Crowley said, stepping away from Dean’s weapon.. “I actually want you.”

“Not like that,” he added with a smirk at the look of alarm that lit Dean’s face. “I prefer a little more class in my lovers, but thanks all the same.”

“Hey, I can be classy,” Dean retorted. “Why the hell am I arguing this with you? Okay, so you want me? Well, you can get lost if you think I’m doing anything for you.”

Crowley chuckled. “You’re acting like you have any choice in the matter. It’s actually kind of cute.”

Dean cocked his gun. “Come near me and I’ll fill your face with rock salt!”

“Fair enough,” Crowley replied with a shrug and stepped aside.

“What the hell?”

Gabriel was standing directly behind the demon and he stepped forward before Dean even fully processed what was happening.

“Nap time, big boy,” Gabriel grinned and the last thing Dean saw were Gabriel’s fingers moving towards his forehead.

* * *

“Damnit Dean! Answer the phone! I swear to God, you had better be wasted in a bar somewhere.”

It was the fifth message Sam had left on Dean’s cell, and he’d now crossed the line from slightly concerned into full-on worried. Dean’s routine had been like clockwork ever since they’d heard about Cas. He went out for exactly an hour each night, and he’d now been gone for three.

He hung up and immediately called Dean’s cell company.

“Hi there, I’ve lost my cellphone and I was wondering if you could turn on the GPS. My name is David Gilmore, and my Social Security number is 524-35-2619. Okay, great, thanks.”

Sam turned back to his laptop and frowned. “Dude, how the hell did you get from Wyoming to New Mexico in three hours?”

He had no idea where Dean’s car was, so he’d have to jack one and just hope that he could get there fast enough to save Dean from whatever the hell he’d gotten himself caught up in this time.

* * *

“Why do I have to carry him?”

“What are you complaining about? You’re strong enough.”

“Maybe,” Gabriel said, shifting his weight to hold Dean up, “but this vessel is short, and it’s a pain in the-- urgh!” He grabbed a suddenly slipping Dean and hoisted him upward again.

“Watch me care,” Crowley said, deadpan. “You knocked him out, you get to do the honors. Anyway, we’re here. Home, sweet home.”

Gabriel looked up at the building in front of them. An abandoned warehouse, ugly and not a little bit smelly, with broken windows and, as the doors opened, a whole bunch of nothing inside. Crowley led them through the cavern of the main room into an office in back, as moldy and decrepit at the rest.

“Oh, no, c’mon,” Gabriel said, rolling his eyes. “This will never do.”

He snapped his fingers and the place transformed -- now they were in the best of hotel suites, luxurious bed and wet bar and buffet table and hot tub all included and ready to go. “Much better.”

Crowley wrinkled his nose. “If you like that sort of thing.”

“Picky.” Gabriel deposited Dean on the bed and crossed to the table, cutting himself a slice of cake with a truly obscene amount of frosting. “So, now what?”

“Now we wait.”

Gabriel swallowed hard and punched his chest to keep himself from choking. “What, that’s it? Now we wait? Just sit here and hang out until Sam comes looking for his big brother?”

“Exactly.” Crowley flashed him a catlike smile. “Trust me, Gabriel. We all win in this plan. You want to take down Zachariah for killing your brother, I can make it happen. We just need to wait for all the pieces to be in place. All you need to do is make sure Sleeping Beauty over there stays that way until his brother gets here. If he wakes up, trust me, he won’t be here for long.”

“Fine,” Gabriel huffed, “but I’m warning you, you do not want to be on the receiving end of a pissed-off Sam Winchester. Trust me, I’ve seen it.”

“I can handle the moose,” Crowley assured him. “Just do your part and we’ll all get what we want.”

* * *

By the time he arrived in Santa Fe Sam could feel the exhaustion pounding behind the back of his eyes. He literally hadn’t stopped since he’d jacked a car and gone after Dean. And seconds he’d taken to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom could be the seconds it took Dean to die. So he wouldn’t stop until he had his brother back.

He parked up far enough away from the warehouse that the people inside wouldn’t hear him, but close enough that they could get to the car quickly if they needed to run. As he rooted though his duffel he realized he had no idea what he was going to be facing when he got inside. It could be angels, demons, anything really so he armed himself for just about anything he could think of.

“You’d better still be alive, Dean,” he muttered as he tucked knives, guns and holy water into his various pockets.

* * *

“I’m bored,” Gabriel announced from his seat beside Dean’s bed. All he’d been doing for the past few hours was watching him and sending him back into a deeper sleep whenever he showed any signs of waking. “I kind of thought Sam would be here by now.”

Crowley sat on the other side of the room, sipping a very rare and expensive scotch that he’d insisted Gabriel will into being. “You give that boy too much credit.”

“Oh, you didn’t see him when I killed his brother over and over a couple of years back. Believe me when it comes to Dean, there’s nothing Sam won’t do. I hope you’re ready for the pissed-off Winchester that’s going to come through that door.”

“Actually, I used a window.”

Gabriel twisted in his chair and saw Sam, tooled up like Rambo, standing at the far end of the room.

“I gotta say, Sam, I kind of thought you’d be here a bit sooner than this.”

Sam glared at him. “How about you get the hell away from my brother?”

Before Gabriel could reply Crowley rose to his feet.

“Oh, good, you’re here finally. Now, before you go all Wild Bunch on us I think you should listen to what I have to say.”

Sam cocked the Colt and pointed it at Crowley’s chest. “Why would I listen to anything you have to say?”

“Because you’re not as stupid as you look, and I have something on offer that could help you and your brother get out of this whole apocalypse mess.”

Sam raised the gun to point it directly at Crowley’s head. “Talk fast.”

“It’s simple, really. You want your brother back and I want to not be eviscerated when the inevitable apocalypse occurs. So all you need to do is say yes to Lucifer, including a very clear clause that leaves me entirely intact. Dean lives, I live, and Gabriel here gets Zachariah’s head on a plate for killing his brother. We all win. Well, except maybe you, Moose, but at least you get to keep your looks while ruling Hell. Let me tell you, plenty would kill for that hair.”

Sam’s face didn’t even twitch. “Not going to happen.”

“I stand corrected. You really are as stupid as you look.” Crowley sighed. “Do you really think you can take on the king of the crossroads and an archangel all by yourself?”

“Probably not, but I’m going to try.”

“Okay, enough!” Sam and Crowley turned around to face Gabriel who was still standing beside Dean’s bed, his face dark with rage. “I’m done. This is not what I signed up for.”

He tapped Dean’s forehead, causing the hunter’s eyes to snap open and his arms to flail as he reached for a weapon.

Sam rushed to his brother’s side. “Hey, Dean, it’s okay. I’m here.”

It took a second for Dean to realize what was being said but as soon as his eyes focused on Sam’s face his instantly relaxed. “You okay?”

“Yeah, man, I’m good. How about you?”

Dean shrugged. “What the hell happened?”

He sat up and groaned as soon as he saw Gabriel standing beside them. “Are you kidding me?”

“Don’t worry about him,” Sam said. “Our problem is over there.”

Crowley was still stood in the middle of the room watching them impassively.

Dean groaned again. “Great.”

Gabriel patted Dean’s shoulder. “I’ve got this one, boys.”

He pulled his sword from the folds of his clothes and stalked towards Crowley. “I’m ending this now.”

He was halfway across the room when Crowley snapped his fingers and a ring of fire erupted around Gabriel.

“Oh, your betrayal was so unexpected. Whatever shall I do?”

All Sam and Dean could do was watch the interaction between the demon and archangel and wait to see what happened

“So it looks like there’s still something of the angel left in you yet, Gabriel,” Crowley said as he walked around the ring of fire. “You had to go and get all noble. You know your life would be so much easier if you didn’t care so much about these boys.”

“Don’t I know it,” Gabriel huffed, tossing a look over his shoulder at Sam and Dean. “So what now? You going to kill me?”

Crowley shrugged. “It’s not like you’re of any use to me now.”

“Dean,” Sam hissed. “Come on, we need to do something.”

“Like what? And why? He’s the one who kidnapped me in the first place.”

“Yeah, and he also just tried to save our asses. Come on.”

Dean sighed and climbed off the bed before reaching for the pistol he had tucked into the back of his jeans. It wouldn’t do anything more than annoy Crowley, but it might create a distraction so they could do. . . something.

“Okay, let’s go.”

They didn’t even need to discuss a plan. They’d been hunting together for so long that it was just instinctive now. They got into position so they were flanking Crowley on either side, and they moved in. Or at least they tried to. Dean barely moved before Crowley flicked his wrist and he found himself careening through the air until he hit the far wall and dropped to the floor.

Ow.

Sam hit the floor beside him, or at least Dean assumed it was Sam. He couldn’t actually see or move and his head hurt like a son of a bitch so all he could do was lie there and listen, waiting for whatever Crowley had planned for Gabriel.

He heard screams and had to admit he felt bad for the guy. Douchey angel or not he’d tried to do the right thing in the end, but it was that Winchester curse. Anyone who tried to help them ended up dead.

Like Castiel.

Shit, he couldn’t be thinking about Cas right now. They needed to get out of here. The screams faded into nothing and the next thing he was aware of there was a hand brushing over his brow and stroking his hair.

“M’fine, Sammy,” he slurred. “S’just a concussion.”

The hand touched him again and Dean was surprised to find his head felt better. More importantly he could see again, or at least that’s what he thought. He quickly decided that he was still unconscious or possibly dead. It was the only explanation.

Castiel was crouched in front of him, looking exactly the same as he’d done the last time Dean had seen him, eyes warm and concerned as he continued to stroke Dean’s hair.

“Hello, Dean.”

Dean blinked at him. “I’m dead.”

“No.”

He reached up and curled his fingers around the sleeve of Castiel’s coat. It felt real enough.

“Did God bring you back? Again?”

Castiel shook his head. “It’s complicated.”

His heart was pounding in his chest now and he almost didn’t dare ask the next question.

“But you’re real? And alive?”

“Yes.”

It was enough. Dean scrambled to his feet, yanked Cas up and captured his mouth in a hungry kiss.

“Cas, oh God, I thought you were dead.”

Castiel kissed him back with equal fervor, hands raking through Dean’s hair and their bodies pulled so close they were practically melded together.

“Well, I hate to interrupt this beautiful moment, but we really need to get out of here.”

Reluctantly Dean pulled back and it was only then that he noticed Gabriel was now free of the ring of fire and Crowley was in a crumpled heap on the floor, the eyes of his vessel wide and unseeing.

“Your work?” Dean asked Cas.

“I will not tolerate anyone threatening to harm you or your brother, Dean. I will always come for you.”

“Even when you’re dead? That’s pretty impressive, Cas.” He joked but his throat closed around the word.

“Not even death will get in my way, Dean. I will always find my way back to you.”

“I wasn’t kidding about getting out of here.”

Castiel’s sword appeared in his hand and he stormed towards Gabriel. “I have not forgotten that you allied yourself with a demon, brother. And I certainly haven’t forgotten that you abducted Dean and attempted to lure Sam into a trap.”

Before he could strike, Sam stepped into Castiel’s path.

“Come on, Cas. He tried to help us when it mattered. That’s got to count for something, right? Plus, you know, he only allied with Crowley in the first place because he was trying to avenge your death.”

Castiel faltered. “Is this true?”

Gabriel shrugged. “No one screws with my family but me.”

Castiel’s grip tightened on his sword and for a second Dean thought Cas was going to gank Gabriel anyway. But then he slid the sword away and nodded his head curtly. “We should leave this place.”

Gabriel grinned. “Allow me.”

He snapped his fingers.

* * *

“Where are we?”

Dean stumbled when they landed and was prevented from falling by Castiel catching him by the elbow. He nodded his thanks, still unable to believe that Cas was really here and alive. He was still questioning whether this whole experience was just some wacked out dream, especially considering that right now they were standing on a sandy white beach and gazing up at what could only be described as the perfect beach house.

“My own private retreat,” Gabriel said with a sweep of his arm. “No one will find us here so we can take a minute to work out what we’re going to do next. And, no offence, Sam but you look like hell.”

Dean hadn’t really had the chance to see it before but Gabriel was right. Sam looked exhausted, his face pale and drawn with dark circles under his eyes. Kid probably hadn’t slept or even stopped since Dean had been taken.

“I’m fine,” Sam said even as he swayed on his feet.

“Sure you are, Sammy,” Dean replied. “Come on, I don’t know about you but I’m beat.”

Truth was after being out of it for however long Gabriel had kept him asleep coupled with the fact that he’d just got Cas back Dean really didn’t feel like sleeping at all. No reason why Sam had to know that though and the four of them headed into the house.

The inside of the house was kind of modest compared to what Dean was expecting. He’d kind of expected luxury furniture with expensive art on the walls. Instead it was simple wooden furniture with a few landscape paintings on the wall. A small Jack Russell dog came scurrying out of the kitchen and sniffed Dean’s feet before sitting down in front of Castiel and cocking his head at him.

“Hello,” Castiel said and the dog started chasing his own tail.

“He likes you,” Gabriel said with a smile before grinning in Dean’s direction. “But then you did always have a way with animals.”

Dean opened his mouth to argue but Castiel got there first. “Now is not the time to goad each other. We need to rest and then form a plan.”

“Rest sounds good,” Sam replied wearily. “Dean’s been through a lot.”

Dean could tell his brother was five seconds away from falling flat on his face in the middle of the room. “Yeah, I’m beat. Which way is the bedroom?”

“Upstairs,” Gabriel replied. “Plenty to choose from.”

Sam eyed the stairs as though Gabriel had just suggested a gentle walk up Mount Everest. Dean was about to step forward and offer his brother some help when Gabriel beat him to it.

“Come on, kid. I’ll give you a hand.”

He laid a hand on Sam’s arm and the two of them vanished with a flutter.

“Don’t worry,” Castiel said as Dean frowned at the empty space Sam and Gabriel had been occupying. “Gabriel will take good care of your brother.”

“Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m afraid of.”

Castiel chuckled softly. “Come, we should get some rest.”

“I think I’ve done enough resting for a while,” Dean replied with a shrug.

He shivered when Castiel’s hand trailed up his arm. “Perhaps I can help tire you out, in that case.”

Dean grinned. “Sounds good to me.”

* * *

“SON OF A BITCH!”

Sam awoke with flailing limbs as he frantically searched for a weapon, Dean’s yelling rousing him from what up until a few minutes ago had been a deeply restful sleep.

“Dean! Hang on! I’m coming!”

“You might want to put some pants on first,” an amused voice to the left of him suggested and Sam glanced down before letting out a yelp when he realized he was naked.

“Gabriel, I’m pretty sure I had pants on when I went to bed.”

Gabriel shrugged. “You didn’t look very comfortable.”

Dean had started yelling again, although Sam couldn’t make out the words now. He settled for shooting Gabriel a glare before pulling on some clothes and hurrying downstairs.

“Dean? What’s wrong?”

Sam was used to his brother getting mad about a variety of things but it wasn't often that he saw the red faced trembling fury that he saw in Dean right now. Castiel was standing to one side, head bowed. He made no attempt to even look at Sam.

“Guys?” Sam pressed. “Someone talk to me.”

“Ask him,” Dean snarled. “I’m going for a walk.”

He slammed three doors on his way outside.

“Cas?” Sam pressed. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”

Castiel sighed and finally raised his head so that his eyes meet Sam’s. He looked shamed and upset.

“I fear I have made a bad decision.”

Sam didn't know how to answer that so he just waited for Castiel to continue.

“Zachariah did not kill me, Sam. One of the angels in my Garrison helped me fake my death. I did it to keep you safe. I thought if he believed me dead he would leave you both alone.”

It took a moment for what Castiel was saying to actually sink in but when it did Sam was filled with the very strong desire to punch Castiel in the face.

“Are you kidding me?”

Castiel shook his head. “I was trying to protect you.”

“Dude, you almost destroyed him! If you were trying to protect us you did a lousy job of it.”

“I know.” Castiel sighed. “That’s why I came as soon as I heard Crowley had Dean. I’m sorry, Sam, really. I thought I was doing the right thing. I see now that I was wrong.”

Sam wanted to be mad, really he did. It was an instinctive response to anyone who hurt his brother. But Castiel looked so crestfallen and like a kicked puppy that all he could do was sigh.

“Cas, next time you get any crazy ideas like that you talk to us first, okay? Just, let Dean cool off a while and then I’ll talk to him, okay?”

Castiel nodded, sadly.

“Okay, who wants breakfast?”

Gabriel breezed into the room with a cheerful smile which faded when he saw the look on Sam and Castiel’s faces.

“What?”

* * *

It took Dean around five minutes of stomping around in the jungle yelling about stupid damn angels before he ran out of steam. Unfortunately by that point he was totally lost. He wasn’t really worried. He didn’t imagine Gabriel would bring them to a safe haven populated by poisonous things, but it was annoying. He was either going to have to keep wandering around until he found his way back to the house or he was going to have to wait for someone to come looking for him.

He really didn’t need to be saved by Cas. Again. Not when he was supposed to be mad at him for being such a clueless dick.

Unfortunately he found he was already missing said clueless dick, and the feelings of rage he’d been feeling when he’d stormed out had faded to mild irritation. Really, more than anything, he was glad Cas was alive.

He headed off in the direction he thought the house was in and found himself instead standing at the foot of a small rock pool with a waterfall cascading down into it. Castiel was sat to one side, looking slightly perplexed, and there was a blanket spread out in front of him covered in all of Dean’s favorite breakfast foods.

“I was in the kitchen a moment ago,” Castiel said. “Talking to Gabriel about how I wished I could make up with you. I can leave if you like.”

Castiel looked wary and hesitant and Dean decided to cut him a break. He moved over and sat down on the blanket next to Castiel. “Be a shame to waste all this food.”

Castiel smiled. “Yes, I suppose it would.”

* * *

The sweet taste of maple syrup softened Dean a bit, and he leveled a gaze at Castiel. “So? You said you’re gonna try to make up with me? Let’s hear it, then.” He leaned back, palms pressing into the grass, and waited.

Castiel fidgeted. “I would like to, yes. I know it is difficult to understand, but what I did... I did it for you.”

“And that makes it OK?” The food and the melodic trickle of the waterfall were slowing his reflexes, but he tried to keep his guard up. “It was OK if you made me miserable because I thought you were dead?”

“I would rather you be alive--”

“Alive and miserable, huh? That’s just like you, Cas.”

Castiel’s face fell. “I’m... I was trying...”

Dean sighed. “Don’t you get it? I missed you. I missed you because I loved you more than I wanted to be alive myself, Cas. That’s hard for me to say. Can you at least find enough stones yourself to say you’re sorry?”

For the first time, a bit of hope lit Castiel’s eyes. “I am sorry,” he said. “Of course I am. I missed you as well, Dean.”

“Good.” Dean leaned toward him. “Then let’s skip the rest, huh?”

Their lips caught; Castiel pushed himself into Dean’s arms with a soft cry. Moments later, a bird alighted on the picnic basket and made off with the very last crumb of croissant. Dean and Castiel, body to body in the grass nearby, were pressed too close together to notice.

* * *

Sam smiled when Dean and Cas materalised back in Gabriel’s house, hand in hand with sappy grins on their face. One day he hoped he could be that happy with someone. He had been, with Jessica, but so much had changed since then. He wasn’t sure she’d even recognise him now.

“So, what’s the plan now that you two have kissed and made up?” Gabriel asked. “Personally I’m in favor of just waiting it out here.”

Sam frowned. “You know we can’t do that. If we do the world will end. We have to find a way to stop Lucifer and Michael.”

“Only you two bozos would be dumb enough to take on not just one archangel, but two. Did you fall out of the stupid tree when you were kids and hit every branch on the way down?”

“No one is making you come with us,” Dean replied hotly. “But we’re getting out of here with or without you and, I hate to say it, with us would be better.”

Gabriel sighed. “Fine, but if you get yourselves killed don’t expect me to fix it. I don’t have that kind of juice. So, where are we going?”

Dean didn’t actually have an answer for that.

“Just find us a motel or something,” Sam suggested. “Something with a decent internet connection and near a library so we can research.”

“I know just the place!” Gabriel grinned and pulled them all into a hug before teleporting them out.

* * *

“You’re crazy.”

“Some have said.” Gabriel pulled a drink out of the mini-bar and began chugging.

“The middle of New York freaking City? What happens if an angel touches down here?”

“He’s right,” Sam chimed in, his voice calmer. “The collateral damage alone...”

“Oh, do you guys ever find anything you don’t complain about? You needed to be near a library, you can’t get much better than that one.” Gabriel pointed out the window; a few dozen floors below, sitting like a white toy in a sea of skyscrapers, was the New York Public Library, its stone lions frozen in mid-growl. “And it’s about time you guys got upgraded. I mean, come on. You’re vessels for angels, you deserve the penthouse suite. If not the Penthouse centerfold.” He raised his eyebrows suggestively. Dean ignored him; Sam shuddered.

Castiel was quiet, gazing out the window. “I never grow accustomed to the view from above,” he murmured a moment later, when Dean moved to his side. “Every time, it awes me. I am glad you can be here and see what I see.”

Dean couldn’t help but follow with his eyes the little darts of yellow taxis swarming through the streets. There was something nice about it, he couldn’t deny that. It would be nice to stand here with just him and Cas in the room, holding hands, maybe Cas leaning on his shoulder as they watched the cars zoom by...

“Dean.”

He jumped.

Sam fought back a laugh. “Gabriel and I are heading to the library for a bit. You’ll be OK?”

“Uh. Yeah.”

“I think they’ll be more than OK. Change the sheets before we get back, kids,” Gabriel lilted. Waving cheerfully, he held the door open for Sam and then exited himself.

Dean looked over at Cas. There was a soft smile on his face. “We will be OK. Won’t we, Dean?”

“Yeah, Cas.” Dean touched his waist with one hand. “We will.”

* * *

Sam’s eyes light up as soon as they step through the doors of the library. The air is filled with the familiar musty smell of old books and knowledge. He loves it.

“Not too shabby, huh, Sammy?”

Sam’s too entranced to even bother objecting to Gabriel’s use of Dean’s nickname for him and instead moves forward. He has no idea where to even start looking for ways to avert the apocalypse but he’s sure if there are answers to be found they’ll be found here. It’s just a feeling he has in his gut, that everything is going to be okay.

Actually, it isn’t.

* * *

Dean is just wondering whether a fancy hotel like this will let him order in pizza when suddenly the room gets a whole lot more crowded.

Zachariah, flanked on either side by ten angels, smiles at him smugly.

“Dean,” he greets with a false cheer. “I see you’ve upgraded. Personally I’m amazed they even let you through the door of this place.”

Castiel has his weapon drawn before Zachariah has even finished speaking, but that just makes Zachariah’s smile even wider.

“Castiel! I should have guessed that rumors of your death were greatly exaggerated. Come now, there’s no need for violence. You can’t take us all on after all.”

“I can try,” Castiel growled and the sound sent shivers through Dean’s body. He knew Castiel would take on as many as he could, and he also knew that Cas would not survive the fight.

Zachariah waved his hand dismissively. “I have no interest in harming you, Castiel, just like I have no interest in harming Dean. All I want is for him to say yes.”

“No!” Castiel said at exactly the same time that Dean said “okay.”

Zachariah blinked in surprise as Castiel turned to face Dean, a mixture of surprise and horror on his face. “Dean?”

Dean continued to address Zachariah. He’d sort of surprised himself when he’d answered but he knew now, right down to his gut that this was the right call. “If I say yes, I want your word that you’ll leave Cas alone. Sam and Gabriel too.”

Zachariah beamed in delight. “Absolutely!”

“Dean, no!”

Finally Dean allowed himself to look at Castiel, his heart clenching at the raw hurt on the angel’s face.

“I’m sorry, Cas, but when I thought you were dead it nearly killed me. I can’t go through that again. Not when I can stop it.”

He leaned forward and pressed a gently kiss to Castiel’s lips. “Don’t do anything stupid, okay?”

He walked over to Zachariah and nodded his head. “Let’s go.”

* * *

The room Dean found himself in was just as nice as the hotel room, if not nicer-- the walls were adorned with frescoes and expensive doodads lined the various tables. The burgers and beer on the table were a nice touch, too, and if Dean weren’t completely creeped out, he might have been tempted to at least sate his hunger.

But how could he eat? He was worried sick about Cas, and more than that, about what he was being asked to do.

“Don’t look so petrified. We’re not going to poison you.”

Dean turned. “You love doing that, don’t you? Popping in just when I think I’m alone?”

“I thought you liked it. You seem to be rather fond of someone else who does it a lot.”

Anger shot through Dean. “You’re going to make sure he’s all right, right? You weren’t lying to me?”

Zachariah lifted his hands. “I will not be touching a hair on that angel’s rather well-moussed head, I promise.”

“I don’t like the way you said that. I swear, if anything happens to him--”

“Dean, Dean!” Zachariah gave his approximation of a magnanimous smile, which was even more creepy than his usual. “The fact that you wouldn’t believe me stings. I’ve always perfectly honest with you. I may have said things you don’t like, but I wasn’t lying.”

“Yeah, well, that doesn’t make me trust you.” Dean pulled a chair out, sat in front of the table, eyeing the mountain of burgers as though it might avalanche down and bury him alive any minute. “So what’s the deal? I just wait here for Michael to jump my bones?”

“That’s the short version.” Zachariah paced in front of a particularly gruesome painting, his hands behind his back. “We want you rested and refreshed before you are called. So just relax here for a while. Have something to eat and drink. You’ll accomplish great things, Dean.”

The hamburgers still made him queasy, but the beer was starting to look good right about now. “Uh-huh? And then? I get a knock on the door and that’s all she wrote? Come on, be specific.”

But Zachariah had disappeared.

Dean was out of his chair in a second, making for the door. He leaped up the short flight of steps and slammed against blank wall.

“Son of a bitch!”

* * *

The moment Dean was whisked away from the hotel the remaining angels closed in on Castiel. He’d expected it, of course. Zachariah wasn’t exactly well known for his honesty. Still, Castiel would make sure that he took down as many of these angels as possible before they ended him.

What he wasn’t prepared for was Zachariah’s appearance in the room, alone this time.

“At ease, boys.”

Castiel tensed, waiting for the inevitable death blow that was surely about to strike, but instead Zachariah simply smiled. It was a predatory, feral smile.

“I never imagined Dean Winchester to be the naive type, and I certainly never imagined him to the the romantic. You must have really got to him, Castiel. All he talked about was how I wasn’t to harm you. Still, self-sacrifice is the Winchester way and it’s a trait you seem to have picked up from them. Are you really willing to give up your own life for them?”

Castiel nodded.

“Well, I can certainly help you with that, but not yet. I have plans for you, Castiel, and I can tell you now it’s not going to be pleasant for you. This is what happens when you side with a couple of humans over your own brethren.”

He snapped his fingers and Castiel crumpled to the ground in an unconscious heap.

Zachariah sighed and addressed the other angels. “You know where to take him. No one harms him until I get there.”

* * *

Sam’s reaction to the New York Public Library was precisely the opposite of what Gabriel expected. He didn’t like the security, which was understandable; he also pouted a bit, chagrined, when Gabriel used a bit of a Jedi mind trick to wave them through before Sam could even show his fake FBI badge. But being among the rows and rows of books didn’t relax him any. He just seemed tense and out of sorts, and eventually Gabriel felt the need to call him on it.

“It’s just... this place is so public,” Sam said, running fingers through his hair nervously.

“Uh, yeah. Public library, Einstein.”

“That’s not what I mean. The security, the tourists... are they really going to have the kind of books we need?”

“Hey.” Gabriel slapped a hand onto his back. “Would I steer your wrong?”

“Yes.”

“That’s not what I mean, jackass.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “I do my homework. I knew you two better than you know yourselves. Right? Of course I’m gonna make sure this library meets your needs before I drag you all the way out to New York. Give me some credit for being on your side here.... what?”

Because Sam was now grinning. Gabriel shuddered visibly. “What?” he repeated, drawing out the syllable.

“You’re interested in meeting my needs, huh?” Sam said, his face pinking.

Gabriel gaped another moment, then leered. “What if I am?”

For a moment the entire library’s worth of books disappeared in favor of a stupid, third-grade staring contest. The few moments of silence might have been the most fun Sam had had in years.

He snapped back, casually, and stepped past Gabriel to wander into another aisle of books. “So where should we be looking?”

Gabriel was actually searching for words for a good ten seconds before giving up the ghost and following him.

* * *

Castiel woke to find himself strapped to a table. It was a room he recognised well considering it had no distinguishing features. The walls were a pale gray with no windows or doors. Zachariah had no need of them.

“I’m sure you recognise this place,” Zachariah said breezily somewhere out of Castiel’s line of vision. “Last time I brought you here I was under order simply to teach you a lesson and remind you of your place. This time. . . well, this time is different.”

Even though he knew it was futile Castiel tested the leather straps that held him. Just like last time they were covered in sigils that would prevent him from escaping.

“If you’re going to kill me,” he sighed wearily, “please proceed. The sound of your voice is tiresome.”

Zachariah’s face loomed into his vision, smug smile firmly in place.

“Kill you? Oh, I’m not going to kill you, Castiel. No, I’m just going to clip your wings. One feather at a time.”

Zachariah began to pull and Castiel began to scream.

Part 2
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