The first time Dean met an angel he was battered, bruised, and still bleeding from hunting a particularly vengeful spirit. The sun was just beginning to make itself known as Dean sleepwalked from the car to the door. None of that stopped him from leveling his gun at the stranger in his hotel room before Sam or John, entering the room behind him, had even seen the danger.

"Who the hell are you?" Dean asked. From the corner of his eye Dean could see Sam leveling his own weapon at the man. His younger brother's eyes tracked back to Dean, looking to him for cues, but Dean's gaze never wavered off of the intruder.

"Now, now, is that anyway to treat of friend of your father's?" the stranger asked, eyes shifting from Dean to the doorway. "Really, John, I thought you'd taught your boys better than that."

"Dad," Dean asked, gun never wavering from the center of the strangers chest, "you know this guy?"

"Yeah," John said shortly, finally stepping fully into the room and turning away from the scene to shut the door behind him. "He's the angel Zachariah."

Sam's gun lowered slowly, mouth gaping. "An angel?"

"I don't believe in angels," Dean snorted, gun still steadily aimed at the intruder.

Zachariah looked unimpressed. "Your belief is irrelevant. Here I am."

"Dean," John said, "drop the gun."

Dean clenched his jaw, still not looking away from the so-called angel. "Dad?"

"Just do it, Dean," John ordered gruffly.

Reluctantly Dean lowered the weapon.

"Too bad. I was hoping for a little resistance," Zachariah said.

Dean kept his gun aimed at the floor, years of unquestioning obedience preventing him from acting on the instinct that was insisting he shoot the creature in his hotel room right the fuck now. "Resistance to what?" he asked in a low growl.

"This," Zachariah answered, waving a careless hand in Sam's direction. Dean spun on his heel, spotted the ropes that had appeared out of nowhere to bind his younger brother hand and foot, and spun back around, gun coming up and firing in one swift movement.

Dean's aim was true and the bullet hit the 'angel' right between the eyes.

Zachariah didn't flinch. He looked up at his own forehead, going a little cross eyed with the effort of inspecting the wound. It might have been funny if Dean wasn't too busy being scared out of his mind to appreciate it. Before he could squeeze the trigger again, Zachariah made another dismissive motion with his hand and Dean's gun was gone - the only indication that it had ever existed a ringing in his ears and the scent of gun powder in the air.

Dean looked down at his empty hands then back up at the inhuman thing in the room with them and was only mildly surprised to find that Zachariah's head was whole and unblemished, no trace of blood or wound anywhere on him.

Zachariah clucked his tongue disapprovingly. "Really, such manners. I don't know why I expected any better of you over-evolved apes." And without even a gesture this time, Dean joined his brother on the floor, bound hand and foot.

"Damn it," Dean muttered, cheek pressed to the dirty carpet, "that was my favorite gun." He flipped over onto his back, getting his nose out of the stench of unwashed feet and the filth of god only knew what.

Zachariah's smile was sudden and harsh. "Oh, don't worry, you can have it back when we're gone."

Dean stilled and smiled a predatory smile of his own. "I'm not going anywhere with you, sweetheart. I'm not the take home to Daddy type."

Zachariah smiled at him as if he were a particularly amusing dog. "Good, Gabriel likes them feisty. You might have been enough to keep him happy for awhile."

"Enough, Zachariah," John spoke up finally and Dean craned his neck back to look at his father. He'd almost forgotten that he was still there. "Let the boys go. They won't give you anymore trouble."

John said that last with a pointed look at Dean, who smiled innocently back. "I never cause trouble."

A weary "Dean" from John had Dean nodding reluctantly. John turned back to Zachariah. "We had a deal."

"I see rudeness runs in the family," Zachariah observed, waving a hand again and releasing the bonds on Sam and Dean. "Very well, a deal is a deal after all, and I am a reasonable businessman."

"What's he talking about, Dad?" Sam asked, picking himself up and then offering a hand to Dean.

John met his eyes calmly. "It was the only way, Sam. Twenty five years we've been chasing this thing that killed your mother."

"And we'll chase him twenty-five more if that's what it takes," Dean said immediately, drawing John's attention.

"But we don't have to Dean," John said, eyes bright with some emotion that frightened Dean. "I've found him, and I know how to kill him."

"Yeah?" Dean asked, excitement overriding his misgivings.

"It's a gun, Dean, a colt. The Colt. IBack in 1835, when Haley's Comet was overhead, the same night those men died at the Alamo, they say Samuel Colt made a gun. A special gun. He made it for a hunter, a man like us, only on horseback. The story goes, he made thirteen bullets. This hunter, he used the gun a half-dozen times before he disappeared, the gun along with him. They say... they say this gun can kill anything.

"Anything?" Sam asked.

John nodded, turning to Sam. "I shoot him with the Colt, and he can never harm our family or another again."

"That's great, Dad, let's get the son of a bitch," Dean said.

"The angels have the gun?" Sam interrupted, the ice in his voice dousing the fire building in Dean's belly. Abruptly Dean was reminded that there was more going on here than he understood.

"And they're giving it to me," John said, almost defiant.

"The price?" Sam asked, glaring at their father. John's expression blanked, and Dean's heart sped up in response.

"Nothing too important," Zachariah answered, clearly tired of being ignored for the family drama, "just your freedom."

The brothers rounded on the angel. "Excuse me?" Dean said.

"What?" Sam asked at the same time.

"In exchange for the Colt your Father has given you over to the service of the angels." Zachariah tossed the words out casually, as if he wasn't ripping three lives apart with them.

"You?" Dean said faintly, shock numbing him to the full repercussions of what he was hearing. "We've been given over to you?"

"Oh, no, no, no," Zachariah answered, eyeing Dean disdainfully. "I have no intention of soiling myself with you over evolved, self important humans." He sneered the word, the way Dean might sneer at Sam's taste in music. "But I have brothers who might find you amusing." His expression suggested he didn't think much more of those brothers than he did of humans.

"That's Dean," John said. Dean had no idea why that was important, but he didn't like it.

Zachariah shrugged and turned to Sam. "Might find you amusing then." The implication struck Dean like a physical blow to the chest, breaking through the numbness.

"I thought you were supposed to be the good guys," Sam said, disappointment just barely bleeding through the outrage.

"We are our Father's 'guys'," Zachariah said, "we were created to do His will, not to play nursemaid or perch on your shoulders."

"Whatever," Dean said, tired of playing with this guy, and confident with the role he now had to play - Sammy's protector. "You're not taking my brother anywhere."

"Not even if Daddy orders it?" Zachariah taunted.

Dean was proud of himself for not flinching or turning to face their father. "Fuck you," he said.

Zachariah smiled at that.

"Sam," John said behind them, "just go with him for now. There's more going on here than you know. This is safer for everyone - especially you. Once I've killed the demon I'll find another way to keep you safe. You'll be back to arguing with me in no time."

"Stop talking now," Sam said, not turning around and locking one big hand on Dean's bicep to prevent him from turning as well. Not that Dean wanted to face his father at the moment. "You are dead to me. When I get out of this, I'm coming back for my brother. Don't come looking for us, don't talk to us, don't even think our names ever again. You are no longer our father - if you ever were in the first place."

"Take me instead," Dean said suddenly to Zachariah, cutting off any retort John may have been considering.

"Dean, no," Sam said harshly, his grip on Dean's arms tightening hard enough to bruise. Dean shook him off, but otherwise ignored his little brother.

Zachariah laughed in delight. "How noble! Unfortunately, you were not part of the deal. No substitutions or exchanges. I'm afraid it has to be Samuel."

Dean felt Sam sigh in relief. "Then take me too. Think of it as a two-for-one special."

"Dean," John said, low and warning behind him. Dean ignored him as well.

"Don't," Sam said, pleading. "Don't do this. Stay here with Dad. I'll get out, and I'll come back for you. I promise."

Dean smiled at him. "And let you have all the fun? Never."

Zachariah was watching the scene with an air of vague boredom, but at Dean's words he produced a sheet of paper. "Sign here, little martyr, if you're serious. I have better things to do than watch this soap opera unfold."

Dean stepped forward and signed without hesitation while Sam looked on with horrified disbelief. Dean turned back to his family and took a breath to speak - to say what he didn't know - but Zachariah was already speaking.

"This has been far more interesting than expected. Touching, even," Zachariah said, tucking the contract back into wherever he'd pulled it from, "makes me wish for some quality time with my own Father, really. But time's up I'm afraid."

There was a sense of pressure and light and a sound like the wind rushing past, and then Dean and Sam were somewhere else entirely.

Sam and Dean clutched at each other as the world settled back into something solid. When he was sure he was steady on his feet, Dean released his brother. "So this is Heaven," Dean said, voice casual even as he visually swept the area for threats and/or something he might use to do the threatening. "Not how I pictured it."

"You've pictured it?" Sam said asked from behind him where he was pressed back to back with his brother, watching for any threats and protecting his brother's back like always. "What were you imagining?"

Dean shrugged. "Clouds, harps, boring shit. Not the conference room at the Ritz Carlton. Not this." Dean gestured around them.

"That's because this isn't exactly Heaven, handsome." Sam and Dean immediately turned toward the new arrival, a shorter man with brown hair and a wicked smirk that looked like a permanent fixture on his face. "This is more of a holding area. A green room, if you will, a place to keep you until they've figured out what to do with you."

"And who are you?" Sam asked, fists clenching at his sides even as Dean angled forward to put himself between Sam and the new threat.

"I'm Gabriel," the man answered, smile widening. "But you can call me Master."

Dean launched himself at the angel - Gabriel. Sam snatched at him futilely. "Dean," he shouted, panic making his voice high and tight. But his worry was for nothing when Dean crashed into an invisible wall several feet from his target.

Gabriel smirked so hard Dean thought his face might crack. "Angel," he said simply at Dean's glare.

"Wait a minute," Sam said, pulling Dean back to him, "Gabriel? The archangel Gabriel?"

Gabriel's focus switched like a laser to Sam. "A fan! How exciting."

"You heralded the birth of Christ and now you're a common slave owner. How the mighty have fallen," Sam scoffed, elbowing his way in front of Dean.

The smile fell off of Gabriel's face. "Time to go to your new home, Big Foot."

"It's Sam. Sam Winchester," Sam said, chin going up defiantly.

Gabriel shrugged. "Fine, Sammy boy, let's go. Say goodbye to big brother."

Dean jerked back as if slapped, hand reaching out of its own volition to grab at Sam's sleeve.

"What?" Sam asked, stepping back again closer to his brother.

"You didn't think we'd be so stupid as to leave the two of you together, did you?" Gabriel asked. The angel took in what Dean was sure were identical expressions of horror on their faces. "Oh my Dad, you did. How adorable."

Gabriel snapped his fingers and suddenly Sam was standing across the room from Dean behind Gabriel. "Say goodbye boys, Sammy and I have things to see and people to do."

"Don't call me..." Sam said, but Gabriel snapped his fingers again and they were gone.

Dean flipped the fuck out.