A/N: This series is obviously AU, but will follow show canon as closely as possible. I would say this is the story that starts to deviate a bit further from canon, but I still work to keep it as close as possible. To best understand this story, I would recommend starting with The Genesis Variant, Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, Appearances Can Be Deceiving, Unforeseen Complications, and The Waiting Game. They are all gen stories. If you want a shippy slant, there are Dean/Jo shorts or versions-Performance Anxiety, Midnight Run, and The Quiet Outsider-but they are not necessary to follow the series.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
Castiel stood atop the hill, surveying the woodland at his feet. He didn't flinch when he heard Uriel flutter into place beside him.
"Dixville?" Uriel let out a disapproving huff. "Why are you here? We have more important issues to deal with."
"This is where Dean Winchester's problem started." A dusting of snow coated the greens and browns of the trees below, giving it a frosted sheen. He had always enjoyed watching snow from afar, and appreciated the opportunity to view it more intimately. It was a shame this wasn't a pleasurable retreat.
Another haughty puff beside him. "You spend far too much time worrying about that human."
"It's our job."
"Our job is to do the will of Heaven."
"That's what I'm doing."
"If you say so."
Castiel glanced to the side, but did not break his concentration. "What is truly bothering you?"
Uriel didn't answer. He stared out into the trees, past the snow covered tops, to the town protected by magic nearly as old as they themselves. Castiel wondered about that magic, how the people here had come to know it, and what could be hidden that was important enough to warrant the exclusion of both demons and angels. What lay inside had to be significant.
The minutes ticked by, lengthened by the silence, until Uriel finally spoke. "Winchester's problem didn't start here."
Now, Uriel had Castiel's attention. "What do you mean?"
"Don't play innocent." The tone of Uriel's voice was harsh. "You know what I mean."
The accusation in Uriel's voice spoke volumes. Strange feelings burned inside, perhaps of shame or embarrassment; he couldn't tell. He tried to cast them away. Emotion had no place in his being. Uriel's understanding was faulty.
"You know what happened, Castiel. Denying it will not absolve you."
Castiel turned away. "No. You're mistaken."
"I've felt it. You've felt it." Uriel leaned in closer and chuckled. "It's your fault."
And with that Castiel thought of a place as far from Dixville and Uriel as possible. In an instant, he was half way around the world, leaving Uriel, his laughter, and his accusations far behind.
The Impala raced down the highway.
"We're not going to make it," Sam said.
Dean glanced at the evening sky. Clouds rolled in, wide and dark, but even the thick cover couldn't hold back the power of the full moon. He wiped his face and stomped on the accelerator.
"We'll make it."
The Impala roared into Brighton. The New Jersey night was cold and blistery, despite the dense cloud cover. Dean glanced at the time. Five-thirty. Dammit. Dusk was already long gone. There was no way they were going to get there in time. They hadn't even had a chance to change out of their suits.
Sam was already on the phone with their contact. From his nods and desperate glances out the window, Dean knew the fun had already begun.
"Connor said there was a were sighting down on Fifth."
Sam shook his head. "Shop owner shot it. Wherever it is, it's wounded."
"Good. It'll leave a trail. Eyes sharp."
While Sam kept lookout, Dean cut through the back roads on the way to the downtown area. The old buildings had seen better days, buckling under the weight of years of neglect. They cast shadows a mile wide. The perfect hiding place for a wounded werewolf in need of cover.
"There," Sam said, pointing to one of the nearest alleys. "A trail of blood leading into the back."
The blood trail could be anything: gang war gone badly, a mugger's victim, some homeless dude in a bad way, or it could be their monster.
Dean cut a sharp turn to the right and squeezed into the nearest on-street parking. He loosened the tie around his neck, going to rip it off and grab something more suitable, when he saw Sam bolt out of the passenger side and run down the alley.
Perfect. He swung the door open, slamming it, before he ran after Sam.
"I got this end, you go around to the other side," Sam called back.
Since when did he become boss?
Dean wiped the sweat from his brow and doubled around to the previous alley. As he started down the narrow corridor, he slowed, keeping his eyes peeled for any flash or claws and teeth. He wasn't about to become a Happy Meal for some deranged werewolf.
The old stone and brick buildings cast long shadows that the light from the street couldn't touch. Like a tunnel, he felt sucked in, hollow, creeping into the cold. A prickle inched up his back. He felt eyes on him.
Dean tightened his grip on the gun hidden under his suit jacket.
Despite the dark, Dean was aware of many things. The chattering of something small darting between buildings. Wind howled into the alley, funneling small tornadoes of paper and garbage. The clank and groan of the pipes in the distance.
His steps became more measured.
Dean was itching to put a bullet in the werewolf's heart. They'd only just gotten the call, and though he didn't know this Connor guy well, being one of Sam's summer contacts, Dean could tell right off the bat the man's senses were on. Classic werewolf case. Just a few hours away. How could they not say yes?
And he was going to be the one to bag it. Prove to Sam he could still hack it.
Ahead, he saw the end of the long alley narrowing into a collection of trash barrels and cardboard sandwiched between large disposal bins. There was a lone light above, hanging over the backdoor to what smelled like a Chinese place.
A homeless man was lost among the boxes, and scooted away from him, scowling as he pulled the closest box and blanket near. The perpetual frown on his face reminded Dean of cracked leather.
They couldn't have people out here. That was as good as free appetizers for Wolfy.
He winced as a gust of wind sent a chill over his back.
"Hey," Dean called to the man. "I give you a twenty, will you get lost?"
The man glared at him, muttered something that sounded like a string of choice swears, and rolled back over.
The clang of an empty can caught his attention. Dean turned his head, not all that surprised, but relived to find a cat mulling around an overturned trashcan.
All around him everything seemed quiet. Too quiet for his liking. The werewolf had to be close. Even here in the city, nature had a way of knowing when something wrong and unnatural was nearby. Maybe there was something to all that cosmic mumbo jumbo.
Dean fought back the urge to call for Sam and kept his measured pace down the alley. As he moved closer, the cat hissed at him before it darted into the shadows. Dean shrugged it off and pressed on, careful as he stalked past the homeless man's cluster of boxes.
The first blow caught him without warning.
Dean slammed into one of the trashcans. A pain to his stomach, like a sucker punch to the gut, radiated outward up and down his limbs. He immediately thought of the werewolf, and his heart, and tried to catch his breath long enough to shoot.
Nothing was there. He squinted, pushing back the pain as he searched for the werewolf. Damn thing couldn't be invisible.
The wind on his back, once cold and stinging, switched to a burning heat. Dean felt a cold sweat break out across his body.
Hell no. He wiped his face and fumbled for the wall for support. This couldn't happen now.
This had been solved. The damn wings hadn't been around for months.
The pain grew, rippling out in waves. Dean gritted his teeth, unable to stop the groans that slipped out of his mouth. One by one, his back muscles started to spasm, harder and more intense than the first time any of this happened. The pain spiked down his arms.
Dean was a stranger in his own body as he watched his fingers curl, the gun dropping from his now useless grip. As the pulsing grew, he knew something was wrong—very wrong. When the wings had come back last time, it had been painful, but without the intense ripping and tearing.
The wings were pushing through again, carving through the muscle, the skin.
His bones popped and cracked.
With the second blow, he crashed into the nearest brick wall.
Dean yelled as the razor-sharp feathers sliced through his back, shredding through the layers of muscle. His breathing, now shallow, came out in rapid pants, moving in tune with the rhythmic pulsing below the skin.
Tiny gray spots began to dot his vision.
Stay awake, he told himself, ruminating on the thought until it was a chant. He focused on it, and only it, blocking out the pain and icy hot flares up and down his back.
One final quick rip and the wings spilled out, wild and uncontrolled. The force of the explosion nearly sent him reeling back. Dean grabbed at one of the trash barrels and steadied himself.
The weight pulled him backwards. And down, down.
Two shots rang through the back alleys. Dean remembered the werewolf.
Using the wall for support, Dean slid his hands along the surface. The gray spots turned to black, and there was a weird tunneling sound in his ears, like being sucked underwater.
Dammit. No way was he going to pass out.
Grinding his teeth, Dean pulled himself up, forcing his feet to keep moving forward. The heat was lifting, leaving behind a steady throbbing, an ache that went down to his bones.
He felt bigger.
The name came out weak, and for a brief moment, Dean felt lucid. He turned his head, eyes locking on the homeless man. The man stared at him, his wrinkled face two shades too pale. A tremble rocked his hands.
It occurred to Dean this was a problem, but the thought left him as the wings flapped, sending another shot of pain down his back. He screwed his eyes shut, vaguely wondering why the hell it hurt so much this time, and centered what was left of his energy on staying conscious.
There was a werewolf out there.
Sam. He needed to get to Sam.
The end of the alley was a few feet away. If he could make it around the corner, get out of sight, and find Sam, they could…
He brought his hand to his face and tried to rub away the haziness that was settling in his head.
Dean slumped against the wall.