Title: The Blood of the Wicked

Summary: Written for chiiyo86 during the spn_summergen challenge. Still struggling with the guilt resulting from the accidental death of his father two years ago, FBI profiler Dean Winchester takes on the case of a spree killer who thinks he's on a mission from God. Not even his brother Sam's best attempts to help can prevent him from letting the case consume him until he runs the very real risk of losing himself entirely.

Characters: Sam, Dean, Castiel/Jimmy, with appearances by

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: Religious subject matter (i.e. very loose interpretations of Judeo-Christian scripture). Show-levels of violence. Major character death.

Neurotic Author's Note #1: chiiyo86 asked for an AU in which Cas is an assassin and Dean (and possibly Sam too) is a cop. This is as close as I got.

Neurotic Author's Note #2: Many, many thanks to the wonderful yasminke for the beta and for her tireless help with the massive amounts of research into scripture this took. She is a rockstar and this story would not be what it is without her.


NOW

Vengeance is mine; I will repay.

"FBI! Stay where you are! Hands where I can see them!"

"Hello, Dean."

The man standing before Dean seems surprisingly unconcerned by the fact that he has a Glock 22 pointed straight at his chest. He tilts his head, his expression quizzical. The sniper rifle he's used to kill four people already is propped up against the ledge of the roof on which they're standing, apparently forgotten. He's wearing a trench coat over a slightly cheap-looking three-piece suit.

It doesn't seem real. The setting sun is casting a bright pink glow over the rooftops, leaving a residual imprint on the inside of Dean's eyelids every time he blinks. It's the kind of evening on which, in a past life, Dean might have taken a woman on a date. Found a secluded balcony somewhere, cracked open a bottle of wine. Taken her to bed with him afterward, when they were both pleasantly buzzed and the evening was just drifting into twilight, the first stars barely visible in the glow of city lights.

"Who are you?" Dean demands, even though he's already sure of the answer. He looks more like a tax accountant than a psychotic killer, Dean thinks, before the man speaks again, voice low and rasping.

"I'm Castiel."

THEN

Dean is trapped in the wreckage of his car when he hears the telephone ring. He can't move, pinned in place by the steering wheel, the crumpled metal of the door. The smell of spilled gasoline fills the air, along with a faint scent of smoke that's growing stronger with each passing minute. A flicker of light out of the corner of his eye makes him wonder if the car isn't on fire.

"Dad..." it comes out strangled, makes him cough, taste blood on his tongue, slick and coppery, but there's no pain. He feels as though he's floating a few inches above himself. The ringing is incessant. "Dad!"

His father is slumped in his seat, his head at an impossible angle against what's left of the passenger side door, eyes staring sightlessly at him. Shards of glass glisten in his hair, making him look incongruously as though he's wearing a hair net with rhinestones in it. Dean doesn't have enough breath to laugh.

The phone keeps ringing. Dean wishes it would stop –it's too loud and it makes his head hurt and his father is still staring at him, empty eyes accusing. Dean tries to reach for him, but he's already gone and Dean can't make his arms move anyway. He thinks it might be Sam, calling to ask when they're going to be home. A silhouette appears above him, wreathed in light.

"You're going to be all right," a voice, clear and bell-like, promises him.

Dean's eyes snap open as his mind finally registers that the ringing is real, as is his headache. There's no sign of the car, no sign of his father, the nightmare already fading as his heartbeat slowly returns to normal. He takes a deep breath through his nose, trying to remember the techniques he learned for dealing with this stuff, exhales slowly, reminding himself that it's been nearly two years now, that it's safe here.

He kicks at his sheets, lunges awkwardly for the phone on his night table, his blood still thrumming loudly in his veins. The sheets are damp with sweat, tangle around his legs, and he only manages to knock the phone to the floor. It beeps shrilly at him, which means that it's work calling. He has a ring tone for Sam, who's the only person outside of work who ever calls him, but he's never liked the idea of assigning one to the office number. It doesn't feel right. He gropes along the cool wood of the floor until his fingertips come into contact with the plastic casing of his phone.

"Get your ass out of bed Winchester," Bobby Singer has never been one to waste time with niceties, especially not over the phone. There's light filtering in through the bedroom window –Dean thinks he probably would have overslept had it not been for this call. "We got a live one. Your brother's already on his way in."

It doesn't even cross Dean's mind to refuse. He's already out of bed, switching the phone to speaker, reaching for the bottle of extra-strength Tylenol he keeps next to the bed, dry-swallowing four of them off the bat. "Right. What's the location?"

Bodies always look a little strange to Dean. He supposes that there's endless fodder for psychological analysis there, in his attitude toward something that was ―and arguably still is― a human being. He squats on his heels next to the remains of a businessman, identified in the last few minutes as one Dylan Bowdler, a name which will never be anything else to Dean except a scribble on a white dry-erase board back at the office, a series of photographs tacked up on a cork board. Crime scene photographs, a head shot provided by this poor bastard's family so that the team can look at something other than his half-destroyed face, remind themselves that here, once, was a life.

Sam comes up behind him, silent on rubber-soled feet, but Dean can tell he's there –he can always tell when his brother's around. It's been nearly five years, and everyone's used to it now, but their synchronicity used to freak out everyone on the team. It doesn't help, of course, that Sam is a shade too young to be even out of college, let alone an FBI field operative, but the Winchesters have never done normal, not in their whole lives. Anyone who knew their father could tell you that. The family business pretty much precludes normal, where they're concerned, and Dean likes to brag that they broke the mold after his brilliant little brother was born –though he generally doesn't do that when Sam is within earshot. Can't have it going to his head, after all.

"Sniper shot," Sam doesn't bother crouching next to him, just starts talking, the way he always does. "Found the vantage point, sent the bullet to ballistics, but it won't be much help for now. Death was instantaneous, coroner called it just before you got here. They're waiting for you to be done before they take him. We're getting the blood spatter analysts out here too, figure out trajectory, see if we can't find the shooter's vantage point."

"This guy anyone important?" Dean asks. Sam tends to get stuck on the technical stuff, sometimes. Dean's more interested in knowing why someone decided to split open this guy's melon from over five hundred yards away.

"Working on that. You okay?"

"Fine. Headache," Dean amends, without even needing to look at his brother to know exactly which variant of his Worried Sam Expression he's currently wearing. "I took something for it already. So why are we here?"

"Because this came into the office, addressed to you. By fax, about ten minutes before this happened."

Dean looks over his shoulder, sees Sam holding out a piece of paper ―obviously a photocopy, since the original would be in evidence by now. He takes it gingerly between index and middle finger, flips it in his hands to the message carefully printed in what could be black marker.

He that byan unjust gain increaseth his substance,

he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.

"It's from Proverbs," Sam supplies helpfully. "The King James version, for what it's worth. Looks like our guy is a traditionalist."

"My God, you're a nerd."

Sam rolls his eyes. "I read the Bible once. Is it my fault I have an eidetic memory?"

Dean is still staring at the paper, as though the words will somehow rearrange themselves and tell him everything he wants to know. "You just like saying 'eidetic.'

"It's a nice word." Sam sobers up. "I think the message is pretty clear, though," he adds, and Dean nods.

"It means this guy has only just gotten started."

NOW

Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook?

"Am I supposed to know who you are?"

"I am the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition."

Dean shudders in spite of himself, his mind flooding with images of darkness and fire and blood before he manages to banish them. The man is still staring at him, expectant. His eyes are very blue, glittering with the unsuppressed passion of fanaticism. Dean recognizes him, of course —knew who he was long before he ever got to this rooftop. But they're both beyond gratitude now, beyond salvation. Dean knows that, whatever is left of himself now, it pales in comparison to the part of himself that died that night.

"I am an Angel of the Lord."

THEN

The second death occurs a little under twenty-four hours later. As far as Sam can tell, Dean hasn't gone home even to do so much as shower and change his clothes, let alone sleep. He's pacing in front of the cork board now, where they've pinned the photos of the first crime scene, along with a head shot of Dylan Bowdler, owner and manager of Bowdler Fast Cash, which, true to its name, provided loans, paycheck advances and any other number of services to the people desperate enough to go through the front door. Sam wrinkles his nose at the thought. People like Bowdler make him sick, and he's pretty sure Dean feels the same way. Still, a victim is a victim no matter how they make their living, and the team doesn't have the luxury of deciding whether or not to take on a case based on their own personal morality.

Dean is pinning up photocopies of two other faxes they've received, one from a week ago. It's not the first, nor the last fax the FBI will ever receive from crackpots, and at the time it was simply stamped with the date and time of receipt and filed away in case it was ever needed. Dean is, for lack of a better word, a high-profile agent, especially since the accident two years ago which killed their dad and nearly cost him his own life. It's not unusual for mentally unstable people to fixate on him, and the FBI has a pretty thick file of letters, faxes, emails and transcripts of telephone messages all addressed to him from various sources. Some of them are just letters of thanks or admiration or condolences, and some of them are downright nutty. The more threatening ones got a follow-up, but those are few and far-between.

Sam can hear his brother's thoughts as loudly as if he spoke them aloud. So he does the only thing he knows to do and goes to stand behind him, sliding his hands over his shoulders. Dean doesn't flinch ―he would if it were anyone else― but he shakes his head when Sam murmurs, "You couldn't have known. A single isolated Bible quote? It doesn't mean anything out of context."

Dean traces a finger over the paper ―just generic white eight and a half by eleven printer paper, straight from the fax machine― following along with the words.

And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone,

and cast it into the sea, saying,

Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down,

and shall be found no more at all.

"It's from Revelations," Sam provides the information without so much as pausing for thought.

"It's not like he hasn't warned us," Dean says, as though his brother hasn't said anything. "We had well over a week to prepare for this. Now two people are dead, and there's going to be more before we can ever hope to catch up with him."

"We'll get him," Sam promises. "Ash is already compiling what we've got, and Bobby's already setting up the briefing for pretty much three minutes after you've got your profile ready."

"I guess I'd better get started, then."

Not that he'll ever admit it except maybe under torture, but Sam loves watching Dean when he's giving his presentations. As much as Dean is self-deprecating when they're out in the world, and prefers to let Bobby take up as much space as possible during their investigations, everything about him changes when he's given free rein to talk about his work. He's a charismatic speaker, fully engaged in what he's saying, and Sam has never yet witnessed an audience ―be it fresh-faced psychology undergrads or hard-nosed local cops― fail to be enraptured by the end, to be entirely won over to his point of view. Sometimes, Sam wonders if that's just not another pressure added to all the burdens Dean already carries.

The room is silent as Dean carefully puts down the crisp-edged folder in which he's places the notes he prepared for the meeting. In all the years he's worked at the FBI, Sam knows that Dean has never once varied from the way he likes to order his notes. These papers, of course, are the clean copy of all the smaller pieces of paper that he's got pinned to the wall in his own office, independently of all the boards set up in the war room where the team spends the majority of their time. Dean only works well with others only up to a point, just like their father. Sam knows he's been up all night, working on this, the circles under his eyes evident even with the lights dimmed a little for the projector (and maybe a little in deference to the migraine no one but Sam knows Dean is trying to soldier through), but no one else in this room can see that. All they see is the roguish good looks, the leather jacket slung casually over a chair, the clothes that are just this side of being against the unofficial dress code for agents. Even representing the government, it seems Dean can't quite help his own small acts of rebellion. Sam sometimes thinks that it's because he's spent his entire lifetime following the big orders that he flouts the small ones, and that's why everyone, from their father to Bobby to the Director, lets him get away with it.

"I don't want to spend too much time in this room here with you. I'm sure we all agree that the less time we spend here, the more time we can spend out there, doing our jobs." Dean flashes the small crowd of officers a quick smile, and Sam can feel the tension in the room dissipate. He can't help the smile that spreads over his own face, catches sight of Dean's lightning-quick glance in his direction. The traitorous thought of whether or not Dean made use of the bottle in the bottom drawer of his desk flits through Sam's mind and he dismisses it out of hand ―not because it's probably not true, although there is something of that in it, but because it serves no purpose now.

"The unsub is a mission-oriented spree killer. That means we're looking at the possibility of a very high body count in a very short span of time. We've had two victims in less than twenty-four hours, each preceded by an unsigned fax message with a quote from the Bible. What makes this guy different from most mission-oriented killers is that he doesn't appear to be all that discriminating when it comes to picking his victims."

Dean pulls up the image of Dylan Bowdler on the projection screen, gives them the run-down, then the image of last night's victim. "This is Charity Templeton. The only thing she and Mr. Bowdler have in common is that they each engaged in what, to a religiously-minded person, could be qualified as immoral activity. Shortly before Ms. Templeton's death, we received the following message by fax," Dean switches the image on the screen to reveal the same careful printing as before.

For this ye know,

that no whoremonger, nor unclean person,

nor covetous man, who is an idolater,

hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

"Ms. Templeton was gunned down in front of her establishment, the Ruby Slipper, which I'm sure you're all familiar with." There are a few scattered chuckles, but they're uneasy, and Dean carries on. "The quote's from Ephesians, if you were wondering. If you have questions to that effect I'll refer you to the human encyclopedia trying unsuccessfully to not look like he's six foot five currently sitting at the back of the room," Dean winks at Sam, and this time the laughter in the room is genuine and Sam blushes and glares at his brother.

"You're looking for a man in his mid to late thirties, very likely caucasian. All his life he's been an unassuming, church-going type. He's well-respected by his friends and neighbours and other people in his parish. He will have a military background and training as a sniper, has been honourably discharged in the last five years and up until now has led a life that's essentially unremarkable. He probably has a family with at least one child and a steady mid-level job, or did until recently. That has all changed.

"We're looking for a man with a major stressor that has just taken place in his life. It's most likely a recent bereavement, even more likely to be the loss of his spouse or child, or possibly a parent. Unable to find a rational explanation for his recent tragedy, the unsub is lashing out at what he perceives as an immoral world, responsible for the death of an innocent. He believes God punished him for letting the world get out of hand, and so he has declared himself judge, jury, and executioner. An avenging angel, if you will."

One of the policemen clears his throat. "Why have the faxes been addressed you to personally?"

Dean pauses, visibly uncomfortable for the first time, and Sam has to physically bite his own tongue to suppress the urge to jump in and deflect the unwanted attention from his brother. "We're not sure. For the moment we're operating under the assumption that the unsub is familiar with me because I, uh, featured in a number of news stories over the past couple of years. He's sending his message to a person whom he identifies as representing moral order. If it wasn't me, it would have been someone else. We're still looking into this, of course, but it's not our priority. Right now," he pulls up the last image, "our priority is to locate him before he gets to his next victim.

The fourth message comes in barely two hours after they find the third victim.

And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee;

thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods;

for that will be a snare unto thee.

"Cheerful stuff," is all Sam has to say.

Dean reminds himself it's too early for a drink. And too late, too. He looks back at the paper he's just tacked to the board, squinting a little even in the dim lighting of the room. His head still throbs in spite of all the Tylenol he's been swallowing all day like they're candies.

"Where's it from?"

"Deuteronomy. You could always Google it instead of constantly asking me," Sam snaps, intent on his own notes, and Dean shrugs, stung in spite of the fact he knows the irritation isn't directed at him. Knowing Sammy, the kid is driving himself half-crazy, racked with guilt because he's convinced he should have figured it all out before they had a third victim.

"Why use Google when I've got you, geek boy?" he forces himself to sound cheerful, not to think about the 'emergency' bottle he keeps in the bottom drawer of his desk. He hasn't so much as touched it in well over eight months, keeps it there as a reminder of everything he's ever done wrong. "Besides, this one isn't an announcement."

Sam looks up, clearly startled. "What? How do you know?"

"Easy," Dean lets himself pace, the motion helping to clear his mind a little, though it doesn't help his headache at all. Right now all he wants is to go home and lie down in the dark, preferably with enough alcohol to drown in. Except that's not going to happen. Sam's still looking at him expectantly, and he marshals his thoughts.

"This guy thinks he's talking to us, right? He's having a dialogue with us. So the first message is his statement of intent. These three are about the victims, see?" he taps his finger on the board, trying to catch up with his own thoughts as they race ahead of him. "The reasoning is twisted, but it's definitely about the imagined crimes. But these two don't match that. There's nothing in here about sin, real or imagined. It's more like ―I don't know, I can't put my finger on it. If I didn't know better I'd say he was referring to himself, but it's like he's got someone else in mind..."

"So it's not just about him wiping sin off the face of the Earth," Sam says slowly. "It's not a messiah complex. This guy thinks he's paving the way, like he's a prophet instead of a saviour."

Dean nods. "Yeah, that sounds right."

"You okay?"

Sam's always been able to see through him. Dean fights the flicker of irritation he feels at the concern in his brother's voice. He should be grateful, he knows —not everyone is lucky enough to have a kid brother who not only spent his childhood worshipping you, but also spent the last two years keeping you from falling apart completely, except that all he wants is for Sam to just leave well enough alone for once.

"I'm fine."

"Are you going to get some sleep, at least? You look like hell, and you know what happens when you stop sleeping." Sam is up and looming over him by now, his expression scrunched up like a worried St. Bernard.

"Sam, I'm fine," he snaps, ducking away before Sam can do something ridiculous like try to check him for fever in the middle of the office. It's the only drawback of working closely with family —they hover. "And yes, you freaking giant hen, I promise I am going home right after this, so long as you make sure I'm kept in the loop about this case."

"You're going now?" Sam prompts.

"Yes, all right, fine," Dean rolls his eyes, makes a show of packing up his papers and heading out.

"Take your meds!" Sam yells after him, and Dean pretends not to have heard him.

NOW

The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee;

and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet

Dean will be damned if, for a split-second, he doesn't believe the guy. There's nothing of the man who pulled him from his own personal hell in those blue eyes. Dean doesn't remember much about that night beyond pain and confusion and anguish, but he does remember the voice, clear like a bell ringing out in the darkness, anchoring him in the world just long enough for the paramedics to arrive. Castiel's voice is deeper, grates against the rough surfaces in Dean's soul that were left behind after that night, making him shudder.

"Like hell," he growls, wishes his hands weren't shaking visibly. "Put your hands behind your head, lace your fingers, and get down on the ground."

"What's the matter?" the man asks, as though he hasn't heard a single thing Dean has said. "Don't you think you deserve to be saved?"

He has to force himself not to blink as images flash through his mind. The darkness, the blood, the utter, blinding terror. "Why'd you do it?" he says, when what he really wants to do is scream at him until he tears his own throat to ribbons. Why didn't you just let me die?

"Because God commanded it. Because we have work for you."

"Bullshit," Dean snaps. He should be trying to talk this guy down ―God knows, he's done it enough times, but it's all spiralling out of control. He feels as though he's been falling from a great height for a very long time, with no end in sight.

Castiel stretches his arms out to either side, palms forward. The sun is setting blood-red behind the rooftops somewhere over Dean's shoulder, and Castiel's shadow spills over the rooftop behind him, three times larger than life. Dean blinks, because for a split-second, the shadow expands and warps until it looks like there are two enormous black wings stretching out from the man's shoulder blades.

THEN

"Is he drinking again?"

It's the question Sam's been dreading. He doesn't want to lie to the Director, not if he can help it, but at least in this he can be truthful to a point. "I don't know, Ellen." He still finds it weird to call Director Harvelle by her first name, but she insists on it, always calls him by his first name. "If he is, he's hiding it well."

He sighs, stares at the wall off to the side. There are too many uncomfortable memories in this conversation. Flashes of the smell of antiseptic, of Dean lying too still and so pale he looked almost translucent in his hospital bed, hooked up to more wires and tubes than Sam had thought possible for one human being. More memories of finding half-empty bottles shoved into the backs of closets, tucked into drawers. Thermoses half-filled with coffee, the other half whiskey or whatever else Dean had happened to get his hands on. Nights of coming home to finding Dean asleep still sitting up in the living room, unable to so much as bring himself to lie down, let alone go to bed, as though he didn't deserve even the comfort of sleep.

"Don't lie to me, Sam."

He shrugs. "I'm not lying. He's been cleared for active duty, you know that. Whatever I have to say shouldn't override that."

She leans back in her chair, steeples her fingers, elbows on her armrests. There's sympathy written all over her face, and if it were anyone else Sam would be tempted to smack the look right off her. He likes Ellen, though, and he thinks the feeling is mutual. She definitely likes Dean, has always backed him up, no matter what, and in Sam's books that makes her an ally.

"Look, Sam, what he's been through ―what you've both been through..."

"I wasn't the one trapped inside a burning car," Sam interrupts. "I'm fine."

Ellen gives him a flat look but doesn't say anything. When she speaks again, it,s obvious she's choosing her words carefully. "Your father was a great agent. Probably the best I've ever had the honour of working with, and I think we know each other well enough that you know I don't say things like that lightly."

"I know." Sam has to swallow a sudden lump in his throat, eyes pricking. The last time he and his father ever spoke, his father had accused him of trying to pick a fight, and Sam had backed down. Let himself be deflected, sent away.

"We went way back, you know. We trained together, him and Bill and me," she says, her husband's name falling from her lips without the slight hitch that used to be there whenever she mentioned him. Sam feels a faint twinge of jealousy, because he hasn't been able to so much as think of his father without his stomach twisting itself into knots, his lungs threatening to collapse on themselves. "If things had been different, he would have been the one sitting behind this desk."

"He enjoyed field work too much to ever want a desk job," Sam manages. "Dean's fine," he adds, changing the subject so abruptly that he knows she'll see right through him. "I'll make sure he's fine."

Ellen shakes her head, but it's clear to both of them this meeting is over.

Dean's apartment is dark when Sam lets himself in, but he can tell his brother isn't asleep. It's pitch-black inside, without so much as the glow of the television to light his way, and he gropes his way to the sofa where he knows he'll find his brother.

"Sam?" Dean's voice is hoarse, as though he's been yelling all day. "What're you doing here?"

"Checking on you, jackass," Sam feels his way forward until he finds the edge of the sofa and sits down next to Dean's hip. "You think I couldn't tell you were nursing a migraine all day?"

"I'm fine."

"Uh-huh," Sam rolls his eyes, but he smiles and lays the back of his fingers against Dean's forehead. "Well, it doesn't look like you have a fever. You take your meds?"

"Yes, mother."

Sam snorts softly. "Got the wrong gender there, big brother," he says under his breath as he gets up to fetch a wet facecloth from the bathroom. He won't call Dean on it, though. The word 'father' is still too charged for the both of them to bandy about lightly. Dean hasn't moved when he gets back, still stretched out over the sofa. "Hold still," he tells him, and carefully drapes the folded cloth over Dean's forehead.

"Hen," Dean mutters, but he sighs and shifts restlessly under the cloth.

"Whatever. You going to hurl or anything? You know, so I can get out of the way," Sam jokes, and is rewarded with a quiet huff of laughter.

"'m good. Thanks."

"Someone's gotta look out for you, so I figure it may as well be me. I have the only spare key to this place anyway."

Sam lets his hand drift until it's resting lightly on Dean's hip, the denim of his jeans rough under Sam's palm. Even after two years, it feels weird to be the one taking care of his brother, instead of the other way around. He doesn't remember a time when Dean didn't look out for him after their mother died. It's not like their father didn't love them, or anything like that, but ever since Sam was a baby Dean's always been there, keeping watch over him like a guard dog, sheltering him from the more ruthless elements in the world, especially when Sam started skipping grades as easily as skipping a stone across a still pond. It was only after the car accident that the chinks in Dean's armour really became visible, the ones that their Dad always helped to keep closed before.

Dean shifts again, as though he can sense where Sam's train of thought has led. "You did your duty, Sammy. Now go home to your girlfriend and sleep. Or something better than sleeping," Dean attempts a leer which falls a little short.

"Sarah knows where I am. You have better beer in your fridge than I do, so I'm just going to raid your fridge and enjoy a cold one. You're not allowed, migraine-boy."

"Bite me."

"Ew, no. I have no idea where you've been. Come on, even if I can't convince you to go to bed, I at least want you to sleep a little tonight. I mean it. You won't help anyone if you're a zombie tomorrow."

"Bossy," Dean mutters good-naturedly, but by the time Sam gets back from the kitchen, he's drifted off to sleep.

Sam smiles, settles into the La-Z-Boy next to the sofa, and waits for the inevitable moment when Dean will wake up just enough to realize how uncomfortable he is and let Sam haul him to his own bed to sleep.

They're too late to save the fourth victim, too.

Dean ignores Sam's pleas to take a break, although he does go home long enough to shower, shave and change his clothes before heading back to the office. It's been just under five days since he got the first call, he notes idly, staring at the wall clock in his office, ticking its way toward sunrise. The migraine comes and goes, but the meds have kept the pain manageable, leaving him a little jittery and on edge, but not incapacitated the way he feared he might be.

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,

murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

these are the things which defile a man.

He pulls the note off the wall, folds the paper into quarters, tucks it into his pocket before heading over to the storage room that Ash commandeered years ago in order to make it into his own tiny hacker kingdom. Dean has never figured out how Ash can keep track of so many computer screens at once –God knows Dean has trouble enough with one screen– but then again the guy's a genius. Not quite on par with Sam, but Ash is fond of bragging about his MIT days before he got expelled as the result of a particularly spectacular brawl in the computer science department. Privately Dean sometimes wonders just how anyone could provoke a brawl in a computer lab, but he wouldn't put anything past Ash, who looks like he belongs in a backwater roadside bar rather than an FBI office building. Even Bobby has long since given up trying to make Ash wear anything other than ripped jeans and sleeveless flannel shirts over ratty old hightop sneakers, or to style his hair in any other fashion than the mullet which reaches all the way down his back. Ash is Ash, and apparently that means no compromises.

"Amigo!" Ash tilts his chair back and surveys him upside-down without bothering to swivel in order to look at him. His desk is littered with empty cans of Red Bull. "What brings you to the cabinet of Doctor Badass at this hour?"

Dean snorts. "Don't you ever sleep?"

"Not at night. You got another fax coming in, eff why eye," Ash extends one lanky arm toward the printer he keeps in one corner of the room. "Hard copy, very old school. I can respect that, except that it's bad for the environment. Your timing is extraordinary, dude. I don't believe in coincidence, which means it's Kismet."

"Right," Dean plucks the paper from the tray, still warm against his fingertips and smelling faintly of toner. "You get anything on our last victim?"

"Does the Pope shit in the woods?" Ash pulls up what looks like three dozen windows on his computer screen so fast that Dean almost goes cross-eyed trying to keep up with them. "Lawyer, this time. Criminal defence attorney, to be more specific, which is arguably worse than the first three put together. At least they don't pretend to be honest."

"Ash."

"Okay. Anyway, this one's kind of notorious. Defended one Victor Lacroix, all-around scumbag and sexual offender. He likes his victims underage, female and blond –in other words, eight year old girls. Came off a nickel for molesting a little girl in a playground bathroom and then stayed quiet for about a year before he found himself accused in a series of murders. He was brought up on charges of kidnapping, raping and killing a half-dozen little girls a few months after that. His lawyer, the now-deceased Laura Feltsman, got the case thrown out on a technicality, which got a fair bit of press. I thought you'd remember that, even if we weren't the team on the case then. Hey, you still with me bro?"

Ash's voice has faded to an indistinct buzzing in the background. Dean stares at the paper in his hand, his mouth dry. The penmanship has grown sloppier, as though the writer was in a hurry when he wrote it, and there are several quotes this time instead of the usual one. The unsub is devolving, he thinks a little distantly, noting that there's something almost frantic about the message now.

At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses,

shall he that is worthy of death be put to death.

"Dean?"

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:

yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

For a second Dean isn't sure he remembers how to breathe. "I think… Can you get me the name of his victims?"

"Alleged victims," Ash doesn't bother hiding the sarcasm in his tone. "Already done, compadre. Here you go." He pulls up the list, and Dean wonders why he's not more surprised when a name that's chillingly familiar pops up on the screen.

The fax rings again, and they both jump, Dean's heart hammering so loudly he's surprised that Ash hasn't said anything about it. Ash stays quiet while the machine whirrs quietly, spitting out another single sheet of paper. Dean's hand shakes when he reaches for it.

The light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine.

For a moment he's not sure he can breathe. He clears his throat. "Ash, get me everything you've got on Lacroix. I want known associates, last known address, and his current place of employment and a list of all previous victims, proved or alleged. He's on parole, it'll be in the system."

Ash's fingers are already flying over the keyboard. "You got it. Sending it to your phone now. Want me to call in the others?"

Dean doesn't answer, just turns on his heel and sprints for the door.

In retrospect, Sam realizes he should have known better than to leave Dean alone. He gets too caught up in his cases, and this one... well, this one had them all on edge. He's halfway home when he gets the call from Ash with the latest update, and he takes several layers of rubber off the tires of his car turning around and racing straight back. He's out of breath by the time he reaches Ash's tiny office.

"Where's Dean? He's not answering his phone."

Ash lifts his hands a little helplessly. "He left. Checked the information I gave him and just took off."

Sam makes an effort not to throttle him. "What were you looking at?"

"The last vic was a lawyer. Remember the Lacroix case?"

He nods grimly. "I remember. She got the guy off because the evidence was supposedly tainted by improper handling. Did Dean say where he was going?"

"Nope. Took one look at Lacroix's victim list and took off, like I said."

"Victim list?" Sam's blood runs cold. "Show me." He reads over Ash's shoulder, points to a name. "There, that one."

Ash brings up the details with a couple of clicks, along with a photograph of a smiling girl of about nine or ten, with blond hair past her shoulders. "That is Claire Novak, formerly of Pontiac, Illinois," Ash's eyes flick as he reads, "moved here with her family when she was seven years old. Police found her remains in a ditch, surrounded by garbage and half-eaten by rats. You ask me, stringing that sicko up by his balls is too good for him."

"Claire Novak. You're sure of the name?"

Ash gives him a scornful look. "Of course I'm sure. The data is out there, man. It's a living, breathing entity, I can't just make these things up. It would be against the laws of the universe."

Sam isn't paying attention to him, is already scanning the list of addresses associated with Lacroix. "You didn't recognize the name?"

"Should I?" Ash pauses in his elegy of how awesome binary data is.

"The guy who saved Dean's life was called Jimmy Novak, former Army sniper."

"Whoa. That's a hell of a coincidence."

Sam heads toward the door. "No such thing as coincidence, Ash. He was out getting milk from the corner store when he witnessed the accident. He'd just moved here the day before with his family. He told me while we were in the ER... he'd just been discharged from his military service. I gotta go, Ash. Tell the others to meet me downstairs, and bring back-up!" he yells over his shoulder, already running toward Ellen's office to deliver the news.

NOW

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth:

he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.

"Jimmy..."

"That's not my name. Jimmy is only… a vessel." Castiel says calmly, looking down at himself as if his body is alien, something to which he's only just becoming accustomed. "Possessing him allows me to take on a physical form that humans can perceive. But don't worry, Dean, he wanted this ―prayed for it, even."

"Jimmy..."

"I'm afraid Jimmy is no longer here," comes the answer, more forcefully than before. It's clear he's not going to get through to him like that, so Dean changes tactics.

"Castiel. Cas," he corrects himself, trying to keep eye contact even though it feels like the guy is staring right past his defenses into his soul. "You've killed five people, Cas," Dean finds himself pleading all of a sudden, as though he's somehow the one in the wrong, as though he's been judged and found wanting. "You gotta know that's wrong. I know what happened to Claire," he starts, but Castiel doesn't let him finish.

"I can't let this continue. I am doing God's work!" he insists. "Can't you see that?"

Dean can already hear sirens in the distance. Somewhere in the street below a man is lying dead, his blood still flowing on the asphalt. There were screams when this all started, when Dean was already running up the stairs and forcing his way through the door to this rooftop, but they've fallen silent now.

"Cas, Come on, let me take you in. You helped me once —you saved my life. Let me help you, okay?"

"No. Our work isn't done yet. You have to come with me, Dean. God is cleansing the world of the unrighteous, can't you see that? I am the instrument of His will, and I am clearing the path for you to walk unimpeded."

Dean scrubs a hand through his hair, rattled enough that he barely notices he's let his sidearm drop to his side. "Don't tell me you did this because of me. Don't you lay that on me, Cas. Not all these people. Please." Dean knows he sounds desperate, but somehow he can't stomach the idea of this man being surrounded by a SWAT team and gunned down in cold blood. Against all his training he steps closer, close enough that if he wanted to, Cas could simply reach out and touch him with those long fingers.

"Ye do the deeds of your father," Castiel says, and even if Dean doesn't recognize it, he can tell he's quoting. "If you can't accept your path, then everything I've done for you is meaningless. I "

Behind him Dean can hear the sound of booted feet thundering up the stairs, can hear his brother's voice shouting his name, but it's already too late. He's still staring into Castiel's too-blue eyes when he feels hands gripping his arms, and all he can think is that it was almost exactly like this when Jimmy Novak pulled him out of the inferno that claimed his father's life.

They teeter off-balance, and for just that one moment, Dean thinks it might not be so bad just to let go. It feels right, fitting even, to just let things end right here, like this, and so he doesn't bother to resist when he feels himself being borne over the ledge of the roof.

"Dean!"

The building is ten stories tall, but it might as well be a skyscraper. It took all of Sam's willpower to take the elevator to the top floor, pacing in the confined space until Bobby snapped at him to stand the hell still. He sprints ahead of the team, takes the stairs to the roof by threes and bursts through the flimsy wooden door as if it's not there.

"Dean!"

Sam catches sight of his brother at the far end of the roof, sees Jimmy Novak reaching for him, knows instantly that in a moment he's going to drag Dean right over the ledge with him. He doesn't hesitate, pulls his sidearm just as Dean's head turns toward him.

"No!" Dean yells, but Sam will be damned if he lets this man take everything he's got left away from him.

He pulls the trigger.

A fine red mist spatters Dean's face as Jimmy Novak wrenches free and tumbles gracelessly from view. Under Sam's horrified gaze Dean staggers, caught off-balance by the unexpected movement, teetering precariously by the ledge where Jimmy just went over. With a wordless cry, Sam lunges forward, just barely manages to grab hold of his brother's jacket and hauls him backward, wrapping both arms around him hard enough to bruise.

"It's okay, I got you," he says, even though Dean is already trying to twist away, shaking so hard that it's next to impossible for Sam to keep hold of him. Dean shoves harder at him.

"Let go! Let go, Sammy, I gotta see..."

There'll be time later to deal with the repercussions, to deal with all the things that have clearly gone wrong today. Right now, Sam doesn't care about any of it. He pulls away just a fraction, keeps one hand on Dean's back —as much to support as to pull him away if need be— and steps toward the ledge with him to look down at the scene unfolding below. The street is in chaos, filled with police cruisers and law enforcement personnel and a spot further away is already lined with yellow tape. There's a small crowd pressing too close to the uniformed police officers who are forming a makeshift barrier around the newest casualty, trying to get a better view.

Jimmy Novak landed on his back, arms and legs splayed grotesquely like a broken marionette. His blood is staining the ground under him, flowing to either side of his body into large pools. Sam hears Dean's breath catch in his throat, and he himself has to blink in order to clear his vision. To his dying day he will swear that for the most fleeting of moments, an odd trick of the twilight made it look as though the silhouette of two huge wings was etched into the pavement to either side of the body.

The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance:

he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

~Finis~