last01standing: ([SPN] Winchester hockey)
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There are few contingencies neither Bobby nor Dean have planned for. The Singer homestead is build for withstanding demon attacks, zombies, ghosts and monsters. It can hold strong against almost any supernatural threat Dean has ever heard of.

It is not, however, fireproof.

Dean should have woken up before this. Should have smelled the smoke, the shrill of the screeching fire alarm.

The sound of Cas screaming.

Dean's whole world is on fire. The flames sending up shining rivets of heat that distort the air, make him feel like he's half drunk.

He pulls his quilt over his head to do what he can to protect himself from the flames and stumbles towards the door. The handle is too hot to use so he lowers his shoulder and smashes through it and into the hall. Cas is in the next room, the light of the flames so bright it washes out his face, makes him look impossibly pale, more like a ghost then a boy.

He barrels through the flames and into Cas's room. The boy is coughing, sweating, screaming. He picks him up just like he had on the day he found him, wraps him tight against his chest. It's the third time Dean's wrapped his family up in his arms and dragged them out of the flames. He figures it's only right after Castiel pulled him out of Hell all those years ago.

The night air is like benediction. It's still hot, about eighty degrees on a day that had hit one hundred at high noon, but after the flames, it feels like the arctic. There are stars out tonight. Hundreds of thousands of them and Dean thinks of angels crashing through the ground.

In his arms, Cas tries to say something but it's lost in a loud cough.

Dean runs through a mental list of what could have caused the fire. It was too warm for the fireplace. The sky is too clear for lightning. Cas coughs again but recovers quickly enough to croak, "Look. Dean, look."

There's a shadow moving just outside the house. It looks like a man.

"Fuck," Dean hisses, herding Cas toward the Impala. "We've got to fucking... shit."

"Bad word," Cas chastises half-heartedly.

"We've got to get out of here. Now."

He's out of town before he realizes what really happened. He pulls to the side of the road, Cas looking at him in shock, throws open the door and pukes. "Dean," Cas says hesitantly from the side, touching his shoulder.

This was never supposed to happen. Cas was never supposed to lose everything like he had when he was a kid.

Then the shadow. He would have thought it was just a trick of his imagination, product of years of hunting and the Apocalypse. But Cas had seen it too, had pointed it out his which means that his paranoia and gut instincts are sound.

He looks over to Cas, his pale face streaked by soot. "You all right, buddy?"

"Where are we going?" Cas asks.

"Do I look like a guy who has a plan?"

Cas reaches up in response to switch on the radio. There's an old cassette tape in and Bon Scott screams Highway to Hell which is a bad omen if he's ever heard one. Dean reaches up and ejects it, handing the cassette to Cas. "Put in something else."

He checks them into a motel about an hour away, carving dad's old protection charms into the walls while Cas washes the soot off in the shower. He has the presence of mind to call the sheriff, who still remembers Sioux Falls filled with zombies and the horseman, Death, riding through the Apocalypse. She's frantic, worried out of her mind. There are signs of arson in the house, most of the firemen think there are no survivors. Dean tells her to keep the cops out of Bobby's panic room and that they're being followed.

Having law enforcement on their side is about the only saving grace of this day. He's still shaking from the panic. He's too old for this.

The second he hangs up on Sheriff Mills, the phone rings again. "Hello," he growls.

"Dean," a familiar, nervous voice says.

"Chuck," Dean sits down hard on the too-stiff mattress. "Would a heads up have been out of the question?"

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I woke up and something had set my house on fire, Chuck. I liked that house. I've never lived anywhere that long in my life."

"Not to mention it's the only tie you have to Bobby."

"Kind of preaching to the choir here, Chuck." His head aches. He can still smell the smoke hanging in the air.

"You know I hate this too. I mean I thought it was over and all of a sudden, I get angel express mail to my brain. I thought this was over. I haven't seen anything in like eight years. And then Ash goes and hacks prophet vision."

"Back up a second, Ash? Dead Ash?"

"Of course dead Ash. Do you know anyone else named Ash?" Chuck stutters out a laugh that goes on just a little to long to sound sane. "I cannot believe I'm having this conversation. I'm like the exposition fairy of my own novels. My editors hated Bobby because he only ever seemed to show up as a quick fix for getting the plot out of the way before we got back to the monsters and shooting."

"Focus Chuck!"

"Channel 107," Chuck says. "You've got to turn it on at exactly 5:22 or it's not going to work--something about a Heaven-to-Earth link up. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense and it's kind of scrambled my brain more than the old link up ever did. If it does work you think you can tell him to stop? Please? I'm kind of done with the Winchester-Apocalypse saga. I've got a new idea for a series in the pipes. Something about people in a plane crash on a mysterious island."


"Sorry, Dean. I'm just not cut out for this you know? Wasn't before, am not any closer now. I'm sorry about your house."

"It's not your fault."

"Yeah, but I kind of feel like the world tends to take a shit on you whenever it's had a crappy day. You deserve a break eventually. I just hope you get it. Say hey to Cas to me all right?"

The sound of the shower stops. "He doesn't know who you are, Chuck."

"Then just tell him I'm sorry."

"Sure," Dean says. "I can do that."

"Bye, Dean."

There's a soft click from the other end of the line as Cas opens the bathroom door and stumbles into the room. There's a towel wrapped around his waist, his dark hair slicked wet and plastered against his pale skin. There are tears in his eyes. "I don't have any other clothes, Dean. They all burned up, didn't they? I don't want to put on the old ones. They smell like smoke."

Dean puts down the phone and moves to his duffel bag. It pays to be prepared and he's been preparing for this whether he'd realized it or not. He tosses Cas a pair of shorts and a white t-shirt. There are two pairs of jeans and a few more child sized shirts stuffed in his bag along with his own clothes. "Cas," he says seriously. "We're going to be all right."

Cas doesn't reply. He just puts on the clothes, dries off his hair and climbs into bed next to Dean. He's asleep well before Ash's appointment time and while this is something Dean would rather keep from the kid, he's also not letting Cas out of his sight.

He's as precise as he can be with the connection, watching the seconds click past on his watch before making the channel change.

Ash's face swims into being but it's out of focused, distorted like when Cas dialed them up in heaven. "Winchester," he drawls. "You never manage to die when I want you too."

"Coming from anyone else, I'd take offense. How's life in Heaven?"

"Boring as hell," Ash says. "I was half planning a takeover before I found out I could watch Earth instead. You figured out the falling angels, right? They decided it wasn't a sin anymore after you and Sam shut Lucifer down in his cage. So a whole mess of angels decide to find out how the humans do it. Only now, a few years later, someone's picked up on the fact that there are a whole lot of human angels on Earth."

"Ash, I know, I've been bringing one of them up."

"Oh," he squints and the TV signal goes static for a moment. "Is that Castiel? I lost track of him. Most of the people up here don't think he had enough Grace left to fall." His face swims back into relative focus. "If you know about them you've heard about the murders."

"I've found five. My hunch was falling angels."

"Five," the connection crackles. "Try about fifty. It's transcontinental. Something wants—" snow flashed on the television screen. One of the lights outside flickers. "Grace. It needs Grace. Kills the family and the kid heads straight for the Grace like a freaking homing beacon. The thing swoops in after grabs the Grace and kills the kid."

"What's the point killing the kid if you already have the Grace?"

"Seems like Grace is tailor made for a specific angel. You can't use a living angel's Grace but once they're dead it's up for grabs."

Cas is asleep on the bed, barely visible under the mountain of covers. "Any idea on who?"

"No, but someone's collecting a massive amount of Grace and our angel buddies up here are worried they're working to spring old Mike and Lucy from the pit."

It's only Cas sleeping soundly on the bed that keeps Dean from raising his voice. "Are you freaking serious? I thought we were done with this shit."

"Serious enough to dial you up from Heaven. Do you think it's easy to hack into a prophet's mind? Sounds to me like they need pretty much all the Grace they can get it."

He wonders where Castiel's Grace touched down. What little was left of it that is. The thought of anyone but Cas getting his hands on it makes him almost physically ill. "You have anything else?"

Ash looks over his shoulder, the movement distorting his face like one of those fish eye mirrors. "Shit, I've got a tracker on me. Stay safe, Dean." The signal surges, blowing out the colors on Ash's face. "Keep him safe."

The channel switches back to snow. Dean puts it on mute and watches it for another hour but Ash's face never comes back into focus. If Dean has to guess, he probably won't see Ash again until he dies.

He doesn't sleep a wink that night and when Cas wakes up they hit the road again.

They stop twice in that first day. The first time at a diner for lunch where Cas examines the greasy burger in front of him with suspicious before he heaves the thing up to his lips, takes a small bite and closes his eyes to savor the taste. Dean's missed greasy diner food. Missed the parade of tired overworked waitresses charmed by his smile.

When they're about ready to leave, the waitress sets a slice of pie in front of him and another in front of Cas. Apple with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. "On the house, sweetie," she says, winking at Dean. "You guys look like you could use it."

Dean smiles at her. Cas says, "Thanks!"

The kid digs in enthusiastically, Dean with more reserve. The pie is just warm enough, the crust a golden brown, the ice cream adding the perfect counterpart to the warmth. He thinks of Sam and Dad, a thousand diners just like this one dotted through the country but when he closes his eyes, he can barely picture it. It's harder and harder to imagine anyone but Cas sitting across from him.

The second stop they make that day is an abandoned field just off the highway. Dean sets up a row of old bottles on a tree stump, unlocks the weapons trunk in the back of the Impala and teaches Cas how to shoot.

Without any other plan, they wind up in the town where Dean had found the last of his suspected fallen angel murders.

They get there on the day they find the kid's body.

It's all over the news. A beautiful boy, red hair, freckles, an impish smirk. Cas turns slightly green as he watches the coroner zip up the body bag. Dean forces himself to see past that. To notice everything about the scene, pick up on the little things.

Like how they found the body splayed out on an old oak tree. The oak tree that the locals say had sprung up out of nowhere almost ten years ago.

They have to wait a day for the police to clear the scene but in the early hours of the morning just as the sun peaks out over the horizon, Dean and Cas make their way to the tree.

"Why are we doing this?" Cas asks.

They're doing this because Cas could be next. Nothing else could have dragged Dean back into the dark but it's also the one thing he won't talk about.

The kid stumbles on a root of the tree, pitching forward to land in the exact spot the body was recovered yesterday. He shoots back up, scrambling towards Dean in a panic. "Let's leave. I don't like it here."

Dean's learned to gage his moods over the last few years. Cas is an agreeable kid. Not a lot makes him want to run. "What is it?"

"I don't know." His teeth are chattering and he shivers despite the warmth outside. "It just—It feels empty. I want to leave."

Empty. Dean had known the second he saw the newscast that the Grace wouldn't be there. Their killer is probably three states over by now. Unless of course, they're being tracked. But Dean would have noticed that.

"Dean." Cas tugs on his sleeve. "Dean, I don't like it here, let's leave."

He lets the boy lead him away, listens as they pile into the car and Cas tells him to drive in a voice that reminds him of the angel he used to be.

Neither of them notice the man watching them from the trees.

They drive for almost a day, only stopping when Dean's too tired to keep his eyes on the road. Cas is sleeping fitfully in the back seat, tossing from side to side and mumbling nonsense to the still night air.

Dean hauls him up over his shoulder and books a room, settling Cas in one of the beds. He's exhausted but instinct forces himself to put down the same protection rituals he does every time he sleeps in a new place. By the time he's finished he's so exhausted he falls asleep face down in his pillow without even bothering to kick off his boots.

When he wakes up, the television is on. Some national geographic special about lions or vast fields of sand or something. Cas is sitting on the edge of his bed, watching intently even though the sound is off. "Can't sleep?" he asks.

Cas's eyes are wide and tinged red when he moves to sit next to him. Almost like he's been crying. The kid deserves a good cry. Dean remembers the fire that had robbed him of his childhood and guesses he should feel lucky Cas even still talks. He wraps a protective arm across his shoulders. "Is there anything wrong? You can tell me anything."

It takes a moment for his frame to relax. When he finally turns his wide blue eyes onto him, Dean gets the feeling that this is a question he's wanted to ask for a long time. "Why do you call me Cas?"

The question cuts so close to so many things Dean doesn't want to talk about. To angels, Lucifer and the Apocalypse so he ducks it as best he can. "It's a nickname, buddy. I used to call my brother Sammy instead of Sam."

"I know what a nickname is," Cas snaps. "Everyone at school calls me Luke. But you call me Cas. I want to know why."

"I kind of like the idea of a nickname only I get to use," Dean confesses. He never liked it when Bobby or Sam called the angel by his nickname either.

Cas turns back to the screen.

"Why you still awake, buddy?"

His eyes don't move from the television. "I keep dreaming I'm someone else. I don't like it so I'm not sleeping. How about you? What do you dream about?"

Sam on the rack. Castiel exploding. The sound Bobby's neck made when it broke. Forty years in Hell. "Puppies and sunshine."

"Scary puppies?" Cas asks, all wide eyes and faux innocence.

"You caught me. Puppies have me running screaming through the streets."

Cas gives him a tired sort of smile. "I'm not going back to sleep tonight."

"You know, I don't think I am either."

The don't talk anymore, just sit there shoulder to shoulder, watching the images flicker past the television screen until the sun finally comes up on the horizon and Dean declares it time to go.

There are stretches of time where he can pretend its nothing but a road trip. Cas has scarcely been out of South Dakota but Dean grew up in highway diners and the open road. He should have taken Cas on a road trip far before this. Gone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades, the Washington Monument and the Empire State Building. He seems fascinated by everything outside his window, like looking through the world in a whole new set of eyes.

It's hot outside. The kind of melt your skin off heat that Dean used to imagine came from Hell before he went there and saw for himself. The whole world's smoldering, but inside the Impala, the AC's blaring, Dean's teaching Cas the joys of rock and roll and they both feel more at home then they have in years. It's a sneaky kind of heat, the whole damn world on a slow burn. No murders, no nothing, but Dean still has the cloying scent of smoke in his hair and the curling fear in his belly that infuses him with the need to keep driving.

There are little things though. Little things that remind him this is not where he is supposed to be. Somewhere along the way, Cas must have pried off the army man Sam wedged in the ashtray because Dean keeps subconsciously looking to the empty spot where it used to be. Cas keeps waking up in the middle of the night with haunted eyes and a thousand-yard stare. By day, Dean teaches him what he can. Cas is a terrible shot but nearly all eight year olds are terrible shots unless they start at six. He takes to the protective symbols. Then again, Castiel always had a knack for that. Just ask Dean's ribs.

Cas is settling into a routine, Dean falling back into habits. He starts seeing hunts like a man seeing water in the desert. He can't go though, can't even think of it with Cas beside him instead of Sam. He's not going to become his dad.

So it continues, mile after mile, the never-ending road trip fleeing a burnt out shell of what used to be a home.

Eventually, Dean catches wind of a case so big he can't ignore it. A series of murder victims missing their eyes. His first thought is angels but then he catches wind of some demonic omens in the surrounding areas.

Demons in Detroit. He hates that freaking city.

One thing's for certain, he can't ignore this one, but he can't exactly charge into danger with Cas in tow.

Claire Novak goes to Michigan State University, about an hour and a half away. He gives her a call during one of their pit stops as Cas runs through the tiny green area, all too eager to stretch his legs. She's in an apartment off campus and when Dean says they're going to stop by, she pledges to get her roommate out for the night.

Dean spends the next hour explaining to Cas about Claire and Jimmy without using the words vessel and angel. Cas listens with the same intensity he listens to everything and Dean can see why a teacher might mistake it for some sort of disorder. Cas is the only kid he's ever met who has this kind of laser focus.

He's smart. As sharp as Sam was as a kid but he has more restraint in what to ask. He's never asked Dean about the handprint on his shoulder and he doesn't ask why Jimmy wasn't in their end of the world line up. Dean can see the question hanging on his lips but while Sammy would have blurted it out, Cas never does.

Claire Novak greets him at the door warmly, pulling him into a tight hug before turning to Cas. Dean clears his throat and says, "Claire, Lucas. Lucas, Claire."

They stare at each other for a long moment and it's so intense, Dean just wants to laugh. Finally Claire sticks out a hand to Cas who steps just a little too close before he grabs it. Claire smiles and says, "I've got an old Wii in the living room."

Even though he used to be an angel, Cas is still an eight-year-old boy so he scrambles excitedly to their living room as Claire turns to Dean, the smile dropping from her face. "What the fuck, Dean?"

Dean starts. She's grown up since the last time he saw her, standing at five-nine in bare feet. Her hair is no longer the blond of her youth but brown. She's solidly built in the way neither of her parents really were. So much so that Dean suspects more than a few hours a week at the gym. Her face is only vaguely recognizable as the little girl he knew almost a decade ago.

She doesn't look like Jimmy at all. Which is going to help him dodge about a hundred of Cas's questions.

Claire snaps her fingers right in front of his face, drawing his focus back to reality. "I knew you had a kid. Which okay, I'm sure there are people crazy enough to let a Winchester adopt but you didn't tell me he was a carbon copy of my dad."

It's such a stupid thing to have overlooked that Dean just gapes at her for a moment. Her face goes from annoyed to furious in just a split second. "You didn't even realize it did you? It didn't even cross your mind. Because Dad was nothing more than the dude Cas was wearing if you even though of him at all."

"Claire," Dean says.

"Fucking don't," Claire hisses. "My dad died and half the time you don't even remember."

He catches her by the arm and whispers, "I'm sorry." She always sounds so calm on the surface. Every letter or phone call they've exchanged had told Dean she was happy. He forgets about how the war scarred people other than his family. He's so used to carrying his own burden, it doesn't even occur to him that the rest of the world isn't used to it. She lets him pull her into a hug.

"He's Castiel isn't he? He's definitely not dad but I was possessed by the guy and he feels the same."

In the living room, Cas lets out a whoop as he wins in some video game. "He doesn't know and I'm not going to be the one to fucking tell him."

"Why him though? Why him and not my dad?"

Dean knows it's not fair but he can't bring himself to say he's sorry it wasn't the other way around.

Dean hates Detroit. He hated it before Sam walked into the Devil's lair and still hates it now.

He hates it even more when he realizes he's fallen straight into a trap.

There is no case in Detroit. He hangs around for about ten hours before it hits him like a ton of bricks. There's nothing here. There's nothing here at all.

He leaves Detroit in screeching tires and makes the drive back to Claire's apartment in an hour flat.

He's too late.

There's an ambulance outside Claire's apartment when he rolls up. Dean has nothing but a stream of obscenities running through his mind. "Claire," he calls, pushing the car door open. "Cas!"

The scene is swarming with cops, a few random bystanders standing, drenched in sweat as the watch the scene unfold. "Do you know what happened?" Dean asks an older lady, who shakes her head and leaves.

"Dean Winchester?" a voice asks.

Dean turns around to find a girl with red rimmed eyes, her arms wrapped tightly across her chest. "Maia," she says. "Claire's roommate. I, uh. I found her when I got in this morning. She was beat up pretty bad."

"Is she all right? Is Cas all right? I'm going to fucking murder anyone who touched them."

"There's more than one type of blood in there. Police say she put up a fight and the paramedics told me the worst of it's a concussion."

Dean's almost afraid to ask. "And Cas?"


"Cas. Lucas. She was looking after my kid for the night."

"There wasn't anyone else when I got there," Maia says. "I'm sorry, I didn't even know we should be looking."

Dean feels weak in the knees.

He can't lose this. Can't lose Cas like he's lost everyone else. This one's on him. Cas is eight freaking years old and Dean hadn't been there to protect him.

"Claire told me to get this to you." Maia presses something tiny and hard into Dean's palm. "I don't fucking know what it means."

Dean does though. In his hands is the army man Sam had wedged into the Impala's ash tray when he was about four years old. The toy that had disappeared sometime between the fire and this.

"It's been following me," Dean realizes, putting his hand over his head to remind himself to breath. "Ever since---fuck months and I never saw a damn thing."

"Dean," Maia tries.

Only Dean's already moving back toward the Impala. The thing may have Cas but it won't kill him unless it has his Grace.

Which means Dean has a very narrow window of opportunity. Cas doesn't know a damn thing about Grace which means there's a chance that the thing that took him is equally clueless.

But Dean knows exactly where Cas fell.

Lawrence, Kansas.

He's made this drive before. Made it nine years ago chasing after his brother and is making it now for the boy who is effectively his son.

It can't end in the same way. He holds on to that small grain of hope. Cas has never been to Lawrence. He wouldn't be able to lead the thing there. Wouldn't know.

But he thinks of Ash who phoned him out of heaven to warn him that when separated from their human caretakers, these fallen angels were like homing beacons for their Grace.

He pushes the pedal down.

Lawrence looks the same. He swears the place exists in a freaking time loop because Lawrence always looks the same. He half expects to turn the corner to see his mom and his dad walking hand in hand down the street or Lucifer and Michael dueling it out in the cemetery. His skin feels like it's alive, thousands of insects buzzing under his skin.

There are words on his tongue, an exorcism, a benediction, a prayer.

The cemetery is colder then the rest of the world, the entire country's been in a heat snap but the cemetery is cold.

It's deja vu, the same tape is in the Impala, vestiges of Cas's last choice. The cemetery even looks the same.

Cas's Grace has to be around here somewhere. He finds his feet moving toward landmarks.

The spot where Sam—Lucifer—beat him into the ground.

The spot where Bobby fell.

The spot where Castiel exploded.

He closes his eyes, hoping that the cessation of visuals would quell the memories fighting their way to the surface. It doesn't work.

The cemetery looks dead and barren. No giant oak that sprang up out of nowhere like Anna. Dean thinks that's wrong somehow. Cas's Grace should have made something magnificent. He helped save the world after all.

The only sign of life is a weathered, beaten rosebush. Dean finds himself strangely drawn to it, this stubborn solitary speck of life in the vast wasteland the Devil once claimed as his battlefield. Dean crouches down next to it. The bush is a mess of thorns, only sporting one solitary rosebud, standing out defiantly in the barren field. It's almost a pure white in color, perfectly in bloom. Touching it with the tip of his finger, Dean feels a rush of warmth.

It feels like Cas somehow. Castiel, the angel and Lucas, the boy. A mess of oddities, assurances, strength in the face of impossible odds. He hadn't had a lot of Grace left when he fell, but this tiny sliver had survived--keeps surviving--despite the odds.

"Oh," a voice says from behind him. "I was looking for that."

He knows the voice before he turns around. Had known what he would find here since Claire's friend pressed the plastic toy in his hand. "Sam," he says hoarsely.

Sam looks good. Looks just like he did the last time Dean saw him, when Lucifer had slipped in and worn him to the prom. He'd almost forgotten this. How tall he was. How the stupidly long hair keeps spilling into his eyes.

"Dean!" another voice calls and only then does he realize that Sam has Cas squirming in his arms. "Help!"

A rush of relief flushes through Dean before he can stop it, because here's his brother alive and the boy who's practically his son safe.

But he knows in his heart Cas is not safe. There's pure terror in his eyes and Dean has to back track to think how long Sam's been in the pit. How long they had to turn him. Dean was there for four months and forty years.

Sam's at nine years Earth time. Dean doesn't want to think how long that is in Hell. There's not even the barest spark of recognition in his brother's eyes.

"Let him go," Dean orders.

Cas strains toward him, eyes wide and frantic. Dean's perversely pleased to see Sam's arms lined with newly healing scabs from Cas's nails. "I never would have been able to pick up this little one's scent if it wasn't for you."

"Christo," Dean snarls.

There's no flinch, no flash of black in his eyes and part of Dean rejoices. Part of him is celebrating, a part of him long dead that chants Sammysammysammy. But there's another part of him too. A part of him that never existed before burning in a white hot rage that promises, if he hurts Cas, I'll kill him.

It seems like he's finally found the willingness to kill his own brother--only about a decade too late.

The angels would be so freaking happy for him.

Cas finally manages to squirm free and darts for Dean who bends over to catch him, wrapping his arms around the boy. All the time he keeps his focus trained on the thing that looks like his brother.

"Do you have any idea how many times I walked past this on my way up here? Dozens of time on the same mission, looking for Grace but I never noticed this."

There are so many things Dean wants to say to that. Wants to tell him how many things had died because they'd underestimated Team Free Will. Wants to tell him how the three of them stood up against heaven, hell, angels and devils and won.

Wants to tell him that he should already know.

"You're not my brother," Dean hisses.

"Never claimed to be," Sam replies, still staring at Cas like he's meat. "I've got a brother, Adam. Trapped in Hell because of something I did. So now I'm fixing it."

It hits him like a bolt of lightning. Sam doesn't remember.

"Christo," Dean tries again, louder, just to be sure.

"I'm not a demon," Sam says. "Demons can't slip in and out of Hell unless they're at a gate. This isn't a gate."

"But you're just that good, right?"

Sam's face curls into a smirk and Dean fights irrational panic. It's happening again--I just got him back--Tear his throat out for scaring Cas--Sammysammysammysammy.

"Step aside. I don't need to kill you. I just want the boy and his Grace."

Dean steps forward, positioning Cas behind him. His voice is shaking. He's drawn Ruby's knife from his waistband, the familiar weight an empty comfort in his hands. "You're not touching my son."

"I don't have a choice," Sam bites.

"So you have to murder ex-angels? What the hell, man. Angels themselves may be a bunch of dicks but you slaughtered a bunch of eight-year-olds."

You were going to slaughter Cas.

Sam spreads his arms and flairs his nostril. It's such a familiar expression that Dean's heart clenches, but Cas is hiding behind him and nothing and no one hurts Cas. Not even Sam. "What was I supposed to do? I've been in Hell for a long time. Longer than I can remember. I get the idea that I was the one who trapped those angels there. They realized I was the only one who could sneak out of Hell so suddenly I'm the one who does the errands. If it were just me, I would have told them to go to Hell." He snorts. "Or you know, stay where you are, but Adam doesn't get out unless they get out and there's not much I won't do for family."

The word cut him deep. Sam is family. So is Adam. Cas peaks out from behind him, clutching the hand that isn't holding the knife. "How long have you been there?"

Sam's lip curls. "I lost track after four hundred years."

Cas is eight and four hundred years sounds like eternity. Dean knows it's longer than that. Four months was forty years. Nine years he doesn't even want to consider.

"Must have been rough." Dean knows how woefully inadequate the sentiment is but he also knows there are no words fit to describe it.

"You have no idea."

Dean licks his lips. It feels wrong to stand here and talk when every bone in his body screams at him to move move move. Half of him still wants to stab this man, his brother for daring to touch Cas. The other half wants nothing more than to pull him into a tight hug. Paralyzed between the two instincts, he can't do anything but talk. "I was there forty. One of those angels you've been killing pulled me out."

"Forty years," Sam scoffs like it was nothing. And for him it probably was. "Do you know what it's like to be a human in Hell for a century? Two? To be carved up and screaming and not allowed a chance to come off the rack. Because Lucifer and Michael need out of the pit and the only one who can slip through the cage is a human. Do you know what it's like to come up here and do their freaking errands and know that I'm going to have to go back? Know that I'm going to keep going back until they have enough Grace to spring their own lock or else me and my little brother are stuck there forever."

"But your not," Cas says, surprising them both.

He's standing a little straighter then Dean is used to seeing, his posture somehow stiffer, his voice still the high pitch of a little boy but somehow more grave.

Sam fixes him with a glare that could kill on the spot but Cas holds his gaze. The kid doesn't understand taboos about eye contact. Never had. "You're not stuck there forever," Cas says. "You're up here and you don't want to go back."

Dean sees where it's going soon enough to finish for him. "So don't go back."

"My brother's there," Sam says after a long moment. "I can't leave him."

Cas tilts his head sideways, and says like it's the simplest thing in the world, "So take him with you."

The predatory gleam in Sam's eye vanishes and he looks genuinely confused. Cas still hasn't blinked. A slow smile stares sneaking up on Sam's face. He takes a step toward Cas and Dean steps between them, brandishing the knife but Sam's suddenly just gone, like he was nothing more then an apparition.

Cas turns to around back towards Dean. Just for a second the shadows from the cloud fall oddly across his shoulders and he thinks he can see wings. The same wings he caught a glimpse of in that warehouse more than a decade ago but they're gone as soon as he blinks and all that's left is little eight year old Cas crouching down to examine the grizzled rose bush. He extends a finger almost hesitantly to the tip of the white rose.

Dean's heart is beating in his throat. He can't lose Cas, no when Sam seems to have slipped through his fingers. "What's going on, buddy."

Glancing over his shoulder, Cas says, "This feels like it's mine."

"Yeah?" Dean tries to keep the magnitude of the situation out of his voice. "You going to take it?"

His hand hovers an inch away from the rose's perfectly white petals before pulling back and taking Dean's hand instead. "I don't think I want it," he says.

Dean takes a deep breath of something that feels like relief. "Good."


It's all over the news.

A cemetery in Lawrence Kansas nearly blown to hell. Even though there were no causalities, the explosion was still big enough to attract attention from national networks.

Dean watches the coverage from a dingy motel room off I-95. He's taking Cas to Washington DC because he should have done that years ago but he can't take his eyes away from the television.

Cas comes out of the bathroom, watching toweling off his hair and pauses next to the bed. "Dean?" he says and when Dean doesn't react he tries, "Dad?"

"What's up, Cas?"

"Is that your brother breaking out?" Cas asks as he pulls a t-shirt on over his head. The heat outside has finally broken and the cool breeze drifting in through the open window feels like benediction.

"Both of my brothers if I had to guess."

Cas nods solemnly and sits down next to him, a little closer than normal but he doesn't say a thing because after a fire and a kidnapping, Cas deserves to be just a little bit clingy. "What are we going to do?"

"Road trip, right, buddy?" Dean ruffles his hair. "Seeing the country. Just you and me. Maybe we'll hit Disney World."

"What about Sam?" Cas demands.

"After he killed a bunch of people, kidnapped you and was ready and willing to kill us both?" Dean sighs and switches off the TV. "I'm not so big on running into the guy again."

Cas tilts his head sideways. "But you miss him."

"He's my brother, Cas. Of course I miss him. We saved the world and he went to Hell for it." Cas is quiet for a long moment and suddenly Dean gets it. Outside of him, Cas has never had family before. "Cas, what do you think we should do?"

Dean knows what he's going to say before he opens his mouth and loves him for it.

"I think we should go find him."

He slings his arm over Cas's shoulder in a one-armed hug. "Then I guess we better hit the road."


Thank you SO MUCH for reading. And again, you should really really go check out the full art post for this fic from the fabulous [ profile] attempt_unique
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(no subject)

24/8/10 12:15 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm so in love with this story.

Are you going to write a secuel?

(no subject)

29/8/10 14:36 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so much for reading! I'm happy you liked it.

No sequel. I don't think I could do one without completely wrecking what this one stood for.

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] - 29/8/10 16:39 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

24/8/10 12:59 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
wow - this was an utterly amazing story! thank you for sharing!

(no subject)

29/8/10 14:38 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

24/8/10 13:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Wow! That was brilliant! I love the image of Dean raising Cas as his son. He would make a great father.

(no subject)

29/8/10 14:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I kind of have a thing for Daddy!Dean. It's shown up in a few of my longer SPN fics. Glad you enjoy it as well.

(no subject)

24/8/10 19:43 (UTC)
ext_400728: (love)
Posted by [identity profile]
VERY powerful it sounds like theirs allot more to this thou :D

(no subject)

29/8/10 14:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Glad you liked it.

(no subject)

25/8/10 00:03 (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
I really loved this!

(no subject)

25/8/10 03:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
*hugs fic* This was great. I think my heart went all pitter-patter when Dean called Cas his son and getting all defensive. And then Cas saying that they should go after Sam, that's so like him. Good job!

(no subject)

29/8/10 15:33 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
*hugs you* I'm so glad you liked it. I agonized over the Sam conflict for a long time. It's good to hear it played out.

(no subject)

25/8/10 04:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This was amazing - I loved every single word of it. Just the entire crushing melancholy and then the bittersweet hope you get from Dean and Cas's relationship. Also the idea of Sam not remembering anything but Adam, that's just heartbreaking and still so clever, I really didn't see that twist coming. Oh and the details of Castiel's grace as the rosebush, and giving a spotlight to minor characters like Claire Novak is just freakin' awesome. I really REALLY hope you write a sequel, because the universe you've built here is so grounded and real and yet so intriguing.

(no subject)

29/8/10 15:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Comments like this leave me with a gigantic smile on my face. I'm so glad it all worked for you. The Sam-Adam thing gave me fits when I was writing. And I do so love my minor characters. Claire was really fun to develop a bit. I'm glad to hear I did her justice.

I toyed with the possible of a continuity/sequel thing for this fact but wound up solidly on the side against it. One of the best thing's I'd ever been told was 'write until the story's finished.' And this story is finished. Anything else would have been about Sam and Dean and this story isn't about Sam and Dean (though I do love them both dearly).

(no subject)

25/8/10 12:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
that was fantastic! riveting is the word.

(no subject)

29/8/10 15:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it!

(no subject)

25/8/10 22:58 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Beautiful and sad and heartwarming with bonus evil!Sam. Quite possibly the best thing I've read all month.

(no subject)

29/8/10 15:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you for such high praise. =)

So very very fabulous

26/8/10 22:24 (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
Daddy Dean may be the most wonderful thing I've ever read. This whole story was beautiful, poignant, heart-breaking and just BRILLIANT. Major Kudos :D

Re: So very very fabulous

29/8/10 15:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so very much. I kind of adore Daddy!Dean as well.

(no subject)

27/8/10 03:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Waitwait that was a really lame comment.



Posted by [identity profile] - 27/8/10 03:28 (UTC) - Expand

Re: ps

Posted by [identity profile] - 29/8/10 15:58 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

27/8/10 04:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
That's just heartbreaking, and wonderfully tied up ... except not, because there's a new family-finding mission. Really well plotted. Thanks for sharing it!

(no subject)

29/8/10 16:07 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so much for reading.

(no subject)

27/8/10 06:15 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Wow, I loved this. I don't normally read Dean/Cas stories but saw your name from back in DA days so went for it. I cried my way through most of it and I loved the ending..kind of hopeful but not pat. Glad to know your writing is still as good as ever!

(no subject)

29/8/10 16:09 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I was about the only person writing gen for the [ profile] deancasbigbang I kind of failed there. =/

Good to see you again, Annie. I've spaced on DA for a while now, but I MISS YOU GUYS. Thank you so much for reading!

(no subject)

27/8/10 07:26 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
AAAAAHHH <33 and the cycle begins anew! This was a really enjoyable read, and your prose well clear that it felt like such a quick read. I don't usually go for de-aged fic, but I got curious about this one. HE CALLS HIM DAD IN THE END. Sam and Adam bonding in hell, oh god now I want fic for THAT. And Dean not wanting to be like his father, AUGH MY HEART. They still get pulled back on the open road, but it's gonna be different this time! Not as desperate as John, not as restless as Mary. Aww, Dean, AND LUCAS GREEN. Now I am all curious about Sam and Adam's post-hell adventures. XD Well done!

(no subject)

29/8/10 16:16 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Heh, I can just see the crackiest Sam-and-Adam's-Hellside adventures fic. Featuring a Lucifer/Michael supplot, crispy-fried demons, hellfire and assassinations!

I still feel a little bad for not warning about the vague kid!fic aspect to this story but I feel like it the kid!fic wasn't more than just a plot point to the rest of the story. I LOVE THAT YOU POINTED OUT THE CALL HIM DAD THING BECAUSE I DELAYED THE HELL OUT OF THAT COMMENT ON PURPOSE.

In short, THANK YOU so much for the kind words.

(no subject)

27/8/10 09:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh my god this was BEAUTIFUL! I teared up so many times and, seriously, it's been ages since a fic has touched me so much. Oh! And when Cas was reaching for the rose, but decided he didn't want it - I might have wimpered, just a little bit. Such a perfect moment.

It really is brilliant how you made Lucas very much his own person, but so very CAS as well.

I feel like I should have been missing the Dean/Cas romance in this, but I really WASN'T. Seeing Dean grow and heal through being a father was just as good, if not BETTER.

Absolutely wonderful. Thanks for this. It's going straight into my favourites :)

(no subject)

29/8/10 16:22 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm SO GLAD TO HEAR IT. Seriously, comments like this make my day because you pointed out all those little places I agonized about and it seems like it WORKED in the end. Yay!

I feel a little odd for writing something epically gen for the [ profile] deancasbigbang but I'm glad to provide a suitable substitute. Dean's journey was a joy to write.

Thank you so much for the kind words.

(no subject)

27/8/10 12:55 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

I am largely against deaged!anyoneatall fics but this one was lovely. It showed a journey that never ended, merely closed a chapter and started a new one. i love it, it was so spot on perfect.

kudos. xoxo

(no subject)

29/8/10 16:25 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Heh, yeah I tried to be sneaky about the de!aged thing. I've been wanting to play with the fact that canon angel falling leads to random ex-angel babies for a long ass time. SO GLAD YOU LIKED IT.

(no subject)

27/8/10 20:46 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
What a beautiful AU; it showed me a side of Dean that I never really thought was there, but that seems so very clear now.

Thank you!

(no subject)

29/8/10 16:28 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it. Thanks for the kind words.

(no subject)

28/8/10 08:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

I love this. CLAIRE! And CHUCK! And Sam and Adam bonding in hell! Awesome stuff. You've done a brilliant job of spinning out all these POSSIBILITIES that are so compelling. And awwwww Dean and Cas. On the road, but Dean trying to be a better dad than his. Just awesome.

(no subject)

29/8/10 16:37 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so much for reading. I had a ball with this story, especially playing with some of the minor characters. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

(no subject)

10/9/10 15:24 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh wow. I am so completely in love with this story and Dean raising a Fallen Cas. I love how Dean tries to keep Cas safe and innocent and ignorant and yet Cas either just knows or figures things like "monsters are real" out by himself. (The scene with the boogeyman was wonderful!)

I loved Dean's characterization and Cas's as well. Also how you worked in Chuck, Ash and the sheriff. This is just amazingly wonderful. *sighs happily*

(no subject)

2/10/10 20:22 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I've always wondered why I'd never seen this kind of fic before. I mean falling in the SPN canon seems to involve getting reborn. I'm happy I managed to work it into a coherent plot for folks like you.

Thank you so much for reading. Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] - 3/10/10 00:09 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

12/9/10 21:43 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This was amazing. You are correct, the art work was inspired.
Thank you so much for this wonderful story. It gripped me and wouldn't let me go, even as the last word was read.

I don't suppose to we to read more of their trip to find Sam and Adam?

Thank you so much

(no subject)

2/10/10 20:25 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
(sorry for the delay in this reply. RL ate my internet time for a good long while)

This challenge was seriously on of the best times I've had in fandom, I'm still fangirling [ profile] attempt_unique. I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed the story as well.

I've not noting about a followup planned. Sorry. =(

(no subject)

13/9/10 08:27 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This is a brilliant story and so well written. I just loved it!

(no subject)

2/10/10 20:26 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you but I wanted to say THANK YOU FOR READING!

(no subject)

8/10/10 14:43 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Excellent! This one goes in my keeper file.

(no subject)

31/10/10 18:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Yay! Glad you enjoyed it!


25/2/11 05:39 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I stil haven't gotten to catching up with Supernatural or at least watching the episodes in order, but I absolutely LOVE this! It kind of defeats the point of fanfic, but nevertheless I think the best stories are those that just suck you in no matter how familiar you are with canon... it's a bit like pulling a random book from the shelf and starting to read in the middle and turns out to be too compelling to close.

Re: Wow!

26/4/11 03:16 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
(apologies for being a whopping 2 months late with replying for this but...)

Thank you so much for this comment. I can't tell you how much it made my day. I'm happy it can function as more or less a standalone. It was a ridiculously fun verse to write.

(no subject)

20/4/11 19:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This story is totally awesome. I love the idea of Dean raising little Cas. Dean is a nurturer at heart. I love that Dean and Lisa realize that they really don't have anything in common. I love that for Sam family will always come first. I love that Sam and Adam get to know each other in the pit. Overall: awesome. Thanks so much for posting!

(no subject)

26/4/11 03:17 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
(And I love this comment.) Thank you so much for reading.

(no subject)

17/8/11 10:25 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I am sitting here this morning in my dingy little office dying of boredom searching high and low for something good to read and then I came across this story. I loved it from start to finish very well done I enjoyed it so much my only complaint would be that well its finished and now its over and I never wanted it to end!!
But nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable and thank you for posting it you made this dull morning a whole lot less dull <33

(no subject)

29/8/11 19:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It was kind of an epic undertaking and I'm really pleased with how it turned out.
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