A/N: Sgmajorshipper from LJ continues to be my amazing beta (I shall bow ad profess my love for her). Comments are love, so I appreciate all the feedback.

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural nor did I come up with the title, nothing is mine apart from the plot.

Part 2. A Smudge of Blood

Dean cleans his oil-dirty hands on an already greasy cloth and looks at his work with appreciation. His baby looks brand new; actually, no, she looks better. She is, once again, the most beautiful car Dean has ever seen.

As it turned out, getting her back into the right shape wasn't so hard after all. Sam was right; after the accident with Dad she was wrecked far worse — this time there were only dents, lots of them, in the metal, missing glass in all the windows. Finding a replacement for the damaged-beyond-straightening fender was a bit tricky — it always is with cars as old as his baby; it's not like spare parts are conveniently lying on shelves at your local shop — but Bobby was adamant about helping Dean with that. When it turned out that nowhere in his junkyard could they find the right part, Bobby started calling favors. The guy had a huge web of friends when he needed them, as it turned out. After three days spent on the phone, a guy named Jace from Texas — who, apparently, owed his continued life to Bobby's hunting skills — finally told them that he might have the solution to their problem at hand. Another four days and Dean had his fender, as original as it could be.

Fender problems aside, Dean was worried about the badly abused roof and the chassis, which suffered most from the massive demon attack. Needlessly, because those were the parts that turned out relatively fine. It was the rest of it that he had problems with. But a few calls from Bobby, a fresh coat of black paint and four weeks later, the Impala was ready to get back into business and kick some ass. Which was fine by Dean, because if he had to go near Sam's Toyota again, he would cry. Or kill something. Or both.

"There, baby," whispers Dean tenderly as he strokes the hood. "We're back together and nothing's gonna do us apart now."

"Wow. I've heard marriage vows that are less romantic," snarks Sam.

His brother is leaning against a rusty pickup truck and watches Dean with a hint of amusement. Dean rolls his eyes and mouths "bitch" at him, but drops the greasy cloth and comes up to stand next to him. From this angle his baby is a true work of art. Dean smiles, Sam takes one bottle of beer from the pickup's hood and hands it over to Dean. They open their bottles and take a first swig at the same time.

"What's Bobby doing?"

"Putting more info on the freakboard," replies Sam.

Dean drinks some more. And that's it, the freakboard, as Sam has dubbed it. The clearest evidence of the fact that no, those aren't peaceful times and it's not easy living your life right now. It started innocently, like those kinds of things always do, the same way the Apocalypse and Lucifer's shenanigans didn't start until a few quiet months passed. It started with Bobby's raised eyebrows after he'd heard the story of the not-so-vampire Wyle family in Hardin, Montana. At first they didn't pay much attention to any of it — after all, weird things could happen from time to time and that definitely counted as weird. But then it got worse, and Bobby was practically bombed with unsettling information about monsters. It took Bobby three days to analyze everything and when he did, he decided that the situation right now is the exact reverse of what was happening when Eve walked the Earth. Then all the monsters were making their presence known; now it was like everyone was trying to lie as low as they could. The Wyles were the first but certainly not the last. A week after Dean and Sam came back to Sioux Falls, a friend of Bobby's, a hunter named Lucy or something like that, phoned from Boston and rendered Bobby speechless with the news of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost renting a house together. What's more, Lucy said, was that they weren't doing anything apart from killing few troublemaking vampires who made it difficult for those happy three to pretend that they're just human.

That was when Bobby decided to hit the town and came back with a corkboard he supposedly borrowed from Sheriff Mills. He scribbled a few notes both on the Wyles and the Boston-located-being-human trio and pinned it on the board. But it was still just a corkboard then.

When they were still waiting for Dean's fender, Sam found a case. A lot of people dying in a nursing house in Ohio and sure, those people were old and probably sick and dying anyway, but all those sudden death occurred during a night shift of the same nurse and that had to mean something. Dean grumbled, Bobby pushed and they went to Ohio, again in that awful Toyota of Sam's. The case was legit, it turned out, and they tracked down a banshee who was only trying to get enough money to buy a single ticket to New Zealand in order to stay there forever. And what's the best way to get said money? Sell your friggin amber tears. Or pearl, he wasn't sure. And Dean would have been ready to laugh his ass off at this story if only the banshee didn't ask if he was maybe interested in buying some.

And that was weird beyond their measurement. When they came back from Ohio, Bobby had two new cases on the corkboard, one of which was a skinwalker trying to live in the sewers because, quote, "it was safer there". The banshee jeweler joined the board.

"It's like every monster everywhere is trying to get into witness protection," said Bobby and Sam commented:

"It's like a freakshow gone wrong."

To further support that idea, four days after the comment — which gave name to their infamous corkboard — they landed on a hunt in a quiet town of Pipestone, Minnesota, where a local representative died a horrible death after declaring that he supported the idea of turning the town's biggest playground into a mall. Looking for clues around the town, Dean found a hexbag in the guy's office and Sam found Amy Stewart, a one-time high school friend, and her eleven-year-old son Thomas (seeing the two of them reminded Dean of Lisa and Ben so much that he physically couldn't stand being near them). Then Dean's investigation and Sam's little trip down the memory lane collided with a bang, when Amy Stewart — cute and witty Wiccan, blond secretary and part-time fan of witchcraft — became their prime suspect. Sam charged himself with the task of finding out the truth, most likely as a penance for letting sweet little Amy Stewart run away from home with a bunch of crazy occultists all by herself; or so Dean thought. After spending three consecutive days in Pipestone, Sam found out that Amy Stewart had nothing to do with this particular spell, as the town was a home to another witch, Miss Mildred Longfellow, an elderly Democrat, social activist and the most beloved nanny around. Also, as it turned out, a homicidal campaigner for making Pipestone the friendliest town for young couples with children.

Dean missed those easy times when witches were only interested in personal gain, not services to the community.

"Dude," confessed Sam on their way back to South Dakota, after they said their goodbyes to Amy Stewart for what they hoped was forever. "Killing Mary Poppins was one of the freakiest things we've ever done."

Freaky things. Freakshow. Freakboard. Dean finishes his beer and puts the empty bottle on the ground.

"What's new?"

Sam sighs.

"A Laney Robbins from Hawaii claims that she found a drunk ghoul at the local mausoleum. The ghoul supposedly told her that the world is lacking balance and that it's affecting everyone."

"And then what?" presses Dean. "It ate her?"

"Nope." Sam takes a last swig of his beer. "I grabbed her gun and blew its brains out."

Dean's pretty sure he's gaping and staring.

"Swear to God, Dean, that's what the girl told Bobby. The monster killed itself."

Sam picks up Dean's bottle from the ground and gestures his head towards the house. It's a clear suggestion of going inside. Dean lets his brother go first, steals a last, loving glance at his beautiful baby and follows inside. Bobby is standing in front of the freakboard with his hands clasped behind his head. He looks brooding.

"Garth just tipped me," he says and glances at the discarded phone. "There's a hurricane alert."

"So what? Nothing out of ordinary, it is a hurricane season." Sam frowns at looks questioningly at the freakboard, as if expecting the board to give him answers at any moment.

"That's not the weird part." Bobby throws him a notebook. "The weird part is that the alert is for central Utah."

"What?"

"What you heard. Central Utah is about to be hit with Katrina's little sister."

Sam gives the notebook to Dean and comes up to stand by Bobby. He scratches his head, deep in thought.

"It doesn't make any sense," he declares and Bobby and Dean snort in unison. "It's almost like the laws of nature, laws of physics… just went to Hell. As if someone lost control over the world."

He straightens suddenly and exchanges glances with Bobby. Then they both turn their heads towards Dean, who blatantly refuses to meet their gaze. It's not like he doesn't know what they're thinking. He knows, because the same thought is banging the inside of his head right now. Control over the world, there's only one creature that could tip something like that, right?

"I'm going to bed," announces Dean loudly. Sam makes a face that says 'bitch, please, get it together'.

"Dean, we will have to talk about this, you know?" he says after his brother. "And we'll have to do it soon, because this is slowly going too far!"

"Fine, Sammy, but after I get a full night's sleep. In case you haven't noticed, I've been working on our real car for the last couple of days."

Dean can feel Sam observing his back, almost piercing a hole in his shirt with the intense of his gaze. He tries not to be bothered. He lays down on the battered couch, puts a folded blanket under his head and closes his eyes.

He also tries not to think about lack of balance in the world and chaos and shit like that, because that always leads to Cas. And he definitely does not want to think about Cas, because thinking about Cas makes him revisit their every meeting during the last year, it makes him realize just how many little signs went unnoticed. And fuck this shit, he's a hunter, he should have seen that something was terribly off; he should have picked up that miserable vibe. But he didn't and that kind of makes him think about how much he had to screw everything up in order to make an angel of the Lord think that opening Purgatory was the best course of action.

In retrospect, Dean thinks as he turns to the side, a tiny bit of Cas' blame could be, technically, put on me.

~***~

Dean's not exactly sure what made him wake up — there wasn't any sound or movement that might have stirred him awake — but right now he's glad he did. When he opens his eyes it's was dark, Sam and Bobby aren't anywhere nearby, and a familiar shape is standing behind Bobby's desk. Dean almost leaps off the couch, but in a sudden flash of brilliance on his part, decides against it. First of all, it's not smart to make it obvious that he isn't asleep anymore. Secondly, he doesn't even have a gun nearby. He should just stay still and hope that maybe; maybe he'll be lucky tonight…

"Hello, Dean."

… or maybe he won't. Dean sits up. No point in pretending to be asleep, not when the… he knows he's not. Dean gets up and slowly goes to the desk. Quick look through the window tells him that it's night — and that's curious, it was only early afternoon when he went to sleep. Dean takes another step closer to Bobby's desk and stops dead in his tracks. From this point the moonlight falls into the study at the right angle for Dean to actually see Castiel. And that's… well, that's not a pretty sight. From this spot Dean can see the helpless expression, the sad — almost dead — look in the eyes and shit, that's blood trickling from the corner of Cas' mouth. He looks wrecked in more ways than one and seriously, what on Earth can do that to a deity?

"Cas, what the hell?" asks Dean and for a moment he forgets everything that happened between them, concern overtaking every rational thought.

Cas only lowers his gaze to one of Bobby's books, one that he's currently bleeding all over, and leaves Dean staring at the top of his head. His voice is so small and freaking broken that Dean almost misses what he's saying.

"Please."

Dean outstretches his arm, and maybe it's an invitation or maybe he just wants to touch Cas' hair and see that he's real, but then someone grabs his shoulder and turns him around and—

He falls off the couch.

"…the fuck?"

Dean starts rubbing his throbbing head and looks up, looks right at his brother. Sam is wearing a tightly controlled expression on his face, so duh, obviously something must have happened. Something bad, all things considered.

"Bobby just got a call from Tamara Sorkin. He's got news."

Dean rubs his eyes and yawns. That earns him a hit in the head.

"And you had to wake me for that news? Jeez, Sam, couldn't it have waited until morning?"

"Bobby says it's important," replies Sam and kicks Dean's legs for good measure. Dean grumbles a few curses. "Get your ass up and meet us in the kitchen."

Dean slowly raises from the dusty floor of Bobby's living room. Apart from his head — which absorbed most of the impact of his fall from the couch — his left elbow and hip hurt. Dean looks out through the window. It's sunset; the rays of sunshine are painting golden and red patterns on the cars in the junkyard. Red. He glances quickly at Bobby's desk — there isn't even a smallest trace of blood on any of the books. Friggin dreams.

In the kitchen Sam and Bobby are sitting at the little dining table, close together, both sporting utterly miserable and defeated expressions on their faces. There's a bottle of Jack Daniels standing between them, but it's unopened, Dean notices. Almost as if they were too crushed to even pour a drink. Dean decides to do it for them. He takes three glasses from the cupboard and puts them on the table, reaches for the bottle, opens it and pours the amber liquid for everyone. Pushes the first glass towards Bobby, who takes it and downs everything in one go, without as much as a 'thank you'. Sam fails to notice his glass, occupied by watching some abstract point on Bobby's wall.

"So," starts Dean, "what's the big news?"

Bobby takes a deep breath and reaches for the bottle. He doesn't bother with pouring whiskey to the glass this time.

"Don't assume that it's easy on any of us," says Bobby and avoids looking at Dean. "It ain't, boy. We all care for the guy, hell; I came to think about him as my third idjit, excellent addition to you two. But it has gone too far, and, truth be told, we're probably the only ones who can do something about it."

It's enough for Dean to know who this conversation is about and to predict where it will go. He takes a seat opposite Bobby. The old man risks a glance at him; when he sees that Dean's not exactly blazing with fury or whatever he assumed Dean would do, he relaxes visibly. He even fills their glasses with whiskey again.

"What happened?"

Bobby empties his glass and taps it on the edge of the table.

"I got a call from Tamara Sorkin. We've met 'er few years back, remember?" Dean does remember, so he nods. Bobby continues. "She was meeting with two other hunters today, but they never showed up. She decided to pay them a visit at the motel they were staying in and… Well, they aren't exactly useful anymore."

"You mean they're dead." Sam makes a little, hysterical noise in the back of his throat. "But how do we know that… that Cas had anything to do with it?"

"Tamara said that one of the guys had his eyes burnt out and the other…" Bobby scratches his chin. "Dean, the other was just a wet crimson stain on the wall when she came got there. You know. Snap your fingers and boom."

"And that's not even the funniest part," says Sam suddenly. He sounds as if he was in shock. Maybe he is. "The funniest part is who died." When Dean doesn't ask 'who?', Sam carries on. "It's Ray and Walt, Dean. Ray and Walt who'd sent us on a little roadtrip to Heaven."

"What? You're kidding, right?"

"Wish we were, boy."

Bobby pours the rest of whiskey into his glass and empties the bottle, but doesn't have the heart to drink. He just stares at the alcohol. Sam drums his fingers on the table and waits for Dean to process the new information. It's unsettling. Because so far the big giant nothing that's been happening — monster freakshow aside — could have been neatly put into the 'I don't give a damn' category. Now it's gotten personal.

"So, what now? What exactly are we gonna do?"

"What we do best," answers Sam. "Hunt."

"Wow, Sam, that's brilliant. A+." Dean's voice is dripping with sarcasm. "Jesus, I feel like I'm talking to soulless you again."

"Maybe you are," says Sam acidly. Dean pales and Sam rubs a hand across his eyes. "I mean… he's a part of me now, Dean. And maybe, just maybe, he's right. What else can we do? It's not like we know a way to defuse Cas, I even doubt that we could find a way. And if he's responsible for everything that's happening—"

"Which we don't know," Dean cuts in.

"But we have to assume that he is! Jesus, Dean, that hurricane can kill hundreds of people!"

And that's the Sam Dean knows. Always the concerned one, always trying to save everyone. The ghost of a soulless dick disappears.

"We do care, Dean." Sam's voice becomes quieter and softer. "And I know that I'll never understand whatever it was that you and Cas had, but he was my friend too. He's getting dangerous. I wish I could tell you that it's only the billions of evil monster souls that are messing with his mind, but he broke my Wall when he was still himself. We can't pretend that he's Cas. I wish we could and I do hope we can find a way to save him, but we can't pretend, Dean. People's lives are at risk."

Dean takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair. He starts balancing on the chair's back legs and stares at the ceiling.

"Okay," he says. "So how do we kill a god?"

"You got me." Bobby gets up and moves to the living room. "But I know where we could start looking for clues." Dean raises his brows. "Ellie's house," Bobby answers. "She kept a lot of handwritten notes. Considering she's a Purgatory native, something's gotta be there."

"So we're gonna visit you ex's house, Bobby?"

Bobby shrugs.

"That's always a start."

~***~

The trip to San Francisco wasn't fruitless. Almost two months after Eleanor Visyak's disappearance (and death, though apparently her SFU colleagues didn't know about that detail) her classes were temporarily reassigned to other professors for an unknown period of time. Her office was closed, but a police tape wasn't attached to the door, so getting in wasn't a problem. Same with her impressive mansion. Sam whistled loudly when the Impala pulled up in front of the grand entrance, followed by Bobby's pick-up. Dean realized that Sam was the only one who'd never seen the house before.

Once inside, they split up. Dean offered to go through the collection of weapons in the basement — there were a lot of things none of them ever heard of, useful against monsters long dead or forgotten. Dean reasoned that Doctor Visyak wouldn't have much use of her treasures anymore; he suggested taking as many things as they could without looking suspicious and with Bobby's blessing decided to put his plan into motion. As it turned out, Ellie Visyak's collection consisted of much more than a dragon sword; if not for the tagging, Dean would never know what he's picking up. There were Sumerian knives supposedly capable of killing a ghost, magical pieces of wood from basically every mythology ever created, gold bracelets that could bind djinns and nymphs to a human's will. There was also some cool looking St. George's armour, but it was too big to carry out.

Bobby and Sam stayed upstairs in a giant library. Dean was never good with books, he didn't know what was useful and what was not — it was only reasonable to leave two nerds to worry about ancient and medieval manuscripts or whatever it was that Bobby's friend had been collecting. Bobby was all for taking the important stuff for further use, so after inspecting the ground floor and the basement of Ellie Visyak's mansion, they already had a pick-up full of things they were going to take back to Sioux Falls. Which left them with the first floor, the woman's bedroom and office and the search for her private notes and journals. This time they split differently; Sam basically manhandled Dean to the office, leaving Bobby with the bedroom. And while the office — where Doctor Visyak sometimes met with her students — lacked any interesting papers, Bobby emerged from the bedroom with four heavy volumes and slightly puffy eyes.

They put the books in Impala's trunk and left for Sioux Falls before anyone from the university noticed that someone broke into their missing lecturer's house.

As it turned out, the stuff from the library didn't do much, except for contributing to Bobby's own collection of weird documents. It was those four volumes, giant books filled with Ellie Visyak's sharp handwriting, that held important information which could shed light on their current problems.

"Four enormous books about every friggin thing in and about Purgatory and she didn't even bother with making a table of friggin contents." Dean closes volume two of Encyclopaedia di Purgatorio, as Sam named the blasted thing, with so much force that a delicate, silk-y cover rips at the edge. Bobby shoots him a murderous glare. "How are we supposed to find any valuable info in here?"

"We read it," answers Bobby and delicately turns the page.

"Well, I don't understand half of this shit." Dean gestures vaguely at the books. "What language are they written in, anyway?"

"English," snaps Bobby. Dean throws his hands up in surrender.

For the last week they've been stuck at Bobby's, trying to go through every book owned by Ellie Visyak, hopeful that maybe their solution lies somewhere within them. Most of the time, Sam and Bobby have a lot of fun; Sam even started taking notes, the smartass college boy. But today, apparently, they've run out of anything to eat and Sam offered to go shopping. Which, unfortunately, left Bobby without a discussion partner and Dean had to man up and face his reading duties. He's been doing it for two hours now and he's slowly going mad.

"Jesus Christ, I'd kill for a hunt," Dean moans, hiding his face in his hands.

"I might have something just for you," says Sam cheerfully as he walks into the kitchen and puts groceries on the table. He takes a broadsheet paper from one of the bags and throws it at Dean. "A mass suicide in Onawa."

"Onawa?" Bobby abandons Volume One and looks up at Sam. "That's like a two-hour drive from here."

"Probably that's why it hit the headlines even here," murmurs Sam, unpacking the groceries. "Anyway, according to the article, twenty people, who've never met each other, gathered together in an abandoned warehouse and killed themselves over the course of less that thirty minutes. Single clear gunshot wound, right in the temple." Sam taps his forehead. "According to the police, all the bullets were fired from the same gun, which was curiously missing from the crime scene."

The promise of a puzzle to solve, etched to Sam's story, sparks Dean's interest.

"So maybe it wasn't a mass suicide after all," he theorizes. "They could have been shot. Or maybe better," Dean raises his voice slightly when Sam seems ready to interrupt his thought process, "they might have been forced to shoot themselves and then whatever compelled them, took the weapon and left."

"That's what I was thinking," admits Sam. "I think it's worth checking out; might be important."

Dean nods, but an expression of pained regret soon forms on his face. He takes a deep breath and releases it slowly.

"It might be," he agrees, "and I think we should check out if it's something supernatural." He looks at their Encyclopaedia and sighs. "If only we didn't have so much reading…"

Bobby slams the book shut.

"Oh for Christ's sake, Dean, just go! I don't have much use for you two idjits only whining around," grumbles Bobby, then gets up and goes to the kitchen to inspect what Sam bought. Dean strains his neck to see if there's a pie somewhere among vegetables and bread. There isn't. "Contrary to what you might think, your bitching ain't helping me read. So go and get your things, drive to Onawa, kill that thing and come back here, 'cause those books ain't gonna read themselves."

Dean springs from his chair and looks around the room, trying to locate his duffel bag. He quickly throws and extra shirt inside, takes the dirty ones out — he hopes that Bobby will finally take pity on them and will do the laundry — and winks at Sam.

"Ready to go, Sammy. Meet me by the car in five."

After few days of non-stop research, it feels amazing to finally go outside and breathe air that does't smell like burnt chicken or old socks. Dean pats the hood of his car affectionately, his mind already on the road, finally away from the obscure texts that even Bobby has trouble understanding, which, Dean knows, by the way, no matter how much effort Bobby puts into trying to hide his growing confusion.

"Thanks for the rescue," says Dean when Sam gets to the car and throws his stuff onto the backseat.

"No problem. I had a feeling that you'd start climbing the walls if you were to spend another day reading that." Dean nods. "I'm not judging, man," continues Sam, "it's really hard. I know that it's written in English and that I should understand it, but I just don't. There are these weird names, plus the book is self-referencing, so it complicates everything. It's almost as if we don't have all the information necessary to read it."

"Maybe it's written in a code," suggest Dean. He starts the engine and leaves Bobby's yard. He needs to get on the South Minnesota Avenue, it's the fastest way to Onawa.

"Yeah, maybe," agrees Sam and after that they settle for a comfortable silence.

Journey to Onawa takes them a half an hour less than Sam's Google Maps engine predicted, all thanks to Dean's amazing driving skills. Sam spends the entire journey on the phone, talking to police officers. He keeps pinching the bridge of his nose, Dean notices.

"So," starts Sam, "the families of fifteen victims already took care of the bodies, the remaining five are still in the local morgue. The crime scene is still closed; the police in Onawa apparently hope for a CSI-like miracle that will suddenly tell them what happened."

"I guess we'll be FBI agents then." Dean reaches to the glove compartment, opens it and takes out two badges. "Agents Young and Tyler, not to be suspicious."

Sam takes one of the badges while Dean pulls up in front of a decently looking motel. They're about to get out when Sam starts rubbing his forehead. Dean sits immediately.

"Are you okay?" he asks.

"What?" Sam looks up at him. "Of course I'm fine, just tired."

"Really? It isn't…"

"No," denies Sam instantly. "I don't know," he adds after a heartbeat. "Maybe."

"Sam, you gotta tell me these things," insists Dean and Sam raises his brows. "I know you don't believe me, but it is dangerous for you."

"Actually, I don't think so," says Sam and he sounds so convinced that it catches Dean's breath. "I mean, I haven't really been there that long. Cas…" Sam shoots Dean a concerned look and clears his throat. "I got my body busted after a day. Two tops."

"That's still almost eight months in Hell, Sam. Not to mention that your soul was left there for over a year. In a Cage with Michael and Lucifer."

"And that's the point, Dean," stresses Sam. "You don't actually comprehend what the Cage is. It's not only a prison, but it's a prison made for an angel. They're basically like humans there. Feelings, pain and all. And I think I can call myself lucky, because at first Lucifer and Michael were interested only in beating the crap out of each other. I think you all operate under the assumption that the angels would target me. And yes, they did, but they also took it out on each other and it left them bleeding and suffering. They usually left us alone." Sam laughs, but it's bitter and dark around the edges. "Of course it was still Hell, flames and eternal damnation, but all things considered, I think I had it easier than you."

Although Sam doesn't say it out loud, Dean hears the sentiment behind his brother's last words: Sam didn't have to deal with Alastair. Dean swallows bile that suddenly formed in his throat.

"And you remember all of that?"

"No," answers Sam quickly. "Not everything, just bits and pieces. It's heat and fire, mostly. A few heart-to-hearts with Lucifer, but it's fragmentary at best. Also a high-pitched, piercing sound, but I guess that was Lucifer and Michael arguing." He tries to crack a smile. "And I remember Adam."

Dean lowers his gaze. He knows the next question before Sam asks it, he's been expecting it since Sam admitted him that his first nightmare was about the kid.

"Why did you leave him there?"

"I didn't have a choice," replies Dean, slowly and carefully choosing his words. "Death gave me a choice, you or Adam, but not both. I had to choose, Sammy. And trust me, I'm not happy and I don't feel good about leaving him there," Dean's voice breaks a little, "but you're my brother."

Sam is silent after that. Dean's thankful that his brother didn't decide to push the subject or, God forbid, remind him that Adam is their brother too. Dean knows that, of course he does; but Adam will never be a brother to him the way Sam is and given a choice, Dean will always pick Sam over him.

"We should get some sleep," suggests Sam after he checks them in. "After all those sleepless nights at Bobby's, we look bad."

"Maybe you look like a zombie; I look dashing," says Dean and mission accomplished, because it finally makes Sam laugh for real. "But since I'm an awesome brother, I'll agree to your girly whim. After all I don't want to deny you your beauty sleep."

Sam laughs all the way to their room.

~***~

Dean's sense of smell wakes up long before his sight or even ability to think straight does. He sniffs once and twice and when his brain finally starts kicking, he manages to connect the wonderful smell of a freshly made coffee with the general direction of the door. He opens one eye and sees a cup of steaming coffee being placed on his bedside table.

"Thanks, Sam," he murmurs, but it's impossible to tell if Sam understood him through the thick layer of duvet.

Sam sits on his bed and observes Dean's fight with yawning and coffee — black and strong, no sugar, the manly way in which Dean prefers to take his — with an amused twinkle in his eyes. When Dean finishes drinking, Sam throws a new toothbrush at him and manages to hit him in the nose.

"Couldn't sleep any longer," Sam explains, "so I went out and did a little shopping."

"Wow, Sam, that's practically room service."

Dean retreats to the bathroom to clean himself up a bit, puts on a clean shirt and grabs his fake badge, laying in the duffel bag by his bed. He gestures towards the door and Sam immediately gets up, and they leave the room.

"Let's hit the police department first," says Sam when they're sitting in car. "In a town this small a mass suicide is likely the biggest incident since ever. The crime scene is probably guarded and I don't think that trying to break in is a good idea."

"Fine, the police department it is."

The Onawa Police Department is located in a small building on 909 7th Street, only a couple of blocks from their motel. It reminds Dean of the building where Victor Henriksen once held them, with the way it's so small and crammed and has a waiting room with a few chairs. There's a girl watering the plants and Dean winks at her, then shows her his FBI badge and asks where he can find the Chief. She blushes a deep red — just like Nancy would, Dean thinks — and shows them to the proper room.

The door with a nametag "Jerry Adler, Chief of Police" opens the moment the cute secretary wants to knock on it. She jumps as if burnt and puts a hand over her heart, with a look on her face that says 'I'm so having a heart attack'. An already-grey man in what Dean assumes is his late forties emerges from the office, chatting to a high-heeled, formally-dressed woman in her early thirties. She's short with an oval face, surrounded by wavy brown hair. She has big, doe eyes that dart over to Dean and Sam the moment she notices them. They're blue, the bluest Dean's ever seen, almost, and very intense.

Dean thinks she's beautiful.

"Sir, these are agents Young and Tyler from the FBI," the secretary introduces them. Chief of Police takes a long look at both of them, but doesn't question their presence, which means no real FBI agent has been here yet.

"Finally," says Adler, "I was beginning to wonder whether any of you guys might find our situation concerning." The woman beside him clears her throat. "Ah, of course. Gentlemen, this is Gail Kelley, an insurance agent."

The woman — Gail Kelley — exchanges a polite handshake with them. Sam nods at her and Dean works his personal magic with a charming smile. Gail isn't impressed, judging by her expression.

"I represent several families," she says in a strange accent and Dean's sure he already heard it somewhere. "I'm glad to know that the FBI is finally taking an interest in this case."

"We'll do our best to find out exactly what happened," assures Sam and the insurance rep smiles. She nods at the agents and leaves, swaying from side to side and tapping her high heels on the tiled floor.

"Is there any way I could help you, gentlemen?" asks Chief Adler.

"We'd like to inspect the crime scene if that's not a problem," answers Sam, discreetly punching Dean, who's still watching the door where the temping silhouette of Gail Kelley disappeared.

The chief offers to take them to the warehouse personally and Dean and Sam end up following a police car to the town borders. As they get out of the Impala, Adler is already waiting for them by the police tape. He takes out the keys and leads the brothers inside, to the center of the warehouse, where the outlines of twenty bodies are drawn on the floor. He gestures around.

"This is the place. We were tipped by Teddy, a local drunk. He says he heard several gunshots, though, not all of them, of course. When we got here all the bodies were still warm. We think it might have been a cult thing." Adler points at a circular sign painted white several meters away. "From what we know those people never met each other, but it's possible that they were part of the same occultist group on the Internet."

"And what about the gun?" asks Sam.

Adler scratches his head.

"We think that it might have been carried out by a prospective victim. As of now, our report states that one person bailed out. He or she took the gun to cover their deed."

Adler's phone rings. He excuses himself for a moment and steps aside to answer. Sam puts his hands in his pockets and turns to Dean.

"Is it me or does this warehouse smells strange in a completely familiar way?"

"You're right," admits Dean, "this place reeks of sulfur."

"I'm sorry, gentlemen," says Adler. "We have a bit of a situation at the local Community Centre."

"Not a problem, officer", assures him Dean. "My partner and I are just going to inspect the place a little bit; we'll find an exit on our own."

Adler looks relieved and, without as much as a look at Dean and Sam, leaves the warehouse. Few minutes later they hear his car leave the driveway. With Adler out of the picture, Dean drops to his knees and traces a finger on the ground while Sam goes to check out the sign.

"I've never seen one like this," he states out loud. "It looks like a Greek cross in the middle of three circles, and there's something written in the spaces between the circles…" Sam squints his eyes and cocks his head to the left. "But no, I can't make anything out of it."

He reaches to his pocket and takes out a cell phone. Dean hears clicks, indicating that Sam documented the sign for Bobby for further study.

"You were right," Dean says as he stands up. "There's a thin layer of sulfur on the floor, all over the place were the bodies were."

"You think the demons did it?"

"It's possible. We have demonic activity, twenty bodies and a missing gun. Maybe it was an execution. Maybe it was a statement of power or something. Or maybe the bastards are just bored."

"We should hit the morgue," suggests Sam.

Since they don't have any clues or the faintest idea of what to do next, Dean agrees. They drive to the morgue, where a chirpy forensic pathology fellow tells them that three more bodies were taken by families by now, which leaves Dean and Sam with only two remaining victims.

"That gave us a steaming pile of nothing," complains Dean, letting Sam drive them from the morgue back to the motel. "Apart from the gunshot wound, which we were already aware of, there wasn't a damn thing on them. That was a waste of time and we still don't know what the hell happened."

"Maybe it was just a suicide," murmurs Sam, sounding fed up. "Maybe there's nothing supernatural about it."

"Yeah, and that… sigil or whatever is just a part of the warehouse's décor," snaps Dean. He slams the Impala's door shut so hard that the windows rattle. It's not Sam's fault, of course; he's just pissed off in general, because there's no way it isn't supernatural-related, but at the same time there's no proof that it is. Not strong proof, anyway.

Dean opens the door of their motel room and notices that the light in the bathroom is on. He reaches for his gun; he knows he turned it off this morning, before he and Sam left the room. He walks into the room quietly, barrel raised and pointed before him. Suddenly the bathroom door opens and a woman in a close-fitting suit emerges, shaking off droplets of water from her pale hands. She beams at the sight of Sam and Dean.

"Finally," Gail Kelley says, again with that somehow-not-unfamiliar accent. "I was worried that you just gave up and decided to not return to the motel." She sits on Sam's bed and straightens the folds on her perfect suit. "And we have so much to talk about."

Dean blinks.

"Miss Kelley," he starts, then clears his throat. But he doesn't lower the gun and the girl doesn't seem to mind, if her sigh is anything to go by.

"If only I got paid every time you pointed a gun at me," she says. "And really, Dean, you don't recognize me?"

Her eyes turn red. Dean tenses, while Sam quickly gets the knife out. The woman purses her lips and crosses her arms on her chest.

"Now I feel offended," she declares and taps her high-heeled foot on the cheap floor. "Do I give off the crazy vibe? Do I look like torturing puppies and killing kittens is one of my hobbies? Really? And I thought you knew me better by now. I only like lying naked in money."

It hits Dean like lightening, the realization of who it is exactly who is sitting on his brother's bed. He lowers his gun, much to Sam's surprise.

"Bela."

The woman — not Gail Kelley, apparently, but Bela Talbot reincarnated — smiles widely and claps her hands in appreciation.

"Ten points to the pretty boy for figuring it out." She points at Dean's bed. "I know it's impolite to order you around your own room, but we don't have much time. And we do have a lot to talk about, I wasn't joking."

Dean and Sam exchange looks. Letting your guard down around a demon isn't a smart idea, but then again this is Bela Talbot, back from Hell, and she doesn't look like she is going to try and kill them. Yet. Dean just hopes they'll be safely back at Bobby's when she decides to change her mind. As if sensing their thoughts, Bela rolls her eyes.

"I'm not going to hurt you," she promises. "I would have already if I planned to, and I haven't. I'm interested in helping you."

"Helping us," repeats Sam dubiously. "Since when do demons want to help us?"

"I'm hurt," Bela declares, putting a hand over her heart. "Besides, we might have a common interest. You're here because of the suicide, right?"

"Don't tell me," interrupts her Dean. "You were bored, those guys were nasty, and you killed them all."

Bela shakes her head.

"Oh no, they all killed themselves. I was going to tell you that you were right assuming that demons were there. To be precise, there were twenty demons present at the scene."

"Twenty?" Sam decides to lower the knife. "Those people were possessed?" Bela nods. "They killed themselves while possessed?"

"Yes," she confirms. "But more than that, it was the demons that killed themselves."

Dean laughs when he hears that. Sam and Bela both look at him in disapproval.

"If you really are Bela," starts Dean, "you'd know that there's only one gun that can kill a demon."

"Oh yes, I know," tells him Bela cheerfully. She reaches for her white leather bag, which is standing on the floor near Sam's bedside table and takes out the Colt. "You mean this gun, right?"

Dean and Sam stare at Bela's hands with their mouths open. Bela laughs, shakes her head with amusement and lays the gun on the bed, right beside her.

"That's the Colt," Dean finally stutters. Bela nods. "But how."

"Did you honestly think that it was left to rot in the grass after you dropped it in Carthage? Please. Demons were trying to get their hands on it, all of them. Especially Ellsworth," she adds as an afterthought. "Anyway, I had some trouble getting it, but now that it was already used by those idiots, it's all mine." She takes the gun and hands it to Dean. "And I give it to you. Might be useful."

Dean takes the gun, weights it in his hand, and points it at Bela. She rolls her eyes again.

"Come on. Don't you want to know why those demons killed themselves? They shot themselves with the Colt. They clearly knew they weren't going to make it alive out of that warehouse. You're not curious why?"

Sam puts a hand on the Colt's barrel and lowers it down.

"You know why?" he asks.

"Of course I know." Bela moves back to sit cross-legged on Sam's bed. "Let me tell you a story, boys. It all starts with the Genesis, the uncut version. In the beginning, God the Creator, well, created the world and everything in it. But he wasn't that interested in running the thing, so he let other deities create themselves. God gave the other gods jobs to do and so they were charged with the task of maintaining balance in the world. But it turned out that when God created all the good things, he also created their polar opposites. Which means that there was an exact opposite of Him. It wasn't corporeal, a mere idea, but it was evil; it was pure evil. God decided that he couldn't let Evil stay permanently on Earth and so He created a separate dimension where he imprisoned the Evil. Then he called a small goddess named Eve and made her the Queen of Purgatory, the Mother of monsters.

"After that, God created angels to worship the world," Bela continues after a moment. "And then he created humans who were destined to populate the Earth. But He was still concerned with the Evil, because He knew that even if the Evil's influence is only passed through Eve, one day it might free itself from the prison and it might gain a body. And then it will finally become the opposite of God — the Chaos, the Anticreator and it will undo… everything."

Bela falls silent. Sam observes her, transfixed. Dean clears his throat.

"That," he declares, "is bullshit. What, an Armageddon story from demon Sunday school?"

"So maybe it does sound a bit like a fairy tale," Bela raises her voice, "but a lot of demons believe it! Those twenty killed themselves because they were certain that the Anticreator is now among us and that he will destroy the world. That's what most demons are thinking, Dean, and they're scared. There are, of course the few who are willing to worship him as their new god, a better version of what Lucifer was supposed to be. A friend of yours is a supporter of that idea, I hear. Astaroth."

"Never heard of her," dismisses her Dean.

"I know, because you only refer to her as 'Meg'", replies Bela. "She's the number one fangirl. But she's one of a few. Like I said, most of the demons are trying to find a way to kill themselves before it's too late. But there are also those who believe our boss has a plan and who are loyal to him. We're willing to fight."

"Why?"

"Because we like this world, Sam." Bela looks out the motel window. "I like this world and I don't want to see the Sower turn it into a pile of stardust."

"The Sower?," asks Sam.

"That's what he's called by the oldest demons," explains Bela. "The Sower of the Wind. The one who will undo the creation."

"Let's assume we believe you," says Dean finally. "Why are you here? Truly, Bela, why are you here?"

"Because you needed to know what you're up against," answers Bela in a hushed voice. "Because you needed to know that there is help waiting for you, if you only ask for it. I know that you have a really bad track record when it comes to dealing with demons, but this time is different. This time we face the same enemy." She gets up. "I need to go now. But I'm a Crossroads demon — I'm told that I have a natural talent for the job — so it shouldn't be difficult for you to contact me. I'm willing to help any way I can."

Dean blinks and she's gone. He looks around the room, but she's disappeared. It figures; she's a demon, she doesn't have to use the door anymore. Dean does some quick math in his head — Bela died before him and it was almost four years since… Oh, damn. It meant nearly five hundred years in Hell for her. She looked good, for that amount of time. Sane, almost human and still Bela.

"So," Dean turns towards Sam, "what do you think?"

Sam takes out his phone and presses number 2 on speed dial.

"I think we should tip Bobby." He waits a few moments for the call to be answered. "Bobby? It's me, I think we've got something. No, not about the suicide, about our Encyclopaedia. Check if a word 'Sower' is mentioned anywhere. 'Sower', with a capital 's'. I know I sound cryptic, we'll explain when we get back. Okay. See you"

Sam hangs up.

"We should head back to Sioux Falls," he suggests.

Dean, not at all surprisingly, agrees.

~***~

"Wherever you got that 'Sower' thing, boys, it surely helped a lot," is Bobby's greeting when Sam pushes the front door open and the brothers get inside, soaked to the bone and shivering with cold, thanks to a freaking blizzard in the middle of the hot-for-now July.

Sam starts shedding clothes the moment they step into the house, trying to avoid Bobby's accusation of leaking on his wooden floor. Dean, however, heads to the kitchen, where he puts on the water for hot tea, possibly with a bit stronger addition. He feels half frozen, his fingers especially, so navigation around the room is not the easiest task. He hears an irritated grunt behind his back before Bobby takes the water boiler from him.

"Go and get changed, will ya?"

Dean does. He leaves the kitchen and joins Sam in the living room, where his brother is hunting for his clothes in the big pile of dirty laundry they've left next to the couch. Apparently, Bobby didn't grant them the mercy of doing laundry while they were gone.

"There's something seriously wrong with the weather," decides Sam, pouting when he realizes that until he washes his clothes himself, he'll either stay in the wet ones or will have to borrow a robe from Bobby.

"No need to tell me, I was outside too."

Dean finds a giant, semi-clean shirt under his old jeans and throws it at Sam. Dean settles for a Metallica T-shirt that's so worn out the caption is missing all vowels and both 'ls'. Bobby brings two cups of steaming tea mixed with brandy and puts them on the desk. He then sits behind it and clasps his hands behind his head.

"We're kind of screwed, boys," he announces.

Dean and Sam exchange looks before quickly grabbing their cups. They busy themselves with drinking the tea so that Bobby can't make them read or touch anything. Neither of them have forgotten the dragons' book and its unusual writing material.

"I guess you found something on the Sower." Sam looks between a thick book laid on the desk and Bobby.

"As a matter of fact, I did." Bobby taps the book in front of him. "It's mentioned in every one of Ellie's books, but this is the only one that gives details."

"So what is it?," demands Dean. "A demon? A monster? Eve's estranged husband?"

"None. And all."

"A little less cryptic, Bobby? That would be nice."

Bobby sighs and pushes the book towards the boys.

"It took me awhile to understand it, but Ellie referred to the darkness trapped inside Purgatory as 'the Sower'," starts explaining Bobby. "It's the essence of all that is evil, manifested in thousands upon thousands monster souls. It feeds on those souls. It doesn't have a body, it's not corporeal, it possesses the idjit who's stupid enough to try and open the Purgatory."

"So, what, we can exorcise it, right?"

Bobby shakes his head.

"It's not a thing, Dean. It's… it's more like an idea of evil. It attaches itself to the person who opened the door and exploits their flaws, their dark side, so to say. It essentially turns that person into the King of All That Is Evil."

"It's perfect," comments Sam. Dean squints his eyes; if looks could kill, Sam would be lying dead on the floor. He had to notice Dean's murderous glare, because he shifts uncomfortably. "According to Plato, there's nothing more perfect than an idea. Because it's not material, it defies logic, human terms. So an idea of evil is worse than any evil thing we've ever faced."

Bobby nods approvingly. Dean closes his eyes and counts to ten, slowly.

"So how do we stop it?"

Sam gives an exasperated noise, halfway into an annoyed grunt, as if he couldn't believe someone as stupid as Dean managed to live to his age.

"Didn't you hear a word Bobby and I said?" Sam inquires. "It's not a monster, Dean. It's an idea of a monster, it's an idea of evil, of everything between a mosquito and a demon. You can't fight an idea. It's forever. Always been, always will be. It's… truly immortal," he finishes in a flat voice.

Sam looks like the whole concept just dawned on him, right in that moment. It's a damn miserable and gut-wrenching sight.

"Come on, Sam," Dean tries to sound more optimistic than he feels, if only for the sake of lifting his little brother's spirits. "We thought the same thing about Lucifer, the same thing about Eve. There's always a way. The only problem is to find it."

"According to this," Bobby points at the Encyclopaedia, "there's no stopping the Sower."

"No offence, Bobby, but I'm not going to give up on finding a way just because your girlfriend says there's no way. She also thought she was safe and then she died. That kind of proves that she can be wrong."

Bobby shuts the book close, gets off the chair and stalks out of the room. Sam gives him a disbelieving look, the kind that silently communicates 'you've hurt his feelings'. So okay, maybe calling the late doctor Bobby's girlfriend and then reminding everyone of the 'late' part wasn't Dean's brightest idea of the day, but he's just so tired of everyone always acting like it's the end of the world. Even if it is — and judging by the shitty weather outside, it might well be — they've already stopped a few of those. And it means something if he is the one suddenly thinking about having a little faith in themselves.

"The amount of tactlessness you just provided makes me wonder how we are even related," says Sam and he leaves the room too, going after their offended father-figure.

~***~

There's no trace of snow in the park. The sun is shining, providing warmth and light; people are strolling down the graveled alleys, some are seeking shadowed benches to sit on and simply relax. Lovers, elders, young parents — they all enjoy the beautiful weather of a perfect summer day, the one that happens only once in awhile in the middle of July. There are children playing on a playground several feet away, their laughter echoes through the bark, bringing smile to everyone's faces. The grass is thick and green, so very soft under their hands, a wonderful bedding for a tired wanderer who only lies on the ground and watches the cloudless sky.

Dean takes a deep breath of the lily-smelling air and soaks up in the tranquility and merriment of the moment.

"Such a wonderful day," says the person next to him.

Dean turns his head to the right and looks at Castiel's content features.

"Yes, it is," he confirms quietly. "So different from the one during which I went to sleep."

"You liked this park," states Castiel and moves his hands to put them under his head. He looks at the sky, where a couple of birds fly above them. "When we were here on Halloween. Our bench is over there."

"I remember." They remain silent for few minutes. Then Dean carries on. "It's not real, right? And you're not really here."

Castiel closes his eyes. Dean sees more than hears his sigh, the slow rise of his chest accompanied by a sad expression on his face.

"We wouldn't be lying on the grass if I truly were here, would we?" he asks. "I wouldn't let us."

"I suppose not." Dean turns on his side and props his head on his hand. "Everything is getting even more fucked up than it was before, Cas. When even demons are starting to freak out and warn us, that's gotta mean something."

"Yes, it does," admits Cas. He opens his eyes and turns his head to look at Dean. "Why won't you save me?"

"I'm trying," says Dean even though he knows that's not true. So far he's been avoiding all Cas-related topics like a plague. And that's not helping him come up with a way to save his friend. Dean looks at Cas' wistful expression, then his gaze travels lower. He notices something on the trenchcoat. He reaches out to touch it, a stain that wasn't there the last time he saw Castiel. "Cas, what…"

It's wet. It's wet and crimson, and it's slowly and steadily getting bigger. Dean raises to his knees to take a proper look at Cas, who takes his hands out from under his head and lies flat on the grass.

"Jesus, Cas", mutters Dean. There's a stab wound on Castiel's abdomen, gaping and bleeding profusely. That and the way Cas is spread out on the grass, with his right leg slightly bent, it all makes up for a picture Dean knows by heart, one he's seen a few times too many. His hand moves to Cas' shoulder and grips it tight. "Cas, what happened to you?"

"Dean," Cas whispers and locks his eyes with Dean's. "Please."

Dean starts awake, panting.

"Hello, Dean."

The voice carries from the kitchen. Dean shoots a look at Sam, sleeping soundly on the floor next to him, gets up and pads to the adjoining room. As he expected, a familiar figure is leaning by the kitchen cabinet, on the right side of the cooker, just by the fridge, a pose perfectly mirroring a similar one, from the same kitchen, from over four years ago.

"Castiel," says Dean as a greeting. "Not here to perch on my shoulder, I suppose."

Castiel laughs quietly.

"I came to ask about my… ah, offer," he says smoothly and it chills Dean, the way this Castiel's voice is nothing like the rough tone which Cas used; this one is softer and so confident and it's so wrong to hear it. "I was wondering whether you thought about it."

"Yes," replies Dean. "I thought about it yesterday, when I was brushing my teeth. And the answer is still no. And you know what?" Feeling braver, Dean takes a step closer. "You can kill me right now, because it's always going to be 'no'. I'll never bow."

Castiel laughs again, a lot louder this time. Dean stills, waiting for Sam to emerge from the living room. Nothing happens, though; the way Castiel doesn't seem to be bothered by the prospect of facing Sam or Bobby suggests that he has something to do with their deep, undisturbed sleep.

"But you will, Dean," Castiel says, with so much self-confidence that it makes Dean's teeth hurt. Cas was never this sure of himself. "After all, I am changing the world for the better. I'm reshaping it to fit your dreams." He tilts his head to the side, but not in a Cas-like confused manner. It's more of a 'how to phrase it to make it simple enough for you to understand' type of a gesture. "You have no reason to loathe me. I'm not the God who allowed the Apocalypse to begin. I'm not the God who let your friends die. And I'm not the God who let your brother fall into the Cage."

"Why are you here?" spits Dean. "If you're not here to kill me, why did you come?"

A smug expression settles on Castiel's face.

"I came here to show you that I can," he explains swiftly. "I needed you to know that if I ever decide to end you, I will be able. I'm capable of finding you wherever you go, Dean. You can't hide from me and you can't stop me."

He vanishes. Only after he's gone Dean releases a breath he wasn't even aware he was holding. He strides quickly to the living room, crouches next to Sam and shakes his brother's arm.

"Sam," Dean calls, shaking him roughly. "Sammy, wake up, now. Sam."

"God, Dean," Sam moans as he shoves away Dean's hand. "Are you aware that it's the middle of the night?"

"Sam, this is important," Dean insists. Something in his voice must have told Sam to take him seriously for a change, because his brother turns to his side instantly and looks at him with concern.

"Dean, you look like you've seen a ghost."

Dean smiles grimly.

"Worse," he decides. "A god."

Sam is up in no time and goes upstairs to wake up Bobby. Dean waits on the library's floor; when Sam comes back, tugging a yawning and still irritated Bobby with him, Dean relays the whole kitchen talk to them. Sam seems quite shaken by the fact that not only Castiel stopped by but he also made him sleep through it like a baby. Bobby, on the other hand, seems both unamused and unmoved.

"I gotta tell you," he says when Dean ends his tale, "for once I agree with the guy."

"What?" ask Dean and Sam in unison. Bobby snorts at their synch.

"He's right about being able to find us," Bobby explains. "This is serious, boys. He's a baddie unlike any other we've faced. And you know why? Because he knows us. Intimately. He knows our routines, our weaknesses, Hell, he even knows about most of our hiding spots. He just knows and he doesn't need the omniscience to do so."

"You know what scares me the most?" asks Dean, interrupting whatever it was that Sam was trying to say. "Those dreams."

"They're just dreams, Dean," assures him Sam.

"Yeah, and how do you know? You had your…" Dean waves his hand at Sam's general direction, "psychic, weirdo dreams."

"Yeah, and they were coming true," reminds him Sam a touch impatiently. "They were realistic. I doubt that dreaming about winding up in a park we've visited years ago is going to come true in the nearest foreseeable future. Not to mention the whole stabbed thing." Sam rubs his forehead. "They're just dreams, Dean. Dreams of a conflicted person who misses their friend. But still just regular dreams."

Dean resists the urge to punch his doubting-Thomas of a brother and excuses himself to the kitchen under the pretence of preparing coffee for everyone. If only there was someone not as biased as Sam that he could talk to. He wishes, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, that Pamela was still alive — she was cool and always ready to listen. Shit, he could even use the number to that psychic from Lawrence, Missouri. But no, he lost it with his cell during the accident with Dad all those years ago. And he didn't know any more psychics; he couldn't ask Bobby for a number to one of his friends, there was no one who had any understanding of confusing dreams and who could lend him a hand…

Or maybe…

Dean sucks in a breath and quickly looks around. Sam and Bobby are hunched over Visyak's books again and are paying exactly no attention to him. Dean stealthily tip-toes to his leather jacket which he dropped by the front door when they entered Bobby's house the day before, and takes out his mobile. It's a huge leap of faith, thinking that the number is active or used by the same person or even that said person will answer the call. But Dean's out of ideas now, clutching to every potential offer of help he might get and this is his best shot. He will never get a better person than that. Dean scrolls down the list of contacts, chooses the right number and presses 'call'. There are three long signals, four, five…

"Becks, honey. Told you. Wait till morning. You'll get on a nice plane, Dad and Stewie will pick you up and I—"

"Chuck?"

There's a dead silence on the other side of the call, followed by rustling of what Dean assumes is a sheet, some cursing, click of a turned on light — probably done so in order to see the caller ID — and deep breathing.

"Dean?" asks Chuck Shurley in a small voice. "Wha… Why, but how…"

"Nice to hear you too, Chuck," jokes Dean.

"I didn't know you still had that number." Chuck sounds a bit more relaxed. He's back again to the familiar friendly tone. But gone is the drunken stutter. "I thought you deleted it."

"I didn't," admits Dean. "Always figured it'd be nice to be able to keep in touch with a prophet."

"Why are you calling, Dean? And…" More rustling. "At four in the morning?"

"I… I wanted to ask about your dreams."

"I don't have them anymore," Chuck rushes with assuring. He sounds stressed all of the sudden. "After I got to see Sam's jump live, it stopped. No more dreams, no more visions. I stopped writing too; thirty five books, ending with the end of the Apocalypse-that-wasn't. It seems fitting, don't you think?"

"It's not about anything you've seen," offers Dean. Chuck listens. "I wanted to ask, because…. I kind of… 've been this weird dreams."

"Weird how?"

Prompted by Chuck, Dean recaps the most important points of the story Chuck has missed during the last year, then proceeds to tell him about his dreams. Some are recurring — like the bloodied hands and broken whispers Dean's sure he's seen and heard more times than he remembers — some are not, like the ones that are starring Castiel. Chuck listens, hums under his breath and waits for Dean to finish.

"That is weird," he agrees when Dean asks for his opinion. "But I don't think they're prophetic."

"Sam does neither," mutters Dean.

"But I think it might be a message," continues Chuck.

"Yeah, Chuck, but how?"

"Cas is an angel, right?" Dean murmurs something indecipherable. "Okay, I know, not an angel anymore, but still. First of all, he's an angel. Angels can enter people's dreams. Angels are also like celestial wavelength or something. So I'm guessing you're able to receive Cas."

"Wait, I'm lost. So you think those aren't just dreams?"

"If I'm being honest and I'm pretty sure you'd like me to… I think it's a call for help. An unconscious one. I think it also might not be exactly from now…"

Dean rolls his eyes.

"Chuck, what the hell do you mean by that?"

Dean hears a chuckle from the other side.

"Sorry, I'm into science fiction and urban legends now," Chuck laughs. Then he gets serious again. "But as my favourite Doctor once said, time is not exactly linear, Dean. Not for angels and definitely not for gods. It's a big ball of timey-wimey stuff." He clears his throat. "Like a message in the bottle, the one you don't know when will be read. Or a signal sent into space. It's out there. The question is who and when will pick it up."

"You're just making that up to sound smart, Chuck," accuses Dean half-jokingly.

"I'm a writer, Dean," replies Chuck sweetly. "I bullshit people for a living." They both laugh. "But I didn't make everything up. I truly think it's a call for help. And I'm sorry I can't help you more than that."

"It's fine, you've been better than Sam anyway. And Chuck…" Dean pauses, not certain if the question is appropriate or not. Ah, screw it. "Did you really mistake me for Becky? I thought you guys were over. You said you guys were over."

Dean can practically hear Chuck blush furiously. Jesus, that guy is hopeless.

"We decided to try again," says Chuck slowly. "I didn't want to regret anything. After all, you only live once, right?" He pauses, then continues so fast that it's hard to understand what he's saying. "Becky's coming to meet my dad and his boyfriend today. My sister is here too and I want to propose to her. Becky, I mean, not my sister. Proposing to my sister would be just wrong."

And now fidgeting joined Dean's image of a blushing, sweating Chuck. Yep, hopeless.

"Good for you, Chuck," Dean says. "I hope…"

A faint knock on Bobby's front door cuts Dean off mid-sentence. He turns his head to the left and looks at Bobby and Sam, who just snapped their heads up too. No one makes a move.

"I'll call you later, Chuck," promises Dean, though both of them know that's probably never going to happen.

Bobby takes out a gun from of the drawers in the desk, then gets up and slowly reaches the front door. Dean watches him put his hand on the door handle, he sees as Bobby presses the handle and opens the front door. Bobby then moves so that his body blocks all the view; only his loud gasp is an indication that he found something on the porch.

"Holy mother of God," says Bobby incredulously and crouches. "Dean, hurry up with that coffee, will ya. Sam, grab something warm and get over here."

"What is it?" asks Sam, but does as he's told, and picks up a sweater from the pile of dirty clothes lying on the floor.

"More like 'who is it'," corrects him Bobby before moving a few inches to the side, making it possible for Dean to see part of the porch and a huddled figure sitting on it. "It's your brother." Bobby looks at Dean. "The other one", he clarifies as if the sight of Adam's blond-haired head wasn't enough.