Title: Playing for Keeps Till the End of Time (SPN fusion set in Highlander 'verse) - posted January 16, 2010
Author: Lacey McBain
Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: ~16,000 complete
Warnings: Minor character deaths.
Summary: "There can be only one!" ... Sam's been murdered, Dean's a mess, and a Watcher named Jimmy Novak is far more than he appears to be. With special appearances by Bobby, Chuck, and Uriel. Even if you don't know Highlander at all, you should have no trouble following along at home.
Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to Kripke and Co. Highlander is owned Rysher Entertainment et Al. I'm merely playing.

Playing for Keeps Till the End of Time

Castiel moved swiftly, his blade arcing in perfect symmetry as he turned, its newly-sharpened edge glazed with moonlight. The sword found its mark, severed the other man’s neck as if lopping off the crown of a thistle, the eyes staring in surprise even as the head detached and dropped to the ground with a harsh thud.

Castiel dropped his eyes and said a silent prayer. He didn’t know anymore if it was for himself or the man he’d just killed, but it was an old habit and he wasn’t about to stop. He steeled himself then and waited for the quickening to overtake him, the familiar surge of anticipation, exhilaration, a shiver of regret. The air snapped with electricity and Castiel felt the lightning force rush through him as he remembered every battle fought, every head won over a lifetime counted in centuries. He saw through his conquest’s eyes: family, love, lust, disappointment, fear, the glory of battle. He even saw himself, through the other’s eyes, saw himself fighting alongside his brothers, embraced as kindred, and the pain of memory tore through him as surely as the blade that had ended his friend’s life. He slumped to his knees beside the body, reached out a hand and closed the unseeing eyes.

“I’m sorry, Raphael,” he said to the man he’d called a brother for hundreds of years. “It didn’t have to end this way.”

Except in his heart, he knew that it did.

There could be only one.


Harvelle’s Bar was small and out of the way, something like a cross between an old-fashioned pub and a roadhouse. The food was hot, the beer was cold, and nobody took much interest in anyone else’s business. Ellen liked it that way, and so did her regulars, including Castiel, better known as Jimmy Novak.

“I think you’ve had enough, ” Castiel heard Ellen say as she reached for the bottle of Jack Daniels, but the man at the bar kept one hand wrapped around it, the other holding on to the counter as if he might slide off his stool at any minute.

“There isn’t enough whiskey in the whole goddamn world, Ellen,” he said, sounding surprisingly sober considering Castiel had been watching the guy drink steadily for the last hour under the increasingly worried eyes of Harvelle’s owner.

“Dean, I know it’s hard. Sam was a good kid, but you drinking yourself stupid isn’t going to bring him back. Does Bobby know you’re in town?”

Dean shook his head and emptied the glass in front of him. “Don’t want to see Bobby. Don’t want to see anyone. Just want to find the sons of bitches who did that to Sammy.” Dean looked up from his drink and Castiel could just make out the fierce reflection in the smoked glass behind the bar, startling green eyes that were as focused and resolute as any Castiel had ever seen. “I’m gonna find them, and I’m gonna kill them. Even if it’s the last thing I do.”

Ellen reached across the bar and cupped Dean’s face in both hands, shaking her head even as she did so. “You’re so like your father, boy. He didn’t know when to quit either.”

“I’ll quit when I’m dead,” he said, and it was clearly something Ellen had heard a hundred times before. She let him go, her eyes blinking rapidly before she turned away.

“Goddamn Winchesters,” she muttered under her breath, as she grabbed up the bar rag and rubbed viciously at some invisible spill at the far end of the counter. Dean poured himself another double from the almost empty bottle, and Castiel turned over the names in his mind. Dean. Sam. Winchesters. Bobby.

Of course Castiel knew Bobby Singer. All the Watchers did. There weren’t that many wheelchair-bound ancient language experts who also held an annual chili cook-off and regularly drank the Classics department under the table. He’d known Bobby a few years now, and although he wouldn’t necessarily call them friends, Castiel had come to trust Bobby’s assessment of most people. The first time they’d met, Bobby had flat-out told Castiel he didn’t trust him, that he was hiding something and someday he’d find out what it was. Castiel liked him even more after that, and Bobby had grudgingly come around when he realized Castiel knew exactly what he was talking about when it came to ancient texts and world history. So though they weren’t exactly friends, there was a sort of tenuous respect between them. If the man sitting at the bar was someone close to both Bobby and Ellen, he was probably alright. Especially if he was Sam Winchester’s brother, which from every indication, he was. Smart mouth, an ego to match and the skills to back it up, the hair a shade longer than standard military issue. Sam had been so proud of his big brother, the Marine. If Castiel had to guess he’d say a few months out of the Navy, give or take.

When Castiel focused his attention back on the action, Dean had given up the empty bottle, and Ellen had the phone in one hand. “Let me call Bobby,” she was saying.


“Jo’s in town. I could call her, she’d come pick you up, take you to a—”


“Well, you’re not driving out of here, and I can’t close the goddamn bar just to make sure you get home in one piece. Now what’s it going to be, Dean?”

“I can drive your friend to a motel,” Castiel said, putting a twenty on the bar for his own drinks.

“And who the hell are you?” Dean asked.

“Jimmy Novak.” Castiel held out a hand. Dean swung around on his stool, face all business, and Castiel didn’t know what kind of metabolism the guy had because he looked stone cold sober and suspicious as hell. He also had the greenest eyes Castiel had ever seen.

Ellen picked up the twenty, a grateful smile on her face as Castiel waved off the change. He needed to do something with his hand—it was clear Dean wasn’t going to shake it.

“Thanks, Jimmy,” Ellen said.

“You don’t look like a Jimmy.” Dean’s eyes raked over him from top to bottom, clearly taking in the dark suit and trench coat, the battered leather satchel case, and categorizing him as a harmless academic. Castiel had seen that look before.

“And you’re Dean Winchester.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “What of it?”

“I knew Sam.” Castiel saw the wave of hurt return to Dean’s face, his grief so evident it was like a punch to the gut, and Castiel would’ve reached out a hand to Dean’s shoulder if he wasn’t absolutely certain it would’ve been slapped away. “I was sorry to hear—”

Dean didn’t let him finish. “Yeah, everybody’s sorry, but nobody can tell me a damn thing about what happened to him. Or why.”

“I know it must be difficult,” Castiel tried again, but he got no further before he had an angry Dean Winchester right in front of him, so close he could smell the whiskey on his breath, see the anger flash in the green eyes.

“Dean,” Ellen interjected from across the bar, but Castiel waved her off.

Dean was right in Castiel’s face, barely an inch between their bodies. Anger rolled off of him in waves so strong Castiel could almost feel them. “Somebody cut his head off with a freakin’ sword, man. He was a grad student. In Classics, for God’s sake. He had sixty bucks on him and an iPhone, and they didn’t even bother with it. They just—they just killed him and left him. For no reason at all.”

The bar went silent, all eyes turning towards them. Dean looked around uncomfortably, dug into his pocket and threw a handful of crumpled bills on the bar. “I’m sorry, Ellen,” he said, not looking at her or anyone. “I’ve gotta get out of here.”

He turned and strode towards the exit; Castiel picked up his satchel.


“I’ve got him” Castiel held up the keys he’d slipped out of Dean’s jacket pocket.

Ellen grinned. “Whatever you want, it’s on the house.”

“I’ll remember that,” he said as he pushed through the door and into the cool night air.


Dean couldn’t find his keys, and honestly, he wouldn’t have put it past Ellen to lift them. There was no way in hell he was showing his face in that bar again tonight, not after the way silence had settled on the room, everyone looking at him when he’d blurted out the details of Sam’s death.

Dean kicked at the dirt and dug through this pockets again. Wallet, jackknife, book of matches, six quarters and a TicTac. No keys. He leaned his head against the cool metal of the Impala’s roof and wondered if his baby would forgive him for hotwiring her. Maybe he should just sleep it off in the parking lot. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d slept in the car.

“Looking for these?” The voice was deep and held the slightest tone of amusement. Dean picked his head up off the car to see his keys being dangled from Jimmy Novak’s hand.

“Ellen give them to you?”

The guy grinned a little and shook his head. “Nope, that was all me. Sorry.”

Dean looked at him again. Rumpled trench coat, slightly askew tie. Everything about him screamed single, slightly awkward professor of something or other.

“You teach your students how to pick pockets, Professor?”

“I’m not a professor.”

Dean noticed that wasn’t really answering the question. “Well, I figured it’s either that or a tax accountant.”

“Sorry, wrong again. You seem to be a little off your game tonight,” Jimmy said, staying just far enough away that Dean knew he’d never be able to make a grab for the keys and stay on his feet at the same time. Maybe he wasn’t exactly drunk, but he was still a long way from sober.

Dean snorted. Okay, the guy had a point, and Ellen seemed to like him. Plus he said he knew Sam. Had known Sam. Fucking grammar kept screwing him up, and he felt the loss of Sam’s presence in his life roll over him as if it were a tidal wave. Then there were hands on him, guiding him to the edge of the parking lot, and holding him as he threw up the burger he’d forced himself to choke down so he could tell himself he wasn’t drinking on an empty stomach.

Jimmy had a hand on Dean’s back and a concerned look on his face, but he didn’t say anything as Dean put himself back together. He took the bottle of water Jimmy pulled out of his bag and drank slowly, forcing himself to find an even rhythm for his breaths, even though his heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest.

Dean handed the bottle back. “Um, thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Ellen’s a good woman. She’s helped me out more than once. Least I can do is return the favour.”

“Yeah, well, you don’t have to baby-sit. I’ll just sleep in the car.” Jimmy shook his head, and Dean sighed. “Look, man, I swear I won’t drive anywhere. I’ve got no desire to end up a smear on the asphalt.”

Jimmy steered him towards the passenger seat of the Impala and shut the door behind him. Dean watched in shock as the guy hopped into the driver’s seat and started the engine.

“Beautiful car,” he said, as if there wasn’t anything wrong with this picture, and Dean had to fight the urge to push the guy out of the driver’s seat and onto the street. Even Sam had never been that free with Dean’s car.

“Nobody drives my car.”

“That must make getting drunk difficult.”

“Not usually,” Dean admitted.

“Well, tonight you’ve got a chauffeur, so why don’t you sit back and enjoy the ride.”

“No way are you—” Dean reached a hand across to the steering wheel, but he never laid a hand on it before Jimmy slammed on the brakes, and turned on him, one hand pushing back on Dean’s chest with a surprising amount of force.

“Listen, Dean, I know I don’t know you from Adam, but I knew Sam, and he was a good kid who didn’t deserve to die like that. Everybody liked him. I also know he had an older brother he worshipped, thought the guy walked on water, and if you’re half the man your little brother thought you were, you’re going to shut up and let me drive you somewhere so you can sleep this off.”

“I wish I could. Sleep it off,” Dean said quietly, and Jimmy’s face softened, even as he let go of Dean. “I wish it was that simple.”

“I know,” Jimmy replied, and there was something in his tone that said maybe Jimmy did know.

Jimmy pulled out onto the empty street, and Dean turned his head towards the window. Sam was dead and nothing he could do was ever going to change that. He felt the tears he’d been fighting since he’d hit town well up again, and this time he didn’t have the strength to stop them from sliding down his face. Jimmy didn’t say anything, just turned the radio to an old rock station and steered the Impala through the darkness. Dean had no idea where they were going, or even if Jimmy knew, but he found that he really didn’t care. He closed his eyes and tried not to think anymore.


Castiel stripped off his clothes and climbed into bed after depositing Dean on the futon in the living room. He didn’t know why he’d done it—brought a stranger home like this, and not even a stranger he was planning to sleep with. Yet there’d been something in those green eyes, a depth of sorrow he’d felt all the way through him, and it rattled something that hadn’t moved him to action in ages.

“You’re getting soft in your old age, Castiel,” he murmured to himself.

Sure, Ellen had been good to him, but no more than any other bartender with a paying customer who tipped well and stayed clear of the fights. He didn’t owe her anything.

He didn’t owe Sam or Bobby anything either. Bobby liked him because he knew the difference between Enochian and Aramaic, and could translate ancient Egyptian without giving a lecture on the ruling dynasties first. Bobby liked what he could do, not who he was, because the bottomline was, none of them knew who he was. Not really. He was Jimmy Novak, ancient languages and antiquities specialist. Sometimes translator and appraiser. He could never be anything more than that if he wanted to survive.

And Sam. He remembered meeting Sam at Bobby’s office, the kid filling up half the space of the crowded room. He’d shaken hands with a firm grip, called him Mister Novak, and been eager as a puppy to get a look at the texts Bobby had brought Castiel there to translate.

“You’ll have to excuse Sam here,” Bobby had said. “He’s just gotten his first assignment.”

Sam’s eyes darted between Castiel and Bobby. “You didn’t tell me Mr. Novak was a Watcher too.”

“Call me Jimmy.”

“Who’s your Immortal?”

“Sam.” Bobby’s voice was disapproving. “It’s not a popularity contest.”

“Castiel,” he said softly, ignoring the low whistle from Sam.

“I thought he was just a myth. Oldest immortal and all that. You don’t really think he’s still out there, do you?”

“Oh, he’s out there,” Bobby said with certainty. “Every once in a blue moon there’s a report, but he hasn’t stayed alive for 5000 years without learning how to blend in and stay away from other Immortals.”

“So he doesn’t fight? Isn’t part of The Game? What is he, a coward?”

“Sometimes cowardice is the better part of valor,” Castiel said. “I think Castiel wants to avoid The Game for as long as possible.”

“Have you ever actually seen him? Talked to him?”

Bobby glared. “You do understand the ‘watching’ part of being a Watcher, don’t you, Sam? We chronicle, we don’t interfere, and we sure as hell don’t tell ‘em we’re out here doing exactly that. That’s a good way to get dead.”

And then six months later, Sam had been killed, decapitated even though he was no Immortal, and the other Watchers had retreated even further, more certain than ever that observing quietly from a distance was the only way to stay safe.

Castiel knew sooner or later the whole system was going to fall apart, that there were already cracks in the Watchers’ facade, trickles of information leaking out, questions being asked in official circles, and even unofficial ones. The Immortals were not entirely without resources.

Castiel suspected the man sleeping downstairs on his futon was just one more nail in the coffin of secrecy, and maybe they owed Dean Winchester something considering what he’d lost. There was no way to make up for Sam’s life, but maybe he could give Dean some of the answers he was looking for.

For the first time in a very long time, Castiel felt the weight of all his years. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever seriously considered telling someone the absolute truth, and although Dean Winchester seemed an unlikely choice, somehow it felt right.


Dean clawed his way to wakefulness and found himself face-down on an unfamiliar futon with a wool blanket draped over him. He rolled and stretched, kicking off the blanket and reaching for the water glass and aspirin someone had left within easy reach.

Jimmy, Dean’s still foggy brain provided.

He had a somewhat hazy recollection of being tugged out of his car and guided up an interminable number of stairs in the dark. Jimmy hadn’t said anything about why he’d brought him home instead of dumping his ass at the nearest Motel 6, but Dean hadn’t been in any shape to argue, so he’d taken the offer of the futon and fallen into merciful, dreamless sleep.

Now, though, as the gray morning light reached through the windows, Dean had a chance to see where he’d ended up. The apartment was large and bright, with an open design and lots of windows. There were bookshelves everywhere there weren’t windows, and Dean didn’t think he’d ever seen so many books outside of a library. Figured that Sam would be friends with a Brainiac like this. Dean wandered along the shelves, realizing that he couldn’t read a lot of the spines. The raised gold letters were ones he didn’t recognize, and even the ones in regular ABCs were in languages he couldn’t identify, let alone pronounce.

Dean didn’t know what kind of schedule Jimmy kept, but he figured coffee probably wouldn’t be refused, so he checked out the coffeemaker, threw some grounds into the filter and turned it on. He found the bathroom easily, and felt slightly more human after taking care of business, washing his face, rinsing his mouth. The hallway with the bathroom was short and had two more doors along it, one across from the bathroom, and one—a heavy wooden door that looked like it belonged in a medieval church—at the end.

He’d seen the staircase that led up to the loft where he’d assumed Jimmy’s bedroom was. Hell, if he could afford a place like this, it’s where he’d sleep. So Dean figured these rooms must be more offices or something. He pushed open the less imposing door, taking in more books—“What a surprise,” Dean muttered—a computer and some glass display cases, packed with odds and ends. He peered in to survey the assortment of knives, tools, pens, and a bunch of old-looking stuff he couldn’t identify. On the desk top was an open journal in tight dark script. Dean flipped it over and read the title embossed into the brown leather.

“The Chronicles of Castiel. Guess Jimmy’s a writer as well as a wacky librarian.”

Dean set the book down and tried to back carefully out of the room without disturbing anything else. His foot grazed the antique umbrella stand near the door, and when he reached down to stop it from tumbling, he realized there was something in amongst the wooden-handled umbrellas and carved walking sticks. He pulled out a curved wicked-looking sword and unsheathed it.

“You find what you were looking for?”

Dean hastily shoved the blade back into its scabbard, and turned to Jimmy, who was standing in the doorway in sweatpants and bare feet, a grey t-shirt hanging loosely on his trim frame.

“I, uh, I was looking for the bathroom.”

“You passed it,” Jimmy said calmly, his blue eyes wary. “Also, you left the seat up.”

“Sorry,” Dean said, but he was looking at the sword in his hand and trying to make sense of it. “This some kind of collectible?” he asked. The sword made a ringing sound when he unsheathed it again. He’d been a Marine for nine years. He knew a real blade, a well-used, well-cared for blade when he saw one.

Jimmy stepped closer, one hand raised in a placating gesture. “No, it’s not; it’s a twelfth century Japanese katana. Very rare and very sharp.”

Katana. The word stuck in Dean’s brain from the police report he’d bribed someone to see. Dean caught a glimpse of a blue tattoo on Jimmy’s forearm as he reached for the sword, and that was it. The sword, the tattoo, it was too much to be a coincidence, and yet nobody would tell him what any of it meant. He grabbed Jimmy’s outstretched arm and pulled him into the room, backing him against the bookshelf, sword at his throat.

“Dean, what are you—”

“Tell me about the sword.”

“I’m a collector. I—”

“No.” Dean pushed the sword ever so slightly closer to Jimmy’s skin. “Collectors don’t keep their swords in the freakin’ umbrella stand. Try again.”

Jimmy glanced down, and Dean knew he was figuring out a counter-strategy. He could see it in his eyes, and this was no longer a harmless antiquities expert with a Good Samaritan complex; this was a guy with a sharp sword and the same goddamn tattoo that Sam had on his wrist. Dean could feel Jimmy tensing his muscles, readying himself for a fight.


“Did you kill him?”

Jimmy’s face went blank, then a look of horror swept over him. “No. No! You think I killed Sam? I would never—”

“The police report said it was a katana. Until three days ago, I’d never even heard of one of those, but you just happen to have one, so maybe you could explain that to me. And while you’re at it, maybe you want to tell me why you and my brother have matching tats?”

Jimmy glanced down at his bare arm, the blue tattoo, a stylized “w” inside a circle, emblazoned on his skin. “Sam told you—”

“No, it was in the goddamn autopsy report!” Dean pursed his lips, his eyes flaring wide. “Look, I just want to know the truth. Was it some sort of cult? Some ritual that went wrong?”

“Nothing like that.”

“But you know why he was killed.”

Jimmy let out a breath. “I’ve got my suspicions, but I didn’t have anything to do with it, Dean. I swear to you. I liked Sam; I would never have hurt him.”

Dean measured the words, listening for what wasn’t being said. He’d been a soldier a long time and his instincts were telling him the man in front of him wasn’t as harmless as he wanted people to think. Even if he hadn’t hurt Sam, he was more than capable of doing so. It was there in his eyes, blue and broken. Dean had spent enough time in war zones to know someone who’d seen far too much of life.

“But you’ve hurt other people,” Dean said softly. “Killed other people.”

Jimmy swallowed and didn’t look away. “I’m not the only one, Sergeant.”

Dean nodded, acknowledging the truth of it, and stepped back, sliding the katana into its sheath. Jimmy noticeably relaxed his stance, although he didn’t make any attempt to move. “I need to know the truth, whatever it is. Can you give me that?”

Jimmy closed his eyes for a moment and seemed to gather himself. When he look at Dean it was with acceptance in his blue eyes.



“So, Sam was one of these Watchers.”


“And you like to watch too?” Dean said around his coffee mug.

Castiel grinned and raised his eyebrows. “Bobby too.”

“I think I’m going to need to scrub my brain.” Dean rubbed a hand over his face, and poured himself more coffee. “And you spend your time keeping track of these Immortals who use their years of knowledge mostly to run around and try to cut off one another’s heads with ancient swords.”

“That’s about right.” Castiel slid the milk jug across the table towards Dean.

“But why? If they can live forever, do anything they want, why all the killing?”

“There can be only one,” Castiel said. It was the foundation of The Game. All the Immortals knew it and accepted it as their guiding principle.


“What do you mean why?”

Dean looked at him as he poured milk into his coffee. “I mean, why? Why can’t there be two? Or ten—that’s a nice round number.”

“There can be only one,” Castiel repeated, not clearly understanding Dean’s point.

“Okay, dude, try to think of this like someone who hasn’t been studying it for years. What’s the point of being the Last Immortal Standing? What do you get out of it?”

“The one who wins will gain The Prize.”

“And what’s the prize?”

“Nobody knows,” Castiel had to admit.

Dean shook his head. “Man, that is so fucking lame. Seriously, all of this for a prize that may or may not exist, and may or may not even be something you want? What if the prize sucks? What if I’d rather have what’s behind Door Number Three?”

“I don’t know. It’s just always been that way.” Castiel warmed up his own coffee, wondering how exactly he’d ended up turning a favor to drop off a drunk friend of a friend into a conversation about things he’d never talked about with someone who wasn’t either Immortal or a Watcher.

“You know, I thought you guys with all your books and degrees were supposed to be the smart ones. Maybe it’s time for a new rulebook.”

“There are only two rules,” Castiel pointed out. “No battles are to be fought on holy ground, and once a fight has begun, there can be no interference.”

“You think that’s what happened to Sam?”

Castiel nodded. “Sometimes it’s hard to sit back and do nothing.”

“Yeah, that wouldn’t have suited Sam real well. And he could take care of himself. For a geek. I made sure of that.” Dean’s face darkened, and Castiel could see the wheels turning, trying to measure if he’d be in any way responsible for Sam’s death. Castiel reached across the table and tapped Dean’s arm.

“Hey. Whatever happened, it’s not your fault.”

“I should’ve been here.”

“How do you figure?”

“I wasn’t doing anything, just bumming around, shooting pool. Sammy wanted me to visit, and I blew him off. I figured I’d be bored out of my mind hanging around with Sam. Libraries, research, all that shit he loved.” Dean’s face looked pained, and Castiel could hear the regret in every syllable. He got up and grabbed their empty cups, wiped the counter. Anything he could think of to give Dean a little space.

“Look, why don’t you take a shower,” Castiel said. “I can lend you a shirt if you need.”

“My bag’s in the Impala. I really haven’t been in town long enough to have settled on a place to stay.”

“I thought you’d been here three days.”

Dean looked sheepish. “I haven’t been sleeping a lot since—well, since Sam.”

“Take a shower. I’ll grab your stuff.”

“Jimmy, you don’t have to—”

“Look, it’s the least I can do. And there are still things I should tell you.”

Dean let out a breath and nodded. Castiel knew that look—weariness, resignation. Right now Dean felt like he’d lost his whole world, and he wasn’t sure how much more he could take. Castiel didn’t want to be the final straw.

“Yeah, a shower sounds good.”

Dean disappeared towards the hallway, and Castiel leaned back against the counter. So far he’d broken just about every rule he’d ever followed—don’t tell people the truth, don’t let people close to you, and he was pretty damn sure that bringing home a green-eyed messed-up ex-Marine was a mistake he was going to regret sooner or later. For the moment, though, he couldn’t help but feel sympathy for what Dean was going through, everything he’d lost. Castiel couldn’t bring Sam back, but maybe he could help Dean find some peace along with the answers.


Dean stood under the hot water until the bathroom was full of steam, and his skin was pink and wrinkled. He wrapped a towel around his waist and practically tripped over the duffel bag Jimmy had set down just outside the door. Dean dragged it inside, pulled out clean clothes, and dressed quickly. He could hear Jimmy rattling around in the kitchen, the smell and sizzle of bacon making Dean’s stomach growl. He stepped into the kitchen and saw Jimmy had changed into jeans and a dark blue Henley. The clothes fit him well. If he’d caught Dean looking, he gave no indication.

“BLTs okay?” Jimmy said, deftly moving the bacon around on a griddle.

“Yeah, perfect.” Dean reached for the orange juice sitting on the counter and poured two glasses. “Anything I can do?”

“I don’t know,” Jimmy said, starting toast with his left hand, while managing the bacon with the other. “Anything you can do?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “You got anything other than swords around here, I can cut up the tomatoes.”

Jimmy laughed, and pointed at a knife block tucked under the cabinets. “Cuts through a tin can, yet stays sharp enough to slice a tomato.” He ignored Dean’s amused smirk. “I watch a lot of late night television.”

“So, I gathered. But, seriously, why the sword?” Dean slid a carving knife from the block and went to work on the tomatoes. “Why keep one of those things around? Isn’t that sort of inviting trouble?”

“Not if you know how to use it,” Jimmy said quietly.

They finished up making the sandwiches in relative silence. It gave Dean a chance to realize how surreal his life had become in the last week, first with the news of Sam’s death, and now Jimmy’s revelations. But there were things that still didn’t make sense.

“The Watchers are just regular guys, right?” Dean said, carrying his plate to the table.

“Sometimes they’re even women,” Jimmy added with a serious look.

“Fine, I’m sexist, but they’re regular men and women. Not Immortals, right?”

Jimmy swallowed his orange juice and nodded, his brow furrowing as he tried to follow Dean’s line of reasoning.

“So why—why cut the head off?” Dean asked, trying to keep his tone neutral. It was hard, but he’d done it enough times in the service to know how it worked. You saw a buddy die, you had to keep fighting. You couldn’t shut down, crap out, let everyone down. You had to push it aside and keep going. Somehow this was harder than any of those times in combat had ever been. “Sammy wasn’t immortal.”

“It’s impossible to tell who’s going to be an Immortal until they’ve survived their first death. Immortals tend not to take any chances. They only know one method of killing. It’s the only way to be sure.”

Dean shook his head. “You do realize that normal people don’t talk about shit like this over breakfast?” He popped a fallen piece of bacon into his mouth. “So what’s your guy like? The one you watch.”

Jimmy started at the question. “Castiel? He’s an asshole.”

Dean swallowed the bacon and stared. Jimmy might not be exactly what he appeared, but he seemed like a pretty mild-mannered guy, and Dean knew from Sam that research geeks tended to be head-over-heels practically in love with their subjects. He’d been kind of surprised when Sam starting dating girls considering how gung-ho he was for guys in short tunics and long wars. Of course, it had given him entertaining fantasy material when he’d been overseas and Sam could go on for pages about Alexander and Hephaestion, or some other guys who’d loved each other, fought together, died for one another. Dean always figured it was Sam’s way of telling him he was alright with Dean being Dean.

Dean looked at Jimmy’s frown, his eyes a million miles away, and said, “Hey, don’t hold back on my account.”

Jimmy seemed to shake himself back from wherever his thoughts had taken him. “Sorry, it’s just I feel like I’ve been living with Castiel, his life, for so long—”

“Must feel like it takes over sometimes.”


Dean wiped his mouth and pushed his plate away. It was clear Jimmy wasn’t going to share anything more about his Immortal, and Dean figured that was the guy’s right. Shit, he’d probably already told Dean more than he should’ve, broken some secret Watchers’ code, and there were bound to be consequences.

“I appreciate you being honest with me.”

“Well, it’s not as if you held a knife to my throat or anything.”

Dean flushed, but Jimmy had a half-smile on his face that said he was teasing. “Sorry about that. I saw the sword and the tattoo, and something just—”


“Yeah. Are you going to be in trouble for telling me all this? You’re sworn to secrecy or something, aren’t you?”

“It’s not necessary for anyone to know I’ve told you.”

Dean searched Jimmy’s face. “So does that mean you’d be in trouble if someone knew?”

Jimmy shrugged, which wasn’t an answer at all, and Dean reached across and grabbed his wrist just below the tattoo. “I get that you’re trusting me with something huge, and maybe neither of us knows why exactly you’re doing this, but you gotta know I appreciate it. I need to find who killed Sam, but I’m not going to drag you down with me. You’ve done enough, and hell, it’s more than I expected from anyone.”

Jimmy frowned at that. “You’re not used to anyone helping you, are you?”

“Been on my own a long time. It’s just who I am.” Dean stood up and brushed the crumbs off his jeans. “I should get going.”


“University, I guess. Talk to Bobby first. Then, Sam’s place.” Dean wasn’t looking forward to that. Too many memories, and too many things that were going to make it impossible to forget Sam was dead and gone.

Jimmy was looking at him thoughtfully. “I could go with you. If you want.”

“You don’t have to do that. You gave me a place to crash, you gave me somewhere to start—”

“Maybe I should’ve said I should go with you. Bobby’s not exactly going to be happy.”

“I can handle Bobby.”

“No doubt, but he’s going to know that you know the truth.”

Dean blinked at him; he was probably right, but Dean didn’t see the point of assuming Bobby had some kind of built-in bullshit meter.

“Seriously, Dean, how many times in your life have you successfully lied to Bobby?”

“Okay, point taken. He’s going to know.” Dean nevertheless felt he had to talk to him. He had things to say to Bobby. He’d trusted him to keep an eye on Sam, to look out for the kid, and that hadn’t turned out so well. It wasn’t that he blamed Bobby exactly, but he figured Bobby owed him something, even if he didn’t know what. “So if Bobby figures out you told me, what does that mean for you?”

“I don’t know,” Jimmy said honestly, “but what’s done is done.” He stepped around the table and put a hand on Dean’s arm. “I’ve been where you’ve been, Dean. Maybe not exactly, but I know what it’s like to lose someone. A brother. I’d like to help if I can.”

Jimmy was earnest blue eyes and serious conviction. Dean didn’t know what to do in the face of that kind of offer. He’d learned not to get too attached to people, not to rely on them too much. People you put on pedestals inevitably came crashing down, usually bringing the whole world right along with them. And Jimmy was a whole lot of mysteries rolled into one seemingly ordinary guy. His gut was telling Dean he should just leave it alone, but the part of him that was his truest self—the part that neither his dad nor the military had been able to stamp out—was telling him it was good to trust somebody. He didn’t have to do it all alone. He just hoped it wasn’t going to be a mistake.

“Okay, let’s do this,” Dean said. He felt like he was standing on the edge of a cliff about to step off. The smile Jimmy beamed at him as he got up, prepared to follow Dean on his quest for Sam’s murderer, did nothing to stop that sensation. Even worse, it made him feel something warm and foreign in the pit of his stomach, something he hadn’t felt in a long time, something he didn’t want to examine too closely.

He grabbed his jacket, caught the keys Jimmy tossed to him, and headed out the door, determined to do what he’d come here to do—find Sam’s killer—and nothing more.


Castiel waited in the hallway outside Bobby’s office and tried to ignore the yelling coming from beyond the heavy door. On the way over, Dean had filled him in on Bobby’s connection to his family. How Bobby and John Winchester had been in Vietnam together—one a draftee, the other a volunteer—and how when everything had gone down in Saigon, Bobby’s spine nicked by a piece of shrapnel from an explosion, it had been John who’d carried him to the choppers, fighting all the way, bloody and exhausted. They’d made it out, less whole than going in, but alive, and John had stayed close to Bobby all through his recovery and after, the rare pair who kept those promises to meet up again stateside. They’d been in and out of each other’s lives since then—through marriages and kids, through the grief of two wives dying, Bobby finishing up his doctorate and John opening the shop—and it made perfect sense to Castiel that these men, so very different from one another by Dean’s recollection, could still have forged a lasting friendship.

He understood Dean’s anger at Bobby keeping secrets, and whether he had a right to the truth or not, Castiel felt for him. It didn’t matter that it had always been this way or would always be this way—that Immortals and Watchers had been circling one another in a kind of wary symbiosis for centuries. Dean had lost a brother, and his grief was the only thing he could grab onto and make sense of at the moment.

Castiel looked up as a man rounded the corner, muttering to himself as he headed straight for Bobby’s door without even a glance around. It was Raphael’s watcher, and Castiel could feel his own long-held secrets slipping away from him with every passing second. He moved to block the man’s path.

“Hello, Chuck.”

Chuck glanced up, a truncated shriek falling from his lips, and turned to run. But Castiel gripped him firmly by the arm, steering him into a storage room at the end of the corridor. The musty smell of plaster and rust filled his senses.

“Look, Castiel,” Chuck said, eyes wide, and that alone was enough for Castiel to know his life here was over. “Jimmy, I mean Jimmy! I won’t—I won’t say anything, I swear, but—”

Castiel closed his eyes and took a steadying breath. It wasn’t the first time he’d been found out, but it was the first in this identity, and he was tired of having to reinvent himself every time a Watcher stumbled too close.


“No, no, I get it, I do. Everyone knows you hate The Game, and it was just coincidence that I was there, watching Raphael. It’s what we do, right, we watch? But, Jesus, it’s not like I was friends with the guy or anything. I was his Watcher, that’s all. Raphael was a prick and he started the challenge, I saw it, everything, and, oh God, you’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”

Chuck closed his eyes and flailed his hands weakly against Castiel’s chest, forcing Castiel to grab him and hold him still. He didn’t want to hurt Chuck; he’d always rather liked the nervous, paranoid scholar whose academic articles consistently got rejected for putting forward theories that no one else believed. There was something about him that Castiel had always admired, and he knew that at least some of Chuck’s crazy notions were not that far from the truth.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.

“No, no, you’re just going to kill me. I’ve seen you with that sword, man, and you’re wicked awesome. I’m sure I won’t even feel a thing, and oh, Jesus, I totally get the trench coat thing now. I just thought you were rocking the practical, blend in with the background look, but it’s to hide the damn sword, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Oh, God, all this time I should’ve been cultivating a fear of men in long coats instead of worrying about whether my cell phone was giving me a tumor.”

“Chuck, I’m not going to kill you.”

Chuck stopped shifting from side to side, and looked up at Castiel. “You’re not?”


“Why not?” Chuck stood up straighter. “I mean, I’m pleased about that, of course, grateful even, but it begs the question.”

Castiel sighed and relinquished his hold on Chuck. “I prefer to avoid killing anyone if possible.”

Chuck nodded with understanding. “Yeah, okay, I get that. Castiel, 5000 year old Immortal, been everywhere, done everything, seen freakin’ everything. You’re on everybody’s hit list, man. But I know your secret. That’s gotta mean something, doesn’t it?”

“Only if you’re planning to tell someone about it.”

Chuck’s eyes shifted nervously. “Nah, of course not.”

“You weren’t planning on sharing this with Bobby?” Castiel leaned forward slightly, a menacing gesture only because Chuck was short and skittish, and Castiel had to work to keep a self-satisfied grin off his face.

“Okay, I was, planning to tell him, but I won’t! I promise! Not now. Not—you’re really not going to kill me?”


“Cool. That’s very cool, man. Castiel. Jimmy,” Chuck said, and stepped around Castiel as if he were some sort of poisonous snake. He headed down the hallway, glancing back to say, “I won’t tell anyone, I swear,” just as Dean slammed out of Bobby’s office.

Chuck squeaked and double-timed it out of the department, leaving Dean glancing back and forth between Castiel, lingering in the entrance to the storage room, and the door swinging shut behind Chuck.

“Were you just in the storage room with that strange little man?” Dean said, curiosity pushing his words.


Dean laughed. “Okay, I guess you don’t have to give up all your secrets in one day.”

Castiel walked closer to the office where he could hear Bobby throwing papers around. “He knows that you know? And that I told you?”

“Yeah, apparently his bullshit-o-meter is working just fine.”

“I’m not stupid,” Bobby shouted from inside. “I knew it was trouble soon as Ellen told me Jimmy’d given you a lift. Any fool could figure out who decided that honesty was suddenly the best policy. It’s not, by the way, but I don’t expect either of you two idjits to understand that.”

Castiel poked his head in the doorway, trying to look remorseful, although being honest with Dean had lifted some of the weight he carried. “I’m sorry, Bobby.”

“Little late for apologies, Jimmy. Best leave me to figure out how to keep a lid on this and keep it from being a disaster.” Bobby took off his poor boy cap, swiped at the grey hairs dotting his forehead, then replaced the cap. “Rogue immortals killing watchers, and the goddamn Game going into overdrive in this city. Raphael dead last week, and Azazel this week. What’s next? Armageddon?”

“Azazel’s dead?” Castiel asked, stepping right to the edge of Bobby’s paper-covered desk, any desire to leave forgotten.

“You know, if one of you would open your goddamn email instead of an ancient scroll, my job would be a lot easier!” Bobby fumed. “Yes, Azazel’s dead. Head turned up in the harbor. Haven’t found the rest of him yet. It takes considerable skill with a blade to take down these old guys, but somebody’s doing it, and they’re not wasting much time, either.” Bobby looked Castiel up and down carefully. “You seen anything of Castiel recently? Heard anything?”


“Well, if he’s not the one doing it, then he’ll be a target for sure. Keep your head on straight, your eyes sharp.” Bobby reached up across the desk, and pulled at the lapel on Castiel’s trench coat so that he was forced to lean in closer. “Dean’s like kin to me, Jimmy, and he’s hurtin’ bad right now. I’d hate to see anybody do something they’d regret.”

All Castiel could do was nod, embarrassed, and step back. Dean was certain to have heard Bobby’s warning, and Castiel wasn’t sure what Dean would make of it. He liked Dean—a lot, considering he’d only just met him. But there was something about the man that made Castiel want to be honest with him. It was more than just an attraction, although he couldn’t deny the green eyes and the rough good looks were exactly his type on this end of the gender spectrum. He also knew what he felt for Dean wasn’t pity no matter how Dean might interpret it.

Castiel understood Dean on some deep-down basic level. He’d looked into Dean’s eyes and seen something complex and dark, layer built upon layer to keep the world out, to keep himself in. Castiel knew the need to keep something terrible leashed inside, to feel regret so strong it permeated every cell of your body. He’d seen it in far too many Immortals over the years, playing the game until they no longer cared about anything else. He could see that in Dean, too—that strength and conviction, that all-or-nothing mentality that would have made him a perfect weapon in the Marines--but it didn’t scare Castiel because there was also loyalty and humanity and a kind of eager hope that even war hadn’t been able to knock out of Dean. It made Castiel think there was hope for him too.

Bobby glanced up. “Well, go on with you. Stop cluttering up my office. And for God’s sake, stay out of trouble.”

Dean tugged Castiel’s arm, and he allowed himself to be moved towards the door, noting the watchful eyes that followed them. For better or worse, Dean Winchester was someone Castiel wanted to help, and he’d do whatever it took to find the answers that would give him peace. Even if that meant revealing himself, something he hadn’t done voluntarily in decades.


“You’re sure you don’t mind waiting,” Dean asked again, leaning on the Impala’s open passenger window, but Jimmy waved him off and pulled out a book from somewhere. Typical.

“I’ll be fine. Just do what you need to do,” he said, concern evident in his eyes. “Take as much time as you need. And, Dean, if you want—”

Dean knew what he was going to say and as much as he appreciated it, he couldn’t deal with the offer. “It’s something I need to do alone.”

“I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Dean nodded, and patted the side of the car for luck before heading up the backstairs to the apartment Sam had lived in for the last year or so. Dean looked at the thin wooden door as he fitted the key into the lock. One good kick would’ve brought the thing down, and probably the walls on either side of it. He supposed it was probably a little late to be worrying about security now.

The door opened into a sparse bachelor suite that reminded Dean of some of the hotel rooms he’d stayed in on leave. The bed was a single, pushed against one wall, an old patch quilt that had been their mother’s laid haphazardly over lumpy sheets. Yeah, one thing they’d never been able to train into Sammy was how to properly make a bed. As rebellious streaks went, it was pretty minor.

Most of the place had been cleaned up and put away already. Sam and Jess had been over for a few months he gathered, but she’d still been leaking small tears when they’d stopped by her office at the university to grab Sam’s extra key. She was a pretty girl—blonde and sweet-faced, kind of innocent-looking with so much of life clearly ahead of her that Dean had almost lost it right there in the basement of the library where the grad students had their cubicle farm. He would’ve if it hadn’t been for Jimmy’s reassuring hand at his back, and the way he took the key even when Dean couldn’t, thanked Jess for her help and told her how sorry he was, how sorry they both were. She’d nodded, mascara heavy around her rapidly blinking eyes, and Dean had been stupidly grateful not to have to say anything else.

Now he was in Sam’s space, breathing in his absence like it was a living thing, and he was glad Jess had done the hard work for him. She’d gone through his things, sorted them into boxes, and on Bobby’s instruction, given away everything that wasn’t personal. Dean wasn’t going to have to deal with trips to the Food Bank and the Salvation Army to get rid of all the leftover parts of Sam’s life, the parts that screamed he hadn’t been planning on checking out quite this soon.

Dean popped the lid off the nearest box, then wished he hadn’t. There were pictures in dusty frames, trails on the glass where a fingertip had traced the edges of Sam’s face in fond remembrance. Dean felt like he was intruding on Jess’s grief. He put the picture back and closed the lid.

He stayed away from the small pile of boxes then, walking the perimeter of the room like a tourist of some kind. This was where Sam had eaten his meals. This was where he’d slept. Dean couldn’t quite imagine him here. Sam seemed bigger than the place, more than it could contain in these four walls and half dozen boxes. It wasn’t much to show for a life that meant more to Dean than his own.

He sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled the quilt into his arms. He remembered sleeping with it when his mother had died, and when he’d pressed his face into it as a boy, he could almost remember the way she smelled. Now, it was Sam that clung to the fabric, and Dean swore at the unfairness of it all, the goddamn fucking unfairness of Sam’s life cut short, and it was no surprise when he looked up from the folds of the quilt, that it was wet. He was completely and utterly alone with his grief, and for the first and probably the last time, he let himself mourn for Sam.


Castiel couldn’t concentrate on the book he’d found in the folds of his trench coat. He couldn’t even remember where he’d picked it up or why, but the story wasn’t enough to hold his attention, knowing Dean was upstairs in Sam’s apartment confronted by his brother’s death.

After a time, he got out of the Impala and stretched his legs, adjusted the carrying sword sewn in to the trench coat’s lining. He’d gotten extremely good at concealment, at sitting exactly the right way so as to not injure either himself or the car. He’d punctured a few too many taxi seats before he’d figured out how to line the coat with lightweight kevlar. Now it was second nature. The sword was simply always there, part of his wardrobe, and it made it so much easier than trying to explain to occasional companions why he had to grab a sword before he went out.

The hairs on the back of his neck prickled with awareness, and Castiel felt the presence of another Immortal nearby. He moved around the car to get a better view of the building, unhooking his sword as he went. Castiel reached out with his senses, tried to see if he could detect the direction the Immortal was moving from, and without thinking, he started towards the staircase that led to Sam’s apartment. Dean could be—

“Well, well, well. This is a surprise,” a deep, booming voice chuckled from the alleyway behind the car.

Castiel turned to confront the other man. “Uriel.”

The large black man stepped into the fading afternoon light and smiled, his teeth gleaming like a half-moon. “I’d heard you were back, but I couldn’t quite believe it. Some even said you’d gone and joined the Watchers.”

Castiel didn’t glance down at his wrist, refused to give anything away. He kept his hand on his sword, prepared to draw. “People say a lot of things about me.”

“Yes, they do,” Uriel acknowledged, still grinning. “But I know you, brother. I’ve known you from the beginning of time, and there isn’t anything you can hide from me.” Uriel’s eyes drifted towards the first floor apartment where a light had switched on. in Sam’s apartment.

“What do you want?”

“Oh, come now, don’t be like that, Castiel.” Uriel moved languidly, every step a graceful intimidation. Castiel held his ground. “I’m only interested in The Game, you know that.”

“And I’m not.”

“So you keep saying, yet here you are, still playing after all these millenia.” Uriel rubbed a hand along his chin. Castiel couldn’t see his other hand, but he knew with absolute certainty it would hold a short curved blade, the type favored by the Saracens.

“Unlike you, I’ve never been fond of killing.”

“That’s right. Poor Castiel, forced into a life of bloodshed to survive. Such a tragedy.” Uriel laughed, and Castiel felt the ugly truth of it shake through him. “Except we both know there was a time when it was second nature to you, brother. Maybe even more than it was for the rest of us.”


“You were so damn beautiful, eyes like the sky, and your hair used to be gold. Do you remember? They thought you were an angel sent down to punish the wicked, and oh, did you punish them.” Uriel clucked with satisfaction, and Castiel felt something inside him stirring. An angry, bloodthirsty lust he thought had died in him eons ago. “The wicked and the just alike. You killed them all, Castiel. No quarter, no mercy. And the rest of us rode after you, just to be near that kind of power. Grace.”

“It was a long time ago, Uriel. I’m not that person. I haven’t been—”

“Oh, but you are, brother. I’ve seen it in you.” Uriel was standing on the same side of the car with Castiel now, sword hanging noticeably at his side. “That raw, misshapen thing inside you that wants to get out, that hungers to survive at all costs. I saw it when you took our brother’s head. When you killed Raphael.”

Castiel cast his eyes down for a moment, wondering who else had been in the darkened park that midnight. Chuck, Uriel. He’d gotten sloppy, careless, and if Uriel had found him, others would too.

He looked up as Uriel raised the sword. “Come on, brother. Show me how much you’ve changed. Show me your forgiveness and mercy, you hypocrite.”

With that, Uriel struck, Cas almost going to his knees to bring his sword fully out in time to block the blow. Metal rang against metal, and Castiel used all of the strength of his legs to push Uriel backwards, putting enough space between them that his longer katana would have the advantage.

“I don’t wish to fight you, Uriel.”

“Of course, you don’t.” Their swords met again, Castiel trying to move them off the street, toward the alley. He saw a flutter of curtain at the first-floor window and prayed Dean had the sense to stay put. It occurred to him that was very unlikely to happen, even as Uriel switched from sweeping blows to a stabbing thrust. Less effective with the type of sword, but the damage was still real when the blade pierced the flesh of Castiel’s stomach where the trench coat hung open. Blood pooled to the surface even as his body started to repair itself. Nothing but decapitation would end him. He knew that from long experience.

Heavy footsteps could be heard on the creaking wooden staircase, and Uriel didn’t even bother to turn as Dean hurtled into view. Castiel couldn’t afford to shift his eyes to reassure Dean he was fine.

“What the hell? Jimmy!”

“Dean, get out of here!”

Dean shifted out of Castiel’s peripheral vision, probably back towards the car, and Castiel hoped that meant Dean was getting as far away from him and this mess as he possibly could.

Uriel laughed again, deep and genuine, as he met Castiel’s eyes. “Right. Jimmy. I’d forgotten how much you like to play dress-up. Pretend you’re normal. Bet that one doesn’t even know you’re exactly like the freak who killed his brother.”

Castiel’s blade stopped in mid-air. “How do you know about that?”

“Azazel told me. Told me the kid tried to interfere, and you know Azazel. Strict adherence to the policy of non-interference. The boy was messin’ where he shouldn’t be.”

“Azazel’s dead.”

“Really?” The word was drawn out, Uriel’s voice steady, without a hint of surprise.

“You killed him.” It was still all about The Game, Castiel knew. Sam had interfered in one of Azazel’s kills and paid the ultimate price. Uriel had won the next round, taking Azazel’s head.

“Everybody’s gotta go sometime, brother. Even Immortals.”

Dean rushed back around the corner at that moment, a tire iron gripped solidly in one hand, a shiny silver sword in the other.

Uriel glanced at him as he stepped away from Castiel, raising his sword in a salute.
“I like this one. He’s got spirit. It takes a certain kind of man to bring a toy to a sword fight.”

Castiel shifted, sword ready, keeping himself between Dean and Uriel.


Uriel grinned and backed away, his voice mocking. “I know when I’m beaten. Be seein’ you.”

He slipped into the shadows. Castiel stayed rooted to the spot, breathing hard as Dean stepped to his side.

“Jimmy? Who the hell was that?”

“No one.”

Dean punched him in the shoulder, hard enough to make Castiel turn halfway towards him. “Seriously? You’re gonna try that bullshit on me? He’s one of those Immortals, isn’t he? Isn’t he?” Suddenly, Dean dropped the tire iron and grabbed a fistful of Castiel’s shirt. “Shit, you’re bleeding. Jimmy, you’re bleeding!”

Dean’s sword scattered to the pavement, forgotten, as he pulled Castiel’s Henley out of his jeans and tugged it up, exposing a flawless stomach. Castiel pushed the shirt back down, re-securing his sword, and picking up Dean’s.

“We’ve got to go. We’ve already attracted too much attention.”

“The blood—”

Dean was staring, even as Castiel gave him a shove back towards the car to get him moving, away from the alley.

“Was the other guy’s.”

Dean grabbed the tire iron, stumbling into the driver’s seat, tossing the tool on the back seat. Castiel slid in beside him, Dean’s Marine ceremonial sword a light weight in his hand. He touched the blade with the pad of his thumb.

“This isn’t sharp, you realize,” Castiel said, quietly. “It’s not a serviceable weapon.”

“I didn’t realize I would need a weapon when I came to pick up my dead brother’s stuff,” Dean said, hands gripping the wheel. “Are you planning to tell me what’s going on?”

Castiel looked out the side window as the engine started effortlessly. He could hear Dean’s rough breathing, the adrenaline probably coursing through his system just as it was through Castiel’s.

“That guy would’ve happily skewered you,” Dean said conversationally as they moved through traffic. “I thought he had.”

“He isn’t anyone you should worry about.” Castiel ignored Dean’s sideways glance.

“Well, I don’t think much of his way of saying ‘hello’.”


“And he called you ‘brother.’ Interesting family history you’ve got there, Jimmy. You’re passing really well.”


“No, it’s fine.” Dean cruised through an amber light. “Don’t tell me. Hey, who am I? Just some dumb nobody who doesn’t know about swords and Immortals and Watchers and all that shit.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Where do you want me to drop you?” Dean sped up and burned through another light, Castiel grimacing as horns honked behind them. He figured right now Dean’s preferred options for somewhere to drop him probably started with the nearest bridge and ended with the roof of a very tall building.

“I know you’re mad, but there’s no reason to—”

“To what?” Dean took a corner fast enough that Castiel dropped the sword and grabbed for the door handle. “Risk our lives? Seriously? ‘Cause what was that back there, Jimmy? I come out of Sam’s to find you throwing down with swords in an alley with a black dude twice your size, and you tell me it’s nothing? You’ve got blood on your shirt and it doesn’t matter because it’s the other guy’s? So all that honesty from this morning was crap, huh?”

“That’s not fair.”

“Yeah, well, life sucks.” Dean pulled the car to a stop in front of Castiel’s building. “Get out.”

Castiel didn’t bother arguing, just got out and closed the door gently. He turned around and dropped a key onto the seat. “If you want to talk, you know where I am. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“It ain’t worth much, man,” Dean said, not looking at him. As soon as Castiel stepped away, Dean was gone, the smell of rubber and exhaust filling the air.


Dean didn’t know how long he drove, but by the time the tank was screaming for more gas, traffic had emptied from the streets. He pulled into an all night station and fueled up. Gas for the Impala, a crappy burger and bottle of Coke for himself. It didn’t help his mood any, and he finally picked up the key Jimmy had left in the passenger seat. His first instinct was to toss it, but he knew the only person who could give him answers was Jimmy.

It pissed Dean off, though. He’d never liked relying on someone, and here, twenty-four hours after meeting the guy, he already felt he needed him too much. Jimmy had given him much more than a place to crash for the night—he’d opened Dean’s eyes to a whole other world going on within the one he already knew, a world his brother had been part of and which had probably gotten him killed.

“Jesus Christ, Sammy, why’d do you have to get mixed up with this? Why couldn’t you just be a regular geek?”

The stars didn’t answer him, and the gas station attendant was looking at him nervously from behind his bulletproof glass and metal bars. Dean flipped him the bird and climbed back into his baby. Jimmy’s key was burning a hole in his pocket. He sighed, hating himself for wanting to make things right with the guy.

Jimmy had been honest with him—or at least a hell of a lot more honest than anyone else, including Bobby, which still ate at Dean’s gut. So maybe there were a few things Jimmy was holding back, but he’d only known Dean a day. Maybe he should cut Jimmy some slack.

Dean rolled down the windows and let the night air wash over him along with the soothing sounds of Zeppelin. He turned the car onto the highway, back towards the university and Jimmy’s place.


Castiel couldn’t sleep, and after catching himself pacing back and forth between the windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of a black Impala, he decided he needed something else to think about besides Dean Winchester. He was probably already at Harvelle’s with a bottle and a lap full of company. Castiel tried to push the thought out of his mind, unsettled by how hard it was to let go of the hope that Dean might come back. Might be willing to listen to what he had to say.

Castiel hadn’t always found peace in sword practice, but these days he did. He grabbed one of the swords from the wall of his training studio, and began gliding through the series of movements that were as automatic as breathing. The forms were so natural now, it left him with entirely too much time to think, and as much as he tried to avoid it his mind kept returning to Dean.

What would he have thought if he’d pushed through the heavy wooden door at the end of the hallway and found this: the neighboring apartment gutted and redesigned with breathtaking floor to ceiling windows turned towards the water, opaque from the outside. At this time of night, the windows reflected back the ambient light from outside, giving Castiel more than enough to see by as he moved silently through the shifting shadows. The bamboo floor was laid on cork, perfect combination of solidity and give for training in the martial arts, and the back wall held an assortment of weapons that most museums couldn’t match. Every single one of them was real.

Castiel’s katana slid gracefully through the air, moving like an extension of his body. He increased his pace, no longer satisfied by the slow, meditative steps, wanting to feel his heart pumping, pulse thudding in his neck, sweat gathering in the hollow of his throat. He pushed himself harder, imagined an opponent—Uriel worked nicely—who was bigger, stronger, and determined to kill him. He dodged, countered, parried, thrusted. His sword carved great arcs in the air at neck level, until finally, spent, he let the sword fall silent at his side, demons banished for one more night.

He wiped the sweat from his face with the edge of the blue Henley before realizing it still bore the mark of Uriel’s blade and his own blood. He turned, disgusted with himself, towards the door just in time to see Dean walk through it, letting out a low whistle.

“No wonder Sam wanted to be a professor if this is how you live.”

Castiel stood in the centre of the room, watching Dean circle him warily, taking in the dimensions of the studio, the silhouettes of weapons on the wall. The sword in Castiel’s hand.

“I told you, I’m not a—”

“Yeah, not a prof. I got the memo.” Dean waved a hand to shush him. “But you’re a hell of a lot more than you’re saying.”

Castiel stood his ground as Dean approached. “You’ve known me a day and you already know more about me than most people ever will. Doesn’t that count for something?”

“Yeah, it does.”

“Just not enough, I guess.” Castiel walked over to the wall and wiped the sword blade carefully before sliding it back into its setting. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe I wasn’t doing it to piss you off? That maybe I had a reason for not telling you absolutely everything about my life and how screwed up it is?”

Dean came up behind him, placing a warm hand on Castiel’s shoulder. He could feel the heat radiating right through the shirt, and the shiver that raced across his skin had nothing to do with the temperature in the room.

“Dean,” Castiel said, not turning around.

“I know you were trying to protect me.” Dean laughed harshly. “Do you get how fucked up that is? I’m a goddamn Marine, tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, top marks in sharp-shooting and hand-to-hand combat, and you’re trying to protect me?”

Castiel bristled at that. As much as being underestimated, blending in, was part of his plan for self-preservation, he didn’t like to be treated like the damsel in distress. He hadn’t needed Dean to ride to his rescue with Uriel, and if he had, Castiel was pretty sure Dean would’ve been cut to ribbons in front of him, and there was no way he was going to let that happen.

“You underestimate me.” He turned around. Dean was barely a foot away, his outstretched hand slipping to Castiel’s arm as they moved.

“And maybe you underestimate me if you believe for a minute I was going to leave you in that damn alley and not look back.”

“There wasn’t anything you could’ve done, Dean,” Castiel said softly, the truth of it underlining every careful word.

“This isn’t a war.”

“Yes, it is,” Castiel said, and he’d never wanted so desperately to prove that to someone before. He reached for Dean’s face, pulled him in and kissed him, their noses mashing together until Castiel felt Dean’s hands grab for his hips, yank him close and position him just so, Dean’s knee sliding neatly between his legs even as he pushed them the few feet back towards a clear space of wall. Dean was hard, his erection firm against Castiel’s leg, and he knew Dean was feeling him, too, just as hard, their mouths pushing at one another, hot and brutal in the darkness.

Castiel tugged at Dean’s shirt, pulled it up and over with Dean’s help, who only backed off a second before slamming Castiel back into the wall and kissing him again, wet and needy, all pushy tongue and teeth. Greedy hands fumbled at his shirt, and Dean’s hand slipped through the sword cut, hesitated against the dried blood before pulling back a fraction to look Castiel in the eye.

“He did cut you, didn’t he?” Dean asked and when Castiel didn’t answer, he felt the Henley tearing under Dean’s hands as he forced his fingers through the cut to the skin beneath, finding nothing but perfection and softly curling hair. Castiel arched under the touch as if electricity had burned him.

“You son of a bitch,” Dean whispered against his mouth, dropping the torn shirt to the floor, hands running over Castiel’s chest, looking for what, Castiel didn’t know, evidence maybe—that he wasn’t human, wasn’t a man coming apart under Dean’s touch.

Dean’s touch was punishing, mouth kissing with a bruising force. Castiel breathed rough and frantic around Dean’s tongue, desperate for him not to stop, not to pull away, and he wanted so desperately to tell him everything at that moment. Everything of who and what he was, all the bare truths and memories that made up his life, his lifetimes. He would give it all to Dean to keep that mouth on his, those hands kneading his skin, that leg pressed hard against his crotch, each deliberate shift a delicate kind of agony.

By the time their pants were sliding off, half-kicked, half-dragged by reckless hands, Castiel could feel the blood rising to the surface where Dean’s mouth was sucking at his neck. Dean was shaking when he let go, one hand reaching for Castiel’s cock, the other gripping the back of his neck, holding him in place while Dean fucked his mouth with his tongue, and Castiel took it, every thrust, every obscene challenge, and wanted more.

He got his hands on Dean, too, feeling out the solid bulk of his back, the hard peaks of his nipples that twisted easily under Castiel’s fingers.

“Jesus,” Dean breathed out, and let his head fall back, Castiel’s hands sliding around Dean’s waist to keep him close, his mouth working a path from throat to nipple and back again while Dean palmed his cock in heavy-handed strokes.

“Just tell me one thing,” Dean managed between ragged breaths, his voice low and wrecked as he worked Castiel’s cock, fast and rough.


“Was it him?”

Castiel could barely concentrate on Dean’s words, his head tipped forward now, whispering into Castiel’s ear, and Castiel’s head was pressed against Dean’s shoulder, watching as Dean worked him, unable to tear his eyes from the repeated action, hand sliding up and down his flesh, and it was like his brain had short-circuited because he couldn’t make sense of what Dean was asking.

“What?” he asked again, and Dean bit his earlobe, sucked it hard and followed it with his tongue, hand still pumping in the slick leaking from Castiel’s tip, and he could feel the tight anticipation coiling in his back, the base of his spine, as Dean stroked him harder, faster.

“Was it him? The guy that killed Sam?” And Castiel almost pushed him away then, angry and confused, but Dean’s mouth was gentler now, softer, and the hand that wasn’t stroking him closer to the edge, was rubbing soft circles into his back, and for all that Castiel had seen of Dean’s temper, he couldn’t believe this was only to ask that question, to find an answer. He put his mouth against Dean’s cheek, reached down and stilled the hand working his cock, and let out a breath that was more willpower than he thought he had.

“Dean,” he said. There was surprise in the green eyes, and disappointment and maybe even a little bit of fear, until Castiel cupped his face carefully and told him in a voice whose honesty couldn’t be doubted, “If he’d killed Sam, there’s no way I would’ve let him walk away.”

Dean nodded, the breath he’d been holding stuttering against Castiel’s shoulder, and Castiel took advantage of the stolen moment to kiss Dean’s face all over, pressing his lips against eyelids and cheek, nose, ears, the solid roundness of his chin, before returning to Dean’s mouth and shaping his name against his lips, repeating it with every deepening kiss until they were sprawled naked among their scattered clothes.

Castiel found Dean’s ear and murmured, “You should fuck me now,” to which Dean made an unintelligible sound and dragged Castiel closer than either of them had thought possible, and in a very few moments he’d worked Castiel’s cock back to the edge of an orgasm that tore through him like fire, every nerve ending hot and sensitive.

When he was spent and shaking in Dean’s arms, Dean used the semen to slick himself and Castiel too, pushing fingers in, not slowly enough, but not fast enough either, and Castiel said, “no, let me” and pushed Dean back onto his heels, cock standing erect between his solid thighs, giving Castiel something to push down on, a slow aching goodness that split him apart as Dean’s kisses wove him back together. He settled on Dean’s lap, cock heavy inside him, his own spent, half-hard against Dean’s ribs, and they clung to one another, slowly rocking, a steady shift of up and down, until Dean was keening into Castiel’s shoulder, “Fuck, fuck, oh, Jimmy, oh, fuck!”

Castiel kissed him silent and felt Dean tensing, muscles tightening, hands leaving bruises on Castiel’s back, and he wanted it so badly, to share this one thing, the only constant through all his life, so he leaned in and whispered, “Call me Cas—Castiel.” Dean didn’t break his rhythm or even blink, just changed the pulse of his words to “Fuck, yes, yes, Castiel, oh, Castiel, fuck, Cas,” until in the final thrust Dean flowed into him, all energy and strength and something that felt like the beginning of things. They sat like that, wrapped together until Dean complained his legs were asleep, and Castiel honestly couldn’t feel his ass except for a tingling burn, and they tumbled apart on their wrecked clothes, rolling back together sated and warm.

They didn’t mean to fall asleep, but their breathing grew deeper, more even, and eventually they drifted, wrapped naked together on the floor below the swords.


Dean opened his eyes slowly, aware that he was cold and sore, the muscles in his back aching from a couple of hours on a practice room floor. There was something digging into his thigh, and when he shifted, he understood that while rivets on blue jeans were fine in theory, they sucked when forming part of your mattress. He probably had Levi’s stamped on his ass at this point.

Jimmy still slept, one arm folded to his chest like a wing, and his face was serene in the pale light. Dean eased himself onto his side and catalogued the body next to him: tousled hair that wasn’t any more of a mess than usual, dark stubble, solid muscles all down the lean line of Jimmy’s frame. The skin he’d thought unmarred was far from it, and Dean had to stop himself from leaning closer, from putting a fingertip out to trace the raised ruin that ran down one thigh almost to the knee, the scar that split one bicep, white and thin like a tree’s age lines. There were smaller marks too. A healed bullet hole. Dean recognized the starburst shape, had seen too many of them in combat, although most of the marks on Jimmy’s flesh were long and straight. Sword cuts. Along with what had happened the previous night with the black guy in the alley and Jimmy’s sudden need for Dean to call him something that wasn’t supposed to be his name, everything fell together like the pieces of a puzzle, and Dean realized he wasn’t surprised. Life suddenly made an entirely different kind of sense.

Jimmy stirred slightly, resettling closer to Dean. Slowly his eyes fluttered open and Dean returned his look with a sheepish smile for having been caught looking.

“I’m too old for sleeping on floors,” Jimmy murmured, shutting his eyes again and wincing as he rolled onto his back.

“And exactly how old would that be?” Dean asked. The expression in Jimmy’s—no, Castiel’s eyes was that of something caught, and Dean laid a hand against his cheek and kissed him once, hoping that was enough to tell him it would be okay. “You know, I like a little role-playing as much as the next guy, but something tells me that wasn’t what we were doing last night.”

“No, it wasn’t.” Castiel pursed his lips. “I wanted to tell you.”

“You pretty much did.” Dean grinned at him. “Castiel.” The name felt right on his tongue, puzzle pieces notching into place, and he said it again, trailing his fingers through Castiel’s hair. “Cas. I knew you didn’t look like a Jimmy.”

“It’s not funny, Dean. I’ve put you in terrible danger. Uriel isn’t someone to take lightly.”

“I thought we covered that last night. I don’t need you to protect me, anymore than you need me to protect you, apparently.” Dean traced a knuckle deliberately down the scar at Castiel’s throat, and Castiel stilled his hand.

“There are things you don’t know—”

“Which is so not a surprise at this point.” Dean eased over, letting one leg settle across Castiel’s.

“There’s something called a Quickening. When an Immortal takes another Immortal’s head, we also take their energy, some residue of their psychic imprint. It’s like being hit by lightning made up of all that person’s best and worst memories, and it adds to who we are, gives us strength and skills to carry into battle.”

“So every Immortal you kill is like a power-up?”

“Something like that. Uriel’s taken Azazel, who was strong and old, Dean, very old.”

“As old as you?”

“Only Uriel comes close to that, but the others—Azazel, Raphael—were old by any other standard. Ancient.”

“Where’s this Raphael?”

“I killed him.” Castiel looked away. “The man you saw me with at Bobby’s office yesterday was Raphael’s Watcher. Chuck.”

“Does he know who you are? Who you really are?”

Castiel nodded. “It’s apparently been a bad week for keeping secrets.”

Dean snorted and buried his face against the warm curve of Castiel’s neck. “Let’s get a shower, something to eat. I think better on a full stomach.” He pressed a promise to Castiel’s mouth, then got to his feet, wincing at the pop of his knees. He stretched out a hand and pulled Castiel to him.

“I have to say I’ve always liked older guys, but this …” He trailed off. “How old are you really?”

“Five millenia, give or take.”

Dean nodded, although he really didn’t know how to process that information. The man in front of him, slim and good-looking, had been thirty-something for 5000 years. He’d seen and done more than anyone could even imagine, and Dean was torn between feeling awed and freaked out.

“Why me?”

Castiel tilted his head and looked at Dean, blue eyes achingly bright. “I don’t know, but I’m not sorry it’s you.” He slid his arms around Dean. “I’m not sorry at all.”

The shower wasn’t that far away, but it seemed to take them forever to get there, stopping to kiss lazily, hands sliding slow and soft, exploring, taking time they hadn’t wanted last night. By the time hot water met their skin, they were both beyond hard, cocks bumping eagerly in the damp heat, tile slick against Dean’s back as Castiel pressed him into the wall, thrust up against him, aggressive and sure until they were both panting. It took very little to bring them both off, Dean’s teeth leaving a faint impression on Castiel’s shoulder, a bruise blossoming like a broken petal on the soft skin of Dean’s throat. They washed, spattered soap and shampoo on the walls and each other, and for the first time since he’d come to this city, Dean didn’t feel Sam’s death like a weight around his neck. He kissed Castiel, spurred by the revelation, and smiled as Castiel matched him in strength and enthusiasm. It felt so right to have this.

Dean towelled off, wrapping the blue bathsheet around his waist, and headed into the hall. “I’m just going to grab some clothes.”

Castiel made a sound of acknowledgement from beneath the showerhead where he was rinsing for the last time, but Dean didn’t hear him. The sword flat against his throat and the huge black hand covering his mouth held him fast and silent.

“Not a word,” Uriel whispered. “Not a word, or I kill you both.”


Castiel felt a relief that he hadn’t known in centuries. Dean knew the truth, and seemed to be taking it in stride. More than that, he wasn’t running in the opposite direction or brandishing a sword to claim Castiel’s head. It was a refreshing change from so much of his past love life.

Love. Even after 5000 years, the word made him uncomfortable. He understood it, in theory, or at least the resulting actions. Loyalty, sacrifice, sorrow. But more often than not, what he’d seen done in the name of love was brutal and grotesque, and he’d always thought the pulsing human heart, blood red and beating, was the perfect symbol, although not for the reasons most people thought.

Castiel wandered back to the practice room, couldn’t suppress a smile at the pile of clothes where they’d fucked and slept. He grabbed a pair of loose sweats from the cupboard where he kept his practice clothes, tugged on a grey university t-shirt. There was no sound from the rest of the apartment, and Castiel wondered if Dean had crawled back onto the futon and fallen asleep. It was still early and they’d only had a few hours of sleep. Castiel felt the hair on his arms stand up, familiar prickling of intensity that signalled another Immortal, and he only stopped long enough to grab the katana from the stand before he padded silently towards the living room.

“Hello, Castiel.”

He froze, taking in the scene with an uncharacteristic dread. Dean was on his knees, hands clenched in the knotted towel around his waist. Uriel’s sword tip rested on his sternum, a rivulet of blood trickling ever so slowly down the skin of Dean’s chest as Uriel applied slight but consistent pressure.

“Let him go, Uriel. He’s got no part in this. It’s me you want.” Castiel moved closer, blade raised and ready.

“But why settle for one, when you can have both?” Uriel asked, palming the hilt of the sword just before he gripped it tight and shoved it with all his force through Dean’s chest.

“No!” Castiel cried out, watching Dean’s face go white with pain and shock, his eyes looking from the sword piercing his chest to Castiel’s face.

“Shit,” Dean said, dropping backwards onto his heels, as Uriel gripped him by the shoulder and pulled the blade out again, twisting as he tugged. Dean’s scream echoed in the loft.

Castiel flung himself at Uriel, sword clashing with Uriel’s bloody blade, and for seconds there was nothing but the ring of steel against steel and Dean’s harsh gasps for breath, bloody bubbles forming on his lips.

“Hang on, Dean,” Castiel shouted, pushing every advantage he knew, but Uriel was almost as old and had probably killed far more men than Castiel, at least recently, so his strikes were full of fresh vigor and technique gleaned from a thousand battles.

Uriel laughed at Castiel’s determined onslaught, laughed even as Dean was bleeding out on the floor, and Castiel stopped worrying about the kill-stroke, and let his anger wash over him. He sliced open Uriel’s sword arm in a fake to the left, spun and slashed his cheek, Uriel’s eye welling with blood.

“This is what makes you angry? After all these years? This mortal’s death? Oh, Castiel, how far you’ve fallen.”

Castiel parried the brutal smashes, Uriel’s technique growing sloppy with the pain, and Castiel drove the katana’s point through his voicebox, tearing the vocal chords. Uriel stopped laughing, and it was an unearthly horror to watch the man attempt to scream, no sound coming from his mouth, only blood and saliva. Uriel stumbled then, a feint that caught a glancing blow on Castiel’s side, but it was enough for Castiel to see how this would end. A smash to the back of Uriel’s neck, the big man falling to his knees, and Castiel had all the time in the world to sweep the katana across his neck, severing head from body, Uriel’s eyes still open as the head spun to a stop at Castiel’s feet. He ignored the urge to kick it across the room, and ran to Dean’s side, dropping the katana to the floor even as the Quickening ripped through him.

Uriel’s life was long and hard, told in brutal battles and manipulation. The pain of all that, the pleasure of killing, tore into Castiel like a fresh wound, and he fought against it, rebelled. He didn’t want to be part of this game any longer. He was tired of death in all its forms.

When the sensation stopped, he ripped off his own shirt, tried valiantly to stop the bleeding, but he’d seen enough death to know it was too late. He sat there, Dean’s cooling body across his lap, forehead pressed to Dean’s, and hated himself and all of his five thousand years. Perhaps it would’ve been better if Uriel had killed him too.

Castiel sat with Dean in his arms until he could no longer stand it, then forced himself to start the task of cleaning up. He brought down old sheets and covered Dean’s body lightly, ignoring the way the blood made Rorschach patterns on the cloth. He slid Uriel’s head back beside the body, covered him with sheets too, and imagined how he would explain this to Bobby and to Ellen when he couldn’t even explain it to himself.

He sorted through the cabinet, gathered up rags and garbage bags, cleaning supplies. They had people who could do this for them, for The Watchers who followed behind and cleaned up the Immortals’ messes, but Castiel felt this lay on his shoulders. He owed that much to Dean.

Suddenly, there was a sensation that tickled Castiel’s instincts to readiness, like the feeling of an Immortal nearby, but it was so faint, so elusive that Castiel almost believed he’d imagined it. No one would come to avenge Uriel—of that, Castiel was certain.

Still, the feeling niggled at the back of his brain as he wiped blood spatters off the floor. The awareness was stronger now, almost like a beacon, and Castiel stopped and waited, cocked his head as if he could hear where the pulse originated from, like divining water in a desert. He ran to Dean’s body, tugged back the sheet, and searched for any sign of life. No pulse, no heartbeat, no breath against Castiel’s hand, yet the certainty that Dean was trying to come back to him nurtured a seed of hope in him. He lifted Dean carefully and moved him to the futon where he’d spent the first night—was it only two days ago?—when Castiel was still Jimmy, and assumed he always would be.

Afraid to jinx things, Castiel kept working, the rhythmic scrubbing to remove blood from hardwood somehow soothing as the minutes ticked by and became hours, shadows moving across the floor and folding into corners. He dealt with Uriel’s bulk as best as he could, then called Chuck, who talked too much and was accidentally brilliant, but also knew the best people to get rid of a body and was terrified enough of Castiel he probably wouldn’t tell Bobby until it was absolutely necessary.

“Christ,” Chuck said, surveying the mess as his two friends, bulky and silent, worked at shoving Uriel into a body bag and hauling him away. “What happened?” Chuck looked at Dean lying lifeless on the futon, and shook his head. “You’re like Ground Zero man. Everyone who gets close to you, gets dead.” The realization of that seemed to hit him, and he backed away, eyeing the exit with longing.

“There’s something wrong with Dean.”

Chuck’s face did a freakish dance of musculature before settling into a frown of incredulity. “He’s dead, Castiel. That’s what’s wrong with him. Did you get hit in the head?”

Castiel ignored the question. “I’m sensing an Immortal presence nearby. A faint presence, but it’s there, and there’s no one else here.”

“Are you sure?” Chuck glanced towards the loft. “I mean, have you looked?”

“No, but I would—”

“Yeah, when the guys come back up, they’re totally checking this place over because I’m not taking any chances that there’s a sword-wielding Immortal hiding in your closet just waiting to shout, ‘there can be only one!’” Chuck fell into a leather club chair and pulled his knees up to his chest. “They so didn’t tell me it was going to be like this in Watcher school. I should’ve been a librarian. Books don’t try to kill you.”

Chuck’s body-haulers came back then, and he ordered them upstairs with instructions to “look in all the places an angry, sneaky dude with a sword could be hiding” and they did it dutifully because Chuck was a crappy poker player, but a decent friend, and occasionally had drunken parties where everyone got laid and generally had a good time.

“Nothing here, Chuck,” the taller one said. Castiel had never learned their names, and figured maybe that was best. The other one pointed at Dean on the couch. “You want us to take him too?”

“Yeah,” Chuck said, at the same time Castiel barked out, “No,” and moved to stand beside Dean’s body.

“Okay, then,” the guys said, backing towards the exit and nodding as if everything made perfect sense. “We’ll let you work it out. Chuck, see you Friday.”

“Count on it,” Chuck said, and waved them away as he stood to confront Castiel.

“Dean’s not dead.”

“For a 5000 year old guy, you’re a slow learner. No pulse, no heartbeat, no breathing, not to mention the fact that about half his blood seeped out onto that sheet over there.” Chuck leaned over and put a hand on Dean’s chest. “See, there’s—there’s—” He stopped and knelt down beside Dean’s body. “Holy shit, I think his heart’s beating.”

Castiel pushed Chuck out of the way and leaned his cheek against Dean’s chest. The rhythm was weak , but it was there, and Castiel turned his face into Dean’s chest and laughed, relief clear in his voice. “Dean’s an Immortal.”

“Man, good-looking and he gets to live forever,” Chuck griped. “How is that even remotely fair?”

Dean gasped then, and the prickling sensation Castiel had been feeling, became full-blown static electricity snapping the air around them as Dean’s eyes flashed open, his hands reaching for Castiel blindly, Castiel reaching right back.

“I was—I was—and then I wasn’t,” Dean said, and Castiel nodded because he understood perfectly. He pulled Dean into a sitting position, wrapped his arms around him and held tightly, revelling in the newly-beating heart, the uneven breaths, the barely warm skin.

“You’re one of us,” Castiel murmured, and he heard the click of the door as Chuck let himself out more discreetly than Castiel had thought possible.

“How? I mean, how did this happen?”

“No one really knows,” Castiel said, easing back to look at Dean’s face, still pale, but very much alive.

“So Sam could’ve—”

“It doesn’t work like that. It’s not genetics or anything understandable—the Watchers have been trying to figure it out for thousands of years, and we still don’t know why some are called to The Game and others aren’t.”

“The Game.” Dean shook his head. “I’ve only been around this weirdness for two days, and I’m already tired of it. Uriel killed me!”

“I know. And I killed him.”

Dean looked relieved. “I kind of figured since you’re still here and he’s not. And Chuck?”

“Clean-up crew.”

“Nice,” Dean muttered. “Things I’m going to have to get used to, I guess.” He leaned back tugging the towel a little tighter around his hips. “I’m glad you didn’t bury me, at least. That would’ve been embarrassing, having to claw my way out of a wooden box.”

“It’s not very pleasant,” Castiel agreed, and Dean glanced at him with sympathy. “Dude, you have so many stories you owe me. Lifetimes.”

“And I’ll tell you every one you want to hear,” Castiel replied, leaning in and kissing Dean, warmth and sweetness flooding his senses with a new appreciation of everything Dean had to offer.

“But seriously, we’re going to have to rethink this ‘There can be only one!’ crap.”

Castiel laughed and folded Dean into his arms. “I think you’re absolutely right.”


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