Dean rubbed his eyes and wished for aspirin, or at least a beer. The Cold Ones had been going round and round about this for hours now. Castiel had been very patient; to the point of Gabriel even taking over the arguments and explanations. The talking had been going on so long that Castiel had paused to angel express Billy Black home when the Quileute Elder had expressed concern over his son's ability to feed himself.
That had gotten a chuckle out of Bella and she shrugged against him with a murmur. "Jake's kinda helpless with anything that doesn't involve an engine. He's the one who rebuilt my truck."
"My kinda kid," Dean grinned at her and she'd nodded.
At that point they'd all moved inside the Cullen's house since it was getting a little chilly for the humans and Dean had finally had enough of the circular arguments. "All right, all right, we all get it. You all think you're vampires." He gestured towards the Cold Ones. "Cas and Gabe say you're Nephilim. We," he made a circling motion to encompass the humans, "Call you Cold Ones because we've seen and Hunted vampires and we know you aren't them."
"Cas, what do Nephilim do?" Sam asked. "You said that Hunters have been doing the jobs Nephilim are meant to."
"Their purpose was lost to them, like so much else has been lost," Castiel almost sighed. "The Sons of God lay with the Daughters of Men and the Nephilim were sired. This was before the Flood. Our Father was wroth with the behavior of his children. They were behaving wickedly and he decided to cleanse the world of them. But some were not wicked. Some were loving and kind and those he spared." He looked at Carlisle. "You are the son of a clergyman. Surely you had heard of the Great Flood and the Nephilim."
"Yes," Carlisle offered tentatively. "But nothing in those teaching mentioned creatures such as ourselves."
"The Nephilim were always mysterious." Gabriel commented. "Plus Dad was a little pissed off when a couple of the boys snuck back to Earth after the Flood and started messing around with the daughters of men again. So he decided to teach them a lesson."
"He bound them to their mortal form. Bound their grace." Castiel said softly. "So they could hear the song of Heaven yet not reach it. It is only recently that they have been freed."
"Yeah," Gabriel shrugged. "Dad was kinda pissed. He said that the kids could live. But they'd be...unchanging until death, their true death, not your metamorphosis."
"Unchanging." Carlisle looked at his family. "It is said that when we're turned we cannot change until something...profound happens to change us."
"Yes." Castiel smiled. "Our Father would not punish his children without any possibility of his blessings in this life. When your souls recognize their true match, then you change. Only then."
"Yeah, that's kinda your happily ever after." Gabriel was still eating cookies. Typical. "You know, until then, you're supposed to keep busy. Do his work, just like all his other kids."
"Our souls?" Carlisle looked as if he was going to pass out. "We...we have souls?"
Dean looked at Castiel who was staring as if the Cold One had just asked one of the most stupid questions imaginable. "Yes." The angel replied cautiously, perhaps wondering if this was a joke he didn't get. "Of course."
"But we're...dead." Edward was doing the same shocked stare. "Everything I've read..."
"Oh please." Gabriel rolled his eyes. "You can love can't you?" He gestured at the three couples around them. "You've got three of the best examples of soul having in front of you and you think that just because you're not alive in basic human form anymore that you're suddenly the evil soulless undead?"
"When you put it like that..." Jasper murmured with a half smile.
"All of our Father's children have a soul." Castiel informed them solemnly. "As you were once human you are blessed with a soul and free will. Therefore you have a choice."
"A choice?" Carlisle was still a bit shocked. Dean guessed he hadn't gotten this kind of news in...ever.
"You choose what to do with your lives." The angel of Thursday smiled. "You are a good man; you have chosen to help others. A man of healing."
"I have friends, they drink human blood, but they aren't..." Jasper was struggling to say something.
Gabriel, of all things, took pity on him. "Don't worry about your brother and sister. Those two wanderers tend to make the bad guys quake in their boots. I think the mafia in Chicago lost half their hitmen last time those two were in town."
"So drinking human blood is okay?" Dean blinked at Gabriel. "You can't tell me every Cold One, Nephilim...whatever is like that."
"Of course not. They have free will. Even their rulers are...less than perfect." Castiel exchanged a glance with Gabriel who grinned mischievously.
"I'll just go and remind them about their true purpose. And it isn't scarfing down the blood of innocent tourists." The archangel popped out, taking three cookies with him.
"What is our purpose," Jasper was watching Castiel hungrily. "I struggle every day to keep to our diet. I don't want to hurt people."
"The purpose of the Nephilim is to hunt those whose lives have become...corrupted. The ones who prey upon his children. To hunt the Wendigo and the Vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts. Those who give into the corruption." The angel told him gently. "The Hunters here can educate you."
"Oh man," Dean sighed. "You know books aren't my thing."
"But fighting is." Jasper commented. "I can tell, just from the way you hold yourself. You..." His eyes darkened sympathetically. "You've been fighting a long time."
"I was six the first time my dad put a gun in my hands." Dean nodded. "Fought in one way or another ever since."
"He practically raised me." Sam agreed. "Dad wasn't around much."
"I was reading Dad's books from the time I could read." Bella shrugged. "It's not an easy life but we can't just...unknow everything we've learned."
"So you could teach us," Emmett was leaning forward eagerly, Rosalie's eyes bright with interest. "We could learn about the stuff you hunt, how you hunt for it, your methods, that sort of thing?"
"Yeah," Dean agreed cautiously, sending a look at Cas. The angel just beamed at him like Dean had done something awesome and the Hunter sighed. "Yeah, we could teach you. Not like you guys really need to study for school right?"
"We've matriculated a lot," Rosalie commented dryly. "I could teach every class at the school."
Gabriel popped back in and startled everyone, which Dean figured was no mean feat considering the Cold Ones' senses. "So your kings...they're kinda dicks." He told Carlisle. "The only one that remembered me was the really old one who won't cheer up until he's dead."
"Marcus?" Carlisle stared at him. "Marcus remembered you?"
"Well we had met before," Gabriel shrugged. "Once I jogged his memory a bit he convinced the other two. They're going to be calling you soon I think for some advice. I let them know that I wasn't exactly pleased with the way they're resting on their laurels. Honestly, that business in the South? And the way Aro has been collecting people. I almost called him Slughorn."
Bella giggled and shook her head. "I wouldn't have taken you for a Harry Potter fan."
The archangel wrinkled his nose. "I like parts of them. Other parts...well...sloppy, no common sense, and an awful ending. And a mishmash of everything. But they got kids reading and believing in things like magic and angels again. So...take the good with the bad you know?"
"If you're through with your book report?" Charlie had been quiet up until then. "Did you seriously just go piss off a bunch of Cold Ones and then tell them where we are?"
"Well they know where the Cullens live anyway. I also told them that little rule of theirs about humans in the know being killed or turned was not going to apply to anyone with my mark." Gabriel waved off Charlie's concerns. "I'll go back to visit again tomorrow, give them another dose of me. They'll get it eventually."
Charlie wasn't exactly thrilled with Gabriel's insouciance. "And when you're not around and they show up here?"
"They won't be able to touch any of you." Gabriel wagged his finger at the Sherriff. "Have a little faith Chief. Any Cold One will be able to see you're untouchable. They'll steer clear of this area for the most part. Unless they've got a specific reason for visiting, like old friends." The Cullens looked more than a little relieved about that.
Charlie sighed and looked at the Cold One 'kids'. "All right. Guess it'd be a little weird to have all of you skipping school. But after school tomorrow, Bella and the Winchesters can show you my books. Help you start up your own library."
"Library?" Jasper's eyes gleamed curiously. "What kind of library?"
"Myths, legends, all sorts of spooky lore," Sam grinned. "Our pal Bobby's got one of the best. Hunters have a network, we all have our areas of expertise."
"So what sort of skills should we work on?" Rosalie asked quietly. "Jasper can teach us to fight, other Cold Ones or...Nephilim or whatever we are. But that can't be all there is to it."
"Languages, dead ones especially, are useful." Bella told her. "A lot of the resources or references are in ancient Greek, Latin, Old English... Sanskrit... you name it. And the people who study dead languages...aren't always the type who'll take us seriously when we need information."
"And you'd be amazed at what people dismiss as folklore," Sam added. "Stuff that everyone knew back in the day, half of it isn't written down. So if you know Cold Ones who are a lot older and they can remember that stuff...write it down. Some day it could save someone's life. A Hunter's, or someone he or she is trying to protect."
"There is a book series by Carver Edlund." Castiel told them solemnly. "They are written by a prophet of the Lord. They are the Winchester gospels."
"You guys have a gospel named after you?" Emmett sounded impressed and Dean mentally noted that Castiel really needed to learn when to shut up.
"It's a bunch of bullshit," Dean growled his irritation and Sam winced in embarrassment.
"It's really badly written." He started only to be interrupted.
"Are you kiddin' me?" Dean stared at his little brother. "The man basically wrote our lives in his books for fun and profit, hah, no pun intended. People freakin' roleplay us at conventions. They don't think we're real. And what you lead with is the damn things are badly written?"
"Well am I wrong?" Sam retorted belligerently.
"Fuck." Dean covered his face in his hands and leaned back into the couch cushions, unable to think about that particular line of insanity. "They're ridiculous piles of badly written crap based on our lives and all the shit we've gone through."
"So...not a reliable source of information?" When Dean had calmed down enough to open his eyes Emmett was still looking at him seriously.
"Hell." Dean groaned. "Unless you like purple prose...don't bother. Chuck's not a great writer. A prophet yeah. But Hemingway he ain't."
"And you think I'm spoiled?" Edward was smirking at him. "You're complaining because someone wrote books about you?"
Before Dean could snarl at him Sam glared at the Cold One. "He's got a right to complain. All the stuff that Chuck writes? It's all the shit we've gone through. Our mother being murdered. A demon trying to corrupt me. Killing me. Dean making a crossroads deal and after a year getting sent to Hell to be tortured for forty years. Until Castiel got him out. We were set up to start the Apocalypse. And in order to end it we would have both ended up in a cage with Lucifer and Michael. Being tortured. For eternity."
That stark, completely blunt, summation of their lives got everyone staring at Dean and he could feel, feel, his ears turning red. Getting up and walking out of that room and out of that house probably wasn't the most adult thing in the world to do. But it was the only thing that wasn't violent so he did it.
Breathing cool damp northwestern air was a welcome reminded that he wasn't in Hell. His flesh wasn't being peeled from his bones. He wasn't being burned alive. He wasn't torturing the soul of his father. He wasn't reliving it all in his dreams night after night.
"Dean." It was a soft voice. Gentle. Not chiming or melodic like the Cold Ones. Just a normal, soft, human voice. And a hand slipping into his. A warm body leaning into his side. Simple comforts.
"You don't realize, the things that you'll miss." He wasn't sure what he was going to say but the words wouldn't stop. "You think you'll miss your family. The people you love. That's kind of a given. But you don't realize you'll miss air that isn't tainted with brimstone and blood. You miss silence because the only kind there is the utter absence of anything and you ache with the pain and chill of it. You miss the sky and trees and all the stupid things human beings take for granted everyday. Because you know this is forever. This is for always and that last year wasn't anywhere near long enough to store up the memories to keep you going for eternity."
"How..." Bella stopped the question and he appreciated that she didn't want to push.
"Castiel told us finally... he said that the first seal was shattered by a righteous man being broken in Hell." His voice was low and shamed. "So all the crap that happened afterwards. All the lives that were lost, that was on me. Because I gave in."
"You know, people blame Judas, for betraying Christ." Her voice was thoughtful. "And I guess, free will, so maybe they should. But wasn't he just as much an instrument of God as the Pharisees or Pontius Pilate or the soldiers who crucified Christ? Without all of them, we wouldn't have the Resurrection or all the things that Christianity is based on."
"Judas hung himself," Dean recalled gruffly. "Last time I looked that was kinda bad."
"Well yeah," She shrugged against him. "Kinda cowardly to give up. Not keep fighting. But he was a pragmatist. The Romans weren't exactly happy with someone stirring up the general populace and the Jews were the ones who would pay the price. They were saying that Christ was their king, that he would free them. Judas didn't want a war. So he betrayed Jesus. And when Christ was killed, not just imprisoned or exiled, when he was nailed to a cross and crucified...Judas couldn't live with that. It was too hard for him. So he didn't get to try to fix anything. You stuck around and did what you could. Castiel, an Angel of the Lord," and she even said it the way Cas did, "comes when you call him. He's forgiven you for the part you played."
"Yeah, at least I got that." Dean sighed heavily. "God showed up and he made sure that my screw up didn't mean the end of everything."
"If I recall my reading correctly, it wasn't just your screw up. You might have broken the first seal, but Sam broke the last one." Bella smiled slightly when he looked down at her for the first time since she'd come out there. "Hey, I actually read those books. They are awful. But they're true."
"Crap." Dean swore without any energy. "Just tell me you don't read the fanfiction garbage that's out there."
"Hell no." She wrinkled her nose. "That stuff is really bad." Dark brown eyes looked up at him with a smile. "By the way, Jasper laid down the law to everyone. He said as bad as you were hurting talking about that stuff that if anyone brought it up again he'd cut off a body part and lock it up until they learned their lesson."
He must have looked very confused because she chuckled, "Turns out Jasper's an empath. He can sense and influence emotions. Alice is kind of a psychic? She gets flashes of the future apparently. And Edward reads minds. Everyone's, all the time, unless he's away from people."
"He can't control it? None of them can?" Dean shook his head. "Everybody's stuck in the toggle on position?"
"Apparently." She stood on her tiptoes and brushed her mouth over his, blushing as she sank back down. "You ready to come back inside?"
"I dunno. You gonna kiss me again to convince me?" He grinned at her wickedly as she blushed deeper red. "Because I could stand to stay out a little longer."
"Dean!" Sammy's bellow had never come at a more unwelcome time.
Turns out that Jasper was pretty finely tuned to emotional states. One little, or not so little, blip in Dean and Bella's emotions and he figured out what they were doing outside. Edward being who he was, he read Jasper's mind the minute the empath had the thought. And now Edward was about ready to pop a gasket over Bella kissing Dean. Plus there was the whole blood thing.
"What do you mean Bella's blood smells really good?" Dean growled looking from Jasper to Edward. The minute he'd heard that tidbit he'd pushed Bella behind him. Not that his baseline human body would do much but he had to do something.
"Bella is what we call a Singer." Jasper's eyes were dark with reflected hunger. "Some people, their blood just smells better to us and we have a much harder time controlling our thirst. Bella smells lovely to me, but to Edward, it's...how your favorite food smells when you're starving."
"And his hunger is influencing yours." Sam had figured that out pretty damn quick. "So what do you need to do?"
"Normally we'd hunt." Jasper looked at Edward.
Castiel intervened at that point, touching Jasper's cheek gently, his expression filled with the kind of compassion humans envied. "You struggle against what perceive as the darkness within you. Your struggle is your strength. All the pain of your early life feeds the darkness. You've learned from the violence, from the hate, vowed to never be that again. Promised to use what you learned to protect your family. To never be that monster again."
Dean watched as Jasper eased slightly. The Cold One still had the bearing of a soldier, but the fragility of that bearing was gone. Like Rosalie had relaxed under the angel's touch, so did Jasper.
"My thirst..." Jasper looked at the angel gratefully. "Thank you."
"I did nothing. You have worked hard to conquer your past. The control is yours. I merely reminded you of your capabilities." Castiel smiled.
Jasper kept his grasp on Edward's shoulder. "Is there anything you can do for him?"
Castiel studied Edward and frowned slightly. "I cannot aid that which does not exist."
"What do you mean?" Sammy was watching Edward with a worried frown of his own, echoed by the rest of the people in the room, humans, angels and Cold One's alike.
"He is...uncontrolled." Castiel explained. "He does not want the type of control that Jasper has worked for and earned."
Bella got what Castiel was trying to say. "Everything's come easy to him, his whole life. Now he has to work for something. And he's not sure he wants to. It's easier to just give in. Or go back and forth. Not really decide anything. Because he'd have to stick with a decision."
"Edward, I think perhaps it would be best if you went to the Denali's and remained there for a time." Carlisle said slowly.
"I think somewhere farther away would be better." Gabriel said suddenly. "I'll just take him over to see the three kings. They'll help him learn discipline."
Esme looked stricken but nodded her agreement with Carlisle after her husband looked at her. "Yes." Carlisle said finally. "I think that would be good for him."
"Righty roo." Gabriel's hand came to rest on Edward's shoulder and in an instant they were gone.
Bella looked over at the other 'kids' and gave them a half smile. "Okay. So do I smell super good to anyone else?"
"Me." Dean tugged her back so she was leaning against his body and murmured it into her ear. From the grins on the Cold Ones' faces he hadn't been quiet enough.
"No," Emmett grinned at her. "You smell good but it's not like...mouthwatering or anything." Rosalie elbowed him and he laughed, tugging her into his lap. "Careful there Rosie, you could break me."
"As if I would ever." She smiled at him fondly.
Dean looked at Bella who was leaning against him a bit more heavily and then over at Charlie who was visibly sagging in his chair. "Well speaking for the humans, it's about time we went to bed. We've got a lot of work to do tomorrow and Bella's got school on top of it."
Gabriel popped back in and executed a florid bow. "Eddie's enjoying Aro's hospitality. Aro's a little annoyed with him for some reason. I guess Eddie's thoughts weren't too flattering. Ah well. Time for all our Hunters to go home before they turn into pumpkins."
Before anyone could object they were at the Swan's house and the angels were gone to wherever it was that angels go in their off hours.
"Dean, can a give you a raincheck on that pie?" Bella yawned behind her hand.
"Hmm...yeah." He indulged himself with one last squeeze and inhaled the scent of her hair before letting go of her hips. "Maybe tomorrow beautiful."
"You got it." She smiled at him tiredly, hugged her dad and headed upstairs. After a round of good nights the men did the same.
Several weeks later Dean was trying to find excuses to stay in Forks for a few days longer. Sam was itching to leave and find another hunt.
"Seriously? Now you're inventing things Dean," Sam argued. "The Impala is fine. The engine is not making a pinging sound. You do not need to take apart the transmission."
"I'm tellin' you I hear something," Dean was listening to the engine and trying to ignore the world's most annoying kid brother.
"Dean if you want to stay then just say so," Sam practically threw his hands up in surrender. "Usually you're the one that wants to leave."
He straightened up so fast that he nearly bashed his head in on the hood. "No Sammy, that's where you're wrong. I never want to leave. Every town we come to that reminds me of home, where we've kept people alive and we're welcome... I always want to stay. But we can't because we always start out with false identities and lies and after that, people get pissed about the truth." He looked down at the Impala's perfect engine. "But here... we started out with the truth. We haven't used fake credit cards or scammed anyone at pool or poker. We're ourselves here and nobody's got a problem with it. It's the only place beside's Bobby's or Pastor Jim's where we've been safe being us."
"I would have thought that if you were going to settle down it'd be with Lisa." Sam commented in the kind of quiet voice that's got all sorts of undertones.
Dean flinched slightly. Lisa and Ben were a very sore subject with him. He'd tried to go back and see how they were. But Lisa had been adamant that Ben deserved better than a part time father with the law after him. She was seeing someone decent and steady and she loved him. "Yeah well she wasn't interested in settling down with someone who's got my history. I made her promise that if Ben ever needed anything she'd call. But Hell might just freeze over before that happens."
Sam looked at the Swan house and then at Dean. "I could tell you were falling for her that first day... You looked like someone had slapped you with a brick. I still thought you'd leave in the end. But you're really gonna give it up?"
Dean sighed, "You know, Cas helps keep us healed and in fairly decent shape, but I'm six years older than she is. And I'm still not convinced her father won't kill me then salt and burn my bones."
"So, normal guy worries then." Sam smirked at him. "Question stands."
"I don't know that I'd be giving it up." Dean shrugged. "Her dad didn't. And it's not like this is some small territory."
"Who's giving up what?" Bella's voice asked curiously as she came up behind them. "Dinner's almost ready so you should wash up soon." She leaned against Dean comfortably and he inhaled the scent of her hair again. "Is this some kind of Lent thing? I didn't know you were Catholic. Or is it Episcopalian? Both?"
"We're not Catholic," Dean assured her. "Sammy was-"
"I was asking Dean if he really thought he'd be able to give up Hunting." Sam interrupted. "Since he was thinking of sticking around here."
"Please," Bella rolled her eyes. "Like either of you would want to stay here." Her voice was slightly brittle, as if her easy manner was forced. "But if Dad hasn't given up Hunting I don't see why either of you would have to. It's not like you have to hide it."
"Why would you think I wouldn't want to stay?" Dean looked down at her, her lower lip caught between her teeth.
"There's nothing here." She mumbled, one of the first times since he'd met her that she hadn't spoken clearly.
"You're here. And your dad. And it's...it's here." He looked around. "I know the weather isn't the warmest and I'd see the sun one out of every twenty five days or so but people actually know my name here. Cas, or God, or someone cleaned up our records but law enforcement doesn't usually welcome drifters like us. But here...there's a garage where I could work days. You and your dad are good people. Hell, even the Cullens are decent people. And I would never have thought I'd say that when we first got here." He slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her tight against his side. "I've got plenty of reasons to wanna stay Bella. Guess I'm just trying to be sure I'm welcome."
She nodded slowly, dark eyes slowly brightening as she looked at his face. Her mouth turned upwards as she figured out he was dead serious. "Yeah...you'd... you'd definitely be welcome."
This time he kissed her. And flipped Sammy the bird as his little brother cat-called on his way into the house.
Author's Note: So we're leaving it there. Vague but hopefully satisfying to all you folks? My head canon is that the Cullens turn into Hunters eventually. Gabriel bugs the Volturi until they get a clue, Sam keeps hunting and eventually goes into research and runs phones like Bobby, going to school part time until he gets his law degree and passes the bar. Dean semi-retires and stays with Bella. Not quite HEA but close enough for real life.