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[personal profile] daymarket
Title: Chasing the Sky
Rating: R
Warnings: omg. Um, oodles of death, dub/non-con, semi-explicit violence, swearing, unhealthy relationships, implied child abuse. Well, this is an SPN AU about serial killers, so…yeah.
Wordcount: ~12,000
Summary: AU. Round and round the bodies they go, in the game that only ever ends one way. Ironically enough, it’s the only way that Dean ever feels alive.
Notes: Written for the Everlasting Birthday Exchange for [ profile] marourin, happy birthday! Er, or something. Original prompt: Castiel Novak is an FBI agent embroiled in a deadly cat and mouse game with a mysterious and charismatic serial killer (Dean Winchester). As the game carries on and Castiel’s obsession grows, the killer might be closer than he ever suspected. Er, while the prompt calls for Cas POV, the only way this fic could be written was through Dean’s, sorry. This is substantially darker than anything I’ve ever written before, and I hope it turns out to be to your liking. (I am not this dark in real life, I swear. *thinks happy thoughts*)


11. Louis Danbury

While driving yet another stolen vehicle on yet another ordinary day, it suddenly strikes Dean how much they’ve changed. He steals a look out of the corner of his eye at Sam, sprawled in the passenger seat. Huge, twenty-two year old moose Sam, no longer the squirmy little kid who first picked up a razor to carve their father to bits. Sam’s hair has grown and his frame has filled out until he’s taller than Dean, but all the same he’s still Dean’s little brother. Little Sammy.

Sam notices his silent scrutiny and turns to look at him quizzically. “Dean?” he asks after a moment. “Uh, the road?”

Dean quickly glances back at the road. “Shut up. I’ve been driving way longer than you have, bitch,” he says in reply.

His heart soars as Sam slugs him in the shoulder and laughs. “Yeah, and who’s the one who clipped those trash cans last summer?” Sam says. “Scared the shit out of that poor stray cat.”

“I’m not a cat person,” Dean grumbles in a mock-angry tone, but it’s all for show, really. Sam’s back, his brother’s back from his fling with Jess. Dean finds his mind automatically composing it into a letter to Cas: Sam’s in a good mood again, you have no idea how fucking happy it makes me, man…

Well, why the hell not, Dean decides impulsively. There’s no law that says he can’t write, even if said letters are to the FBI agent chasing him. Besides, he’s never given a rat’s ass for the law anyway. In their motel room that night while Sam’s in the shower, Dean carefully records the drive, and he takes an extra minute to try to chronicle that exhilarating happiness in his chest when Sam laughed. He probably does a piss-poor job of it, but what the hell, he tried. He seals the envelope and stashes it in his jacket as Sam walks out of the bathroom.

He mails the letter the next day. Dean’s starting to wish that he could see Cas’ face when he opens the letters. He wonders how Castiel reacts; is he mad, sad, irritated, pissed off? Or maybe (though Dean doesn’t dare to voice the thought even in his own head) excited? It’s a dangerous road for his thoughts to travel, but then again, they’re only thoughts.

As if in penance, he reserves the next month for Sam. They travel the country, hustle pool, sightsee, catch a ball game or two, do everything and anything that catches their fancy. And when the urge gets too strong, Dean throws himself in the preparations for Louis Danbury (thirty-three, black hair, dark eyes, widower who owns a motorcycle shop). He thinks that he can see Sam loosen with every stroke of the knife, and this in turn lightens the load on Dean’s shoulders.

He sends another letter after they dispose of the body. Guilty pleasure, but it’s one of the few things he keeps for himself.

12. Edward Goodell

It takes a while for Dean to broach the subject again, but to his relief, Sam agrees easily enough when he finally does. “It’d probably be best to meet him in unfamiliar territory, though,” Sam says. “Maybe we could kidnap him or something?” He looks sideways at Dean. “I mean, do you want to keep him?”

“What would I do with an FBI agent?” Dean says, although he’ll privately admit that the idea of keeping Castiel is very attractive. “Nah, Sam. I just want to talk.”

“You want to be alone when you guys talk?”

Dean looks at Sam sharply, but there’s nothing but sincere concern in Sam’s face. “Sure, why not,” Dean says, feeling somewhat unbalanced.

“Awesome,” Sam says briskly, and then he’s off with that frighteningly smart brain of his, scheming and planning ways to kidnap Castiel. Dean throws in a suggestion or two, but Sam’s the one who ties all the strings together. They lure Cas out to a fairly deserted junction, chloroform him, and bring them back to the basement of an empty house. As they manhandle him into the chair, Dean can see Sam’s eyebrows crease slightly in puzzlement as he looks Cas up and down. Dean can’t really help him there, because he doesn’t get it either.

Sam leaves to keep watch, and then it’s just Dean and Cas with no one between them. Dean rubs a hand lightly over Castiel’s face, reveling in the feel of stubble against his palm. Fuck. It’s almost like a dream, that the obscure figure he’s been writing to for God knows how long has stepped out of the letters and come to life.

He can tell the exact moment that Castiel drifts back to consciousness, because even though Cas’ eyes are still closed, there’s a slight hitch in his breathing. Cas’ eyes flutter open slowly, and Dean waits with bated breath as Cas’ eyes focus on him. He can’t help the silly grin that spreads across his face as he meets Cas’ gaze. “Hi,” Dean says, giving a little wave with his free hand.

“You took longer than I thought,” Castiel says after a moment. “Your first letter came almost two years ago.”

“Has it been that long?” Dean murmurs. “I’ve been busy.”

“Doing what, exactly?” Castiel says, his blue gaze penetrating and steady.

Dean has to suck in a deep breath before he can continue. “You know,” he says. “The usual. Running around with Sam. I’m a pretty simple guy, Cas.”

“I see that you’ve repaired your relationship with Sam,” Castiel says. Dean grins.

“Yeah. Yeah, we have,” he says, cupping his palm around Castiel’s cheek. “Sam’s, uh…losing Jess tore him up pretty bad. Well, I mean, you know all this, obviously, since you got my letters.”

“I found them to be interesting enough,” Castiel says, his tone guarded. He doesn’t move away from Dean’s hand, and his stillness is almost a challenge to Dean to break it. Castiel takes in a slow, deliberate breath before asking, “So am I to be your next ‘body,’ then?”

Dean has to laugh with the absurdity of it all. “What?” he says. “No. Jesus, Cas, you have to stop being so paranoid.”

“Given your track record, I think I have reason to be cautious,” Castiel returns dryly. “You have an affinity for men in their thirties.”

“Yeah, but you’re different,” Dean tells him gently. He moves his hand up to brush at the edges of Castiel’s blue eyes. Castiel blinks once or twice, but otherwise there’s no reaction. “And, I mean, it’s not just your eyes,” Dean adds. “It’s…I don’t know. Sam thinks I’m crazy, by the way.”

“Many psychologists would agree with him,” Castiel says.

Dean grins. “So you did show me off to some shrinks, huh? I knew you couldn’t resist.”

“A psychological profile was only logical,” Castiel tells him, but Dean knows what he’s not saying. You don’t get a case file like the Winchesters every day. They’re special.

“And?” Dean probes as Castiel falls silent. When Cas doesn’t reply, Dean trails his hand down to touch the soft lips, his thumb slipping into Cas’ mouth. “C’mon, don’t be shy.”

“I thought you didn’t want to discuss your father,” Castiel says evenly.

“Why do you have to bring that old bastard into every conversation we have?” Dean asks, half-amused, half-exasperated. “Seriously, if I didn’t know better, Cas, I’d say that you liked him better than me.”

“I make no excuses for a child abuser,” Castiel returns quietly, “but nor do I give undue allowance to the abused.”

“So I take it you disapprove of what Sam and I do?” Dean murmurs, more to hear that low voice again than to actually take in the words. “Did anyone ever tell you that you need to lighten up, Cas? Get that stick out of your ass.” He pulls his thumb out from between Castiel’s lips and runs it across his cheek, leaving a slight shine of saliva. “Or maybe you already knew all that. You got a girlfriend?”

Dean tries to keep his voice light, but he can tell from the way that Castiel tenses slightly that his ruse has not succeeded. “We were talking about you, not me.”

“We were talking about me, now we’re talking about you. No backtracking in conversation, Cas.” Dean resists the urge to twine his fingers through that dark, messy hair and pull until the mask breaks. It would be cheating, in a way. “C’mon, you can tell me. We don’t go after women.”

“You killed Lilith Zazel,” Castiel says.

“Who’s Lilith Zazel?” Dean asks with a frown.

“We found her remains with Alistair Talbot’s,” Castiel tells him, and the man’s name is enough to spark Dean’s memory. Oh, yeah. The mean blondie. “Are you expanding to couples now?”

Dean laughs at the misunderstanding. “Hell, no,” he says firmly. “That was a mistake. The chick would not stop fucking screaming, man, I thought my ears were going to blow. We had to shut her up.” He sighs a little ruefully. “Not fast enough, obviously, since we had to go on the run.”

“You’re frighteningly good at that,” Castiel says quietly.

“What? Running?”

“Improvising,” Castiel says. He pauses, and then adds slowly, “Are you planning another body?”

Dean smiles at Cas’ careful enunciation of the final word. “You really think I’d tell you that? Your last attempt at changing the subject was way more subtle than this, Cas.” He pauses. “And you still haven’t answered my question.”

“What question?” Castiel says.

Dean has to stop and give him points for his perfectly flat demeanor. Dean gives up the internal struggle and runs his fingers through Castiel’s hair, tugging gently in mild warning. “Girlfriend,” he reminds Cas. “I’m asking an earnest question, Cas.”

“Does that obligate me to give an earnest answer?” Castiel says. Fuck, the guy’s got balls, Dean’ll give him that. “I don’t believe it makes any difference if I have a girlfriend or not.”

Dean frowns at the evasion and pulls harder. Cheating be damned; it just frustrates him so much how he can’t seem to get to Cas at all. “Is it your FBI pal?” Dean asks, surprising himself with the harshness of his tone. “Anna, was it? Are you fucking her?”

“I’d never have guessed your newfound curiosity with the sexual,” Castiel answers, his expression not changing one iota. “You’ve never displayed any interest in this particular arena before.”

Dean breathes deeply as anger, sudden and brutal, surges inside of him. Castiel’s toying with him, like it’s all a game, like he doesn’t understand just how much this means to Dean. “No,” he agrees, the anger coalescing into something hard and sharp inside his chest, cutting against him as it begs to be set free. “Except with you.”

The shards of anger break free as he grabs Castiel’s hair with his other hand and tilts the other man’s head backwards, kissing with a savage ferocity until he can taste blood. He can feel Castiel twist under his hands, but this only makes Dean tighten his hold as he seeks to rob Castiel of every last breath of air.

He presses their bodies close together until he can feel Castiel’s heartbeat as his heart pounds desperately against his ribcage. Dean listens to the frantic beat for a moment and slowly gentles the kiss, licking away the blood as if in penitence. Castiel’s breathing is ragged, and when Dean raises his head to look at him, the pupil is dilated with just a rim of blue. “Fuck,” Dean says, half in awe, half in amazement that this is his, all his for the moment. “Cas, I don’t…”

“Stop this,” Cas whispers. “I’m not your toy, Dean.”

“No,” Dean agrees. He brushes Castiel’s cheek and frowns as Cas flinches ever so slightly from his touch, because Dean never wanted Cas to look at him like a monster. A rival, a partner, but never a monster. “You’re a lot more than that, Cas.”

He doesn’t normally care about the bodies he and Sam play with, but Cas isn’t a body. Dean shifts slightly as he thinks, and he notices without much surprise that he’s hard—Castiel has that effect on him, apparently. With some curiosity, Dean trails a hand down to Cas’ groin and rubs slightly, wondering if Castiel’s affected nearly as much as Dean is. There’s nothing there at first, but as Dean fumbles with Castiel’s belt and eases his pants off his hips, he can start to see something.

“Oh,” he says, grinning. “Cas! You dog.”

Castiel doesn’t reply, but his breathing is harsh. Dean looks up at him to see that Castiel’s eyes are half-shut, his head shaking back in forth as if in denial. “Hey,” Dean says as Castiel’s breathing grows more ragged. His amusement turns into concern, and he grips Castiel firmly by the shoulders. “It’s okay, man. Shh, it’s okay.”

“Don’t,” Cas says, making a plea for something that Dean can’t give. There’s only a remnant of the mask still clinging to Castiel’s face now, and suddenly, Dean wants to see the last vestiges of it torn away. He places a hand on Castiel’s cock and rubs back and forth gently as if soothing a wild animal. “It’s okay,” he says softly, watching Castiel as the other man fights to keep his face steady. “C’mon, Cas. It’s not as bad as you think.”

Castiel gives a broken gasp as Dean sweeps a thumb along the underside of his cock, and Dean smiles as Castiel’s hips jerk involuntarily up into his hand. “There we go,” Dean says, feeling that strange, soaring sensation in his chest, the one that seems to pass almost flawlessly for happiness. “Take your time, Cas, I’ll make it good for you…”

Castiel lets out a small, broken whimper that contrasts strangely with his normal gravelly tone. Fascinated, Dean wraps his hand around Castiel’s cock, pumping up and down as he tries to make Castiel give out that sound again. “There’s nothing to be ashamed about,” Dean tells him as Castiel makes one last attempt to try to twist away, the muscles of his thighs trembling under Dean’s soothing touch. “You’re off the clock, aren’t you? And I’m not going to hurt you. I’d never hurt you,” he adds, knowing that it’s as true as he can make it.

“Dean,” Castiel says, and Dean’s heart clenches almost painfully at the sound of his name. “Dean, I—”

“Cas,” Dean says in answer. It doesn’t take much, and Dean’s in a hurry: he gives a few more hard strokes, and Castiel lets out a soft, almost agonized cry as he comes. Dean watches his face with a rapturous hunger, storing away the image of Castiel’s face to pore over later. Castiel’s mouth is open, his eyes fluttering rapidly, a faint blush in his cheeks as he gives into the pleasure that Dean gave him—not his mysterious girlfriend, not some wackjob out there, but Dean. “That’s it,” Dean breathes. “You’re so fucking beautiful, Cas.”

Cas gives out an answering whimper, and Dean pushes himself up to kiss him, wanting to capture that sound and hold it forever. As Castiel comes down from the orgasmic high, Dean twines his fingers through Cas’ hair and holds him there, wishing that he could keep him.

But he can’t, because part of the fun of watching a wild bird is that the bird needs to be able to fly free. Dean sighs a little regretfully and lets Castiel pull away. Castiel’s eyes are wide, almost wild as he regards Dean.

“You had no right to do that,” Castiel says finally, and his voice is broken, hoarse.

“I know,” Dean says. It’s a statement, not apology.

Castiel locks gazes with him for a long moment. Dean looks back steadily, his heart thumping in his chest despite his calm façade. Castiel is the first one to look away, but Dean somehow feels that he’s the one who’s lost whatever obscure game they’re playing. He frowns a little and rubs at his chest as if he can physically push the heaviness away.

“It’s going to end, one way or the other,” Castiel says at last. “You deserve the death penalty a dozen times over, Dean.”

Dean has to laugh at that. “You’re handcuffed to a chair with your pants down, and you’re seriously going to threaten me?” He pauses as Castiel’s eyes flick up to meet his, and he shakes his head, nstantly contrite. “No, you’re right. That was petty.”

Castiel snorts. “I think that pettiness is the least of our problems,” he says, sounding weary. “How do you think this is all going to end, Dean?”

“You could kiss me back,” Dean says, half-joking, half-hopeful.

Castiel’s expression doesn’t change. “Ten years from now, where are you going to be? Will you still be on the road, rootless, with nothing waiting for you except death?”

Dean sighs. “I don’t even know what I’m going to do tomorrow, man, and you’re asking me about ten years from now?”

“How about ten minutes from now?” Castiel says. His expression doesn’t change one iota as Dean cups a hand around his cheek. “Because you should understand that if you let me go, I’ll be right on your trail again. And this time, I’m not going to stop.”

“Did you ever stop before?” Dean asks wryly. “Because I gotta say, we’ve been running around for a couple years and you’ve kind of sucked at stopping us.”

“We were five minutes behind your trail on the Talbot case,” Castiel informs him, and Dean grins a little. It’s always nice to be proved right. “It won’t take long before even that gap slips away.”

“We’ve had a few between Talbot and now, and we’re still out,” Dean says. “What, are you guys chipping away at one minute at a time?”

“You can’t run forever,” Castiel says coolly. “One day I’ll catch you. If not me, well, you should know that a few others are on your tail as well.”

“Well, that’s not mysterious at all,” Dean says, rolling his eyes. “Pardon me if I’m not too worried, Cas.”

“Because you’re no stranger to death, are you,” Castiel says softly.

“Is your pillow talk always this morbid?” Dean asks, crossing his arms. His heart leaps as a hint of a smile nudges at Castiel’s lips, oddly incongruous with their surroundings.

“Always,” Castiel answers.

Dean brushes his thumb across Castiel’s cheek, feeling oddly at peace. Castiel stays still under his touch, tacitly allowing Dean to explore the lines of his face and neck. When Dean’s hands trail down to tweak lightly at his nipples, his only reaction is a slow, deliberate blink. Dean rests his hands on Castiel’s waist for a moment, testing the skin underneath. For a guy who’s in his mid-thirties, Castiel is remarkably trim.

With only a little regret, Dean eases Castiel’s pants back over his hips and zips him up. Castiel shifts slightly, his eyes wary. Dean takes a deep breath and forces himself to step away. “You know,” he says finally, “You never answered my question.”

“You distracted me,” Castiel says.

“True,” Dean says a bit ruefully. “But you’re the one who changed the topic first.” He pauses, and then says quietly, “So. Girlfriend?”

Castiel tilts his head, regarding Dean thoughtfully. The moment seems to drag out for what seems like an eternity before he finally shakes his head. “Married to my work.”

“Oh,” Dean says, and relief, tremendous relief that he’d never have anticipated, crashes through him. “What about Anna?”

“She’s my work partner,” Castiel says slowly as if tasting each word before letting it go. “But I thought you said that you didn’t take women.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “And I don’t. Unless there’s something you’re not telling me, though, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”

“I am not your date,” Castiel says, and the words are intense enough to give Dean pause. “Don’t mistake this for something it’s not, Dean. I’m here because you brought me here by force. The second you let me go, this ends. One way or another, it ends.”

“That doesn’t give me much incentive to let you go, now does it?” Dean says with a winning smile. “C’mon. Lighten up a bit, huh?”

“But you will,” Castiel says with absolute certainty.

Dean sighs inwardly, knowing that the bastard’s right. “Bitch,” he grumbles, crossing his arms.

Castiel remains silent, but his eyes track Dean’s every movement. Impulsively, Dean leans down and kisses Castiel again, savoring the taste of him. This time, he almost thinks that Castiel kisses back.

He straightens up slowly. Castiel’s breathing is just a little bit faster, and Dean smiles at the sight. “I’ll send someone for you,” he promises as he heads up the stairs. “I’ll see you around, Cas.”


The game’s only fun when Castiel is chasing them, and so that’s what Dean does. He gives Castiel a bone to chase. He takes a big risk this time when he mails Edward Goodell’s (thirty-two, black hair, dark eyes, widower who goes to a shooting range every Saturday) heart to Castiel at the FBI, but all in all, he thinks that it’s worth Sam’s eye-rolling.

13. Michael Lorney

Dean isn’t too sure what to think when Sam turns up with Ruby one day. On one hand, it’s a good sign that Sam’s moving on, even if it does rile up that old jealousy a little. On the other hand, well…Dean’s jealous. Plus, even though Dean’s no great shakes at relationships, isn’t it a little too soon to be dating someone else?

Still, he’s okay with it. Really, he is. After all, after Jess, he’s somewhat loosened up on the whole dating issue. That is, until Ruby walks in on them and Michael Lorney (age thirty-four, black hair, dark eyes, widower and Marine drill sergeant). Turns out, she tracked the GPS on Sam’s phone (phones have GPS? Who knew?) and followed them there.

There’s a frozen moment in which Dean has plenty of time to despair about how Sam’s going to be all mopey again after she dies, and how messy it’s going to be, and how this is really not what he planned to show Castiel. All of that goes away, though, when Ruby closes her hand around the handle of the razor. “So,” she says. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Oh…kay. Somewhat unexpected. Still, improvisation’s a Winchester specialty, and that’s just what they do. While Dean feels a little unsettled about having a third join their game, he can’t deny that Ruby has some fiendishly clever ideas of her own that impresses even him.

“I like her,” Sam says softly to him later that night when Ruby’s in the shower. “Think she’s a keeper?”

“Well,” Dean says slowly, “she hit the road with us quickly enough.”

“Her parents are dead,” Sam explains, “and she’s got no connections so far as I can tell.”

Dean sighs and runs his hands through his hair. “Okay,” he says at last. “I mean, if you’re cool with it, I guess it’s the least I can do to say the same.”

Sam’s eyes soften, and Dean grimaces a little in disgust at the disgruntlement that had evidently crept into his tone. “Didn’t mean it that way, Sam,” he says. “Look, if you like her, I’ll do my best to keep up, I swear.”

Sam shoots him a sympathetic look. “Your own flame’s not working too well, huh?”

“Shut up, bitch,” Dean tells him. “Cas and I, we’ve got issues. But we’re working them out.”

“Whatever, jerk. He’d better be grateful,” Sam adds. “You sent the man a freaking heart. That postage cost us a fortune; I wouldn’t agree to that for just anybody.”

“Wow. So kind of you.”

“Whatever,” Sam grumbles. The silence lasts only for a moment, though, before he speaks again. “So. Ruby?”

The single word contains a multitude of questions, and Dean sighs. “Yes,” he says finally, knowing that the permission is by contrast simple. For your happiness, Sammy, yes.

Sam reaches over and, much to Dean’s surprise, hugs him. Dean breathes in the familiar scent of Sam and hugs back.

14. Dominic Amelilo

Ruby’s…different. After so many years on the road with just Sam n’ Dean, it’s odd to have a third person. On one hand, Dean’s glad because it makes Sam happy, happier than he’s been since Jess died. On the other hand, Ruby can really grate on his nerves sometimes.

One thing that makes is slightly easier is that Dean can tell that as enamored as Sam is, he’s reluctant to bring her in on their next body. Yeah, she stumbled in on one by sheer accident, but that doesn’t mean that she gets to be a third player. This, still, remains Sam and Dean’s.

“Next time,” Sam promises her when they get back from Dominic Amelilo (thirty-six, black hair, dark eyes, widower who works on a construction site). He glances at Dean for permission before adding, “We’ll let you play all you like.”

“Can I choose?” she pouts. Dean stiffens, and he shoots Sam a warning look. Playing is one thing, but choosing is a long process that no one else could ever get right. Sam meets his eyes in a moment of perfect understanding and shakes his head at Ruby. She sighs, petulant.

Dean has the sinking feeling that this isn’t the end. Ruby’s going to keep pushing, and sooner or later something’s going to break—Sam, him, the game. Secretly, he just hopes that she’ll leave before that happens.

Fucking Ruby, he writes in his next letter to Castiel. It’s going to go all wrong, Cas. I just know it.

15. Richard Harris

Their game with Richard Harris (thirty-five, black hair, dark eyes, widower who runs a slaughterhouse) goes off smoothly, even with Ruby there. In fact, Ruby’s even more tractable than usual, following every one of their orders with alacrity and obedience. Sam’s eyes glow with pleasure, but Dean has the nagging feeling that something’s wrong.

It’s jealousy, he knows. Dean sighs and tells himself that Sam’s a big boy, and Dean’s known for a while that he can’t keep him forever. Just live with it, Dean.

16. Ruby Allister

It all comes to a head far more explosively than they could’ve ever imagined. The body’s one like an any other—male, in his thirties, black hair and dark eyes. They get him tied up without much trouble, either, and the site is flawlessly hidden—or should be, anyhow. Except this time, as Sam makes his third careful mark on the body’s skin, they’re interrupted by a slamming door.

“FBI! Come out with your hands up!”

Shit doesn’t begin to describe it all. Dean looks around as adrenaline kicks in instantly, making everything sharp and clear and—Ruby. One look at her face and Dean knows everything that he needs to know. “You tipped off the cops,” he says with absolute certainty.

She smiles, a cold thin, expression. “You pissed off some pretty big powers when you killed Lilith,” she says, crossing her arms. “Count yourself lucky that it’s the Feds who’re getting your skin, but hey, I’ve always been sentimental—”

Sam moves before Dean has fully formulated the thought. Ruby stares down at the knife in her stomach with a shocked expression as Sam presses it in with all the tenderness and rage of a betrayed lover. Dean finds that he can’t look at Sam’s face, and so he focuses on the agony in Ruby’s. He should feel glad at having been proven right or panic at the fact that the FBI’s banging down their door, but instead there’s just an empty hole of nothingness.

They’re in an abandoned cabin in the woods, and they’re working off the second floor. Dean swipes the worst of the caked dust off a window and peers out of it. It’s dark outside, but he’s willing to bet that the FBI has surrounded the whole house. Still, they don’t have much choice.

The fall from the second floor window is short enough that they can make it without killing themselves, but far enough that they don’t escape completely intact. Sam hits the ground harder than Dean does, and his face goes white as an ominous crunching sound fills the air. “Shit,” Sam says, and the pain in his voice wrenches at Dean’s guts. “Dean, my foot—”

“C’mon,” Dean tells him as he slings an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “Don’t be a pansy,” he adds through clenched teeth as Sam tries to take a step and stumbles heavily against the ground. “Sam, get up, get up—”

There’s the sound of footsteps not far behind them. Dean tries again, but it’s Sam’s own damn fault for having grown so fucking big, and Dean’s just not good enough to carry him. And even if he could lug Sam around, well, there’s nowhere to take him to. As figures emerge from the shadows shouting their officious warnings, Dean’s world narrows down to him and Sam and—

While neither of them is particularly fond of guns, they both know how to use them from their time with John. Dean meets Sam’s glance and can read in his brother’s eyes what he’s about to do next. They don’t use guns often, but they’ve been thoroughly trained from years of dawn practices, night runs, beatings for failure, starvation for anything less than perfection, broken promises accompanied by sweaty palms and the stink of whiskey on breath.

There’s a frozen moment of perfect accord, and then Sam swings his gun up, aims, and fires.

17. Sam Winchester

Dean’s ears are ringing, and the world is strangely sharp even in the dim glow provided by the moon. Dean looks down and sees Sam flat on the forest floor, his eyes half-open and staring blankly at the sky. His expression is strangely serene even as the wetness grows on Dean’s hands.

He feels arms pulling him back, pulling him away from his brother. Dean twists as hard as he can, but his movements are surprisingly sluggish. “Sam,” Dean says, and the word is stillborn and dry in his mouth. And maybe that’s the reason why Sam doesn’t respond, because Dean can’t make a sound.

Or maybe it’s because he’ll never hear Dean again.

“Sam!” Dean bursts out, and this time, it’s loud enough to shatter the sudden silence. “Get off of me,” he snarls to the men who fight to keep him down. “I’ll kill you all, you sons of bitches—” and he can, he will, because he’s done far worse for his brother.

An arm wraps around him and grips him tightly, hard enough to choke the scream from Dean’s lungs. “Dean,” a voice growls into his ear. “It’s over.”

“It’s not,” Dean says, but the words ring hollow even to his own ears. “You can’t do this, Cas, please.”

“Yes,” Castiel says simply, “I can.”

Three words. They’re enough to shatter any strength Dean has left, and the impact of the ground comes as a sudden shock. Dean finds himself staring at Sam’s prone face, reaching out desperately as if he can revive his brother and animate him once more. The blood around them seems almost silver in the moonlight, and Dean has to resist the urge to throw himself into it to escape the looming emptiness in his chest.


The call of his name is urgent, low. Dean drags his eyes up from the blood and Sam to see Castiel, his blue eyes fixed upon Dean with a terrible intensity. “You’re bleeding,” Castiel informs him, and Dean shakes his head in disbelief. Yeah, he feels like his guts are spilling out onto the floor, but since when was any sort of emotional pain ever visible? It’s a ludicrous concept, and a choked laugh forces its way out of Dean. Funny, how he can laugh at a moment like this.

He can feel Castiel’s hands peeling away his jacket. In a way, Dean’s getting what he’s always wanted, but the growing pain in his chest seems to preclude the possibility of celebration. “He’s gone,” he tells Castiel, needing to hear the confirmation more than anything else.

Castiel looks at him gravely. The lines of his face are hard, allowing no room for anything other than impersonal justice. “You knew this was coming.”

“Didn’t think it’d happen so fast,” Dean says softly, staring at Sam. He doesn’t look dead. Asleep, maybe. If it weren’t for the blood, he’d think that Sam was trying to fool him. “Didn’t think it would happen this way.”

“I warned you,” Castiel says, and he sounds regretful, almost. Dean laughs again, harder, this time mocking the absurdity of it all. He stops as the strangely familiar taste of iron fills his mouth, and he looks at Castiel in an involuntary question. Castiel reaches out and smooths a thumb over Dean’s lips in a strangely soft, reverential gesture. There’s a pause, and then Castiel announces grimly, “It’s blood. We need to get you to a hospital.”

“Don’t bother,” Dean murmurs. “It’s probably for the best.”

18. Dean Winchester

He sags, suddenly boneless. He can feel Castiel stagger as the other man tries to keep him upright. The world lurches for a moment, and Dean closes his eyes in an attempt to stop the vertigo. When he opens them again, he’s staring up at the sky, his head cradled in Castiel’s lap. “So I get what I deserve, huh? Karma’s a bitch,” Dean says to him. His words are slurred as he tries to will the numb muscles of his face to work, but he thinks that Castiel can understand him. “Cas, I…”

The sentence goes unfinished, but Dean thinks that Castiel understands. Dean focuses on the bright sliver of blue eyes above him, accepting them as a promise of whatever’s to come.

Gentle fingers card through his hair, and Dean sighs, feeling something unclench within him at last.
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