Author Notes: It's entirely possible that not everyone who clicked the link understands what I'm talking about when I say "Providence universe." So first, a quick word from our sponsors...(which I was expressly ordered not to edit)...

Y'all might be able to tell from the words sprawled haphazardly across your screen like the corpses of a hostage situation gone terribly wrong, I am not Chrissie0707. I am the one Chrissie0707 has often referred to Ncakes, prompt machine, and I think she once called me slightly odd and kind of mean. However in my tiny little corner of FFnet I go by Nova42.

Y'all might be wondering why I've gathered you here today. So Chrissie0707 wrote this awesome story based off two scenes in a story I wrote called Providence. One scene is in chapter 17, the other in chapter 18. You don't have to read Providence to enjoy this beautifully written story, but you're probably not gonna really understand what the hell is going on.

So for those of you who don't wanna read Providence the quick and dirty of it is, in the future the world goes to hell. In 2019 Dean gets sent back in time, then stuff happens. Chrissie's story takes place in the world that's gone to hell, before Dean goes back in time. If you are confused about anything at all or have questions about what is happening in the story please feel free to send me (Nova42) a pm. Chrissie has done an exceptional job out laying out a world that until a month or so ago resided solely in my head. I hope y'all enjoy.

Okay, me again. She crazy. I'm not sure that I can honestly remember the circumstances that led to me writing this. If I were to take a guess, I was probably being a "brat" or lost some sort of bet that ended with me owing Nova words. (It happens...sort of a lot.) I do remember eventually being told, "I think I want you to write something from Providence." A scene, in particular. Let me reiterate: one single, specific scene. And I thought, that's incredibly humbling, and AWESOME, and sounds fun, and will be a nice 3-5k story with which to honor a really spectacular bit of fiction.

But in reality, it will be posted in five parts, because I completely underestimated just how moved I've been, or how inspired I'd be, by this friend of mine and this story of hers.

This is a companion piece, and an anniversary tribute story. But above all else, it's a fanfic written for and inspired by my favorite fanfic, and a truly talented writer/world creator.

EDIT 6/13/16: Edited and reposted to match the tense of the rest of the Providence universe.

For What It's Worth

Part I

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you're always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away

A lot of the specifics of that day would grow fuzzier as the hours stacked up, but not the muzzle flash. That was gonna stay with Dean for a while. He'd see it every time he chanced closing his eyes for days afterward.

The colors would fade by shades behind his lowered eyelids, the harsh white retinal echo of right the hell after giving way to a yellowish tint of sun-stained paper, and finally the subtle teal bloom of the ocean off the Hawaiian coast. How it looked in pictures, at least.

Or, how it USED to look. Before the Darkness.

February 5, 2018

He couldn't see them but he could hear them, shifting in the dark just out of the reach of his straining gaze. He knew them well enough now to sense the intent of their next act, and it slithered across his consciousness before they even had the chance to make it. A soul-chilling cold brushed across his bruised chest, stopping short and granting him a moment's surge of misguided hope before slicing deep into the exposed space between his broken ribs.

He tried to scream but it ended up caught in his throat, leaving him choking and gasping as the frigid blast became an intense and unbearable pain, ruthlessly hot and searing, and he was given no warning as they –

Dean woke with a start, a silent scream frozen on his lips and his heart thudding impossibly fast and utterly painful against his sternum. The memories of injuries long-since healed whispered throughout his body and taunted his senses, phantom aches and tears and breaks all vying for his attention. He forced each and every one of them to the side for the moment and focused on calming himself down, on simply drawing in a neat succession of loud, harsh, chest rattling breaths.

It should have been easy; just one breath at a time, in and out. In and out. And slowly, so he didn't suffocate himself.

Once he'd found a steady rhythm and the spots dissipated, Dean lie still and moved swiftly to the next item on the list as it came roaring mercilessly back to the forefront: pain. He attempted to compartmentalize each agonizing stab that he knew wasn't real and, annoyed by yet another sense of lingering, stubborn weakness, told himself to stop this nonsense and get his shit together. Pins and needles tingled in his right hand where it was twisted tightly, fisting the blanket bunched against his bare chest.

He'd given up on sleepwear early on in the healing process, finding even the softest of tees or loosest of sweats still restricted his movements and breathing, bringing him to consciousness more than once on the brink of a panic attack from the physical sensation alone. Like he was being choked, asphyxiated. He'd found a way to sidestep that particular feeling, but there didn't seem to be any way to shake the nightmares, and he'd startled awake the same way every morning for the better part of two months, ever since he'd first woken after having been brought back there. The horrific recurring dream – not one derived from imagination or even fear, but from deeply ingrained memory – always cut away at the same moment, but the torture continued longer. When it happened, when they had him…there was no relief in sight. Not just then, not for days.

With his breathing holding steady and his heart still pounding, but doing so at something at least resembling a normal pace, Dean dragged his legs from under his covers and hit the light on his bedside table. He had no way to be sure it was morning until he threw a squinted glance at his watch. He was long used to the dark, windowless rooms and corridors in the bunker, and with the sheer volume of hours he'd been sleeping since being rescued from the clutches of the Hollow Men, since being cooped up within the confines of those slabs of concrete, the time of day hadn't actually mattered much.

But that was all going to change.

Dean bent gingerly and groped on the floor until his searching fingers landed on a pair of discarded, faded jeans. They hung on his hips a bit looser than he'd like, and he had to cinch his belt to the notch he'd gotten used to since coming back gaunt and sick in ways that had resisted angelic intervention.

Unless his father was standing behind him with That Look, Dean had never made a bed in his life before they moved into the bunker. He took the time to do so, tucking in the corners of his blankets so meticulously even Sam would had scoffed. But it had been quite a while since Sammy lost all semblance of control in any given situation he'd been thrust into, and he tried, but he didn't always remember how to appreciate the little things he could control.

Dean dropped next to the bed and went through the motions of push-ups, and crunches after that, earning back muscle and strength, focusing his attention on steady breathing and not on the memories of darkness and agony both threatening and beckoning him from the shaded, wounded corners of his mind.

Sam, who was still always so buttoned-up and proper, still all about routine and order, would have given him hell about working out in jeans for no other reason than he could, but Dean would have to bring such activities outside of these four walls to even give him the opportunity, and he wasn't quite ready for that.

It was disappointing how easily he worked up a sweat since coming back, how quickly he tired, but Dean dug deep and pushed through a string of chin-ups at the bar he'd installed himself, until his arms quaked and refused to hold his weight for another second. His healed but weakened left leg dropped him too easily all the way to the floor, and he stayed there on all fours until he got his breath back. Again.

He washed up in the sink in his room, hadn't taken the short trip down the hall to the showers in weeks. Hadn't seen fit to put the wreck of his skinny, healing body on display for the bunker's other inhabitants. He knew how he was looked at: the weakest among them, more a hindrance than an asset, someone who was holding them back.

Dean leaned on the edges of the narrow porcelain sink, studying his reflection in a mirror that didn't quite fit right in its frame and had been replaced on more than one occasion, each previous occupant cracked and splintered by an angry fist. His angry fist. Yet another reminder of the indiscretions in his past he couldn't escape the memory of. He winced at the smudges of exhaustion under his eyes, a look he couldn't seem to rid himself of no matter how long he slept or how much he ate. He swiped a palm across his chin and knew he was long past due for a shave, but that was a task that begged for clear eyes and steady hands, both of which he'd been lacking for a good long while.

Dean pulled away from the mirror and put the reflection of that exhausted, wounded stranger at his back, crossing the short distance of his room to dress for the day in clothes that no longer felt like his or fit quite right.

In the six years they'd been inhabiting the bunker, Sam had changed rooms at least a dozen times, sometimes for a reason Dean could understand and sometimes for a reason he couldn't seem to ever truly forget, but mostly because he might have been grown up but still couldn't ever seem to settle anywhere. Still couldn't ever be content, always on the move just like Dad was. Dean had kept the same room since day one.

The bunker felt like home once, like the only home Dean had ever really claimed or known, but he had to figure he just wasn't meant to have those sorts of luxuries, because this home of theirs was no longer theirs, but had become a crowded fortress, a temporary sanctuary and base of command.

It felt colder than it used to, back when it was just them, though the changes extended beyond these walls. The bunker was isolated from what remained of the world in every conceivable way, buried away in secret and off of a grid that no longer powered much of anything. They'd been forced to conserve what little energy they managed to draw from a line of antiquated generators humming to life at a set schedule and for a pre-determined amount of time, resulting in long pockets of time in which a chill snaked its way through the halls like a heat-seeking missile with its sights set on Dean and settled deep in his bones.

But the persistent cold that had become a part of him was a result of more than the air temperature of the subterranean structure. Even with the steady, barely audible whisper of the heater running overhead, and even as Dean told himself he was feeling better today than yesterday and twice as good as the day before that, he couldn't suppress the shiver that wracked his weakened body. He conceded to the chill and dragged on another layer, a thick blue-checked flannel with frayed hems over his long-sleeved Henley and t-shirt.

Boots next, laced tightly with stiff, frozen fingers, and then a couple of knives tucked away. Nothing excessive – a pocketknife and short silver blade at his ankle – and more from force of habit than necessity.

Properly armed for his day of wandering about indoors, Dean debated the coffee maker plugged at the end of the desk, one that had been moved to his room from pantry storage when he'd finally been well enough to know he wanted a cup of hot black coffee more than he wanted sex but wasn't quite strong enough to make it to the kitchen of his own accord. After that, it just became easier to stay in his room in the morning – and for the rest of the day – and much to Sam's chagrin and more than one comment of concern, Dean hadn't been much of a fixture in the common areas since he found his feet. He had no desire to make a spectacle out of his return to the job, but wanted to slide back into things unnoticed. About a week earlier, Sam had seen fit to point out that the longer Dean chose to keep to himself, the worse it was going to be when he finally emerged.

He decided on skipping the coffee, a choice he hoped not to come to regret later in the day, and pulled a protein bar from the topmost of the desk drawers and tucked it into the back packet of his jeans. His nosey little brother would encourage him to eat more, but Sam only pretended to know everything he was always talking about.

Sam wasn't the only one with respect for routine and structure. Dean knew what was necessary to get himself back to top form, and that entailed practice, and repetition. And, apparently, heavy amounts of frustration. He lifted his .45 from the desktop, and habit had him checking the clip though he knew how she was loaded. There was no need to conceal a weapon in the halls but he tucked the pistol into the waistband of his jeans all the same, from another deeply ingrained force of habit and an innate desire not to ever advertise his business to anyone. He'd been hitting the range every day, emptying his fair share of clips in the privacy of a locked-down shooting gallery like a lunatic, but something strange, some incredibly off feeling had Dean wanting to search out his brother before anything else.

An influx of revolving strange faces and probing eyes had Dean locking the door to his room after he pulled it closed. A bulb overhead flickered and went out completely with a soft buzz and a subtle snap, plunging a short stretch of the otherwise empty corridor into relative darkness. It was nothing out of the ordinary and had been happening all over the bunker of late, at least once each time he'd ventured out in the still, quiet halls that once carried the whispered echoes of voices long silenced, but were now too often teeming with the types of boisterous characters that populated the barrooms and dives Dean used to seek solace in.

Back when they'd taken that break as the Darkness was just emerging, after Castiel had been cured of Rowena's attack dog curse but took care to beat the tar out of Dean first, it hadn't been more than a few days before the perpetually restless Sam was the first of the three to succumb to an aggressive bout of cabin fever. Full days before Dean soaped up every car in the garage, Sam had organized the card catalog into a brand new system only that only made – and still only made – sense to him, cleaned up what remained of the thrashing the library had taken at the hands of the Stynes, and then had finally gone through the entire structure, updating every lighting fixture with some sort of twisted hippie halogen bulb that was supposed to last around three years.

Three years. Dean guessed that was about right, but it felt more like ten. Like forty.

A pair of unfamiliar former soldier-types dressed in fatigues and sour expressions gave him a wide berth as he passed, pressing their backs to the gray tile of the corridor and pinning their beady, curious eyes on him. They didn't have to know Dean to know of him. One surefire way to make a lasting impression was to be carried, broken and bloody and screaming, through a sea of already terrified trauma survivors in the claustrophobic corridors of this place.

He didn't know if it was his ears or imagination that heard them whispering about him as he moved along, but the fine hairs on his forearms and the back of his neck stood at attention either way.

Sam's room was unlocked, dark and empty, but tidy. Frustratingly so, in fact. The guy might have been too busy to check up on his bored, bedridden brother first thing, but his schedule wasn't so full as to miss an extended early-morning laundry folding session. Apparently.

Dean chewed his lip, hands braced on either side of the door frame as he stared at the meticulously built tower of stacked button-downs and t-shirts at the end of Sam's bed, thinking real hard about knocking them all into a messy pile on the floor. Decided against it, because he was on a mission that was going to put himself in a very specific doghouse with his brother, and he knew better than to poke the bear with a stick when he was already planning on poking it with a grenade launcher.

He shoved off of the frame, drawing back into the hallway, and set a course to find Sam. Or as a last resort, maybe a volleyball to talk to. But the farther along the halls Dean traveled, the more he found himself wanting to turn right the hell around, just pull an about-face to make John Winchester proud and high-tail it out of there. Every instinctual, rode-hard and road-tested nerve ending in his body wanted him to spin on his heel and walk the well-worn path back to the safe, familiar confines of his room. Play some good music and pretend he'd never had such an asinine idea.

Instead, Dean cracked his neck, straightened his spine and executed a stubborn internal course-correction, following the lazy ess-curve at the end of the hallway that would lead him to those common areas he'd been so actively avoiding of late.

Areas he'd been avoiding because Sam had been occupied, and needed, but Dean wasn't, and something about that had burrowed under his skin and set up shop, irritating him like an itch he couldn't scratch away. He might not have been the same as he used to be, might not have been one hundred percent, but he was still a big brother, and still a Winchester and a…a friggin' legacy or some shit, and that should have meant something. In the bunker, if anywhere. Should at least have earned him a front row seat instead of all this talk and business of being sidelined or bedridden or what the hell have you.

You did it to yourself, Sam reprimanded Dean in his mind as he stepped past a pallet of shrink-wrapped boxes, evidence of a recent supply drop he hadn't even been aware of taking place. No one's locking those doors but you.

Dean rolled his eyes, because even in his own head the son of a bitch just had to be right. Shut up, Sammy. He stopped, backtracked a step and frowned at the boxes, unlabeled but presumably row upon row of canned foods lifted from long-abandoned warehouse storage. They didn't get a lot of fresh food these days.

Dean had maybe been out of the game for a couple weeks – give or take – but he couldn't shake the nagging feeling in his gut that supply drop plus missing Sam had to mean the drop team had brought something extra, and probably important, along from Magnus's safe house. He picked up the pace, forgoing all previous thoughts and plans involving the shooting gallery and his routine morning target practice.

Another bulb flickered overhead as he passed the infirmary, drawing his gaze momentarily upward and he almost ran smack into Castiel, who even after their near-collision didn't immediately seem to notice Dean standing in front of him, wavering strangely and uncharacteristically on his feet.

He grabbed Cas by the upper arms and steadied the angel, which was really saying something, seeing as Dean was relatively newly mobile and Cas was, well, a frickin' angel. But the pearly gates were closed for business, and something about constantly mending breaches and breaks in the flesh and bone of his friends without the benefit of a heavenly recharge had outfitted Cas with an aged, weary look an angel shouldn't be saddled with. It was visibly weighing on and wearing him down, lines and shadows marring his features and growing more pronounced because he was perpetually the healer and never the healed, voluntarily extending his grace as close to its limits as any of them dared to push. But such a thing could only be stretched so far, as they'd seen on more than one occasion over the years, and Cas had been putting so much of what he had into healing everyone else that he didn't have the juice left over to properly maintain his vessel. He was keeping them alive, the ones that had the chance and opportunity to make it back to the bunker and be kept alive, but at what cost? As far as any of them knew, the only angels left were both residing in the bunker.

Castiel's eyes widened. "Dean," he said finally, by way of greeting or maybe just finally noting his presence. Could have honestly gone either way, since Dean wasn't sure how long it had been since he last crossed paths with his winged pal. If memory served – and memory had been a bit preoccupied of late – it may very well not have been since the shattered bones in his leg were finally well and restored to all the proper places. "I didn't see you…there."

Dean wrinkled his nose as a flare of phantom pain erupted deep in his shin from the mere thought of the horrific injury, and his fingers twitched to probe the long-healed spot. "Yeah, figured as much." He hardly recognized his own voice, a rarely used low, rough sound that felt as though it was being torn from his throat.

Castiel finally shook Dean's hand from his arm, stepping back and composing himself. He adjusted the wrinkled lapels of his coat, but that didn't do much for the exhausted look about him. "A group arrived from the safe house late last night with supplies but there were…complications, on their journey. And a few wounded."

It wasn't a taunt, nor was it meant to guilt him, but Dean winced, hearing both. Hearing, you weren't there. Hearing, they could have used you. "I heard," he said lamely. Their outfit was weakening by the day, emotionally, physically, and in number. All the more reason for Dean to make his way beyond their underground walls.

"It's taking more out of me than I'd anticipated." Clearly, or Cas wouldn't have been making such an admission. He caught himself, looking uncomfortable, and made a general gesture down the hallway behind Dean. "I have to go now. I'm needed."

"Cas, wait," Dean said, stepping to the side and planting himself firmly in the angel's path. "How you doin'? Really?"

Castiel shook off the concern without pause. "I'm fine, Dean." His eyes narrowed. "You're the one who is supposed to be healing."

"I've healed," Dean said, so quickly even he could hear how forced and false it was. How desperate. "I'm great."

Cas cocked his head. "You're limping."

Dean shifted his weight to his strong leg, stood tall and crossed his arms. "No, I'm not."

Castiel sighed, seemingly lacking the strength to go toe-to-toe in a stubborn-off with a Winchester. "The human body is a fragile instrument, Dean," he went ahead and tried anyway. "As is the soul. I was able to mend the breaks in your bones, but your suffering and injury cut far deeper than that."

Dean tilted his head back, momentarily hoping for one of these flickering light panels to swing free and knock the angel in the side of the head. "I'm fine," he reiterated. "What's going on? I can't find Sam, and you said you're needed? For what? That team bring along a special gift with purchase or something?"

Another sigh, the exasperated, put-upon one that Dean was long-used to drawing out of people, parent, brother and friend alike. From Cas, though, it most likely meant the reference simply went over his head. "Yes," he said simply.

Dean raised his eyebrows. "Then why don't I know about it?"

"What part of 'you're supposed to be healing' is proving too difficult for you to grasp?"

Sometimes, Dean thought he preferred Original Recipe Castiel over this unpredictably sarcastic and occasionally dickish one. "Just…shut up and tell me what's going on, Cas."

The angel's eyes narrowed. "You are aware that those are mutually exclusive actions?"

Dean's chin dropped as he glared and crossed his arms.

"Sam needs me to translate something the team brought with them last night," Cas conceded, voice rough and low and wrecked. "Something they happened upon in Magnus's stores. It could prove useful in our fight, but part of it's in Enochian."

"I'll do it," Dean volunteered quickly. Too quickly. Too eagerly. That touch of desperation leaching in unpermitted once more. He held up his hands as the angel lifted his chin, instantly and rightly suspicious. "I get it, okay? I'm healing. And I'm not gonna strain anything reading a few words, promise. Besides, isn't this why you downloaded an entire language into my brain? So there would be someone else to translate this kinda stuff?"

"No," Cas replied, leveling his own glare, one that might have proven lethal if he hadn't been trembling where he stood. "I downloaded an entire language into your brain because you were annoying me that day."

Huh. Looks like Sammy owes me five bucks. They hadn't been sure Cas was capable of something as human as being annoyed, and even less so capable of admitting to it. "Fair enough." Dean clapped Castiel hard on the shoulder, sending the angel staggering a few steps and proving his point. "You go get some rest, and I'm gonna see if I can't make my genius little brother feel like an idiot in front of a roomful of people."

The bunker was built by the Men of Letters to be a command center for any one of a myriad of supernaturally-induced worst case scenarios. Warded, hidden from even the likes of the Hollow Men and made to withstand just about anything short of the actual end of days, but even so it didn't quite have the designated spaces that Sam would have preferred when it officially became their base of operations, the giant nerd taking his cue from one of those online games he used to pretend he didn't play during sparse pockets of downtime. The conference table and corresponding room were incredibly well-equipped and maintained considering the era they come from, but they were also in a common area too big and open for quiet, serious meetings. As often as sensitive information passes by their eyes or ears, they'd both desired something a little more private when it came time to deciphering codes or translating texts. Mounting attacks. Assessing acceptable collateral damage.

The dark thought released a snaking chill down the length of Dean's spine, one not dissimilar to the frigid, internal warning flare inexplicably sent up when the Hollow Men were close by. There were days the world felt too eerily parallel to an apocalyptic future only he had seen, a future he'd fought to escape. All too often he found himself going through the motions of thoughts, plans, and actions similar to those he'd sought so desperately to avoid. Thought he had avoided.

But here they were, both older and markedly changed by what they'd seen and survived, but where Sam appeared mature and strong, Dean looked, and felt, tired and done. Not Sam. In fact, Dean could almost pinpoint the exact day he last saw his brother slip and seem vulnerable. It was years ago, when they came out of the cage, out of Hell, Round Two for both of them.

Sam had strength and resolve coming out of his ass these days, and Dean had been left with nothing but some clinging remnant of inherited stubborn will. He'd been tired and done over and again throughout the years, but never more so than when the Hollow Menhad him for those five days and the slow, agonizing process of healing that followed. And that, really, was saying something.

Sam moved confidently through the world, even when the world was THIS world. He took no prisoners, not with his actions nor with his demeanor, and he never had. Dean was weighed down by the world, held prisoner to it and those around him. It was always something different, but it somehow always felt the same.

"I'm tired, Sam. I'm tired of this job, this life…this weight on my shoulders, man. I'm tired of it."

"You don't think I've given enough? You don't think I've paid enough? I'm done with it. All of it."

"I guess I'm a little numb to the earth-shattering revelations at this point."

"I've seen a lot of hunters live and die. You're starting to talk like one of the dead ones, Dean."

"No, I'm talking the way a person talks when they've had it, when they can't figure out why they used to think all this matters."

"You were right, okay? I see light at the end of the tunnel. And I'm sorry you don't – I am. But it's there. And if you come with me, I can take you to it."

"Brother, I'm done."

Hope had never ridden sidecar with Dean. Sometimes the only thing that got him from one day to the next had been a stubbornly clinging sense of faith in his little brother. But even then, that faith had never really been full nor unwavering, because he'd always had his guard up, because he didn't want to be caught with his pants down whenever Sam decided to leave.

Dean hated himself for that, but he was used to the feeling.

What Dean didn't want to grow used to was the worthless, sidelined feeling that was dragging his mind down dark pathways of memory and regret he'd rather not explore too deeply, at least not without putting a decent dent in a fifth of Jack to put a matching dent in the pain that was being dredged up. But the Jack was running dry, and he needed Sammy to open the door for him, to let him back in the fight. He NEEDED it.

Do it right, with a smile. Or don't do it. Dean forced a casual smirk to his thin, lightly bearded face and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans, tugging them down on his hips. He leaned in the doorway of the meeting room Sam had made, where he'd cleared out some metal shelving and shoved two work desks back-to-back in the middle of what had been a decent-sized but still vaguely claustrophobic-feeling storage closet.

On the makeshift table, a large leather-bound notebook was laid out beneath an ornate lamp, and a few loose pages that had come free of the binding were lined up like a buffet spread. Arms straight and braced on splayed palms framing the notebook, Sam looked drawn and pale, like he'd been up all night, and was staring helplessly at the fragile, ancient, Enochian-ladenpapers. The others were leaning just as stiffly against the edges of the desks, appearing to have pulled the same long shift as Sam.

Hours of work had been done, by all the usual key players, while Dean had been sleeping. Or, doing whatever passed for sleep during those unbearably long post-captivity nights.

Colin, rivaling Sam in height and graying temples, and black ops in the old world, had been an integral part of the team since almost the beginning. He was military, and therefore prone to the assumption that he should be in some position of command, and he'd almost too eagerly slid into the spot at Sam's side that Dean had unwillingly and, more importantly, temporarily vacated.

Jackson was in his mid-twenties, probably, and a fellow hunter who'd been with the crew about six months, alternately ferrying post-quarantine survivors and supplies back and forth between the bunker and the safe house they'd established at Magnus's magically concealed compound. Dean didn't even know if Jackson was the kid's first or last name, it was just how he'd first identified himself. He was tough, and he was eager, and he hadn't quite had all of the fight and grit kicked out of him yet. He was sporting a bruise that covered about a quarter of his face, evidence of the kind of trouble that had required Cas's assistance in the infirmary.

Dean cleared his throat, drawing the attention of the three men in the room. Oddly enough, only Sam seemed surprised to see him. "A little – or, man-sized – birdie told me you fellas could use a translator," he said.

Colin lifted his chin in greeting and Jackson grinned, uncrossing his arms and stepping forward to shake Dean's hand. Sam stayed where he was, simply rotated his neck to give his brother a strange, possibly aggravated look; Dean knew his brother pretty well but he was a bit out of practice in translating those looks of his, especially when they crossed his features at warp-speed. "I sent for Cas."

"Yeah, well, turns out Cas is feeling a bit under the weather, so I tagged in for this round." Dean stepped fully into the room, feeling unusually aware of exactly how close the four walls were, how dark the corners seemed. He tried to loosen his movements, but every limb felt stiff and sluggish. "Whatcha got?"

Sam pushed off of the tabletop, drawing himself to his full, considerable height, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I sent for Cas," he stubbornly repeated.

Heard you the first time, dude. Dean narrowed his eyes at his brother, wishing he could feel a fraction as strong as Sam always seemed to. "Well, you get me instead. So show me what you got."

To be continued...