Title: World's Finest
Universe: SPN DCU (kind of?) AU
Theme/Topic: N/A
Rating: PG-13
Character/Pairing/s: Dean, Cas (pre-slashy vibes?), Sam and a bunch of others.
Spoilers/Warnings: Me being stupid? Probably DCU canon rape. Durhur. Also, I am super hopped up on cold medicine, so this entire thing probably reads like a bad drug trip.
Word Count: 8,255
Summary: The story of the Huntsman and the Last Son of Heaven (or the one where Cas is Superman and Dean is Batman and I am dumb).
Dedication: IDEK. How about explodinguterus in celebration of her new job! It's thematically appropriate I guess.
A/N: So in the last few weeks, while moping about how I utterly fail at life, I distracted myself with rewatching some of the Justice League animated series and the newer Superman/Batman: Public Enemies movie. AND THEN I WANTED THIS, because Batman and Superman's epic love for each other kind of reminded me of Dean and Cas's. And since I have horrible writer's block, I decided to just go for it over the last three hours, regardless of how dumb the results end up being. Thus, we have this fic. You should probably skip it.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.

Dean Winchester's parents are killed when he is eight years old.

He is holding the hand of his crying little brother when it happens, watching with wide, frightened eyes as a twitchy, drugged-out mugger with yellow contact lenses and angry demon tattoos up and down his arms shoots his mother in an alleyway behind the movie theater in downtown Lawrence. The family had been leaving the cineplex early because Sammy hadn't felt well and he'd hated the movie. Dean had wanted to stay until the end, but couldn't find it in his heart to say so to his father out loud when Sam had been looking at him with such a miserable face.

Dad shouts as the gun goes off and dives to catch Mom as she falls; he turns to tell Dean to take Sam and run. Dean does what he's told—he always does what he's told—and doesn't look back as he gets his wailing brother to safety.

There's the sound of a struggle and then a second gunshot not long after that, followed by a scream and the too-loud rattling of garbage cans as they're sent crashing to the ground. When Dad's driver finds Dean and Sam moments later, there's already a crowd gathered at the mouth of the alley and the wailing of police sirens in the background. Blankly, Dean registers the flash of pictures being snapped by the members of the press that his father had been trying to avoid when he'd taken his family out through the back door of the theater. Dean barely notices any of it; he holds Sam's head tight against his shoulder and pats his brother's hair, trying to tell him that everything will be alright, even if he doesn't believe it himself.

Bobby comes to pick them up at the police station what seems like a lifetime later, their father's friend and business partner looking grim and angry. Sam is asleep in the police station chair with Dean's sweater spread over him like a blanket, and neither Dean nor Bobby say a word about anything when Bobby picks Sam up and drives them back to Winchester Manor.

Dean knows then that he'll never see his parents again.

Some years before the murders of John and Mary Winchester make it to the front of the evening news, there is a small but brilliant meteor shower over the skies of rural Illinois. This is the night that Castiel crash lands on earth, in the tiny spaceship his Father had crafted for him in order to save him from Heaven's imminent destruction.

It is the Novaks whose car his ship nearly runs off the road that night, and it is the Novaks who find him moments later, nestled in a cornfield and perfectly content despite the crash landing and the smoking wreckage extending out in a wide circle from his ship.

They take him in, believing him the child that they had always been praying for, and decide to call him James.

Bobby steps down as CEO of Winchester Enterprises the minute he is expected to take over for John and gives it to Missouri instead; he doesn't want to be there, in charge of everything without his oldest friend, and knows that the most important thing he can do with his time from here on out is stay at Winchester Manor with Dean and Sam, to try and fix the parts of each boy that's broken, to try and prepare the young heirs to face a lifetime of being stalked by the media and taken advantage of by fortune hunters and con artists without their parents there to protect them.

The police never find the man who killed John and Mary despite how high profile the case is and how specific the shooter's markings had been—apparently all members of Azazel's gang are the same— and one night, when Bobby is checking in on the boys before bed, he hears Dean whisper to Sam that he'll hunt the guy down himself, and make sure he answers for his crimes.

Sam murmurs blearily that he doesn't think Dean would make a very good hunter; Dean promises him that he'll work on it, so that one day, no one in this city will have to see their parents die like the two of them did.

Sam says it's a good promise, and falls asleep without another word.

Bobby isn't sure if he's proud or worried by the look in Dean's eye that night; he has his father's determination in him, but there's something dark in the older boy's countenance that makes Bobby shiver on instinct.

He doesn't say anything about it either way though; he promised himself he would spend the rest of his life taking care of his best friend's boys, not telling them what to do.

Besides, he knows by now that there's no use in telling a Winchester what to do; they never listen.

Jimmy Novak is considered a nerd in his hometown, weak and small and unassumingly quiet. He is beyond the notice of most of his classmates, who all aspire to be great in that way only highschoolers can aspire to be. Jimmy is the type of teenager who enjoys his classes too much and takes everything he learns a little too seriously. Since his parents won't let him play sports (for good reason), he joins the school newspaper instead, and wins a bunch of writing awards in journalism contests sponsored by the city as a result.

He has a high school sweetheart who everyone thinks is way too good for him for a little while, and eventually he graduates and gets a scholarship to go to university in the city, which leads to a summer internship at the Weekly Globe. He graduates from college four years after that, gets a job with the Globe because one of the editors during his internship remembers his name and had liked his work, and from there, everyone at home looks at him and thinks that he will lead life that is as simple and unassuming and unremarkable as he is.

None of them know that Jimmy's name is really Castiel, and that he can fly.

Dean disappears for four years after he graduates from college, and the only word Bobby or Sam have of him during that time is letters from fantastical places at irregular intervals. All of them contain Dean's written promise that he'll be home soon, that he's going to take over Winchester Enterprises just like his father had wanted.

Sam goes off to school before long as well, and even though he is bright and smart and friendly, there's a glint in his eyes that make Bobby think that there's more underneath the surface that no one except his brother truly understands.

Bobby wonders what else there is that he can do to help them.

Castiel's first day at the Weekly Globe as an official rookie reporter is equal parts mundane and action-packed. It starts off mundane because he gets sent to cover a City Hall meeting by Anna Milton, the Globe's star reporter. The action-packed part of the day doesn't kick in until well after lunch, when Anna finds herself dangling out one of the broken, top story windows of Zach Corp, as the company's balding CEO cowers behind a desk shouting profanities at the escaped clone from Comet Labs that is bent on revenge against Zachariah for creating him.

Castiel sneaks away from the action at City Hall to remove his glasses and to put on the costume his mother had made him many years ago, the one emblazoned with the crest that had been inside his spaceship with him when he first arrived on Earth. This crest is the seal of the house of his father, and one of the very few things he has that tells him about who he is and where he came from.

From there, he brings forth his wings from where they are hidden from human eyes and flies to the top of Zach Corp. He manages to catch Anna just as her desperate grip on the window ledge fails her, and gathers her securely in his arms. Once she realizes that she is no longer plummeting to her doom, she stops screaming and blinks at him with open curiosity. When he sets her back on the ground she says, with surprising calm, "So you must be new in town."

"I have been here before," he answers, calmly.

Her eyes narrow. "Just passing through, or sticking around?"

"It is my intention to…stick around."

She grins like she's won the reporting lottery. "Wow, our very own superhero," she muses, having apparently forgotten her close call moments ago. "It's about time."

"I am not a superhero," he insists. "I just want to help."

"Sure, whatever you say," she murmurs, though it is in such a way that tells him she's unconvinced of that and that she is already manufacturing headlines in her head for this story, a new front page. "So what should we call you?" she asks next, innocently.

"I am Castiel," he answers, after a moment's hesitation.

She frowns. "Kind of weird, and not exactly catchy headline material," she says after a beat, and looks down at the giant "A" emblazoned on his chest. "What's that stand for?"

"It is the crest of the house of my father," Castiel answers, as he lowers her to the ground.

Her eyes light up. "A, huh? How about Archangel, then? I mean, the wings kind of make it work."

He blinks. "I am not an archangel," he says, and as the sound of explosions from above signal that the clone is not yet subdued, he has no time to answer her when she next poses, "Angel Man?" to him.

He takes off without another word, and flies to the top floor of Zach Corp again. Anna watches him go, and with a mental shrug, takes out her notebook and writes "Angel Man" in capital letters before underlining them twice.

And this is how the angel Castiel, known to most as the reporter Jimmy Novak, becomes the hero of Pontiac. A legend is born.

When Dean Winchester returns to Lawrence from his long and secretive journey across the world, he tells interested reporters that he hadn't been anywhere particularly special on his trip, just vacation spots like Cabo and Monte Carlo and Tokyo, soaking up the freedom and the nightlife—and the women— because he'd felt the need to do some serious partying after college, before he settled down into this CEO business like his father had wanted him to. He winks at one of the cute reporters as he says all this, she blushes, and when he flashes a million-dollar smile for the camera, women watching their televisions everywhere swoon at the handsome figure he cuts in his ten thousand dollar suit, while Winchester Enterprises investors flinch and hope that John Winchester's son isn't as flighty and flashy with his company money as he is with his affections.

Acting CEO Missouri Mosely comes into Dean's office the morning after the party celebrating his return, and shakes her head at him in an all-too-knowing manner when she sees what a mess he is. "Dean Winchester," she sighs, as she throws down some plans she'd designed involving a stylish jet and a car and motorcycle for his express use, "I hope you don't plan to leave me here to do all your work and your expensive little side projects while you go gallivanting around the city playing Righteous Man for the police," she tells him.

He holds up his free hand, the other one holding an ice-pack to the black-eye he'd gotten last night, from another wild night out. When she just continues to glare at him—without any true heat— he picks up the designs she had created with an appreciative upturning of his lips. "I wouldn't dream of stepping on your toes, ma'am," he says respectfully, and promises again that he plans on pulling his fair share of the weight, even if that means acting mostly as a public figurehead for the company. "It's Sammy," he adds, when she frowns, "who's studying hard at Stanford to take of everything the right way."

She tsks at him and tells him to take the day off; he looks like crap. "No one expects you to put in a full day after last night's party anyway. It's the perfect cover," she explains, as she bustles off to get the real work done. "Lord, help me be strong."

He doesn't say no to the offer of a free pass out of work today, and when he returns to Winchester Manor that afternoon, Bobby takes a turn to rail at him too, because he's not a damned doctor, and no, he doesn't know what the hell to do when someone's got broken bones exactly, but he's pretty sure stumbling into work looking like he lost a fight with a meat tenderizer is never anyone's first instinct except for maybe a select few blockheaded Winchesters.

Dean grins at him and says, "Just a scratch, Bobby," before he heads for the stairs. He suspects he should be able to sleep off the pain for the time being, and leaves his seething surrogate father in the living room as he trudges up to his room to nap until nightfall.

He checks his e-mail first though, and manages a smile when he receives a link to a newspaper clipping from Sam, detailing how Commissioner Harvelle's police force had gotten some help from a masked vigilante calling himself the Huntsman last night. They had finally managed to catch the serial killer only known as the Lady in White with his help.

Sam's message reads: "You okay?"

Dean answers: "Not since I was eight."

He sleeps until the sun goes down, and from that day forward, the Huntsman becomes a nightmare to criminals and evil-doers all over Lawrence.

The first time Jimmy Novak meets Dean Winchester, Castiel can't bring himself to like Dean.

"Anna Milton, Weekly Globe," Anna announces, pressing determinedly to the front of the crowd of reporters gathered at the base of Winchester's lavish private jet. "And my partner, Jimmy Novak," she adds as an afterthought, waving to Castiel over her shoulder perfunctorily before launching right into her interrogation. "Dean, has the deal between Winchester Enterprises and Zach Corp been finalized? Can you tell us any details about the contract? Is it military or biotech? Both?"

Dean pauses when he sees the snappy, no-nonsense redhead at the front of the back and grins, eyes examining her from head to toe in open appreciation. "I don't really know any of the details myself, but I wouldn't mind if you tried and grill me privately over dinner tonight. Maybe there are a coupla juicy details you might be able to squeeze out of me if you play your cards right."

Anna smirks; she's always liked the direct approach. "Dinner at seven, then? I'll meet you at your hotel. The W, right?"

Dean, that sleazy, appreciative smile still on his face, nods again. "See you then, Anna Milton, Weekly Globe."

In so doing he doesn't notice that Castiel is right there in his path, and unwittingly runs into the man right there on the tarmac. He startles slightly when he is the one sent stumbling backwards a step on impact, considering he has inches on the man. "Woah there, poindexter," he mutters, surprised as he quickly regains his balance. "Personal space, man. Look into it."

"Apologies," Castiel answers, and takes a measured step forward, eyes studying Winchester intently.

Dean gives him another strange, weighing look, before that blank, affable smile returns to the billionaire's face, and he pats Castiel on the shoulder condescendingly in front of all the other press people. "No problem, man," he says dismissively, and walks towards his car. "No harm done."

Castiel watches him go and thinks that Dean Winchester seems to be everything the tabloids and the TV talk shows have made him out to be; an irresponsible, flighty playboy with no redeeming qualities other than his money and his looks. Somehow, he doesn't believe it to be the whole story, though. He has no proof yet, of course, but his mother has always told him he has good instincts. Also, normal people usually fall after running into him that forcibly.

Andy, snapping photographs of Winchester's car as it rolls off the tarmac, grins good-naturedly at Castiel's obvious scrutiny of the billionaire. "Jealous, farm boy?" he asks.

"No," Castiel answers, flatly. "I just don't like people like him."

"What, rich, handsome, charming? Rich?"

"Dishonest," Castiel answers, before Anna pulls him away from the tarmac so they can get moving; apparently she needs to go and find a dress for tonight's shindig.

"You mean date," Andy corrects, with a little look in Castiel's direction.

"It's still work," Anna insists, though the anticipatory smile on her face says otherwise.

Castiel is about to tell her to be careful, but in the distance, his sensitive hearing picks up the sound of a bank alarm going off, and with an apologetic nod at Anna, he declares, "I'll meet you at the office. Enjoy your date."

Andy and Anna only share a vaguely bewildered look as he marches off in the opposite direction of the parking lot.

The first time Huntsman meets Angel Man (seriously, what an awful name), Huntsman decides he hates the guy.

Dean has a member of the Yellow Eyes gang slammed up against the wall of an abandoned restaurant in preparation for a gruesome interrogation on the current whereabouts and plans of his boss Azazel when the winged one himself deigns to touch down behind Dean and interrupt the question and answer segment of tonight's show. He does it by laying a vice-like hand on Dean's arm to stay it before Dean can punch the gangbanger currently cowering in his grasp into willing submission. Needless to say, the super strength makes the angel's move an effective one.

"No," a raspy, irate voice says, close to Dean's ear, and the angel puts just enough pressure on Dean's wrist to tell him he means business as he does it. "I don't know who you think you are, but we don't do things like that in my town."

"Is that so?" Dean turns to glare at the super-powered alien-or-whatever, and feigns as if to relent. The moment he does, and the moment the grip on his wrist slackens just the tiniest bit, Dean whirls, grabs the angel by the arm, and throws him over his shoulder, into a nearby cluster of tables.

Of course, he has to let go of his hostage to do so, and the moment he does, the guy splits, yelping and heading straight for the door in a state of high terror. Dean takes off after him with a snarl, but before he can reach into his utility belt for rope, there's a whoosh of air and something impossibly heavy slamming into his back. It feels a lot like what he imagines getting hit by a car going at full speed would be like, and with a grunt, he shifts mid-air to see that it's the freaking angel himself.

The impact of Angel Man's flying tackle sends the two of them tumbling straight toward a stack of barstools and metal shelves that used to hold restaurant supplies on the far wall of the dining room. Dean's eyes widen and he braces for impact, thinking darkly to himself that this super-powered dick really needs to get his priorities in order, because he's about to kill one of the good guys here.

But before impact they're suddenly rotating mid-air, and instead of colliding head-on with the furniture and the wall beyond it, Dean feels two arms wrap around his middle as they're maneuvered so that the back of his head is braced against Angel Man's chest. They hit the shelving angel-first, go right through it, and end up leaving an impressive crack in the cement wall beyond the ruined shelving. When it's all over, Dean is sitting in front of a pile of wood and metal debris while the angel is busy throwing bits of steel and concrete off of him like they're nothing more than confetti from a parade.

Dean doesn't have time to be impressed; chances are the gangbanger he'd had just now is already in hiding, and his chance to figure out if Yellow Eyes himself is in town is out the window. "You let him get away," Dean mutters accusatorily at the angel, voice low.

Angel Man gives him an unimpressed look. "Do you make it a habit of beating on helpless men in dark places?"

Dean scoffs. "Not so helpless. And I do what I have to."

"This is not Lawrence," the angel says, and takes a step closer into Dean's personal space, clearly in an attempt to be imposing. It's not working, mostly because Dean is a little bigger than the guy, even though he knows he's much, much weaker. "I've heard of your reputation," that gravely voice growls, while blue eyes bore into Dean's, "and I will not allow you to bring your blatant disregard for the rules to my town."

Dean doesn't have time for this. "Tell that to me again when the Yellow Eyes are busy painting your precious town red with innocent blood," he mutters, not backing down from the guy as they stand toe-to-toe in the restaurant's ruined dining room.

Those eyes continue to study Dean intently, the angel's head tilting slightly to the left as Dean tries to think of any feasible way to beat this guy in a fight should it come right down to it. But the angel just continues to look, eyes boring into Dean's, and for an uncomfortable moment, Dean wonders if he can see right through the mask.

As it turns out, his concerns are completely founded, because a moment later, the angel's eyebrows dart up in surprise. "You're Dean Winchester," he says, equal parts confusion and fascination.

Dean glares. "You peeked," he realizes, and feels his temper flare at the blatant abuse of super powers. "That's not playing fair."

"Why?" the angel asks, and Dean doesn't have any desire to answer. He reaches into his utility belt for his grappling hook and wordlessly turns to go.

As he disappears into the night, he allows himself to take small solace in the tracking device now attached the edge of the angel's sleeve.

When Jimmy Novak notices the blinking red light on the tiny electronic device attached to his sleeve, he instinctively knows it's too late.

He turns to his bedroom window, narrowing the focus of his eyes and ears until he sees the shape of Huntsman's shadow in the distant rooftops, until he hears Dean Winchester smirk and murmur, "Now we're even," into the night, knowing that Castiel is the only one who can hear him.

Castiel scowls and crushes the tracker between his fingers before closing the window and going to bed.

From there, their truce begins as an uneasy one.

When the aliens attack—intent on enslaving mankind and plunging the earth into total darkness because it was the written word of their holy prophets— Angel Man, Castiel, ends up saving Dean's life.

After that, Dean ends up figuring out how to kill the aliens, and after that, it's simply a matter of setting Castiel's angel mojo meter on liquefy and watching all eight of the motherships come crashing to the ground in a dark, sludgy mess.

Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon's work.

"Wow, looks like you Team Free Will saved the day," Sam quips over the evening newspapers, after those events, the boy wonder having spent a long day at work in the safe confines of Winchester Enterprises at his big brother's behest.

Dean, bloody and bruised and exhausted from fighting aliens, stops to give his brother a sidelong glance. "Team what now?"

Sam turns the special edition of the Daily Globe over to the couch so Dean can see.

"Fucking Anna," Dean mutters, and thinks that he's just as glad he didn't end up falling for that pretty face, because beyond it lays the mind of a psychopath. Who can't name worth shit.

Sam just grins. "It's in print, so it must be true, right?" He points to a picture of Castiel carrying Dean to safety over the streets of Pontiac and squints to read the caption underneath it. "Angel Man and the Hunstman strike up partnership to deliver earth from dark prophecy," he reads out loud, because it clearly amuses the hell out of him. "Aww, should I clip this and use it to start my Dean and Castiel BFF album?"

Dean scowls and throws a couch cushion at his smirking little brother. "Shut up and suit up, boy blunder," he says darkly. "Just because we beat the aliens today doesn't mean the muggers are going to take a holiday tonight."

Sam sighs, long-suffering, and folds the paper before setting it down on the coffee table. He gives his brother a dubious look. "You sure you can patrol with those ribs, Dean?"

Dean doesn't deign to answer, which makes Sam throw his hands up and trudge down to the lair to get ready. In the meantime, Dean spares one last dubious glance at the newspaper and its ridiculous headlines. "Team Free Will?" he mutters disbelievingly, and flips the periodical on its back so that he won't have to stare at the image of Castiel carrying Dean's helpless ass to safety anymore. "Bullshit."

He gets up and limps down towards the old grandfather clock in the hallway so he can prepare for the evening's patrol.

Dean wouldn't exactly call them friends after that, but after the whole barely-thwarted invasion thing, even he can grudgingly admit that Huntsman and Angel Man can make a pretty decent team when they put their minds to it.

"Jesus Christ, Cas," Dean mutters unwittingly, when he finds Castiel's crumpled, broken heap in a smoking crater ten-feet wide that used to be a field. "What the fuck happened? The Impala picked up some ridiculous radiation emissions fifteen minutes ago."

"Dean," Castiel croaks, forgetting the whole secret-identity thing in that moment as he feebly tries to get to his feet. Dean's eyes widen beneath the mask when he sees the gaping bullet hole carved into Castiel's chest, and the sickly silver-blue light emanating from it. "Zachariah has Heavenstone. He shot me with it."

Dean has no idea what that is, or what any of it means, but he doesn't need to for the moment, as he picks up the weakened angel and drags his ass to the Impala, where Colt is waiting.

"What happened?" Sam intones worriedly, when he sees the sorry state Castiel is in.

"I don't know," Dean says. "I think he's been shot."

"Can he even be shot?" Sam intones disbelievingly.

"Heavenstone," Castiel manages again, around a dry cough. "The shards of my destroyed home planet. Zachariah shot me with it."

"Heavenstone? Holy… so you do have a weakness?" Sam frowns at the implications.

Dean may have muttered how he would love to find such a weakness over many of the less pleasant encounters Huntsman and Angel Man had, but even he knows the repercussions of there actually being one puts the balance of the whole world at risk. Especially if the person who holds that weakness is the head of Zach Corp.

Castiel just nods as he struggles to stand on his own feet and shrug off Dean's help. "He has more. Azazel…Azazel sold it to him."

Dean's countenance darkens at the gang leader's name, and he pushes the angel into Sam's enormous arms. "Take him home, Colt. Get that bullet out. You'll have to do it in one go, or the wound'll close up on you."

"Yeah, sure, but what about you?" Sam asks, as Castiel leans into him and gasps for air.

"I'll be back," is all Dean says as he summons his jet.

"De—Huntsman!" Sam calls after him, ineffectually. "What are you going to do?"

Dean ignores him and disappears into the cloaked vehicle without another word.

That night, he succeeds in getting the Heavenstone from Zachariah. He has to let Azazel go free to do it, but he finds that in weighing his options, getting the giant chunk of Castiel's home planet is the more important task at hand.

When he brings it back to the lair, cased in lead, he tells a much-recovered Castiel to take it and throw it into the sun.

Castiel holds the canister for a moment, looking thoughtful. "He said that they had the right to protect themselves from me," the angel murmurs, turning the lead box around in his hands. "That my power was unjust unless I gave them the advantage of a weakness."

Dean scoffs. "Zach is fucked in the head," is all he says. He's seen what Castiel does. He helps people.

But Castiel shakes his head. "He had a point," the angel tells Dean softly, and turns those serious blue back eyes on him for a moment, before he's gently pushing the lead container back into Dean's hands. "You should keep this with you. In case."

"What? No way, Cas. You can't trust me with something like this."

Castiel's lips turn upwards, ever so slightly. "I will trust you to do what is right, Dean," is all he says, before he stretches his wings and takes flight again. "Thank you."

He leaves with those words, while Dean holds a hard-won lead-lined box in his gloved hands and hopes to God he'll never have to use what's inside of it.

When Huntsman randomly goes missing one day, the villains of Lawrence basically throw a party in his absence, and it's all Sam can do to patrol the streets alone, trying to keep some semblance of order.

Commissioner Harvelle throws up the signal night in and night out, and Sam can't respond, and Dean doesn't respond, wherever he is, and both Sam and Bobby know something is fishy, because even though they'd both gotten messages from Dean saying he's on vacation, Dean doesn't take vacations, hasn't really taken time off either mentally or physically since that last summer after second grade right before their parents died. It's hard to find the time to investigate his brother's mysterious disappearance however, when the entire city is trying to survive a crime spree and he's the only one out there who can stem the bleeding a little.

It isn't until the overflow of villains hits Pontiac in the hopes of finding an actual challenge that Castiel is notified of Dean being MIA. He shows up in Lawrence again shortly thereafter and interferes in a six-on-one fight with a gang of Yellow Eyes that Sam is definitely not winning.

"I could have handled them," Sam says automatically afterwards, when Castiel is finished wrapping the gangbangers up in a street lamp for the police to collect when they have the time.

"Where's Huntsman?" Castiel asks right away, and Sam slumps against his motorcycle and shakes his head.

"I have no idea, man," he says, and there is an odd rush of relief upon telling someone else those words, because he'd spent the past few days keeping them choked back so he could concentrate on his work. He hadn't been able to let himself wonder about where his brother could be, or what Dean might be enduring right now. If the bad guys had gotten wind of Sam's concerns, the entire city would have been dead meat.

He plays the video message Dean had left him when the two of them get back to the lair a little while later, and Castiel comes to the same conclusion Sam does at the strange smile on Dean's face, the unnatural lightness of his voice that isn't the slightest bit ironic or bemused. "Something is wrong," Castiel concludes the minute the video finishes, and Sam knows that already, it's just that he and Bobby have no idea what to do about it.

Of course that is when Bobby comes into the lair looking grim; he coughs and tells them, "The damn signal is up again. You gonna go this time, or what?"

Sam looks helpless. "We can't go without Dean. If we confirm that he's missing then everyone's going to go nuts." Pause. Sigh. "Even more nuts. The city will be a disaster area, and I'm only one man, Bobby."

Castiel looks thoughtful. "Then," he begins after a moment, and makes his wings disappear with a flutter of air, "we will just have to convince Lawrence that Huntsman is still here."

Sam gives him an incredulous look at that random declaration, while Bobby turns downright doubtful, but in the end, Castiel gets out the spare costume, puts it on (the fit is a little off, but Sam supposes no one will notice in the dark), and before another word is said, the two of them are off to answer Commissioner Harvelle's call.

Needless to say, Ellen is surprised when Huntsman and Colt do show up tonight, right after she shuts down the signal in resignation. "Where the hell have you been?" she mutters as the vigilantes step out off the shadows as calm as you please.

"Busy," Huntsman answers, while Colt kind of does a double take at the sound of Huntsman's voice before schooling himself. Ellen doesn't have the time or energy to care what these two knuckleheads are arguing about now, so she just thrusts her file at Huntsman and tells him that Meg's been spotted in town again, which means that Azazel is likely to be close by. "Thought you'd want to know," she says.

Huntsman takes the file and smiles. "Thank you," he says. Ellen frowns at him in confusion while Colt goes rigid at his side. The sidekick elbows Huntsman in the ribs and whispers something harsh to his boss that neither Ellen nor her head detective can hear.

Huntsman's smile abruptly fades into an outright scowl. "We'll be going now," he announces then, somewhat stiffly, and then turns to go. Colt huffs more unintelligible things, and the two of them swing from the police rooftop without another word.

"Did Huntsman look er…smaller to you?" Ellen's head detective murmurs a moment later, before the two of them head back inside.

Ellen shrugs and thinks that maybe he's on a diet.

Meanwhile, Sam and Cas touch down in the alleyway nearby, where Sam, a little wide-eyed, demands to know how the hell Cas managed to perfectly imitate his brother's voice.

"Precise muscle control," Castiel answers blankly, and Sam, feeling unnerved by the angel's presence (not for the first time), adamantly demands that Cas never do that again.

Castiel wordlessly agrees, and the two of them move on.

With Castiel dressed as Huntsman and with Sam to guide him in the act of proper Huntsman portrayal, they manage to beat up Azazel and thwart his plans to take over Lawrence in wake of the Righteous Man's disappearance without too much trouble, thus reestablishing the natural order of things in the city again, as word that Huntsman is back sends the les ambitious riffraff scurrying back into the shadows. The police, Sam surmises, should be able to take care of the rest barring any escapes from the local mental wards tonight.

From there, Sam and Cas also manage to find Dean at Winchester Enterprise's space research facility after Cas determined that Dean had been infected with nanites while at work a few days ago.

"I recognize this technology," he adds grimly, and from there, they discover that he nanites are of Lucifer's construction and that he is using Winchester Enterprises' to build him a vessel so that he might rise up again to destroy humankind.

That of course, leads to a big fight that blows up most of the research facility and causes billions of dollars worth of damage. Sam thinks that Missouri will kill him for this come Monday morning, but all he can feel at the moment is relieved that his brother is back and alive, and no longer being mind-controlled by demon robots.

After they've dragged Dean from the fire of the lab, Dean eyes Castiel wearing his costume and says, "Don't tell me people actually believed you were me."

Castiel smiles and looks down at the too-big costume thoughtfully. "I admit it was interesting to play bad cop for once," he says, apropos to nothing.

Dean rolls his eyes and they head back to the lair from there, so he can make sure none of those damn nanobots are still alive and kicking in his system.

Castiel ends up staying for a late dinner while they do Dean's body scan, and Dean enjoys hearing the story of how surprised Azazel had looked earlier, when one of his super powered minions had dropped a giant concrete block on Cas and Cas had calmly stood up to give the concrete block back like it was nothing.

"Thanks for helping Sammy out, Cas," Dean feels the need to add quietly a little while later, before Castiel leaves. He reaches out to shake the angel's hand.

Cas looks pleased, touches his forehead to Dean's in what Dean is beginning to learn as the angel way of shaking hands, and takes off into the night with a gentle, "You're welcome." He flies back to Pontiac.

"Aw, you two are so cute," Sam drawls from where he's peeking on the stairs after Cas is gone. Dean tells him to shut his face and go to sleep; he has work tomorrow.

The first time the world thinks Castiel is dead, blown up or evaporated or disintegrated in a blinding flash of light so that all that remains of him is a single ragged scrap of white feather, Dean is the only one who refuses to believe he's really gone.

"The funeral is today," Sam tells him gently, when he finds his brother in the lair, sitting in front of his computer and playing the news footage of Angel Man's death over and over and over again, at various speeds and sound frequencies, studying it frame by frame for any sign, any proof to what he believes in his heart.

Castiel's feather is clutched tightly in his hand, and when he pauses to look at his brother, all Dean says is, "I'm not going."

"Dean," Sam begins with that gentle, pleading note in his voice, the one that might be construed as Huntsman's only real weakness. "You can't just sit here all day, watching…watching that over and over again. It's not healthy, man."

"He's not dead," Dean answers, and Sam sighs because he knows that tone, know that it means Dean won't move until he's good and ready.

Sam goes to Castiel's funeral without Dean. It rains on the day the world mourns the loss of its most powerful hero.

Dean tells himself they're all idiots in his head, even as he watches the proceedings from a rooftop nearby. The rain drenches him from head to toe and gets into his eyes. He swipes at them briefly, shielding Castiel's feather from the rain with his cape.

Later, when Castiel reappears from his trip to a disquieting post-apocalyptic future in a quiet puff of air and feathers, he is just in time to save Dean from taking a bullet to the head from an enemy sniper. Dean has the grace not to smirk at a gaping Sam upon Castiel's return and declare, "I told you so," right in his sidekick's face, even though he really, really wants to.

"What took you so long?" Dean asks instead, while he hastily shoves Castiel's feather into his pocket and hopes the angel doesn't notice.

Castiel just smiles, his clothes torn and ragged, his wings covered in debris. For some reason, he's also sporting a full beard. "It's a long story," the angel admits enigmatically, before reaching out to put a hand on Dean's shoulder and touching their foreheads together briefly.

Dean almost yanks himself back in mortification because there are just some things two dudes just don't do in public, but before he can, Castiel releases him and looks at the giant clock on the bank across from the Weekly Globe.

"Something wrong?" Dean asks, while ignoring Sam's ridiculous grin at his brother's discomfort.

"No," Castiel answers, either not noticing Dean's slightly pink cheeks or not caring. "But I must stop Uriel from stealing something that will destroy humanity's future in the next few hours." He smiles at Dean and asks, "Would you like to come with me?"

Dean doesn't exactly grin back, but there's an easing up around the lines of his eyes that Sam hasn't seen for the last seven days, when they'd thought Cas was dead. "Yeah okay," Huntsman declares gruffly. "Let's go save the world again."

Years later, in a world where Colt has long graduated from being Colt and has since grown into becoming Dark Horse instead, in a world where the newly commissioned Watch Station drifts serenely in orbit above the earth courtesy of a generous donation from Winchester Enterprises and Comet Labs, and in a world where Castiel has died in the eyes of the public twice, Dean finds himself sitting at the control panel of Team Free Will's floating fortress feeling irritated as all hell.

Their cause is legion now, as heroes from all over the world gather within the floating fortress's armored walls, exchanging pleasantries and stories and on occasion, blows. Dean doesn't particularly trust any of these wack jobs that swell their ranks, but then again, he's never really been the trusting type, and Cas says it's a perspective they need because the new members fear and respect Dean and that his constant distrustful surveillance of their actions will keep them in line. That and the fact that Dean probably knows all of their weaknesses and how to beat them in a fight, if it comes to that.

Dean still doesn't like it, but he trusts Cas even if he doesn't trust the guys Cas trusts, and for all the two of them have been through over their long and rocky friendship, Dean has learned that sometimes that's all he has, and most of the time, that's all he needs.

But even still, it often tries what little patience he has.

"C'mon, Hunts, just tell my cousin that I am more than qualified to lead this mission and we'll be on our way, yeah?" Balthazar drawls from the door, the easy, too-familiar tone he takes with the Righteous Man making Dean twitch instinctively. Castiel's cousin has all of the same incredible powers as Angel Man but unfortunately, none of the same self-control or nurtured love for the earth and humanity. It's a trial day in and day out for Dean to not reach into his utility belt and whip out the Heavenstone whenever he sees Balthazar's stupid, arrogant face.

Meanwhile, the Trickster flicks Balthazar's nose before disappearing and then reappearing on the other side of the control station. "I have seniority, so I should be in charge," Loki declares brightly, and Dean knows then that this must be over the New York Fashion Week mission involving a blanket threat to the hundreds of models in town for the shows. Super Angel and the Trickster wouldn't fight over getting the lead in anything otherwise.

Balthazar looks like he's getting ready to use the laser eyes while Loki looks like that's exactly what he wants Balthazar to do, and before they can cause several million dollars worth of damage to the Watch Station Dean silences them both by standing and crossing his arms. "Angel Man and I will take lead on the Fashion Week threat," he says in a tone that brooks no argument. He turns around and walks out of the room before the complaints can start.

The doors close behind him with a whoosh of air not unlike the sound of Castiel touching down, leaving Balthazar and Loki both behind, looking put out.

"Why do we listen to that no-powers human man-pain machine again?" Loki wonders, out loud.

Balthazar shrugs breezily. "Because my cousin told us to, I suppose." Pause. "And because he knows all our weaknesses."

Loki sighs. "Fair enough." Pause. "Hey, you think they'll let us come along on the mission anyway? No way the two of them can protect a hundred different girls all at the same time, right?"

Their eyes light up at the prospect.

Meanwhile, down a separate hallway adjacent to the loading bay, Dean pauses when he hears the rush of wings that can only be Cas because of the subtle displacement of air that stirs Dean's cape and the scent of ozone that drifts from his wings.

"I heard you volunteered us for a mission," Cas says conversationally, because between them, there's never a hello or good-bye, a how have you been or see you later. Those things are all inevitable between the two of them at this point, and so don't need to be said.

"It makes more sense that you and I go on that one anyway," Dean answers gruffly, and stops in front of a door to swipe his security card through the key pad. It opens into the private meeting room of the Team's founding members, and slides locked behind them once they enter.

There, Dean relaxes a little, the hard, deliberate movements of Huntsman easing into the natural ones of the true Dean Winchester as he heads to the back of the room where he keeps a mini fridge full of cheap beer and a box of banana cream pie. "You want some too, Cas?" he asks without looking up, and Castiel can hear that his voice has lost the same sort of edge his movements had when they'd entered this sanctuary, away from the eyes of the others. Here, with just Castiel to see, he is neither the dark and brooding Huntsman nor the impulsive billionaire playboy. Here, he is just a man with some beer and some pie and a moment alone with his best friend.

Dean, familiar with the routine, doesn't wait for Castiel to answer his inquiry before grabbing two beers and two forks. This is also why Castiel never bothers to answer.

The angel watches Dean take the pie out of the box in happy anticipation, the air around him vaguely bemused, and as Dean sets down the necessities for his afternoon snack on the table, Castiel pauses to ask the human, "Why does it make more sense that you and I go on this mission, Dean?"

"Because," Dean says, matter-of-factly, "I'm a billionaire playboy, so they'd expect me to be there all week, hounding the models. Chances are the target will come to right to me, with my luck."

From there, Dean sits down and wordlessly offers a fork to the angel, which Cas takes on ceremony, though he doesn't try to take a bite of the pie until Dean is at least halfway done with a helping himself. "And me?" he asks in the meantime, sipping his beer.

Dean snorts and looks at Cas as if he's slightly deficient in the head, though it's with an unspoken fondness that only those who know him well are able to spot. "Jimmy Novak, Weekly Globe? No one's going to ask twice if they see you poking around backstage, man."

Cas considers this. "I suppose we could put in the time, if only to spare the girls the presence of my cousin and Loki."

"I know right? No offense, man, but your cousin is a douchebag and Loki is an asshat."

Castiel's lips quirk upwards, minutely, and from there, the two of them finish half of the pie between them while watching the earth turn lazily below. For the moment, they let themselves just be Dean and Cas, at least until the next monster of the week, king of hell, giant robot, alien oppressor, or apocalypse comes knocking, as they inevitably do.

When the alarms of the Watch Station do end up going off—five minutes after the end of Dean's first beer—the two leaders of the TFW wordlessly put down their forks and stand like they'd expected nothing less from their lives.

"So, you think it's aliens or monsters this time?" Dean asks conversationally, as he puts his mask back on and swipes crumbs from the front of his costume.

Castiel listens for a moment, to the distant rumble of hyperspace engines as they grow ever nearer.

"Aliens," he announces, as the two of them slip through the open doors and head directly towards the javelin hangar.

Through the windows of the bay, they can see that it is indeed aliens.

"Cheater," Dean grunts as he slides into his black jet, turns on the engine, and prepares to meet the threat head on once the doors to the bay slide open.

Castiel flies out after Huntsman and stays close to his Dean's right side, cutting through the cold darkness of space and pushing towards the approaching fleet of alien ships.

The two of them proceed to save the world like it's any other Thursday.

To them, it kind of just is.