The church bell echoed over the hills, a hollow sound calling its worshippers to service. Dean thought it sounded like a dirge, solemn and melancholy.

His horse shifted restlessly under him, eager to move. Dean calmed him with a steady hand, never taking his eyes off the town below him. It looked like a cardboard cutout silhouetted against the brilliance of the setting sun.

"We goin'?" Sam asked, coming up beside him. He sounded bored, like Dean's answer didn't matter, but his eyes were sharp and knowing. They'd walk through hell and back for each other. Stupid didn't even give them pause.

Dean leaned forward in his saddle, arm resting across the pommel. People spilled out into the streets of the town, ants dressed in their Sunday finest. Children ran between their mother's skirts and their father's legs, shrieking and joyous. People laughed and danced in the streets, filled with good humor, something slippery and fleeting in these harsh lands. Under Dean's watchful eye, they gathered on either side of the main street leading up to the church, their excited babble a soft murmur on the breeze. Sam snorted contemptuously and spit on the ground. Dean agreed with the sentiment.

The church bells rang again, this time a joyous melody of communion and invitation. Dean sat up when the bride and groom made their appearance. Even from here the white of her dress gleamed. Her husband-to-be seemed a dark blade beside her. They stopped to greet all of the people in the street, but they didn't want to talk to the groom. This walk was about the bride; he was secondary to her radiance. Laughter and cheers floated to them, high up on their hill, and Dean felt anger rise within him.

Dean casually pulled his gloves out of his saddle bag; worn, scarred leather as supple as silk and well used to hard work. He idly wondered what kind of picture he and Sam made, side by side on their twin stallions, the best the Injuns had to offer, framed by a fiery orange sunset. Dangerous, that was a given. Dean wiggled his fingers in the gloves and finally took up his reins, looking again at the small town below them.

"I reckon so," Dean belatedly answered Sam. Sam's nostrils flared and he smiled, wide and deadly. He put on his lucky hat and checked his gun. Dean heard the rustle of their gang behind them, knowing they'd soon be moving, just waiting for their leaders' word. Sam looked over at Dean and grinned widely. The one that said 'I'm with you' and 'Whatever you need.' Dean smiled back and tipped his hat.

"We ride!" Dean said, just loud enough to be heard.

His horse surged beneath him, muscles working in complete accord. There's only one other thing that makes Dean feel as alive as he does in the moments before a fight, and he's headed straight for it. He and Sam thundered down the mountain side-by-side; their men followed, letting out war whoops and yells.

The bridal march had just reached the steps of the church when the first person screamed. Dean pulled out his pistol and fired a few rounds into the air to alert anyone who hadn't yet caught on. The wedding party turned almost as one to see what was causing the commotion as people scrambled to get out of the street, out of the crosshairs of the Winchester Gang.

Dean thundered up the main street, ripping down the bridal garlands and decorations as he went. The bride and groom—still holding hands, Dean noticed with irritation—stood like statues, watching him bear down on them like an avenging angel. Dean smirked. On the steps of the church, before God and His people, Dean reached out with one gloved hand, grabbed a handful of expensive cloth, and took what he wanted.

A heart-wrenching "NO!" almost made Dean doubt his course. But he'd caught the flash of relief and desire in Castiel's eyes as he thundered towards them, didn't imagine that. With a tip of his hat to the lady, Dean spun his horse around and set out of town at a gallop, his hand pressed reassuringly against Cas's back.

He'd apologize later for the jarring ride when they reached camp, in the best way he knew how.


This story is complete and part of an ongoing series called West. Check profile for reading/posting order.