By the rivers of Babylon
Where we laid down
Ye, we wept
And we remembered Zion

The camp is quiet in the very early morning, most of the Hunters sleeping till long past noon after the inevitable late nights but the light has a certain serenity and buttery quality that gives Dean a facsimile of comfort. His angel is sat beside him, even when everything else has gone to shit. On the clear days he sits on the roof of his little cabin, the angel perched beside him and the leash hanging between them, invisible, unused but still between them like a heavy red cord.

Only Dean calls him Cas, only Dean is allowed to. Whatever he is; whatever he was, Cas is Dean's now, guard dog, partner, slave.

The angel is bare chested in the light, he's wearing old cotton pants - he doesn't sleep but Dean likes to maintain the fiction and makes him dress for it, and crawl into the bed with him, warm and solid and there- and the light finds the old gold twist at the hollow of his neck. Cas looks at him, sonic blue eyes slitted and cruel, then he smiles, never showing his teeth, stretching out his bare feet on the tiles. His nose twitches once, twice, "I can smell gunfire," he says, "and blood" his nose twitches again, pulling in the air, "it's not human," he cocks his ear to listen, "I think Christian and the others bagged a deer to go with the rabbits."

Castiel is not human, does not pretend to be, loping at his master's heel like a vengeful guard dog, and like that dog he is devoted, determined and collared.

"What else can you hear, Cas?" Dean asks, his voice low not to break the buttery light and quiet.

"Campbell snores like an engine," Cas replies, "Ellen has made porridge," his nose flickers, "she has added cinnamon to the honey in it, the way that you prefer it. There is bacon too. She worries that you are not eating enough. A couple are making love in cabin four, before the day, just lazy touches with no real end, but whispers, grunts and laughter. One of the children is talking in her sleep." He tilts his head, another of his inhuman gestures as he processes the sound. "Denton has struck her again." He says, "I can hear her crying."

Dean grits his teeth and for one more time considers sending Castiel and ending it, of taking a mediocre Hunter from the pack, snapping his neck and dumping his salted burned corpse in the woods where it doesn't matter if he'll be found, a warning to all who come later of what is and what is not acceptable, but then the moment is passed, the light changes to the hard light of early summer, and he decides it's no business of his.

He climbs back into the cabin through the skylight, dresses quickly and perfunctorily, old jeans and a worn tee, and a thread bare sweater against the light morning chill, he threads his feet into his boots and then reminds Cas to dress. The angel forgets such human conceits. He walks barefoot through snow unless chided. He wears old scuffed tennis shoes and jeans; a cambric shirt that brings out the color of his eyes and hangs open at his neck to show his torque. It is the oldest of the Limiters, the strongest, and he wears it like it were nothing, as if it was only jewelery.

Dean leads him to the mess cabin; Castiel doesn't eat- he doesn't even pretend to: he just drinks in the smells of the place; bacon and coffee and cinnamon porridge- the smells of the Hunters- of Ellen's hair when she leans towards him: gun oil; cordite; blood; coconut shampoo and the salt water she uses to scrub the boards. Sometimes he licks his lips, savoring the taste of humanity and Dean wonders if he is one moment away from slaughtering them all just for the taste of the blood lingering against his tongue.

Sometimes Castiel forgets, and leans in to lick the dried soap off a stranger's neck, or to smear lipstick from Jo's mouth with his thumb to better smell the beeswax before scraping it off with his teeth. Jo is used to these peculiarities- the others warn him to call off his dog. Dean just laughs, it's a dark dirty sound, before he tugs the invisible leash between him and his angel, and Castiel, poisoned with his master's humanity, only laughs too.

Dean's not much of a leader, but he's the one that they've got.

They started to come to him, in ones and in twos, at first, then great swathes to him, asking to be touched; to be healed; to be led; and so he gathered up the armies that they gave him, and he walked amongst them and spoke of loss and pain and rage and revenge, but not justice.

He had no voice to speak of that.

He spoke of his mother, consumed by flames.

He spoke of his father, sucked into Hell that he might live.

He spoke of his brother, a child in a nameless grave.

He spoke of loss with the voice of someone who had nothing left, and they came to him, to listen. They sat at his feet as he gathered them up into an army, that he might finally undo the great wrongs of Shai'tan.

If they fell along the way he did not mourn them, and if they did not he did not learn their names.

The less he was one of them the more that they worshipped him.

Excerpt from the Book of Campbell

The Impala is impractical, he's bunkered it down at Bobby's salvage yard under a tarp and protected against the elements, taken out once in a while for a drive by one of the two of them, although Dean is mostly based at Chitaqua now. He drives an old Ford Flatbed and answers to the name Campbell. He wonders if anyone who knew him before would even recognize him now.

It's more than the physical, though that has changed, the scars are clear enough indication of that. He grew his hair out to help cover the three scars that cross his face. He doesn't look at himself in the mirror any more and he dresses perfunctorily.

He spends longer making sure Cas has remembered the simple things, buttons and shoes and running his hand through his hair in lieu of a comb.

Cas is Campbell too. It's Dean's mother's name. It's Dean's mother's family and her legacy. Winchester is spoken of darkly, John would have sacrificed any number of Hunters to kill his monster, and they knew it, but Campbell is spoken of in revered whispers, they were on the Mayflower, apparently, killing vampires. So few of them remain to claim the name. There are three now, Samuel, old and worn but still tough as old boot leather with a scar across his belly from a disembowelment he survived being by ornery rather than because of medical skill, Christian, and Dean. Cas is named in the manner of a family pet.

The Hunters come to them as things fall apart knowing that Dean will kick down the very doors of Hell for them, and Christian will be at his back, but it's old Samuel who has trained them well enough to win.

The Veil between the Hunter's world and that of the mundanes strains a little more every year, and the Hunter's gather, knowing it's only a matter of time before it collapses completely and the Campbells are all that stands firm.

Samuel is too old, and Christian too malleable- he's soft eyed and generous, but Dean is their figurehead, scarred, pragmatic and relentless. He sits in the Ford, Cas on the flatbed behind him no matter what the weather, as they go to town. Dean flirts emptily with the girls on the counters, and the waitresses at the diner, he laughs about that funny religious commune out in the woods, and makes the same jokes- it's not religious, if it was it would only be for the tax break.

He hears the rumors about what they're doing, but people come and go as they will. They don't necessarily keep to themselves as much as most religious communes, their kids go to school with the mundane kids, so maybe they are crack pot Revelationists, the word amuses Dean darkly, but no one complains.

If the mundanes notice the lack of things that bump in the night in their area, they certainly don't add two and two together, or if they do they count their blessings and don't push.

Even though it's raining, and it is sheeting it down, Castiel is sat on the bed of the truck, head back, letting the water slick down his face like he were in a shower, he has lost his shoes somewhere- he shucks them off like a small child given the chance- his shirt soaked to his skin. Dean rolls his eyes as he sees it in the rear view, secretly fond of Castiel's inhuman ways. He likes that Cas isn't human, because then it won't matter when he is, inevitably, lost.

Apart from the eye roll Dean doesn't react to the angel. He's been by his side for years now, and the quirks are invisible to him now.

It was said that he found the Limiters in the old places, where angels and demons had been more common. Antioch, Tubruk, Acre, Bethesda,Troy, Carthage. He took the time to learn the old ways, in the old places and came back changed.

His body was a road map of scars between the tattoos of protection and power, marks that hid him and marks that made him more powerful. It was said that he used the sand to scour away the grief of his loss.

In the dark places of the desert, where the ground folded like fabric, he met the devil who of the course of one month tempted him with all that he had to offer. In answer he shot him in the face.
Excerpt from the Book of Campbell

Greta always makes the same appreciative noise when Dean pulls his shirt over his head. She's been around and she's seen her fair share of male chests but it's the ink that catches her every time. She's his tattooist and she swears it moves on it's own and forms it's own designs.

Dean wouldn't be surprised if it did- there's power in the ink after all.

Both arms are complete sleeves right down to the wrists. There are different colours of ink, protective symbols and writings in fifteen languages that coil around each other like brambles, other words erupting like thorns.

There are prayers down his back in Hebrew, the words from Ofuda in Kanji, Cyrillic mantras, that curl up under his arms. There are pentacles, pentagrams, crucifixes: Coptic; Maltese; Domic crosses.

There are glyphs, hieroglyphs and other lettering, latin, Greek, Arabic, and a hundred other things. Greta, who has done most of it, calls Dean her masterpiece, and with reason.

None of them are decorative.

He is having an Enochian banishing sigil re-inked. She has done the design but wanted the swelling to fade a little before she touched it up, filling in the places where it has flaked away.

Cas is at the counter, lifting the antiseptics and smelling each of them in turn, before squeezing a blob of moisturiser unto his finger and then bringing it to his tongue and deciding he doesn't like the taste as he pulls a face. "Hey," she says, "there's coffee in the pot," she used to flirt with him, but doesn't any more. She thinks he's "special," Dean doesn't correct her. Castiel is something alright, special could be used to describe it.

On the wall is an old sepia photograph of a carnival diver caught in midflight. It dates back to the twenties and has a lady in a cloche hat and Esther Williams swim suit. She is caught in a perfect arch halfway between the high board and the water. Cas can stare at her for hours, tilting his head to better appreciate the details. Greta's cat ingratiates himself to Cas' presence with her toys before the angel bends and lifts her up to his chest, scratching her between the ears, but his eyes are on the photo. The first time he saw it, he asked Greta if it was her. "Where did you find him?" Greta asked with a laugh, wiping away the blood and ink with a sterile cloth.

"Carthage." Dean answered, and Greta mentioned her parents were from near there, but Dean meant the ancient city of Dido, and she means Missouri. He doesn't talk about his travels. He doesn't talk about the past. He doesn't talk much at all any more, and Greta knows that, she just chatters away whilst she works, stopping occasionally to wipe away the blood and ink, telling him about the small details in her life.

Part of her thinks that if Dean wasn't so damaged he'd be a great boyfriend- he's gorgeous, she loves his ink, he's a great listener and a fantastic fuck, but Dean is broken, and it's clear that he put the pieces back together wrong to make himself stronger, sharper, fiercer.

She figured that out the one and only time they fucked, they were both drunk and a little lost in each other, when he strained above her, hands on her hips to guide her and hot wet splashes fell on her face and neck from where he was crying.

Righteous he was in his anger, to the point where the creatures that he hunted created a new name for him, they called him The Righteous Man. There were those who traded his names in whispers, like the stories you would tell to frighten a child, those who believed that he was not real, just a creation of the Hunters to scare them.

He was righteous, because it was all he had left.
Excerpt from the Book of Campbell.

Dean's world collapsed on a late autumn evening at about seven pm. It was already dark and the frost was settling into the mud of the old abandoned town of Cold Oak. He had driven all day and was too late, by minutes. He watched his brother step towards him, mouth his name and then fall to his knees, to his face, as Dean lifted his semi-automatic, and fired, once, twice, three times, at the black man who had stabbed him. He never learned the man's name.

Only then did he go to Sam, dead in the dirt, and all of Dean's hopes dead with him.

After all it was too late for Sam.

He considered going to a cross roads demon, but imagined Bobby's face and the disappointment, and instead began soaking rags in turpentine. They burned better that way.

Within twenty four hours of his death Sam Winchester was burned on a pile of wood outside the small town where he died with four other people they found there, each in various states of dismemberment. The man who killed him was salted and burned where he lay. They couldn't have him come back or they would have left him where he was to rot in the dirt.

Dean sat in the Impala for three days, parked outside Bobby's, then he came in, showered, shaved and changed his clothes. He traded in the car for a flatbed Ford and didn't mention his brother again.

In the valleys of Uruk, he told us, they made a cabal between the creatures of the dark and the creatures of the light. The creatures of the dark, the gods and the monsters and the things between, were powerful but long lived, they were few in number as it took long for them to grow to adulthood. The creatures of the light numbered like the blades of grass and bred like rabbits. War between the two was inevitable.

The cabal created a spell, a fallacy inside the minds of the Creatures of Light, they would see what they had thought that they had seen, they would hear what they thought they would hear, this allowed the Creatures of Dark to pass harmlessly amongst them. If harm was brought by a Creature of Dark then the Creatures of Light were given leave to prosecute to the fullness of their ability and as such Hunters were created and given the ability to pierce the spell.

It became known as the Veil for it enhanced as much as it obscured.
Excerpt from the Book of Campbell.

Castiel is easily bored, he doesn't need to sleep, forgets sometimes that Dean does, even if it's only a few hours snatched here and there, but is protective as a mother bear when Dean does sleep, snarling and snapping at any who dare come near. The one time Dean fell asleep in the War Room - and everyone but Dean calls it that - Castiel shifted him into his arms, folded over his wings, and growled when people came near.

The only times the angel is happy, or as close a facsimile as he comes, is when he's fighting or fucking. But Dean doesn't let him touch anyone else without permission.

The two of them are walking, carrying buckets of cold water for Ellen to the mess cabin, Castiel is using the mop as a yoke to carry more, when Denton turns to Judy and raises his fist. The argument has clearly gone on long enough that he has turned to violence against her.

Castiel growls but Dean grabs his hand. "Enough," he says and Judy physically wilts.

Denton is a competent Hunter but he's not a good person- he talks big and manages small and takes his frustrations out on his wife. "Judy, can you manage these?" he offers her the buckets, "take them to Ellen."

"Don't kill him," Judy whimpers, her hand to her face to cover the bruise blooming there, "don't let your monster have him."

"Cas?" Dean asks with a fake laugh, "I'm a lot more frightening than he is."

Judy takes one of the buckets, and she doesn't look back, not once. Lot's wife turned to salt, Orpheus lost his Eurydice, but Judy doesn't waver.

She hears Denton cursing and swearing, blustering like an autumn storm about how Dean isn't all that, and how he trades on his family name- how they say that because he doesn't trade monster stories he hasn't got the kills to his name.

He doesn't share stories with the other men - but there are other reasons for that.

Dean merely snaps his hand back with the fist in it and breaks the wrist with a loud crack. "Go to Jo," he says, "get that set, you might need to go to the Emergency room. Touch her again when she doesn't want it, and I'll kill you." He lifts the last bucket of water, "come along, Cas, Ellen will be annoyed if she doesn't get her water."

The others see what happened, the cold righteousness in which Dean deals with Denton, who cradling his fist, is still shouting and blustering about how Dean doesn't deserve to be here, how he's a shit Hunter. Dean doesn't even turn back. Cas takes a couple of quick steps so he's close behind him, his breath inhuman cold on the back of Deans' neck, stirring the hair there, "Wanna fuck?" he asks, it's a breathy exhale.

"Not now," Dean answers, "Ellen wants this water."

***
Giles then, the soul of honor-there he stands
Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.
Good-but the scene shifts-faugh! what hangman hands
Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands
Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!
"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came" by Robert Browning

Bloedzuiger's aren't native to North America, being more common in the marshes of Northern Europe and Holland, that doesn't mean that they don't travel, swept up as larvae into the bilge of ships and washed out into the waters of Boston and the surrounding wetlands.

The big ones found their way to Louisiana and Florida, where Katrina had caused them to grow fat and lazy on the unfortunate dead.

For the most part they are scavengers but can hunt in packs, remaining submerged and dormant until something warm breaks the surface of the water. Dean knows all this as he throws the hot water bottle on a rope into the water. It is wrapped in the meaty fur of an old rabbit to confuse the beast. It would be a waste to do that to the rabbit.

Fishermen warn each other of Old Slimy, a giant alligator that haunts these waters, its head slick against the water, without the usual ridges and how his teeth go all the way down his gullet, unknowing that the beast that they described was a Bloedzuiger not a 'gator.

When Dean hears about it he damn near jumps in the truck there and then, the hunts lately have been small fry, and he hasn't had to leave the camp since summer begun and now it's fading into winter.

However even as fearsome as a centuries old Bloedzuiger might be it's no match for silver plated explosive shot gun rounds. The beast is strong, but slow, and Castiel doesn't even climb down from the branch he has perched himself on to watch to lend a hand.

From throwing the hot water bottle into the water to scavenging for the parts Bobby has asked for, putting it into jars and tupperware boxes carried in the truck for that purpose, it takes less than an hour.

He washes his hands off in the water when he's done and when he looks up she stands shin deep in the water. Dean hasn't seen her in a long time but she is still a goddess. Her skin is the colour of pond scum and her hair like kelp falling loose down her back, but her eyes are even more inhuman- the irises solid black. She is naked, as she has always appeared to him, different shades of nature following the curves and dips of her perfect body. "Hello Dean of Kansas." She says and her voice is like water splashing across rocks. "It has been a long time, has it not."

Dean leans back, "I didn't think you left your place." He says bluntly.

"I don't," she laughs, and it's a soft tinkling wet sound, "you just misunderstand," she steps towards him easily through the ankle deep water. "I just wanted to know, have you made your decision yet?"

"I don't understand your riddles," Dean argues, "I never did."

Her expression is godly; beatific, there is a smile playing at the right corner of her mouth. "I never asked you to." She tells him. "You know what I am and what I offer. You do not have to accept, but you step closer to that destiny with every breath. If you wish it I could aid you, but you must make that decision of your own volition, I will not sway you."

Water runs in thin rivulets down her nakedness from her hair, curving under her breasts, small and high on her chest, the slight swell of stomach with it's navel dip, and the high arch of a bony hip. "Keep him safe, Angel, until he makes his choice." Castiel bows his head to her in a sort of mock deference. "I am always with you," she says, "for good or for ill." She turns to leave.

"My brother," Dean starts. The words fly away like crows.

"I have kept my word," she answers him abruptly, her hair flicks out like a thousand wet whips down the valleys of her back, under the folds of armpit and creases of her ass. "He is at peace with the other warriors in what you call Avalon as we agreed. You have gathered your champions?"

Dean nods slowly, kicking the bloedzuiger corpse into the water finally. The wind is swaying the cypress moss that hangs from the trees like ghost fingers, "When you are ready, my knight, make your decision, and I will arm you for the upcoming battle."

"And Azazel?"

She licks her lips, a moss green tongue licking out to wet the cracked skin there. "Every knight must have his dragon, but beware," when she steps she does so on the surface of the water, "most knights do not survive that encounter, and this is not the destiny you decided to pursue when you found me, and I allowed you a taste of my power in exchange that you would consider my offer.

"You know how my story ends, Dean of Kansas, when you are ready, be prepared to make your decision, will you remain to die with your dragon, or will you set the world on fire? Will you find the Grail," there is a laugh in her voice as she says this, "and fail along the way, or will you stand up and become as you are intended, my Sword of Destiny?"

Much is made of the importance of Samuel and Christian Campbell, and the Arc Castiel who stood by Dean's side throughout the first war, less is said of the two daimon he bound into his service with his Limiters.

There was two, Hakkai Cho who was described as "being in sales", who was as loyal a soldier as could be wanted, and one who called himself Farfarello, who was wild and a formidable weapon but otherwise had to be contained.

Cho was allowed to earn such privileges as working in the mess, and his counsel was heeded although not always followed, but Farfarello was kept caged and bound, even with the Limiters he was that dangerous.

They were demons made loyal through the Limiters, like the Arc Castiel was, but unlike him they were never treated as anything other than filth. Their importance should not be overlooked because it was in the wake of Farfarello's madness that Dean reached the Arc-daimon Azazel who had murdered his family, and it was Cho who made the weapon to destroy him.
Excerpt from the Book of Campbell - Appendix B, fourth edition

Cho brings him his tea, Dean knows better than to trust the demon, but he makes good tea and has a sort of soothing personality that can be relaxing. As a demon he is ferocious and violent and terrifying, but this is what most of the Hunters see, the cowed slave with his Limiters brassy bright on his ears, bringing his master tea. What they don't know is that this capitulation is all Cho- Dean can bring him to heel with agony, using the Limiters, and can influence his will to a degree, but he has never had to.

Cho fusses over him like a butler. He is wearing a Chinese American man who looks ill at ease in anything other than shirts and suit trousers. He wears a vest today, buttoned tight over his chest. "You look tired," he says as he puts the tea, complete with saucer, down on the table, "you need to get more rest, you can hardly run an apocalypse without getting enough sleep."

Castiel sits cross legged on the bed, playing with a child's puzzle, trying to separate the pieces of metal, but Cho knows it will take less than a thought for the angel to jump across and destroy him. "You must learn the difference between being a foot soldier and a general or all of this will be for nothing." He sits at the table, all long legs and crosses his fingers before resting his chin upon them. "If you fall at the first hurdle your soldiers will too."

"Where do you learn this stuff?" Dean asks, he turns the tea cup on it's saucer so the handle shifts from the right to the left of the bowl.

Cho never smiles, he has this almost look of serenity that lightly lifts the curve of his lips, the sort of promise of a smile under his black fringe and glasses. One eye is always covered by that dark fall of hair, to hide the absence underneath. "I like to read." He says, "now drink your tea and sleep, we will discuss you fighting with the soldiers another time." That is an old argument between them and Dean knows he's right but he wants his men to see that he is one of them, as prepared to die as they are. Cho thinks he should be more aloof, something other, but they are both right in their own way, Dean knows. He should sleep more, but when he sleeps, he remembers and he doesn't want to do that.

The tea is perfectly made, with the water one jot shy of boiling. Cho really does make the perfect cup of tea. "You better get," Dean says with a muffled yawn, "Ellen will be wondering where you got to, she already thinks we're having an affair."

Cho has that half almost smile again, "you don't bring me the right kind of tea," he says firmly, "the tea that you drink, all I can taste is paper and bleach." He tilts his head, "perhaps for loose leaf sencha I might be amenable. Now I will return to the kitchen, as you say, Ellen will be wondering where I am." Cho is a good looking man, Dean thinks, tall and thin, he could have worse lovers and if not for the demon inside him he'd be a formidable member of his army. "One moment," he asked turning back, "since you have returned how many demons have you killed?"

Dean shrugs, "a couple of hundred, maybe," he looks up to the right counting them off in his head, "it's in the low hundreds."

"Just, perhaps it is a conceit, a rumor to soothe demon children in their beds" he turns, so comfortable in someone else's skin that it might as well be his own, "but if you kill one thousand demons you will become one. You might want to start keeping count."

"Is that a warning not to kill your brethren?" Dean asks, angry now.

"I don't care for them. I've killed far more than you, Dean, you know that," he answers, "merely I do not want your army to have to kill you, because with this Limiters that will almost surely kill me as well. Now drink your tea and take a nap, it is late afternoon, the hunt will not leave until late, or without you," his smile is softly mocking, "and there will be food for you when you wake. Castiel," he turns his attention to the angel on the bed, Castiel's wide eyed innocence is disturbing. "He needs rest, please wait until he returns to exhaust him."

As he leaves Dean turns to the angel as he flops out on the old and saggy double bed, kicking up the covers with his feet and patting the bed beside him for Dean. "Is it true?" Dean asks, "about the demon killing?"

Castiel gives him that lopsided grin that usually precedes sex. If it is true, he will never tell of it and Dean will never force him to.

***

The common bestiary was compiled by Hunters from the combined journals that they brought to Camp Chitaqua. It was in the fact mostly the work of Robert Singer and Dominic Hood, going through each book, one by one, to find those details that overlapped. It was at this time most of the minor creatures received one definitive name. These were decided not at whim, or even to be a cohesive whole, but instead by those names which appeared most often in the journals.

Over the years as this was added to and expanded upon it became known as the Greater Bestiary, or the Grande Bestiere.

The journals were lost, it was only through foresight that the Bestiary was not. It is interesting how only some of the entries are illustrated.
Excerpt from "The monsters of Le Grande Bestiere, fact or fiction by Patricia Merigold."

Dean feels somewhat naked without a gun somewhere about his person, he has a semi-automatic at his waistband, another in an ankle holster under his boot cut jeans, and a sawn off in a custom rig at his back. He has a machete hanging from his belt, and a few other knives, in a variety of metals, here and there about his person.

Castiel seems unarmed, but Dean knows better than to think him safe because of that, he is more dangerous with his bare hands than most of them, but Dean can relax the Limits on him enough that he can destroy the demons with a touch. The other Hunters stand wary of the two of them, each of them dangerous in their own way, armed with silver and salt and iron, but if a demon shows they will back down for Dean to take over. A few have one to their name, but Dean is armed with demon killing weapons. Weapons that are so rare that he will not share them.

They walk through the frozen undergrowth almost completely silent, their information suggests that it is an Drowner, the sort of thing that needs more than one, and Hunters reject working with others. This is to train them to work as units, Dean and Castiel are only back up. He's not unafraid to get his hands dirty but he needs them to learn to work without him. He won't always be there.

Tonight they hunt a monster they have taken to calling a Drowner as that is what it does. It's the fleshy spirit of a person who drowned. No one knows why sometimes they come back, just that they do, and they lurk on the fringes of water and woods, in swamps, and pull people into the water with them. There are two ways to take them out, one find out their identity and destroy the item that binds them, which is the traditional method but takes time. The second way involves finding the beast and destroying it utterly with silver, this is quicker but more dangerous as the beast can use a sort of necrotic poison that can they extract and call Cadaverine. It causes rot in any wounds it is introduced to, and can be used to coat steel blades to cause greater damage in other types of monster.

That is the second point of this hunt, they will use the raw materials of the creature to create other things and weapons. It is one of the teachings given by Cho, he calls ital-kamiya. They do not allow him his laboratory alone, Bobby stands over him, learning his skills. It's almost become second nature for them now.

The monster is reasonably dangerous, but for five Hunters is really only an exercise in team building.

This one has been checked that it is only a Drowner and not one of the more dangerous Drowned Dead, who are often confused. Dean once took out a Drowned Dead with Sam, it damn near killed them both, but they did eventually take it out, but not before two kids had died.

Cas lopes along beside Dean, he's been antsy, bored. It's been a while since he's been allowed out to play. The more violence and blood then the more excited he becomes. He wants the Hunters to fail so he can take over, Dean can feel his need itching through the link caused by the Limiters, it must be bad to bleed over like this, Dean thinks. He will arrange with Bobby and Ellen about a solo hunt for them, he will talk about keeping his hand in, but if Castiel gets bored he lashes out on the Hunters for minor infractions. It makes him more dangerous and volatile.

He considers taking the demons too, letting them exert their anger against something else for a change, even Cho, who seems so peaceful on the surface.

Let the Hunters have their Drowner, he'll find something more vicious for his own monsters to play in with.

That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
"Kubla Khan" - Samuel Coleridge

After his time in South Dakota with Bobby Dean did the one thing his father had never done- he looked up his mother's family. His dad had had a brother who had died in the service and was never spoken of, and there was an older tragedy that was equally repressed. He never mentioned his parents but Dean had been led to believe that they were dead.

It didn't take long to find his mother's death certificate and from there her date of birth, an anniversary John had always celebrated alone. He had kept his boys from memories of their mother but it had more to do with keeping a monopoly on his grief than trying to protect them.

John shared little of himself with his sons, merely the information needed to make them better weapons in his fight for revenge.

Mary's maiden name had been Campbell, and she had one living parent, Samuel. Dean didn't miss the resonance of the name at all. From there it wasn't hard to find him at all, he was a land magnate, of a sort, holding properties here and there, but only a small handful of which he rented out to support himself. Dean found him in a small town, northwest of Aurora, Illinois, that he couldn't remember the name of. He was sat in a diner, so clearly a Hunter he might as well have worn a sign and the last of Dean's heart broke then and there.

Samuel, although he was clearly past the age to do so, hunted with his other grandson Christian. No Hunter died alone in his bed of old age. He knew as soon as he saw him that Dean was his daughter's boy and snapped himself closed, like a fan.

Dean took the name Campbell because the Campbells were famous Hunters, he hunted with Christian for a few months as Samuel suggested places for a home base, sometimes slipping and calling Dean Deanna, which was the name of his grandmother. Christian never spoke of his past. Chitaqua was only one of the properties that they scouted, the Campbells had acquired a lot of land over the years.

Sometimes they'd argue in the van about the best ways to kill something. Dean introduced them to Bobby who began to compile the bestiary. With a new name, and a new family, Dean applied for a passport and got it, after all Dean Winchester had died the year before. He excused himself and travelled to the Middle East, to the start of things he said, looking for answers.

He came back tattooed with an angel loping at his heels like a big cat, and a box of jewellery he called Limiters, which would bind demons to his purpose. At first they didn't believe him, but within two years of his return, by which point they had settled and started to renovate Camp Chitaqua, he had two demons completely under his thrall, and other Hunters started to flock to his banner, whether he wanted them to or not.

By the rivers of babylon
where we lay down
ye, we wept
and we remembered Zion

Dean lets Castiel fuck him from behind, hands on his hips, because it allows him to bury his face in the pillow and then lie uselessly about the hitches in his breath. Castiel uses long slow strokes, then short stabbing ones. He can go for hours, another sign of his inhumanity, and then stop to lick along the arch of Dean's bare foot, to nip at the folds of skin at bended knee, as if nothing else matters. He can spend eternities running his tongue over the raised and pebbled flesh of scars and ink.

It takes a long time, because Dean needs it to. He needs it to be as hellish as it is divine.

He shatters when Castiel touches him with kindness, but he craves this, the relief of the tears as much as the orgasm. When he comes Castiel flips him over like a pillow, straddles his stomach and leans forward and licks at the tears, not kisses, not consoling nuzzles, but long broad swipes of his tongue, wiping away the tears and the snot and other things and replacing them with saliva. He puts his palms on either side of Deans' face as he does this, staring at him with an uncomfortable intensity and his face is too close, to near, his breath, sweaty and salty and cold, and Dean shatters again.

Castiel doesn't comment, he merely laps the tears up like a dog at a water bowl with long slow swipes of his tongue until Dean is done, and pushes him off him with a grunt, some comment, and then Castiel watches his master shower.

This time, for whatever reason, Castiel follows him into the shower. Dean turns to him, orgasm sore and open, and the water slicking down his face and buries his face in his neck as Castiel's awkward arms wrap around him. If there are more tears, the shower quickly washes them away.

He does not comment on the angel's broad hand, possessively on the back of his head, fingers curled through the longish hair that falls there, he only notices the gold torque around his angel's neck as it presses painful and permanent into his cheek.

A barbegazi is a monster which resembles a mossy, or hairy, rock. Unlike rocks though they also have very sharp teeth and are capable of imitating human speech. They live in the deepest depths of mines and caves, often the same locations where one might also find vespertyls.

They are scavengers who lure unwary miners into pits and crevasses to feast upon later by imitating cries for help.

They are easily killed with blunt weaponry. A pickaxe, having a steel blade, is particularly useful.

It is often found in the company of the more dangerous Windigo, living off it's scraps.

Excerpt from the Grande Bestiere - translated by Patricia Merigold.

Christian keeps the barbegazi in the same piece of fortified old basement as Dean keeps Farfarello. He likes to tell the unwary Hunters it just up and followed him home one day. It's actually an object lesson that even the most innocuous objects given the chance will rip your throat out.

It cost more than a pretty penny on the black market, grown in captivity but is still fierce with three rows of tiny needle teeth. He feeds it on offcuts of meat, offal and left overs from Ellen's kitchen. It knows his name, calls him Kree-sss-jin, but he's not nearly stupid enough to get close enough to risk his fingers.

Dean suggests he should smash the little fucker's head in with a hammer. There are many reasons why they keep him, he's good for disposing of bodies being one. That he scares the children, of which there are about six about the camp, is another, because through fear they learn to be resourceful.

The last is the reason that Campbell bought him. He reminds Hunters that just because a thing hasn't been seen in the States doesn't mean it's extinct and they don't need to know how to hunt it.

Dean is obsessed with the hunt for demons but most of their army isn't that strong, that determined or that lost; mostly they will hunt Barbegazi and Fleder and city dwelling Pseudorats.

Campbell teaches them as much as he can, how to recognise one, how to recognise it's trail, it's spoor, and the best way to kill it. The rest of it his army has no use for, but it is recorded, listed, kept forever for those who do need it, like which materials can be scavenged from what for those who practise Al-kamiya, and which can be used as allies if necessary.

Christian however is fascinated by the Barbegazi. "You have a pet angel," he taunts Dean as he feeds it.

Dean answers, "yes, but you have a pet rock, I thought that went out before we were born."

Christian calls him a jerk, it's fondly mocking.

Dean punches him in the face. Behind him the Barbegazi makes a high pitched hihihi noise that suggests it's laughing at him. Christian, nursing his jaw as his cousin walks away throws the last of the bacon rind at it before wondering what was the trigger this time.

The function of muscle is to pull and not to push, except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.
Famous Quotation by Da Vinci, Leonardo

The demon is bound to the spot with a Seal of Solomon, tied in place with maiden hair and her hands nailed to the chair with silver grave nails. She is wearing the remnants of a night gown, and her face and hair are stained with old gore. She is a lesser demon, a bruxa, and Dean thinks they caught her within a week of her spree starting. This is handy, the general consensus is that the bitches hibernate in the third week for upwards of fifty years.

She lashes and bites at empty air and screams, there is nothing human about her except her form, lovely and pale, but the skin is wrinkled like it's too large and hangs on her like a hand me down dress, and thin enough to show the empty veins and arteries underneath it and the pull of muscle against muscle and bone thrust against vellum skin.

Her breasts are full and high on her chest, her nipples pointed and her pubic hair obvious through the rags she's wearing, but her entire chin, neck and the top of her breast is stained with gore.

Her eyes hold a terrible liquidity.

She screams and yells as they inject holy water into her veins, and then her head falls down, old Campbell realizes that this is the moment to ask her. Dean doesn't hear the question, he's stood by the back wall with Castiel.

"Ah, say, sell," she breathes it out through her mangled throat, mangled by her nature and not what they have done to her.

All of them step back. "Ah say sell," she is forcing the word out, long past the point where she knows she can escape. Then she starts to laugh, although even the sound of it is broken.

All of the monsters that can imitate speech or form can laugh.

"Ah say sell." She can see the effect it's having on them, the look of growing horror. "Kah, me, Ah say sell kah me." The laugh is a crowing of delight now.

"Bobby," Dean says, "do we need anything else from her?" If Bobby says no, they'll end it here and now and burn the house down.

"Dean," Castiel says suddenly, cocking his head to the west "her kiss is coming, she was not alone."

Dean's entire posture changes from louch indifference to battle ready without shifting a muscle. "All of you, go back to the van, send Cho and the other one to me, they could do with a little exercise."

When the two demons come in, totally different in mien and appearance Dean undoes their Limiters then joins the others in the van.

There are screams at first, female ones. The only Limiter not in his hands is Castiel's.

It takes hours, which doesn't surprise Dean at all- Farfarello always did like to play with his victims.

Then Cho comes out, tall and urbane, with not a drop of blood on him. Farfarello behind him, wary and loping like a big cat, but blood soaked, and Castiel, with a terrible splash of blood across his shirt, arterial spray by the look of it, suggesting one of the Bruxa had just eaten.

It wasn't supposed to have a Kiss.

Their information was wrong. It was meant to be a single Bruxa. They are not supposed to hunt in packs. If they did it means something stronger was controlling them. Bruxa attack and kill other Bruxa on sight. And it named Azazel.

"I need a cup of tea." Cho says, clipping his Limiters back on his ears himself, "and a long hot bath."

Farfarello holds out his wrists and Dean clamps the cuffs in place. "Do you feel better?"

Farfarello's smile is hideous, he has filed his vessel's teeth down to points and his eyes are slitted and yellow. His hair is shock white, other than that he sort of looks like Billy Idol, had Billy Idol worked at a slaughter house where a cow had exploded all over him. "Better is relative," he stretches his neck at an almost inhuman angle, it creaks and clicks under the gesture. "you said one Bruxa, you give twelve."

"Twelve?" Dean asks, Cas just smiles and picks a fleck of dried blood from the Limiter around his neck, his nail picking at the twisted coils of his torque.

"Fuck," Campbell breathes, twelve would have been a massacre for upwards of twenty Hunters. It took four to restrain the one that they had caught.

"I don't suppose you left anything for salvage." Bobby says, climbing off the bench seat, "we're running low on Nazean salts." And that is their reality, from imminent death to horror to practicality in moments, then back to the camp to shower, shit and sleep. And tomorrow they'll do it all over again.

After he's gathered what he wants from the Bruxa Bobby will burn down the old house with salt and turpentine to make sure there is nothing left. Local cops will blame it on bored kids- the house had been abandoned for years after all.

By the rivers of Babylon
where we laid down
ye we wept
and we remembered Zion

"You need to eat," Cho says pushing the plate of stir fried vegetables across the table to where Dean sits scribbling into his journal. Castiel is sat on the bench beside him.

"No," Dean answers, "I need to find out who sold us out. Who knew we would be at that house?"

"Then do so whilst you eat." He pushes the plate again. "You will make Ellen worry."

"You use my fear of Ellen against me, don't you?"

Cho offers him that small half smile, that almost smile that plays at the corners of his mouth. "Shamelessly." He agrees. "If you eat that there is ice cream in the cooler."

"I'm not hungry." Dean says pushing the plate back, "I've got other things to worry about."

"You weren't hungry yesterday, you weren't hungry the day before, I recall we had an agreement, I would lace your tea with multivitamin tablets and you would give in if you hadn't eaten in three days." He tilts his head. "Today is day three, you must be starting to get weak, even if you aren't feeling faint yet. Now eat." He pushes the plate back across, "after day three it's the nutrition shakes and we all remember how you feel about those." Dean pulls a face but puts down his pen and lifts the fork. "Just as much as you can manage."

Cho doesn't tell the others about Dean's problem eating, he just fusses over him until he eats. He just smiles that almost smile and bullies him into submission.

Dean lifts a white doughy lump. "What is this?" he asks before he puts it in his mouth.

"Tofu," Cho answers through that serene smile.

"And you still want me to eat this?" Dean shakes his head but pops it into his mouth regardless. It's not like he's tasted food in years anyway. It all tastes like ash and sawdust, and tofu is no exception. "It better be healthy," he mumbles with a mouthful of food. "Who knew we would be there? that it would be us, I mean, Bobby and Campbell and Christian and me?"

"Why are you so sure it's a conspiracy and not just bad intel?" Cho pours himself a cup of tea from the pot on the table.

"You didn't hear it," Dean admits forking the food into his mouth but talking regardless. "It said Azazel, over and over again."

"Maybe she had friends in high places." Castiel says from the bench, he sits so still and silent it's easy to forget that he is there. "Maybe it's all a coincidence."

"I don't believe in coincidence," Dean answers, "someone sold us out. One Bruxa for information is manageable, twelve is a slaughter, they're not pack animals." He chews thoughtfully on a piece of carrot, "that means something was controlling them, something more powerful than they are, but Bruxa are high enough on the food chain as it is. Someone knew we'd be there, but didn't know that you would, or even counted on it to assess your strength."

"It's a big assumption, Dean, that there is a traitor."

"Everyone betrays," Castiel answers calmly, reaching out to Dean's plate to pluck a runner bean which he pops into his mouth and crunches between his teeth, "everyone can be gotten. The devil is the great deceiver and his emissaries are no less tricksome. I never trust a traitor, especially one I've made myself."

"I know." Dean answers, "and we have a traitor, we just need to figure out who."

"How do you know it wasn't me?" Cho asks, he is wearing that sweet serene smile like a mask.

"How did you lose your eye, Cho?" Dean asks in reply.

Neither of them answer the question.

***
When the wicked carried us away into captivity
And required of us a song
Now, how shall we sing the Lord's song
In a strange land

"Jus anova cupla mints, Sammy," Dean drools into his pillow as Castiel shakes him awake. Then realising what he's said he sits up almost slamming his forehead against Castiel's.

"You were having a nightmare." the angel points out.

"Yeah," Dean says swinging his legs from his bed to the floor, "something like that."

He'd been dreaming about his brother. He scrubs his face with the flat of his hand. "You think Ellen will have some coffee on?" He asks the angel.

The angel's face is sweetly resolute, not worried, almost beatific and blank. "Yes," he answers. And the conversation is changed.

It's starting to snow as they trek up to the big house where Ellen lives. It was where the camp manager lived. She claimed it for her own rather than braving winter in the cabins, and Dean was happy to give her the old house. The ground is hard underfoot, and when he stumbles on a rock that rolls from the path he catches sight of Castiel, only wearing the raggy pair of y-fronts he was in whilst Dean slept. "Don't you feel the cold?" Dean snaps at him.

"No," Castiel answers, "I think I did once, but I've forgotten how." Dean shakes his head and considers taking the blanket that he has pulled about his shoulders for the walk, and wrapping it around the angel, or taking the rock he stumbled on and throwing it at him instead. Castiel will never pass as human, not entirely.

There is a light on in Ellen's kitchen, even if she's in bed, which is unusual enough, the door is open, the light on and coffee in the pot on the stove. She's sat in front of the stove on one of the wooden chairs, wearing a wool robe over a sensible pair of men's pyjamas and thick hand knit socks. She takes one look at Castiel and shakes her head.

"I didn't notice," Dean says standing in front of the stove to warm through, even the five minute walk and he's chilled to the bone. Castiel got them both mugs down from the dresser. "Ellen, do you ever," he stops, "I mean, do you still dream of Bill?"

Ellen has an earthy laugh that is fond and warm. "The day I stop dreaming about my Bill is the day I die. You okay, Dean?"

He sits down at the chair. "Yeah, just peachy." He takes the coffee from Castiel, "go put some clothes on," he chides, "and shoes, you make me cold just looking at you."

This has happened before so Ellen keeps some clothes for him upstairs, but it means Jo might get an accidental eyeful. Ellen gets out of her hair and pulls down a bottle of cooking brandy that she has stowed away behind jars of things in the back of the cupboard. Hunters can drink and cooking brandy is better than some of them know, so given the opportunity they will steal it. She pours two healthy dollops into their coffee. "You know what, Dean," she says conspiratorially, "the day I stop dreaming of Bill is the day I don't love him any more. You haven't said goodbye, have you."

"Sammy's been dead going on four years now." Dean answers, "that sounds pretty final to me."

"Well, I aint a hunter, but I've been around them a long time," she takes a large mouthful of her coffee and swallows deliberately, "and I knew your daddy too, and I hear things, about places people can go to raise the dead, about things you can give up."

"They're just stories, Ellen." Dean cuts her off, "old hunter's tales."

"Most would ask a demon, go to a crossroads at midnight, but then you risk Hell, don't you, but there is that place way out east near Hiroshima but that takes years, don't it, and there's one somewhere near Carthage that was, probably the most powerful and dangerous of them all, I hear."

Dean tilts his head, "come out and say it."

"Did you go there to raise Sammy?"

Dean is silent for long still moments. "Yeah." He answers finally. Then drinks his coffee.

The silence is oppressive between them, settling like smoke. "You know why Azazel hates me, Ellen, I mean it's obvious why I hate him, but even when I shot his son he just plain disliked me. Now, he'd burn the world to get me and we both know it." Ellen leans on her elbows on the table in a gesture that says tell me. "That's what I learned in Carthage that was. When we burned those kids we stopped him opening the gates to Hell, we thwarted over thirty years of work by just doing what Hunters do. He had a plan, you know, he was going to let Lucifer loose, and I stopped it, by accident."

Ellen gives out a long low whistle. "Yeah, the place in Carthage, it was a bust, it was an ink mine, if you can believe it. The whole thing was a waste of time. You know what I found in the desert, Ellen, dust, dust, more dust, and more fucking dust. And Sammy would have known what I was looking for, and Sammy's gone and he aint ever coming back and I have to live with that, I have to live with it and he was my baby brother and he's gone because I wasn't quick enough to save him, because I stopped at one too many intersections or I didn't drive fast enough or I didn't cut someone up, that's how close it was, Ellen, and he's dead and I have to live with it."

Ellen pours another dollop of brandy into his coffee. "Do you want to stay here tonight? There's an empty bed upstairs."

"I don't think I'm going to sleep anymore, do you?" He asks.

"Me neither," she says, "we can drink the sun in together."

"I'll drink to that," he says raising his coffee in salute.

She clanks her mug against him as Castiel comes in, still buttoning up his fly, his shoes untied. "Oh, we're drinking, great, I'll get the moonshine in from the shed."

By morning the table is surrounded by people drinking moonshine in their coffee and not speaking of the reasons that they are there.

"To those that went before." Castiel raises his mug, it's almost pure moonshine, but it doesn't affect him.

"To Joseph and Sarah," Christian agrees speaking of his parents.

"To Bill," Ellen adds.

"To Karen," Bobby says with low gravitas.

"To Deanna." Campbell says with a broken look in his eyes. It is the name of his wife, murdered by Azazel.

"To Sam," Dean agrees and if the Campbell's don't know who he is then the steely eyed look from Ellen silences them anyway.

***
Their captain then to Farfarello turning,
Who roll'd his moony eyes in act to strike,
Rebuked him thus: "Off, cursed bird! avaunt!"
Dante - Inferno Canto XXII

Farfarello is dangerous. He is kept underground in a room marked by devil's traps and salt kept under duck tape. The room is old stone and always cold but the demon refuses the blankets piled in the corner. He sits cross legged on his bare mattress, and reads and when Dean opens the door, tray in one hand, he smiles, a Cheshire cat in the darkness, all pointed teeth and flashing eyes.

"I want answers," Dean says sliding the plastic tray across the floor. He knows better than to get too close. There is tea in a paper cup. There are mashed potatoes mixed with spring onions and fat German sausages on a paper plate. There is no cutlery.

The last time he got a spoon two people died.

Farfarello is dangerous.

Dean pulls up the wooden chair that is just outside the door and sits down carefully, he crosses his arms over his chest and waits.

Farfarello is dangerous but he is incredibly intelligent under the lunacy- and he is quite mad- and when he chooses to give counsel it is to be heeded.

Castiel is inhuman and cannot understand. Cho pretends to be human and does not interfere, but Farfarello has nothing to gain and nothing to lose so he speaks honestly. "Tell me about Azazel." Dean says calmly, "tell me what comes next."

"Jack be subtle, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the pile of sticks, silly little boy should have jumped higher, might have missed the pope's trip wire."

Dean has heard that rhyme before but he waits, you don't rush Farfarello, the devil's trap holds him in place, but even then he is still very dangerous, even to Dean who holds his Limiter under control.

Farfarello has spoken of Jack before. Whoever he was he was burned alive, sometimes the demon calls him Crispy Jack, or Burnt Jack, but he is always undone by the pope.

"Messiah," Farfarello says looking up from his plate of mashed potatoes and gravy. "You can start a ball rolling, but you've got to have the ball. Azazel's a fool, he gave you a weapon, but you didn't know, and you can use it, if you're clever, but you can't catch the ball. There will be blood, and fire, and burning and Jack will laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and the pope will have his due."

"I don't understand," Dean replies as Farfarello pushes the tray, empty now, back across the devil's trap.

"Don't need to understand," the demon grins, "just to lead. A Jihad, a messiah, one against the demons. The demons live to scare people, so when they are scared they'll pray to Him," the Him is spoken with real venom, "kill the demons they won't pray. No prayer- no Him." That's Farfarello's long term plan and the reason Dean Limited and didn't exorcise him. "So many jihad- lead them, lead them, but you can't be there to do it, or you'll burn, like Jack. People will gather for a martyr but they'll follow a messiah."

"You want me to be a messiah, to lead them into a holy war?"

"Azazel is simple, his plans are simple, he has a goal, he is a foot soldier, he follows other people's orders, he's a puppet pope. But even popes can burn, popes are dangerous but they will never be as dangerous as Him, bring Him down. But you can't catch the ball, you can roll it, you can push it, but you can't catch it. Three times three, widdershins around the hill. You have allies you do not know, three times three and they will come. Messiah means chosen one, but it's not the one chosen by Him."

"Choose, Dean Winchester, choose, and three times three will aid you, but there must be fire, Hell is cold, empty, with horrors you cannot understand for your mortal life, but it can be cleansed with fire and salt and a leader prepared. Three times three. Three days on the oak. Three nights under the sky. Three dawns for the old blind god. Three times three widdershins around the hill and they will come. There is more to Heaven and Earth than He would have you know."

Farfarello is dangerous, and his counsel garbled and confusing but always honest.

***
He went into the desert where the Devil offered him wonders, he refused.

He went into the forest where the Devil offered him wonders, he refused.

He went into the oceans where the Devil offered him wonders, he refused.

He went to the Crossroads and asked the Devil for a miracle, he was refused.

Excerpt from the Book of Campbell

Dominic Hood witnessed a miracle as a child. He spent his teenage and college years convinced that this had damned him to hell. He studied biblical lore to redeem his soul. A demon thought that this was the funniest thing he'd heard in a long time. It had been a miracle it agreed, but the scales weren't that uneven. The demon let him live, albeit torn and scarred, because he had made it laugh.

So when he heard of Dean Campbell, and the gathering of Hunters in a place called Camp Chitaqua he let his apartment, lifted his books, packed his car and drove until he found it.

They don't even register the beaten up old station wagon as it pulls up into the camp. No one turns to look at the scholar with his bed head and slept in the car crumpled clothes. He leans against the car for a while, perhaps an hour, maybe two, before he begins to suspect that he isn't welcome.

He is about to pull away when a Chinese man brings him tea. "You must be here by mistake." The man says with a sweet serene smile, that is almost there, in the corner of his mouth and his one large brown open eye. The other is covered by a fall of black hair. He wears a vest and tie, but a pair of ear cuffs dominate the image of him, it is so extraneous to the perfectly pressed suit and shining shoes, his punk rock earrings. "It is dangerous, it would be safer to take the road back, but here, before you go, let us drink tea and talk of happier things."

Dominic takes the offered ceramic mug, it's chipped at the lip, and there are some faded kittens on the design, washed almost away. "I am a biblical scholar, trained at seminary and with access to the Vatican archives. I thought I could help."

The Chinese man smiles again, tilting his head as he considers this. "Leave this with me," he says, "I shall return anon with your answer. But my warning stands, this place is dangerous, there are alternatives."

"I saw a miracle." Dominic says the old words, them falling out of him before he has an idea what he is saying, "I was damned, what have I got to lose?"

At that the Chinese man stutters, his smile falters and his one eye looks pitying. "You'd be surprised." He answers, "I'll talk to Campbell for you, but even if they accept you, and they may not-for you are not a Hunter- it would probably be best to take lodgings in the town. These cabins feel the cold bitterly, and not all of them have stoves."

The winter chilling his hands, despite the tea, Dominic gets back into the car, turns on the heater and waits.

When the wicked carried us away into captivity
And required of us a song
Now, how shall we sing the Lord's song
In a strange land

***
Dean lies on his stomach as Cas rubs the expensive medicinal oil into his back, thumbs down into the places where the muscles butt against each other and grinds the pads down, to work the knots free.

Dean grunts against the thumbs, against the hard cock rubbing at the back of his thigh. The thick thighs on either side of his own where Cas kneels above him to better work his hands into the meat of him.

This isn't sexual, yet.

It will end in Cas fucking him, it always does, but for now it's about working out the kink in Dean's back, and the hitch in his calf that always bothers him come spring.

Dean's too young to feel so old.

Castiel's hands are sure and firm and the oil is just the right side of hot, menthol, cinnamon and eucalyptus burning just enough to ease the tension, the knots at the back of his neck, the pulls across his back, the hitches in his legs. Castiel knows what he is doing and under his hands Dean will come undone. Castiel doesn't judge, he merely moves his hands where he know they will do the most good.

"I want to fuck you." Dean drawls into the pillow, not quite sure where that comes from.

"As if you'd enjoy that." Castiel smirks, Dean can hear it in his voice. He wonders how the camp would react if the angel showed how he really was, demanding, wistful, yearning; cut adrift from Heaven and drunk on sensation.

He is as fierce at fucking as he is at fighting.

Knuckles drag across a dimpled rib, broken and bound only when it had started to heal. Palm across the gritty pebble-dash skin along a hip where he was dragged behind a car. Finger tips over the curving tattoo of rowan that binds together the sigils on his back, making an item of beauty of the ugly scars from an attempted flaying. He has a Hunter's beauty; pocks, scars and tears.

In contrast Castiel's skin is unmarked and only wrinkled from his vessel's human life, before Castiel took his body and made it his own. There are calluses on his neck from the torque, and on the third finger of his left hand, where his vessel wore a ring. He doesn't anymore.

He squats over Dean, ass on the back of his knees, erect cock rubbing at the muscles of his ass, as he rubs the tension from his skin.

Then content that the worst of it is done he begins the last phase, the one that turns Dean to jello in his hands, using the balm as lubrication he begins to scratch, long hard pulls down his back and Dean sighs into it.

Castiel chuckles as he runs his nails along the back, following the contours of muscle, along his sides, pushing that little bit harder over the rib cage than the fleshy underbelly. He rolls Dean over underneath him, and Dean's eyes are wide and shattered, pupils as large as pennies with relaxation. Castiel smiles as he continues to scratch.

"Oh, if I'm interrupting." Jo says opening the door.

"If you want to intrude," it's a drawl from Castiel over his shoulder, "there's always space for one more."

Dean pushes the angel off him. "It's fine, Jo, you weren't interrupting, I was getting a back rub." He stands up, careless of his nudity around her, after all this is Jo, who had a crush on him once but has always been a sister. "Say what you will but his back rubs are heavenly, want one?" he looks at the angel who shrugs.

"Bobby wants you," Jo says stepping across the room and pulling off her tee to reveal her gone grey in the wash bra, "I'm game, angel, are you?" And Dean is torn because he wants to watch, pulling on his jeans as Jo slips off hers. She's tiny and almost unscarred, as dangerous as any of them but with a doll bright beauty and curves as soft as the curls in her hair. It wouldn't be the first time he's crossed the line with Jo, it wouldn't even be the last.

"When you're finished with Bobby, are you coming back?" Jo asks over her shoulder, kneeling on the bed in front of Castiel, hands reaching around to unhook her bra.

Dean considers it for a moment, then he nods. "I think I will."

"Groovy," Jo says with a wicked smile.

Dean agrees with Cho's assessment without even hearing what he's saying about biblical somethings and Vatican something else. Bobby wants his counsel but his head is full of the image of Jo, small and perfect, sprawled out on his bed with Castiel's hands all over her.

"If he can survive the winters then he's more than welcome. Tell him what Farfarello said, see if he can make sense of it."

Bobby nods but looks at Dean shrewdly, "the demon's mad, you know that, he rambles."

Dean shrugs as he turns back to the door, towards where Jo and Cas are waiting on him, Cas rubbing the tension from her body with large blunt fingered hands, "it's never stopped him being right."

When he gets back to the cabin Jo is puissant under Castiel's hands, arching her back just so and rubbing her hips, barely contained in her striped cotton panties, into the mattress. The angel is talking to her, deep and low, and not in words Dean can recognise, Enochian perhaps, or Greek, an old language of noise and touch and sex.

Cas doesn't turn back, says nothing as Dean toes off boots, pulls the old knit pullover free, and then unbuttons his jeans. Jo knew this was coming. Cas pulls one hand from the curve of her hip where he clutched a little too tight, and pushes it down along the swell of her ass into her panties. Jo makes a hitched little curse, "fuck" under her breath, riding back unto the hand even as she chides, "warn a girl when you're going to do that."

Even like this she is in control and they are the toys she has chosen to pleasure her. There are rules to fucking Jo, and the two of them know them well.

Dean, naked now, soft still, because Jo isn't here for that, pulls away her panties to give Cas more room to play. He still has the oil on his hands, bitterly hot and sweetly cold at the same time and rubs Jo hard, three fingers dovetailed together.

Dean takes place to the left of her, running his hand down her back, the other holding him upright. There are rules here, places they're allowed to touch and how, with a soft bite to the curve of her ass Cas lifts her and slips his head underneath to lick and bite and suck and pull as Dean pushes at first one finger, then two, then three, inside her, rocking in the opposite rhythm to Cas, supporting her through the first orgasm, the second and the unrelenting third.

When she's done, Dean wipes his fingers off on the sheet, she rolls over, breasts splayed, a sated queen amongst them. Her thighs fall open as Cas uses his hand to wipe his face, wiping most of her away before he leans in to Dean. Satisfied, Jo will watch, devastated by skin hunger she'll run her hands up and down her arms, over her thighs, avoiding her over excited vulva, but she won't touch them, as Dean gets on to his knees, as Castiel pushes in a little too hard. When it is over, when Dean is as completed as she, then Cas will offer, and she will refuse. That too is one of the rules. Dean won't mind, he'll watch with the same hunger she did, but Castiel belongs to Dean, they just let her play.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat mourning and weeping when we remembered Zion.
On the poplars of that land we hung up our harps.
There our captors asked us for the words of a song;
Our tormentors, for a joyful song: "Sing for us a song of Zion!"
But how could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand wither.
May my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem beyond all my delights.
Remember, Lord, against Edom that day at Jerusalem. They said: "Level it, level it down to its foundations!"
Fair Babylon, you destroyer, blessed are those who pay you back the evil you have done us!
Blessed are those who seize your children and smash them against a rock.
Psalm 137

Dominic is the image of the perfect scholar, he wears an old sweater that's more patch and repair than original design, thick heavy glasses and hair that hasn't seen a comb in at least a week. He is sat in Ellen's kitchen surrounded by empty coffee cups and old manuscripts as he deciphers the demon's counsel.

"It's not that complicated," he says finally, "once you get through the junk, he's telling you to become a figurehead, an icon not a person, and to call the old gods and the Fey."

"Fuck," Dean breathes under his breath.

"He talks about someone else who did this and got burnt at the stake for his bother, his "Burnt Jack" who I'm guessing is Jacques de Molay, but I could be wrong, it makes sense but without asking him I can't be sure, as I said, I'm guessing. If it is de Molay then he is associated with this chap, Baphomet." He turns the book to show a demon sat crosslegged with one arm raised, and a pentacle burning in his forehead.

"Fuck," Dean repeats.

"No, it's not so simple, no one's quite sure who Baphomet is, Aleister Crowley claimed he was a demon, others say it's a corruption of the word Mohamet or Mohammed, and others still say it means absorption into wisdom."

"And what do you think?" Bobby asks, crossing his arms and leaning back against the counter.

"I think it's an old god, one of the Forgotten- as you called them." One thing Dominic learned quickly was the terminology. "There is a description of a figure with three faces on one head in some manuscripts." He pushes another book across to Bobby who lifts it.

"That sounds like the true face of an angel." Castiel says from where he is raiding the cookie jar for the crumbs that remain there, sucking them off his fingers with a lewd pop.

"I was thinking that, makes sense of the whole Jerusalem thing, anyway, but there are all these gods who no one remembers or who got co opted into saints or devils or such, right, I'm wondering if that's what happened and then they got mega rich so the pope came in with the thumbscrews."

"What does this have to do with us?" Dean exhales the question.

"Easy, the old gods, we find a way to summon them and then see if we can't ask them to join our army and even the odds a bit. The other bit is about becoming a figurehead, which you already are, and he talks about starting a holy war, so he might be asking you to become Pope, or Joan of Arc, who also burned at the stake, I don't know.

"I don't know how someone becomes a Messiah, which is what he wants." Dominic runs his hand through his hair leaving it even more dishevelled in his wake. "I'll be honest, I've looked at this every way I can, and it makes no fucking sense to me. I'll take the "Golden Bough" to bed with me tonight and see if I can't shag up some summoning rituals that don't involve human sacrifice." He laughs a bit weakly, "see if I can't find a list of warrior gods who might just want to join for the fun of it."

"And the Fey?" Dean asks, numbers matter after all.

"Maybe it's my Irish gram talking," Dominic says standing up, closing the books over, "but you don't fuck with fairies."

"Odin," Dean says, "the whole oak hanging thing, what happened if you survived?"

Dominic shrugs, rolling his shoulders and then cricks his neck, set in place from hunching over the books. "Dunno," he answers, "never heard of anyone who did."

To the world at large nothing happened those first few years after Dean returned from the Middle East with the Angel and the Limiters. This was wrong, much was achieved in that time, but it happened beneath the Veil.
Excerpt from the Book of Campbell

The Hunter throws the sodden sack unto the outside table, "I don't know what it is, aint never seen one before," he says, sneering, "but it aint natural and it's dead, figured you might want it for your monster book."

Bobby pulls back the sack to examine the corpse on the table, then shake out it's contents to the floor with a wet squelch, a bumpy and rough-skinned creature two or so yards in length resembling a stump overgrown with algae and with ten paws and jaws like cut-saws. Bobby kicks it.

"How d'ya kill it?" he asks.

"Whacked it with a shovel till it died." The hunter drawls, taking the money that Bobby offers him, "guns had no effect, shots bounced right off."

"Bladed weapons then," Bobby thinks, "Cho," he calls the demon over, "seen one of these before?"

"I think it's an aeschna," the demon replies taking long strides across the camp, "find it somewhere swampy?" the hunter shrugs agreement more interested in counting the notes in his hand.

"Anything worth salvaging?" they get extra for that- all the hunters know that.

"No," the demon says, "we could use the teeth as hooks or something, but nothing useful, and they stink something fierce when you burn them. Sorry, Bobby, did you give him the new monster bonus?"

Bobby rolls his eyes and reaches into his wallet again. The money's not inexhaustible but they make do. They have their sponsors after all and supply most of their foodstuffs themselves. Uncursed trinkets are shipped off and sold, and they have a 100% feedback rate on ebay for trinkets, gewgaws and small charms. If it was edible they would have eaten the Aeschna. They don't advertise that amongst the hunters who can be surprisingly squeamish about such things.

Cho goes to the water's edge and lifts a boating hook, slamming it into the corpse with a sort of meaty thud before dragging it off for disposal.

Dean looks at him askance as he passes, "Al-kamiya," the demon laughs, "it's a messy job, but there's a nice cup of tea waiting on me for when I'm done." He sounds almost gleeful. Dean just shakes his head and goes back into the cabin he shares with Castiel.

"I worry about him," he says, "he gets excited about monster guts."

Castiel tilts his head, "monsters can be fascinating." He replies, he is sat cross legged on the chest of drawers in only a pair of jeans, his feet bare and dusty. "They all die differently." He doesn't move, his chest doesn't rise and fall with something so human and trivial as breathing. "We could kill something." He suggests.

"Yes," Dean says agreeing, "we could, but we have other things to do."

There is a kerthump sound as Castiel drops down to the floor. "we could fuck," he offers, he makes it sound like he offers a cup of coffee, like it's a second thought.

"Not now, Cas," Dean says lifting the books he has been studying with Dominic.

Cas smiles, "when you're ready."

"Why don't you go hunt rabbits with Christian?" Dean asks from the book.

"How can I protect you if I am not beside you?" the angel asks. This question he wants an answer to.

"I took care of myself just fine before I found you." Dean mutters without looking up from the book, suddenly feeling claustrophobic in the relationship, such as it is, that they share.

***
The Arc Castiel was deathly in his brilliance, cold and infallible. It was the truest test of his inhumanity. He was sentinel and nursemaid and a million things besides. It is a mark of how he was divine in nature that he managed to be all of these things at the same time.
Excerpt from the Book of Campbell.

Dean doesn't hear the bang, just feels his leg collapse beneath him when he tries to put his weight on it, and then Castiel forcing him down, down, down, into the hard sidewalk. As Castiel's not quite right body heat, either too hot or too cold- sometimes both -bears down on him Dean feels the fire blossom in his leg.

He tries to throw Castiel off but he can't seem to get purchase as the thunder repeats above his head. "Stay down," Cas hisses and then he is gone. There is a flash of light- the lightning Dean thinks, how strange, there were six rolls of thunder and only one flash- and Cas is back, smelling of brimstone and holy wrath. "The ambulance is coming," he says cocking his head to the west. "Just wait."

Then the angel rolls his shoulders, hitching them up for a second before he spits five mangled bullets into his palm.

***
"I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side
And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing."

Excerpt from "La Belle Dame sans Merci" by John Keats

Morphine makes the dreams fever bright. It makes films about ghosts of memories and twists them together in lurid technicolour and bad dub sound where mouths and words don't fit.

The Lady of the Lake sits in one of the hospital chairs under the light of the window, a brilliant peridot against the beige and grey and she smiles, the fabric beneath her sopping wet but she is not really there; has never been there; would not come here.

She is wearing the Limiters as she was when he first discovered her, Castiel's torque about her neck, Cho's cuffs on her ears, Farfarello's bangles on her wrists. Other than that she is as she always is, naked and sublime.

She speaks although he doesn't know the language he knows the words. She repeats what she told him in that cave in the ancient places.

"Kings and knights have served me, but their worship was cold. Shepherds and goatherds sacrificed to me but their offerings of meat were tough. It has been long since one such as you came to my temple, what do you bring me?"

Dean doesn't remember what he says to her, but she laughs.

"Then start with worship, give me a compliment that I might know your intent."

He says something about her kindness and she laughs, she says how her kings spoke often of her wisdom and gentle touch, but it is not the compliment he wants to give her.

This is not how it went, Dean thinks, this is someone else's meeting with her.

The second compliment offends her, he says her eyes are like stars - distant and cold she cuts him off abruptly.

Then he gives her the compliment he did pay her, that her ass is fucking magnificent and she laughs.

"Many knights worshipped me and drank of my waters, they spoke of my majesty and my mien but I saw where their eyes lingered." She splays her hands against her breasts to better show them off.

"And where are those knights?" He is pushing it, she exudes power and he is in her place, the underground temple where he found her and in the hospital, and the Camp and the back of the Impala with Sam. He is in all of these places and none of them, trapped in a poppy dream.

"I am no match for Destiny," she says sadly, "each came to me and told me that it was time that they fulfilled their destinies, that great quest which saw them dead, they searched out the Grail but none returned and eventually my temples grew quiet without their songs. I will have no more knights in my service."

Then Sam is there, standing behind her, his hand on her shoulder, dwarfing her, although she is not a little thing. "You're dead." Dean says.

"Yes," Sam agrees.

"I failed you, I was supposed to protect you." He's wanted to say that for so long and in the dream he can.

Sam's answer is succinct, ""If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. Still-if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I'm grateful that so many of those moments are nice."

The goddess smiles at him. Dean is angry, his brother is quoting fucking Vonnegut.

Jo is there, all in black with a black lace veil over her blonde bright hair, her eyes are like deep forest pools in which he is invited to drown. She offers him a wreath of flowers bound in ribbon before she smiles and places it on her own head.

Then Castiel is there in the dream, he bows his head to the Lady of the Lake. He speaks in a language of harsh syllables and long long vowels, "and on this day all gods must die."

He takes two, three, long steps across to Dean's bed and whispers "We are here to see the Veil burn."

That's when Dean wakes up.

***
When the wicked carried us away into captivity
And required of us a song
Now, how shall we sing the Lord's song
In a strange land

Castiel's cock is hard and hot and huge inside him, pushing Dean into the mattress without care of his injured leg. His hands are rough and sore against Dean's hips and it makes it better; richer; the more it hurts the more he needs it.

Castiel stops just short of the stitches bursting as Dean splatters his completion on the comforter.

Dean wants Castiel to hurt him, to rip him wide open, to leave him torn and bloody, but the angel won't. This isn't about sex, this is Castiel reaffirming that Dean is there, that Dean is whole, that he didn't fail in protecting him.

Cas microwaved the demon, burning him out from the inside, destroying both possessor and possessed, but it wasn't enough, wasn't quick enough, Dean knows how he feels.

Cas said when they first met that angels don't feel, that they are emotionless soldiers, robot drones created to serve but Dean has had him for years and he knows better, Castiel feels, just not in a human way, he burns brighter, hotter. He burns in a way that would burn a human out.

He is angry with himself, frustrated, and the slap of his balls against Dean's ass is a reassurance but it's not enough, never enough, can't ever be enough. Dean owns him but what the angel feels for Dean is complicated. He doesn't feel, he argues, slamming their hips together with a meaty thwap. Sweat sticks them together like glue and Castiel's breathing, out of time - fake, is erratic, broken and Dean doesn't cry, because it hurts, because for once, it's real. The brace on his leg rattles with the force of the thrusts.

The pain is white, bright, and violent, washing over him as the blackness rises up to receive him, Castiel doesn't stop, just continues rutting into the body beneath him.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelations 12:1

Dean's not up to the long drive, the brace only just removed but he's still on crutches, when Sarah calls. He does as he always does when she calls, he drops everything. Christian calls her Dean's Virgin Queen and Dean just rolls his eyes all the way through the drive in Christian's RV.

They take the RV rather than the car so Dean can stretch his leg out on the couch.

Castiel has found an old National Geographic and lies upon the floor holding the magazine up, Sarah doesn't care for Cas but he won't let Dean go anywhere without him. Christian is singing along with some country rock Dean can't bear, but he takes the opportunity, comfortably mouthing the words in the novel in his hands, one he did not expect to like, one Sarah sent him and he immediately loved. It had been one of Sam's favourites.

Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is the last thing he expected a book to be.

It's not the book he thought it would be, and the copy he has still has Sam's name scrawled in it. He left some things with Sarah, the book was just one of them, lent to her because he thought she'd like it. She hadn't, when he drove all the way to New York State to tell her the words he couldn't enunciate- when she had screamed and fell to her knees- then her father had given him a box, the book was on top.

Most everything he learned of Sam he learned from that book.

Now he reads the words over and over, comfortably familiar and equally strange, the tale of a man going into the jungle and coming out changed. Sarah doesn't call often, sometimes she does it just to hear Dean speak, to talk to someone who understands, she had two years of correspondence and late night unending phone calls before it ended so abruptly.

She accepts Christian's flirting with a harmless grace but she sees Sam in him, the set of his head and the way he holds himself. He shares a hunter's usual poise.

She stands on the stoop when they pull up, a black shawl around her shoulders, she's cropped her hair tight about her head, and she is wrapped tight against the late spring chill. "Dean," she says when he climbs out of the RV, Castiel helping him and Christian offering him his crutches. "Thank you so much for coming."

There is a print on the vestibule wall, a woman in a sheer dress, flowers about her head and a sword in her hand, "the lady of the lake," Sarah had said and Dean had scoffed and said she didn't look like that.

Sarah might have been Sam's wife- she understood about hunting, she was patient and smart and witty and let him away with nothing. Dean had liked her, which surprised everyone, Dean included, and now he sat on her patterned couch, rubbing the stiffness from his thigh as she brought out a French Press of coffee and several jam tarts on an old chipped plate.

"I," she starts, she fusses with her cup, turning it over and over, "I sent the things to Bobby with the usual cheque, they were probably nothing, but," she's avoiding the topic. "I found his journal, I was to type it up" she blurts it out, "I put it away, I wasn't ready so I put it away, I," she turns the cup again, the coffee black and inky. "I thought you'd want it."

Castiel pops one of the tarts into his mouth whole and Sarah watches with a sort of sick fascination. Dean knows it's like a snake swallowing an egg. He doesn't even have to turn his head to look at the angel, who is now spooning sugar into his coffee, six spoons, seven, eight. He might even drink it when it's turned to syrup.

Sam is the only thing that Dean and Sarah have in common and their loss of him. "I'm usually fine," she says bluntly, putting down the cup finally, looking at Christian, "and then I'm going through provenances and I find a letter I missed or a postcard and I fall apart again. I thought it would end, but it doesn't, it just lies dormant, waiting." Dean nods, he understands that. "It wouldn't have lasted. I know that, we were," she stops, pressing her eyes shut and holding them, licking her lips over and over, "it didn't end, Dean, and that's why it sneaks up on me, and I don't know what to do. I don't know, Dean, and I hate that. I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!"

Christian doesn't know what they're talking about, he doesn't know about the bond that ties them together. Castiel knows because he always knows, he is part of Dean, almost an extension of him through the magic that Limits him, but Christian never needed to know- Christian's family, but Sam was Dean's world.

It's funny how small Sarah looks, sharp cheekbones made harsher by the strict short hair, curled around her coffee cup, but when he looks at her all he can see is the way that she made Sam laugh.

Christian thinks that perhaps Dean broke her heart, that they had some huge relationship that went south, he doesn't need to know anything else. She is Dean's Virgin Queen, and that's all she can ever be, but sometimes when he looks at her Dean sees Sam lying on her bed, sat up against the headboard in that way that used to drive Dean nuts, and read to her from some book Dean was never able to share with him.

Sarah might change one day, she might be able to understand the grief of a life cut short- too short- she might wake one day without the lost promise of it flaying her alive. She might marry and have children, but in Dean's mind she's always the girl who punched Sam on the arm and called him a liar and was ready with the shotguns just after they met.

She's the girl who Sam spent hours talking to on his cell in the car, with Dean pretending not to listen. She's the girl he collected postcards for, sending them from everywhere that they'd been. She's the girl he trusted with his favourite book, she's what could have been, the almost was after Jess, but Jess was dead before Dean got to know her. Sarah is the sister he might have had if not for Cold Oak.

***

"Thirsty I come into this thine hall,
I, Loki, from a journey long,
To ask of the gods that one should give
Fair mead for a drink to me.
"Why sit ye silent, swollen with pride,
Ye gods, and no answer give?
At your feast a place and a seat prepare me,
Or bid me forth to fare."

Excerpt from the "Lokasenna, (the song of Loki)"

Loki doesn't go to the mess when he shows up, he appears in Ellen's kitchen surrounded by cakes, chocolate fountains and milkshakes. Yet he still reaches into her cupboards for the mead she made on whim over a year ago. The first time he did this Ellen shot him, now she doesn't waste the ammo, just lifts one of the pastries he's brought with him and leaves the room to find Dean. Say what she will about the god, and she has- at length- he creates good cakes. His dog, Fenrisulfr, is a Jack Russell bitch that is so feed on cake and candy that she makes a sort of huffing wheeze when she moves, Ellen takes the dog with her, despite it's glares, knowing that this will be the only time it gets exercise. Loki might love the dog, but he really doesn't have the first idea how to take care of it.

She doesn't have to tell Dean, he sees the dog and makes that long suffering noise that always accompanies Loki's appearance, he is as regular as the tide the start of every month, sprawled out in the window seat in Ellen's kitchen, getting drunk on her mead. When he is pressed he says he comes here for someone to walk his little girl.

The dog waddles alongside Ellen shooting her the occasional stink eye as the few kids that seem ever present in the camp, hunter kids left somewhere safe and stable, scream and dive for the dog to play. Ellen has said more than once that the dog is welcome, it's her owner that she wants the hell out of here.

Dean limps up the incline to the old house, it's been two months but he's still leaning heavily on his cane. He'll bluster and the god will snark, eventually leave, his purpose with Dean, whatever it is, done for the month. Then he'll play with the children.

Dean goes in, settles himself down on Ellen's favourite kitchen chair, the one with the crochet blanket draped over the back, and accepts the coffee Castiel gives him. Cho is on alert and will be here as soon as he can, because Dean can rarely deal with Loki without back up. Although it's mostly to hold Dean back.

"So," Loki drawls, he has a sharp face marred by a semi perpetual smirk, "I hear you're looking for Gods, I'm wounded, here I am, regularly, why I'm like a member of the family, and you don't ask me."

Dean puts his coffee cup on the table, ignoring the large pile of sugar and butter cookies glistening on the plates in front of him. "And why do you think that is?" he asks.

"My winning charm?" the god pops a cocoa dusted bonbon into his mouth, chewing slowly, "my sparkling wit? my amazing good looks?"

"Your modesty?" Castiel adds darkly, before jumping up to sit on the kitchen counter, a thing that Ellen hates but he does regardless.

Loki washes the candy down with a mouthful of mead as Dean speaks. "You're a god of chaos and destruction, you are meant to destroy the world, to feed the sun to your," he takes a breath making his inflection sarcastic, "dog."

Loki laughs, "who better to help then?" his grin is razor sharp, "after all who has the most to lose if Azazel destroys the world than those of us who were meant to do it anyway?" He empties the glass of mead, "you westerners are so arrogant, which is also reason enough for me, nothing I like more than taking arrogant pricks down a peg or two, why frankly it's even in my job description."

"What do you want, Loki?" Dean's leg hurts, he's not in the mood for this, Loki likes to beat around the bush, to belabor the point just for mischief. "You show up to play with the kids, we all know that, you get them wired on sugar and then have them chase whichever form you think is best until they fall asleep where they stand, so why pretend hurt at being left out of the plans made by the grown ups?"

Loki laughs, "fine then, hang yourself on the tree for the All-father, but he's not nearly as much fun as me, there are lots of gods like me, agents of chaos." He carefully enunciates the words, shaping them deliberately. "Sure we don't have those altruistic reasons some of us have," he winks, "but we don't like being usurped any more than the God-Kings. I like humanity, it amuses me," he pours more mead into the glass, "if Azazel destroys the world then I won't have candy to eat and kids to torment, and how can I feed Fenrisulfr the sun if a demon," there is hate in that word, "pulls it down first? Ask the warrior gods, you might get an answer, ask the destroyer gods and you'll get your apocalypse on our terms, not His."

Loki stands up, sloughing off his denim jacket and then stretches his arms, "now, I am going to play tag with the munchkins, you know where I am when you change your mind." He leans forward and into an animal shape, a sort of were cat with no teeth or claws, large expressive green eyes in a black face that is almost draconic, and a long lashing tail. The kids scream with joy when they see him, and then jump all over him, this is why Dean doesn't ward against the God even though he's pretty sure he could, because Hunter brats don't get much, but they get this, and when he's gone, the sweet shop he's left behind.

"I heard a light sigh, and then my heart stood still, stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry, by the cry of inconceivable triumph and of unspeakable pain. `I knew it-I was sure!' . . . She knew. She was sure. I heard her weeping; she had hidden her face in her hands. It seemed to me that the house would collapse before I could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The heavens do not fall for such a trifle. Would they have fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice which was his due? Hadn't he said he wanted only justice? But I couldn't. I could not tell her. It would have been too dark-too dark altogether. . .

Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. "We have lost the first of the ebb," said the Director, suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky- seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness. ."
Excerpt from The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Farfarello is feeling loquacious, even tempered and garrulous. A good pot of tea lying in his belly with buttered bread and a new pair of hand knit socks from one of the Hunters who is laid up with a broken foot. It doesn't take much to make him happy, but when he is he talks. Sometimes he recites whole sagas in the languages in which they were written. Sometimes he reads aloud the novels Dean gets him from the local library. The demon will happily read anything.

He's sent for Dean, which he doesn't often do.

He's sat on his bare mattress, there are plenty of books piled around the room, dime store novels, airport trash, green bound modern classics, hardback library books, battered paperbacks picked up by Hunters.

"How many demons have you killed?" The demon asks, he has a voice that is generally disturbing, soft and whispery with a hint of an accent but Dean has never been able to place it. "I have a story to tell, from my electrical well, it's a simple story so I'm leaving off the whistles and bells." Dean rolls his eyes, leaning against the wall to take the weight off his thigh. Castiel appears behind him with a stool so he can sit, stretching out his leg but he refuses it. "So the world must listen to me, as I filibuster vigilantly, my name is blue canary, one note spel E, my story's infinite, like the longines symphony I never rest."

"If this is all you want?" Dean says ignoring the stool and the relief it offers, he doesn't want to show even a gram of weakness in front of Farfarello, especially because the demon is in a good mood.

"No," Farfarello draws the word out, "I do have a story to tell. There was once a great general of heaven who made love towards a concubine of the Jade Emperor himself and was punished with mortal life and mortal reincarnation for his sin." Dean knows the demon is telling him this for a reason, "his punishment was that he would love one woman and one woman only, no matter how he was wanted, but he would forever be denied her."

Dean nods, he can't see where this myth is going but he knows better than to ignore it. Farfarello can be obtuse but he is often true.

"In his first life he was born as an orphan, one of twins, and they were raised together, two halves of one human soul. They were adopted by a childless merchant whose wife taught her all the skills of a woman and trained him that he might inherit his trade. And all was well, if men said he loved his sister too well they said so only because he would not let them marry her."

Dean is listening.

"But in those days demons were more common, lesser demons, long since extinct that could be killed in the same manner as humans, but still could produce Cambion," Dean nods, he knows that word, "they were long lived and dangerous and lived in Clans, acting as bandits across the roads of the emperor, fearsome, and deadly.

"One such group of demons was called Hyakugen and they heard tell of the merchant and his sister who was so lovely that she could stop the sun and their Lord wanted her, so he gathered up his army, a thousand demons all in all, and sacked the town whilst the merchant was away and took all the girls of the town.

"The merchant returned to find the town burned down and the survivors, few as they were, told of how the demons had come and taken the women of the town, young, old, and married. The merchant was enraged and that part of him which had been a General of Heaven awoke within him although he could not have known that. He went to the stronghold and with all of his wares as offering begged entrance. It was granted.

"He stood before the demon lord and asked what it would take to release that one woman for whom he cared, his beloved sister. The demon told him that if he plucked out his right eye that he would free her. The merchant did so without hesitation, but the demon merely laughed and crushed the eye under foot."

Dean knows why this story is important now; he knows why the demon tells this old fairy tale.

"The merchant was enraged and fought like the General of Heaven he had been until he had killed all of the demons before him, until only the demon lord remained. The demon lord bargained for his life, but the merchant grew closer, the demon lord offered the merchant his sister, raped into insanity and half dead, poisoned with a cambion growing inside her, he merchant grew closer, the demon tried to flee but the merchant caught him and tore out his heart.

"As he stood there amongst the gore the king of Hell laughed and laughed, for he could not have arranged such a fall, for if a mortal man kills one thousand demons he is doomed to become a demon, subject no longer to the Jade Emperor but to the King of Hell instead. Neither god nor demon, cursed with the knowledge of heaven and the power of Hell, he was doomed to wander the Earth, his beloved sister unable to be born again until he had died, trapped in the body into which he had been born, but a scourge upon both realms of Heaven and Hell.

"I like that story," Farfarello has his cheshire grin, all teeth and eyes in the dark, "it is such a good start."

"Is it true?" Dean asks, "if you kill a thousand demons do you become a demon yourself?"

Farfarello has a shark's grin, sharp teeth and cruel empty eyes. "Ask yourself that, or better yet -ask Cho."

Those happy hours, that we once knew
Tho' long ago, they still make me blue
They say that time heals a broken heart
By time has stood still since we've been apart
(I can't stop loving you)
I've made up my mind
To live in memories of the lonesome times
(I can't stop wanting you)
It's useless to say
So I'll just live my life in dreams of yesterday

Excerpt from "I can't stop loving you" by Don Gibson

The box sits on the table in front of Dean in his small cabin. It is old but well polished, a walnut veneer covers it and it has silver fixings. It lies open showing the red velvet lining and the six tiny vials inside.

Kali walks up to the camp in her killer red heels, a perfect business suit, holding it in her arms. Holding her wavy black hair away from her face is a diamond studded comb in the shape of a snake. Instead of a belt a chain is threaded through the loops of her pencil skirt, but there are skull beads at regular intervals along it's length.

"I'm here for Campbell," she says and she is corporate chic and cold. She is careful not to touch anything as if mere proximity might soil her, but despite the previous night's rain and the thick black mud at her feet her red satin pumps are immaculate. She is clearly a god, and she has a god's disdain of human mess.

Dean comes out, with Castiel just behind him, as do Christian and old Campbell. The three of them make a sort of wall between her and the camp. She is beautiful, lush but with a sort of powdery dryness that is clearly inhuman, she is like a jungle harshly restrained by the cruel tailoring, but it is a jungle of danger, death and rot.

There was a time that Dean would have flirted with her emptily, knowing it would go nowhere but now he recognises her as inhuman, cold and divine. He doesn't care if Christian, who leers a bit, can come to the same conclusion. Of course of all the gods that Christian desires it would be one of the most dangerous in any of the pantheons, Kali, the goddess of creation and destruction.

She ignores most of them, looks straight at Dean, "Is there somewhere we can talk, somewhere not quite so," she looks around "dirty?"

"I thought you were from India." Dean says sweetly, offering her his arm.

"There are cities built in my honour cleansed in sacrificial blood and flame, great temples proclaim my glories to the heavens where the dead are blessed with my gaze. This is a back lot for a Friday 13th sequel. I am tempted to slaughter the lot of you and burn the camp to the ground just to make it more pleasing to the eye."

"Well, if there's anything we can do for you," Dean's tone is sarcastic, "erect murderous statues in your honour, you be sure to let us know."

Her answering smile is mocking but her eyes are like stars - distant and cold, as he leads her into the war room, empty at this time of day. She puts the small chest on the table and then from the pocket of her skin tight sprayed on red skirt she takes a handkerchief and dusts the chair down, laying it down as a pillow before she sits, crossing her legs and taking a queen's pose in the rickety old dining chair.

"Do you know what this is?" she says and looks at the box. "Also, Loki suggested there might be mead."

"There is," Dean says but makes no move to get it, you do not show weakness in front of a god like Kali.

Suddenly she is holding a crystal glass with the thick liquid apparent swirling inside. Dean doesn't care for mead but the gods certainly do.

"It's a box, I'd say a writing case," he shrugs it off, Cas looks at him querulously.

She opens the box to reveal the red velvet lining and the six tiny vials fixed inside. "These are the waters of godhead," she says calmly. "This," she taps the first one, "is dew from the lotus of Buddha himself, a drop in the eye will allow you to see things as they truly are, with beyond human sight, this will tear the veil completely from your eyes, but it might instead burn out your eyes. These elixirs are not for mortal men."

She sips the mead, leaving it glistening on her lips like venom.

"This," a perfect red nail taps the second vial, this one is sealed with wax. "Is water from the river Lethe, a single drop will erase all you know of humanity." The third she lifts, tilting it to make the liquid run. "Ars Draconis, a dragon's heartsblood, it will rebuild your reality if you wish it, if it doesn't burn it's way out of you instead." Her amusement is arch. The fourth she runs the pad of her finger over, "this is juice from the peaches of the jade emperor's garden, a single drop will make you live forever, immortal, but not unable to be killed, if it doesn't kill you itself."

The last two she is wary of touching which makes Dean question when he had not expected to. "This is the venom of the snake who was doomed to drip eternally unto the face of tricksome gods, gathered by a faithful wife. It is sharper than acid and can kill even gods, but one drop can remake the form into will alone."

The last she avoids entirely. "These are drops of the fount of Hell itself, the sweet sap of the tree Yggdrasil, it will prepare your flesh for immortality, remaking it in the image most suited to your task. In conjunction these liquors will make you Immortal, not a god, but close enough. You can fall and die in battle, of course, but you will fight like a god and men will flock to your banner. You will not be a god and so lack the responsibilities of such. You will be, not one or the other, but both, a hero, such as there used to be... Depending, of course, that you survive the transformation. I cannot, offhand, think of one who did."

She has emptied her glass and puts it down on the old table, "the decision is yours, but no one will come to your aid if you die, and neither heaven nor hell will accept you then." Her warning, such as it is, falls from perfect red lips, they are the last Dean sees of her.

So Dean looks at the little wooden case, it's elixirs and liquors in tiny crystal vials, each one deadly and beautiful, none containing more than a few drops. "What do you think, Cas?" he asks the angel.

Cas snaps the box shut with a breathy thud, close enough to Dean that he is all that he can see. He tilts his head in that inscrutable way of his, a half smile twisting his mouth and darkening his eyes, before he drops to his knees and opens Dean's fly, his answer given for now.

"Azazel, in many ways, was everything to Dean. He was his greatest supporter and champion. He was the sculptor that carved Dean into the person he became. A holy war needs someone to oppose and Messiah cannot exist without Shai'tan."
Excerpt from the Book of Campbell"

The hunter's name is unimportant, however the photos he sends from the scene have Dean in the van with his demons and angel right beside him. The coordinates are for Cicero, Indiana, and it was a drive by check. The area had been haunted by changelings a few years back and they had been cleared out, but sometimes hunters missed things so whilst in the area they swung back just to make sure.

There had been no kids playing on the grass. The entire block was eerily silent apart from the meaty flapping of vultures and the terrible buzzing of flies. The hunter broke into a house to find out what had happened.

It was like something from a Clive Barker novel, it had long gone past Stephen King and Shaun Hutson might have squirmed. Even Eli Roth might have gone running for the nearest bush to be sick.

In those first houses there was only hints of what had happened: suspicious fly struck stains on the upholstery and carpeting; piles of sulfur against the windowsills, hidden wards destroyed with violent weapons.

In one place there was a pool of what looked like drool, which was odd because demons didn't eat what they killed, they just liked to kill.

There were no demonic sigils for that was the sort of horror movie tacky that demons didn't do, instead there was the joy of slaughter.

In the last house, the one that had belonged to Lisa Braeden, they found the corpses, or what was left of them.

Several of them had been stitched together wrong, a leg of one on the torso of another, a pair of arms stitched where the head should be.

In one of the houses a body was hung with a rifle sight set at the window, the hunter when he looked through it saw that the hung body parts were arranged anamorphically to form the image of a goat headed demon sat cross legged.

The heads had been taken and placed on spikes, not in the Elizabethan method of using the neck as a socket, but instead went through the back of the head to erupt through the mouth complete with brain tissue and maggots. Details such as the eyes were long since gone, except in a few cases where they had been covered with something akin to super-glue to preserve them.

This had taken days at least, and they had enjoyed themselves tremendously - that was apparent.

Yet there was a child's bedroom, with train wallpaper and a Buzz Lightyear bed spread. Those things had been pushed to the side, the toys reverently placed on the mattress but they had all had their eyes burned out, possibly with cigarettes. The child was the only corpse who had not been mutilated.

He was perfect, embalmed in fact, though judging by the wound at his neck where they had done that - clumsily, all to preserve him until he was found. Around him, sprayed with some sort of plastic glue that preserved them, the same that greyed the child's skin and frosted in his hair, were the intestines and other internal organs of the other victims, of which there might be more than twenty. They had been formed into a garland flowers, tied in place with hair and their own meat like a child's balloon.

Across the wall written in blood and other gore, and swarmed with flies, was a smily face and underneath it the words "Dean Winchester," and then very carefully punctuated"in nomine PATRIS et FILII et spiritus sancti. An eye for an eye; A tooth for a tooth.".

Research showed the child's name as Ben Braeden and date of birth. Dean got into the car so fast he caught the seatbelt in the door and went halfway there with it scraping the road behind him. Even Castiel was antsy, which was unusual.

When he saw the inscription across the wall he blazed with anger, clenching his fists and his face going pale. "I didn't know," he said sadly to the angel. "I didn't know." He turned around, clutched his wrist tightly. "He has to die, there can be no more mercy." He lowers his eyes, takes a deep breath. "I'm sorry" he says, "I didn't know." He stands over the child for long minutes, and mouths something to the corpse, running his fingertips along the curve of a cheek still plump with baby fat.

When he leaves the building, shoulders down and head tilted, jaw jutting out and mouth open in rage, eyes desolate and apocalyptic. "Burn it," he says, "burn it all down."

By the rivers of babylon
Where we laid down
ye we wept
and remembered zion

Dean is blown wide open, desolate and dangerous, snapping at anyone that comes near, staring at the box for hours at a time. He paces, sits down, stands up and then paces again. He doesn't eat no matter how Cho nags and chides him.

He takes a mouthful of whiskey and throws it straight back up again. Castiel stands so close to him that they might as well be one body.

When Castiel reaches out and strokes the hair at the back of his neck, fingers twisting it between pads and nails: it's too long; it needs cut, but it's the only touch that Dean doesn't swat away angrily.

He's drinking some sort of sweet thing, pressed into his hands, but he is unaware of what it is.

Loki is suddenly there and Dean doesn't even react. "I've had like a hundred Fenrisulfrs," he says quietly, "but that first one, I thought I'd die, I wanted to. Wow, I slaughtered gods to make other people feel the way that I did. I know what that's like." He takes the cup from Dean, draining it, "it doesn't get any better you know, you just get stronger, better at dealing with it, you find ways to fill the void. I had lots of children, and they all died." He swirls the cup around in his hand as Castiel growls at him, taking the role of mama bear the way he does when Dean is vulnerable.

"Get the fuck out!" Castiel snarls. "Just get the fuck out!" There is a sort of sound like heavy wet fabric flapping and things around the room fly backwards like thrown by a great wind. It is not often that the angel beats his wings like that, and shows how very dangerous he finds this conversation.

"I didn't know." Dean says quietly, almost inaudibly. "How could I know?"

"Doesn't mean it doesn't suck," Loki agrees.

Castiel folds his wings around his master, wrapping him up like a blanket, but Dean doesn't soften at all, or even notice when the god vanishes again.

Jo comes in with a tray of obvious comfort foods, sweet sugary nothings and deep fried others. There is hot sweet tea in Dean's favourite kitten mug. It's ugly but apparently is just the right size and keeps the tea hot, she's left the spoon in it. "You're worrying us, Dean," she says as she puts the tray on the small table beside the bed in his cabin. "It's been two weeks and you haven't left this room."

Dean just turns his back to her, to the food she brings, to the offers she makes him. "It's not your fault," she said, "you couldn't have known, you hadn't seen her in over ten years."

"Azazel knew." Dean says. "The first time I went against him, he had Dad," Dean stops, "Sam was with me, and we were attacked by a demon, back then I couldn't tell, but I just knew, so I shot him - with the colt - clear through the head. He was Azazel's son." Dean looks at the floor, his eyes are windblown, "I didn't know he had one, but I would have shot him anyway, not for working for Azazel but for being his own creature, being a demon in his own right, so Azazel sends Meg, his daughter, and I know it was her, I'd recognise her stink anywhere, to find a child that could be mine, that I'll never know, because I sure as hell can't ask his mother, and did it because he MIGHT have been mine. So how, Jo, is that not my fault?"

He shakes his head, "I couldn't have known, I couldn't have protected him, but that doesn't mean it wasn't my fault." Jo is dressed in usual hunter chic, plaid and denim, her boots are a dull tan but heavy enough for all terrain. She has taken to making her own socks, mostly for something to do on the long winter nights whilst those who remain argue over monster names and she only needs to know how best to kill them.

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to find the son of a bitch," he answers, "and when I do, I'll make him suffer for everything. It's gone long past justice, Jo, straight into revenge and back out the other side. It's too fucking late for anything else."

She wraps her hand about his head, pulls his forehead down against hers, "I know," she says, "so we're going to take out as many of the sons of bitches as we can, and then we're going to kick down the gates of Hell." Her hand is on the back of his neck as Castiel opens his wings enough to allow her in. "I'm thinking we hold a frat party, advertise it on facebook, nothing does damage like a fuck-load of drunken teens."

He doesn't laugh, which is what he's supposed to do, but instead lets out a shuddering sob, his tears falling down unto her lips but she does not lick them away. It's the first time in a long time Dean has cried. She merely eases him down to the bed, wrapped around him, Castiel about them both, and softly hums under her breath as she rocks him, head against her breast and the angel keeping the world away, allowing her to give his master the comfort that he could not. "By the rivers of babylon," she sings because the song has haunted her all day, "where we laid down, yeah, we wept, and we remembered Zion."

***
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree;
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
down to a sunless sea

Samuel Coleridge "Kubla Khan"
***

The bottle is small and brown and looks like it should hold some street narcotic, some party drug, the liquid inside however is just water. It's also beyond value.

Campbell lies in his bed, almost dead, gone to age and the troubles of a live hard lived, "Don't speak," Dean says as he puts the bottle down on the cabinet, he doesn't sit, Castiel stands behind him like a body guard though Dean doesn't need one with his grandfather. "I learned some things," he says, "it took me a while because I didn't want it to be you, but it was, wasn't it?"

Campbell's eyes are wild and he makes a sort of noise but Dean raises his hand. "Did you know that there are two rivers in Hell, the Lethe, which is mercy because it allows them to forget who they were so they are not plagued by their humanity, the second is the river Alph, or Aleph, depending on who you ask." Dean looks at his grandfather's face critically.

"You know that word don't you, Hebrew," Dean clarifies, "for truth, funny how these things work. Do you know where it starts, I know enough not to count out the old stories, they all seem to come true. You see when a man marries he owns his wife, body and soul, so when he dies if he goes to hell so does she, but if she was good then she can remain with the virtuous damned. Those who were good in life but could not perceive god and therefore could not enter Bliss. Always seemed a little unfair to me, but I don't make the rules."

Dean flicks a finger against the water, "so those women, weren't damned so they couldn't enter the circles of Hell and find their husbands, they lingered at the place where Limbo ended and cried, their tears formed the River Aleph and it brings honesty, you can't lie to me or yourself."

Dean sighs, licks his lips, his entire posture is one of hard won control. "You don't need to say anything, I figured it out, you see, if you have something a demon wants you can trade, as long as you have the upper hand. They have their currencies and they'll do anything for human pain. Their bodies, they don't feel it, they don't produce the chemicals, so give them the chemicals and they'll do what you want, within reason. It is a trade after all.

"They don't give up their deals, that would be stupid, but one demon, Crowley, he said his name was, told me about Azazel, for a test tube of blood taken when Jo was having a migraine. You see Crowley was supposed to be in charge of the deals, he decided who got what and Azazel didn't ask, he brought someone back from the dead and didn't get permission from the higher ups, and worse yet, all that was extracted in exchange was a promise. Poor Crowley was left picking up the pieces, and he could happily tell me about everyone involved, after all Mary Winchester is long dead.

"You were supposed to die then, but you didn't, you're made of old boot leather after all, but I'm thinking you wouldn't just agree, would you." Campbell's eyes are closed, his mouth hanging slightly open, the drugs leaving him prone, the honesty torturing him, "and then there's Christian. Azazel couldn't make a deal, Crowley closed that door, but then you have your son, a hunter, and his little boy, easy pickings for a demon with a grudge. And so he barters your assistance, nothing terrible, in exchange for not killing the boy, am I right?"

Campbell is crying wetly, probably with shame. "He doesn't know, and I'm not going to tell him. But I can't let this continue, deals can be made, after all." He takes a deep breath but he doesn't turn away, "Cas."

Castiel smiles as he lays his hand, soft upon the old man's forehead, "It's okay," the angel says sweetly, "I forgive you." Then the light erupts from him, from his eyes, nose ears and mouth for long moments then he collapses to the bed. Dean pockets the small bottle and then closes his grandfather's eyes before he goes to tell them of their bed.

Hunters don't die old men in their beds and Sam Campbell was no exception.

He spake well who said that graves are the footprints of angels.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The gods arrange a meeting place, the Elysian Fields motel that has sprung up in the area, immaculate apart from the sign outside which flashes up No Vacances where the neon on the I isn't working. They have set up in the conference room on a series of foldaway tables but it could be a great hall with thrones at every juncture. The motel has a fifties chic that means everyone half expects to see Rock Hudson sitting on one of the couches in the lobby, it just looks like that.

The God Mercury manages the desk, handing out stickers with names on, not always to the right mortal. He types inhumanly fast, like something from a science fiction film, before fussing, buzzing about the coffee maker like a fly at a lamp.

When they are done, sat around the oblong made of the desks, each with a glass of water and a cup of very strong black coffee, a God introducing himself as Baldr takes the time to introduce the mortals to the gods, then the gods to the mortals. He does this carefully, enunciating the names as Kali rolls her eyes and fusses with her Blackberry.

Dean doesn't really pay attention to the prick in the suit, he watches Loki out of the corner of his eye, and the way Odin perches on his chair, head back and snoring. Baron Samedi is licking bacon grease off his fingers with wet smacks. Ganesh has a glass of milk in front of him. Artemis is in bike leathers, her is hair in twin pigtails and she has too much makeup around her eyes, it makes her look like a panda, but she has tattoos all over her skin. She is beautiful underneath them, they don't make her look edgy or hard, merely coloured in.

There are gods here he knows and Gods he doesn't. Gods he heard the names of and Gods he's never heard of, and unless he looks at them directly he can see their true forms trying to escape. Kali has ten arms lashing with swords, a pointed blue tongue swipes blood from around her mouth. Baron Samedi has loa at his feet begging for his favour. The least seeming of these is a Chinese woman that Baldr introduces as Guanyin but at the same time she has a hundred names that he says in the same syllables. Guanyin is just the name that Dean hears.

The Lady of the Lake is conspicuous only in her absence.

"These," Baldr says laying down printed forms on the table for the humans to look at, "are what we can offer."

Dean looks at it, Castiel stood behind him, always behind him, and then puts it back down. It's not much, it's certainly not as much as they had hoped for. 10 aesir, 14 valkyrie, 17 arrows of artemis, 4 loa of the highest order... the list goes on but it doesn't really offer much. The weapons in themselves are powerful but against an army of hell it's not much.

"Not enough," Dean says putting the paper down and sliding his chair backwards, "you're asking us to supply the numbers and you give us this as fire power."

"Hold your horses there, Deano," Loki starts.

Kali holds out her hand to silence him, amazingly Loki goes quiet.

"We have matched your forces equally, to the man." She says, "each of us has given what we can, we do not have the countless Host of Heaven, but nor do we need to. The Angels have not left their cities in millenia and they will not. Castiel here is proof of that, if they can stand what you have done to him then nothing will sway them in their purpose." Her tone is even but Dean is aware of her, wearing a skirt of human arms, a necklace of human heads and a crown of flowers, skin like pitch, shining in the electric lamplight of this Doris Day motel. "If you wish for more than a simple alliance, then you must offer more."

"Whaddya want?" Bobby asks. What they are offering now is not inconsiderable but it's not enough.

"Worship." Kali replies succinctly.

"No dice." Dean says and pushes the chair back further.

"Valhalla." Odin counters, "the hall of heroes, those that fall will go there, not heaven or hell. I am a psychopomp, those that die in my name go to my Heaven."

"Tempting," Ellen is sarcastic, "but we'd like to keep the casualties to a minimum."

"I am Healing." Guanyin said, "and I am mercy, I shall take the field in the role of medic. We are old and we are dying, Dean of Kansas, we ask you to be our champion, to dedicate the battle to us that we might live."

Ishtar tilts her head, "but as we said, we offer more we expect more. We will need a token, a gesture, a symbol of your fealty, and we will take the field as well. Gods have not fought on the field of war since we joined the angels to throw Lucifer into the pit."

Dean slouches in the chair, "and what do you want as this symbol?"

"New life," Guanyin said, "dedicated to us, a single human child."

"Sacrifice, fuck that!" Jo says and she's suddenly standing.

"You misunderstand," Baldr's voice is calm and even, "we require the naming of a child born in wedlock and a legitimate passage of power. Campbell," he looks at Dean, "and you will accept the offer made you in Megiddo. That is all."

Dean scrubs his face with his hand, popping his ears as he squeezes his nose between thumb and the side of his palm. "I can do that, but we're not killing kids."

"Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean," Loki whines, "how very old world of you?"

"It's easy, the first new kid born to you," Anansi says, he is a coffee bean coloured black man with bright canary yellow gloves and grey naps of hair, "you tell him we're real, you dedicate him to us, and I'll offer you communications, any spider you pass your message to will carry it to me."

Artemis sighs lustily and makes it such that they all turn to her. "Look, let's not beat around the bush here, my arrows can kill anything and will always strike true, the lady of the lake who deigned not to appear here," she sneers, "wants Dean to step into myth, to become her champion, her hero and do whatever it is that they do before their grail quests, fine," her pretty lips twist in a leer, "he is the leader of this ragtag bunch of monkeys, we need to see a shift in power before it all goes up in smoke.

"Some of us are traditionalists, Dean, these are our terms, you will marry, it doesn't have to be for anything but this ceremony, and you will marry a woman, not your pet angel. Then once consummated you will give her to your cousin to be his wife. This is what we want, and if a child is born of the union then he is named in those ceremonies created for us. Then you dedicate the battle to us."

"What woman would have me?" Dean asks, "even if it's only for a night."

"We were thinking Joanna," Loki drawls with a trademark closed mouth grin "as she's fucking you both anyway."

Ellen nearly chokes on her coffee.

"That's all we have to do?" Jo asks.

"We're gods, darlin, we're all about the show, not the tell." Anansi grins at her, "and we're offering a lot, we get the wedding, the kid's naming, and you dedicate the battle to us, and we'll take on the very gates of Hell for you."

"There is one other condition." Kali says, "and this happens before the battle, that Dean, you take the Lady's offer, BEFORE we meet Azazel."

"I can't do that." Dean growls it back at her.

"Kinda need to, kiddo," Loki says and he sounds sad, "too much water under the bridge there, they can fight in your name, but we need them to fight in ours. You have other fish to fry."

"You can't do this," he sounds bereft, lost, this is all he wanted. Castiel's hand is on his shoulder.

"You can fulfil your destiny," Ishtar says, "or you can slay your dragon. We will slay him, or throw him into the pit with his master, make sure he is fixed under the Great Tree which is held in place by the World Snake, but you cannot take the field, nor, Jo, will you, if you agree to the marriage, the stories will have you waiting for his return, as famous as Penelope, and it's the stories which will give us strength."

Jo closes her eyes and agrees, the gods ask so little for what they offer, even one more arrow of Artemis can make the difference on the field but to have her there herself with her bow, the demons will fall like skittles. "I'll do it," she says, "If Dean will."

Dean lowers his head, he looks for a long moment that he might stand and throw the tables aside, pull his demon killing knife and slaughter Baldr where he stands in the way, but instead he clenches his fists at his side. "I'll do it, but," he raises his head then, "if Azazel escapes I'll return, I'll abandon this destiny you've worked out for me and I'll come back and after I've killed him, I'll kill you all."

"Stull cemetary, Kansas," Anansi says, "that's where he is gathering his army, it's an old place of power, we can use that too. Have your army ready in two days, Dean Campbell, but that means you have two days to say goodbye."

Guanyin stands up, her hair is a waterfall of ink down her back from a knot at the top of her head, and she is wearing a traditional floor length cheongsam embroidered with flowers, her mouth is an angry red. "Lets get you crazy kids married." She smiles sweetly at Christian, "don't worry, honey," She pats his hand "it's your turn tomorrow."

***
Marriage, n. A community consisting a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all two.
Ambrose Bierce "The Devil's Dictionary"
***

The wedding isn't legal, Dean's not even sure it happened, just one moment he is in the conference room discussing an alliance, then he is in front of an altar sitting with Jo as the Chinese Goddess mumbles something and then lays flowers on their head, there is some wine and then they are being escorted to the honeymoon suite with Castiel tight behind them.

"Wow," Jo says, testing out the bed, "that was,"

"Yeah," Dean agrees, "I'm going to shower."

Ishtar has a sense of humour because there is not only strawberries and champagne in the room, but handcuffs, silk ties, candles, about ten types of lube; scented body oils and a selection of pink and purple sex toys laid out. Jo is fussing with one, trying to figure out what it does when Dean comes back in. "The only thing missing is condoms." She says.

"I have some," Dean said, "they might be past their sell by," he says fishing out his wallet but they've clearly been removed.

"They want a child, an heir," Castiel says firmly, "do you think that they'd allow something so simple prevent it?"

"What shall we do?" Jo says sitting back on the bed, facing him, "we have all night."

"Think we've got pay per view." Dean asks, "there might be a movie we might want to watch?"

Jo laughs which makes her hair shimmer, then she peels off her plaid, "or, we could fuck," she says, "Cas," her look is impish as she peels her wifebeater over her head to reveal her functional bra, "do you wanna play too?"

The only remaining image of Jo Campbell remains in the university of Stanford in the Campbell collection. It was taken perhaps a year after the Veil first fell, when monsters were still prevalent, perhaps just after the Pulse.

She stands in front of Christian Campbell, who turned the army into a movement that non-hunters could join, and who stood at the front of the battle that saw the world shatter. She holds a shotgun in one hand, and draped along her left leg. She still wears jeans and plaid, but on her right hip, tugging one of her blonde ringlets, is a plump baby wrapped in a crocheted blanket.

The child was later famed and became Father who led the Neo-apocalyptic Revelation movement, but across the back of the picture he is named Winchester William Samuel Campbell. There is also a note about how even then he looks like his father and how she named him after her favourite gun.
Excerpt from the book of Campbell, A Study by Patricia Merigold.

Dean runs his hand over the impala, "I'm sorry, baby," he says polishing a piece of the chrome with his cuff, "it's been a hard few years." He opens the door and lets it air out a little, but that first breath still smells of Sam's cologne and his heart clenches and his stomach roils. "But we're going to be together for a long time now, you, me the angels, and my pets, they're okay, they won't eat or piss on your upholstery. My poor baby, I really have neglected you." He pulls the plastic cover that he insisted Bobby put over the seats.

He sits down in the driving seat as Castiel climbs into the passenger seat, he doesn't even bother to remove the cover, just sits with a crinkle of plastic. "I'd leave the plastic on the back seat," he says. He has the wooden case on his knee.

"I'm considering it." Dean says and then takes the chest, opening it and looking at the small crystal vials inside.

"Not here," Castiel says and closes the box with a snick. "We'll go to the water's edge."

Dean is patient with Castiel, soft and gentle before he puts his hand to the angel's face and kisses him. "I am grateful, I'll free you if you want, I know if this kills me it will kill you too." He says the word against his mouth, lips touching.

"I could never return," Castiel tells him, his voice a breath against Dean's face. "I have learned so much. Are you sure you do not wish to see Jo before this," he tilts his head, "I do not understand human emotions and motivations, but it seems to me she might like that, she might wish to say goodbye."

"No," Dean says, he opens the box, and then uncorks the first bottle with his thumb, drinking the liquor down.

After he left Camp Chitaqua there was no word of Dean Campbell, and some maintained he had died, but over the years, as Hunters worked the woods and plains of the Americas they spoke of a black car that pulled up, of a man who shone as bright as the Chrysler building and carried a gun that killed everything no matter how useless the hunter's weapons.
They spoke of a second man with eyes that seemed both sad and knowing who carried a great staff and who clearly was not human. Two demons accompanied him as they travelled and aided hunters, though none could predict where and when they would appear, only that sometimes they did leaving their story behind.

Excerpt from the Book of Campbell.