It was quiet.
The dark outline of the abandoned building was towering above them, casting its long, dark shadow over the yard. Silhouettes of feral bushes and deserted flowerbeds danced before their eyes when the cone of Dean's flashlight swept over the house, tracing along boarded shut windows as they vigilantly advanced towards the porch.
"You sure this is the right place?" Sam gazed up towards the sealed windows on the second floor. In response to his question Dean simply pointed his torch onto the door where the light fell upon a single, bloodied handprint that smeared across both the handle and door frame.
"Positive." He grunted.
With a simultaneous glance at each other they both reached for the blades they were carrying in slings from their belts. Their guns were useless, the drying blood by Dean's hairline and the cut on Sam's upper arm bearing silent witness to that.
Slowly they crept up the stairs, noticing more red stains covering the floor boards. Dean frowned.
"That's a lot of blood… I thought you said that last cut missed?"
"It did." Sam objected. "I mean… it felt like it did."
"Well, at least we know the bitch is capable of bleeding now."
He reached out to push the front door open, but Sam grabbed his arm and stopped him before he could reach it.
"Hey. Shouldn't we wait?" he threw a glance over his shoulder. "Cas said he'd be back as soon as he could."
"And risk loosing her? No way." Sam ignored the way his brother snapped at him. As the voice of reason, it was his job not to let Dean's impatience get the better of him in situations like this.
"We tracked her down once, Dean." Large, reassuring eyes met with stoic, green ones. "We can do it again."
Dean resolutely shook Sam's large hand off, raising his blade and pointing its tip at the door.
"No. We're taking care of this now."
Sam looked as if he was about to say something else, but meeting the look from Dean's eyes he simply sighed and took a step back, accepting the fact that reason would have to fold this time. Dean nodded, swallowing hard.
The creak of the door was almost inaudible when they opened it, but the sound echoed from the bare surfaces of the empty house and came bouncing back towards them, making them cringe from the sudden noise.
It was pitch black inside, the light of the moon barely making its way through the few cracks and openings of the boarded windows. As their eyes adjusted to the dusk their flashlights found more blood leading towards and up the staircase, both rail and wall soiled with crimson stains.
The stairs only creaked a bit louder than the door had, however it must have been more than loud enough to alert anyone residing up there that they were no longer alone in the house. Once up the ledge they found that the room branched out into two corridors, one leading in the opposite direction of the other. There were no traces of blood in either of them.
Sam looked at Dean and Dean nodded back in silent agreement and they split up, Dean heading east and Sam slowly creeping down the west hallway, their footsteps muffled by the stained old carpet on the floor.
Why was it so quiet anyway? Dean didn't like it one bit, and he couldn't shake the feeling that something was horribly, horribly wrong here. As if the roles of hunter and hunted had switched the second they pushed that front door open. He felt observed, the tiny hairs on the back of his neck standing up in wild attention as he moved forwards and damn it, he almost regretted that they hadn't waited for Cas to come back before moving in.
The first door to his right led into what must have been a nursery once judging by the colorful art on the wallpaper. He could se ponies and flowers somewhere underneath the more obscene graffiti that had been sprayed on top of it over the years, so he would guess it had been a little girl's room once.
The door to the closet was open wide, no uglies in there and after a quick look around he could conclude that there were no traces of the enemy ever entering this room.
The older Winchester should be used to it by now, he knew that, but nonetheless he whirled around, blade cutting through the air only to come to an absolute halt when a hand closed around his lower arm in an iron grip.
Blue eyes looked at him calmly through the darkness, seemingly without any surprise of the violent greeting.
"Damn it, Cas!" Dean hissed, not sure whether he should be relieved by the sight of the angel or pissed over how jumpy he was. "We're on a damn hunt here; you can't sneak up on me like that!"
The angel released his arm, but didn't pay much attention to the scolding. Instead his face that had looked so calm moments ago turned scowling, a worried expression that deepened as he looked around the room.
"Where's Sam?" he demanded, making Dean frown.
"Out in the hall."
The change in Castiels eyes was immediate, his hand shooting out and grabbing Dean by the hem of his jacket and pulling him forward faster than Dean could react.
"You split up?" he hissed and Dean could only shrug in response, trying to ignore just how close their faces suddenly were.
"It's not like we can't take care of ourselves you know." He defended himself. "Why so tense, anyway, it's just a witch."
"Is that what you think you're hunting?" Castiels eyes narrowed and letting go of Dean, he then turned towards the door.
"We have to get you out, now."
"Wait, Cas, hold the phone. What the hell are you talking about?"
The angel turned around once more, but whatever he was about to say died on his lips as his eyes locked on the partially dried blood on Deans temple.
"You're bleeding." He noted silently and Dean reached up and touched the injury, having forgotten it was even there.
"I guess. But not as bad at that… thing. We followed its trail all the way here."
"You followed its blood?" Castiel's eyes widened.
"Yeah. I don't know what Sam did back there but he must've gotten it pretty… hey where are you going?!"
Castiel was already heading out the door, not taking any heed to the aggravated Winchester following behind him.
"Cas, what the hell, man?!"
"There's no time. Where's your brother?"
"Following. The blood." Dean repeated with an annoyed eye roll, making Castiel turn around and glare at him. Dean shut his mouth with a mute snap.
"These creatures don't bleed, Dean." Castiel said patiently, as if he was explaining something ludicrously obvious to a very small child. "It's been tricking you."
Dean was just about to fire off an insulting comeback when an ungodly shriek sliced through the air, followed by a loud crash from the west wing of the house.
Dean took of running down the corridor towards the sound of glass breaking and more screaming from whatever that thing was, leaving Castiel behind. Then without warning one of the doors in front of him suddenly flung open and Sam came flying out, smashed against the opposite wall with a cracking sound Dean wished he hadn't heard and then sagged down into an unconscious pile on the floor.
Dean scrambled to his brother's side, but before he even got close enough to see if he was even alive Castiel grabbed him by the back of his jacket and tore him away, throwing him back into the hallway from where he just came.
"Get back!" he rumbled and then there was a deafening bang, like the crack of a whip, and from inside the room with the broken door came a lightning bolt the size of a Buick that struck the angel square in the back. Whatever screams Castiel made got drowned out in the explosion that followed, leaving Dean feeling like his eardrums had just shattered and as he watched in horror the lightning closed around both Castiel and his brother in a sizzling sphere of sparking electricity.
Somewhere from inside the room the creature screeched in triumph and Dean felt his stomach drop to his knees when suddenly something inside his head, just behind his aching ears, popped. For a split second everything else in the world was put on mute and he felt rather than heard Castiels voice come drifting through his conscience, calm and steady like the earth itself.
Dean… shut your eyes…
Not even thinking about it Dean did as he was told and suddenly there was light everywhere. It flooded the rickety building, blasted through every crack and crevice with frightening speed, purging it to the very core. The pulse it emitted mixed with Deans own, his heart racing inside his chest, blood rushing through his veins, burning hot and sweet, merciful god, he could feel it all. Lost in the sensation he barely heard the creature's victorious cry change, first into disappointment, then anger and finally pain as the raw power of Grace burned it alive.
It lasted only a few seconds and then it was all gone, leaving Dean to catch his breath in the afterglow, panting and quivering with a feeling in his body like he had just gotten his bones ripped out of it.
Forcing his shaking limbs to drag him towards the spot where he assumed the others to be he tried to blink away the bright dots of gold and black that were dancing before his vision.
"Cas…?" he ground out, his voice barely there. "Sam?!"
The voice came from somewhere to Dean's left and when he turned towards it he could see the familiar silhouette of the angel sitting propped up against the stained wall.
"Cas…! Cas, are you alright?"
He crawled to his feet and grabbed Castiel around the waist, supporting himself against the wall in order to hoist the other exhausted male up.
"That was… harder than I anticipated." Castiel groaned next to his ear, from what Dean could tell barely conscious, blood trickling in a narrow trail from the corner of his mouth.
"It's okay, you'll be fine." Dean assured him, trying not to linger on the way Castiel's eyes failed to focus on his face as he spoke. "You'll be fine," he repeated. "Just… let me grab Sam and then we'll get the hell out of here."
The frame beneath Dean's hands suddenly stiffened and then it slumped down, worn and defeated.
"Sam…" he whispered. "Dean, I… I'm so sorry… I tried…"
For an eternity, Deans world froze dead around him, because no.
No, not that, not Sammy…
His heart clenched and he felt his knees begin to buckle beneath them both, but then a new, unfamiliar sound came drifting from somewhere inside Castiel's trench coat. A low whimper, followed by a gurgle and a snort.
Balancing himself on Deans shoulder Castiel shrugged the wide piece of clothing out of the way and reviled a small bundle made out of what Dean immediately recognized to be Sam's jacket.
As he watched, two very, very small hands reached out and up towards his face, another one of those strange sounds emitting from inside the fabric.
"I tried…" Castiel repeated lowly, voice filled with remorse as he held out the bundle. "But I couldn't stop the curse completely."
With trembling hands Dean took the jacket out of Castiels grip and looked down.
Bright blue eyes seemed to widen at the sight of him and Dean could feel the world around him tilt as he suddenly got overly convinced that he was going to throw up at any second, because Jesus...
"Sammy..?" he croaked in disbelief.
From within the jacket, the baby in his arms let out a bubbling laugh and then farted loudly.