Title: The Hunter Groom
Author: mrscastielftw

Beta: hezio2
Rating: R (Language, Violence, and Character Death)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam/Gabriel, Crowley/Bobby, Chuck/Becky, Plus Many, Many More!
Genre: IDK…But I Am Going To Say A Weird Attempt At Schmangstrack AU Of The Princess Bride…Maybe?

Spoilers: Supernatural in general up to the end of season six to be safe and The Princess Bride
Warnings: Since this is LOOSELY based on The Princess Bride there will be character death and torture – However, it will not be graphic, because I can't write that.
Word Count: 15,500
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All recognizable characters and material belong to their respective creators.
Summary: When a Chuck falls ill, Becky decides to read him her latest work of fiction - The Hunter Groom, a tale filled with R.O.U.S., snarky swordsmen, big-hearted giants, genius kidnappers, Demons, Angels, Ticks, Hunters, and the love between Castiel and Dean. Will true love win the day? Will Sam find the yellow eyed man who murdered his father? Will Meg's evil plans come to fruition? Will Chuck's cough syrup make him drowsy? And, more importantly, will the miracle of slash be able to overcome all the obstacles?

Author's Note 1: Okay, so this is a weird mixture of The Princess Bride, Supernatural, and the universe inside my head *Shrugs* Some Loves Are Star-Crossed… Some Happen At First Sight… Some Are Created By Slash Fans That Could Never Be Constrained By Canon 3

Author's Note 2: In the "Universe" of this fic, there are four main groups:

Humans are referred to as Geotic, which means belonging to the earth. The term is often shortened to Tick as a not very nice, but widely used nickname. They are viewed as second class citizens to the Angel and Demons.

Angels are angels *Shifty Eyes* They are from Heaven, but they control different areas of the world, specifically Wisconsin (which for the purposes of the fic is Gilder.)

Demons are demons *Shiftier Eyes* They are from Hell, but they control different areas of the world, specifically Kansas (which for the purposes of the fic is Florin.)

Hunters are made up of fallen Angels, rebel Demons, and misfit Geotics. They freely delved into the forces of the supernatural and tend to be very BAMF. They are viewed as outlaws and general looked down on by the first three groups. However, they are my favorite!

Well, that just sounds ridiculous *Giggles*

Author's Note 3: Heaps and heaps of thanks to hezio2 and mizra – They are the two most amazing girls in the world! No matter what zany idea I come up with they are always there to encourage me, check my grammar, and be the greatest friends ever.

The Hunter Groom

Becky breezed into the room carrying a tray laden with every type of cough syrup ever made and a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup. She placed the tray over Chuck's legs and sat on the bed beside him, "Hey, baby! How's my little sickie feeling?"

Chuck slumped across the mattress in abject misery surrounded by an ocean tissues, "Um…sick."

Becky's smile beamed, "Since you're too sick to work and I need to take care of my sweet love monkey, I thought we could work on my latest story.

Chuck swallowed hard, "That's what I was hoping we could do too. What's it about? Is it just like a non-romantic story about educating fish on the merits of poetry?"

"Please tell me you're you kidding? My story's got fighting, revenge, giants, angels, demons, chases, escapes, true love, and the miracle of slash!"

"Yay? I am going to try my best to stay awake, but the cold medicine may make me drowsy." He endeavored to quickly and subtly study the bottles to find anything that looked like it would knock him out for at least six hours.

Becky opened her laptop, "Don't worry, it's all non-drowsy. I wouldn't risk you missing a minute of my newest masterpiece! 'The Hunter Groom,' by Samlicker81, Chapter One. Dean lived on a small farm in the country of Kansas. He had inherited it from the couple who raised him after his family was killed in a tragic accident. His favorite pastimes were riding his horse, Impala, and tormenting the farm boy that worked there. The boy's name was Castiel, but Dean never called him that." Becky paused dramatically and gazed at Chuck, "Isn't that an awesome beginning?"

"Yeah, it's really good. Less graphic than I thought."

"Nothing gave Dean as much pleasure as ordering Castiel around." As Becky read, the scene was laid out before him. Chuck once again cursed his vivid imagination and hoped in vain that the story wouldn't include too much adult content.

Dean had just returned from a fairly muddy, but fruitful hunt in the woods. As Castiel unloaded his horse, Dean appraised his filthy dirt covered saddle and grinned wickedly, "Farm Boy, polish Impala's saddle. I want to see my face shining in it by morning."

Castiel whispered, "As you wish," and continued to unload the horse.

Becky's voice had turned into more of a dreamy sigh, "'As you wish' was all he ever said to Dean."

Later that night Dean was sitting by the stables. He couldn't stand to be inside the house. He needed the fresh air and open space. He was having the nightmares again. The dreams were always the same. He was in a room made of smoke and even though he could see through the hazy walls, he could not escape. He heard a man laughing at him somewhere beyond the sides of his cage. Something about that laugh sent chills down his spine and he knew if he did not break out that he would most certainly be killed. The laughter got closer and he felt terror course in his veins. Suddenly the room filled with light and Dean was just able to make out two brilliantly blue eyes, before he woke up gasping for breath and covered in sweat with the handprint shaped scar on his arm burning. Dean couldn't remember anything of his life before he came to live at the farm, so he had no memory of how he got the scar; just that it was tied to the nightmares.

Castiel must have noticed the light from Dean's lamp, because he glanced out the door and with a groggy voice asked Dean if he was alright.

Dean shuddered, "Farm Boy, sit with me...please."

Castiel grabbed the old quilt off his bed and walked outside. His eyes filled with concern, "As you wish." Castiel draped the blanket around them both and sat with Dean until morning.

Becky sighed and cleared her throat, "That day Dean was amazed to discover that when Castiel was saying 'As you wish', what he meant was, 'I love you.' And even more amazing was the day Dean realized he truly loved Castiel back."

Castiel turned to walk out of the house and all Dean could think was that he had to stop him. He had to keep Castiel as close as possible. "Farm Boy...fetch me that pitcher." Dean nodded towards the pitcher that was well within his reach.

Castiel gracefully grabbed the handle and placed it on the table in front of Dean, "As you wish." They stared soulfully into each other's eyes before Dean threaded his fingers into Castiel's hair and closed the distance between them. The passionate kiss they shared was filled with promise and hope.

Chuck groaned, "Oh, there it is. I'm not really comfortable with hearing…romantic stories you've written about people we know and I occasionally sort of work with."

Becky turned the full force of her puppy eyes on him, "Please. My regular beta is at a convention and I really need your help. Like you said, you know them, so you can help me keep everyone in character."

Chuck's resolve crumbled when Becky pouted, just like it always did. "Well, as long as it isn't too graphic."

Becky kissed him on the cheek and continued reading, "Castiel had told Dean little about where he had grown up. Dean knew that they lived somewhere across the sea and that Castiel needed to seek the blessing of his father before they could be married. The farm boy packed his few belongings and prepared to seek the land of his birth. It was a very emotional time for Dean."

"I don't believe this! Becky, you know I won't be able to look Dean in the eye for a month, if you read too much 'Emotional!Dean was emotional and wept openly' stuff to me." She glared at him. "Sorry. Continue."

Dean refused to meet Castiel's eyes, "I don't want to lose you."

Castiel tried to sound reassuring, "You never will."

A soft sob escaped from Dean, "But what if something happens to you?"

Castiel placed his hand of Dean's cheek and guided his face until they were looking into each other's eyes, "Dean, you must know, I will always come for you."

"But how can you be sure?"

Castiel smiled and rubbed his thumb against Dean's cheek, "This is true love. You think this happens every day?"

Becky used her most ominous voice, "But things outside of the farm were not as idyllic. The world was at war. Angels and Demons fought ruthlessly vying for control. The humans or Geotics were caught in the middle and used as pawns in the great battle. Most, like Dean, were peaceful and hard working farmers that had been forced into serving whatever supernatural group that had control of their lands. The Angels and Demons referred to them as the less than complimentary term Ticks and viewed them as little more than pests infesting the land. Slowly another group emerged, the Hunters made up of fallen Angels, rebel Demons, and misfit Geotics. They freely delved into the forces of the supernatural and ruthlessly mounted a campaign of their own.

The country of Kansas was populated mostly by Demons and Ticks. This meant that Castiel would have been forced to travel through unfamiliar territories inhabited by Angels and Hunters in order to complete his journey, but sadly, Castiel didn't reach his destination. His ship was attacked by the dreaded Hunters, who never left captives alive. When Dean got the news that Castiel was murdered…"

Chuck perked up a bit, "Murdered by Hunters is good. Definitely cuts down on the making out."

Becky elbowed Chuck, "…he went into his room and shut the door for days he neither slept nor ate. Dean knew he would never love again." She paused for effect, "Two years later, the main square of Kansas was filled as never before to hear the announcement of the great Demon Princess Meg's groom-to-be."

Meg stood on the stage addressing a throng of her followers, both Demons and Geotics, "Citizens of Kansas, soon our country will have its 500th anniversary. On that sundown, I shall marry a Geotic and thus solidify the peace in the land between Geotics and Demons. We shall begin a new age of harmony and serenity. Would you like to meet my intended?" An immense cheer erupted from the masses and Meg introduced Dean as he walked onto the stage, "My people, meet your future king."

Dean waved to the crowd then fled as quickly as possible. His emptiness consumed him and he couldn't handle the attention of the people knowing, that he had betrayed his beloved by agreeing to the marriage. He didn't love Meg and he knew that he would never be able to forget the farm boy he still saw every time he closed his eyes. The Demon had often assured him that, in time, he would grow to love her and that they were both doing this for the good of their peoples, but the only joy he found was in his daily ride. He treasured those few precious hours when he could concentrate solely on the wind on his face, the smell of the trees, and the sound of hooves pounding the forest floor.

This day, however, Dean was not alone in the forest. He saw three men standing by an outcrop of trees. The most dapper of the three stepped forward and bowed as he spoke, "A word, good sir. We are, but poor lost travelers in need of accommodations and a hot meal. Is there a village nearby?"

Dean did not envy the long walk ahead of these gentlemen, "There is nothing nearby...not for miles."

The man smiled as his two companions closed in on Dean, "Then there will be no one to hear you scream!" The tallest of the men knocked Dean out. Then they worked to position him securely across his saddle and lead the horse to where their ship was docked.

Gabriel heard the sound of fabric being torn and tilted his head inquisitively at his boss, "What is that you're ripping?"

Crowley scoffed and wondered for the seven hundredth time if there was enough money in the world to pay Gabriel to be quiet. "It's fabric from the uniform of an Angel warrior of Wisconsin."

Sam, the youngest and by far most innocent of the group, spoke up, "Why the Angel warriors of Wisconsin?" He and Gabriel lifted the Tick off of the horse and began to carry him the rest of the way to the boat.

Crowley sighed, "The people across the sea are the sworn enemy of the Demons. Once the horse reaches the castle, the fabric will make the princess suspect the Angels have abducted her love and taken him across the sea. When Meg finds his body dead on the shore of the Angels' nearest coast, her suspicions will be confirmed." He tucked the fabric into the horse's saddle.

Sam was outraged, "You never said anything about killing anyone."

Crowley mentally counted to ten, "I've hired you to help me start the apocalypse. It's a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition. You will do whatever I say."

Sam tried not to think about the loss of his family and he tried not to picture the family of the Tick, "I just don't think it's right, killing somebody."

"Luckily, I don't pay you for your opinions, Moose," Crowley shouted and stormed off below deck, where he spent most of his time checking supplies and plotting – always plotting.

"Luckily." Sam muttered under his breath.

They carefully sat the unconscious man across one of the benches and Gabriel put his arm around Sam, "It's just a job. Remember when we finish and we'll have enough money sail away from Kansas forever. Just you, me, and the deep blue sea."

"I keep telling myself that, but I just don't know anymore."

Gabriel smirked at Sam, "That Crowley, he really likes the sound of his voice."

"Not that he'd give us a choice." The rhyming game was something that Gabriel had come up with when they were very young as a way to cheer him up. Sam had lost his family and ended up on the streets of Kansas at age eleven where he met Gabriel. The older boy refused to talk about what had happened to his family, other than to say that he didn't feel like he belonged there and he was never going back. The two orphans had stuck together for survival at first and gradually became devoted friends.

"Seems a bit too tightly wound."

"Hopefully, some calm he's found."

"You know, I love it when you rhyme."

"Which is why you start this all the time?"

Crowley emerged, "Enough of that!"

Gabriel was never one to quit while he was ahead, "Sam, do you think I can keep this boat afloat?"

Sam answered in a singsong voice, "If you don't that's all she wrote!"

Crowley contemplated throwing them both over board, "No more rhymes now, I mean it!"

"Anybody want a peanut?" Sam flushed scarlet, "Sorry, it just slipped out." He went back to work securing the Tick's hands and feet.

The hours passed by slowly. The only sound was the soft lapping of the water against the side of the boat. Sam was sleeping a few feet from the Tick, who had yet to regain consciousness and Crowley was seated at the bow of the ship. Gabriel glanced behind the boat again, "So Boss, this thing we're doing it's illegal right?"

"Yes." Crowley really hoped that was the end of the conversation.

"And if we got caught, we would be pretty much screwed?"

Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose, "I could think of more eloquent ways to phrase it, but yes, we would be screwed."

"But, like screwed no matter who caught us, because we're framing the Angels, we stole the intended of a Demon, said intended is a Tick, and Hunters are always out for themselves. So, I mean, anybody finds us and we've had it."

"Is there a point that you are planning to make anytime soon?"

"Oh, someone's following us. Has been for about an hour and I think they're catching up," Gabriel replied nonchalantly.

Crowley ran to where Gabriel was steering the vessel, "Bollocks!"

They were both so concerned with the other ship, that neither of them noticed that Dean, who had been conscious for about awhile, had managed to wriggle his wrist free from his bonds, retrieved the knife from his boot, and sliced through the bindings on his legs. He placed his hand over the nearest captor's mouth, effectively waking him, and hulled them both to their feet. He kept the knife at the taller man's throat. He called out to the two men at the back of the boat, "You needn't worry, when you are caught it will be by the princess and she will see you all hanged."

Crowley stepped towards them and smiled, "Of all the necks on this boat, Tick, the one you should be worrying about is your own. Such a pity too. This country could have used a monarch with some spirit."

Gabriel's face had paled, "Let's all calm down and let Sam go. If you want a hostage, by all means take me. I'm short. Look you won't even have to stretch to hold the knife at my throat. Wouldn't that be so much more comfortable?" Gabriel moved closer holding his hands up to show he didn't have a weapon.

Dean backed into the side of the boat and gazed quickly at the water, "Don't come any closer." There was a screeching sound emanating from the water and it seemed to be growing steadily louder. Dean tried to keep his eyes trained on his kidnappers and maintain his grasp on Sam.

Gabriel cursed as something latched on to Dean's arm and began pulling him overboard.

Crowley hid none of the amusement from his voice, "That would be one of the arms of the Tentacle Fik. You probably thought it was only a thing of legend, merely the ramblings of a delusional sailor. Does that seem real to you?"

Dean released his hold on Sam, dropping his knife in the process, and desperately attempted to disentangle his arm, but every time he moved the beast would snake further up his limb. Without warning, the boy he just threatened, lunged forward and stabbed the creature breaking its hold on Dean. He sagged to the floor and stared in shock at his arm which was sore, but thankfully still attached.

Gabriel immediately descended on Sam checking for any injury or hint of harm, finding none he immediately engulfed the younger boy in his arms, "Sam the first rule of securing a hostage is check for weapons. ALWAYS check for weapons."

"Once again you have both proven yourselves to be completely and utterly unwilling to do the job right the first time," Crowley looked as though his head might explode. "Secure the prisoner and let's at least attempt to keep him bound until we reach the shore." As Gabriel and Sam began tying rope around Dean's wrists and ankles, Crowley moved to face their captive, "I suppose you think you're brave, don't you?"

"Only compared to those who sell their loyalty to the highest bidder, you sorry son of a bitch," Dean roared.

The remainder of the voyage passed with jagged silence, heated glares, and Gabriel subtly conveying his concern for the man behind them that may or may not be following them and catching up quickly.

"Listen, you know the boat behind us that's slowly, but surely gaining on us, the one that we are very pointedly not talking about?" Gabriel paused for an answer, but all he got was the not so subtle tightening of Crowley's eyes which usually meant someone was about to be eviscerated…verbally at least. "It's still back there."

Crowley didn't even bother to look back, "Looks like they're out of luck boys. We're here and after we make it up the Inconceivable Cliffs of Inconceivability there is no way whoever that is can follow."

They docked the ship on the Angel's shore discreetly. The men scrambled to remove the various remnants of trees and vines that hid the entrance to the trail, and then began the arduous task of quite literally dragging someone kicking and screaming up the rough terrain of the mountain.

They reached the top, panting and exhausted. Crowley looked over the edge of the cliff and watched as the stranger began to make his way up the trail. With an evil smirk and a flash of his eyes, the clearly cut path vanish and trees and vines explode from the ground making the route nearly impossible to navigate. He turned back to where his so called employees were still failing miserably at subduing the hostage. He moved forward grabbing Dean "I will take him ahead. You two stay here and deal with our friend if…when he makes it up."

Sam blinked torn at the thought of using violence completely unnecessarily, "What exactly do you mean 'deal with'?"

Crowley took a calming breathe, "I mean you try and best him with your sword and when he is distracted fighting you, Gabriel will bash him over the head with a rock. Try not to bullocks it up. When this is all over, meet us in the valley of Western Allis Gate, if the still is an us." He turned to the prisoner, "You should know there only two ways that we can handle this situation. You either play nice and stay conscious or well, not. The choice is yours." With that the Demon began dragging Dean as far into Angel territory as he dared to go.

Sam quickly surveyed the terrain and strategized how to use it to his advantage. If he could manage to subdue his opponent and restrain him, then they could make it out without killing anyone. He knew that in the life of a Hunter, there would be blood spilled, but he felt if there was any other option available, then you should take it. There was a cave off to the left that Gabriel could hide in and Sam was fairly confident once the fight began that he would be able to steer the challenger towards it. All they had to do now was wait.

It seemed only moments passed before the stranger was stepping into the clearing, which by Sam's calculations should not have been possible. The grip on his sword tightened and he slowly approached the masked man, "Before we start this, may I inquire what color your eyes are?"

The man's head snapped up displaying his bright blue eyes, "Is that relevant in this situation?"

"Actually, it is. My father was murdered by a yellow eyed Demon." Sam shifted his weight, "When I was nine, Demons killed my mother and they kidnapped my older brother. My father was a great Hunter and he dedicated his life to tracking down the Demons responsible. When the yellow eyed Demon started making deals with the people of our village, my father sought to stop him. The Demon told my father that he obviously hadn't learned his lesson when he lost my mother and if he wanted to keep the son he still had, then he had to tell them where my brother was. The Demon gave him seven days to think it over. When he returned, my father could tell him nothing and the Demon killed him. I challenged him and he just laughed. He patted my head and said 'Don't worry. I'll be back when you're ready.' I've spent my life learning about Hunting and when I meet him again I am going to kill him."

The stranger eyed him with sympathy, "How old were you?"

"I was eleven and I had already lost everyone." Sam's voice broke, "But, I'm not that kid anymore and when I find him, I am going to march up to him and say, 'Hello, I am Sam Winchester. You killed my father. Prepare to die.' I won't ever stop until I find him."

"I am sure that in this endeavor, you shall fulfill your destiny and the Demon responsible will pay."

Sam lifted his sword and moved closer to the other man, "I guess there is no time like the present."

"I wish you luck in your search and may your sword always find its intended target, even if that target is me." The first clash of their swords echoed.

The battle raged on, with the flash of silver and the sickening sound of metal on metal. Gabriel watched from the cave and silently willed Sam to bring the target into range. Only a few more steps and he would be in striking range and Sam would be out of danger, but the stranger faked right and caught Sam off guard. He pressed two fingers to the Sam's forehead and he immediately slumped to the ground. Gabriel stalked out of the cave towards the man. "That's a nice trick. You want to tell me who you are, Angel?"

"No one you'd remember, Gabriel."

"Harsh, but true. See, that's the problem when you have so many celestial siblings. You all only had to remember me, but I had to be a mentor and role model for you all, while I maintained my reputation as the greatest messenger ever. Seriously, it was all 'Gabriel look at my wing span,' 'Gabriel is my halo straight,' 'Gabriel how do you keep you feathers looking so shiny and luscious,' and was just the other archangels. So forgive me for not recalling that time we braided each other's hair, but I am only going to ask this one more time – WHO ARE YOU?"

"You realize that you aren't even asking the right question? It's not who I am that's important, but what I plan to do and how far I am willing to go to make sure that it happens. Not that you'll be able to stop me." The stranger snapped his fingers and Gabriel was transported to a far away land where he suddenly face-to-face with a magnificent golden dragon with very odd views on prince/manservant relations and a peculiar sorcerer in a red neckerchief.

The masked man quickly found the tracks that would lead him to the Demon and the Tick. He raced through the forest to find them, knowing that it would only be a matter of time before Gabriel caught up to him.

Chuck began to fidget, "Becky, you know that I would never intentionally question the…integrity of your work, but did you just snap Gabriel into Merlin?"

"Maybe."

"You know that the dragon is just telling them a prophecy? He isn't really slashing Arthur and Merlin."

"Okay, because all that 'two sides of the same coin' stuff really means a completely platonic friendship and not an epic soul searing, neckerchief ripping romance." She shook her head and looked at him fondly, "Next you're going to try and tell me that Dean and Cas aren't secretly angel married. Everybody knows what the handprint really means."

"No, no I would never try and tell you that. I like not sleeping on the couch."

"Oh, Monkey." She kissed his cheek and began reading again, "Gabriel zapped himself back to the cliff. His first priority was to revive Sam and then they were going to find out what the Angels wanted with the Tick."

Crowley knew it was only a matter of time before his two so called colleagues failed in the spectacular fashion that had become their trademark, so he took matters into his own hands. His main objective was to ensure that Princess Meg wouldn't be able to find them until he had time to finish the job. He tore the fabric of Dean's tunic, leaving the front of it gaping. Making quick work of shredding the cloth, he began leaving bits of it snagged on the trees and shrubbery that lined the path. Once he was certain that anyone following them would be fooled, he pulled his prisoner in the opposite direction.

After walking for what felt like miles, Crowley forced Dean into a small rocky alcove at the mouth of a valley, "I see you've run out of insults. It's almost sad to see you resign yourself to your fate. None of that fighting spirit left in you?"

"Why don't you untie me and will see how much spirit I've got left?" Dean gave a valiant, but ineffective tug and the ropes biding his hands.

The masked man crept quietly up to the two men, "If I'm interrupting, I could always come back in a few moments, although it would be my preference to get this over with as soon as possible."

"Can't say that I'm surprised that this is all down to just you and me." Crowley said, grabbing Dean and holding a knife to his throat. "You come any closer, there won't be anything left to fight for."

The masked man took a step forward, but stopped when he saw the Demon's grip tighten on the knife, "What about a deal? There must be something you want and it would be such a shame to waste such a pretty face."

"Screw you, Chuckles," Dean spat out.

With the Demon temporarily caught off guard the masked man risked moving closer, "Whatever your employer is offering, I'll double it."

"My employer, as you so aptly put it, is offering me power. Lots of power. There isn't a universe in existence where you could possibly 'double it,' Boy."

"Then we have reached an impasse."

"So it would seem."

Dean couldn't take it any longer. Why wouldn't they all just shut their cakeholes and leave him alone? So, he did the only thing that he could – A quick kick to Crowley's shin followed by an elbow to the gut. It all would have worked perfectly, if the masked man hadn't been so quick. He grabbed Dean and threw him to the ground before turning his attention to Crowley. Dean looked on wide eyed as the masked man placed his hand on Crowley's face and chanted something in a language that he didn't recognize. The Demon screamed and then erupted into flames leaving only a pile of smoldering ash. "What the hell did you just do?"

"I merely removed an obstacle from our path."

Dean tried to subtlety move away, "Our path?"

The other man answered with a predatory grin, "Yes, it seems you are currently in the market for a new kidnapper." They set off across the valley.

Admittedly Dean's life was far from ideal, but being kidnapped, rekidnapped, having multiple attempts made on his life, and racing against his will all over Wisconsin was far worse than normal. It was the physical rather than emotional strain that Dean blamed for his shaky knees and near crash into a tree.

"Your Highness, you should rest. You will need all your strength when we make it to the fire swamp."

"Don't be condescending. I get it, you're a Hunter and I'm still a hostage. Let's not worry about any social graces, you ass."

"I apologize that you find the semblance of civility so offensive." The masked man paused and tilted his head, "Have we met before? I only ask, because this anger seems so personally directed?"

Dean faltered; he had never been able to speak of Castiel, "Y-your mask. The markings indicate that you are a Hunter on the ship Revenge."

"Yes, but I assure you that I didn't select the design. So, if you dislike it…" The man in the mask stopped speaking when he heard Dean's hollow laugh, "Am I amusing you?"

Dean closed his eyes, "It's just you're talking about designs and I'm trying to tell you that you killed my one and only love."

"We Hunters kill so many people and we are so very indiscriminate about it, that I can almost guarantee that I am responsible. Who was this love of yours? Another princess like this one black eyed, rich, and abominable?"

Dean's anger was the only thing that allowed him to get the words out around the lump in his throat, "No, he was a farm boy with eyes like the sea after a storm. He was going to get his father's blessing, so that we could be wed. On the high seas, your ship attacked. Hunters never take prisoners."

"Well, we Hunters only care for our own. If we took on strays, we would never be able to rest. "

"He wasn't just another…"

"I remember this farm boy of yours, I think. This would be what, two years ago? Does it bother you to hear?"

"Nothing you can say will upset me." Dean stared intensely at the ground.

"He died well. He died more like a soldier than a farm boy. He only said, 'Please...please, I need to live.' It was the please that caught my memory. I asked him what was so important for him here. 'True Love,' he replied. And then he spoke of a man full of righteousness and pureness of spirit. I can only assume he meant you." The masked man paused and turned to face Dean glaring at him, "You should thank me for killing him before he could see what you really are."

Dean's eyes were alight with fury, "And what am I?"

"Pureness of spirit? Now tell me truly, when you found out he was gone, did you betroth yourself to your princess that very hour or did you wait a whole day out of respect for your beloved farm boy?"

"I died that day." Dean punched the man with all his strength, "Go to Hell!" Dean clutched his hand, it felt as though he hit a brick wall. When the pain subsided Dean looked up at the man to see that the blow had knocked the mask askew and revealed the face he saw every time he closed his eyes. Dean removed the cloth and cupped Castiel's cheek. "How?"

"It appears, my darling that nothing is as it would seem." The sound of hooves alerted them to the approaching band of riders. Castiel placed his hand over Dean's mouth stopping any further questions and moved them off the road and into the forest where they hid behind an uprooted tree. The horde of Demons galloped by without stopping and Castiel removed his hand, "We should have twenty minutes before they realize that they've lost our trail and turn back."

Dean of course took that to mean that they had fifteen minutes to make up for the last two years and five to make their escape. He began ardently attempting to kiss the farm boy senseless.

Castiel tried to break away, but that only lead Dean to pepper his jaw with kisses, "Dean, not that I haven't missed you and that I'm not enjoying our reunion, but we need to put more distance between ourselves and the road."

Dean grunted, "Five more minutes. We have plenty of time."

Approximately nine minutes later Castiel managed to extract himself from Dean and they began their journey further into the forest. Once Castiel could no longer see the road, he glanced nervously at Dean, "Why did you agree to marry Meg?"

"You were gone; I knew that I lost my only chance at the apple pie life. So, when Meg came and said that if I married her we could unite the kingdom, I agreed. I knew I was going to be miserable wherever I was. I just figured if I could be miserable and help people, that I should do it. I didn't want anybody else's family to suffer like mine."

Castiel placed his hand on his companion's shoulder turning him so they were face to face, "Dean, no matter what, I will always come for you."

"Even as a supposedly dead Hunter."

"Death cannot stop true love. I may be delayed, but I will always find you."

"I will never lose faith again." Dean carded his fingers through Castiel's hair.

Castiel leaned forward and whispered into Dean's ear, "There will never be a need." He tenderly pressed his lips to his true love's…

Chuck grimaced, "Aw, no. Just please no. I let the first make out slide, but is there any way that you can see it in your heart to skip the emotional kissing stuff?"

"The 'emotional kissing stuff' is an integral part of the story. I just don't want you to miss something important, because I had to read you a censored version."

"I'm pretty sure I understand that they're in love and they really, really like kissing without all the details. Now, can we skip ahead to the fire swamp? That sounded nice and unromantic."

Becky sighed, "We can skip JUST this part and only because you are so adorable when you're uncomfortable, monkey." Becky perused the story mumbling, "Trembling hands caressed…exhaled a breathy moan…fingers trailed across his…Here we go, the fire swamp."

The fire swamp entirely and inaccurately named. Not in the way that an area with an abundance of orange and red foliage might be referred to as the fire swamp, but in the way that there was a plenty of fire without any swamp or water to put it out. It was a place where Angels feared to tread and Dean was not particularly excited to tread there either.

As they rounded another blackened and smoldering tree, Dean felt the need to ask, "What are our chances of making it back out of here? Ten, maybe twelve percent?"

"Have a little faith. You've escaped from Demons, survived a kidnapping, and brought your one true love back from the dead. Surely you can handle a little swamp."

"Aren't you forgetting about the R. O. U. S?"

"Rugarus of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist." Cas paused and turned to Dean, "I need to tell you the truth about my past and where I've been. I need you to know that no matter what you decided to do once you hear, I will respect your decision."

"You're starting to make me nervous." Then Dean saw it, the shape of something that used to be a man, but was now twisted and pulled into a savage towering nine foot tall creature. The beast grabbed Castiel before Dean could even formulate the words to warn him.

Castiel had his sword and landed several blows, but the rugaru never stopped coming at him with a sickening gleam in its black eyes. In an effort to distract the rugaru long enough for Castiel to kill it, Dean launched himself on its back. Hitting and kicking it with every ounce of strength he had. As the beast redirected his attack to Dean, Cas yelled for Dean to let go and when he did Cas placed his hand on the rugaru's face and after a flash of light its body feel smoking to the ground.

Castiel began checking Dean over for injuries and Dean couldn't suppress an adrenaline fueled laugh, "I told you they were real."

Cas smiled as his heart raced, "You did."

They walked deeper into the swamp, "That flashy thing you can do with your hand sure comes in handy."

Cas suddenly turned serious, "As I was trying to tell before, there are things that I have to tell you, that you aren't going to like, but I just need you to stay calm and listen." He took a fortifying breath, "I've written this speech so many times in my head. I used to dream of finally being able to tell you and now, the actual moment is here and I have no idea how to do this."

Dean held Castiel's hand, "You can tell me anything. Now, that you're back there's nothing we can't face."

"I'm an Angel, Dean."

"Castiel, you are a terrible excuse for a farm boy. You aren't an Angel. You can't be."

"Your nightmares are real."

Dean snatched his hand back as if he'd been burnt, "What the hell are you talking about? This isn't funny."

"Just promise that you will listen and then I can take you somewhere safe if you want me to leave."

"Talk."

"The Demons have long sought to control everything and bring Lucifer out of Hell to sit on the throne. Many years ago, they found a way to achieve their goal in a prophecy that involved the first born son from a very special bloodline. So, when you were thirteen they came for you in the night. Your mother heard noises coming from your room and when she went to investigate, the Demons killed her." Castiel paused nervously.

Dean paled, "Keep going. I need to know."

"I was still considered a fledgling and that's why I was chosen. I hadn't full grown into my grace yet, so I would barely register on the Demons' radar and why chase after some kid when there are Archangels everywhere. I found you imprisoned in the deep dark recesses and pulled you out. I accidentally gave you the scar on your arm during the flight. Once we made it out, I had to take you to meet with my brothers and your father, so they could decide what to do. In the end, it was decided that you would be placed under the care of a foster family and that you would have a small garrison appointed as your guards, though they were to remain hidden. They sent me with you, since it wouldn't be out of place for you to be seen with someone your own age. To ensure that I would not be detected, they bound most of my grace and I have lived mostly as a Geotic."

"I don't get it, Castiel. If the Demons were looking for me, why risk bringing me back to Kansas at all?"

"You were brought back here, because the last place that they would ever look is in their own backyard." Castiel smirked, "Also, your father was a smart man. That tattoo is a symbol of very old magic. It protects you from the Demons. That is why you've been able to life under their very noses without arousing any suspicion."

"Why can't I remember any of this? I was thirteen, I should know this."

"Your father felt it would be best if we altered your memories. It was for your safety. You can't tell anyone something that you don't know. Please believe me that it was a difficult decision for him, but he knew he had to do it to keep you safe."

"Shit. This is a lot to take in." Dean paused leaning against a tree, "So, we lived on the farm with you pretending to be the world's worst farm boy, but also being my very own super secret protector. Then you left to talk to your father and I didn't see or hear from you. What happened?"

"I had been in contact with your guards and arranged for my brother, Uriel, to be in charge of your safety until I returned. Since my grace was still bound, I was unable to fly and I boarded a ship that would take me to meet with my Father, in the hopes that I could gain his permission for marriage. Three weeks into the journey, my ship was captured. It seems that the majority of the crew had been working undercover for the Hunters of the vessel Crossroads. There were five, including me, that weren't. They took us one by one to meet with the leaders, so they could decide our fate." Castiel gave Dean a sidelong glance, "What I said before about saying 'please' was true. It intrigued my captors, who had introduced themselves as Badger and Dillingham. They threw the five of us in the brig for the night.

In the morning, the other four were given supplies, a small raft, and an order that if they were ever seen again, it would be for the last time. I was brought in front of the captains and they told me that they never had use for an Angel before, but if I could pull my head out of my feathered ass long enough to be useful, then they would let me live.

For nine months they constantly told me that if killing me wouldn't take too much energy, then they would do it, but as they were tired, I could live for another day. I spent that time learning new ways to fight, spells, anything anyone would teach me. That all changed on a Thursday, Badger sent one of the men to bring me to his office. My first thought had been that he had finally found the energy to kill me. Instead he informed me that he knew who I was and what I'd done, then he asked why I left. After I told him about you and our plans, he told me that the apocalypse was coming and the Demons were going to use you to start it. I knew you'd be safe though because that was what my garrison had been trained for. I told Badger as much before he showed me orders written by my brother, Raphael, demanding that your guards stand down and let it happen."

Dean saw that Cas had begun to shake and took his hand, "It's okay. We're both safe and we will stop it from happening."

"I'm so sorry, Dean. I should have known. I should have stayed with you, but I wanted to keep you to myself. My selfishness could have cost you your life."

"Listen Cas, you couldn't have known. You left because of what we both wanted." He pressed a soft kiss on the Angel's cheek.

"Naturally, I was incensed that my brothers could be involved and I kind of took it out on Badger. I may have spent several nights in the brig after that. Once I was calm, they assured me that they had informants on all sides and they would ensure your safety. As I proved my loyalty, they let me in on the plan to avert the apocalypse and that's why I'm here. I am going to take you some place safe."

"You know this doesn't change things…Well, it does, because now you can do some flashy thing with your hand and dispatch all our foes, but I still want us to be together. I wish you could have told me, but you did what you had to. You kept us safe." He ruffled Castiel's hair, "And I thought you were just hopeless and lazy, but you're kind of a badass. Good to know."

They traveled to the edge of the fire swamp where they were met with a most unfortunate surprise, "It's so tragic that you've made it all this way only to walk right into our trap." Azazel's voice was full of malice. He was surrounded by the princess and at least twenty Demons.

"Tragic indeed," agreed one of the Demons to his right.

Cas stepped in front of Dean and said defiantly, "You know Yellow Eyes, there's someone looking for you and I can't wait until he finds you."

"Strong words for a vile kidnapper. Unhand the prince and you may live," Azazel replied.

Cas raised his sword, "Death first!" Azazel screamed something in Latin and Castiel disappeared in a flash of light.

Meg dismounted her horse and moved towards Dean, "You're safe now my sweet prince."

She reached out for him, but he jerked away, "You touch me with that hand and you will lose it."

"Dearest, what have they done to you?" Meg's sympathy infuriated Dean, but before he could do anything, a sharp well timed blow to the head knocked him out. The guards loaded his unconscious form onto a horse and slowly began the journey back to Kansas. Meg motioned for Azazel to stay back several paces so they could talk, "You sent our pesky little winged problem to Alastair?"

"Of course, my lady. What are your plans for your beloved prince now?" Azazel asked as they remounted their horses.

"I thought having Crowley murder him and blame it on the Angels was clever, but this is genius. After I so bravely foiled the attempt on my love's life, he is murdered on our wedding night." Meg's voice morphed into some bizarre imitation of innocence, "I fought so hard to keep him safe, but the Angels are vicious savages. The people will be enraged and I shall have to allow them to have their war. It's for the good of the kingdom really."

"Always thinking of others. Perhaps we should pay Alastair a visit and you could work out some of your frustrations on the little birdie that caused them."

"You know how much I love watching Alastair work, but I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my husband to murder, the Angels to frame for it, and all that while I am starting the apocalypse. I'm swamped!"

"Maybe later then, you know how long Angels can last. Unless, Alastair isn't in the mood to play." They rode off after the guards.

}{ }{ }{

Sam and Gabriel had been just close enough to witness the Demons cast their spell on Castiel and capturing Dean. Sam was pacing and very nearly on the verge of hyperventilating, "Did you see the Tick's tattoo?" Gabriel nodded and Sam pulled at the collar of his shirt, exposing his tattoo. "I-I have one just like it. My father said it was our family crest. It isn't possible. I was so young when we lost him, but I think that was my brother."

"I know the feeling."

"What?" Sam asked confused.

"Nothing. We have to save him, but we can't do it alone. We would never succeed against that many Demons with the power they're packing." Gabriel began tugging at Sam, who was still in shock and unable to move, "Come on. We have to hurry before they…just hurry." They set off in search of the masked man and the answers that had eluded Sam all of his life.

}{ }{ }{

Castiel found himself crashing into a stone dungeon which had sigils, designed to sever his access to his grace and cause him agonizing pain, covering every visible surface. He crawled into the corner and trying desperately to blend into the wall.

"Oh, we can't have you down on the floor. Not when I have such a nice table ready for you," said a man with the coldest eyes Castiel had ever seen. Thankfully, the sigils had done their work and everything faded to black before he found out what the Demon thought was so nice about the table.

}{ }{ }{

Upon returning to the castle in Kansas, Dean was placed in his room and Meg waited by his bedside. As he awoke, he thought he heard her chanting something softly. He finally opened his eyes and she took his hand, "Dearest, I've been so worried. I don't know what I would have done if we hadn't found you in time."

Dean immediately flinched back from the Demon, "Where's Castiel?"

"He left you outside the fire swamp." She paused, "We finally found you and when he took off, it must have had some effect, because you were knocked unconscious."

Dean's head felt muddled and he couldn't quite remember what had happened, "He left me?"

"I'm so sorry, Dean. If I could change things I would." Tears slowly slide from her eyes, "I know that you love him and I could never even hope that you would feel the same about me, but I truly care about you. I want to see our people united and I can't ask you to go through with our marriage now, that I know you love another."

"Meg…"

She began to shake, "The Angels have been attacking the outer villages and I don't know what to do. I had hoped after we were married, together we could stop the Angels and save Kansas. I just don't want anyone to get hurt."

"We can find a way to keep them safe.

"Dean, I know I have no right to ask you this, but if he doesn't come back for you, would you consider going through with the wedding?"

"I love him. It wouldn't be right."

She sobbed brokenly, "But he left you, please. I look out and see the faces of all the children that I can't protect alone. Dean, help me keep them safe."

Dean felt a single tear escape, "If he doesn't come back, then I'll do it."

Meg kissed his cheek, "Thank you. You don't know how much it means to me to be able to protect them." A few more tears streaked down her face, "I'll let you rest now. There's so much to plan."

}{ }{ }{

As Castiel came to, he felt the cold steel of the table underneath him and the bite of the leather straps restricting his movement. At first, he dare not open his eyes, until he felt the hot breath of his captor on his cheek, "Wakey, wakey eggs and bakey." He watched in horror as the Demon select a ceremonial dagger from an array of shiny metal instruments. "Any last request or pleas for mercy? I can assure you it won't help, but what kind of gentleman would I be if I didn't ask?" It turned out Castiel didn't have the time to utter a single syllable before the demon went to work carving sigils into his chest. The Demon hummed, actually hummed as he took his time and did his worst.

After what felt like days Castiel weakly pulled at the restraints. It was his last vie for freedom, but the magic was too powerful and he succumbed. Alastair didn't even bother to clean up after killing the Angel. He left it for one of his minions to tend to. He just smiled and made his way back to the castle to prepare for the wedding.

}{ }{ }{

Sam and Gabriel had searched all over Kansas looking for the mysterious masked stranger, but there was simply no trace of him to be found. They wander through the forest around the palace and then Gabriel felt it. A tug. A sensation in his grace and he knew where they had to go. They ran the entire way to the Great Rock of Kansas.

The feeling was at its strongest and under the archway emblazoned with the words "Carry On Ye Wayward Son." Gabriel frantically shoved at the rock until he triggered something and it suddenly slid out of the way. They made their way through a maze of tunnels and narrow corridors until they found someone laying on a table in the center of one of the larger chambers.

Gabriel sprinted to the limp form. He placed one hand on the man's forehead and the other over his heart. Sam gasped as the body was surrounded by a strange blue glow that all too quickly dissipated leaving Gabriel clutching at the motionless body of his brother.

Sam stepped closer, his eyes immediately falling on the symbols that had been sliced into the masked man's chest. "Was it magic? The cuts are bad, but they don't look deep enough to…" he trailed off at Gabriel's sharp intake of breath.

"That's the problem. Pinocchio here isn't a real boy. He's an Angel and the sigils are keeping him from healing." Gabriel dragged a hand through his hair, "This is bad. Sam this is so bad. We have to get him to see Robert Singer."

"Okay. Are you alright, Gabriel?"

"No! I can't fix this. I should be able to and I can't. I should have…He…Damn it! Get his legs."

They hoisted the unconscious man and made their way through the forest until they arrived at a rundown house surrounded by derelict wagons and carriages. After a few moments of calm rational quarrelling they decided that Gabriel would hide outside with the Angel while Sam knocked on the door. After all, Sam was like an innocent kitten and no one could refuse an innocent kitten.

With one last glare in the general direction of Gabriel, Sam knocked. The door swung open to reveal a man whose clothing was covered from head to toe in something red that looked suspiciously like blood, "I don't care what you're selling. Now's not a good time."

As the door began to shut, Sam called out, "Are you Robert Singer?"

"Robert?"

"The court physician recently dismissed from the palace based on the suspicion of being a Hunter."

"Bobby, you hear this?"

Another man walked over towards the door, "Fired for being a Hunter. Funny, I was pretty sure that was the only reason they hired me."

The first man turned to Sam, "I'm Rufus and you seem to know Bobby. Now, tell me what exactly are you after boy?"

Sam hesitated for a moment, he eyes seeking out the spot where he had seen Gabriel disappear into the bushes, "Sam. My friend, he was injured. It was some kind of magic and if the stories about you…the stories about Hunters are true, we thought that maybe you could help." Bobby and Rufus just stared blankly at Sam as he fidgeted uncomfortably. "We can pay you."

Bobby hauled Sam through the front door by the shoulder, "Next time, just say that first."

Sam tentatively stepped into the house. Shelves covered the walls and every available surface was covered with books. He jumped when Rufus moved behind him to hang up his hopefully not blood covered apron.

Rufus laughed and gestured at the garment, "Relax. I assure you, boy, it's just paint and I only wear it to scare away the less committed clientele. Now, tell us what's going on with your friend and will see if we can help."

Sam's eyes were wide and hopeful, "My, uh, friend was taken prisoner by Princess Meg and he was tortured by Demons. He hasn't – isn't responsive and he has a symbol carved into his chest."

Bobby placed a hand on Sam's shoulder, "Sorry, kid. We've always found it easier to survive if you don't go messing around in the Princess' affairs. At least now, that we aren't in charge of them anymore."

"That's it then? You won't even take a look?" Sam rubbed his palm over his face and his voice began to shake, "We can pay. Whatever you want. Just name it."

"Truly, we are sorry, but right now, there is more at stake than just your friend. Don't tell me you haven't noticed the signs." Bobby glared into Sam's eyes as if daring him to contradict anything he said. "This world's on the verge of something big and its going to end bloody for all of us. One more lost to the apocalypse isn't going to tip the scale and we can't stick our necks out against the Demons until the time is right."

Sam was shouting now, "You don't understand, he is the only one who can stop Meg and save my brother. If we don't – if we can't stop her, I don't even want to think about what she's going to do to Dean. You want to stop the Demons, then my friend out there is our only hope."

"Bobby, let's just take a look at the kid. Chances are we can't help, but we should try." Rufus saw the firm set of his friend's jaw and knew reasoning wouldn't work, so he decided to play dirty, "Remember Delaware. You promised."

Bobby huffed out a humorless laugh, "Balls! This is going to be a waste of the last favor I owe him, but bring the kid in. I'll wait in the study."

Rufus practically shoved the younger man out the door, "Come on, that gesture of good will isn't going to last forever. We need to hurry."

They reached Gabriel and helped transport the Angel into Bobby's study/makeshift exam room. The Hunter poked, prodded, and finally declared, "Your friend is not completely dead. Mostly, but not all the way." Bobby looked at the Angel fondly, "The crafty son of a bitch found a way bind some of his grace to something and as long as whatever or more likely whoever, he is bound to is still kicking, then we should be able to save him." The Hunter began gather supplies which included a knife, four large black feathers, a gold coin, and what appeared to be a large bottle of glitter.

Rufus cleared his throat, "This may get a touch messy. Maybe you boys should wait outside."

Moving out to the porch seemed to only have amped up Gabriel's nerves. Sam approached him cautiously, "Do you want to tell me what is actually going on or do you want to wait?"

"If I say wait, you'll just give me the puppy dog eyes and I'll cave, so I'll tell you now. Everything I've told you about my family and the reasons I left was true, but I may have left out a minor detail."

"How minor?"

Gabriel's eyes had gone quite shifty, "That my family is the Heavenly Host and I'm really an Archangel."

"Huh?"

"When I left, I had to completely bind my grace. I couldn't risk any of the Angels or Demons being able to find me. The war between Heaven and Hell is not one that you simply walk away from. The Angels want to kill me like the traitor that I am and the Demons want to torture me until they've drained me. After Lucifer's rebellion, I found a way to fake my death, because I just couldn't kill my family." Gabriel made a noise that could have been a laugh if it wasn't so devastatingly heartbroken, "Not that they would have any trouble killing me."

Sam closed his arms around the other man, "Well, you're my family now."

Rufus called them back into the house. The Angel's condition looked unchanged to Sam, but something in Gabriel's face had relaxed. "The sigils," Bobby pointed at the Angel's chest, "were more powerful than any I've come across in long time. I was able to perform what could arguably be called a miracle and he'll live. That don't mean in the next five minutes he's going to jump up and dance a jig, but he should be completely healed in a few hours. A day at the most. We've got some clean clothes that should fit him and a wheelbarrow you can use for transport. Anybody stops you, just tell them he's drunk."

Sam flailed, "We don't have hours. The Demons have my brother and we have to go now.

"You rush a miracle and you won't like the results. Wait until you reach the castle and give him this," Bobby handed Sam a small foil wrapped square.

"This is chocolate."

Bobby deadpanned, "Your powers of deduction both amaze and astound me."

"He had symbols carved into his chest, died, and has yet to regain consciousness. Now, you telling me the answer is chocolate." Sam was completely exasperated.

"That about sums it up."

Rufus jumped in and guided Sam away from Bobby, "Listen, he knows what he's doing and the chocolate really will help. Never doubt the magical healing power of some delicious milk chocolate, especially if it has feverfew and several other special ingredients. Basically, the chocolate coating helps it go down smoother and if you are caught with it, no one will suspect anything about an innocent piece of candy." Rufus glanced around to make sure Bobby wouldn't hear him, "I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but we have had one operative injured and another working for our side that's deeply embedded with the Demons, someone very close to Bobby, we haven't heard from for awhile. Not that Bobby is the easiest person to get along with on the best day, but until we hear something, just try not to piss him off too much."

Sam realized that he wasn't the only one with a loved one in danger and he walked back over to the Hunter, "Bobby, I'm sorry about before. I should have just said thank you."

Bobby patted him on the back, "Your friends are ready."

Gabriel was supporting a still limp Angel who was now dress in a fresh white tunic and long brown overcoat. "Sam, he's a lot heaver than he looks, you mind helping us to the wheelbarrow?"

Sam quickly grabbed the Angel's other side and again called out his thanks to the two Hunters. As they walked out of the room, Sam could have sworn he heard a voice coming from the gold coin that was still laying out after Bobby's miracle, but this day had been strange enough so he let it go. After dumping their unconscious companion in the wheelbarrow, they headed off towards their destiny.

"Have fun storming the castle." Rufus shouted from the door.

}{ }{ }{

Meg was looking out the window of her chamber when Alastair approached, "Highness."

"I take it you've dealt with our situation?"

"Of course, consider it a wedding present."

"I think it's truly my favorite gift." She slowly twirled in her white gown, "How do I look?"

"Like a queen about to finally embark on journey she was meant for."

"I hate that it's taken this long to find him again, but seems that may have worked in our favor. I mean the Ticks adore him. The little orphan boy who grew into the man that shares his grain with the poor and needy – blah, blah, blah. There's nothing like a little good PR and a wedding to stir up support before an epic battle." She began to pin her hair back, "Did you bring a gift for Dean as well?"

"A ceremonial dagger. I just hope that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."

"It will fall into the right hands. I shall personally see to it."

He smiled menacingly, "As soon as you're ready, your people await."

}{ }{ }{

Dean stood outside the doors to the Great Hall, where the wedding would take place in just moments. He glanced down the corridor, expecting to see Cas at any moment. He still couldn't piece together the events after the fire swamp, but several concussions will do that. He just kept picturing that moment in the forest where Cas had said no matter what, he would always come. He held out hope even after he was ushered into the hall. He held it as he passed the field of Demons and Geotics that lined the aisle.

It wasn't until Meg joined him that the reality started to set in. Castiel wasn't coming and Dean felt the burning need to flee, but he pushed it down when he saw the faces of everyone that would be letdown if he did. The ceremony largely passed in a blur of incense and what sounded like Latin. Suddenly Alastair pronounced them man and wife and Dean was surrounded by guards then led towards what he presumed was unfortunately the honeymoon suite.

From the middle of the guards, Alastair abruptly stopped in front of Dean and presented him with gilded box, "Consider it a wedding present."

Dean opened it, "A dagger? Thanks, I guess." Dean was still perplexed as Alastair was usually content to just glare at him.

"It has lots of sentimental value." Alastair added coldly before retreating down the hall. In response to the gift and Dean's confusion, the guards laughed.

"What?" Dean sneered.

"Sentimental value." When Dean still didn't get the joke, the guard continued, "He used that to kill an Angel."

Dean's fist connected the guard's face with a satisfying crack. He fought them all and in the end it took twelve of them to restrain him. He just kept thinking the Angel wasn't Cas. It couldn't be. Cas left before they could get him.

}{ }{ }{

Sam and Gabriel parked there wheelbarrow full of comatose Angel about a third of a mile from the castle gates. Sam began unwrapping the chocolate, "Open his mouth."

"I wish we had time to do this up right, a fire roasted marshmallow and graham crackers." Gabriel answered wistfully as he opened the Angel's mouth.

Sam popped the candy in, "How long do you think we have to wait?"

The wait turned out to be very brief as Castiel's eyes immediately popped open, "I'm alive?"

Gabriel squeezed Castiel's shoulder, "Yea, little bro. It was a close call, but we found a guy who worked a miracle."

"Where's Dean?" he rasped.

Sam answered as the calm and rational one, "He's in the castle with Meg and we're going to get him back, but first we need some information. Are you up to answering a few questions?" The Angel nodded and Sam proceeded, "First, who are you?"

"Castiel."

"No way, you're that little fledgling. I remember you with the super bright blue eyes, messy hair, giant black wings, and the overwhelming need to be as literal as possible."

"Now is maybe not the time for a walk down memory lane. Castiel, why do the Demons want Dean?"

Castiel's hissed in pain as he attempted to shift his weight, "They're going to kill him so they can raise Lucifer and start the apocalypse."

Sam raked a hand through his hair, "We need a plan and we need to get in there now."

"Our main problem will be once we enter the walls of the castle, Gabriel and I won't be able to use our grace, because of the protection spells." Castiel was looking progressively more alive as the moments ticked by.

Sam sighed, "Okay, what do we do?"

Castiel managed to sit up on his own, "We need a diversion…a big one."

"Funny you should say that, Diversion is my middle name." Gabriel smiled wolfishly. "Leave it to me." Gabriel gazed dreamily into the distance, "I just wish we had some paper mache and sequins."

}{ }{ }{

Meg approached the group of guards surrounding Dean with a satisfied smirk on her face and motioned for them to release him.

Dean scoffed, "Enjoy it while you can, your highness. Castiel will come for me and then you can kiss your precious apocalypse goodbye."

"It's sweet that you still expect him to swoop in here and be your very own knight in shining armor. However, I'm afraid he won't be able to make it this time." Meg answered in an amused tone.

"Castiel is going to smite the shit out of you!"

"No, my darling husband, I regret to inform you that your pathetic farm boy was in the way. So, I sent one of my advisors to deal with him. You remember Alastair, right?" Dean made a choked noise and tried to run at the Demon, but she simply flicked her wrist and he was pinned against the wall. "I don't know if you birdie had the chance to tell you or not, but your family was quite famous." Meg straightened her dress, "Dean, your death is the key to freeing Lucifer. There was a prophecy that told of a child who could unlock the cage. Naturally, we went through hundreds of children before we realized it was you we were looking for. The problem with prophecies is that they are so subjective. Sadly, the Angels grabbed you before we could finish things, but it seems that may have worked in our favor." she continued, "You shall serve a much greater purpose…"

Outside the castle, a great commotion erupted. Screams echoed down the corridors. "A princess' work is never done. Please excuse me for a moment, Love." She trailed her fingers up his arm, "Just behave yourself and I'll let your people live, as a token of my affection." Meg released the magic holding Dean to the wall and he slumped, hanging his head silently.

}{ }{ }{

Sam and the Angels had moved closer to the castle. As they hid behind the trees Gabriel, who had been tight lipped up to this point, finally confided the details of his plan. Sam and Castiel were stunned. Mainly, because they were all surely going to die, but also because, sadly, it was the only plan they had. Everything would rely heavily on Gabriel's strength and whether or not his hunch about only the inexperienced guards being stationed at the gates and while all of the more experienced guards had been placed with the princess. They all took a moment to silently prepare.

Gabriel took a step away and Sam caught him by the wrist and pulled him into a fierce embrace, "If you get killed, I will never ever forgive you."

"You might want to consider being a motivational speaker when this is over." When the joke fell flat, Gabriel cupped Sam's check, "Sam, it's me we talking about here. I've never gotten myself into any situation that I couldn't charm my way out of. Don't worry about me. Just get your brother." Gabriel responded with more confidence then he felt.

Sam released him and Gabriel to walk up to the castle gates. He dramatically cleared his throat and screamed, "Ha-ha, I'm an Angel and you can't catch me." He stuck out his tongue and waited for the guards to give chase before sprinting away from where his friends were hiding.

Sam and Castiel quickly made their way into the now unguarded entrance and began the search for Dean. The protection spells covering the walls affected Cas much sooner than they anticipated and he fell to the floor. Sam slung Castiel's arm over his shoulder and placed an arm around the Angel's waist as they slowly made their way through the castle. A noise alerted them to the approach of Demons and they swiftly ducked into a doorway pressing themselves against the wall. When the noise didn't seem to be getting closer, Sam cautiously peered out. He saw yellow eyes glinting in the dim light, before their owner turned and continued down the hall. He couldn't contain the shudder that ran through him.

"Sam, what's wrong?"

"It's him. It's the beast that killed my father." Sam was torn between staying to protect Castiel and running after the Demon.

"Go."

"Cas, you can barely move on your own. I can't leave you."

"I can be surprisingly resourceful, now go." He used all the strength he could muster to stand on his own volition and watched as the youngest Winchester strode toward his destiny.

Sam reluctantly made his way to the end of the corridor and entered the door on his right searching for the yellow eyed Demon. He took two steps before Azazel slammed him into the wall, "You must be that little Winchester brat. Are you finally ready to learn the lesson I taught your father all those years ago." Sam blanched at the mention of his father to Azazel's delight, "Or you could always give up now and save yourself the embarrassment of failing."

"Never!" Sam shoved back hard, but could budge the Demon.

"Are you seriously still trying to win? Tisk, tisk. You've got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance and it's going to get you into trouble."

Sam found the strength the push the Demon back, "Hello, I am Sam Winchester. You killed my father. Prepare to die." He managed to pull his father's knife from his belt.

"Do you really think that little toy can hurt me?"

"Well, my dad always said it could kill anything, let's find out." Sam sliced Azazel's arm with the blade and smoke poured out, "Hello, I am Sam Winchester. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Sam raised the blade again.

"Wait! Just wait!" Azazel cried as the smoke continued to spill out, "Let's talk about this. There must be something you want."

Sam maneuvered the knife against the Demon's throat, "What could you possibly offer me?"

"Money, power, you name it and I've got the juice to make it happen."

"I want my father back, you son of a bitch." He cut the Demon's throat and watched as Azazel dissolved into smoke. Sam took a moment to let the weight lift from his shoulders. With his eyes glistening, he took off on the hunt for Dean.

}{ }{ }{

Dean was locked into one of the formal guestrooms to await his bride. He took pride in the fact he'd broken at least one guard's nose and another's arm before they got him into the room. He was pacing his cage like a tiger, when saw the box with the dagger sitting on a table. Without a moment's hesitation it opened the box and grabbed the blade. If he was going to die, then he was going to do it on his terms. He positioned it over his heart and then he heard a voice behind him. "Given that I have dedicated my life since pulling you out of Hell to keeping you safe from the Demons, could you try not to damage that perfectly wonderful protection tattoo, as a favor to me?" Dean dropped the knife and jumped as it clattered to the floor. "After all, I did come back from the dead for you…twice."

Within seconds, Dean was on him like a starved octopus, wrapping himself around Castiel in an effort to completely engulf the Angel. He decided to forego the usual pleasantries – How did you get here? How are you alive…again? Isn't the weather exceptionally lovely and mild for this time of year? - Instead he began a fervent attempt to kiss the Angel to death, which given Castiel's recent experience; he felt would be the preferable way to die. Alas, the Angel was still weak from his earlier demise and the magic protecting the castle made simply breathing almost impossible; thus he was merely a passive observer in his post-death reunion with Dean. "Castiel, if you don't start reciprocating, I'm going to start to think you don't like me." Dean managed to sound both cocky and uncertain.

"I can assure you that you are emphatically and categorically wrong on that count."

With that tiny bit of encouragement, Dean redoubled his efforts without noticing that his partner stayed motionless. He kissed him deeply and began trailing his hands up and down Castiel's sides, when he suddenly shoved himself off the Angel. "You have to stop, Castiel. This isn't right. I'm – I cannot believe this is happening, but I kind of, might be, sort of married. It was an accident." Dean's eyes widened comically and he flailed his arms as the words spilled out of him in a desperately attempt to explain the situation, "Not like an 'Oops I dropped something' kind of accident, but – This is exactly why I don't talk about me feelings. I – You left again and Meg said we could save people and this was the only way. I couldn't just stand there and let anyone get hurt knowing I could do something. I didn't have a choice and then you were dead. Maybe, if you could stay put and stop dying for like five minutes, then I wouldn't continuously end up in these situations. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe this whole thing is your fault?"

"It can't be my fault, if it never happened."

"I think I would know if I'm married or not"

Castiel answered teasingly, "You didn't know if I was dead or not."

"How can you even joke at a time like this? You're alive, I'm married, and I am NOT married to you!"

"Did you say 'I do'?"

"No, the ceremony was Demonic."

"Well, that proves you aren't married. Demons don't have a matrimonial ritual per say, they have a binding ceremony that requires such copious amounts of blood that it would have most assuredly resulted in your death had you had partaken in it. As you look very alive to me, you are also very much not married. Isn't that right Princess?" He glared at Meg, who was now standing at the end of the bed.

"You are very astute. True, we may not actually have been wed, but sadly, the Geotics won't know that. They will only know that an Angel named Castiel invaded the castle and murdered my love on our wedding night. It's so much more poetic that the Angel in question lived among them and posed as a Tick for so long. They will demand vengeance and they won't stop until every Angel has felt their wrath. All the while clearing the way for Lucifer to take his rightful place of power, but don't worry, you'll both be dead by morning."

Castiel responded in an icy voice, "I wouldn't be so sure about that."

"Was that supposed to be a threat? Since there are enough sigils here that I am surprised you are capable of arguing with me, you'll have to forgive me if I doubt you are actually able to fight at the moment."

Castiel was still slumped on the bed, "All your pretty sigils make you feel safe, Princess?"

Meg sneered, "Such tough talk. I think it's time to see if you can fly little Angel, now that you don't have your wings." Castiel laughed, "I'm glad to see that your imminent demise amuses you so."

Castiel smiled serenely, "It's just, I know something you don't."

"And that would be?"

"I know what the sigils won't protect you from."

"Please tell me you don't think you the Tick will save you." Meg laughed and with a wave of her hand she sent Dean crashing into the wall.

Castiel's grin widened, "Wrong. The sigils won't protect you from…"

Meg's amusement was cut short as voice behind her said, "…me." Crowley wasted no time and she gasped in shock as she felt the blade pierce her heart. Her body dissolved into dense black smoke before it could hit the ground.

"Hello boys. Miss me?" Crowley made his way over to Castiel only to be blocked by Dean.

"Stay back." He brandished the dragger.

"Dean, try not to kill the reinforcements." Cas sighed. "Crowley, you always did like to make an entrance." Dean offered Castiel a hand to pull him up, "We need to go before the Demons have had time to regroup."

Dean wrapped an arm around the Angel's waist, and holding him up, "You alright, Farm Boy?"

Before Castiel could answer, Crowley interjected, "Good news, I dropped in on our old friend and the cavalry's waiting right outside."

Dean looked progressively skeptical, "If that's the good news, is there bad as well?"

"The Angels will be here any minute. I suggest we hurry." Crowley helped prop Castiel up and they trudged out of the castle with Castiel sagging against them. The cavalry turned out to be a very motley crew indeed. A mass of Ticks, fallen Angels, and turncoat Demons stood ready for the fight.

Bobby made his way over to them, "Feathers, your health seems to have improved."

"Much." Castiel studied the troops, "It looks like after a few setbacks, we're going with Plan D."

"Your brief and inconvenient death, killed plans A and B. I couldn't find enough parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme to make C work. So, D it is." Bobby replied.

"What's plan D?" Dean asked.

"Basically, fight like hell." Bobby said matter-of-factly.

"Dean, please let me introduce you to Bobby Singer, also known as Dillingham and you've already met Crowley, also known as Badger."

"Of course, the Demon who kidnapped and attempted to murder me is not only on our side, but one of your mentors. Great."

"I believe you mean, the Demon that rescued you. The attempted to murder thing is all on you. Who tries to escape a rescue?" Crowley corrected.

Dean's voice grew steadily louder, "Maybe, someone who doesn't know that they're being knocked out, tied up, held against their will, and dragged all over Wisconsin under the constant threat of violence, because it's a rescue mission."

"Well, next time ask and I'll tell you," Crowley winked.

"If you are quite done trying to make me jealous, I've got troops to motivate." Bobby barked and made his way to where most of the troops had gathered.

Crowley stared adoringly at Bobby's retreating form, "Don't worry; he's just in a bit of a grump, because he's missed my pretty face."Dean rolled his eyes at the besotted Demon, then they joined the soldiers.

Bobby paced along the line, "I'm not here to sugarcoat anything or hold your hand. We are at war. It ain't gonna be quick or easy, but we can win this. Fight smart and fight hard." He turned the full force of his glare on them, "If you can't or aren't willing to die for the good of humanity, then I suggest you run, fast. Chances are we won't all make it out of this alive, but those us that do, will live free from the apocalypse." He paused, "We'll also probably hunt you down afterward, but that's for another day. Right now, you got to have faith and remember…" His speech was cut short as the apocalypse literally erupted around them, "Balls, just fight."

The Demons began pouring out of the castle and the Angels lined the sky above. "Wait for it," Crowley called and Dean could feel the tension building. "Wait for it." They all stood poised and ready to snap into action at any second, "Now!" Only instead of attacking them, the frontlines of their enemies, made up of the third class cherubs and lower level crossroads Demons, turned and began fighting their own sides. The Hunters on the grounds then charged into the melee. Swords clanked and fists flew as the battle raged on.

As Gabriel cut down several Demons, he saw Alastair to his right and fought his way to him, "I don't think we've met, but you know my brother."

"Oh." The Demon raised his sword advanced on him.

Gabriel simply snapped his fingers and the Demon burst into smoke and ash. "It was a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance." Gabriel said with a curtsey as the last of the cinders fell to the floor. He reentered skirmish and saw that all sides seemed to be taking very heavy hits.

Suddenly everything stopped and they were all frozen like statues. Held by some unseen force as the sky opened up and a giant rainbow spilled out. The sound of hooves echoed as a Figure astride a unicorn began racing down towards them. Upon reaching the ground, the unicorn was dismounted and a surprisingly weary voice called, "Children stop."

The force holding them motionless lifted and Dean watched as the Hunters and Angels knelt. The Demons slowly shifted towards the castle. Bobby proceeded to slapped him on the back of the head and growl, "Kneel." Dean complied with the request, but mostly he really just wanted a brief respite from things slamming into his skull.

The squirrelly, yet distinguished Figure spoke, "Through the years, I have been called many names, but you can call me Chuck." He tugged nervously at his navy striped robes, "All this hatred is poisonous. I had hoped for better, but so many of you are clamoring for the end. You claw and scrape and won't be satisfied until all creation lays in ruin." Chuck's sad eyes swept over them, "In fact, the only reason I've been called here today is that among you exists the greatest purest force in the universe…love." He let His eyes linger on the battlefield, "Love is the lesson that we will learn here today." Chuck nodded and a swarm of Cherubs loaded their bows. They fired into the crowd causing showers of glittery gold hearts to envelop the courtyard.

With as snap of His fingers, Chuck transported our heroes to an empty field far from the castle, "I want to thank you. Today you showed that love goes beyond the boundaries of blood, friendship, and species. True love is all encompassing and knows no prejudice." Chuck smirked, "Don't worry about those left at the castle, the Cupids will just use enough power to cloud their minds of preconceived notions and biases, thus allowing them to decided their feelings based on the individual and not their mislead loyalties."

Castiel spoke uncertainly, "I have a question, I must ask."

Chuck beamed, "The answer is yes, Cas."

Cas was overcome with happiness, "Dean…"

"My answer's yes too, Cas." Dean kissed him lightly on the cheek and then stared longingly into his eyes.

Bobby groaned and looked exceedingly uncomfortable with the entire emotional lovey touchy feely moment Dean and Cas were having.

Crowley poked Bobby playfully in the side and spoke in an infuriatingly adorable manner, "Petal, I'm so glad you were spared, because of your deep and all encompassing love for me.".

"Balls." Bobby scrubbed a hand over his face, "Its times like this, I long for the days before I met you."

"Robert!" Crowley fluttered his eyes, "It's okay, I know if you didn't like it, then you wouldn't have put a binding spell on it." Bobby couldn't suppress his smile and he twined their fingers together.

Gabriel gazed resignedly at the others before elbowing Sam and whispering, "He's your brother. You should talk to him."

Sam looked briefly panicked and walked over to Dean, "Um…Hi."

"Hi."Dean tugged at the hem of his shirt, "Sorry about the whole knife business back on the boat."

"Sorry about the whole kidnapping thing, I guess." Sam's eyes remained glued to the floor.

"Look, this is crap. Let's just start from here - Clean slate." Sam nodded finally looking at Dean. "We're brothers. Granted we skipped a few years and several important brotherly milestones, but that doesn't mean we can't start now."

Sam frowned slightly and he a small voice he said, "For so many years, I knew exactly what I was doing. Now, that I've finally gotten revenge, I'm lost. I've never had to think about what I would like to do or make plans that didn't involve ganking that son of a bitch and being a Hunter. I'm kind of lost now."

"You ever given any thought to farming?" At Sam's confused look, Dean continued, "I know a little place that really needs help. Seriously, Cas is the worst farm boy in history. It also happens to have me there, which is a bonus. Of course, we could do the whole Hunters thing on the side if you want."

Sam just smiled, "I'd like that."

Gabriel watched as the Winchesters finally had their official reunion without the end of the world looming over them and he felt as if his heart had withered inside his chest. Sam could finally have the family he'd desperately wanted and he wouldn't have a need for his Angelic castaway tagging along.

Chuck approached His wayward messenger and led him off away from the others, "What will you do now, Gabriel?"

Gabriel sighed, "I'm adrift. No ties. I guess I'll go wherever the water takes me."

"Did you ever think that maybe you were always meant to leave Heaven?" Gabriel quirked an eyebrow and Chuck continued, "Leaving brought you here, where you were needed most. It gave you the skills you needed to save the world. Seeing you now, I see who you were always meant to be. There is a light inside you that never shined as bright when you were with the Host."

"Just couldn't handle the whole nine to five." Gabriel huffed out a laugh, "You know what they say, if you can't do a job well, fake your death and run."

"Gabriel…"

"I guess there's not much point in sticking around here any longer. I spent so many years running from the Angels, this fight, and everything. Now, that it's over, I'm tired."

"Gabriel, he's a nice boy, maybe you should just try and be happy." The Angel's smile was blinding, "Plus, someone's going to have to keep an eye on Cas."

"That kid sure does know how to stir up trouble."

"Just take care of yourselves and look after the world." Chuck slowly stepped away, "Maybe you could use these." Chuck gestured behind Gabriel.

When Gabriel turned, there were six pure white unicorns, "Hey, thanks…" He called, but Chuck had already disappeared. "Come on guys, I think we've earned a long sunny vacation." He beckoned to his friends.

"They rode toward the future, knowing that they were finally free. As the sun shone down on them, Dean and Castiel reached for each other and…"

"And…What?"

"Don't worry. I'm going to respect your feelings about the 'emotional kissing stuff.' So, I guess 'The End.' Thanks for letting me read it to you."

"I think you might be right about the 'emotional kissing stuff' being an integral part of the story. I don't want to miss something important and really, it hasn't been so terrible." Chuck muttered.

"Are you sure, because since the invention of slash fiction, there have been five kisses per OTP that were rated the most passionate, the most pron-worthy, and the most kink inspiring. This one left them all behind?"

Chuck mumbled something into the blankets that Becky decided to take as encouragement and continued. "Just remember you asked for it. 'Dean and Castiel reached for each other and what began as a soft chaste pressing of lips, slowly began to smolder and deepen. It was a kiss full of love, passion, and freedom. It was a kiss that reverberated through every fiber of their beings and stopped time as everything around them melted away. For that moment or maybe forever, they stayed there with their eyes closed and foreheads pressed together, content to just breathe each other's air. The End.' Now, I think you ought to go to sleep, Monkey."

"Becky…" Chuck snuggled down into the duvet partially for warmth and partially to hide the sappy grin on his face, "Maybe you could read me the sequel tomorrow."

"As you wish."

THE END

An Excerpt From:

Once Upon A Time On The Dreaded Ship Crossroads

The Sequel To The Hunter Groom

**~~**~*WHY AM I COVERED IN FEATHERS?*~**~~**

"So, you know a lot about Demon/Human marriages?"

"More than most Angels. I even got to attend one."

"Did the Geotic make it?" Dean asked with trepidation.

Castiel smiled suspiciously, "Yes, he is doing quite well."

"Good. That's good." He gave the Angel a sidelong look.

"Don't worry Dean. The angelic wedding ceremony is much simpler and considerably less painful."

"No blood or death involved?"

Castiel smirked, "No, we just exchange feathers."

"Cas, I don't have feathers."

"We'll improvise," He pulled Dean into a passionate kiss that was as far from their first as it was their last.

Author's Note 4: Following in the grand tradition of The Princess Bride, I plan to have the sequel written by the thirty fifth anniversary of this fic!