"You know, Sam, we could use all the help we could get to find Gadreel and Metatron."

It had been a few days since Cas told him that, and the brothers still hadn't said a word to each other so far. Dean didn't seem to have any intention of making contact. Sam wouldn't dream of it.

The younger of the Winchesters was certain that he and Cas were capable of finding Metatron on their own. It had come as a bit of a surprise when the angel decided to stick around the bunker with him instead of searching out Dean, but Dean was a hard man to look for. Being a divine creature not quite used to driving cars would make it even harder. He really didn't mind having Castiel with him. Company is company, and that's a valuable thing when you've been in a windowless bunker for a week straight, surrounded by piles of books.

It was due time for a grocery run. They need ingredients for a salad, preferably with feta cheese, some beer….

As Sam opened the hefty door and managed to see natural lighting for the first time in over 100 hours and was hit with a breeze that didn't reek of liquor or old laundry, his eyes locked onto a fluffy being that had laid down next to the door. While he closed the entrance, sealing himself outside with the thing, it stretched and yawned, displaying sharp shite teeth and slim, powerful muscles. Its beady eyes met Sam's and it issued a bark to match its wagging tail.

"Hey, buddy," he said softly, crouching down. The dog didn't seem keen on being pet or scratched, but preferred to nuzzle up against him and glanced up intelligently. It appeared to be a friendly type of Anatolian Shepherd, but the more he stared, the less Sam liked what he saw. Its fur was going every which way, and the ribs were still quite noticeable. There was no collar or identifying feature. The poor thing even had blood around its snout, like it'd torn into something a night or two ago. What had it been doing out in the woods like this while it was so cold out? Sam, even in his awful mental state, hadn't forgotten to take a decent jacket.

He decided to screw the groceries. This dog should have been taken to the vet's days ago. There was one only problem considering the dog's quiet friendliness: this could end up exactly like the case with Riot. Some nice guy rescues a stray dog, and everyone expects him to put life on hold to care for a dog that had at least another ten years going for it. He loved dogs and didn't really mind, but Dean would definitely disapprove. Then again… Dean had taken off with the Impala.

"Okay, uh, we need to get you checked out," he admitted to the dog. Though he'd purposefully omitted the word "vet", a soft whine still followed suit. "C'mon." Sam stood in the fading afternoon light and made his way towards the car. The dog was quickly trotting beside him, although one of its paws looked injured. "We'll just make sure you didn't eat something life-threatening." Apparently, the dog was more compliant if someone spoke to it like a crazy person. It seemed pretty eager to get in the car as he reached for the handle. "I haven't talked to anyone around town who owns a big dog, but they'll be able to sort you out with someone nice."

The dog stopped dead in its tracks with Sam's last words lingering in the air. Its ears were pinned against its head, and the tail began to droop. Was there some sort of smell in the car? Sam looked inside—and dare I say, smelled inside—but couldn't detect anything. The dog still seemed worried as he turned around. "What?" he asked, as if it could answer. "This is for your own benefit."

The whining started up again.

"You're not getting into the bunker with ticks… and God knows what else." How do you bribe an animal when animals don't understand bribery? "I've got bacon in the fridge if you can make it there without a hassle."

That put a spring back in its step. The dog made itself very comfortable in the passenger seat before he could even step back. Was there actually bacon in the fridge? Probably not. That's why he'd left to go shopping.

They had only been in the car for about two minutes when the dog started sniffing the radio. The '90s "nos" and "yeahs" made it growl, so he turned it off entirely and wondered if this could be a type of innocently smart dog—the kind that drove a man to insanity pretty quickly.

Not long into this train of thought, it actually tried fiddling with the dials. Sam laid a hand on it to keep it from moving, he threw an old blanket over its head, and allowed his ego to take a hit when he asked the dog to stop, twice. It didn't listen. It wasn't compelled in the slightest to take the bait and stick its head out the window.

The dog only settled down when he passed a station playing one of Dean's favourite bands. "Great," he muttered. "Dean's gone, and I still can't escape these songs on repeat." His frustrations seemed to please the dog.

Well, it wasn't quite so gleeful when the vet lured him into one of the back rooms. The look it gave off as it came back out was one of downright traumatization.

"He's hungry, and tired, but other than that I think he'll be just fine," the blonde receptionist—Stacy—told him, while toting the dog on a cheap black leash. "This guy's one tough cookie. I looked through the records for you—no one's reported a missing dog like this."

"Oh…" He could have sworn the dog had a hopeful look to it. "That's good."

"Awesome!" She handed off the leash with a cheery smile. "I've already got most of the info for future reference. Would you mind filling out a super quick form, in case you ever need to return?"

Wait, was he really keeping this thing? "Hey, um, do you have many dogs up for adoption?"

Stacy was already gripping a customer pen and clipboard. "Why do you ask?"

"I was just wondering if you had much room, since I've heard about all these strays showing up out of nowhere." No point in giving this dog over to the pound if they would only be putting it down. He could have sworn the dog reacted to his mention of more strays.

She bit her lip. "We wouldn't be able to shelter this one, if that's what you're asking. Those overrun clinics up north already have us filled to the brim with dogs. So…"

"Right." The papers. One of the first things it asked for was the pet's name.

A couple minutes later, and he had Butch—or more formally known as "Butcher" to the pet clinic—on a new leash and tried to usher him into the back seat. All that did was tempt Butch to squeeze his way into the passenger seat. He wasn't about to argue with such a large animal at this point. Instead, he turned the car into a grocery store and rolled down the window a smidget. "Alright, um, stay here. Don't bark; they'll probably call Animal Control or something."

His new dog barked in response and laid down along the seat.


Butch was happy to get the leash off when they entered the bunker, but stayed glued to Sam's heels all the same. He was shoving things into the fridge wherever they'd fit when Cas came in wielding a book. "Sam, I don't believe…"

The angel stood stock still while Butch padded up and licked his fingers. "Hello," he said in curiosity, then snapped back to the task. "I've looked through many of these books, but I don't believe they contain anything. Why is there a dog here? I didn't think Dean liked dogs."

Sam turned around and grinned. "C'monere, Butch." He was disappointed when the dog turned to face him, but rubbed up against Castiel and sat at the angel's side instead. "The dog was hungry, and… Dean's not here right now. I couldn't just leave him out there."

Cas frowned. "Out where?"

"Right outside the door."

More finger licking.

"That's odd." Cas' eyebrows furrowed, and he placed the book down to be able to pet the dog awkwardly. "We don't own any pets. Why would you wait for us specifically?" Sam might have thought himself crazy for soothing the dog with words, but Cas was taking it to a whole other level. It was as if he honestly thought the dog understood every word completely.

Butch just wagged his tail and licked Cas' chin a bit. It wasn't the overly-excited thing dogs usually do where they're hopping all over you. He seemed to be containing his "dog energy"—if that was even possible. Most dogs would lose their shit at some point in the day. "Oh, yeah. I'm calling him Butch—but he doesn't really answer to it."

Castiel pried his eyes off the dog at last. "So you intend to keep him?"

"I assume that also means you'll be taking him on hunts. Is that a good idea? We already have Metatron to deal with, and depending on how Dean does, Abbadon as well."

Sam sighed and muttered something that he hoped sounded agreeable. The long stretches of research followed up by a stray dog weren't mixing too well with his fading caffeine levels. It'd probably be good to get out of the bunker for a bit, work out some routine cases, possibly manage to find a good place to drop off Butch. He couldn't just keep the dog forever.

Cas picked up his book as the Winchester turned himself around. "I can search online for suspicious activity if you would like to sleep…"

"Sure, Cas. Thanks." He felt obligated to answer the slightly pleading voice while Butch rubbed against Cas' hand. The angel had made a couple rough mistakes, and it was only typical that he'd want to help them while drowning himself in self-doubt. The fact that he hadn't tried to force both brothers into reconciliation was, alone, a relief. It was also pretty nice to have someone to talk to—if he needed it.

Butch wasn't very happy to be left outside of his room, but Sam wasn't about to have dog hair everywhere or try to power nap through energetic canine activity. He expected the dog to have gone stir-crazy by the time he came back out, but Butch had just fallen asleep against the outside of his door. Cas' wistful look was wholly ignored in favour of getting the dog out the door and away from the fridge. Someone needed to continue researching angels and Metatron, and Sam just really wanted a break.

Okay, maybe Dean didn't want to be around anyone—especially Sam—right now, but he still didn't want to be across the country from their bunker in case something went wrong with the healing process. He ended up finding himself a couple hours north on what was quite obviously a witch case.

The motel room with only one bed felt so off. It had been years since he'd truly gone on hunts without his younger brother, and he couldn't say he liked doing it. But Dean did a lot of things he didn't particularly enjoy; and this was for everyone's benefit. He would track down angels until they led him to Metatron, and he would stick a knife through the bastard's heart no matter what it took. For Sam, for Kevin—for the angel dickbags that had lost their wings and decided to target the brothers.

People with liquified eyes sounded like a good spot to start, but it had ended up leading him a few towns west as the witch played with various methods of gruesomely killing people. At first it was a man and woman with their eyes melting right through their brains. Next, three guys who were trying to stir up trouble had collapsed together in the same alley, at the same time, all from heart failure. He'd come to this bar because one of their servers had just withered into ash a night ago.

It was clearly the work of a witch. He had no idea why she was doing these random things, but she needed to go. Right now, all he knew about her patterns was that victims seemed to have old ties with the UK, they lived in towns that had been visited by demons a couple years prior, and they didn't make friends very easily.

It was hardly anything to go on, but he had to try—at least until she became more predictable or left more of a mess than last time.


Prepare for some shenanigans- this is only part one of four. I'm very grateful to radpineapple for being kind enough to betaread!

Thank you Blondie 20000 and Wildfire's Flame for all the sweet reviews!