Title: Hunting for Salvation
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sarkywoman
Artist: [livejournal.com profile] angrydumpling
Fandom/Genre: Supernatural AU
Pairing(s): Castiel/Dean, one-sided Michael/Dean, Sam/Jess
Rating: R
Word Count: 36560
Warnings: Non-con (drugs), swearing, captivity

Summary: Earth-Country is still recovering from the Demon War when the Angels attack. Severely outmatched, the Hunters are taken to Heaven, the glowing land across the seas. King Michael keeps Dean as leverage, guarded constantly by his loyal soldier Castiel. But Dean's influence and Michael's erratic behaviour begins to stir doubt in Castiel's mind and with Lucifer making dangerous plans of his own, disobedience might be the only way to save the Hunters.

Thank you so much to [livejournal.com profile] angrydumpling for the art! I was lucky this year! :D

Art link: Art Masterlist


Dean woke in Michael’s bed, flinching away from the fingers that had reached for his head some unknown time ago. It took a moment for him to figure out where he was and to realise that actually, his flinch was somewhat redundant.

“Motherfucker.”

He patted himself down, wondering what liberties the bastard had taken with his body this time. Everything seemed fine and Dean’s panicked breaths calmed down a little. Maybe Michael drew the line at somnophilia. Kind of an arbitrary line for him to draw, but Angels were freaky bastards.

Some sort of weird ringing noise was really starting to get on his nerves. Was it an alarm of some kind? Had Michael gone to deal with that?

Realising the son of a bitch could return at any moment, Dean got up from the bed and thought about escape. He tried the door without much hope and sure enough, it was locked up tight. Determined to get out, he picked up the heavy wooden chair by the desk and heaved it at one of the tall stain-glass windows. The chair bounced off with a dull thud and broke apart on the stone floor.

Momentarily berating himself for what he was about to do, Dean closed his eyes and called out. “Gabriel? I think I know something!”

The Archangel Prince appeared before him without the sound of feathers Dean had expected. “Dean, what are you doing here? Is Castiel okay?”

“I hope so, but I don’t know. Take me to him?”

Gabriel winced. “You don’t know what’s going on, do you?”

“Oh fuck, who’s dead this time?”

“A lot of people. A lot of Angels, lot of Hunters, a lot of Demons. Lucifer’s waging war and he’s using your Clan to do it. Can’t you hear the bells?”

“That’s what that means?” Dean ran a hand back through his hair, reassessing the situation. “And did you say Demons?” The only way this situation could get any worse.

“I’m sorry. I should have figured it out sooner. Only an Angel could have removed the tattoo from your Clan buddy. Now they’re all carrying Demons and slaughtering my kin.”

“You could’ve done more than figure it out,” Dean snapped. “You’re a friggin’ Archangel. You could have put a stop to all of this by helping the Clan instead of hiding away in your palace.” Gabriel glowered, but didn’t argue. Dean sighed. “Okay, get me to my chamber so I can grab that book. There’s something in there we might need.”

With a click of Gabriel’s fingers, they appeared in the bedchamber where Dean had originally stayed. He looked around for the book, unsure where he’d left it. Only when he’d thrown all the blankets off of the bed did his gaze stray over to the doorway, where the book lay in a sticky puddle of dried blood by the banishing sigil he had painted on the wall.

“Don’t touch that,” Gabriel said, wrinkling his nose as Dean approached the symbol.

“Relax, I’m not gonna banish you.”

Dean bent down and picked up the book, picking at the pages where the blood had sealed them together and searching for the interesting bit he had seen earlier.

“So what’s the something we might need?”

As Gabriel asked, Dean found the page. He looked at the four small drawings then held the book up to Gabriel. “I’ve seen those before in Earth-Country. My friend Bobby kept all sorts of artefacts and spell components in the Look-Out. If you’re not going to fight your brothers, I’m gonna need these.”

Gabriel looked sour for a moment before nodding. “Fine.”

“Can you take me to Castiel before you go?”

“Do I look like your ride?” Gabriel asked, incredulous. “Ugh, alright.”

They appeared in the living room of Gabriel’s palace. The Archangel groaned. “Look at this place. Michael has no respect for my interior decoration.”

“Cas?” Dean called out, hoping the Angel would appear before him unharmed.

“He’s not here. He must have joined the fight in the palace. Looking for you, no doubt.”

“Well, can you find him?” He wasn’t even sure why anymore. He would probably be better off trying to figure out some way to help the Clan, exorcising as many Demons as possible. But he would just feel better if Cas was by his side.

“In this chaos?” Gabriel said, gesturing into the air at something Dean couldn’t see. “There’s a war going on! There’s grace everywhere! I can’t distinguish Castiel’s little spark from anyone else’s right now.”

“Okay, take me back to the palace. I’ll find him myself.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Yes, my Lord, of course, my Lord, would you like to fetch you something to eat while I’m at it?”

Before Dean could snark back at him they were outside the palace gates. It sounded like utter anarchy in there, worse than any battle Dean had heard.

“Right, I’m going to go find that treasure,” Gabriel said. “You hunt down Castiel and stick to him like glue.” Gabriel turned away, then turned back. “And listen, because it’s getting too late in the day for miscommunication and tiptoeing around the issue, Castiel is in love with you. You probably can’t see it because it looks different in Hunters. But he’s crazy about you and as an Angel, he doesn’t know what to do about it. You’re gonna have to do something about that.”

Again, before Dean could say a word in response, Gabriel had vanished. It was probably just as well, since he didn’t have a clue how to react.

He pushed thoughts of it to the back of his mind and ventured through the palace gates. There’d be no point thinking about it at all if they didn’t survive the day.

*

Castiel’s senses were stretched to their full capacity as he moved through the battlefield, but it did him no good. Dean could have been metres away or in another realm and Castiel would have been none the wiser. While the Angels fought their grace was in turmoil. It filled Heaven with a cloud of grief and power and rage, clouding their senses.

Dean’s soul would surely shine through it all though, if Castiel could only get near enough to find him. The palace was rife with skirmishes and death, but Castiel pushed it all aside. He had to find Dean.

“Castiel!”

He turned in time to see his sister Rachel dragged to the floor by Hunters. Castiel rushed over and pulled them away, flinging the possessed creatures down the hall. One of them had long blonde hair and when it snarled Castiel was shocked to realise it was Jess, wife of the new Clan-Father. She lashed at him with a blade and sliced down his arm. Rachel grabbed the Hunter’s head.

“Wait!” Castiel shouted.

“For what?” Rachel shouted back as the possessed woman thrashed and shrieked against her.

“We can’t kill them, they… just hold her firm!”

Rachel did as she was told, despite her confusion. They had flown together many times and she trusted him, even as he began to chant the mysterious words he had heard Dean use in the dungeon.

As he completed the chant, the Demon poured from Jess’ body. Quicker than Castiel could see, Rachel plunged her sword upwards into the cloud, searing the Demon with holy light and ensuring it couldn’t possess another Hunter.

Jess sagged into Rachel’s arms but quickly began to stir. “Sam?” She blinked as she came around fully. Castiel could see the dawning terror as she realised she was in the company of Angels.

“Don’t fear,” he said as gently as he could. “We’re not going to hurt you. You need to get to safety.”

She shook her head. “I need to get to Sam. This is all going wrong, I can feel it. It was a terrible idea. We should never have listened to Lucifer but… what else were we supposed to do while Dean was at Michael’s mercy?”

“You’re the Clan-Mother-in-training, aren’t you?” Rachel asked Jess. “Can you draw the bodily marks that prevent possession?”

“Um, sort of? I mean, yes, I can, but they’re functional rather than attractive and I don’t have the stuff I would need…”

“I’ll get it for you,” Rachel said firmly. She looked up at Castiel. “I took note of your chant. Me and the Hunter will exorcise as many Demons as we can and try to save the remaining Hunters.”

“Thank you, Rachel,” Castiel said, grateful that his sister had needed so little time to recognise his primary concern in this battle.

“Don’t stand there thanking me, Castiel. Find Michael. Stop this.”

Castiel nodded and flew through the corridors, through the walls and ceilings, up to Dean’s chamber. But the Hunter was not there. Castiel was forced to consider the idea that Dean might have been taken to Michael’s chamber, that he may have already suffered through further indignities due to Castiel’s lack of haste.

Michael’s chamber and the surrounding corridors were warded in such a way that only the most powerful Angels were able to fly directly into it. Castiel had to run down the halls, panicked that every second was causing Dean more pain.

But as he neared the area of the palace that Michael claimed as his own, Castiel could hear sounds of a fight within. The door to Michael’s bedroom had been broken down and Castiel approached warily.

“I won’t let you hurt my brother anymore!”

A series of loud crashes made Castiel step into the room, whereupon he saw Michael choking Sam, pinning him to the wall with one hand. The debris surrounding them was all that remained of the furniture. The fight had clearly been going on for some time.

“What do you think you can do?” Michael sneered. “Demon blood isn’t enough to make you my equal, even if it’s straight from their King’s veins. I will have your brother, though I will not hurt him. I will give him all the pleasures that any being can fathom. He will love me. And he will forget all of you.”

Michael’s hand tightened around Sam’s throat. Castiel stepped forward.

He should have called out to his Lord, questioned his actions and reasoned with his King. But Michael was about to murder Dean’s brother, so Castiel simply shoved his blade into his Lord’s heart. Michael didn’t look back to see his killer, merely screamed as holy light poured out of him, flooding the room with grace.

Sam slid to the floor, eyes scrunched shut against the blast of bright light.

“You should be alright now,” Castiel said, holding his hand out to help Sam up.

Although he eyed Castiel’s hand suspiciously, Sam did eventually take hold of it and accept the Angel’s assistance.

“Are you on Lucifer’s side?” Sam croaked.

Castiel put his hand to Sam’s neck. The Hunter flinched away, but it was enough time for Castiel to heal his bruises.

“I am on the Clan’s side,” Castiel said. “As I think you ought to be.”

*

It hadn’t taken long for Dean to wonder whether he was hopelessly out of his depth. He had barely entered the courtyard when Angelic combat forced him to take cover. There were blades being flung around, lightning was striking the ground, strange holy beams of light shining here, there and everywhere… He had been right in assuming this was nothing like the Demon war or the Angel invasion. This was on a totally different scale.

In the middle of all of this commotion, his Hunters were being possessed and slaughtered for the sake of Lucifer’s lust for power.

Dean dove behind a low stone wall as a blast of radiance annihilated the nearby fountain. Also behind the wall with him was Ava, staring up at the ceiling with dead eyes, the meatsuit long discarded by whatever Demon had used her.

“Oh fuck,” Dean choked, closing the girl’s eyelids. He had one job to do. One. Look after the Clan. That was it, that was his purpose in life. He’d let them all down.

One of the towers erupted with light. It was bigger than any of the explosions Dean had seen so far and it seemed to still the battlefield for a moment. All combatants turned their gaze skyward, towards the glow.

“We are victorious!” Uriel roared. “All hail King Lucifer!”

Shell-shocked Angels still tried to fight, but their morale was clearly down the crapper. When Lucifer arrived on the scene, striding out of the palace like he owned all he surveyed, many Angels lay down their arms. The others were killed where they stood by his loyal followers.

“Michael is dead,” Lucifer said in a remarkably level tone. “It now falls to me to lead you. I will not repeat my brother’s mistakes. We will continue on in the manner that has served us well these past millennia. No Hunters should ever have been brought to Heaven.”

Well, that didn’t sound too bad. Perhaps the situation could be salvaged after all, if Lucifer sent the surviving Hunters back to Earth-Country.

“As you can see,” Lucifer continued with a grand sweep of his arm, “these creatures are vermin, carrying harmful parasites. The only way for us to move on is to destroy them. Smite the Demons.”

As one, the Angels swarmed to follow the order, leaping over the corpses of their kin to smite the possessed Hunters.

“No!” Dean cried out, jumping to his feet.

But someone tugged him back. “Hush you, do you want to die?”

“Balthazar?”

The Angel grinned as around them Hunters and Angels and Demons tore one another apart. “Who else?” He began rummaging in the pockets of his black court robe. “My Lord Gabriel asked me to fetch something for you while he worked his magic.”

“You’ve got the…”

Before Dean could finish his question, Balthazar produced the four rings. They looked exactly like they did in the book. “Cute little rings? Yes, here you go.” He dropped them into Dean’s palm, where the rings stuck together like magnets. “Not to be too nosy here, but how will accessorising set anything straight?”

“These rings have the power to bind an Angel beneath the world.”

“Ah. I see. Rather handy, that.”

“Yeah. Wasn’t much point while Michael and Lucifer were both parading around being massive dicks, but now we’re down to one evil.”

“Just hurry up,” Balthazar said, uncharacteristically stressed as more Angels and Hunters died around them. “The more that die, the more that Gabriel has to put right.”

“What do you mean?” How the fuck could this massacre ever be put right?

Go!” Balthazar insisted, grabbing Dean.

Suddenly they were looking at Lucifer’s back. Dean was startled by how close Balthazar had brought him, but when he tried to glare at him Balthazar was nowhere to be seen. Fucking coward.

“Dean.” Lucifer turned to smile at him. “My brother’s dear pet. He was quite frantic over your escape. I did so enjoy watching him lose his mind over you.”

“Why do I get the feeling you had more of a hand in that than we knew?”

Lucifer’s smile didn’t waver at the accusation. If anything, it grew. “Now, now. The guiltiest party here is your shiny soul and your tendency to dress as a whore.”

“These are my ritual clothes, you son of a bitch. I’ll grant you they’re not the most awesome thing I could be wearing, but it’s traditional. Not my fault your brother was a closeted nutjob.”

“I admit, I may have whispered one or two things in his ear, recommended an interesting book here and there. Michael’s imagination did the rest. I thought it would be harder to make him fall to your level. But enough of this. What could you possibly expect from me?”

“Call off your Angels. Help me exorcise my people. Then we’ll go home and you’ll never have to see us again.” Behind his back he ran his finger along the smooth, cold metal of the rings. Maybe he wouldn’t even have to use them.

“I don’t think so,” Lucifer said calmly. “I wasn’t exaggerating when I said you were all vermin. You don’t deserve to live. You’re pests. Fragile little annoyances who do nothing but breed, eat and carry Demons. And you stand before me, an arrogant little insect and you ask me to free you? I’ve done enough for you.”

So it was going to be like that. Lucifer lunged forward and grabbed Dean by the neck before the Hunter could react. He flung him to the ground and Dean cried out as his head cracked against stone.

“We should have killed you all,” Lucifer said, looking down on Dean like someone examining a monster’s waste. “It would have been the kinder course of action, rather than bringing you here, giving you things and letting you think you could ever improve.”

Dean forced a carefree grin and shrugged as best he could. “I did like the book you got me though. Full of ideas.”

And he threw the four rings at Lucifer’s feet.

The world collapsed around him.

*

Wherever he walked there was death. Here an Angel on her own blade, there a Hunter burned from the inside by a smiting.

Gabriel decided to give up on walking. It was bringing him down.

He materialised on top of Michael’s palace, where he could look out over the destruction. The view wasn’t much better. Lucy had really gone overboard this time. That was brothers for you, always escalating.

Then there was always the poor mediator, trying to clean up their mess. Gabriel was honestly tired of them relying on him for that, had been for some time now. That was why he was so determined to stay out of this one from the beginning. Somehow he had convinced himself that his disapproval would mean something to those cosmic egos.

With a heavy sigh, Gabriel sat down cross-legged atop the roof of the highest tower and began focusing his grace. Too much was riding on this one. He had to get it right.

He had half an eye on the situation down on the ground when Dean bravely stepped up to Lucifer. Oh, Castiel would be wrapped around this kid’s finger in no time.

It hurt to feel Lucifer fall, just as it had when Michael was slain, but Gabriel bore the grief knowing that they started all of this. Besides, they would find their way home eventually. Maybe Father would have a chat with them on the way.

A moment’s distraction to pull Dean out of harm’s way as the binding spell tore up the ground, then Gabriel returned to his mission.

When Angels died, their grace didn’t vanish immediately. Most people didn’t know that. When Demons died, they left a power trace behind too. Hunters… well, they didn’t do much but hey, they looked pretty. The important thing was to gather up the grace and the Demonic power before it dissipated back into the magical weave of the world. He was going to need every last drop for a miracle of this magnitude.

Once he was certain he had absorbed everything he could from the dead and the dying, Gabriel stood up on the tower and looked down at the chaos. Now that Michael and Lucifer were gone, it was a free-for-all. Angels didn’t function well without orders.

“Enough!” he shouted, trying to sound like the royal authority he had to be. It must have worked, as the Angels and Demons in the courtyard froze at the sound of his voice. Angels began to appear across the grass, summoned by the yell that had echoed through Heaven. Castiel appeared and Gabriel had to fight back a grin as the Angel caught sight of Dean alive and well. Such a lovesick pup.

But duty called, so Gabriel dragged his attention from Castiel’s wide blue eyes and spoke once more to his people. “Michael and Lucifer were both sick in the head. Oh don’t gasp like that, you all know it’s true. Michael became a narcissist about a century ago and Lucifer’s always been full of wrath. They were wrong, but we let them be wrong. I ignored their orders, you followed them, now we have this field of death! Look around you!”

The Angels did so, remorse already materialising on their faces. The Demons only sneered, of course, but their time was coming.

“So I’m ending this. The killing stops now. I say this as your new King.”

Some of the Angels shifted awkwardly, Uriel and Zachariah noticeably objecting to the idea of Gabriel in charge. Plenty of the Angels were glancing at one another to gage the appropriate reaction.

He closed his eyes, raised his hands and let the grace and power he had gathered flow around Heaven. He guided it through every fallen Hunter and every slain Angel. He gave back what Michael and Lucifer had stolen from them. He gave life. Gave them a fucking miracle so that they’d all shut up.

Angels and Hunters looked around in astonishment at the resurrection, as dead allies climbed to their feet rejuvenated. Those who were still possessed seemed slightly unnerved at the sudden shift in numbers.

“Right. Angels, all of you grab a Demon and repeat after Dean Winchester. Today we’re going to learn how to perform an exorcism.”

*

Dean used his robe to mop the sweat from his forehead. As much as he’d missed Earth-Country, their weather could learn a trick or two from the comfortable warmth of Heaven.

Still, it was no good to go thinking on what they’d left behind. It had been three months now. Heaven was a dark part of the Clan’s past, not worth wallowing in for the sake of a few bright spots.

“Hey,” Jess called as she entered his tent. “Those knives done or have you been moping again?” Somehow she didn’t seem half as bothered by the sun as Dean was, still wearing her little white robe over the more common Hunter clothes.

“I’m not moping. Too damn hot is all.”

“Uh-huh.”

The Clan-Mother-in-training didn’t sound convinced at all. She wandered over to lean against the table where Dean was painstakingly engraving Demon-banishing wards onto their weaponry. The bastards were getting daring again, attempting to cross over into Earth-Country. There was a lot of rebuilding still to be done so Dean had taken on most of the defence tasks. It kept him busy, stopped him from thinking about certain blue-eyed Angels that were happy working for the King of Heaven.

“How’s the hunt gone this morning?”

“Sam went,” Jess replied with a smile. “I told him it wasn’t the Clan-Father’s duty, but I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”

“We need him co-ordinating the rest of the rebuild. Some of the families are still stuck sharing huts.”

“He knows, really, he does. He’ll get the hang of prioritising soon. If he doesn’t, I’m sure you’ll kick his ass. The Clan’s in good hands.”

Dean said nothing to that. He missed his father so much it was like a physical pain. The man had died not knowing if his people would ever be free. Dean would never forgive himself for failing the Clan, or for the fact that Sam blamed himself when there was nothing he could possibly have done.

Dropping a knife into the crate, he pushed it over to Jess. “There, that should be enough for now. I’ll have some more done by tomorrow.”

“What about the visit?”

“Visit?”

Jess frowned, hefting the crate into her arms. “Sam didn’t tell you? As part of King Gabriel’s terms of peace with us he’s sending over an ambassador. Someone to watch what we’re up to and impart any useful Angel knowledge.”

“Huh. No, he didn’t say.” Dean pulled out a fresh knife from the pile and lay it down on the table, ready for engraving. “I’m not really that bothered. I’ve seen enough Angels for one lifetime.” And only one of them was worth seeing.

“Okay, what should we say to the ambassador when you’re not there for the feast?”

“Say I’m not feeling well,” Dean suggested. “If the sun doesn’t get lost by this afternoon it’ll be the truth.”

“Well, alright, but your place will be set by the fire if you feel like wandering over later.”

Dean nodded. Damn straight his place would be set. One of the only perks of being Clan-Mother was making sure they always saved him a slice of pie.

After Jess left, Dean kept working on the knives. He didn’t begrudge the Clan their celebration – they needed a reason to be cheerful – but it did mean that he would have no assistance with the engravings. Oh, they’d rush to help if he asked, but he had no intention of asking. Let them party with the poor Angel that Heaven dumped down in Earth-Country. It had to be some stoic moron who had offended Gabriel somehow. Dean couldn’t see what the new King would gain from sending someone here, other than amusement.

Even after the sun went down, the heat was sweltering. Dean had stripped down to his red shorts in a desperate attempt to keep cool. He meant to fetch himself some water a few hours ago, but just kept telling himself ‘one more knife’. Eventually he was too hot to feel like trekking over to the spring.

One of the knives toppled from his hand. His fingers had grown clumsy over the last hour or so. Dean bent down to get it. Standing back upright seemed to drain all the blood from his head and he stumbled back as his vision went grey. His legs lost all their strength and he could do nothing about it but fall.

He didn’t hit the floor. Somebody caught him.

“You are unwell, yet the Clan let you overwork yourself?”

Dean gazed up into bright blue eyes. No freaking way. “Cas?”

The Angel lifted Dean like he weighed nothing and carried him to his bed. “You should be resting.”

“Why are you here?”

Castiel sat on the side of the bed and frowned down at Dean. “Sam did not inform you? Gabriel has sent me to be ambassador to your people.”

“Oh man, what did you do to deserve that?”

“I don’t know,” Castiel said quietly, clasping his hands together on his lap. “I think he respects my decision to support the Hunters, so perhaps it is that.”

“No, I didn’t mean… I meant like, why would an Angel want to be stuck down here with us?”

“Most Angels would not,” Castiel agreed. “But I have missed you.” The Angel cleared his throat. “I understand however, that you have certain obligations to your Clan. I cannot expect your company here as I did in Heaven. You have weapons to work on, lore to study, supplies to sort, a camp to rebuild, a mate to find…”

“What?”

“Sorry. A wife. You are of an age where you will soon seek your romantic partner. I will help you with your work if you permit it, though of course not with your search for a mate. I mean, wife.”

Dean’s eyebrows raised. The whole time he had spoken, Cas had kept his gaze fixed on the far wall of the tent. “Cas, are you okay?”

The Angel sighed. “Yes. I’m merely questioning my own judgement. While I looked forward to seeing you very much, things that your Clan have said make me far less certain of my place here.”

“Who said what?” Dean asked, determined to find out who was discouraging his Angel’s interest in seeing him.

“Many of them were saying what I have just said to you. You are reaching an age where you are expected to become monogamous with one partner for the rest of your time. I had not taken that into account when I chose to come here.”

Trust his family to try and interfere. “I think they might have had an ulterior motive for saying that to you.” After all, nobody had mentioned anything to him about settling down.

“Oh?”

He sat up slowly and smoothed his hand up the sleeve of Castiel’s soft, tan robe. The Angel felt bizarrely cool in the boiling summer’s night.

“You’ve studied Hunter culture for a while, right?”

Castiel nodded.

“So you know the Clan-Mother needs to consider the opinions of all the Clan before settling down with anyone?”

Castiel nodded again. Dean shifted his body closer to him on the bed, rumpling the blankets between them.

“I think they were giving you the okay. You saved me. You saved Jess. You saved Sam. We’d be mad to lump you in with all the other Angels that hurt us.”

The Angel swallowed nervously. “I would not have you feel indebted to me in any way. So much of your pain was my fault. I only ask for time to redeem myself to you, to…”

Dean cut him off with a kiss. The movement of Cas’ lips was tentative and unsure, but when Dean drew away, the Angel’s expression was one of stunned bliss.

“You don’t need to redeem anything,” Dean murmured. “You just need to stay.”

Castiel smiled, still dazed. “Then I shall.”

They spoke of insignificant things until Dean succumbed to sleep, resting peacefully against his loyal guardian.

*

Earth-Country was growing cooler as summer neared its end. Unlike Heaven, where the temperature and weather phenomena altered with the whims of the ruling Archangel, the climate changed with the seasons here. Castiel had mixed feelings towards the onset of colder temperatures. On the one hand, Dean would have an excuse to wear the clothing of a common Hunter, covering up much of the body that Castiel secretly coveted. On the other hand, when the Hunters wore more layers to resist the discomfort of cold, Castiel would feel less conspicuous in his robes and court clothes.

Today Sam had taken him out on a hunt in the forest with some of the other Hunters. They had insisted he dress more like one of them and had given him the appropriate tunic and leathers. The clothing was tight and uncomfortable, but Castiel could see how the hardy fabrics might benefit a more delicate people.

At first he was uncertain as to his place in the group. Castiel usually spent his time back at the camp with Dean, watching the Clan-Mother work. Nobody seemed to mind, but this morning Sam had wandered over while Dean prepared a lesson in lore for the young ones, and asked if Castiel was available for a hunt.

Dean had been strangely pleased by the request and loaned Castiel his black stallion, Impala. Though Castiel had become a rather adept rider over the past month, he much preferred riding the horse when Dean sat with him as a guide, nestled between his legs, their hands entwined on the reins.

“That was a good kill, Cas,” Sam called from his steed, jolting Castiel out of his memory. “Quick, merciful. We’ve got more than enough for the Clan now, best head back.”

Castiel nodded and guided Impala to trot along beside Sam’s horse. At a close distance behind them were the other Hunters that had accompanied them – Jo, Rufus, Jody and Christian. Jody and Rufus’ horses were linked by a rough wooden frame that carried the spoils of the day. The forest was a pleasant place to look at. In Earth-Country the only natural source of light was the sun, so the leaves on the trees cast shadows and made interesting patterns upon the ground.

“So, Cas. You and my brother seem to getting along very well.”

“I care for him a great deal.”

“That’s good. I know he missed you. But here’s the thing – you’re still sleeping in a different tent.” When Castiel looked over at the Clan-Father, he saw Sam had his brow furrowed in such a way that he seemed perplexed.

“It’s meditation. I don’t sleep. I felt that considering I was a constant presence in your brother’s chamber during his time in Heaven, I would not be welcome to watch over his slumber now he is back among his people.”

“Aw, honey,” Jody called from behind them, “You don’t have to look out for his virtue! If Dean didn’t want you here, you wouldn’t be here. To be quite frank, we’ve been expecting you to jump his bones for some time now.”

“Jump his bones?” What did that mean? It sounded horrendous.

“Don’t scare the kid, Mills,” Rufus said with a chuckle, shifting his shotgun in his lap. “Angels don’t take the same approach as us.”

“Well that’s the problem, right there,” said Christian, his voice the loudest out of the group. “He ain’t wooing the Clan-Mother the way Dean’s waiting to be wooed.”

“Dean’s a grown man,” Sam said reproachfully, while Castiel sat in a state of bewilderment. “He could take the situation in hand.”

“But he’s also Dean,” Jo replied with a roll of her eyes. “So he won’t. Even after we sent Cas to his tent, practically with a ribbon on.”

“I’m sorry,” Castiel said, drawing their attention. “I don’t understand.” He seemed to have made some sort of faux-pas in his conduct with Dean. “Have I caused offence somehow?”

“Not yet,” Sam assured him. “And I think we can avoid it. Cas, do you love my brother?”

Castiel nodded firmly. He was proud of his emotions. They had the power to lead him to be a better person. “With all my being.” He looked around to see the reactions of the others. Jody Mills was beaming at him, the others smiling as if they were trying to hide their reaction.

Sam looked as happy as Jody. “Good. It’s a good omen for the Clan to begin a new season with a marriage.”

“Does the Clan-Father bless proceedings?” Christian asked. Though his tone was light, his words sounded rather formal. Castiel wondered if there was some other meaning in the conversation that he was unaware of. Their horses exited the forest, arriving at the new tents and huts of Haven, where the Hunters worked and played throughout summer.

“I do. Now we just need to get Dean on the same page.”

“Oh!” Jo raised a hand from her reins. “I know something that might work!”

“Go for it,” Sam said.

Jo slowed her horse and jumped off, her boots sending up a cloud of dust as she landed neatly. She jogged over to Castiel, reached up, and ripped open his tunic. “Pass it to me.”

Castiel knew he must have looked alarmed as he turned to Sam with wide eyes. But the Clan-Father just nodded and chuckled a little. “She’s going old-school stereotype with it. Trust us.”

After spending a moment debating the value of obedience, Castiel decided to call it curiosity and pulled off his open tunic, passing it down to the young woman. Jo tossed the green cloth over her shoulder. “You’re really strong, right?”

“Yes. Is that important?”

The Hunter shrugged. “Not to some people, but I hear Dean secretly digs the more… rugged members of the Clan.”

“And sometimes not so secretly,” Christian added with a smirk.

“Bring me over the apples,” Jo said, waving a hand towards Jody and Rufus, who had the basket hanging from the rough frame connecting their horses.

“With my back?” Rufus scoffed. “Our Clan-Father can lift my share.”

“Okay fine. Cas, can you detach the basket? I was going to get you to carry it anyway.”

Castiel had absolutely no idea what Jo was intending with her bizarre commands, but he saw no harm in collecting the apple basket for her. The Hunters used the fruit in their pies and Dean loved pie. He particularly liked apple pie and was known to snack on apples when the pies had not finished baking. In all honesty, it was the reason Castiel had requested they gather so much fruit on their trip today.

“Might I pass one or two of these apples to Dean? I think he would like them.”

“I think he would too,” agreed Jo with a nod. “That’s why I figured you could take the basket to him and let him know you gathered them for him.”

“Ooh, clever girl,” Jody said, her voice warm with approval.

“Yeah, that’s brilliant,” Christian nodded.

Unsure again as to what was going on, Castiel looked to the Clan-Father for answers. Sam smiled down at him and said, “Dean’s our Clan-Mother. Controversial in some ways, but painfully traditional in others. Family’s the main thing to him. It’s the only thing to him. But he loves you, Cas. You go show off your Hunter credentials. He won’t be able to resist. Let him know we’ve got a couple of monsters to roast for the feast too. Tell him how you saved us from that wendigo today.”

“Then take him to his tent and let him show you how to make the first move,” Rufus said.

“Just spare us the details later,” Sam said with a laugh.

“Don’t worry about sparing us,” Jody said quickly, Jo nodding along with her in agreement.

Castiel lifted the basket easily and walked off into Haven in a state of utter bemusement, leaving Impala with Sam. Dean’s tent was not far from the forest and the apples were not heavy enough to slow him down. Very few of the chores that were frequent in Hunter life posed any difficulty to him. Even the rebuilding had been sped considerably by his Angelic powers. It was pleasing to see the Hunters settled into their home again, though they would migrate soon to their forest cabins for the colder months.

Dean was in the process of hanging special herbs around the outside of his tent, most likely warding against some of the strange beasts that escaped Purgatory and roamed the forests of Earth-Country. As the Clan-Mother stretched up, his red cloth vest rode up his body and revealed skin that Castiel longed to worship.

But that would hardly be proper. Dean was the Clan-Mother. He was sacred. Castiel was not Michael.

“I have brought you apples,” Castiel said as he approached.

“Huh?” Dean finished threading the herbs along the edge of the tent and smoothed down his top. He looked over at Castiel’s haul. “Wow. That’s a lot of apples, Cas.”

“They are for you.”

“I’m not sure I can eat that many apples.”

“Oh.”

For a moment they both stood there staring at one another. Such silences tended to make Dean fidget and this time was no exception. The Hunter traced his toes idly along the dry and dusty ground. Castiel did not want him to feel awkward, so he spoke again. “I saved the other Hunters from a wendigo.”

Dean’s eyebrows darted up. “Oh? Nobody was hurt?”

“No. I saved them all and smote the wendigo.”

“Way to go, Cas,” Dean said, a fond smile on his lips. Castiel longed to kiss him as he had on his first night in Earth-Country. It was not something they had spoken of.

“Sam asked me to tell you also that we have a couple of monsters that can be roasted for tonight’s feast. Slain by my hand.”

Dean worried his lower lip with his teeth for a moment then looked at Castiel in a way the Angel could not interpret. “So…you’re a real Hunter now.”

Castiel thought this over. He had hunted with the Clan, assisted in their repairs and daily chores, all in addition to being one of the most passionate followers of the Clan-Mother. He did not know what all the pre-requisites of Clan membership were, but Dean seemed to think this sufficed.

“I suppose I am.”

The Hunter glanced over Castiel’s shoulder and smirked. Castiel turned around and saw his hunting companions watching them from a distance.

“Cas, could you bring those apples into my tent?”

He nodded and lifted the basket up high, ducking to fit through the tent flap. Behind him Dean groaned quietly for some reason.

Inside Dean’s tent it was a mess. Due to his heavy workload, the Clan-Mother had artefacts and weaponry and lore books strewn all over the colourful rugs and mats that the Clan had weaved for him. Castiel placed the basket by the pile of guns.

“Is this an acceptable place for –“

His words were blocked by Dean’s mouth, were licked away by the Hunter’s tongue as it licked against his own. Dean was pressed against him, his body hot and damp with sweat from his exertion that day. When the kiss ended Castiel brought his hand up to cup Dean’s face, swiping a thumb gently over the Hunter’s cheekbone and wondering whether this kiss would also go unmentioned.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve been doing to me, Cas?” Dean murmured cryptically before diving in for another kiss. Castiel obliged him, enjoying this very much and hoping it was as pleasant for Dean.

When this kiss was over, Dean rested his forehead against Castiel’s bare shoulder. “Just tell me, already,” the Hunter whispered.

“Tell you what?”

Dean blinked up at him, then lifted his head to better look Castiel in the eye. “You do want to take me, right? That’s why you’re always… you know, watching me and… Cas, do you want me?” Dean said it firmly, demanding, like their lives hung in the balance.

Castiel nodded. “I’m surprised you even needed to ask.”

“Of course I needed to ask, it’s been a whole fucking month and you haven’t said anything. You haven’t even tried to kiss me again.”

“I was allowed to do that?” Castiel asked, amazed. He had wasted so much time! “You would have liked for me to do that, even without express permission?”

With a huff, Dean said, “Well yeah, we’re not big on lengthy courtships down here. Generally –mmf!” It was Castiel’s turn to interrupt with a sensual meeting of lips and tongue. Dean tasted divine. As they kissed, Dean’s arms wrapped around him, one hand rubbing at Castiel’s back while the other squeezed his rump.

“Forgive me,” Castiel said when they parted once more and Dean was panting against him. “I had no idea what was expected of me. I thought that after Michael…”

“Don’t talk about him. You’re nothing like him. I hated him. I love you.”

After that, Dean looked away as if shy of his own words.

“I love you too,” Castiel replied. “And, if the idea is pleasing to you, I would very much like to stay here all night kissing you.”

Dean laughed, still the most beautiful sound that Castiel thought he could ever hear.

“Kissing’s just the start, Cas. I’m gonna give you the night of your life, make sure you don’t regret trading your wings for guns.”

Hours later, sated and awed and overwhelmed with love, Castiel held Dean’s sleeping form close and kissed the Clan-Mother on the forehead.

It was not a trade, Castiel’s descent to Earth-Country.

He saw it more as salvation.

From: [identity profile] pappy-2306.livejournal.com


this is a great story. nice twist to the original plot. well i didn't like the dean worship. clan-MOTHER? u sound so pathetic. i laughed. well i have read a lot of damsell in disress!cas stories. i laughed then too. now i understand. i'm not a wincest fan, they r the ones that put dean in damsell situation. but you are a dean fan, aren't you? cas fans do the same thing. its damn irritating. dean , sam and cas are NOT vulnerable beings. putting any of them in a women's place is disrespectful for their characters.
for whats it worth, u r 1 damn good writer. except for the obsessive perving on dean.

From: [identity profile] sarkywoman.livejournal.com


I would care about your opinions, but you've never written anything worth a damn.

From: [identity profile] nox-wicked.livejournal.com


Great english skills you have there.

So you're saying that putting a male character in a female's role is disrespectful? I really hope you're not a female, because if you are I think you just attempted to push the feminist movement back about 60 years.

If this story was so irritating to you, why bother reading the whole thing only to leave a nasty comment at the end? It would have taken a lot less energy just to exit the tab, and would have made you seem like a lot less of a douchebag.

From: [identity profile] nox-wicked.livejournal.com


This story is freaking awesome. I love everything about it, especially the time and care you've taken into creating the settings and visuals. Everything about it is great, and the art is lovely too.

You did a super sweet job, man, I'm totally jealous your (talented) artist got such a cool piece to work with.

From: [identity profile] sarkywoman.livejournal.com


Thanks! It was tricky to write descriptively, I'm normally a dialogue-whore. I have actually only just realised I forgot to thank you for the beta-ing. Put that down to my stress over trying to post this fic the other night. :)

From: [identity profile] salacious-newt.livejournal.com


I love the world building here! It's a very intriguing recreation of canon and I really liked Dean as Clan-Mother quite a lot. I have no idea what pappy_2306 was so rudely complaining about; I don't see Dean's masculinity as being in any way threatened by this role - you even acknowledge in the story that Dean is only temporarily filling it until Jess can take over, since Mary died before Sam or Dean married and a female successor could be established!

Sorry, their rudeness really bothers me.

Anyway, I like so many things here, from Michael's obsession to Lucifer casually helping it along to Sam being forced to work with Lucifer in an attempt to save Dean and his Clan. Great job and thank you so much for posting!

From: [identity profile] sarkywoman.livejournal.com


Thank you very much! My original idea involved Cas and Dean getting stuck in Purgatory, so canon rather squished that one for me.

Dean isn't really doing it temporarily as much as he's training Jess to be the next in line. I think pappy_2306 is of the opinion that the word 'mother' demeans Dean somehow because he's a man. I didn't even know where to finish listing the things wrong with their comment, so I didn't start, lol! Hopefully I managed to convey his own discomfort with the role he's been forced into. The reason I chose it is to parallel his role as the Mary-substitute in the show - raising Sam, keeping the family together, etc.

Again, thank you for commenting. I haven't received much feedback so this was really nice to see. Thanks!


From: [identity profile] gates21.livejournal.com


This was amazing, I could *not* stop reading once I started. Michael's obsession was lovely; you don't see that in many fics. I was so sad when John got killed though! :( Another great job anyway, I don't know how you do it!

Sorry the first comment was such a disgraceful one. I can't imagine how infuriating it must be to put so much work into something, only for that to be your first piece of feedback. :( I hope you've disregarded it anyway, the internet really is full of nut-jobs.

I had to LOL at the implication that there's anything wrong with "obsessive perving on Dean" though! If that's wrong, then lock me up and throw away the key! ;)

From: [identity profile] sarkywoman.livejournal.com


Thanks! There really isn't much Michael/Dean out there, possibly because he's only seen in one episode in the body of Dean's young dad. I wasn't sure whether to try and bring John back or not, but I decided it would devalue it.

I was a little disheartened that the only comment I had for a while was so stupid. I'd had a pretty bad day, so that was the cherry on the top really. But it wasn't exactly coherent or intelligent, so it wasn't difficult to discard it.

I was wondering for a while afterwards though, like 'wow. Is it really wrong to perv on Dean?' If it is, we may need to form a DW Anonymous group!

From: [identity profile] sarkywoman.livejournal.com


Thank you very much for commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

From: [identity profile] sirensung.livejournal.com


I really loved this! It was such an interesting AU world, and the ending was adorable. Thank you for sharing it! :)

From: [identity profile] sarkywoman.livejournal.com


Thank you very much! I had a lot of fun writing it (until the deadline loomed and I panicked, lol). Thanks for commenting!

From: [identity profile] kanaro.livejournal.com


I for one loved this story! And I don't understand how having Dean as the Clan-Mother devalues him - if anything it elevates his importance since you state time and time again that the Clan-Father's role is secondary to that of the Clan-Mother. Besides, in this day and age I would have thought that those who believe there is a weaker sex are becoming fewer and fewer.

Anyway, great story and keep writing more!

From: [identity profile] sarkywoman.livejournal.com


Thank you very much! Dean's role as the Clan-Mother was intended to parallel his family duties in the show: Taking care of Sam, holding his family together, keeping an eye on his father, etc. I was surprised that someone was so offended by it.

Thank you very much for the comment!
.

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