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and your sacred stars won't be guiding you

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"What if — what if you had your sword?"

 

+

 

"Dean, no."

Dean has to push the words out. "I am your sword." He thinks of Stull — the blood in his mouth, the blistering Kansas sun, the dry grass rustling under his knees. Sam saying It's okay, Dean. It's gonna be okay. I've got him. Sam going to Hell, losing his soul, his mind. "Your perfect vessel. With me, you'd be stronger than you've ever been."

Michael almost smiles. "Oh, I know what you are."

"If we work together, can we beat Lucifer?"

"Dean," Cas says.

Dean's gut twists. "Can we?"

Blood drips from Michael's ear. "We'd have a chance."

Cas says, "Dean," again and steps closer. Anger snarls his voice. "You can't."

"Lucifer has Sam," Dean says, turning. "He has Jack. I don't have a choice!" The look on Cas' face slides between Dean's ribs like a knife. He tells Michael, "If we do this, it's a one-time deal. I'm in charge. You're the engine, but I'm behind the wheel. Understand?"

Cas fists his hand in Dean's sleeve. "Dean, no."

Michael says, "Alright," and blots at the blood on his face with his sleeve. "If that's how you want to play, I'm game."

A rough, furious noise catches in Cas' throat. He tugs Dean's sleeve again. Dean grabs him by the front of his coat and shuffles them back toward the map table.

"Cas, look. I —"

"Dean, do not do this."

"He'll kill them," Dean says, digging his fingers into Cas' arm. He can't tell which one of them is shaking harder. "He'll kill them, and then he'll come back here and kill us." Death's voice rasps in the back of his mind: And here we are again, with your little planet on the edge of immolation. "He'll rip the whole fucking world apart."

Cas snarls out another noise. He snags his hand in Dean's collar and yanks him in for a kiss.

It feels like a fight, all anger and heat, his tongue shoving into Dean's mouth, his teeth catching against Dean's lower lip. Dean's wanted this too long; he can't help the noise he makes, can't stop himself from tugging Cas closer and pushing a hand into his hair.

Behind them, Michael hums something under his breath. It takes Dean a second to recognize it: Bob Seger's "Lucifer."

He says, "I gotta go," because they don't have time. They've never had enough time.

Cas skims his fingers down Dean's throat. "You'll die."

"No, I won't."

"Dean."

Dean closes his eyes. His heart is ticking like a bomb. "If I do, you — meet me on my road. I'll find us a beer and bacon happy hour upstairs."

 

+

 

"We had a deal!"

Michael laughs and laughs and laughs.

 

+

 

"Dean?" Cas asks, palming Dean's hip. "Are you awake?"

Grunting, Dean opens his eyes enough to see a strip of bright blue sky through the bedroom's open window. The sailboat-print curtains framing it are dancing with the breeze. "No."

Cas hides a kiss behind Dean's ear. "There's coffee."

Dean can smell it; Cas must have left the door open. "What time is it?"

"Almost ten."

That's later than Dean usually sleeps, but they're on vacation. He says, "Come back at noon," and buries his face in his pillow to block out the sunlight.

"Dean." Cas slips his hand under Dean's t-shirt and skims it over his belly. "Your brother said something about surfing lessons."

Dean grunts again, then flops onto his back and blinks up at the slowly-whirling ceiling fan. Sam thinks 'vacation' means shit like snorkeling and paddle boats. Dolphins, maybe. Dean just wants to have lazy sex and drink beer on the beach. If he gets hungry, he can grab some hot wings from the chicken shack up on Pacific Coast Highway.

"I hope he has fun."

Cas huffs out a noise that hums against Dean's skin. He slides his hand up to Dean's chest and teases his thumb over Dean's nipple. Dean's dick perks up a little; he rolls over and slots it up against Cas' thigh.

"You trying to start something?"

"Yes."

Dean kisses the side of Cas' neck, the hollow of his throat. Cas is wearing a pair of Sam's ridiculous running shorts, so Dean tucks his hand up one leg and palms Cas' ass. He finds Cas' mouth, and then they kiss for awhile, easy and slow.

Eventually, a yawn tugs at Dean's jaw. He swallows most of it, but Cas nips his lip and says, "Go back to sleep."

" 'Kay."

Dean closes his eyes. He drifts off listening to the thrum of Cas' heart, the dull murmur of the ocean.

 

+

 

Somewhere, a voice says, "Dean! Dean, show yourself!"

It's a deep voice, hoarse with anger and grief. Dean knows it. He knows — he — he —

"...Cas?"

A weight slams into him, pushing at his shoulders and chest, shoving him down, down.

Down.

 

+

 

"Cas?" Dean asks, walking out to the back porch. The rough planking creaks under his weight. "Cas? You out here, buddy?"

"Yes."

It's a balmy, California night; the sky is clear, and a lazy breeze is rustling the palm tree guarding the porch steps. The nearly-full moon is hanging low, its silver-white reflection rippling along the horizon. Dean heads for the water, a pair of beer bottles clinking in his hand. The sand is prickly and cool against his bare feet.

Cas is about a hundred yards out, sitting cross-legged on a striped beach towel. When Dean reaches him, he leans his shoulder into Dean's knee and wraps his hand around Dean's ankle. A wave crashes against the shore. Dean hands Cas one of the beers and looks out over the ocean.

"Is Sam with Deborah?" Cas asks.

"Yeah." Their second night in town, they hit up the local beach-bum bar, a Margaritaville-looking place with driftwood walls and a lattice-work beer garden strung with paper lanterns. Sam fell in with a short, curvy red-head who looks so much like Rowena that Dean has been ribbing him about it at every opportunity. "They're taking a drive up Topanga Canyon."

"That's nice."

Dean snorts. "They better not do it in the car."

Cas looks up, a smile tugging at his mouth. "We... do it in the car all the time."

"Yeah, well." Dean spears his beer bottle into the sand, then sits down and fits himself against Cas' back. He says, "It's my fucking car," into the curve of Cas' shoulder.

Cas hums under his breath and takes a long swallow of beer. Another wave rolls in. Dean rests his hands on Cas' thighs and kisses the back of his neck.

He asks, "Do you remember it? You know — before."

Cas pauses for a moment. Then: " 'And God said, Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.' " He sighs and tips his head back, onto Dean's shoulder. "It was different then. Wild. A constant maelstrom. Monsters lived in the deep places. Things you cannot fathom."

Dean tenses slightly. "Lived?"

"God banished them when he banished the Leviathan." Cas glances at the sky. "The only water in Purgatory is the stream where you found me; it's unlikely they survived."

Another wave, then another, and another. Dean doesn't want to think about monsters, so kisses Cas' neck again. Cas is wearing one of Dean's t-shirts, and he smells like them, their bed. Dean bites down a little. He sucks at Cas' skin until Cas lets out a soft noise and presses back against him.

"Dean."

A buoy clangs out on the water. Dean says, "Yeah," and slips his hand into Cas' shorts.

Cas says, "Dean," again, but it's lower, darker.

He's only half-hard, but a few touches has him filling, pushing into Dean's palm. Dean noses at Cas' jaw, and Cas turns enough to slide their mouths together. They kiss and kiss and kiss, and Cas shudders, fucking into Dean's fist. The noise Cas makes when he comes sparks a flash of heat underneath Dean's skin.

"C'mon," Dean says, still stroking, his thumb skimming the sticky-wet head. "Let's go inside."

The buoy clangs again. Cas shifts onto his knees, and Dean falls back, sprawling off the towel. Sand scrapes his elbow, scratches against his hair. Cas looks at him for a moment, then yanks open his jeans and sucks his dick into his mouth.

It's incredible — the slow, wet heat; the drag of Cas' lips; the curl of his tongue. Dean arches up, up. His blood pounds in his ears. He comes with a shout, digging his fingers into the sand and blinking up at the stars.

 

+

 

Voices again.

Cas. Cas and his brother. His brother — Sam.

Dean struggles against something he can't see. Darkness. Pressure. A weight that spears through the center of his chest. He scrabbles at it, panting, clawing. Drags himself up toward a pulsing, white-hot pinprick of light.

His vision comes back in shimmers and flashes. He's in a warehouse; he can feel the cracks in the windows, the dust on the floor, the splintered edges of the broken packing crates. A naked lightbulb buzzes overhead, swinging from a skinned cord. Blood sigils flicker on the filthy walls.

"This won't hold me long," Michael says, waving at the flames around him, already guttering and weak. "Not in this suit."

Sam says, "We don't need long," but Cas steps in front of him, shielding him.

"Dean!"

Michael looks down at himself, then looks back up at Cas and smiles. "He's a sweet ride, Castiel. I can see why you like him so much."

Cas' eyes spark. The window behind him shatters with a noise like a gunshot.

Power seethes underneath Dean's skin, arcs between his ribs. Michael tells Cas, "You know, the Castiel I knew, he was stone cold. Nothing but ice. But you —" he whistles through his teeth. "You've got some fire in you."

Another window shatters. Sam shouts, "Dean! Fight him! You've got to fight him!"

Wings unfurl at Dean's back, reaching and endless. A blinding light explodes inside his skull. The flames sputter. Michael steps over them, and Dean tumbles away, screaming, as his fist slams into Sam's jaw.

 

+

 

"No way," Sam complains, frowning at the board. "Not again."

Dean leans back in his chair and pops the cap on a fresh beer. "Dude. That's what —? Three times?"

"Yes."

"Karma," Mary singsongs. She has pizza sauce at the corner of her mouth.

"For what?"

"For not letting us have a Free Parking pot."

Dean snorts. Sam points at him with his beer and says, "Don't start. You sold Jack a Get Out Of Jail Free card."

"Kid needed a break," Dean says, shrugging. "Forty-five dollars is cheaper than bail."

"Nice break. He's winning now."

"I am winning," Jack says brightly. His property cards are laid out in neat piles. "But I'll be in second place once Sam pays Cas."

"Yeah. Pay the man, Sammy."

Cas' mouth twitches. He says, "Fifteen hundred dollars, Sam," and holds out his hand.

"Alright, hang on." Sam fiddles with his money. "I need, uh — anyone want to buy a railroad?"

Dean shakes his head and lifts the lid on the closest box of pizza. It's double cheese, because Jack is on a Meatless Monday kick. Dean is never letting him use the internet again.

"Dean," Cas says quietly. Sam and Mary are haggling over a price for B & O. "That's your fifth piece."

"Sixth."

Cas huffs and pinches Dean's side. "When you have heartburn later, don't ask me to heal it."

 

+

 

The last seventy miles to Ottumwa are boring and Iowa-flat. East of Osceloa, US 34 cuts a straight line through a swath of cow pastures crisscrossed by dirt roads and dotted with barns. An early-morning rainstorm has washed the asphalt with loose gravel; the Impala rattles and bumps as Dean leans on the gas.

Zeppelin buzzes on the radio — "Houses of the Holy." Dean raises the volume a little, then reaches over and rests his hand on Cas' knee.

"You find us a motel yet?"

"Sam did," Cas says, letting his phone drop into his lap. He covers Dean's hand with his own and runs his thumb over Dean's knuckles. "The Fremont Arms. It's at the north end of town."

Dean glances in the rearview mirror. Mary's sun-bleached International Harvester is keeping pace about two hundred yards behind them; he can't tell if the blob sitting shotgun is Sam or Jack. They're headed to a werewolf hunt — three dead, two wounded. It's not exactly how Dean wanted to round out the summer, but it could be worse. They could still be in Louisiana, tracking a rougarou through a swamp in ninety-four percent humidity.

He rolls his shoulders and edges the Impala from seventy to seventy-five.

"Do you need me to drive?" Cas asks.

Dean snorts. "Not a chance." He sneaks his fingers into the hole in Cas' jeans and brushes his fingers over Cas' skin.

 

+

 

Cas presses closer, digging his knees into the seat. Leather creaks; Dean fists his hand in Cas' collar and pulls him in for a kiss. His mouth tastes dusty — they spent the last two hours chasing a wraith through a half-dead corn field. Dirt is gritty between Dean's fingers, underneath his nails. He wraps his arm around Cas' waist and sucks at Cas' lower lip.

They shouldn't be doing this here — at a truck stop in southern Kentucky, parked too close to the pumps. Cas is backlit by a neon sign advertising diesel prices, a bright orange flare bursting behind his shoulders. His face is all shadows and angles; Dean kisses the hinge of his' jaw and the spot below his ear. He knots his fingers in Cas hair, tugs until a rough noise catches in the back of Cas' throat.

"Dean," Cas says, tucking his hand under Dean's shirts. He palms Dean's side, right where the wraith had laid him open across the ribs, left him bleeding in the dirt. "Dean."

"Hey. I'm alright." Leather creaks again; Dean's knee bumps against the dash. "You wanna move this to the back seat?"

Cas says, "Dean," again and grinds down into Dean's lap.

 

+

 

"Dean! Dean, fight him!"

A slow ache spreads through Dean's chest.

"Please, Dean. You have to fight him. I — I need you. I need you here with me."

Something crushes Dean down — a weight, a fire. Pressure and heat. Dean rises up, clawing at it.

Clawing. Scratching.

Down, down.

 

+

 

"Dean."

Michael is nowhere, everywhere. He's flaring light and searing heat and a million burning, unblinking eyes. A seething electric current, sparking and snapping as it arcs across Dean's mind. Wings churning furiously at Dean's back.

Somehow, Michael reaches out. Pain fills Dean's body. Shatters it. Fills it again.

"I thought I told you to sit back and enjoy the ride."

 

+

 

Dean shifts on his stool and leans his elbows on the bar. His sleeve catches a sticky spot as he brings his glass to his mouth. His drink is mostly dregs; he knocks it back in one go and crunches on the ice.

"Another?" the bartender asks.

"Yeah."

The bartender grunts and grabs the bottle off the shelf. He's an older guy, fiftyish, with a steel-gray beard and a scar under his eye. It's jagged and short — a bar-fight kind of scar, a memory of a broken beer bottle or a highball smashed into a shiv. The cigarette in his mouth drops ash on the bar as he slops more Jim Bean into Dean's glass.

"Rough night?"

Dean doesn't really want to talk, so he shrugs into his drink and glances across the room.

Sam is chatting with their contact at one of the dingy booths — a local hunter they're hoping knows something about the recent demon attacks. Across from them, Cas is playing pool with a blonde in tight jeans and a slinky black top. Watching them feels like a hand squeezing around Dean's throat, but he — he can't look away.

Their table is nearly cleared. The woman sinks the last stripe, then circles the table to size up the eight-ball. Cas says something Dean can't hear over "Born on the Bayou." They shoot the shit for a few minutes — Cas with his hip cocked against the table and the woman with her hand on Cas' arm. Eventually, she turns back to their game and lines up her shot.

The eight-ball goes in clean; whatever Cas says about it makes the woman laugh. She lays her cue on the table, then touches Cas' arm again. She tilts her head to the side. Smiles. Cas' hand finds the small of her back. Their shoulders bump as they head for the back door.

Dean slams his glass on the bar and gestures for another drink.

 

+

 

Dean's hands are shaking — from his nerves, or from the beer, he doesn't know. Somehow, he gets Cas' tie wrapped around his fist. He palms Cas' hip and nudges him back against the bookcase.

This is a bad idea, but he — fuck. Fuck.

Dean leans in, slow. Cas' eyes widen. Just before their mouths meet, he stops Dean cold with a hand to his chest.

"Dean? What are you doing?"

"I — I, uh." Dean's blood is pounding in his ears. He ducks his head and scratches the back of his neck. "C'mon, man. What's it look like I'm doing?"

"Dean." Cas' voice is different this time — softer, almost pitying. "Dean, I'm sorry, but I — I'm not interested.

 

+

 

"Dean!"

Michael snorts out a laugh. "Give it up, Castiel."

"You cannot have him."

Light shatters behind Dean's eyes. His vision clears to a dungeon with brick walls and a devil's trap painted on the door. The bunker — he's in the bunker. He's shackled to a chair, chains binding his ankles and shins. The cuffs clamped around his wrists are holding Michael's power, but barely, barely. Everything inside him is roiling, seething, shredding him from the inside out.

"What makes you think he's even still in here?"

"He's in there," Cas insists, his eyes sparking. "I can feel him — I can feel his —"

"His longing?" The chair squeaks as Michael tests the chains. "Oh, he loves you, alright. He loves you so much it's pathetic. And the things he wants to do to you —" He clicks his tongue. "It would curl your grace if I even told you half of it."

Cas' jaw tics. He grits out a mouthful of Enochian, and a sigil flares to life on the wall. Michael's power dims, dims.

"Dean!"

 

+

 

Dean flips Cas over and grabs the angel blade from his sleeve. Crouching, he fists his hand in Cas' tie.

Cas sucks in a breath. He catches Dean's wrist and mumbles, "Dean, please."

Dean looks at the split in Cas' lip, the bruise above his eyebrow. He tightens his grip on the angel blade and breathes in the stench of gasoline. The Mark is pulsing on his arm, furious and hot. He wants to punch Cas again. Wants to wrap his hands around Cas' throat. Wants to shove his dick into Cas' bloody, broken mouth. Fuck it in and in until it makes Cas choke.

 

+

 

Cas punches Dean again, and again, and again.

Dean's cheek shatters. Blood pours into his mouth. He reaches out and clutches at Cas' coat.

 

+

 

"Or what?"

"Or I'll have to do what I have to do to stop you."

"You can't, Dean. You're just a man. I'm an angel."

 

+

 

"I serve Heaven. I don't serve man, and I certainly don't serve you."

 

+

 

The guy makes a strangled, whimpering sound. Dean smiles at that; he hasn't even started yet.

"First time?" he asks, cocking an eyebrow. The guy whimpers again, so Dean drags the tip of his knife over the curve of his bicep, hard enough to raise the skin without drawing blood. "Don't worry. We'll take it slow."

The rack creaks as the guy struggles against his bonds. Sighing, Dean snaps his fingers. The straps tighten — pinning the guy down, pulling his arms and legs out at harsher angles.

"Please."

Dean smiles again. "That ain't gonna help." He taps his knife against the guy's collarbone a few times, then says, "Let's see what we're working with here."

A tendril of smoke slips from Dean's mouth and curls into the guy's nose. It digs down, down, down, until it finds the guy's soul and — yes, there. Roger Wentworth. Fifty-two. He made his deal for a cushy, Wall Street promotion. The money was good, but he worked long hours, weekends. Now he regrets the time away from his family.

Alastair's voice buzzes in Dean's head, reminding him to start with a weak point and work his way out. Before Dean broke, Alastair usually started with John. All the ways Dean had failed him. How he'd never been enough for Sam.

Dean traces his knife into the hollow of Roger's throat and presses until blood blooms under the tip.

"Tell me about your wife."

"My — my wife?"

"Yeah. Linda, right? She —"

The ground shakes. A fierce gust of wind whips into the cell, ice-cold as it buffets against the wall with a sound like wings. The ground shakes again, and a chunk of the ceiling shears away. A column of light screams down, searing and blue-white, too bright for human sight. It hints at a million shapes — a burning wheel, a seething mass of eyes.

A glint of armor, a curve of a wing.

A lion with brilliant red fur and gleaming fangs.

A snake with iridescent scales and a long, forked tongue.

A guy wearing a trenchcoat and a crooked tie.

"Dean," he — Cas says. Slowly, he reaches out. "Take my hand."

Dean's knife clatters to the floor. Roger is gone; the cell is gone. Hell is gone. They're standing in a junkyard. In a cemetery. In a motel. A crypt. In a gas station. A warehouse. The bunker's library.

Dean looks down; he has blood on his hands. He's always had blood on his hands.

"No," Dean says, his voice hoarse. "I belong here."

"Dean."

"I deserve this."

Cas says, "Dean," again and grabs Dean's shoulder. "I want you to come back. I want you to come home."

 

+

 

Light. Heat. Ash.

 

+

 

Dean comes to in the dungeon, shaking, sprawled across the floor as he pukes and pukes and pukes. His gut is empty, but he heaves anyway, heaves until he brings up blood.

He hears voices behind him, then a hand cradles his face. Grace sweeps through him — Cas' grace. His gut settles. The pain twisting through his body starts to ebb away.

"Hey," Sam says, crouching beside him. "You back with us?"

"Kinda," Dean croaks. He grits his teeth for a second; breathing hurts. Everything in the room is too big, too bright. "Michael?"

"Gone."

"Really?"

"Yes, really," Cas says. He wraps his arm around Dean's shoulder and sighs out a noise against Dean's temple. "You're fine. We're going to be fine."