A/N: Hey you guys, first off let me apologize with how long it's taken me to get anything posted. I have been working like crazy, got through finals and to be honest I was suffering from a little bit of writers block. Thankfully I think I'm past that! I've got my fingers crossed that I'll have more time to focus now on this that I'm out of class for a good while. Thank you for keeping an interest in this, I really do love writing it, and all the reviews and alerts rock, you guys are awesome! I tried to get back to as many of you as I could. I have a lot of readers review as a guest, if you guys get an account I'll answer questions an reply to your input! I hope to hear more from you all!
"You planin' on tellin' me what's up Bobby? Cause I sure as hell am not in the mood to play guessing games." Dean sneered irritably.
Not once had the old man looked up from the well-worn map lying in front of him. He seemed to be hypnotized by the faded lines and tattered edges inked onto the yellowed paper. Whether the entrancing gaze meant Bobby was working out an answer or simply locked in a daydream Dean wasn't sure, he also didn't care. If something was wrong he wanted to know as soon as possible, and he was already tired of waiting.
Bobby slid his fingers across the wrinkled map and stopped them at a random location in the North West quadrant. "Maybe it's nothin'." He mumbled to himself "but it sure feels like somthin'."
"Damn it Bobby! What is it?" Dean smacked the wooden surface of the table causing Bobby finally to look up.
"Now before you go gettin' your panties in a bunch, just know that I have both good and bad news." He paused. "Although, I ain't gonna sugar coat it, the good don't really weigh out the bad. . ."
Dean spun the chair across from Bobby around and startled it, resting his forearms on the back of the wooden piece of furniture. "Unless you tell me you iced Lucifer and reversed off this crap, there is no good news, just okay news."
Bobby shook his head. "I wish that was it . . . but while Merle and I were out checking traps we caught a really strong sulfur sent."
All at once Dean's body stiffened and he ground his teeth together unable to form an appropriate response.
"I think it's a nest of some sort. The sent was too strong for it to be anything else." He continued.
Dean's stare hollowed and he could almost physically feel himself folding within the darkest chasm of himself. There was no doubt in his mind it was some kind of demonic nest.
"Where is it?" he finally managed to say.
Bobby's brows pulled together as if he was confused. "That's the odd thing. I checked the map and there's nothing there. Just empty pasture. No abandoned buildings, nuthin'" He tapped section of the map his fingers had been resting the past five or so minuets and Dean craned his neck to better understand where the threat was in proximity to his sanctuary.
"It's a good ways away, but . . ."
"Close enough to be an issue." Dean finished the old drunks' statement and put his head down. He'd had a nagging feeling all day. Things around camp had been too quiet for too long. Two weeks of lowered stress levels and dropped guards made them vulnerable and out of practice. In that time, although he'd never admit it, he'd built up hope that things were starting to work out, but like everything else in the apocalypse those ideas died- ripped from him like the flesh from bone as the dead devoured the living.
"I knew this was going to happen, I could feel it." Dean's comment was muffled with his face turned to the ground. Jo's words from earlier drifted into his conscious about him not blaming himself for everything that went pare shaped. He wished he possessed that much will power to fight off those thoughts but he didn't have it in him.
"We did collect five more jars of demon blood. . ." Bobby murmured attempting to ease the tension.
Dean chuckled dryly. "You're right. That doesn't soften the blow."
Things fell quiet a moment, both men either sulking or thinking, perhaps even a bit of both. Two weeks without a problem had them spoiled.
"I need to tell Sam." Dean sighed a while later looking at Bobby. "Bring him back here so we can figure out what our next move is."
They both looked through the dirty window, towards the orange glow of fire where everyone was still enjoying themselves. It physically pained him to think about pulling Sammy away from something that took his mind off everything that was going on. He hated being the bearer of bad news, and it seemed like that's all he had been since they were kids. Still, Sam would want to know.
"I'll go get him." Dean grunted as he stood, feeling the weight of his burden crush him even more.
Stepping outside the door, a brisk wind stung his face with its icy chill caused him to force his hands into his pockets. His breaths circled around his head like a halo of light steam as he trekked across the camp to where his brother was. The walk back was infinitely worse than the trip he'd made a little while before. He could hear them as he drew nearer; laughing and enjoying themselves. For a moment, he even considered turning around and letting the rest of their night continue uninterrupted. Dean knew however that the threat would eat away at him until it was all he could think about, and he had to tell Sam before he could stop it.
The closer he got to the group he could see Sam and Cas sitting adjacent to one another with their backs facing him. He force a smile onto his face in an attempt to hide his worried expression and keep them from being alarmed.
"You guys still enjoyin' the party?" Dean asked in the lightest tone he could manage.
A few of them answered with a 'yeah' most just nodded, while Sam took notice of his brothers' discomfort right away. He got up and turned to face Dean, a heavy look on his brow.
"Something wrong?" he asked trying to read past Deans Façade.
"Bobby just uh, has some family business to talk to us about." Dean glanced at Ellen and Jo, who both seemed to catch his subtle hint. Even Cas looked up from the flames hearing the phrase they used to indicate danger. Family Business.
Sam looked ashen, his expression alone begging for some kind of explanation. "Dean what is it?" he whispered.
Dean swallowed. "I'll tell you back at HQ Sammy." His lips barely moved when he spoke.
Cas' blue eyes looked sad and like Sam, longed for an answer as to what was wrong. The fallen angel got to his feet and stood next to Dean like the loyal solider he was, ready to assist the Winchesters however he could.
"Is there anything you fellas need help with?" Rick asked just as the three of them started to turn and walk back to the cabin.
"We've got this. Nothing to worry about." Dean assured the sheriff with another false smirk.
"He's lyin'." Daryl's gruff, slurred voice taunted from where he was laying. Beside him was what remained of the six-pack he'd won playing poker; empty bottles. "Can't ya see it? Somthin's go 'im spooked."
The redneck sat up and glared at the Winchesters.
Since their first encounter, Dean and Daryl's relationship had altered significantly. They'd come to respect one another, despite whatever differences they might have had. Learned that they each had tempers, however the youngest Dixon brother was pushing it.
"He ain't gonna tell us though." Daryl continued. "He ain't ever gonn' tell us what exactly's going on are ya?"
Dean clenched his teeth and took a deep breath. "You have something you want to say to me?" he tested, glaring at Daryl.
The redneck stumbled to his feet quickly and despite his drunken, stomped over to Dean, his narrow blue eyes like ice.
Defensively Rick and Ellen go to their feet as well, in case a fight broke out.
"Yeah I do!" he hissed, his eyes locked with Deans "what else are ya hidden' huh?"
"Nothing." Dean growled.
Dean felt his anger swell up inside of his gut, even though he knew Daryl was right. He and Sam had pretty much come clean about the grizzly details of their lives; the only thing they'd avoided was the issues with the vessels. Until now, he felt the matter was strictly need to know, especially the fact that Sam and him had been the original vessels. Who knew what kind of argument that would bring up, and now that Ricks group could potentially be who the demons were looking for, and with a nest so close it was hard not to say anything.
The nest itself wasn't something he necessarily had to keep from them on account they knew about the existence of the hellish creatures, but he didn't want to dampen the mood with the idea of impending doom- although the current clamor wasn't helping the overall atmosphere.
"Sit down." Dean demanded through gritted teeth. "And drop it."
Daryl's chest puffed out and his upper lip curled like a snarling dog. The stench of alcohol radiated from his person and stung Dean's nose. It was obvious the redneck not at his best when he was drinking- in fact his behaviors were borderline Merle-esque.
"Daryl." Rick gripped the man's arm, gently coaxing him away from the oldest Winchester. "Why don't you sit back down?"
Dean lowered his defense and relaxed a little which seemed to settle Daryl down ever so slightly. His expression however still remained the same; disgruntled and annoyed.
"Daryl. . ." Rick tried again.
He yanked his arm free from the sheriffs hold and eyed him. "Maybe he'll tell you. . ." the rednecks words spilled from his mouth like a low growl before he stomped back over to his blanket by the fireside.
"Sorry 'bout him." Rick stated.
Dean sighed. "He wasn't wrong. Clean things up and you and Ellen come meet us in HQ. You know about Lucifer, now it's time you know exactly what's going on."
Dean gave Ellen a good long look to inform her the party was over. Rick looked completely lost for words thus saying nothing as Cas, Sam and Dean headed back to Head Quarters where Bobby was waiting for them.
It wasn't long after Dean and his group had left that Rick's group started asking questions of their own. They were all on their feet, anxious and confused as to what had the Winchesters in such a fuss. Ellen and Jo were quick to calm everyone down.
"What's going on?" Glenn asked Rick.
The sheriff looked to Ellen for some kind of reasoning, "Do you know?"
"Afraid not." She sighed. "But whatever it is, it has Dean riled up." She looked at everyone and threw on a quick uneasy smile before turning to speak to her daughter. "Will you clean things up here?"
Jo frowned. "But I can help you and Dean."
"I need you to help here." Ellen told her sternly.
A fire sparked behind Jo's eyes burning with anger and the desire to do more than just pick up camp; however, she didn't argue her point any farther. Silently she left her mother's side and began to help the others clean up the area surrounding the fire.
"Come on Sheriff." Ellen said waving her arm for Rick to follow. "Jo can handle things here."
They walked without speaking a word to HQ where the others were, each pulling their jackets a little tighter around them. After being around the warm fire all night, they hadn't realized the drop in temperature until they were away from its inviting glow.
"So you don't know what's going on?" Rick almost seemed scared to ask.
"Dean said it was 'Family Business'. Which usually means trouble so I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it has something to do with demons."
When they entered the cabin, Bobby was setting at the table looking at a map with Sam leaning, looking from the other side, on the table while Dean paced anxiously, and mumbling angrily to himself. He shook his head rapidly. "No. This could be our only shot at figuring out where Lucifer is hiding!"
Sam looked up from the map to Rick, whose face shown every ounce of concern and confusion, as they would've expected. "Bobby and Merle may have found a demon nest while they were out this afternoon." He explained to the sheriff. Sam paused for a moment, trying to figure out the best way to fill him in on the Michael vs. Lucifer ordeal.
"A nest is a sign we've been looking for since this whole thing started. The demons have been careful up until now to stay under our radar." Dean added desperately trying to convey the importance of going after it right away.
"Which makes me think it's a trap." Bobby interjected.
Sam nodded slightly.
"Why is this demon nest so important?" Rick asked taking a seat.
"Nests usually indicate an entity of greater power." Dean said propping himself against a bookshelf.
"So you're looking for an even more powerful demon?"
"An angel actually." Cas spoke up. He was standing next to Dean with his head hanging, looking at the floor. "Lucifer to be exact."
Rick looked lost again. "You mean you were serious about having to kill the devil?"
"This virus, the Croatian virus is a side effect of the fight between the archangels Michael and Lucifer. Angels need vessels in order to walk the earth or to fight. . . ." Sam stopped a second noticing Rick glance in Castiels direction.
"So how's . . ." Rick words trailed off, leaving the partial question hanging.
"Uh." Sam looked to Dean, trying to decide if it would be wise to say that Cas had taken over a human. Saying he'd 'taken over a person' made him sound like the kind of monsters they were fighting against when the fallen angel was nothing of the sort. It was a very complex subject, and until then neither Sam nor Dean had given Cas' vessel much thought.
"Jimmy Novak." Cas didn't seem to think anything of it however. "He was a devout man, he offered to let me use him as a vessel. He actually prayed for it."
Rick frowned and folded his arms. "How does that work Is it like a demonic possession? When Michonne was possessed, you said she was still in there, is that how it is with Jimmy?"
There was an odd silence as everyone exchanged glances. In all reality, Dean and Sam had tried to avoid the subject, thus them not thinking about poor Jimmy Novak. It was a wound they didn't want to reopen.
"There is a toll that is taken when a human becomes a vessel. It is, as Jimmy explained once, like being chained to a comet. It wears away at a soul." Cas' brows knit together. "I haven't felt Jimmy's presence in a long time."
"What happened to him?" Dean pried, unsure he wanted to know.
"I'm not sure." Cas shrugged taking a seat across from Rick at the table. "He could still be in here somewhere, just weaker, or his soul could be completely gone. I fear the latter is more likely. The more human I become the less room there is for him."
"What happens when he gets evicted?" Rick inquired, cynically.
Cas looked at the sheriff his eyes hopeful. "He goes to heaven. I assume that is where his wife and daughter are now. I think he will like it better there."
"He had a family?" Rick was obviously taken aback and Dean wished that Cas had left that part out. "You took him from his family?"
"Yes, he had a family. But I didn't take him. I asked him if he would allow me to be his vessel. Humans must let us in. We must get consent in order to enter a vessel's body. Jimmy asked to be my vessel." He angel defended for himself.
"So angels can ask any old person and as long as they say yes, they can become vessels?" Rick was asking a lot of questions, which was taking up time they could be using to pursue their new threat. Nevertheless, he understood the sheriffs concerns.
"Not all humans, but a good number. Angels are powerful beings and containing all of our power takes a strong vessel. Archangels are extremely powerful and need specific vessels that are strong enough to contain them. Had both Michael and Lucifer had the right vessels when they fought, all this; the Walkers- as you call them- may have been avoided." Cas explained.
"Why is that?" Rick asked.
The brothers looked at each other before Sam said anything. The apocalypse was something neither of them wanted to confess to, to someone who had lost so much because of them, but it had to be done, all they could do was hope Rick would understand their reasoning.
"Dean was supposed to be Michael's vessel, and I, uh, Lucifer's. We didn't exactly approve of that plan. Didn't like what it would have made us. So we said no. Like Cas said, you have to let them in. We didn't and that's why all this is happening. Michael's dead and Lucifer has started his reign."
Rick remained deathly silent. No one could be sure what he was thinking, but he seemed to be rolling his ideas over repeatedly in his mind. Knowing that the men who'd given you and your group shelter from the end of the world were also the ones responsible for its end had to have been a difficult thing to process.
"A new vessel has become available, one strong enough to contain my brothers' energy." Cas added. "And apparently that vessel is somewhere here in camp."
Dean watched the sheriff carefully. Not only had they confessed to single handedly kick starting the apocalypse but told him one of his people could be in very serious danger. Despite the grim flow of information, Rick sat quietly in his chair seemingly trying to comprehend it all.
When he finally found his voice again, his tone was low and somewhat shaken. His expression was distant, cold, and his face was ashen. "I've got three questions I want answered, and do not lie to me."
"Go on." Sam encouraged.
"Who among us is the vessel?" he asked.
Dean pursed his lips and let out a deep breath shaking his head.
"We don't know." Sam admitted. "They won't tell us."
Rick scowled, the lines on his forehead increasing, and he clenched his jaw. "What happens if Lucifer gets his new vessel?" his tone was even lower.
"The destruction of Heaven, Hell fire, the endless reign of Lucifer. . ." Cas listed. ". . . Any ounce of hope of this world returning to the way it was swept away forever."
The look on his face stayed like stone, Dean new that look all too well; the sheriffs' world and everything he thought he knew about it was crumbling into rubble.
"How do we stop it?" he uttered finally.
"Ice Lucifer before he can get his hands on his new vessel and this whole thing becomes a distant memory. It's harder than it sounds, trust me." Dean huffed. "That's why we need to check out this nest incase King Dick Bag is hiding nearby." He leered at Bobby.
"It's in the middle of the woods Dean! It's dark. You might be able to navigate your way all across the country using back roads or what have you, but I know you wouldn't stand a chance in the woods."
"I'll take Daryl with me. He's a tracker he'll find our way back."
Rick shook his head. "I don't think he's in any shape to track right now, let alone fight, thanks to that six pack he won."
Dean's blood started to boil again. He was going to find the nest, with or without help. He couldn't believe how calm Sam and Bobby were about the whole thing. This was both a major threat and a find. If left untouched who knows what kind of attack could happen and they might never have a chance to find Satan again. They were being unreasonable.
He cursed them under his breath and began aggressively throwing supplies and weapons into the black duffle bag. They all watched him, and finally Bobby stood, grumbling.
"Balls. . ." he too started to back his own equipment.
"I can do this myself Bobby!" Dean barked irritably.
"Do you take me as some kind of heartless fool boy? I'm not letting you run, guns blazing into the final circle of Hell all by yourself."
"Wouldn't be the first time." Dean chided.
Sam got up and began helping his brother pack his bag. "Well this time you won't have to do it alone."
Everyone was suddenly on their feet moving about the cabin accept for Rick. Surely, his mind was still trying to grasp what had just been explained to him. His eyes were locked with the unstained wood of the table as if he was stuck in a trance.
"Hey you okay?" Dean asked tossing the heavy bag over his shoulder and tapping the flat surface of the table a few times to get the sheriffs attention.
When he looked up, the stone expression was gone and his brow was heavy with concern. His eyes were bloodshot and he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Uh, yeah, is there anything I can do to help?"
Dean thought a moment. Rick had proven to be useful in combat, but he also was a strong leader. "No, I need someone here who can run things in case it goes sour for us."
Rick nodded and staggered to his feet. Neither of them wanted things to end that way, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
"At least take someone from my group with you. Glenn, Michonne or Maggie. They're good fighters and they'll listen to orders."
"Whoever is up for it, the help will be greatly appreciated Chief. Have them meet us by the Impala."
The three hunters and the fallen angel headed for the Impala's shed while Rick headed back to his group. Dean lagged back to walk with Cas, a question weighing on his mind.
"Uh, Cas, you really mean what you said in the cabin? About Jimmy being in heaven?"
Cas sighed and didn't meet Dean's eyes. "I thought it was easier for the sheriff to hear."
"What happened to him?"
"What happens to a tail that is severed from a comet?" Cas looked at Dean keenly, making the Winchester squirm.
"I don't know. What?"
Cas looked ahead, his eyes unfocused. "I don't know either."
A/N: Drop me a review! Tell me your thoughts on this chapter as well as what did you think of The Walking Dead finale! (They started filming the 5th season on the 5th! \o/)