A/N: This is the next story in a mild AU/canon divergence series called The Other Guardian 'verse. There is a more detailed note about it on my profile, but in brief: after Dean is raised from Hell by Castiel, an entire year passes before the Lilith rises and the seals start to break. During that time, Castiel is assigned to watch over the Winchesters, and finds himself growing closer and closer to Sam.

This story follows "Thanksgiving at Bobby's" and "Darkness Rising," but can be read as standalone. This story will be updated every day until December 25th (or possibly 26th if I come up with an epilogue.

Notes: Cas and Sam centric, slash and pre-slash. Plenty of Dean too, mostly in a humorous capacity. Please enjoy.


Home for the Holidays

Prologue: November 30

The billboard looming outside the roadside diner window said Honk for Jesus. The words in red block letters took up half of the sign, while the other half was occupied by Jesus from the shoulders up, one of those images Sam had seen so many times he almost didn't even take it in anymore. He might not have noticed the billboard at all, since spending half of his life in the car meant he'd gotten pretty good at ignoring anything except the yellow stripe in the middle of the road, if it weren't for the fact that where they were in Oklahoma, so far east that one edge of the diner parking lot was probably touching the Arkansas state line, was apparently very pro-Jesus, and every one of the countless eighteen-wheelers rolling by on Interstate 40 sounded its air horn, splitting the atmosphere of the diner with a piercing blast. None of the rest of the lunch crowd seemed to care, but Sam was having a hard time finding his appetite—though that might have had at least something to do with what was on his plate, too.

"What crawled up your ass and died?"

Sam glanced up from his sandwich, glaring across the worn Formica tabletop at his brother. Dean's hands were full of a mound of barbeque beef on a roll the size of a cantaloupe, and a few pieces of brisket stuck out of the corners of his mouth, accompanied by a smear of barbeque sauce. Sam grimaced and set his own sandwich back on his plate.

"Nothing. I've just never had a BLT before that was eighty percent bacon."

Dean made a face at him, his words garbled as he chewed with his mouth open. "What are you talking about? That's the only reason that crap even looks edible." He paused long enough to take a swig of Coke out of his tall glass, then went back to work on the barbeque, narrowing his eyes at Sam over the sesame seed bun. "Quit whining and chow down. You were the one who wanted to stop for lunch in the first place."

Sam wiped his hands carefully on his paper napkin. "Yeah, I know, but—"

"More coffee, honey?"

Sam cut himself off and looked up into the cheerful face of the waitress, a chubby middle-aged woman with curls of red hair bouncing around her face. She looked like every other diner waitress who'd ever refilled his coffee cup, with the exception of the brown felt reindeer horns poking up from her head, the tiny bells on the end of each prong jingling every time she moved. For those, if nothing else, Sam dredged up a smile as he raised his porcelain mug.

"Sure. Thanks."

"Welcome," she told him, the word clipped by her heavy accent. She tipped a generous slosh of coffee into the mug and then dumped a handful of creamers onto the table, fishing for something in the pocket of her apron. "And here's a little something extra," she told Sam in a whisper as she slid two red-and-white striped peppermints out of her pocket and set them next to his plate with a click. She winked at both Winchesters before straightening again, the bells on her reindeer horns tinkling gleefully. "Tis the season!" she called as she moved off, jiggling the coffee pot in a wave. Another blaring air horn punctuated the sentiment.

Sam blinked after her, then turned back to his brother, eyebrows raised. He'd expected a snarky comment from Dean, probably something along the lines of watching out for cougars or an offer that they could stick around another day, if Sam wanted to close the deal for once—but Dean just looked unusually gloomy, watching the waitress retreat with narrowed eyes. He chewed twice more and then swallowed hard, setting his monstrosity of a sandwich down for a minute so that he could lick barbeque sauce from his fingers.

"I tell you, Sammy," Dean started, "between Mrs. Clause over there and the super-size pinup outside I am sick of this holiday already."

Sam glanced out the window long enough to verify that the only thing Dean could possibly be referring to was the billboard Jesus, his heart and the crown of thorns in his hands; then he turned back to the table, his eyebrows drawn together. "What holiday? Christmas?" he asked.

Dean gave him a look, wheedling a flake of beef out of his teeth with his thumbnail. "No, Sam. Hanukkah. All the dreidels in here are getting on my nerves."

Sam glanced over his brother's shoulder at the lines of tinsel and Christmas lights dangling from the ceiling of the entire diner. The radio by the cash register seemed to be crooning "Silver Bells." He thought about reminding Dean that sarcasm was the lowest form of humor, but since that was certain to earn him nothing but another snarky comment, he kept his mouth shut in the end, just catching Dean's gaze and raising his eyebrows. Dean rolled his eyes.

"It's ridiculous. Look at this place. It's not even December yet."

Sam shrugged under his brown jacket, burning his mouth on a sip of his bitter coffee. "It's November 30th," he offered.

Dean mouthed a few unholy words at him before hefting his barbeque sandwich again and stuffing it into his mouth. "Thank you, Sam. Real helpful," he spit out around a mouthful of brisket. Sam wrinkled his nose as a few specks of barbeque sauce hit the table.

"Dude, what's your problem with Christmas?" he asked. He almost added that Dean had seemed pretty okay with the holiday before—but before was always a touchy subject, and he bit his tongue, burying the unsaid words in another sip of boiling coffee. He wasn't using those taste buds anyway.

Dean slipped his sandwich into one hand so that he could point the other at Sam, his oily barbeque fingers swinging out over the table. "Okay, first of all, it's too close to Thanksgiving. We just had a freaking holiday. Can't we have, like, one month off?"

Sam rolled his sip of coffee around in his mouth, carefully not saying anything. They had spent Thanksgiving at Bobby's house, stuffing themselves and letting the older hunter gripe at them about drinking too much and kicking their feet up on his books (both things that were really more Dean's crimes than Sam's). Sam had honestly hoped they could hang around in the neighborhood of South Dakota for the season, dropping in at Bobby's for a few days here and there and occasionally sleeping somewhere besides roadside hotels where the walls shook every time a semi-truck rolled by. But as usual, Dean was restless almost as soon as the leftovers were gone, and he'd dragged them down to Arkansas chasing rumors of a ghost sighting that turned out to be nothing but smoke—just another false lead bookended by bad diner food and sleeping in the parking lot of a state fishing area, his long legs crunched up in the Impala's back seat. Dean always seemed eager to be gone from Bobby's—from everywhere, really—as fast as possible. Sometimes Sam wished they could just hold still long enough to catch their breath, let alone take a real break. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept in the same bed more than four nights in a row.

Dean had gone on, waving his sandwich around to emphasize whatever point he was making. Sam hadn't been listening, but when he tuned back in he didn't really feel like he'd missed anything.

"Plus, I don't get it. Christmas is Jesus's birthday or whatever, right?" Dean was saying, sweeping his empty hand out to indicate the diner at large. "So why do these morbid sons of bitches have like fifty crucifixes hung up in here?"

Sam glanced around at the walls, surprised to find that Dean had only exaggerated by a factor of five or so—there were an abnormal number of crosses nailed up, especially for a restaurant, and a few of them had been encircled by wreaths of fake evergreen, which was a little weird and made them look sort of like bull's-eyes. Sam sort of grimaced and turned back to face his brother, who was giving him a told you so look over an overflowing mouthful of beef. Dean jerked his head once at the foot-long wooden crucifix decorating the door to the kitchen.

"Icons of your death—hell of a way to celebrate a birthday. But hey, maybe that's just me. I wouldn't want people honking at me all day, either."

Sam glanced out the window at the billboard again. He had a feeling it hadn't actually been ordained by Heaven, not least because none of the angels they'd met seemed to have a really firm grasp on modern advertising—but in the end, he let that go, turning back to Dean and spinning a canister of cream around with his fingertip.

"You know, it's not really. His birthday."

Dean had been hoisting his sandwich to take another massive bite, but he stopped at Sam's words, staring at his brother through narrowed green eyes. "Say what now?" he asked.

Sam let go of the creamer, raising a hand to rub the back of his neck. "Jesus wasn't born in December. I mean, like, historically. He was born in spring. Christmas is when we celebrate it, but…" He trailed off as he registered the look of utter confusion on Dean's face, apparently so debilitating that he had to put his sandwich all the way down on his plate.

"What?" Dean demanded again. His expression was phasing out of confusion and into disbelief, and Sam found he was struggling with a little disbelief himself, wondering how Dean had managed to live almost thirty years without stumbling over this fact.

"It's in the gospels, Dean," Sam told him, feeling inexplicably like he had to cite his source. "It's not a secret. It's thought they moved the holiday into December so that it lined up with pagan solstice celebrations, so that it was easier to convert people to Christianity."

Dean's face contorted, disbelief giving way as usual to anger. "They? They who?"

"Uh… I don't know. Early Christians?" Sam guessed. "The holy Roman emperors? Whoever was converting pagans."

Sam suddenly came back to himself enough to remember that he was in a Southern café surrounded by crucifixes and overseen by Jesus on a huge billboard, and wondered if demystifying Christmas was really a safe topic of conversation in a place like this. Dean didn't seem to have the same concerns, if the volume of his voice was any indication.

"The hell are you saying? That's not…" Sam tipped his head, waiting, and Dean trailed off to run his hand across his mouth, leaving a smear of barbeque sauce from his nose to his ear. "What about the songs?" Dean asked after a moment, breaking Sam's staring contest with his brother's napkin. Sam rubbed a hand over his cheek unconsciously.

"What songs?"

Dean jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the droning radio. "All the Christmas songs, you know. The virgin who got knocked up and the three wise guys."

Sam rubbed a hand across his forehead, wondering not for the first time how it was that Dean had qualified as someone who deserved his own personal guardian angel. "The three wise men," he said, hoping none of the locals in the surrounding booths had heard Dean, or at least that none of them had guns in their pickups. "The wise guys are mobsters."

"Oh, yeah." Dean picked up his sandwich again, grinning before he sunk his teeth into another huge bite of brisket. "That would have been a way cooler story."

"You would think that," Sam sighed. But his response got lost in the familiar rustle of settling wings, and Sam whipped his head up to find Castiel standing next to their table, looking as usual slightly harried and more than a little windswept.

"I have to speak with you," the angel began without preamble, glancing back and forth between the Winchesters. Dean snorted around his current mouthful.

"Oh hell no. You people are liars and propagandists, and you saddled us with Bing Crosby and twenty-four-hour A Christmas Story marathons for no fucking reason. I'm not talking to you right now. Talk to Sam."

Sam sent his brother a look. Castiel's eyes narrowed sharply in confusion as he turned awkwardly to Sam, his attention lingering on the barbeque sauce sliding down Dean's wrist and under the sleeve of his coat—but then his gaze locked with Sam's and his expression relaxed a little, the skin around his eyes crinkling slightly as if to suggest the smallest of smiles.

"Hello, Sam."

Sam's heart buckled in his chest—but he was pretty much used to that by now, and he managed to restrain himself to a small smile in return, unconsciously reaching up to slip his hair back behind his ear. "Hey, Cas. Did you need something?"

"Yes," Castiel told him. He edged forward the final step until his trench coat was brushing the table, and then bent down partway, his back stiff as he glanced furtively over his shoulder at the lunchtime diner crowd. "It's important that I speak to you immediately about… bells."

Sam blinked, and even Dean detached his sandwich from his face for a moment to give their resident angel a what the fuck once-over, licking barbeque sauce slowly from his lips. "I'm sorry, did you say bells?" Dean asked. Castiel nodded shortly.

"Yes. Golden handbells. Specifically a set of twelve that disappeared from the Church of the Sacred Messiah on Christmas in 1910."

Dean lifted his eyebrows and leaned back in his seat, shooting Sam a look that said his brain was jammed and he was going to need a minute to process that. Sam blinked back at him and then up at Castiel. He realized suddenly that the waitress was eyeing them from the counter near the kitchen, her reindeer horns tipped quizzically as she puzzled at the new arrival looming over their table, and Sam winced, wondering if it was too late to head her off.

"Uh, you should probably sit down, Cas." He gave Dean a purposeful look, because his backpack was already taking up part of the bench on his side and Sam never fit that well in booths anyway—but Dean just gave him a dickish smile in return, raising his eyebrows and working a mouthful of his sandwich like he had no idea what Sam was trying to imply. In the end Sam had no choice but to scoot as far toward the window as he could manage, pulling his backpack into his lap and blinking you're an asshole at Dean in brother code. "Here, Cas. You can sit with me. You, um—you want a sandwich?"

"Thank you, Sam," Castiel said as he sunk into the booth, his knee brushing against Sam's as he settled into the vinyl bench. He examined the BLT from a distance for a moment and then slid the plate over to rest in front of him, lifting one triangle bursting with bacon into his hands. "Though I do not require nourishment."

Even as he said it, though, he bit off one corner of the sandwich and chewed thoughtfully, his eyes fixed on the saltshaker like he was recording every flavor, and Sam couldn't help the little smile that flitted across his face. Eleven months of knowing Castiel had been enough to figure out that whether he needed it or not, the angel seemed to like eating, and it hadn't escaped Sam's notice that Castiel would try almost anything Sam offered him. He wasn't making it out to mean something it didn't, but he'd noticed all the same.

Dean pulled his knee up so that it banged the table, and Sam jumped, his gaze snapping from Castiel to his brother, who was giving him a seriously dirty look. Sam blinked and made a valiant effort to reel his mind back to more important things.

"Um…so, what's the deal with the bells?" he asked, pushing a hand through his hair. The look Castiel gave him reminded Sam slightly too late that the angel still didn't really respond well to open-ended questions, and he hurried to rephrase, taking another sip of the coffee that had at least retreated to lukewarm. "You said that they… they disappeared like a hundred years ago? What happened to them?"

"It isn't known," Castiel said, taking another small bite of Sam's sandwich. "Very little about them is. But they are causing a considerable stir in Heaven."

"What's got the halo squad all hot and bothered over some bells?" Dean asked, the question even more irreverent, if that were possible, for the gob of barbeque that tumbled out of his mouth and landed with a splat on his plate. If any of Sam's appetite had been left intact, that would have been the death knell. Castiel barely seemed to notice, preoccupied with his own sandwich.

"They appeared in the dream of a prophet," he told them flatly.

Sam's brain did a little internal reset, and when it came back online he glanced over at Dean to make sure he'd heard that right. Dean had stopped chewing right in the middle of a bite and part of the roll was still sticking out of the corner of his mouth. "Hold the phone," Dean said, his face darkening with confusion as he leaned over the table toward Castiel. "We talking, like, a prophet prophet?"

Castiel nodded around the last of Sam's crust. "Her name is Rachael Loughton."

Sam was already digging his laptop out of his backpack, pausing only to wipe up Dean's spatter of barbeque sauce before he flipped it open on the table. While the satellite card searched for service, he looked up again to find Dean and Cas exchanging stares over their plates, Dean's fairly peeved and Castiel's mostly blank. At last Dean rolled his eyes.

"Sure. What the hell. Angels are real, why not prophets, too?"

Castiel tipped his head to one side, a careless frown touching his lips. "Why do you resist the truth of the Lord, Dean?"

"Oh, you are not gonna go all Jehovah's Witness on me," Dean warned him. "Not after I just had my eyes opened about your boy out there."

Sam had a feeling he knew how that conversation was going to go, if they got into it. Fortunately his search results materialized just as Cas was turning to look out the window, and Sam sat up straighter in his seat, his eyes racing over the entries. "Here we go. Got it. Rachael Loughton…" He clicked on the second link down, what looked like a blog called The Word—but as soon as the page popped up, he slumped against the bench, working his touchpad mouse up toward the Back button. "Hang on, that can't be right…"

"No, that's her," Castiel told him. He leaned into Sam's shoulder to get a better look at the computer screen, apparently totally unaware of his hair brushing Sam's cheek as he tipped his head. "This is where she records her revelations."

"Hey, let me see," Dean demanded.

Reluctantly, Sam spun his laptop around. Then he watched the same sort of confusion and horror dawn on Dean's face as he'd been feeling just a second before, as Dean took in the garishly pink theme accented here and there with pictures of shimmering nail polish and little white hearts that chased his cursor across the screen. The sparkling silver title along the top of the page read, The Word: Beauty Tips, Dating Advice and Revelations from the Girl Who Heard It First—From God. Dean choked on his brisket.

"You have got to be shitting me."

"Open the most recent revelation," Castiel instructed, ignoring him.

Sam was still halfway convinced that this was all a massive misunderstanding, but he did as Castiel asked all the same, turning his laptop back to face him and scrolling down until the most recent post filled the window. He leaned toward the screen, squinting to read the silver letters against the pink background.

"Okay. This one was posted today, six hours ago… it's called 'Buried Treasure.'" Dean snorted and Sam shot him a quick look before refocusing on the blog. "Let's see… 'Had another dream last night, ladies, and wanted to share with you right away. This one goes out to Kelly29, whose boyfriend broke her heart just two days before her birthday'…" Sam trailed off and glanced over at Castiel to make sure he wasn't barking up the wrong tree—but the angel seemed serene, just waiting, so Sam shook his head and went back to it, scrolling a little farther down the page. "It goes on like that for a while… okay, here. 'In the dream I was standing on the foundations of this really old church that had been torn down. There was a hole down in the ground, and in it was a whole set of beautiful gold bells—the kind you ring in a bell choir. Even though the place was a total mess, the bells were as perfect and clean as if they'd just come off the shelf at Tiffany's."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Dean asked. He swiped a hand across his mouth, but only succeeded in spreading the barbeque sauce farther, so that by now it looked less like he needed a napkin and more like he needed a close shave. Sam glanced at his brother and then back down, eyebrows raised.

"Well, if you believe the prophet… 'I think the meaning behind this dream is pretty clear for Kelly, and the rest of you girls out there reeling from a bad boy who left your fragile heart in pieces. Even in the wreckage of a bad relationship, you've got to keep digging, because you just might find something beautiful underneath. God's crossing His fingers for you, ladies. Just trust fate and let the magic of the season happen!'"

Dean cocked his head to one side, taking another gulp of Coke and smearing barbeque fingerprints down the side of the glass. "Okay, not bad advice for all those desperate girls out there—like you, Sam," he added with a grin, and Sam shot him a look, wishing Dean weren't so damn predictable that it actually would have been weirder not to get an insult there. Dean ignored him and turned back to Castiel. "But what the hell's got your feathers all ruffled? Some girl dreamt about bells—big whoop. I don't see how that was worth interrupting my lunch."

Castiel's eyes narrowed. He leaned forward slightly over the table, and Sam felt the hairs on his arm prickling, something about the intensity of Castiel's stare reminding him all of a sudden that this wasn't just a friend sharing his BLT, but an extremely powerful being whose patience Dean seemed intent on trying. If Dean got fried one of these days, Sam was going to be hard-pressed to be surprised. For now, though, Castiel settled for a glare, his rigid posture easing as he gradually settled back against the red vinyl bench.

"The dreams of prophets are never accidents. Even angels aren't privy to them before they're revealed. Occasionally a saint or a martyr, or another extremely pious soul, can influence the dreams of prophets, but most often they come directly from God." Castiel held Dean's eyes for another moment, then turned aside to speak to Sam, though the crush of the crowded bench seat meant he was basically speaking into Sam's chin. It made Sam unreasonably anxious, and he rubbed his hands against his jeans as the angel went on. "The church is real, as are the bells. As soon as the prophet recorded her revelation, an angel was dispatched to retrieve them from beneath the church, which is set to be demolished at the end of the month. But the bells were gone. All except these," Castiel finished, reaching into the front pockets of his trench coat.

When he withdrew his hands, he cradled a glimmering golden handbell in each palm, the worn leather handles flopping against his wrists. Sam had seen handbells before, and he knew that certain bells in a set could be huge, the lowest tones sometimes so big they had to be rung with both hands—but these ones were small, and the body of each bell fit easily in the angel's hand, making them the higher bells. Sam was surprised to see they were both completely free of tarnish, like the prophet had said, even though they were over a century old. He reached out to skim a finger down the lip of the smaller bell, tracing the gentle curve that smoothed into the hollow without so much as a rim to distort the shape—but almost before he made contact with the cold metal, Castiel's open fingers had folded down over his, holding them firmly in place. Sam felt a jolt race down his spine as Castiel caught his eyes and then squeezed his hand once.

"Be careful," he warned, his voice low. "There's a chance they're dangerous."

Dean had been reaching for the other bell, but he drew back at Castiel's words—which was just as well, in Sam's opinion, because Dean's fingers were still coated in barbeque sauce. Sam slipped his own fingers out from under Castiel's and pulled his hands back into his lap, giving the bells a wary look. "Dangerous how?" he asked.

Castiel frowned down at the bells in his hands, tilting them so that the light slid across their polished surfaces. "They have come in contact with very powerful demonic energy."

Dean seemed to have decided the conversation was overrated, if the way he rolled his eyes was any indication. He picked up his sandwich again and tore a huge chunk out of the middle, like he was planning to finish the rest of it in three bites. "So what?" he asked through his mouthful. "We've dealt with demons before."

"Not like this," Castiel told him. "The demonic energy surrounding these bells is so strong it's attracting other negative energy to them."

"Like a poltergeist?" Sam posited. Dean looked confused as hell, but Castiel nodded, slipping the bells carefully back into his pockets.

"Yes. Which is why I've been assigned to stay close while you work this case."

"Hold up a sec," Dean garbled out, and Sam resisted the urge to kick his brother under the table because Dean almost seemed to make a point of talking with his mouth as full as possible. "Nobody said anything about us being involved. All of this sounds like your problem to me."

"Dean," Sam snapped. Dean never looked ashamed but he did shut up at least, and Sam rolled his eyes before turning back to Castiel, trying to find a less asshole-ish way of saying basically the same thing. "Look, we'll help however we can, Cas, obviously. You've done… so much for us." Dean made a face at that, but Sam ignored him, tapping his fingers against the Formica. "But if these bells are that dangerous, why not just have a whole battalion, or… squadron… um, flock?" Sam cut himself off and winced at his tumble of words, especially the last one—but Cas was still watching him, waiting for the rest of the question, so he did his best to ignore the choking cackle of the gluttonous hyena across the table as he tried again. "Why not have a bunch of angels just search the city for these bells and bless them or neutralize them or… whatever?"

Castiel's brows drew together, the thoughtful look Sam had learned to recognize meant the angel was trying to find the words for something they'd probably never understand. "It isn't that simple, Sam," he said, looking almost apologetic. "The vision of the bells was conveyed by a prophet, and prophecies are not intended for angels. These bells were scattered by a human hand, not an angel or a demon. The prophecy means they're meant to be found by humans as well. Prophecies are not to be disregarded lightly."

From the other side of the table, Dean snorted around the last bite of his sandwich. "Sounds like some red tape bullshit to make us do your dirty work."

"Do you think I would ask you to do something this dangerous if I had a choice?" Castiel challenged. All of a sudden he seemed angry again, and his voice was lower than before, all of his words coarse like emotion made them harder to ground out, each one a little rougher around the edges. "My hands are tied, Dean. Too much angelic intervention is only going to draw the attention of whatever demonic presence has gotten close to these bells, and that will only make things more dangerous." For a second Castiel fixed his gaze on Sam instead, and Sam found his mouth suddenly dry, unable to say anything as he stared back into those intense blue eyes. Then the angel deflated and sank back into his seat, his features smoothing but his back still ramrod straight as his gaze settled on the crumbs on Sam's plate. "This is what I can tell you," Castiel began again, more softly. "The bells will not have been taken out of the city. Their locations are hidden from me and all angels, but they should resonate with the two bells the angels were able to recover, if you get close to them."

"You want to be a little vaguer about that?" Dean groused.

Castiel's sharp eyes snapped up to Dean's face again. "I can't tell you what I don't know. But if you carry these bells with you, the lost bells should make themselves known to you, and you'll be able to collect them."

Sam felt his forehead furrowing a little at that, but as usual Dean beat him to it, sucking the last drop of barbeque sauce from his thumb before finally swiping his hands across his paper napkin. "Okay, so what happens then, exactly? Some badass demon mojo rises up out of the bells and kicks our tails? I hate to break it to you, Cas, but this boat has a couple big holes in it."

"That's why I'll be around," Castiel said, in a tone that brooked no argument. Sam thought Dean probably would have tried anyway if the angel hadn't turned away from him at that moment to face Sam again, reaching into his pocket once more and emerging this time with a crumpled scrap of paper. "Accommodations have been prepared for the duration of your mission. This is the address."

Sam took the paper from Castiel, glancing at it long enough to decipher the last line as Boulder, Colorado. Then he looked up and met the angel's eyes, giving Castiel a small smile that he hoped was reassuring. "Okay. We'll be there, Cas. Soon as we can."

Castiel nodded once. "I'll expect you tomorrow." There was a moment when Sam thought he would just disappear, like he had in the beginning—but instead Castiel hesitated and glanced up at him, meeting Sam's gaze for a moment as that same small crinkle settled around his eyes. "Goodbye, Sam," he said. Then he was gone, and all Sam was left with was the crumpled address flickering in his hand, and the rustle of those invisible, intangible wings stuttering the heartbeat in his chest. Sam tightened his fingers around that little scrap of paper.

Dean chugged the last of his soda and then pulled the glass down, clicking an ice cube back and forth between his teeth. "Pushy bastard," he grumbled. "I never even agreed to do this. We should just leave him hanging—let him deal with his own crap for once."

This time, Sam didn't hesitate to kick him under the table.


Thanks so much for reading. Look for the next chapter tomorrow.