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Crossroads at the River Styx

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Emma hadn't experienced much in her life. Just the tribe, the laws, the teachings about what her life should and will be if she's strong enough to pass her trial. It didn't mean she's ignorant though. Her kind learn fast, soak up knowledge like sponges, take things in and memorize so quickly it's like they've always known it. So of course she knew what a hotel was, that it's a sort of temporary home for travelers, a place to rest before moving on to the next spot.

The restless move around a lot, and the strong. Her teachers explained it to her, about why they moved every couple of years. Settle down, breed, kill and then move on to do it all over again. The sisters do this to keep going, to stay alive, and continue the tribe. They do it because they were demanded by their goddess to, to find fertile ground and fertile men, their prey.

Hunters travel too, to find their own prey, the monsters.

'He'll kill you if you hesitate,' they'd told her. 'They see us as monsters, but we're not. We're blessed. Remember that.'

She wasn't experienced in much yet in her short life, but she was pretty sure burning marks into teen girls falls under the definition of monsters. It's a hunch despite her teachings.

She'd been told crossroads are important to her pantheon, and thus important to the tribe. That the greatest heroes often have to make choices and overcome trials. Transition is everything for them, to learn the lessons of life through hardships and battle and everything else told in the old stories of adventure and legends. It was her own crossroad now, her own choice, her own transition. All she had to do was take one life and she would be born into fire to make her own legend.

Honestly, it did make the kill sound a little romantic. It made sense. Centuries to work on the philosophy that justified hunting down people was a long time to make sure something sounded reasonable. Like killing, the torture and teachings had been perfected to an art form. Yet when she raised her hand to knock on the door of the little hovel of a hotel, she felt the burn still on her skin as her clothes drug across her mark. They'd told her she was too hesitant, that it was weakness, that she had to move past her fears or she would die, that he would cut her down without mercy.

She didn't even know what mercy was supposed to be. Harmonia knew she'd never been shown any herself. Even as she heard the footsteps approach the door, approach her, she stared at her mark, at her binding into the culture she'd been born into with no chance to ever even choose it. She'd flinched when they'd given it to her while the other girls had stood tall next to her. Even when encouraged to bear it, she could see the disappointment in the eyes of her teacher for not withstanding the pain unflinchingly without being told to.

They thought her weak, and slow to follow orders even if she did in the end. Despite the warnings, the urging to be strong when facing Dean Winchester, she saw it in their eyes. If she failed, no one would be shocked.

She wasn't at a crossroad. She was at the shore of the River Styx and they hadn't even seen fit to give her two coins for passage to meet Hades.

The door opened and she knew it was him, even without having to say a word. If she was feeling more philosophical and less fatalistic about all of this, she'd have told herself it was a bond between child and parent but that wasn't even remotely true. She just remembered him, standing at her crib as he looked down at her, kindness in his eyes and a soft smile on his face. Emma hadn't known him then and had thus asked, only to be told by her mother later that he was her father and therefore her target, her first kill. None of the other girls had met their fathers, hadn't seen kind smiles or heard the soft tone full of… she wasn't even sure what. It had been such a simple thing. "Hi, Emma." Nothing more than that, but it stuck with her and she didn't know why.

There wasn't kindness in his eyes at the moment, just suspicion as he glanced around quickly to see if she was alone. She felt surprised when she took it personally. He was a hunter. Of course he was suspicious and yet… It hurt. He didn't trust her, didn't know her, and it ached for some reason. She wished she was a child again, a little girl and could hear that, "Hi, Emma," unfiltered, unguarded. Words of kindness, simple as they were, were still kindness.

She hadn't had a lot of that in the last couple days.

Not that she deserved it. She'd been sent here to kill him after all. He'd be stupid not to be wary and from what she'd heard of hunters they were far from stupid.

"Hi," she said, her voice softer than she would have liked. "You don't know me, but my name is Emma. I need your help. I think I'm in trouble and you're the only person I can trust."

"Why?" he asked, his tone stiff and a little guarded.

"Because you're my father," she confessed. There was a trace of surprise in his eyes, but not much. Had he figured things out? He was on her tribe's trail. He must know something, a few things at least. Did he know why she was here? Would he fight her?

He didn't leap to attack though, didn't suddenly pull out a weapon or anything that could be considered threatening. It was so far so good.

"How'd you find this place?" he asked.

"They've been watching you," she informed him. "Ever since Mom got pregnant. They have to keep track of the fathers… for later."

She shouldn't have said that last part. She shouldn't even hint at the killings, but he already knew. He'd been following them anyway. Why not be honest on that point?

"If you're such a prisoner, you mind telling me how you escaped?" he asked her.

She took a deep breath. Right at the river, right at her death without coin to pay the toll. If she didn't live, didn't kill him, she'd be stuck at the shore to never even move on, dead and forgotten with no legend and no stories to her name.

He would kill her. Her mother was a warrior, her father a hunter, and they'd bred to create her and make the ultimate test for her. None of the other girls had to face this, their fathers all practically helpless and defenseless. He was so different, prey but a predator too. If she hesitated, if she gave into weakness, he'd destroy her.

"Hi, Emma," rang in her mind and she squeezed her eyes shut before shaking her head.

"I didn't," she whispered. "They let me go."

"What?" he asked, confused. "Why?"

"To fulfill my mission, to make my legend and complete my trial," she breathed out. "They sent me here to kill you."

She saw him reach for something behind his back and she surged forward to grab his arm. She'd been told to meet death with courage, to endure pain to be strong, that suffering was an honor and testament of loyalty to the goddess that had given her tribe powers. What honor was there though in a sneak attack, in killing men who had no chance at survival, and lying to the one that could put up an honest fight? If it was, Emma was determined for her honor to be different, to actually be more than just lip service to justify murder. If he would kill her, it would not be with deception on his mind. She'd meet it head on, her way.

"Wait, before we do this," she stated in a rush, wanting him to understand, to see her as she wanted to be seen, "I don't… I… I don't want to kill you. I don't want to kill anyone. Please, just hear me out. I'll tell you everything, and then what comes next, I'll do you proud. I'll fight you as a warrior and it'll be a battle worth telling tales of… but I want you to know everything first."

"Do me proud. The hell are you talking about, kid?" he asked her. He lowered his arm, gun in hand and she took a deep breath. She'd chosen her path. Maybe it would take her from the waters and maybe she would drown in them, but she would meet it one way or the other. Hesitating though she did, she would meet this no matter what it meant.

"I have a weapon on me, a knife. If you let me in, give me five minutes to explain, I'll hand it over now. What we do afterward is up to you," she promised him. "I know you have no reason to trust me, but please… I need you to understand."

He gave her a long look, studying her. It made her feel bare and exposed, scared despite herself. It was a feeling she had experienced with her teachers but she was terrified now instead of just uncomfortable and unsure. Honor and tradition could only steel your nerves so hard.

"Alright," he eventually said. "Come in and put your weapon on the floor and kick it away."

She nodded and stepped inside, pulling her luggage in with her. Holding one hand out in the air, she pulled the blade from her pants and slowly put it to the floor before nudging it away and taking a step back. It wasn't a kick, but she didn't feel right about mistreating the weapon. She'd been told it had been her mother's, had been the blade that dealt the first kill for Lydia's own father. Kicking an ancestral weapon, even with such a history, she couldn't do it.

"Okay, start talking," he said. He didn't raise his gun on her, but he didn't let it go either. The teen found herself hoping desperately he would respect her move of honor and meet her halfway if this came down to the fight.

"I don't know how much you know, but I'm an Amazon. My tribe mates with men and we grow quickly. That baby you met earlier? That was me," she told him.

"Yeah, I had a feeling about that," he admitted. "Puberty must have been a bitch."

She felt confused by his statement. Was he making a joke? She'd been told hunters were merciless, killed their kind without hesitation. Once he knew what she was, she hadn't expected anything like this.

"We're taken in and taught, learn fast and are encouraged through combat and torture to become strong," she continued, because she didn't know what else to say.

"Torture?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied softly before she showed him her arm. The mark was still red, still angry and painful. "They told us we had to endure pain, to be strong like them, but I don't want to be like them. I never did. I did what they told me because I didn't know any other way. They told me about you at the end, that you were a hunter, that you'd be a hard kill. I was supposed to come here, tell you a story how they hurt me and ask you to steal me away but… I can't."

Something in his expression changed as he saw the burn, his eyes softening slightly. Unlike the harsh look of disappointment whenever she displayed weakness she had seen from her teachers, this was nothing like that. Was it pity or something else?

"Why tell me all this?"

"Because they told me if you knew the truth, you'd kill me without hesitation. They told me hunters don't have any mercy for our kind, that they view us as monsters, that you'd view me as a monster. Unless I came to you asking for help, you'd never even allow me past the front door, and that my only chance was to take you by surprise," she informed him. "But if I kill you like that, if I tricked you, it wouldn't be right. You'd think of me as a monster in the end and I don't want that. I don't want my father to think of me like that."

"Okay… right, okay," he breathed out. "So then what do you want?"

"I want… I want someone to remember me," she confessed. "I want someone to think of me and be proud. My mom won't. If I fail she'll just go and breed with someone else, have another daughter. She'll only love me if I do as she did, find men, have children and hand them over to continue the traditions. You… you don't even want me-"

"Okay, let's not… go there," he said with a shaky sigh. "It's not a matter of… You know this isn't a normal situation, right?"

"How would I know what normal is?" she asked him. "Normal to me is having a whole life in a couple days, of getting only a few lessons on how to handle a weapon and suddenly being an expert with it, on being told pain and honor is all that matters and men are just things to use and then kill. They speak of honor and then tell us to sneak up on our prey and slaughter them like animals, and they think I'm weak because they see it in my eyes that I don't want to. That in my head, I question. To them, men aren't people but the very first interaction I had with one, it was you and you… you..."

She covered her mouth with her hands and took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. They felt frazzled and raw, but she had to see this through. She had no choice now. If she ran, she was sure he'd put a bullet in her back before she even made it to the door.

"I'll fight you if you want, honorably," she promised, "and when you kill me, I just want you to think I was a good warrior, a good daughter. If my name lives on with anyone, I don't need legends. I just want someone to know despite the fear I faced you proudly."

"If I want?" he asked, to which she nodded. "What if I don't want that?"

"I don't understand," she said, feeling confused. "You're going to fight me."

"Emma, I-"

"You are! You hunt monsters! You kill them! You'll kill me!" she insisted.

"Don't say that!" he snapped so loudly it shocked her. "Look just don't… don't… You haven't killed anyone yet. You can walk away."

"And do what?" she asked. "They won't take me back unless I have proof I killed you."

"You don't want to be like them. You said so yourself," he pressed.

"Exactly, which is why you have to kill me," she said. "There's no other way. One of us has to die… and it's going to be me."

"No!" he insisted loudly. "You're standing there and telling me you want me to kill you. Who the hell does that?"

"It's the only acceptable alternative," she said. "If I don't kill you and I leave, they'll know the truth and kill me. Worse you'll do is put a bullet in my heart. They'll make me feel it. This mark is what they do to Amazons that do what they're told. What do you think they'll burn me with if I willingly gave up on my trial?"

He shook his head before rubbing at the back of his head.

"I know where they are. I can make sure they won't find you," he offered. "I can keep you safe from them."

"There's dozens of them," she warned. "They're hidden."

"I know where they are," he told her. "Emma, I can protect you."

"You're my father. You're supposed to fight me," she denied.

"Hey, you said we'd do this the way I wanted," he reminded her harshly.

"I meant we could fight how you preferred. I thought you'd either shoot me or allow me to face you honorably," she said.

"Well too bad you didn't say that because both those options are crap!"

Before she could reply the door suddenly flew open, both of them whirling around to face the intruder. For a moment she thought it was an Amazon, someone to make sure she passed her test, but it instead it was a man she'd never seen before, gun pointed at her. Fear flooded her, a cold hard feeling in the pit of her stomach that she wouldn't be allowed to pass on with honor, was going to fail and die and no one would remember her.

"Whoa! Sam, stop!" Dean cried out, rushing forward and shoving Emma behind him. The action shocked her, feeling his hand on her arm, holding her firm in place. "Sam, don't."

"Dean, she's here to kill you! The mother doesn't go after the father, the-"

"The daughter does! I know, Emma told me!"

"And you're protecting her?!"

"Sammy, she hasn't killed anyone. She doesn't want to. She's not like them," he reasoned, trying to sound soothing, even though there was tension in his voice. "She thinks she has to die, that it's the only way out of this situation. She's practically asking me to shoot her."

"Dean, what does-"

"She didn't ask to be this, Sammy! You of all people should understand that! Don't hurt her! Please!"

Emma felt her voice constrict in her throat, looking between the two men. He was protecting her. Why? This other man, was he a hunter too? They'd only told her about her father. Had they known about this one, this Sam? They'd been watching Dean, they had to have been aware of his partner.

"Dean, step away," he said, cocking his gun. "This is just like Amy. You said I couldn't be soft! I'd get us killed!"

"Who's Amy?" Emma asked, out, starting to feel herself panic. It was rising up in her chest, choking her and making her feel terrified. The sight of the gun pointed at the pair, knowing her life could end with just a simple pull of the trigger, it was making her head spin.

"Emma, just stay back!" Dean ordered. "I'll protect you! You'll be okay!"

"She's a monster, Dean! She'll try to kill you!"

"No, she won't! Sam, please I know Amy meant something to you but this is not the same! It's not! She hasn't killed anyone! She said herself she doesn't want to," Dean insisted. "Please… for the love of crap, Sam..."

"She's an Amazon. She's going to kill you," Sam breathed. "Why would she be here if it weren't for that?"

"Okay… okay she came here for a fight but she… Sam, she wants me to kill her. This isn't her fault. None of this is her fault. She's stuck in a bad spot because her mom got pregnant and they're forcing her to do this. She's just another victim, one of the people we try to save," Dean pleaded. "Come on. I can't kill her. You know I can't let you do it either."

Sam narrowed his eyes before eventually he lowered his gun. Letting out a breath of relief, Dean turned to her and took her face in his hands.

"Hey, you alright?" he asked her. She opened her mouth to speak though no words came out, forcing her to just nod her head quickly. "Okay, good. Good, that's great. Alright, let's figure this out, okay? After you shanked me, what were you supposed to do?"

"Go back to the training grounds," she replied without even thinking about it. Deep down she already knew what he planned to do, to kill her sisters. If there was any conflict in her mind about it, she was pushing it too far down to let it bother her. Besides, she had a feeling if she didn't spill her secrets it would get this Sam guy pointing a gun at her again. "They were going to wait for all of us to get back and then leave."

"When?"

"A couple days from now," she answered.

"Sam, we got to go now, maybe take them unaware," Dean said, shoving his gun into the back of his pants. "Emma, come on."

"Wait, you want to take her with us?" Sam asked, disbelieving.

"Well she can't stay here," Dean pointed out.

"What if she tries something?"

"Sam-"

"No, Dean! How long have you known her, maybe ten minutes?! If she gets close then-"

"I'm not going to kill my father! All I wanted was an honorable way to go! A compromise but no one here cares what I want!" Emma snapped. These two were talking about her like she wasn't even there or capable of making her own decision, like she hadn't thought hard about her own life. Everyone around her just assumed they could do as they liked, mark her path and expect her to follow it without question. "He was supposed to fight me. All I wanted was him to see I wouldn't attack him without him knowing the truth. I never expected to win. If you think I'm just going to wait for a chance to attack him with his guard is down then you can shove it! Who do you think you are, interfering like this in family?"

The two men looked between them, Sam coughing a bit.

"Well, she sounds like you a little anyway," he said, to which Dean rolled his eyes.

"Emma, this is my brother, your uncle," he replied. "You know what an uncle is, right, or did they not bother with that kind of information when you were growing up?"

"I… I know what it means," she admitted softly. "We don't usually kill more than just the father but sometimes there are other members of the family we have to dispose of to get to them."

"Sounds like a delightful little group of women," Sam muttered.

"Sam, I swear… forget it. Look, she's coming with us. We certainly can't leave her alone in the hotel," Dean reasoned.

"Then what, pull her into the fight so she can stab you in the back?"

"I'm not going to-" Emma protested.

"Adults are talking, sweetheart," Dean said sarcastically. "Give us a second."

A hint of annoyance crept up in her at that, but she crossed her arms over her chest and didn't say another word. They went back and forth for a while in hushed whispers before finally they pulled away and Dean came up to her.

"Okay," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, "look, you understand this is a really strange situation, right? If you're really here to fight me, what are you going to do if I refuse?"

"I… I hadn't thought about it," she admitted. "If you don't kill me, I have to go back with your remains. If I go back with the trial unfinished it means death."

"No… Emma, that's not what I mean. I mean, what if you live and run away? Will they hunt you down?"

"Um, I don't really know. I mean, we were never told of any Amazons who ran, only the ones who failed and got killed. I guess if I didn't go back they'd assume I died. It wasn't like that wasn't a strong possibility," she said.

"They don't come and collect the bodies?" Sam asked.

"It's really rare for an Amazon to fail," she explained. "We're supposed to pick men who don't have any chance against us? Just intelligent, well off men. The kind that would provide good seed-"

"Whoa! Yeah, okay we get it. Don't talk about… just don't talk about that kind of stuff," Dean said to cut her off.

"Why? The traditions of our tribe make it very clear there's no shame in the ritual of sexual-"

"Emma! I don't want to hear you talk about sex! You're two days old! Now come on, focus here!"

She didn't understand why he was getting so prudish about it. The whole reason she was here because of a one night stand with her mother. Well, she supposed it wasn't an important detail for this conversation anyway.

"According to the history, the last Amazon who failed to kill their father was over a century ago, and I don't know if they gave her burial rights or not. We didn't even get a name with the story. She was more a warning lesson that if we fail we won't be remembered by the gods," she said.

"I can't say I could see them leaving her behind," Sam pipped in. "Just for forensics, she's got DNA proving she's not human. The detective we talked to was one and it was pretty clear she was interested in covering her tracks. I killed her before I got here."

Both men looked to her, their eyes searching, but she didn't know why. Did they expect a reaction? Some sort of attempt of revenge for her fallen sister? She only felt baffled. He spoke of killing her like it had been easy, an after thought. Hunters seemed every bit as fearsome as she'd been told.

"Alright, we bring her with, she stays in the car," Dean said finally with a heavy sigh. "Emma, if you leave the car for any reason, Sam will… take care of you, got it?"

She nodded, understanding the warning. In her mind the river swept away from her feet, drawing back if only a little. Perhaps there was a road that led away from it after all.

"Grab your stuff. We might have to leave immediately after," he said before he started to move around the room, grabbing papers and stuffing them away in a bag along with Sam. She watched them work, feeling oddly out of place. Should she help? Should she just stay out of the way? For the moment she just stayed put. All of her things were already in her pink little suitcase after all. There was one thing she wanted to bring but she didn't think they'd be happy if she went for it.

"Can you grab my knife, Father?" she asked and she swore Dean jumped at the title. Turning to look at her slowly, he looked down at the knife still far from her feet. "I don't want to leave it behind. It was my mother's."

"Yeah, sure. I'm keeping a hold of it though," he told her, which she was fine with.

She followed them out as they left the hotel, not even bothering with check out. Finding herself in the backseat of the vehicle, she couldn't help but notice Sam watching her through the rear view mirror. It was unsettling to say the least. In all the mental preparation she had done for this, another hunter had not factored into it. Why hadn't they told her she might be facing two of them?

There was no doubt in her that the threat of Sam killing her was true if she left the car, so she stayed in place as they left. All of them would be in there right now, celebrating the return of the girls by this point. Her mother would be waiting for her, happy to congratulate her once she presented the proof of her kill and joined their ranks. She tried not to feel guilt at betraying her sisters, and it was easy all save for the memory of Lydia.

"EMMA!" she heard her father calling, jerking at the sound of it. She didn't even think, instinct taking hold as she sprung out of the vehicle and ran to the building, fists raised to fight. She imagined him in danger, overpowered by her tribe, and wished he'd trusted her with her knife so she at least had a weapon, but rushing in to defend him seemed the only answer to her, with or without the blade.

Only to run in and see the training grounds empty.

"What the hell is this?" Sam demanded. "You said they'd be here for the next two days."

"I… they were supposed to be," she said, not understanding. Where were the lights, her sisters, the banquet for celebration?

"They left then?" Dean asked.

"Ran, most likely," Sam said. "Maybe they saw me kill the other one."

"But what about..." he said before he trailed off, looking to Emma as cold realization came to her. They'd abandoned her. Even if she had killed him, they wouldn't have been here. She wouldn't have been able to complete the ritual and get back in time. They'd never even told her she'd have to hurry or risk being lost.

They were going to sacrifice her to the hunters from the start.

The two were still glancing around when she started to sniffle, unable to help herself. Dean turned as fast as if he'd heard a gun shot, even as she covered her face with her hands and turned away. It was shameful for a warrior to cry. Was she really so weak? Was her heart so soft? Even knowing she had all but betrayed her tribe to the hunters with her information, the fact they'd never even planned to wait for her tore at her.

The waters washed over her, pulling her down as she didn't even struggle. No coins, no memories, no legends and nothing to her name. Just another soul lost on the river, drowning her when she'd tried to cross. The river hit her body, her face even as she refused to let the tears fall. Abandoned or not, she was still a warrior and had her pride. It hurt though, feeling like she'd be swept away forever before arms closed around her and pulled her against a strong body.

"Hey," Dean breathed into her hair. "Don't cry. Come on, Emma, it's okay."

"They left me," she whimpered, just wanting to drown and be done with it. Even her father had denied her honor. He wouldn't kill her, wouldn't grant her even a death to sing of. She had nothing now, nothing but the Styx and it's cold eternity. "I don't have anything now."

"That's not true," Dean assured her, fingers curling into her hair. "Emma, that's not true. You have me. I'll take care of you."

She felt him shift and looked up at him through watery eyes, saw him glance over at Sam. If felt like words were being spoken without actually being said, a conversation she had no privy to.

"You have us," he said, still looking to his brother. "Doesn't she?"

Her uncle hesitated, kicking at the ground with his feet a bit before sighing and rubbing at his face.

"Until we figure out what to do next," he said with a shake of his head. "But she's not getting her weapon back."

Confusion filled her as Dean pulled her along, still holding her close. She didn't entirely understand what was happening as she was brought back to the car and eased into it, or where she was going as they drove off. The town she was born into faded as she watched it pass and then they were on the road, transitioning from one place to another. The waters receded around her as she felt a small boat pull by, a withered grip grab her to drag her onto the small vessel, row her back to shore and toss her back on the bank. Whatever her fate, she was not due for the waters today.

Perhaps there was a crossroad for her after all.

Chapter Text

There had been enough silent, late night drives for Dean over the years for him to be used to it, but he'd never cared for them. He was a loud, charismatic guy if he did say so himself. He much preferred to ride along with rock playing, drumming on the wheel of his baby, talking with Sam and passing the miles of the road with some kind of sound. Silence was oppressive, hard and gave him too much time to think back on all the crap that had happened in his life so far. Noise offered distraction where the quiet gave no such refuge.

He glanced over at his brother sitting next to him in the seat, and even without words knew things were not okay between them right now. Whatever good will that had been in place before for Emma seemed to have dried up because he had been stewing for the last few hours. The girl in question had long since fallen asleep in the back seat, curled up in on herself. She had to be exhausted, all things considered, but Sam continued to look over at her, in the mirror and sometimes even turning his head to the back to check the girl. Dean knew it wasn't out of any kind of concern because the rest of the time he was sitting still, arms crossed and looking utterly pissed.

"I'm pretty sure she's not going to suddenly snap my neck from the back seat, if that's what you're expecting," he said eventually, just to hear himself speak. It would invite an argument, but it was better that hearing nothing but the wind passing them by.

"You are unbelievable, you know that?" Sam asked, predictably rising to the bait. "I mean, what in the world is wrong with you? Have you gone insane or are you really this big of a hypocrite?"

"Oh god, Sammy? How many times are we going to argue about Amy?" Dean asked. "This isn't the same."

"Isn't the same? Isn't the… Dean, you said it yourself! We kill monsters! We don't make friends with them, we don't spare them. You went behind my back, lied to me about it, and now you want to get sarcastic on me because I'm having trouble understanding why we have one in the back seat?" he asked incredulously.

"She hasn't killed anyone and she's not going to. Amy was murdering people."

"Amy was doing it to save her son, her family. Like you wouldn't have done it for me."

"You know what, that's not the point!" he snapped, forgetting for the moment he'd invited this argument. "It was the right thing to do, and you know it. You said so yourself."

"Yeah… yeah, it was the right thing to do," Sam admitted with a dark expression on his face. "Because it's the family business. It's what we do, except when it's your monster I guess."

"Emma isn't a monster," he replied. "She's a… she's a scared kid. We need to help her."

"Dean, you can spout that all you want, but she is a monster. Even if you don't want to use the word, she's certainly not human. Super strength, her kind kills men, not to mention the whole not even existing a week ago thing? She's right up there in supernatural alley with wendigos and werewolves," the other man pointed out. "If she'd been anyone else's kid you'd have put a bullet in her brain and never thought twice about it, and you know it!"

"So what do you want me to do, Sam? Pull over and hit her over the head with a shovel and bury her? Go back in time and never have her, or maybe find Amy and politely explain to her that eating people's brains is kind of fucked up and can she please stop?" he barked back. "Look, I know I didn't handle the kitsune situation properly but neither did you. I know I should have told you the truth just like you should have taken her out before I had the chance to, but we both screwed up and it's done with. Nothing is going to change that, so don't take it out on her!"

"That's the worse thing, you honestly think I want to off her in some kind of sick revenge or something?" he asked. "News flash, Dean, being properly paranoid does not mean I'm suddenly being an asshole. Just because she hasn't tried anything yet doesn't mean she won't in the future. What if she gets homesick and tries to kill you as a peace offering to the Amazons so they'll take her back? What if she's faking this whole thing? Can you honestly tell me you know she won't turn on us?"

"No," he admitted.

"Then why are you being so stupid about this?" Sam demanded.

"Because… because I looked her in the eyes and… Sam, the things she said, the way she looked at me, she was ready to die. I know I'm no mind reader or anything but I could see it. She wasn't going to kill me. She's just a kid caught up in this and I have to do right by her. No matter how she came about, no matter what she is… she's mine. I've messed up too many times to not at least try."

"Dean, this girl is an Amazon. She's not yours, not really."

Dean was quiet for a moment before a small humorous laugh left him and he shook his head.

"Yeah, no. She is mine. Descended from crazy, man killing bitches she might be, but she is mine. I haven't always measured up but if I have a chance to give her something better then I'm going to do me best to," he reasoned.

"So what's the plan then?" Sam sighed out.

"I have no idea. Right now I'm more concerned with trying to track down the others. Emma's intentions being pure or not, we know those broads need to be taken down. Besides, we have a whole bunch of pissed of Leviathans trying to get at us. It's not like we can give her a credit card and wish her the best of luck. If any of our enemies figure out she's connected to us, they'll hurt her."

"You don't want to train her, do you?"

Dean's knuckles tightened under his skin as he gripped the steering wheel hard and glowered out at the road, thinking over what to even say to that. He was proud of what he was, good at what he did. Being a hunter was all he knew and his survival had all hinged on his father's training and insistence he never waver. It hadn't always been easy, and he'd be lying to himself if he believed he was completely okay with how his childhood had turned out, but it was what he was. He'd once tried to give it up and it had not ended well for anyone involved.

Putting Emma through that, putting any kid through that, would have been worse than killing her. Even if she already was part of that world, pulling her even further into it by encouraging her to hunt would surely get him sent right back to hell.

"She just needs a chance for something good in her life," Dean settled on saying instead. "Something stable. It's sure as hell not going to be any kind of training like what we went through. I'll figure something else out. Maybe we can find one of dad's friends, drop her off when things are less crazy. A few forged documents and someone can send her off to school where she'll be safe."

"Pretty sure any of Dad's friends aren't going to be too happy to have her," Sam pointed out. "What will you even tell anyone? I mean, she looks like she's sixteen. You'd have had to have been a teen when you had her if you tell anyone she's normal."

"Right, because we both know I never had sex as a teenager," Dean chuckled. "It's a believable story. I know most of them would hurt her if they knew the truth, but no one has to know. We can explain it to her, tell her to keep things to herself, cover up her brand. She can have something normal for herself."

"Like we didn't?" his brother asked. He didn't reply but the silence was probably answer enough.

"I still think this is a bad idea," Sam muttered eventually. "You've never had this kind of sympathy for others like her before."

"Yeah, so I'm a hypocrite. Get over it. You're still not shooting her," he replied.

The matter hardly felt settled, but neither brother said anything past that. It would have to do for now. It felt more than a little unsettling to know that his baby brother was right. Sam was the one who wanted to believe in the good of the things they hunted if it seemed there was a chance they could be saved. He was hardly some pacifist, and most of the monsters he didn't bother with showing even the slightest amount of sympathy if they didn't deserve it, but when there was even a trace of humanity in them Sam was usually all for giving them a chance. Dean on the other hand rarely, if ever, would risk it.

On the other hand, he had trusted his brother a few times on those matters, so he felt he had the right to pull the mercy card himself now. He assured himself in his own mind if things got out of hand, if she did anything to kill a human, he'd take the hit himself or allow his brother to do it. Whatever it took to end her as a threat, but only if she actually became one.

Sam was right though, about why he was doing it. Because she was, in his words, his monster. Just like he was right about saving Sam. He was willing to put a lot on the line for his brother, just about anything. If Sammy had been dying and going after others would have saved him…

He mentally shook himself. The whole situation with her had been morally gray at best, but he wouldn't have killed people to save even his brother. It wasn't their place to trade one life for another and it never had been. They'd ended up having to deal with a very irritated reaper when someone had tried that playing god crap. He'd done the right thing by killing her, even if he had screwed up by lying about it. Amy had killed people and Emma hadn't. That was the end of it. A firm, hard line and he was fine with that.

If Emma crossed it then he'd listen to Sam give the, "I told you so," speech all week after they handled her.

Right now though, there was no way he was going to kill a teenage girl who had practically begged to die. Yeah, he had enough issues with his guilt to even think about going down that kind of road.

The hunter was hardly a master of his emotions as it was. Normally it was easier to try and ignore it, deal with it when it came to a head and then go right back to pretending he was fine. It didn't always work, but the success rate was high enough he wasn't about to change now. Out loud his policy on voicing his emotions was very strict, don't touch it and leave it be. In his own head though… well, everyone was their own worst enemy, weren't they?

Too much had been piling up and it was getting harder to deal with. Castiel was gone, had betrayed him and he had no idea how to even process it. Despite everything he wanted him back, even though things were almost never simple with him around. He was a comfort and in the end had tried to do the right thing. Of course, it was likely humanity was going to end up as one giant burger restaurant because of him too. Like everything else in his life, the matter of the angel was a complicated issue that was taking up a lot of space and his already overly crowded plate.

He was pretty sure the matter of suddenly being a father could potentially tip and spill the contents all over the place if he wasn't careful. He found himself thinking of his own father, all the crap he had to still process and deal with there. His dad who he admired, but who hadn't been loving or supportive since he'd been four years old, had trained him to keep him and Sam safe but also to make them soldiers in a lifelong quest or vengeance. A man who hadn't been home half their lives, who had made Dean be a parent before he'd even stopped being a kid but who had also trusted him enough to be able to do it and had watched Dean fail a few times. Someone who wasn't strong enough to move on and allow his kids to be happy, but had been a better man than his son who'd fallen to temptation and started to torture souls and even enjoy it while John Winchester had resisted such evil every day.

He hardly had a great example to go by, and aside from raising Sam he had next to no experience with kids. There had been Ben, but Lisa had raised him for years without Dean and had made him a pretty good kid. With Emma it was all starting fresh. He didn't even know how he was going to do this without screwing her up.

After a while it was too hard to keep driving. Sam had fallen asleep and Emma hadn't stirred for a long while. He allowed himself to pull over, driving off the road and past a little thicket and low set billboard. It would be enough to hide the car until morning, in which they would set off again, find the nearest town and see if they could find some trace of the Amazons.

He leaned back in his seat, wondering if they'd have to change cars soon. They'd only gotten this one recently but one of them had been a detective in that little group of theirs. Had there been a time she'd been able to get the plate numbers? They'd surely try and track them to stay one step ahead. It would be safer to get something different, just in case. His thoughts on the matter were numbing and he felt himself drifting off before he opened the door of the car and stepped out, letting the cool air hit his face. He didn't want to be asleep the the moment, knew it would only give him nightmares with how heavy his heart felt right now.

"Father?"

He glanced over at the back seat, Emma sitting up and rubbing at her eyes. She barely looked awake, her eyes groggy as she looked around. He couldn't help but take her looks in, the intense green of her eyes only a few shades darker than his own, the slope of her cheekbones and nose and slightly pointed face. He'd looked in a mirror enough times to know that face. It hit home for him this was real, he had a daughter, and while there were similarities to her mother in the sweeping strawberry blond hair and curvy stature, it didn't stop the feeling of possessiveness that hit him. Lydia was gone, run off with the rest of the Amazons and he was all she had left.

He might not have known the first thing about how to be a stable father, but being there for someone who needed him was something he had perfected years ago.

"Hey there. Did I wake you up?" he asked her as she slowly opened the door and climbed out of the car.

"It's okay. I don't mind," she said. "Where are we?"

"Just out of Tacoma. I needed to rest a bit before we went into town," he explained, but she only looked confused.

"What's Tacoma?" she asked him.

"A city out of Seattle. I take it you don't know much about geography then?"

"No, not really. The matrons, my teachers, they didn't cover things like that. I suppose it was going to come later," she replied.

"What did you get taught then? You know… besides the whole… dad killing thing?" he asked, feeling more than a little awkward about this.

"Basics mostly. My mother covered reading and simple math, tutoring me while I was still growing, and then when I went off to be trained I learned the legends and myths of my gods," she informed him. "How my people born of Harmonia and Ares, that we grow quickly in service to our goddess, and our missions in life while we live."

"Mission?" he asked her.

"Apparently we slay something call skin riders, foreign demons," she told him. "Well, foreign for us at least. Apparently they're different than the ones from our culture. At least, that's what I was told."

"Wait, what? You fight demons?" Dean asked, feeling baffled, especially when she shrugged her shoulders.

"It was in our lessons, but I wasn't there long enough to see anyone do it. It has to do with a war supposedly. We were invaded many centuries ago by demons that can't take physical shape and need to use a human body to affect the world around them. They were causing chaos over Greece, so the Amazons fought them, and many died. It was then we received blessings from the goddess so that we could recoup our numbers quickly. We drove them from Greece, but then followed them out to continue the battle."

"So then, they go and fight demons on a regular basis?" he asked.

"I think so. I was told that's why we need to recoup so often. Apparently we create about ten to twenty new Amazons every couple of years. Thinking about it, if we weren't dying the tribe would soon become way too big to hide effectively. Then again, it's really just what I was told. The stories make them sound like heroes, but none of them were all that heroic to me," she explained. "All I know are the stories. My real life experience on the matter has been kind of sketchy and now it's likely there's a lot I won't ever know about my tribe."

"Because you picked me?" he asked.

She actually looked a little forlorn, staring off into the distance. The trees blocked out the stars, but she gazed up at the sky, as if seeing the heavens through the leaves.

"I don't regret my choice, Father," she assured him. "I just wish my tribe had been more noble and people I could have been proud of like in all the stories they told me. Now I feel like something is before me, something important, but I have no idea what it could be. It's just I don't like what they would have had me do and I can't believe they just abandoned me… but I still wish… I don't know. It all sounds stupid when I say it out loud."

He was glad he'd had her after developing such a close friendship with Castiel, that he'd gotten comfortable with physical contact in the moments they felt down. Before he might have felt awkward about pulling her into a one armed hug. He'd never gotten that kind of affection from his father, not since he'd been a kid, and while he could do it with Sammy he'd hardly been cuddly with anyone else for a long time. She didn't need an awkward father though, someone too used to keeping a distance not to show a little compassion.

She sounded so much like a scared kid right now, even when talking about a bunch of murderous Amazons, it was easy to see her as what she was. Just a lost teenager, confused about life and where she was going. She needed stable ground underneath her feet, something she could depend on, a normal life. It was very likely he could never give her that by keeping her around but for now he could be that rock for her. It was better than nothing.

"It's not stupid. Needing family around, no matter how screwed up they are, it's a common thing," he assured her. "You were strong to walk away from them, to do the right thing."

She smiled a bit and rested her forehead on him. It made his chest feel a little tight as she wrapped her arms loosely around his waist, her light red locks falling around her face. She was hardly some little girl in body, looking like a teenager, but he knew how young she was and he felt the urge to just scoop her up and cradle her throughout the night. He felt like he'd been robbed of her childhood but that was just his screwed up emotions talking. Logically he knew it was dangerous enough as it was to have her around as a teen. He'd never have been able to do it with her as a helpless baby.

"Listen," he said softly to her. "Right now things are kind of complicated. There's a lot of monsters after us right now and we need to keep going. Life with me is on the road and dangerous and… well, complicated."

"What kind of monsters, Father?"

Why did he feel itchy whenever she called him that? It's not like he wanted her to just use his name, but it sounded so formal. A talk for another time, he supposed. She sounded a little too lost to be dictating her titles for him. Let her use what she was comfortable with.

"Leviathans. They're creatures from purgatory. Eat people, and they're kind of trying to take over the country right now," he said. "Probably the whole planet unless we can stop them, and while we're hunting them, they're hunting us. We're trying to figure out a way to stop them but it's been a bumpy… it's been a screwed up job so far."

"So you don't want me here, to keep out from underfoot?" she guessed.

"No, nearby is right where I need you for now," he informed her. "So I can make sure you're safe. I mean it, Emma. I am going to protect you, from Amazons or Leviathans or anything else that tries to get you, but to do that I'm going to need some things from you, okay?"

He didn't want to phrase it like an order, didn't want to do the 'my way or the highway' stuff his father always had. Back then it had been enough to get an order and Dean would follow it. The couple of times he'd screwed up had taught him that doing what he was told was all he needed, and he'd leaped at any chance impress his father by being the good, obedient little soldier. While he would need Emma to do what she was told, he didn't want to turn her into that. Explaining to her the dangers would have to be enough.

She nodded her head though, showing she understood. He wondered how much that had to do with her realizing how serious the situation was or just how instilled taking orders was for her. He doubted the Amazons had left much room for arguing when she'd been with them.

"For now just do as I ask. We pretty much stay in hotel rooms so when Sam and I are out I'll need you to stay put. We've been switching phones a lot too but I'll give you a list of numbers in case of emergency you can memorize and then get rid of. I'm going to probably have to leave you on your own a lot so I need to know you can handle things by yourself," he explained. "Once it's all over, we'll go from there."

"So I won't be staying around?" she asked, to which he looked down at the ground. She'd just been abandoned by her tribe and he didn't want her to feel like she was unwanted, but there was some cold hard truths to face. He'd lost people before, some of them he'd been able to handle and a lot of them he was still struggling with. His own daughter on the list? Yeah, he knew for sure he didn't need that kind of crap. He took care of Sam by keeping him close. He'd die and kill for his little brother, but Emma? It'd be better off for her to be elsewhere, somewhere safe where she could just not have to worry about all of this and he wouldn't have to worry about her.

"It'll be better in the long run if you find your own path," he informed her, finding it easier to say with a phrase that didn't make it sound like it was about ditching her, and more looking to the future. "Until then though, I'll stick around to make sure you're okay."

She was quiet for a moment before she nodded her head. How accepting she was of his words wasn't readily apparent but he'd have to accept that. Blood relation or not he didn't know her well enough to get the cues of her personality just yet. He'd have to learn that, learn about her and how she ticked.

Of course, as lost as she said she felt, he had a feeling she had to learn about herself too.

He had no delusions about this. He was hardly father of the year material, but he could try to do right by her. When she figured it all out, when she was secure and safe and things could just slow down in the world for a few minutes then it would work out. He'd get her somewhere good for her and she could move on from having a crazy killer mom and a hunter dad and just be normal.

Dean Winchester saved people, hunted the bad things in the dark, killed those that chewed up humans and spit them back out again. On the other hand though, Dean Winchester was broken, flawed and had way too much on his shoulders to the point where it would surely crush him one day. He made it by keeping himself busy, by reminding himself that Sammy needed him and the world had to be saved. His responsibilities kept him sane but could also just as easily wear him down.

Emma would not turn into that, not if he had a choice in the matter.

Chapter Text

The backseat of the vehicle Emma sprawled out in was much bigger than the last, roomier, and the seats would even heat up with a push of a button, keeping her warm even if all she had was her thin, brown jacket for a blanket. She didn't know the model of the car, a jeep of some kind she thought, but she couldn't honestly be sure. She didn't really know much about cars. In fact, she could count the number of them she'd ridden around in on just one hand. Her father and uncle were currently standing around outside, Sam checking out a newspaper and her father near a payphone. There hadn't been much talking in the last couple days, at least nothing worth dwelling on. Questions about her tribe, where they had said they might be heading, any kind of clue on where to find them. When she'd failed to give them anything they didn't already know it had died down quickly.

Things felt tense and she wasn't entirely sure what would happen next. She was shot the occasional smile by Dean and whenever they stopped for food he told her to get anything she wanted, but besides small moments of kindness like that, she didn't feel entirely welcome. Talk of putting her somewhere safe, out of the way really, had been brought up more than once, seemingly to placate her paranoid uncle. He often kept an eye on her and something about him made her feel wary. When she didn't catch him staring, she would notice his eyes would often fixate on a single spot, usually a wall or off in the distance before he'd squeeze his hand and shake himself out of whatever had caught his attention. She'd decided quickly not to ask.

Somehow she had a feeling there was going to be a lot she didn't want to ask about before her father finally found some place to put her. Whatever she called him, however he treated her, she felt more like an intruder than a welcome family member. The feeling of drowning had left her, but now she simply was adrift and waited on the pull of fate to take her where she would end up. Not where she wanted to be, not even where she needed to be, just where she would stop on shore and end up in some place she would be expected to call home to appease her genitor.

If she had been in the time of her people's origin thousands of years ago, she was sure she'd go and strike out for her independence by going on some quest to prove herself and find her own way. As it was, she was a teenage daughter in the middle of America and no productive way in which to show her unrest and displeasure.

So she put her feet up on the window, coated with the dirt from outside when she'd gone into the rest area to use the bathroom and wash up. The clean and nice vehicle wasn't theirs and she had no idea if her father would care about the interior, but laying out on her back and watching the unchanging ceiling had long since gotten boring. Acting out, even if in a minor way was better than nothing she supposed. The bottom of her shoes left an imprint on the glass and she moved her feet to make another one. She could hear the two men talking outside, something about no babies, hot chicks or bars. It sunk her heart with the tone of it, the regret so deeply ingrained into his voice.

She'd already told him she knew he did not want her and while he had denied it, she couldn't help but feel there was some weight to it. Whatever he might say on the matter, it was clear he had not signed up for this responsibility.

When he came up to the window and noticed what she was doing, all it took was a raised eyebrow from him to get her to lower her feet to the ground and sit up, feeling suddenly guilty.

"I'm sorry," she said after she'd wiped the dirt away as best she could with her sleeve and rolled the window down so he could hear her. "Got bored I guess."

"Uh huh. When we get my baby back, I expect you to be better about that," he informed her.

"Baby? I have a sibling?" she asked, surprised.

"What? No, no. My Impala," he informed her.

That did not clear up what he was talking about at all in her mind.

"My ride," he explained. "We're hopping around from car to car to keep under the radar, but I own one of my own. It's my baby. You ever get in it, you treat it with respect."

She wasn't sure why some vehicle could hold such importance to him, but the fondness in his tone was mixed with a warning. Feeling utterly chastised, she nodded her head.

"Good. Now onto a different subject. We've got a potential case. We're going to be heading off soon. Guess it's a good a reason to go to Kansas for you anyway," he explained.

"What's in Kansas?" she asked him. She knew the location well enough. The first thing they'd done while still near Seattle was buy a map of the country so she could study it. He'd shown her the different states and the highways and interstates connecting them. She'd spent a good hour studying it before handing it back to him, having memorized the entire thing. He'd seemed a little shocked by the speed before she'd informed him that as an Amazon, though her body had now slowed down to a normal growth, her capacity for learning was still highly advanced. It didn't take her long to intake new information, almost like a photographic memory. Useful considering she'd had so little time to learn while growing. Even developed with a mature body now, there was a lot to know about the world that could not have been covered in such a short time. She certainly would need an advantage to catch up on what would be sixteen years worth of knowledge she'd have normally.

Dean was quiet for a moment before giving her a smile, but it was a bittersweet sort of one.

"It was home for a while," he explained before climbing into the car to start driving. The answer provided her with almost no real information but the look on his face had made it seem like he wasn't in the mood to share too much.

Despite her lineage, there was little she knew about her father. The focus always seemed on the ever cooling trail of her tribe. If they were heading to a hunt did that mean they'd given up on finding them? A small part of her felt strangely relieved she wouldn't be confronted by them again though the feeling was mixed a little with nostalgia that she tried her best to crush down. She'd now spent just as much time with Dean as she did them and she did not miss them or what they'd done to her. As distant as the two men could be at times around her, they'd never burned her or told her to kill anyone. Even if she felt something for her sisters akin to longing it was more for a sense of belonging than for the women themselves.

Still, the sensation of being lost would not leave her, even as she settled into the seat and tried to relax. They'd been on the road for a while now, driving mostly, and besides stopping at fast food joints or rest stops to switch their ride, it had been nothing but a backseat to watch the world go by. She thought about asking about Kansas again, perhaps to get something out of Sam, but there didn't seem much point to it. Whatever it was, she could only trust that it would be shared with her eventually.

It was a few hours later when she felt herself being shaken awake, haven fallen asleep in the car despite the cramped discomfort. Blinking blearily and looking around, she saw her father hovering over her from the open doorway of the jeep.

"Come on," he said as he jerked his head behind him to the building they were parked at, another dingy looking motel. As far as she understood they traveled on stolen money. Was there a reason they were staying at such cheap and grimy looking places? "Time to get inside. I bet you're eager for a bed for once."

"That would be nice," she admitted as she climbed out and stretched before grabbing her luggage. It was terribly light, less than a week's worth of clothing in it. She wondered if it would be okay to ask for some more stuff. If they were saving money by staying at this kind of place she didn't think there would be any shopping trips in her near future.

"Good, get inside and clean up," he told her as he handed her a key and some cash. "Sam and I are going to look at investigating the death here. Management said there's a Chinese place that delivers so order yourself some dinner and settle in. We'll be back later."

She looked down at the key, feeling oddly dejected without knowing why. Surely they hadn't planned on taking her along. Then again, Sam also hadn't let her out of his sight more than ten minutes at a time before now. Maybe this was a sign she was getting some trust to be left alone. This could be a chance to prove she didn't have bad intentions by doing as she was told.

"Okay, Father," she said with a nod. "Is there anything I should order for you?"

"Just get a spread, plenty of meat based dishes. We'll sort it all out when we get back from scoping things out," he said as they went inside. She had to wait while they washed and dressed in the bathroom, coming out in suits as she could only guess was some kind of disguise. Left with a small flip phone to use for ordering and to call them if she needed help with anything, she found herself alone in the small room with instructions to not leave or answer the door for anyone but the delivery.

Despite feeling let down that she wasn't even asked if she wanted to help, she was eager for a bed. Taking a hot shower eased her muscles and she stayed in longer than she should have, washing down until the little bar of soap was practically used up and shampooing her hair twice. Mostly it was just an excuse to stay in the hot water. She hadn't had comfort like this since her mother's house and she was eager to bask in it even if the place did look odd to her. While the room was gaudy with its walls that were a mix of wicker, thin wood paneling and rock that felt fake to the touch, the sheets were soft and it was easy to snuggle into them and forget about everything else. Sadly she didn't have any pajamas except a pair of shorts and a baby blue t-shirt. It would have to do and she called in for lunch all too happily, ordering half a dozen different boxes of Chinese to dig into. It was easy enough to get settled then, under the covers with food she didn't know how to pronounce but tasty anyway. She ate with her back rested against the pillows as she looked around the room.

The little log-like statues with the faces carved into them interested her the most. Like just about anything new she encountered, she'd never seen anything like it before. Once finished with her meal, she'd grabbed one and returned to the bed with it, turning it over in her fingers. Was it an idol to some god? She thought back to her mother's home, a small statue in her room of a woman bare from the waist up and with a serpent wrapped around her. With all their moving, it had been explained to her physical temples and altars were impossible, but worship still had to be maintained. The statue had been well cared for, polished and surrounded by candles with a small silver bowl in which to catch the blood of sacrifices.

Emma remembered how her mother had taken her to the room to pray for success, the sickly sweet smell of burning fruit and the blood of a rabbit mixed in the room. It had only been an hour before she'd gone with the other Amazons to be trained. Clearly the prayer had gone unheard. Idly, she couldn't help but wonder if the precious statue had been taken with or if it too had been abandoned. Was her mother still praying for her or had Lydia given up on her entirely?

When the door to the hotel opened, Emma found herself shoving the unknown item she had under a pillow, not wanting to be caught with it as if just being seen in possession of the item would betray her thoughts. She didn't feel terribly loyal to her father right now, as if thinking of her mother was treasonous. The feeling only magnified when Sam walked through the door, the harsh memories of his distrust of her weighing heavy on her heart.

"Hey," he said simply as he tossed his suit jacket onto the other bed, seemingly giving her little attention. "Any food left?"

"Oh… uh, yes. Over there on the counter," she said as she pointed. "Where's Father?"

He went over to the food, inspecting the small white boxes until he found one he liked and grabbed a plastic fork to start eating.

"Going to talk to a potential witness," he replied after a few bites. "He should be back later. Did you eat your fill?"

The normal, and even polite, conversation confused her. She wouldn't have thought that would be the case with the two of them alone, but if he wasn't going to be antagonistic then there wasn't any reason to start anything herself.

"I had some beef and broccoli, along with some white rice," she said. "Also this sweet tasting chicken in some kind of sauce, don't know what it was, but I finished that one. It was really tangy. I liked it a lot. Sorry. I guess I should have saved some."

"It's fine," he said, digging in before grabbing another box and eating a few bites from each before snagging a thick rolled up piece of thin bread and biting into it. He didn't say anything else to her, just ate, and she found herself staring at him. Not like there was anything else to look at. He noticed almost immediately. "Something on my face?"

"Oh, no. Nothing like that," she said as she bowed her head down. "Just kind of… No, it's nothing."

She really didn't want to bring up his feelings on her. For whatever reason he wasn't mentioning or acting on it and she didn't want to ruin that. Perhaps the hunt was distracting him, forcing him to think about something else. While he arched an eyebrow at her, he didn't push. A hopeful part of her hoped he was making an effort to try and trust her a bit but even she had to figure that was no doubt wishful thinking on her part.

"So, what are you hunting?" she asked him curiously.

"A vampire octopus," he snorted out, shaking his head with a grin. He looked at her for a reaction, but she only stared back.

"Is… is that something dangerous?" she asked after a moment, needing clarification.

"Well, it's kind of weird."

"How so?"

"Because… well, I mean I've never heard of one," he said. "And I've been doing this for a long time."

"Must be really sneaky creatures then," she surmised.

"No. Look, doesn't it sound weird to you? An octopus, in Kansas?"

"I'll be honest, I don't know what an octopus is," she admitted.

"Sea creature, big, tentacles," he explained. "Not exactly native to a place with no oceans and they don't cross over with vampires. Do you know what a vampire is?"

"Oh, yeah. Of course," she assured him, but it only earned her a look of disdain.

"Interesting education you got," he muttered before going back to his food. The comment made her feel like she'd failed some of test and she frowned a little bit. She'd been educated on threats to her kind. What was the matter with that?

He was distracted when his phone went off and answered it, and while she listened in there wasn't much she could figure out just from hearing half of the conversation. Her uncle did look uncomfortable though, speaking of a place where he would get dropped off so Dean could look for girls and a refusal to go there himself. He didn't look happy when he snapped the phone shut, clearly agitated.

"Stay here," he ordered before he snatched up his jacket and headed out the door. Huffing out, Emma fell back to the bed and hoped savagely that whatever an octopus was, it would sneak up on Sam next. Not hurt him, maybe just bite him once or twice.

It was hours later when Dean came back, and she was glad for it. The interesting room had lost its luster and she was starting to feel bored. Like Sam, he dug straight into the food, but when he passed her by, he ruffled her hair a little. It was a new sign of affection but it felt kind of nice so she didn't object.

"You know what, Emma? Kids can be really weird," he said as he ate, to which she raised an eyebrow. "I mean, not like… you level weird. Just overactive imagination weird. Things they think up just surprises the heck out of me sometimes."

"Father, you kill monsters for a living," she informed him. "Does this have to do with the octopus that Uncle mentioned?"

"Not exactly. Turned out both kids were at a party, and somehow both of them have parents who got ganked. This morning apparently a guy got killed and when I asked his son about it, he drew me a picture of a unicorn. Do you-"

"I know what a unicorn is," she snapped, starting to get irritated.

"What got into you?" he asked, seemingly unimpressed with the attitude.

"Nothing," she grumbled. "So was his father killed by a unicorn?"

"Looks like it."

"Well, unicorns are usually symbols of sexual purity, prefer maidens mostly. It doesn't make much sense one would go after a father," she mused before brightening up. "As a virgin, I could probably track it down for you."

"What?" he asked her.

"I've never been with a man, so I have a chance of being able to find it," she said sincerely. "You'd never be able to even get close."

"Okay, first off what's with you talking about sex so easily?" he asked. "Shouldn't you have a bit of, you know, shame on that?"

"Wow. That's not hypocritical at all," she replied with a roll of her eyes. "You had a one night stand with a woman you didn't even know and are now talking to the literal proof of that fact. I think you can get over me saying the naughty S word."

"Whatever. Anyway, it killed a man who clearly had kids so I don't think the whole maiden thing is really a factor. Besides, it doesn't fit the bill of the first killing. Something else is going on here," he reasoned. "Even if that wasn't the case, I'm not going to have you go around chasing killer unicorns, okay?"

"Why?" she asked him. "I could be helpful, you know. I'm strong and I have been taught how to fight. I could prove useful to you in all of this."

"Because it's dangerous," he informed her. "I don't want you to get hurt. You have a chance for something more than all… this. You can chose a better life than this."

"You chose this life," she reasoned. "Why can't I?"

He paused and sighed, shaking his head.

"I didn't pick anything, Emma. I was thrown into this life without a single person asking me if it's what I wanted. Kansas is where I was born. In fact Sam and I lived in a town less than three hours drive from here. When I was a kid something real bad happened. The kind of bad thing a child shouldn't see or be told about. My father saw it first hand and it changed him. He raised me to fight the things in the shadows and I did what I was told, like a good son, but it changed me too. I can't have a normal life now, too used to it all. I did my first hunt, had my first kill when I was seven, okay? I'm not about to do that to you, ever."

"You resent your father for teaching you to hunt?" she asked softly.

"Resent? Not exactly but… well, it was never an option to say no."

"So to make up for that, you'll take away my option to say yes?"

He gave her a hard look, as if her question had taken him off guard. Sighing deeply, he just went back to his food.

"Trust me, you'll be better off pretending none of this crap is real and being normal," he assured her.

She didn't really believe him, didn't think it was entirely fair, but she said nothing else on the matter. Whatever had happened when he'd been a child had been a horrible thing and she didn't want to come off as offensive by arguing about it. Whatever it was he didn't want to talk about it. Instead she drew her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. The matter seemed dropped anyway, so she just watched him eat.

She wanted to ask him if he was really sure he wanted her but the words caught in her throat. Maybe he was saying those things because he wanted to be rid of her. It didn't mean she wanted to ask though and instead just sat there until Sam came back, looking uncomfortable beyond belief.

When the two began to talk about some restaurant kids were going to and drawing their worst fears that were somehow killing their parents, she forced herself to tune them out. If she wasn't going to be allowed to help, she didn't want to hear about it. Besides, kids doing in their parents did not really sit well with her as something she wanted to listen to anyway. Whatever was going on with the hunt, she wasn't invited to partake and she didn't want to think about it. So when they left to continue their investigation, she gave them a mumbled, "Bye," and buried herself under the blankets.

The next day went the same way. Further instructions to wait for the two of them and given the leftovers of the Chinese food for breakfast. Feeling grumpy, she chewed on the cold food and thought her situation over.

Obedience had been instilled in her early by her sisters, and it had never set well with her, but she'd known not to risk it. Until she'd seen her father during her trial, away from the tribe, she'd never had the courage to fight back. Thoughts of rebellion bubbled up in her head, thinking of going out and trying to help with the hunt but what good would it really do? Even if she found something that explained everything that was happening, she didn't see Dean being very happy about it. His instructions were clear. Don't leave, don't get in the way, don't be abnormal. He already had clear expectations about what she was supposed to be.

She turned on the television before she allowed herself to do something stupid. No matter how she might have felt about the situation, getting herself involved wouldn't be worth it in the end. Cooped up in the hotel room was where her father wanted her, and she had to remind herself firmly she was trying to gain their trust right now. Besides, she didn't know that much about what they were hunting anyway. Whatever an octopus was, it had to be pretty bad if was on the same magical level as a unicorn.

Her mind drifted as she watched some cartoons, wondering over what Dean had said. Had this state really been their home? Was there a sense of nostalgia here for him despite whatever bad thing had happened? Did he miss it like she would sometime miss her sisters or had any good memories been lost in the tragedy that had changed his life? What was it that had happened and where was Dean's father, her grandfather in all this? Was he off hunting something else? Had he retired? Died maybe? There was so much she didn't know about her family. Her tribe had sat her down and explained everything to her, what she was, who they expected her to be but so far the two men had been tight lipped about anything on her heritage she'd inherited from them.

As much as she hated it, as unfair as it all felt, she knew she had to do as she was told. Chaffing under the rules might not be fulfilling but it was best for now. Maybe if she waited a while, just kept talking to her father about it he would eventually relent and allow her some freedom and to help. She was a warrior after all. It was literally what she'd been built for. It's not like he was trying to get rid of her right now after all, but if she went off half-cocked he might just change his mind on that. Last thing she wanted was for him to decide she wasn't worth the trouble and dump her somewhere.

Still, she hoped he appreciated her obedience. It didn't feel terribly great right now.

Her patience, such as it was, was rewarded at the end of the day. After sitting around for hours with nothing to do but let the television show her program after program, the door opened suddenly as both members of her family walked in. The sight was odd to say the least, Sam covered in glitter and Dean laughing about it.

"What happened?" she asked, the sight utterly baffling to her.

"Clowns," Sam muttered. "I hate clowns."

"What's a-"

"Men in bright clothes that apparently explode into glitter," he told her shortly, causing her eyes to go wide. "Laugh a lot, generally terrifying and can give one hell of a beating."

"Uh… alright?" she asked, feeling unsure how to even react to that.

"Don't worry about it, Emma. Sammy just had a bit of shock therapy. He'll be fine," Dean said, still snickering. "We got the son of a bitch though. Some psycho using little kid's fear to off their parents if he felt they weren't being good enough to them. Sam got the crap kicked out of him while I took out the guy creating the monsters. Case closed."

"So what now then?" she asked.

"Now I take a hot shower and get some laundry done," Sam groaned out. "Get whatever you need washed put over by the door. I'll get it cleaned up all at the same time. After that I need some dinner. Anything but pizza though."

"No, I meant where do we go from here? Do we stick around for a while, leave?"

"We'll probably check out come morning, look into some more papers, find the next thing. Also been a couple days. Maybe we'll have more luck finding out something on the Leviathans. We never stayed in one place for long anyway, but right now is imperative to keep moving more than anything," Dean explained.

"Right," she said as she fell back to the bed and blew some hair out of her face. Her world was increasingly becoming smaller, the back of cars and hotels. It was going to be a long trip, she could tell.

On the bright side, at least she wasn't covered in what looked to be a bucket worth of glitter. Hunting didn't seem as glorious as it had this morning.

Chapter Text

The soft clanking of silverware filled the diner, just slightly softer than the humdrum of conversations in the air. It was a relaxing presence, calming and subdued in the early morning. It was good to get warm food, not quite a home cooked meal, but with a homey sort of feel to it all the same. Comfort food was amazing when you were on the road, feeling like heaven in comparison to frozen burritos cooked up in microwaves and cans of soda or energy drinks. Sam had realized long ago that it was the little things that made this life easier on him, little peaceful moments with his brother at his side had probably kept him from going crazy.

"Persephone must be with Hades by now."

He looked up from his eggs and bacon breakfast to look at Emma, the teen girl looking out the window to watch the snow fall. It wasn't particularly heavy just yet, enough to sprinkle white out on the sidewalks and trees, but she hadn't stopped staring as if the sight was fascinating.

"Who?" Dean asked, only half paying attention as he read over a paper.

"Persephone," Sam answered before Emma could. He remembered reading that story a while ago, back when he'd been a teenager. His father and Dean had left him at a library to look into a cerastes, a large and nasty snake monster with horns that originated from Greece. There hadn't been a lot of information on it and he'd had to look around a lot before finding anything. In his digging he'd found a few myths about the gods, the abduction of Persephone being one of them. "She's the goddess of spring, married to Hades who runs the Underworld. She spends half the year with him and half of it above ground to make the plants grow. Apparently when she's underground, her mother Demeter gets sad and it snows because of it."

"I didn't know you knew any of those stories," Emma said, sounding honestly a little surprised, but he shrugged it off.

"Research comes with the job," he stated. "Of course, the story is more complicated than that, but it's the bare bones basics. I guess they taught you that too?"

"About most of my pantheon, yes," she stated. "It's still surprising though. I was told about why it snowed but… seeing it for the first time is so amazing."

"It's just a weather pattern, Emma. Doesn't have anything to do with a lady with empty nest syndrome," Dean replied. The girl looked affronted at that, but Sam cut in before anything could come of it. He didn't want to deal with any possible argument.

"Dean and I found a possible case here," he said, changing the subject. "It's why were in Kankakee in the first place. There's been some drownings we need to look into."

"Drownings?" she asked, sounding interested. His brother shot him a heated look but Sam ignored it for the most part.

Dean was, in his opinion, being kind of an ass hat right now. It had been a grand total of three weeks since Emma had found them and so far things had been awkward at best and tense at worst. Dean made it clear he didn't want his daughter to do anything dangerous but it had left her with nothing at all. She spent all her time in the back seat of cars or hotels, alone half the time, and the other half making little remarks how she wanted something to do in order help in someway. She'd found their father's journal the other day and had eagerly started to look it over, only to have him snatch it away from her and tell her not to go through that kind of stuff again.

Sam could understand not wanting to hand her a forty-five and hunting knife then proceed to throw her headfirst at the next monster they came across, but not even allowing her to read about that stuff was overkill. It's not like she didn't know the supernatural existed, and his suspicions of her had started to die down after a while. As many times as she'd been ordered to stay put and do so, as many mornings as he'd woken up and found her sound asleep and her blade still tucked safely away in Dean's bag, he was starting to relax his guard around her. There was only so many times he could turn his head expecting to see her ready to lunge only for her to be sitting around and doing nothing before he felt like he was wasting his time trying to catch her being nefarious.

It's probably why he could see her starting to fret a little bit about things. She wanted to help or at least wanted to get outside a little bit. No matter what his brother's intentions were for keeping her safe, he was started to be reminded a little bit of a prisoner. It's probably why she kept finding ways to bring up anything to do with her heritage and apparently very firm belief in the Greek gods, a passive way to try and remind them she was not normal.

"Yeah, it always sucks getting stuck somewhere you don't want to be, huh Sam?" Lucifer asked, sitting next to Emma, his chin in his palm and looking almost bored. "One big box and you can't get out? Can't think why you would relate to that at all. The bastard offspring even gets to bring the box with her."

Sam glanced down at his dish before squeezing at his hand and shaking his head. It was a nice morning. He wasn't about to let that of all things ruin it.

"A total of nine people in the last few years," he informed her. "Found dead in the river. The last one happened about a week ago, with three victims found all at once."

"Drownings in a river seem like they could happen any time though," she said.

"True, but there's a difference here. Thing about hunting is you need to see the signs and patterns, look for strange things that line up and-"

"Sammy," Dean said in warning, cutting him off. "She doesn't need to know."

"Father, it's not going to hurt me if I know what's going on," she pressed, her tone hopeful. "Can't I just-"

"No."

"But-"

"I said no, Emma!" Dean snapped so loudly a few patrons of the diner looked around at their table. Sam tried to give them a smile and waved his hand a bit, showing things were fine. After a moment they turned back, giving it no mind. A teen girl getting snapped at by an adult certainly wasn't that strange a thing after all.

"Why don't I just pay the bill?" he suggested all of a sudden, abandoning his food to go and collect the check and get it paid for. He wasn't all that surprised when a couple of moments later he heard the distinct footsteps of his brother's boots following him.

"What the hell was that?" Dean asked in a hissed whisper as they stood at the counter. "I told her no hunting."

"Dean, there's no harm in telling her what we're doing," he said before the waitress came up. He handed her a few bills and she turned around to get boxes for their leftovers. "She's starting to climb the walls. You got to give her something."

"I'm going to give her high school and a home," Dean stated. "Away from this crap. You think telling her about cases is going to help her adjust?"

"Dean, I'm not sure she wants to adjust. I mean, come on, the other day she asked us for permission to stop by a farm in a couple weeks to get a live piglet to sacrifice so she could make dinner for us when Saturnalia came around," he said. "Think she's way past normal, and she wants you to see that."

"Weren't you the one who said no to the pig thing?" he asked pointedly.

"Yeah..." he admitted slowly, but it had nothing to really do with her, and more about the devil himself whispering in his ear informing him of the orgies sometimes held at those festivals too if Sam didn't mind his only company being family. His hallucinations could get rather sick at times. "The point here is, she's looking for some kind of acknowledgment. Has it occurred to you maybe she wants you to see her for what she is and not how you want her to be? I'm just saying, maybe give her a little bit, just a few inches or so."

"You really think I should?"

"Just enough so she doesn't get frustrated and go native."

Dean looked like he was chewing this over for a few minutes before shaking his head.

"Forget it. I'd rather get the pig," he muttered before the waitress came back. He flashed her a shameless smile that Sam wondered if he even really felt before collecting the change and going back to the table. Emma gave a dull nod when Dean told her to she needed to head to the hotel across the street where he'd already booked a room, taking the key and walking out the door. Sam wasn't at all surprised when she kicked the ground as she walked, clearly irritated.

An itch formed in the back of his neck, telling him maybe he should make sure the knife of hers was in a more secure location than Dean's duffel bag. He was more trusting now, but he was starting to think she was going to get another reason to lash out soon.

"See? Easy," his brother said. "Least she knows that it's best to stay somewhere with her head down."

"I don't know. Obedience can only last so long you know. Don't act like we never ran off and did something stupid," he pointed out. "And Dad was a million times more scary than you were about laying down the rules."

Dean frowned for a second, looking down at the floor before scoffing and scooping up his food in a box to eat later. He couldn't help but wonder what was going through the older man's head, what he was thinking about. He'd stayed rather tight lipped on the matter of Emma being his daughter. He'd assured the girl he wanted her when the Amazons had abandoned her but now whenever she came up it was always talk of getting her somewhere quiet and safe once Dick Roman was taken care of, though without one word of staying as well. Sam knew for sure that wasn't part of the plan. His brother had tried the normal life once and it had ended as a mess.

"So where are we going first?" Dean asked, clearly not up to talk on the matter. Things like this were always like pulling teeth with him. "Down by the river, check for EMF?"

"Possibly. According to the paper all the bodies were found on the bank of the river by this old bridge. Nothing much, just train tracks. Not even a walk way or room for cars," Sam explained.

"Could be a jumping point. You said the papers said it wasn't ruled a suicide though."

"Yeah, cause it wasn't. Markings around the throats showed strangulation, so whatever drown them held them down. Also, all of them were male, young and probably in good enough shape."

"And three of them together, if they got jumped it was by something strong enough to handle them all at once. Even if one had time to get away by overpowering it, it would have had to go after him and bring him back to the bridge. So either we're dealing with something crazy strong and fast at drowning people, or something sentimental enough to make sure they all ended up at that bridge by dragging them there."

"Either way, doesn't sound too good."

"Alright, we hit the bridge first then talk to the local cops, see if we can get anything on the bodies," Dean said.

"Right. Also, about Emma-"

"Come on, Sammy. Burning daylight," he cut off as he headed to the door. Sam could only roll his eyes as he chased after him. Probably best to just let it drop for now.

It didn't take long to find the bridge, despite it being a little out of the way. Following the river hadn't been hard, even if it had taken them over a few dirt roads. A few houses dotted the river, most of them a little worn looking on paint and none with decks or boats on the river. The bridge in question was cut off with police tape on either side, roped around the many trees along the coasts. Not a lot of traffic in a place like this so far out of town, that was for sure.

"I don't think we're going to get much of a reading out here," Dean sighed as he pointed to the power lines running adjacent to the bridge. They weren't even twenty feet away. "That'd be enough to make the EMF go pretty solid."

"Yeah, and it looks pretty normal to me," Sam said as he ducked under the tape and looked around. No markings in the wood besides age. "Steel railings though. Probably not enough iron in it to repel a ghost though, so we can't rule it out just yet."

"Anything else we know about the vics?"

"Paper didn't release much. One was a minor so details were scarce about him and the family. The other two were just names, Henry Veetes and Jason Smith. First one was twenty, the other only nineteen. No addresses or anything though."

"Well, if they're that young they probably have family around or at least some friends we can question."

"Yeah. Long way to be out in the middle of nowhere though."

"Excuse me! Hello?"

The two brothers turned at the sound of a high pitched voice and saw a young woman trotting towards them. Dressed in torn jeans, combat boots and an old army jacket, she stopped short when she reached them, looking pretty ticked off.

"You know this area is dangerous, right? You shouldn't be out here," she said firmly. "Get lost before I call the cops."

Sam quickly pulled out a badge, flashing it to her fast enough so she'd see the shine of metal but not any details on the print.

"We're on an investigation," he explained. "Chicago Police Department, cold case specialists. I'm Detective Roeser and this is my partner, Detective Bouchard."

"Wait… like the members of Blue Oyster Cult?" she asked, looking confused.

"Bit of a joke back at the precinct," Dean covered immediately. "Chief is a big classic rock fan. Thought it was funny to pair us up. Anyway, who are you?"

"Amy, Amy Franks," she replied after a moment, pulling the jacket tighter around herself and brushing her hair out of her eyes. "Sorry, I thought you were just curious jerks. Wouldn't be the first ones to wander down here ever since… well, I guess you know."

"The drownings. You've gotten a lot of people down here then?" Sam asked.

"Yeah. Sight seeing dirt bags," she muttered before pointing to a brick house just a ways off. "I live over there and I've seen a few of them come by, wanting to take a look at the stupid bridge. It's been bad enough with the cops hassling me, I got to watch out for stupid kids falling in so I don't get accused of pushing them too."

Dean and Sam exchanged a look. What did she mean by that? Was she a suspect?

"Well, we're just trying to touch on all the bases," Dean replied. "Why don't you tell us what you told them? Maybe we can clear all this up."

She seemed hesitant at first before her shoulders drooped and she nodded her head.

"Yeah, I guess," she said with a subdued tone. "The guys, we're all friends. Henry started up a band a couple months ago, said it would be fun to try our hand at. Something cool to do on weekends between classes."

"Classes? For college?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, well no. I mean, Henry and I go to the community college, but Jason and Mike are still both in high school. Well… they were still in school. We all met at this local music class. It's really cool, this older guy has this place where he teaches kids how to play music. Classes all day, young kids in the morning, private lessons and then in the afternoon mostly runs an after school thing. Mostly rock and roll, but does some classical instruments for prep parents who want their kids to play violin and junk to get into Harvard. Most of it's pretty cool though. Henry and I met up there like a year ago and after we bumped into Mike and Jason when they enrolled. Teach said we really had talent, so we thought… you know, why not? Not a lot of places to play around here but it could be fun. Just to say we tried," she said before she rubbed her hands on her pants.

"Thing is, we needed a place to practice and we used to over at the music hall, since there's usually not classes on the weekends but Teach started keeping it closed, wouldn't let anyone in. We had it planned though to start over at my place so there would be no parents and no one to call in the middle of the night to complain about the noise. Not a lot of people out here so we figured it'd be great. They came over Friday and we set up, played for a while and then ate some dinner. Plan was to make a weekend sleep over for it and if it worked out we thought we could do it on the regular."

"So your parents aren't here right now?"

"Nah, they live in the city," she explained. "My great aunt and uncle actually own the place, but they hate the cold these days. Moved to Florida a few years ago and told me I could stay here as long as I kept it clean for when they came back for holidays. Community college is just cheaper than semesters in Chicago, you know?"

"Oh yeah. Chicago will chew through you wallet like crazy," Dean said with a well practiced chuckle of relatablity. "Smart move."

"Yeah, I thought so," she said, frowning a little. "But then… I wake up and the guys are leaving. I heard them moving around downstairs where they were bunking so I thought they were raiding the fridge or something, but when I went down there, they were leaving the house… still in their freaking pajamas. I couldn't figure out where they were going and when I called out to them they just kept walking, didn't answer or anything. I followed and..."

"And what?" Sam urged. "What happened?"

"The cops think I'm lying, but I'm not. I swear I'm not. There was some chick there! Out on the bridge, and she was completely naked! The guys went to her. I don't know why. It's like they were sleep walking or something, and she just grabbed them all of a sudden and pulled them into the water. I ran to call 911 but by the time they got here..."

She hiccuped a bit and shook her head. A small sniffle escaped her and she licked at her lips, trying to calm down.

"I think the only reason they haven't arrested me yet is cause Mom and Dad are both lawyers. Not big ones or anything, but they're already making calls to get me a good defense attorney. Police probably don't want to risk losing out on a conviction by bungling the investigation, but I've been pulled in for questioning like three times now already. I just keep telling them the same thing. Guess that's why you're here, huh? Gonna throw the book at me?"

"No, we just want to find out what happened," Sam assured her. "This woman you saw, how close did you get to her? Before you ran away?"

"Not close, just about halfway from the house before I saw her. I was more shocked than anything. I mean, the whole thing was weird and creepy. Like, what kind of woman just sits on a bridge naked at the beginning of winter? I'd have thought she was swimming, but she'd have frozen to death like that," Amy replied.

"Can you tell us what she looked like? Young, old, hair color or anything else?"

"She looked… I don't know. Older than me, but not like middle aged or anything. Maybe like in her mid-twenties or so. She was really stacked, I know that and with long, long hair. The moon was out but I couldn't tell the color. Looked almost green and tangled up."

"Okay. That's great. This isn't the first case of drownings in this area. You know anything about that?" he asked.

"No. I mean, I heard from my great uncle some murders took place here a while back. Drove the land value down like crazy. Whole reason they could afford to pay off the house and get another place down south. It was like some serial killer or something, right? My parents even made me call them every night to know I was safe even though it happened way before I even moved here. Only reason they were okay with a bunch of guys staying over is because they liked the idea of me having company to keep an eye on me. Auntie Eunice put on like three deadbolts on the door and the windows while they were still living there."

"Right," Dean said. "Makes sense. Anything else you can remember about that night?"

"Yeah. That crazy bitch scared the fuck out of me," she whispered. "I keep looking out the window, expecting to see her there. Second the cops tell me I'm allowed to leave town I'm going back to Chicago."

Sam gave her a small smile before resting a hand on her shoulder.

"Thank you. You've been a big help. One last thing, if you don't mind. This teacher you mentioned. Can you tell me more about him?"

She looked confused at the request before nodding her head.

"Mr. Aladsteinn is just an old teacher. Used to instruct in music or something at the high school. Real cool, encouraging, and his lessons are like next to nothing to pay for. Heck, I don't think we would have even started the band if he hadn't told us how much he liked hearing us play," she said softly. "Wow… I actually haven't talked to him since things happened. He's probably worried sick. I should probably give him a call or something."

"Aladsteinn?" Dean asked. "How you even spell that?"

Amy laughed a bit, but it was a bitter sort of sound, like all humor had been sucked right out of her.

"Yeah, he wrote it down once but I ain't got a clue. Why you think everyone just calls him Teach?"

"Where can we find him?"

"Oh, he's uh… he lives downtown, same place he holds his classes. I can write down the address for you if you got a pen."

"Sure, here you go," Sam replied as he dug one out along with a notepad for her to scribble down the information. "Thanks."

"So, what do you think?" Dean asked after Amy had walked away. "Targets men, and doesn't snag the girl the same way? Think she got spared?"

"Dunno. Whatever caused the boys to go to this woman on the bridge clearly didn't affect her. Question is, why did the boys leave?"

"Naked chick out in the middle of the night? Probably wanted to keep her warm," he said with a shrug. "I know it's what I'd do if I weren't so paranoid."

"No, you just go to bars and knock up man killers," Sam teased before climbing into the car.

"Smart ass. So what, you think it is a ghost then?"

"No… doesn't fit. The murders are just like Amy said, there was six over the spread of a few years, then stopped all of a sudden. All men, strangle marks but drown, and all at the bridge. If it were a ghost there'd have to be some violent death linked to the bridge involving a woman, but there's nothing there. Not unless the papers misses something."

"Might not have covered it if it were different enough, but you're right, ghosts usually stick to a pattern reflecting their own end. Let's say we go talk to this music teacher and then if he's a bust the family, see if we can find out why these kids were targeted. Nothing comes up, we do some research and dig around a bit, see if there was some lady who got drown in the river."

Sam considered the fact there was a girl at the hotel who could get to a library computer and look into it for them to save some time, and surely wouldn't be targeted due to her gender, but figured it was best not to mention it. Even if he pointed out they were technically more likely to be attacked then Emma, he doubted Dean would be open to listening to it. The fact was he was just too paranoid about her to let her go out and do anything.

Which is why Sam decided to text her instead of making a call, holding the phone close as he typed out a message to find out where the library was and head there as soon as she could. Dean didn't even so much as glance over, no doubt thinking he was simply looking up directions or some such thing as he typed with his thumb. It was terribly dishonest to go behind his back like this but his brother wasn't thinking clearly.

The younger Winchester was sure he was just trying to be the opposite of their dad, refusing to let her get her hands dirty and called it protectiveness instead of dragging her in like had been done to the two of them. It wasn't unusual. He'd always been more comfortable risking himself than letting anyone else take the fall. He'd signed up for hell in order to give Sam a second chance at life and when they'd encountered the ghoul masquerading as Adam…

He stopped letting himself think as his younger brother came to mind. No good memories were down that road. He'd spoken with the real Adam for maybe half an hour tops before the angels had taken him. The kid had been in heaven before this whole mess and as far as he knew was still rotting in hell, in that terrifying cage. He didn't really know for sure. Despite being locked in together, Lucifer had torn him apart within seconds, toying with him, breaking him in every way imaginable and he had no idea what had become of either his brother or Micheal. He'd been too far gone to see anyone but Lucifer, but it was wishful thinking and forced ignorance to soothe his own conscious that Adam could be anywhere else, that someone had been able to save him.

All because Adam had gotten involved, because the angels had pulled him in to force Dean's hand.

He looked down at the phone, instructions to get to the library and back as fast as possible, before he found himself erasing it. Thinking about it from that perspective… it suddenly didn't feel as right to let her out as it had before. Maybe Dean was right. Maybe she would be safer left behind.

Not that it had protected Adam when the ghouls had come for him.

"Sucks when you don't have an easy answer, doesn't it?" Lucifer asked from the back seat. "Damned if you do and damned if you don't, huh? See Sammy, this is why we just can't have nice things."

He pressed so hard into the scar on his hand that it started to hurt, savagely hoping it caused the devil pain. Even in his head, he wanted desperately for some way to punish the bastard for everything he'd done to him and his whole family.

"Dean," he said suddenly.

"Yeah?"

"Whatever you decide for Emma, even if it's to put her in some town where she can go to school and gossip about boys and never see you again, I'll support it. Sorry I undercut you like I did before. She's your kid so it's your choice," he stated.

Dean glanced over at him for a moment, a confused look in his eyes before shrugging.

"Well glad you finally saw reason," his brother stated.

"Yeah… guess I just needed a different perspective," he admitted, even as he thought when they did find the girl someplace safe, he was going to personally teach her how to shoot and to firmly instruct her to always, always have a sawed-off shotgun and bullets on hand.

Chapter Text

The music hall as it was didn't fit what Dean had had in mind when he heard about it. He'd expected some kind of theater or concert hall, maybe a really big apartment. Instead he found himself standing on the street looking up at what looked to be an old factory. There was a sign above the steel door that read Musical Madness Mayhem, School for Gifted Children, along with graffiti on the walls, several different instruments and musical symbols painted on the brick of various quality. He could almost see the Cola sign on the wall underneath all of it, though it was rusty under the bolts holding it to the wall. Hours were listed on the glass of the door, but a small cardboard sign was taped to it.

"Closed temporarily for mourning," he read aloud. "Think he's in there?"

"Amy did say he lived here, so he must be," Sam said as he buzzed the door. There was a little intercom that static suddenly came from.

"Classes are canceled," a male voice spoke, sounded tired. "Come back next week."

"Mr… uh… crap, how'd she pronounce the name again?" Dean asked as he snapped his fingers a few times, trying to remember. "Alad… Aladsteinn! Mr. Aladsteinn we're cold case investigators from Chicago. We're looking into the resurfacing of a drowning case from a few years back. We talked to Amy Franks and wanted to ask you a few questions."

"I… I see. Give me a moment, I'll let you in."

They waited a while before hearing the door unlock and it opened to reveal a man in a wheelchair. Despite Amy's emphasis on his age he wasn't terribly old, looked like maybe he was only pushing forty or so with a mess of black hair down to his shoulders and beginnings of a beard with flecks of gray in it. He was dressed like an old rocker, acid washed jeans and a faded ACDC shirt on, though they didn't look terribly clean. In fact, the man looked like a complete mess, bags under his eyes and a clammy looking skin from sweat.

"Come on in, Detectives," he said as he wheeled himself backwards to allow them room to come in. The building was largely gutted, pillars holding up the three story building but the walls missing to make room. Equipment was everywhere, guitars, pianos, amp boards and several other things, organized around on the polished floor of the building, in the corner an area cut away with walls, no doubt the living area for the teacher. "You just talked to Amy? How's she doing? She must be so shaken up, losing her friends like that."

"Shaken up is probably a good way to describe it," Sam said.

"It's a horrible tragedy. Those kids were so young… they didn't deserve to go out at that age," the teacher sighed. "So, why did you want to come talk to me?"

"Checking around, finding out more about the victims. You taught all of them, correct? Amy and Henry for a year, then the other two boys a little after that?" Dean asked.

"Yeah. Great kids, real talented. You know, I've been teaching music since I was a teen, same age as them. Got out into the world and I wanted to share it, with everyone who'd listen. Lots of people can learn the rhythm of an instrument, play the keys, learn the notes, but the special ones… the ones who can hear the soul in the music… that band could have been something wonderful if they'd only had a chance," he said, bowing his head a bit.

"Sounds like you really believed in them," Dean noted. Any other time he would have been agreeing with him, mentioning his own favorite bands and songs, asked him about any concerts he might have seen, but it was in the middle of a case and he'd seen the 'faked distraught mourner' routine too many times to immediately believe this guy gave a damn about the kids. Maybe he did, maybe not, but the hunter was reserving judgment for now.

"It's always a loss when a kid dies, and I'd cry for any of my students, but this tears my heart out," the teacher confessed.

"Mr. Aladsteinn, is there anything you can tell us about the kids?" Sam asked. "Anything at all that might have led them to some kind of trouble?"

"Call me Zed, please," he said. "Last name is kind of stuffy. What do you mean trouble though?"

"Had any of them gotten into any fights lately, maybe trouble at home? Uh, smelly clothes, like a burning smell lately, like sulfur?" he explained.

"Sulfur? What?" the teacher asked before shaking his head. "No, nothing like that. Well… I mean, there was something, but it couldn't have had anything to do with the accident."

"What's that then?" Dean pressed.

"Henry was getting into a bit of a… thing with a girl. He said he met her in college, only saw her once when she came to pick him up after his lesson. Didn't like the look of her right away," Zed explained. "She came in her kicking up a fuss about him wasting his time here. Said he should be focusing on his studies more, attend to his grade point average and forget music. He complained about her just as much as he sung her praises, but boys that age around a pretty girl… well, no matter how bad it gets he can still get enraptured. He even wrote a song about her."

"This girl… long hair, big chest?" Sam asked before the teacher laughed.

"Aren't all the good looking ones like that?" he replied, leaning back into his wheelchair. "Pretty girls all over the place when I taught in the high school. Perfect for distracting young men and inspiring them all at the same time. Course the boys are just as good at doing it to the girls. Hormones are a crazy thing at that age. Kids are so full of life then… it's why it was so hard those years back, the drownings. All of them were students at the school. There were black ribbons all over the place, every few months there would be an assembly to announce another child gone… I couldn't take it. It's like the place was dying."

"You retired the same time as the killings?" he asked with a note of interest in his voice.

"Shortly before the last one, yes. I had an accident around the same time, and it seemed best just to go."

"What kind of accident? Near drowning maybe?" Dean guessed. This thing, whatever it was, seemed to like to target men interested in music if the last three were any indication. Was there a link?

Zed just shook his head though.

"No, was horseback riding and fell off. Rented the blasted thing. New one, obviously not broken in yet. Sued the guy who owned her and took the money to fund this school. Thing stepped on my knee and its weight shattered it. Other hoof was on my right thigh. Couldn't ride or walk after that," he explained.

"A horse?" Sam asked before he suddenly looked to Dean, a light in his eye that he usually had when something had just clicked in his head. "Right, understandable why you'd leave. One last thing, that girl that Henry knew? Any chance you know her name?"

"Penny. Henry just called her his lucky Penny," the teacher said.

"Thanks so much. Sorry for you loss on all this," he replied before turning to leave. Curious, Dean followed after him quickly but his younger brother didn't stop his brisk pace until he was outside.

"You look like your pants are on fire," he joked. "What's up?"

"Nixie," Sam said suddenly. "It's a nixie."

"A water spirit? Well, that would make sense," Dean admitted. "A nixie does find homes on waterbeds, lakes and rivers, and they love music."

"And lure men to them with their singing. It's why Amy didn't hear it, females of the species can't entrance women, only a male nix could. Nixies on the other hand go after men and children, particularly young men," Sam stated.

"Yeah, but how do we know for sure? There's a million different things out there that drown victims."

"Because there was more attacks then just the drownings. You heard it from that guy himself, he was hurt by a horse, and the water spirit has two main forms, human and a horse. Maybe this thing was going after talented ones," he theorized.

"He is older than what nixies usually got after. Either she couldn't get him with the song or didn't feel he was worth her voice. They are vain as hell too, which might be why she went after guys into music. Might have offended her somehow. Think the other six were into the tunes?" Dean asked.

"Hard to tell without looking deeper into their records, but I'm willing to bet it's a good chance. The only thing that doesn't add up is the time span. They don't rest or slumber over periods of time so why the gap in the time frame between the killings, and why leave that guy alive?"

"Hunter might have come through, gotten close and she bolted. Came back once the heat was off and found some more victims."

"Possible. Alright, we need to get to that bridge once the sun goes down after we figure out what it's weak to," Sam stated. "Let's hit the library and I'll look it up online."

Dean hesitated a second before shaking his head.

"No, you hit the library. I'll catch up with you in an hour or two," he said.

"Did you want to check someone else out first?" his brother asked.

"Actually, I'm going to go look in on Emma," Dean confessed. When his brother opened his mouth, he he just held up a hand to silence him. "Look, I'm not an idiot, Sam. I know she's getting upset over keeping her out of harm's way. I mean, this whole thing… how do I handle it? She's less than a month old and already a teenager. It's not like that gets covered in those So Your Gonna be a Daddy self-help books or something. How to raise your Amazon daughter in twelve easy steps. I know you think I should give her more freedom, something to do but..."

He sighed softly and ran a hand over his face.

"She's just a kid, Sammy. I mean, we keep losing people, people we're close to. We've proven over and over we screw it up! Look at Dad, Bobby, Jo and her mom! Hell, look at Cas! He's gone, gone and never coming back! The things that are after us ripped him apart like he was nothing!" he ranted. "And they are looking for us every day. What if they find her? What if one of the thousands of things that would kill us find her? If I can keep her hidden until we're out of the fire… then she never has to worry about getting caught up to, never has to look over her shoulder and wonder if one of the things we pissed off decides to get to us through her."

"Dean..." Sam said hesitantly. "Cas wasn't your fault."

He scoffed and jammed his hands in his pockets. Sammy was right. Castiel had gone after purgatory on his own, gone crazy with the power, and it hadn't had anything to do with Dean. The second he decided to go back to heaven and made the deal with Crowley it had probably been too late, but blame didn't matter. Whoever was at fault, Dean missed him. He'd lost too much these last six years and Cas…

Cas hurt the most and he didn't even know why. Maybe because he was the last one on a long list, maybe it just made him feel vulnerable not to have the angel around anymore and maybe he just missed his friend. One way or the other, he knew it was all getting to be too much and he needed to know one person in his life could be saved.

"I'll meet up with you in a bit," he said, tossing him the keys. "Go on, I could use the walk anyway for some fresh air."

"Alright. I'll call you if anything comes up," Sam said before they split up.

It didn't take long to get to the hotel and he knocked on the door to let her know he was coming in before opening it. She was sitting on the floor, a book in her hands, flipping through it idly.

"Hey," he said softly. "What are you reading?"

"Oh, just something I found in the desk," she said as she held it up, surprising him when he saw it was the Bible of all things. "I just read this story about some garden created by a god and hey!"

He grabbed it and thrown it on the bed, anger bubbling in the pit of his stomach.

"You know, you could just tell me not to read if you're going to keep ripping them away from me," she snapped at him.

"You don't need to be reading that kind of garbage," he said angrily. He wasn't mad at her per se, and he knew he wasn't being entirely rational, but talking about the lost angel just a while ago left his emotions feeling raw. "Just stay away from that, okay?"

"Right… like I stay away from everything else," she said softly, anger on the edge of her voice. "What else is new?"

"Don't take that tone, damn it. I'm trying to protect you," he snapped at her. "You don't know what kind of things are out there."

"Yes I do! I know there are monsters out there, Father! I'm one of them!" she yelled as she stood up suddenly. "You can pretend all you want that I'm not but I am! I'm a warrior! I wasn't created be locked up!"

"No, you were created to go around and kill anything with a dick! I thought you didn't want that!" he yelled right back. Arguments, especially heated ones, were no stranger to him and his family. It never even occurred to him to back off and try to calm down. "Not that you had a choice in that! The Amazons left you out in the cold! They didn't want you, remember?"

"Yeah, well you don't want me either!"

The words felt like a bucket of water dumped on his head and if that wasn't enough, the tears springing up in her eyes did the trick. She glared at him before furiously rubbing at her eyes, clearly angry with herself for allowing herself to begin to cry.

"You don't want me… not really," she whispered. "I'm just a responsibility, something to get out of the way as soon as you can, just another case."

"Emma, that's not-"

"Well, let me save you the trouble," she said before grabbing her coat. "I'm better off on my own."

He reached out to grab her arm, keep her from doing anything reckless, but her hands suddenly pressed up to his chest and pushed him hard. He was shoved right into the wall, his head bouncing off of it hard before he slipped down to the floor, his legs giving out from him. He looked up, dazed, and saw Emma looking shocked at what she'd done. Even as his vision was getting blurry, he saw her eyes, now gold and red, looking like the skin around them had been rubbed raw.

Her hand trembled as she reached for him before stopping and shutting her eyes tight, suddenly whirling around and running for the door as he slipped out of consciousness.

It was hours later when he finally roused, the room dark and empty save for him. Groaning, he sat up and rubbed the back of his head, looking around as he heard the ringing of his phone. For a few seconds he wasn't sure what had happened, unable to remember before it came to him slowly, filtering into his brain why he'd been knocked out. He jerked awake as it hit him, suddenly yanking the phone out of his jacket pocket and seeing Sam's name on the screen.

"Sammy, Emma's gone!" he said onto the phone after he'd answered it, not even waiting for his brother to say hello. "We got to find her! She left… about…"

He drifted off as soft music came through the phone's speaker, a warm and sweet voice on the other end. There were words to the song but none that he recognized, yet somehow they felt so familiar. He reminded him of comfort, like slipping into a warm bath, and there was a story in the notes, a calling reaching out for him and pulling at his very soul.

His feet moved without his consent, walking out the door and into the night, not even bothering to close it behind him. The song beckoned him, filled his mind and urged him to come to the bridge where happiness awaited him. Gravel crunched under his boots as he strolled along, the voice guiding him without rush to come and find the source.

The river bubbled as it rushed downstream, reaching the bridge where she was waiting for him. The moon was already waning but he could just barely see her in the moonlight, bare and beautiful with water droplets clinging to her skin and seaweed tangled up in her hair. The only thing he could see was her, barely even noticing Sam tied up at her feet, not even moving and looking just as entranced.

"Come here," she breathed softly, her voice like melted honey. She was no longer singing but he felt enraptured all the same, moving toward her happily. "What a strong hunter you are. Who would have thought three little sacrifices would have gotten your attention? Well, no matter. You'll both be gone soon enough. Tell me, would you die for me?"

"Sure thing, babe."

She grimaced at that.

"Ugh, at least your brother was a smoother talker than you are. Caught me following him at the library, never even realized I knew he was stalking me in turn. All it took was a little melody and he was mine. Well, once you're out of the way, my precious one will pay attention to me again. I taught him a lesson once, I'll just have to do it again. Cuff yourself, will you? I'm not taking any chances with you two waking up in the water."

It didn't even occur to him not to, kneeling down and assisting her to tie him up, cuffing his hands and ankles together before pulling out the rope. Bending over him and giving him a fantastic view of her flesh, she smirked at him as she began to tug it tight and knot the thick rope.

She placed her hands on his shoulders, a loving smile on her full lips. However just as she was about to push him, she stopped and suddenly stood up straight, looking out at the front of the bridge where Emma stood. His mind felt fuzzy as she walked up to them, her stride slow and shuffling, head lolling to the side.

"Oh, what do have here?" the nixie asked curiously. "What has you in the spell, little girl?"

"Zed sent me," Emma replied softly. "With his love… he says he's learned his lesson… that he's sorry for picking the humans over you again. It won't happen a third time."

"How thoughtful. Didn't realize there was three of you. You know, I tried to play nice, after punishing him the first time of stripping him of his students, I thought he'd favor me again. Then he had to go and get new favorites again no matter how much I tried to distract that little star pupil Henry," the nixie growled out. "Glad to see that he's seeing reason. Mmm, I guess you'll have to go in the water too."

"Actually, maybe we can stay where it's dry. I forgot my change of clothes at the hotel," the Amazon said as her gaze snapped up to the water spirit and she punched her hard enough to send her crashing down onto the tracks.

Dean took a deep breathe, feeling like his head was coming out from above water, shaking as he looked up and saw his daughter stalking toward the creature who was snarling at her, crumpled up on bridge.

"You should feel lucky I believe in fighting honorably," the teen said as she reached behind her back, pulling her knife out from her pants. "Stabbing you would have been quicker, but not really fair. Iron hurts you, but gold, that's what really does it, right Penny? I've never officially had my first fight before, just training, so I want to do this right. You're going to be my first trial, so get up."

"You little brat," the nixie snarled as she stood up. "Who the hell do you think you are? I'll break your scrawny little neck."

"My name is Emma Winchester, your personal escort back to whatever gods made you," she answered before launching forward, swiping the knife at the creature. Penny ducked down, grabbing her arm and twisting to the side away from her.

Emma went with the movement, bringing her foot to kick hard into the nixie's stomach with enough force to tear her grip away from her. Her free hand backhanded the creature with a crack as her neck snapped. Panting, Penny pushed herself up and grabbed her head, twisting it back on straight before tackling Emma with a scream.

Dean had come to by now, panting hard as he started to struggle with his bindings.

"Sam, Sammy!" he cried out, relief flooding him as his brother groaned with a shudder, looking confused. "Hey, you got to reach the knife in my boot! Cut me loose! We've got to help her."

"Help who?" Sam asked, almost sounding sleepy before the body of the nixie suddenly crashed down in front of them, thrown by Emma who ran after her, sliding to her side just as the creature tried to get up and sweeping her foot underneath of Penny's legs to topple her back down. Leaning on her back, she launched herself back up to her feet and grabbed the nixie by the hair, punching her in the face over and over again. Blood sprayed out from her mouth onto the tracks, hitting the top of Dean's boots as he stared, watching his daughter brutalized the water spirit with an enraged look in her eyes, shining gold as the Amazonian knife clutched in her fist that just kept hitting the monster.

Her hand raised as she took the blade, suddenly embedding it into the throat of the nixie. Flesh gave way easily to it, gurgling sounding from her mouth as blood spilled out over her lips, her voice now sounding broken and wretched instead of beautiful in any way. Emma yanked the blade out before looking over at him. For a moment all he could do was stare at her, notice the blood dripping off her fist as the breeze blew her hair about her face. In that moment she didn't seem even remotely safe.

"I'm sorry I shoved you, Father," she said softly, her eyes going back to her regular green, the fierce look about her dying down to a subdued and even withdrawn look as she knelt down and grabbed the chains of his cuffs, ripping them apart before she started to cut through the ropes. "I just… Never mind. There's no excuse for it."

She stepped back as he ripped away the remaining rope, pulling out his own knife from his boot and set to freeing Sam, glancing over at her several times as he worked. He wasn't sure what he was expecting her to do but he felt on edge and paranoid. She hadn't looked at all human in the fight, battering the nixie like it had been child's play, but she'd saved them and had backed down the second the fight was over.

"Dean, you alright?" Sam breathed out, rubbing at his wrists.

"Yeah," he said after a moment. "You?"

"Another day in the park," he snorted with a shake of his head. "Come on, we better get rid of the body. Let's find somewhere to burn it and get out of here before anyone sees us."

"Right, Emma you..." Dean said before he realized she was gone. "Damn it!"

"Dean, the nixie. Come on," Sam urged. "We can find her afterward."

The oldest hunter didn't know it, but Emma hadn't gone far, heading down the dirt road where a man was waiting for her next to a beat up old truck, long black hair that almost looked dead in the soft moonlight.

"You know, I'm not a fan of mind control," she told the man leaning heavily on a crutch. "You could have just asked for help."

"Sorry. Old habits die hard," he explained. "I try not to sing to mortals anymore, but after hearing your old man talking about you, I figured you were my best chance to finally put Penny down."

"So she killed those others, out of jealousy?"

"She never liked me teaching others about music. When I found her, she was enamored with me, she was my best, but she didn't like me focusing on others. I thought if I just went to smaller lessons, gave her all the attention… then those poor boys wanted to start the band… I guess my encouragement was seen as a betrayal of her trusts. Pretty girls are fickle like that," he breathed out. "I figured you were better equipped for this than they were."

"Can't help but notice you still told them enough to lead them into trouble," she pointed out.

"They're still alive, aren't they? It was good luck though, finding a stray Amazon," Zed replied before shaking his head. "There's too much death in this county now. The music feels sick in comparison. Besides, once they realize what I am and how you found them, they'll be gunning after me too. I think it's best to get out here."

"You didn't hurt anyone though," she said.

"You've got a lot to learn. With hunters, it doesn't matter if we did or not. We're different, that's enough for them, even when we keep our heads down. You'd be better off running too," he told her. "Do you need a lift? I can at least get you out of town, just like you wanted before I found you. At least this way you don't need to walk."

She hesitated a moment before she shook her head. To his credit, he didn't look disappointed or anything. Emma doubted he cared all that much. She was, after all, no musician. There was probably zero personal interest in his offer.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I don't think running away is the path I'm supposed to take," she admitted.

"They saw you do dangerous things, Amazon. You're not human, it's tricky to pretend to be one."

"I'm not pretending to be anything. I'm not human and I'm not ashamed of it."

"Well, hopefully that attitude doesn't get you killed," he said before he climbed into the truck, groaning as he pulled his legs in with him. "Well, least this pain leaves me something to remember Penny by."

The sentiment was odd, but Emma didn't comment on it. She did however allow him to give her a lift back to the hotel. She cleaned off her blade and packed her bag, not entirely sure what would happen when her father and uncle came back. She'd acted horrible today, nearly run away, almost had run away if she hadn't been compelled against her will to come back as the nix explained to her what was happening. He hadn't had to force her to rush to finding Dean, worry flooding her on what might happen to him.

Now she felt awful, not only over the argument but losing control of herself so badly in the first place. This whole thing, the reason she hadn't fought him, was because she wanted him to see her as someone honorable. It was just as likely he saw her as Zed said the hunters would… another monster.

Not that she had any right to deny it. In her anger she'd admitted it, attacked him with no control at all.

She turned around suddenly as the door opened, her family in the doorway. From their expressions they seemed just as surprised as she felt.

"I… I figured I'd wait here… until you decided what to do about me," she confessed. Sam and Dean looked at each other before Dean nodded.

"Come on," he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder and out the door. She sighed before leaving her stuff on the bed and followed him out. "Get in the car."

She was confused by his instructions, but didn't argue. She just did as she was told, sitting in the front seat as he joined her.

"Are you feeling okay?" she asked him. "Your head, I mean. It looked like you hit the wall pretty hard."

"I'll be fine. Trust me, Sam and I know how to check for concussions," he told her.

"I'm sorry," she breathed. "I should have had better control..."

"Yeah… well, I wasn't exactly making things easy for you," he stated before leaning his seat back. "You're right, I've been locking you up. Anyone would get mad about that. The world is a dangerous place, but hiding you away from it isn't the answer. Doesn't mean I'm going to let you hunt. That stunt with the nixie, you don't ever do that again."

"I saved your life," she objected, but he only gave her an infuriating grin.

"I'd have gotten out of it," he told her, causing her to huff. "So here's the deal, how about I teach you some other stuff? There's a lot more to being on the road then just hunting. Working on cars, hustling guys in pool, counting cards, all sorts of things."

She didn't know if it was an honest attempt at bonding or he was just trying to placate her, but she nodded her head slowly. Either way, she was happy to accept it.

"Alright, in return, maybe you could share some stuff with me. Don't be surprised, but I don't know that much about Greek mythology. Although, there is one thing I remember about it, has to even do with that Hades guy who runs the afterlife. One of the rivers there, it's named the Styx, right?"

"Yeah. How did you know that?" she asked him, feeling confused.

"Well, just so happens one of the greatest bands in the world took that name," he said as he reached into the back seat and pulled out some tapes, putting in an old worn looking one. "And that's another thing I'm going to teach you, great taste in music."

She fell silent as she listened, the sound of a piano and slow singing filled the air, a ballad about going out to the sea for freedom to face life as it came. To her surprise her father sang along, terribly out of key, but she didn't think she could do much better even if she knew the words. Jumping a little when it suddenly picked up, horns and a drum set blared out loudly from the speakers with a guitar. It was suddenly much less slow and thoughtful as it sprang to life and he belted out the words.

"A gathering of angels appeared above my head! They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said! They said come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me lads!" he sang as he suddenly wrapped an arm around her and pulled her into a one armed hug. The whole car suddenly felt alive with the music, sweeping her away along with it.

She found herself hesitantly joining in at the chorus, the only words she knew. He looked over at her with a smile and a sparkle in his eyes, a look of pure acceptance that shook her to her very core. At that moment, she knew he saw her as his daughter and always would no matter what mistakes she made. Her voice got louder in her joy until they were both practically yelling to the lyrics.

"Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me!" they sang together, not giving a damn about who they might be waking up with the noise or that her voice, like his, was not in any way able to carry a tune. It didn't matter. The fight didn't matter. His over-protectiveness didn't matter. Her anger didn't matter.

She was home, and if that home was just stolen cars and dinky hotels, then so be it. There was no where else she'd rather be than right here in his arms.

Chapter Text

Sam had to roll his eyes from the file he was looking over while Dean did his best not to snicker as Emma looked over her cards, her expression a little too intense as she peered at her hand. If she stared any harder she was going to set the thin cardboard on fire. The way her nose scrunched up in concentration was kind of cute but she couldn't have a more obvious tell if she'd tried.

"You got nothing," he said tauntingly before she threw her cards down in annoyance as he laid out the hand of a straight flush. True to his assumption, she had a single pair and basically just junk.

"H-hey! That's the fifth ten that was pulled in our game!" she pointed out. "And you've got an 8 and I've got two myself when three were already pulled in the last session! You're carrying extra cards!"

"And you're finally counting them properly," he said with a smirk as he snapped his fingers. "Pay up."

She scowled and pushed the rest of her candy at him, little fun sized Reese's peanut butter cups. She didn't even have one left, and he plucked one up and unwrapped it before popping it into his mouth.

"Next you just have to learn to stack the deck properly," he said with a grin before he picked up all the discarded cards from the previous hands and started to shuffle them.

"Blackjack might be more her speed," Sam stated as he looked over the bloodied pictures of killed remains of the women they were here to investigate. He didn't bother to pull Dean from the game, figuring the man needed a little lighthearted fun and also it was the deal they had with Emma. To keep her from getting too bored Dean had started giving her 'lessons' as it were, mostly how to con people out of their money. She'd been fairly good at pool once she'd been shown the basics, but card games still eluded her. She was decent at the rules but she couldn't bluff to save her life, and while she always knew afterward her father was cheating, she still couldn't figure out how and never caught him in the act as much as she tried.

Sam wouldn't have enjoyed watching so much if it didn't remind him of all the times Dean had ripped him out of candy while teaching him how to play. He found himself smiling at the memory of it, his sixteen year old brother severely trouncing him at just twelve years old and scarfing down the M&Ms before snorting and giving him half anyway. Sure enough, his brother scooted a few pieces over to her and she stopped scowling.

For a tough guy, he sure was a softie when he wanted to be.

"What's blackjack?" she asked, clearly thinking anything was better than poker.

"Game where you have cards added up until you hit twenty-one," Dean explained. "Not a lot of people play it besides in casinos. A lot of rules that favor the house or the dealer, but I can show it to you if you want."

"When am I going to learn how to drive?" she asked enthusiastically. "You said we'd start on cars next week."

"Car maintenance," he corrected. "I still have to get you a learner's permit."

"A fake learner's permit," she pointed out. "You could just print me out one now."

"Later," he replied before the door of their hotel room suddenly knocked. He and Sam looked at each other in concern as Sam silently pulled a gun from his bag. "Emma, get in the bathroom. There's a window in there. If you hear us yell, you run for it."

The girl didn't argue, quickly scrambling up and to the bathroom as silently as possible. He and Sam had already explained to her they were in this town to hunt a demon they thought they'd long since taken care of and sent back to Hell, and she was not to risk herself in any way. They'd only just arrived tonight though. Had the thing found them already?

Sam opened the door a crack to see a woman at the door, pushing a cart of toilet paper and other such items to restock the room. Middle aged and a little plump, she smiled at him in a way that did not at all reassure him. What was she doing here so late at night?

"Room service," she said as she held up the towels. "Didn't get to restock your room earlier. Need anything?"

"No… uh, well some extra towels," he said before he looked to Dean who had his own pistol out in case things got dicey. He mouthed holy water to him and his brother nodded, immediately grabbing some for his pocket. Thank God for paranoia. "Yeah, some extra towels will be fine."
He handed over his gun to grab the flask of water before opening the door open further and flinging the water in her face. Which led to nothing but drenching the woman and causing her caked on make up to start running down her face.

"Well I never!" she snapped at him, looking pissed and oddly terrifying for someone who was just human and a heavy lady well into her forties. A sort of beat you with a wooden spoon kind of terrifying.

"Oh! Oh, I'm sorry! I tripped… uh..." he said, feeling baffled as he looked at her name tag. "Uh… Madison?"

"Gee, that sounds so oddly familiar," Lucifer piped in from behind Sam. "Wasn't there someone you knew with that name? Mmm, what was it? Oh, she was a dog you bred! Remember how she had to get shot, Old Yeller style? Man, are rabies a bitch."

"Ma'am, I am so sorry," he said, trying to ignore Lucifer before towels were literally thrown at his face and the maid stomped off in a huff. "Right… not a demon then..."

"Dunno. She looked angry enough to be one," Dean chuckled as he yanked them off of his head. "Emma, coast is clear. You can come out now."

"No skin rider?" she asked as she poked her head out of the bathroom.

"Nah, we're good," he said before he slapped Sam on the back. "Ain't that right, Sammy?"

Sam didn't say anything, staring out into the night before he closed the door slowly.

"Sam? You okay?" Dean asked.

"Her name..." he said softly.

"Yeah, what about it?"

"Dean, her name was Madison," he breathed softly. For a moment Dean didn't seem to understand the significance before understanding shown in his eyes. Though there was sympathy, there seemed to be confusion too.

"Dude, Madison was years ago," his brother pointed out. "Is that really still bothering you?"

Sam shook his head, not quite sure what to say. He'd been noticing things lately, small things since the last hunting trip with the nixie. Little… hunches, he supposed. On the other hand he was being mentally harassed by a demon living in his head. Just coincidences, he was sure.

"It's nothing," he said with a shake of his head before he went back to the file. "Just forget it."

"Sam, when is it ever just nothing?" Dean asked, following him. "In fact whenever we say it's nothing it's something huge. So what the hell is going on? Come on, talk to me."

"Yeah, go on, Sam. Unload the tragic back story," Lucifer cooed before Sam squeezed at his hand. It was worrying him how much he had to do that now, how frequently he kept popping up and how much shorter the trick seemed to keep him at bay each time.

He sat down on the bed and looked up to his brother and niece, both of them seeming confused. Swallowing thickly, he wished he felt touched by their concern. Instead all he felt was this sense of wrongness in his own head. He was going insane, he was sure of it.

"When we stopped for gas, there was this girl who… uh… she started to chat me up while I was paying," he admitted. "Even gave me her phone number."

"Well, shit, you should have said something. I could have waited around for you to take her out on a lunch break or something," Dean replied. "So what's the problem? I mean, you moved on and..."

He trailed off when Sam pulled the paper out of his pocket and handed it to his brother.

"Oh… yeah that's a little weird," he admitted as he looked it over.

"What? What is it?" Emma asked as she peeked around him to try and see. After a moment she just looked confused again. "I don't get it."

On the scrap of paper along with a phone number the name Lori was scrawled out.

"It's not like it's an uncommon name, man," Dean stated. "So what?"

"So what? Dean, first it was a witness named Amy, then a girl who won't let me leave until I take her number named Lori, and now a Madison?" he asked. "Don't you think that's a little weird?"

"Sam, there are hundreds of girls with those names. You probably ran into three or four Bettys and a Veronica or two, doesn't mean you got turned into Archie or something," his brother said. "I mean, I'm sure you bumped into a dozen Sarahs without even knowing it before."

"So close together?" Sam asked.

"Sam, you've been stressed ever since we found out about these killings starting up again. Heck, you've been stressed since before then. It's just getting to you," he said. "I mean, think about the girl we met at the bridge. Did you even blink when you heard her name?"

Admittedly no. It was such a common name he hadn't even notice, too busy working on the case to think about it. Only in retrospect had it worried him. Maybe Lori and Madison had only caught his attention because they were a little more rare. So why didn't it ease his heart to know that?

Emma looked between the two, clearly wanting to know what was going on, but the longer the silence dragged on the more put out she seemed before she fell to her bed.

"Maybe I am stressed," he admitted. They'd investigated for less, but they were already in the middle of something. Guilt had a way of chewing up his insides, he knew that. "I think I'm going to get some sleep. Good night guys."

As he settled down, he heard his niece ask in a whisper what was going on, only for Dean to tell her they were just old girlfriends and just go to bed. Not exactly accurate but he wasn't going to correct it. He pretended to be asleep as the bed dipped down, his brother laying next to him. An unfortunate turn since resting in the same bed as his teenage daughter was completely out of the question, but it was certainly still awkward this way. He finally drifted off after what seemed to be forever, groaning a little when the police scanner went off to announce another woman found dead.

Great, just great.

 


 

If Sam thought it would do any good he'd have hit himself for being such an idiot. He couldn't believe he'd been so foolish, acted without thinking. He'd let Lucifer in, talked to him, listened to him and for what? Finding his brother hadn't been that hard. Going back to the apartment of Jeffery should have been his first course of action when he couldn't get a hold of Dean. It hadn't even been that difficult of a trail to follow from his place to Nora and if he'd been thinking clearly he would have gone to her anyway on the suspicion that she'd sent them to Jeffery in the first place.

Now he was sitting in the hotel room, fire burning up around him in his own mind as the devil he'd been stupid enough to let tempt him into helping screamed in his ear. Dean and Emma were both asleep, the teenager restless after they'd come home from work to see her father worse for wear. No doubt it would be harder to get her to keep still now, worry over what would happen if she weren't there which was the last thing Dean would want. Things were all piling up, getting to be impossible to ignore. Driving his hands into his hair, he stood up suddenly. He had to get away, had to clear his head, to do something to get Lucifer to shut up. Maybe a walk would calm down his mind, get him tired enough to let him sleep. The door clicked shut behind him as he set off in a brisk pace, willing himself to outrun the nightmare living inside his own head.

It was too late at night for much of anything to be open, the lights off in every business shut off and leaving the streets dark besides for flickering streetlamps. He did his best to ignore Lucifer as he skipped along beside him and did his best to seem as obnoxious as possible. In vain he squeezed the scar on his hand, willing it to stop even as he knew it was fruitless. Agony choked up in his throat, wanting a relief, anything at all to leave him be.

The only thing open was a small diner and he walked in immediately. There were a few other patrons, most of them dressed like him in layers for the cold and with trucker hats on or books set out in front of them. A late night crowd for an all night place, the few waitresses around serving coffee and chatting amicably to their customers. Sam slid down into a booth and grabbed a menu, wondering if a full stomach would help him rest. It had just occurred to him he hadn't eaten all day, not since breakfast and it had been just a quick muffin with coffee as they'd rushed to the crime scene and followed trails of clues on this mystery.

He glanced up and saw two of the waitresses whispering to one another in a way that wasn't at all subtle, grins on their faces before glancing back down at his menu. He had no idea how he always attracted women at the precise moment he was in no shape to be able to handle the flirting. Dean was almost always on, ready to flash a smile with a wink and make the girl feel like a million dollars. Even when he didn't get laid, he seemed to enjoy the interaction, the fun banter with teasing remarks. It was rare for Dean to walk away from any interaction with a girl in regret, any attention seeming to be good for him.

Sam found it exhausting, and his current state of mind was not helping the matter. His thoughts were on Madison, the girl he'd failed to save. He'd fallen for her hard and fast in just a few days, sure he could help her. When she'd been a possible victim he'd been determined to save her life and when they'd realized found out the truth, he'd been determined to save her humanity. It hadn't worked… and when it had all failed…

"You shot her," Lucifer said. "Man up and say it. Own it."

He wanted to scream at Lucifer to shut up, but the last thing he wanted was to get thrown out for acting insane, so he ignored him and forced himself to look down at the menu again until he heard the clack of heels approach him. He risked a glance up to see a blond girl with her hair tired up in a braid, smiling at him, her hand moving over her blouse to smooth it out before slipping into her pocket. He felt a little wary, wondering if she'd had something in her hand or if had just been his imagination that she'd curled her fingers around something.

"Need some coffee?" she asked him kindly. "You look exhausted."

"Uh… no," he said with a shake of his head. "No, actually can't sleep."

"We have non-caffeinated tea," she offered him. "Little honey and milk, always puts me right to sleep after my shift. We've also got a turkey special right now. A few left over birds from Thanksgiving that we thawed out and cooked today, you know. Could get you a plate."

"Thanks. Thanks, that'd be great," he agreed with a nod of her head.

"You know, you could get her number," Lucifer said with a leer. "She asked for this table, you know. Thought you were handsome. Bet you could talk her into spreading herself on the counter, if you try hard enough. Hell, she looks like the easy type. Then again, knowing your luck a monster will just end up clawing her insides out cause you can't keep it in your pants."

The man glared at his hallucination before turning his head away. Don't react, don't let him in any deeper. He kept the chant firmly in his head as he waited for his meal to arrive. The archangel wasn't making it at all easy, but he was determined to get through this. When the waitress came back, she looked at Sam before glancing over at the other seat. He felt terrified when her expression turned into a slight frown and she called over her shoulder to the other waitress.

"I'm going to take my fifteen," she said suddenly and sat down on the other end of the booth, right where Lucifer had been a moment ago. He was too shocked by it when she suddenly snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Look at me."

This was a trick, another trick, it had to be. Before he could react though, she took his hand in her own and held it down to the table with a surprising amount of strength.

"You need to relax. At this rate you're going to burn yourself out. Just breathe," she said to him, her tone now much firmer than it had been when she'd first approached. "This guilt is pointless. None of them were your fault. Don't listen to him."

"How do you-"

"Look, I don't have much control like this, so shut up and listen to me," she snapped. "This is going to eat you alive if you let it. The last thing you need is to let this take over. Those girls are not your fault."

The waitress wasn't herself, that much was clear, but just as he was about to wonder if it was a demon or angel that had suddenly taken her over, she seemed to come back to it, snapping her hand back as if it had been Sam holding hers down to the table.

"What just… I… excuse me," she said as she rushed off from the table, either embarrassed or terrified.

"Or both. Both is always an option," Lucifer muttered, phasing back to where he was sitting. "How the hell did she pull that off?"

Sam was wondering the exact same thing and before the other waitress came up, looking concerned, as did the other patrons.

"Sir, is there an issue here?" she asked, her tone a little on edge.

"Uh, no. No, not at all," he said softly. "She just sat down and… I don't know what happened."

"Right. Well, enjoy your meal," she said as he looked at her and realized there was a name tag on her shirt in the exact same place his previous waitress had palmed, taking it off as she had approached him. Why? To keep him from seeing her name? "Jessica can handle someone else while I serve you."

He jumped up so fast it sent the plate and drink falling to the floor, causing the girl to jump back in surprise.

"What the hell is your problem?!" she demanded angrily before Sam rushed past her and out of the diner as fast as his legs could carry him. Not her, not her of all people, God, not Jesse. He grabbed his phone with shaking hands and dialed his brother, praying for him to answer.

"Sammy?" his brother asked in a sleepy groan on the other end of the line. "Hey, what's up? Why aren't you here?"

"Dean, listen to me," he said, stopping underneath of a streetlamp several blocks and a couple turns down. If anyone planned to come after the crazed guy in the diner then they wouldn't find him easily. "Dean, I think I saw Jessica."

"What?! Sam, where are you?" Dean said as he heard frantic rustling, no doubt his brother getting dressed to come and get him. "What happened? What's going on?"

"There was a girl, she had her name… Dean, I don't know what's going on," he breathed out heavily.

"Look, tell me where you are. I'll come pick you up," he instructed. "Emma, get up. Start packing, we might need to leave! I'll be back in five minutes! Sammy, damn it, talk to me! Where are you?"

He took a deep breath, reading out the street corners to him as he covered his face with his free hand. The frantic feeling was starting to leave him. Talking to his brother gave him something to focus on, something real. It helped him calm down, focus himself.

The squeal of the tires alerted him to his brother pulling up hurriedly to him. Despite no one chasing him, he got in quickly and let himself relax a little.

"Sammy, you alright?" he asked, to which he shook his head.

"No, no I'm not," he breathed. "She didn't look like her… I mean, she was blond but that was about it. Nothing else, just her name. She tried to hide it… think she was possessed for a second. I don't know."

"Alright, come on. We're getting out of here. Whatever is after you we'll smoke it once we know what it is," he said as he pushed his foot to the gas. It seemed that whatever was following Sam was now a very real concern for his older brother and not just seen as a case of an overactive imagination.

They reached the hotel, intent to just leave without even bothering with a check out, when they saw the door was open. Dean immediately jumped out of the car and ran to it, Sam not very far behind. He didn't even need to ask to know his brother had not left it that way.

He nearly crashed into the other man when he stopped just inside, gun drawn and pointed at the figure that stood there, Emma pressed up against the opposite wall and looking terrified. Not that Sam blamed her in any way, this thing looked terrifying. A woman stood in the middle of the room, glancing over at the pair of them curiously. At least the expression looked curious. It was hard to tell with her eyes, a deep red set of pools with no irises to speak of. Her build was humanoid but even a glance could tell she wasn't, her skin a chalky white that was in no way natural and smeared black markings under her eyes that reached down to her jaw, as if she'd had heavy eye make-up on and had been crying. Deep red hair flowed to her shoulders, thick and seeming to shift despite the lack of any kind of breeze.

"I didn't expect you back so soon. I-"

It was all she managed before Dean opened fire, hitting her three times right into the chest and leaving marks of it one the red dress she wore. She looked down before sighing and rubbed at her forehead, her hands and part of her arms covered in the same black marking as under her eyes.

"Can you please not do that?" she asked, her tone annoyed before she curled her hand inward, inviting them in. Dean glared at her, already digging out for his knife before she frowned.

"Enough," she said as they were suddenly pulled forward against their will and she waved her hand to slam the door shut. "Carry on like that and people are going to hear you. Silence spells aren't exactly a specialty of mine."

"Who are you?" Dean snapped. "I swear if you hurt Emma, I'll tear you in two!"

"Funny, I was here to say the same thing to you," she retorted before turning to the girl. "How much do they know about me?"

"Please, don't hurt them," Emma pleaded instead. "It's not their fault, I ran away."

"So you keep saying," the creature said. "Recon jobs, man I hate them. Okay, look, I think we all got off on the wrong foot. I'm not here to cause any trouble. It's actually a job that brought me here. I've just been trying to gauge the crime I was sent here to judge, that's all."

"Crime?" Sam asked. "What crime? Just who are you?"

"My name is Megaera, one of the Eumenides, the kindly ones. You might also know me as a fury," she replied. "I'm a demon from Hades, the underworld."
If she had expected that to calm Dean down, she had been sadly mistaken. Sam saw him grip his knife tighter before she quickly held up her hands.

"Wait, wait," she insisted. "Calm down. I know how you people in these lands feel about those with that name, but I'm not what you think I am. I'm just here on a job to protect an innocent. You hunters of all people should be able to understand that. Just let me explain for a moment."

"You got two minutes," he snarled angrily.

"I find and punish those who have committed crimes. My sisters and I each have a role we fulfill depending on the crime that happened. One of the ones that falls to my jurisdiction is theft," she explained. "I was invoked and summoned to take the Amazon back to her sisters and kill the one who stole her. I've been following you, trying to see if the crime had actually happened or not."

"What?" Sam asked, disbelievingly. "No one stole Emma. We just took her with us."

"She's been saying the same thing since I got here, but I'd only been here a couple of minutes before you arrived. I'd planned to read her mind and leave if that was the truth," she stated. "She might have been coerced to lie or fear for her life against some threat you made against her. It didn't look good on your end, by the way. Keeping her locked up in the room all the time, I was sure she was a prisoner, but every time I tried to spy on you three to get information there wasn't a vessel around I could use."

"Vessel? Then that girl back there..."

"Jessica. Yes. See, I'm not like your demons. I can't just snag anyone I want, and my actions in them are very limited. This is my physical body, not smoke like those little former human mongrels. I'm much more complicated then they are, but my abilities are also very different. See, I can get inside someone to watch from the outside, but they have to be connected to the one I'm watching, a thread of guilt holding you and them together, and you are carrying around a whole list of guilt in your head over girls you've failed. So I waited until they'd come around, sneak in and see if I could figure out what was going on."

"You were tormenting my brother? What, for kicks?" Dean asked angrily.

"No, because I didn't want to show up personally if I didn't have to," she informed him angrily. Despite her taking the time to explain, she didn't seem to be in a very nice mood. Sam had to wonder how the hell she got the name kindly one in the first place. "The Amazons invoked me and told me about how Emma was missing. They came back to collect her body once they thought it was safe to move and found her gone, then called me because they were sure you'd kidnapped her. I had to get in close to see if it were true, but there was never a time I could that you three were together. You constantly kept her separated from you when I had chances to get close. I was about to try with the maid before you started splashing her and she wasn't going to go back unless I forced it. I decided in the end just to show up physically even if it did make you overreact."

"You saw Lucifer though… didn't you. When that waitress talked to me..."

She sighed and crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head.

"I've done you a disservice, and I'm sorry," she said sincerely, surprising both brothers. They didn't think they'd ever had a demon say it was sorry to them before. Mark that up for the history books. "The easiest links to follow was yours, Sam. Your guilt has been eating you alive since Amy Ponds. You feel wrong for not saving her, for telling Dean about her."

Sam tried not to look as his brother glanced over at him, not wanting to know if he was angry at him now or not.

"I see it in your head what is going on, and I wanted to try and relieve you of that burden. Guilt over a mistake and guilt over a crime is different. I wanted you to know you weren't at fault. It caused me to push the mortal girl farther than just looking through her eyes. If I gave you the idea I was out to hurt you, then I really do apologize. That's not my job to torment those who don't deserve it."

"Oh, but you're here to kill me?" Dean asked. "To take Emma away and fight me? I'll freaking bury you if you so much as try it."

"That all depends on if you've done what the Amazons accused you of or not. I'm a tool of justice, not vengeance, not anymore. If you didn't steal her, then you didn't commit any crime, which is why I was investigating in the first place," she informed him testily. She seemed to have much less sympathy and patience for the older brother than she did Sam.

"I told you though, he didn't steal me. I came on my own. The Amazons left me," Emma insisted, having been mostly quiet this whole time. "You can't take me back to them, please. I want to stay with my father."

The fury paused for a moment before indicating Emma to come closer. She didn't move for a second, before taking a hesitant step toward the demon before Dean shoved himself in the way.

"Leave her alone," he snarled.

"I'm just going to look into her mind. It's not going to hurt her," Megaera stated coolly.

"I don't give a damn. I don't need your permission to keep my own damn daughter," he said angrily.

"If you didn't steal her, then I don't care what she does or who she stays with," she replied.

"Father, it's okay," Emma assured him as she took a hold of his arm in both her hands. "Please, just let me do this."

He didn't look like he was happy with the idea, but he eventually stood aside, though his grip on his knife was so tight Sam couldn't help but feel it was like watching a barely contained spring, struggling to launch out. The fury looked down at Emma, placing her hands on either side of her cheeks. The black markings seemed to seep into her skin, causing the girl to shudder before the fury suddenly broke away and gasped.

"What, what is it?" Sam asked hurriedly

"I… I didn't realize the claim on her," the she-demon breathed out. "This… this is above my usual work."

"What are you talking about?" Dean asked.

"She is yours," Megaera said with a shake of her head. "She did go with you willingly when the Amazons abandoned her. I'm actually glad of that. Tearing her away from you isn't something I'd want on my shoulders. I'd looked into some of your memories over your guilt, but I didn't realize just who you were."

"Alright, stop speaking in riddles and-" Dean said before she cut him off.

"I mean that your daughter has very mixed and dangerous bloodline, and because of that the gods and someone else have equal claim on her fate," she told him. "I'll go back to the Amazons and inform them they have no case and that I will not engage you. If they don't like it they can track you three themselves. I don't get paid enough to start trifling with a child who has the bloodline of the vessel of Michael inside her. Let the gods sort that one out."

The second the words left her mouth, she was gone, as if she'd never been there in the first place. Dean and Sam looked around quickly, but there was no sign of her except for the slightly wafting smell of brimstone lingering in the room.

Sam wasn't sure what to do in response to those words, and from the look on Dean's face, neither did he. Only one thing broke the damning silence that pressed down on both of them.

"Who's Michael?" Emma asked out softly.

Chapter Text

The cabin felt cold, despite the heat being turned on to full blast. Winter seemed to be coming on strong now, and every time the door or windows creaked when a cold gust of wind came it felt like it seeped through just to seek Emma out. Her father had bought her a few things for the weather, sweaters and leggings to wear under her jeans along with a coat instead of her normal tan jacket, but it wasn't helping much. The whole place seemed cold to her, the feeling had been following her for a while now, that numb, sickly feeling of getting bad news.

There had been too much bad news lately. It was starting to make her feel numb and helpless, not a sensation she could say she was fond of.

Dean had told her about the monsters, the Leviathans, but seeing them up close had been terrifying. She wasn't supposed to get involved, just along in the truck to haul away cursed antiques and making a fast stop to help out the store owner. They hadn't booked a hotel in the town yet and so she'd had no place to go when Dean had received the call in the coffee shop that Scott Freeman had looked in a mirror and had apparently been cursed.

"Safe enough for you to come along. Don't touch anything," he told her firmly. Ever since the incident with the fury, he refused to let her get out of sight for longer than five minutes at a time, seeming more scared to leave her behind than to risk bringing her with. So far there hadn't been anything more dangerous than a pair of shoes, so she'd been allowed to follow along under proper supervision. Then when they'd rushed in… those two monsters saw the three of them… Emma had never seen something so terrifying before and had been no help at all in the sudden fight. Even when she'd tried to attack the thing lunging at her father, she'd been grabbed and overpowered as if she had no more strength than a normal human in a shocking display of power from the creature. Tossed through a door before she'd even had time to react, Dean had been thrown in after and crashed right into her. She remembered him screaming at her to run, trying to get between her and the Leviathan even as he winced in pain over splintered wood and shattered glass. If it hadn't been for Sam decapitating the creature before she could get too close Emma didn't know what would have happened.

Her partner seemed more than willing to let them go, and while Dean didn't like the thought of any of those things knowing the face of Emma, he didn't seem curious at all about her. He was more than willing to eat his boss and be done with it, explaining their plans for this place to cure cancer and promise not to even tell anyone that they'd been here. The Winchesters would have loved to kill him too, but with no way to feasibly do it, they were kind of stuck. The male one would have to eat his boss to keep her dead and then there would be no one to take care of him. In the end Dean had pushed Emma to the truck with him following behind, eager to get out of the town and get to Frank.

There had been so much blood in the trailer, so much broken in there, despite there being no body they were all sure that the hacker was long dead and gone. Her father had cursed and kicked a cupboard and had seemed defeated by the whole mess.

None of that compared to Sam though.

He'd been admitted to the psyche ward only a short time ago, a couple days. Hit by a car, locked up, and no way to get him out even though no one in there could help him. Her uncle had looked so lost, so hopeless about everything, laying in the bed in that hospital and just looking like he was waiting for it to all stop while his brother looked on at him and seeming just as lost.

Her eyes flickered up as she watched her father make call after call, pacing around the cabin and grab another beer from the fridge. Dean was determined to save Sam but it didn't seem like he was having any luck and the stress was clearly starting to get to him.

"That's your third one already," she commented softly. She didn't know what else to do. She wanted to help but how could she? This all seemed to much for her, too big and huge.

"Yeah, well I can't drink and talk on the phone at the same time or I'd be up a couple higher," he said without a laugh. The teenager got the feeling he wasn't telling a joke and just looked down at her lap, feeling admonished. "Wait… Emma..."

She felt the seat sink down as he sat down next to her. For a while he didn't say anything, neither of them did, but she leaned in and rested her head on his shoulder.

"It's going to be okay, Father," she breathed to him as she hugged him.

"You shouldn't be the one telling me that," he whispered, hugging her back. "No kid should have to tell their dad that… ever. I'm the one who's supposed to worry about this stuff."

"It's a lot different than fighting a nixie," she confessed. "That hunt… it made me feel like I was ready for this but..."

She shut her eyes tight, trying not to think about her uncle in that hospital, right on death's door. It had never really hit her just how scary that could be, being that worried about someone, feeling so hopeless. Them being nearly drowned had worried her but here there were no monsters to fight, no way just to beat the problem down. Her strength would do her no good here. It was starting to occur to her that fear had to be something Dean lived with every day. There wasn't a moment anymore he didn't look at her without worry shining in his eyes.

"I'm gonna save him, Emma. Nothing is going to happen," he promised her. "There's a cure out there. Just had to find the right info. That's all."

He patted her on the head before he got back up and went back to going over the list, making yet another call and leaving a message. It didn't seem like a lot of these people answered their phones right away, a real problem since they were short on time.

"Uncle said the fury was able to make the visions go away," she stated. "Maybe she could help?"

He glanced at her, opening his mouth to surely say no before he sighed and waved his hand for her to continue.

"Don't really know a lot about that kind of demon, but at this rate… tell me about them. Do they heal people?" he asked her. It said something about how desperate he was that he was willing to hear her out on this instead of just refusing. He had not liked the fury at all, grabbing their things and driving them out of town the second she'd left. There hadn't ever been an explanation on what had spooked her so badly or who Michael was, and the Amazon had not had it in her to ask again. The most she'd ever gotten was that it was someone dangerous but who was locked away and couldn't hurt her or anyone.

She was too frazzled at this point to even want to know anyway. They kept so much from her, what exactly was wrong with Sam, what was keeping him up, who all these enemies were that would surely hurt her if they knew about her existence. It didn't really bother her anymore. Her father had too much on his plate for her to badger him and demand information he did not want to give.

"They're not really known for their healing, no," she admitted. It was probably a long shot but what other option was there right now? "They are three of them. Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera all sisters that live in the underworld. They punish the guilty and each one of them is responsible for different crimes. They used to be just creatures of vengeance, but now serve justice under the supervision of Athena and the other gods, and must prove the one charged with the crime guilty before they punish them. She said herself though that Sam wasn't guilty. Maybe she can get rid of whatever is hurting him. Is it some kind of punishment that he's suffering from?"

"Seems we've been getting punished our whole damn lives," Dean sighed. "Doesn't sound like a lot to go on but what else we got? How do we get in contact with her?"

"I… I don't know. I wasn't taught any summoning rituals before I was sent after you," she said. "I don't even know if she'd come. It's not like we have a crime to accuse someone of, but if my sisters think you kidnapped me and told her that to enlist her help, that might be part of the requirements."

He paused for a second before nodding.

"Get on the computer and start looking it up. I'll keep making calls and look through some books while I'm at it," he said. "Good thinking, Emma."

She brightened up and nodded before rushing to the laptop and tried to find something useful for them to use. The feeling of the cold picked up again, her breath coming out visible for a second but she ignored it and only tugged her coat on tighter. She saw her father reach for the flask by the computer before she grabbed it and moved it out of his way.

"Father… please. You need to be able to focus for Sam," she said to him. He gave her a look before snatching it up anyway and taking a swig. Well, she had tried.

An hour of searching did not bring up the results she was looking for, mostly finding websites for information of legends but nothing about actually getting in contact with one. She was starting to wonder if she was just wasting time when a book suddenly landed down in front of her, causing her to jump.

"Can you read this?" he asked her, pointed to the words. There was a picture of three woman screeching as they flew down over a man running away that looked remarkably similar to Megaera's form, the words under the picture in a script that was not English.

"Yes!" she cried out happily. "This is Attic Greek. It was used in Attica, where Athens was and Athena worshiped most prominently. I was taught these letters by Mother!"

She quickly scanned the book, running her fingers over the page. Despite not knowing the language, Dean had been right on the mark from the looks of this. It had all the information she needed for a summoning and she quickly went to the cupboards to grab jars and candles.

"Do we even have everything we need or do I need to go out and get some supplies?" Dean asked.

"No, everything is here. Looks like all the ingredients are pretty common things."

"That's convenient. About time we got some luck around here."

"Considering everyone who calls them are victims, people down on their luck, it was probably done that way to ensure they could summon the furies. It wouldn't do any good to say you needed the spring waters or a mountain half way around the world or something like that," she guessed.

"So what do we do?"

"We'll need chalk to draw on the floor, about five feet of space," she told him. "The symbol is right on the page. Get that copied down and I'll get the ingredients set up. This shouldn't take long."

He shoved furniture aside to make room and began drawing, checking the book several times to make sure he got it right while she put the materials in a mortar bowl and began to crush them. Once they were both ready, she pulled her knife from her pants but he grabbed her wrist to stop her.

"Let me guess, you have to bleed to complete the spell?" he asked her.

"Yes. It's part of the spell. I cut myself and get the blood on these herbs, then set it on fire. If she hears my call then she'll come," she said. "I have a better chance of getting her attention than you do."

"Alright," he said after a moment. "Give me the knife. I don't want you to cut yourself too deep."

The likelihood of that happening was beyond remote. She knew how to handle her weapon, but she didn't argue and instead handed it to him. Holding her palm in one of his hands, he breathed for a moment as he gripped the golden blade in the other, seeming like he was preparing himself for it. She was just about to tell him she could handle it on her own but he finally set the blade to her skin and drug it over her palm. She winced a bit, being reminded of her initiation, but otherwise stood firm. This was not the same as that, not in the slightest. That had been forced on her. She was more than willing to bleed for her family, would endure pain if it would mean saving her uncle.

"Okay, do it," he said with a nod. She grabbed the crushed herbs and worked it between her hands, getting them as covered as she could before placing them in the middle of the circle. Once done, he grabbed a water bottle to wash off her hand and wrapped it up in some cloth. He struck a match and threw it on the pile before nodding to her.

Emma took a deep breathe before she picked up the book and began to read. The air around her seemed to heat up and the smell of brimstone filled her nostrils. Her eyes began to water, wanting to cough from the strength of it. The words got harder to speak, her throat beginning to burn. A sudden fit hit her as the smoke rose up, more than there should have been from such a small fire, making her cough and choke as she tilted back. Dean grabbed her shoulders and held her steady and she forced herself to get out the last of it as loud as she could. She jumped back into his chest when a fire suddenly flared up into the room. A form took shape in it before stepping out and Emma tried to keep her watering eyes open as she looked at it.

Megaera stood before them, arching her eyebrow at the sight of the two of them as the flame died down.

"No," she said immediately, turning to the door to leave.

"Oh, no you don't!" Dean snapped, getting in her way. "We called you here for a reason, you barbecued bitch. Don't you even think about walking away from us."

"Whatever you want me involved in, the answer is no. I'm not putting my neck out for you," she replied coldly. "May I remind you that you shot me? Even if you hadn't, the three of you are way too much trouble for me to risk getting involved. More than that, it's against rules."

"What rules?" he asked, irritated.

She pointed at him, touching his chest lightly, right over his heart.

"Your soul has been claimed, Dean Winchester. We know all about how you prevented the end of the world, but it doesn't mean heaven and hell don't still consider you as their property. It wouldn't be wise of anyone outside of that jurisdiction to try and interfere or take you as their own. I've no interest in sticking my neck out and risk the wrath of your angels or my gods for getting involved and if I did a job for you that is exactly how it could be perceived as. Whoever you want to bring judgment on? Ask elsewhere."

"Wait, I'm the one who summoned you, and I clearly belong to the proper pantheon," Emma interjected. "So that shouldn't matter."

The fury looked less sure of that, her expression softening as she sighed.

"You are… complicated. Technically speaking you are correct, but you are your father's daughter. That muddies the waters a little," she stated.

"All Amazons are daughters of fathers who don't share our faith."

"And usually that wouldn't matter since most of those humans don't have the destinies he did," she scoffed. "However… I will admit you're an interesting one. An Amazon leaving the tribe is all but unheard of. It could be seen as a sign you've chosen-"

"I chose my father but I'm an Amazon as well as any other," she argued fiercely. "I won't allow anyone to say otherwise, not even a servant of the gods. I am proud of my blood and my faith!"

Megaera paused for a moment before putting one black stained finger to her chin, thinking it over before nodding her head.

"Fine. I will hear your request of justice," she stated. "Who wronged you, Emma Winchester?"

"I wasn't wronged really, but you were able to help my uncle before. He said you made his visions go away. He's sick, in a hospital and needs help. If you can banish what's ailing him, I'd be so grateful."

The fury sighed.

"I can't."

"Can't or wont?" Dean asked bitterly.

"Both," she replied honestly. "If Sam is suffering further due to his affliction there's nothing I can do for him. I could banish his guilt, and the images, for a time, but only moments. It would be like taking an aspirin for a broken arm. Whatever little relief it would give would be pointless in the end. Besides, offering remedies is not my job."

"Oh bullshit," he growled.

"It's the truth," she said. "If you believe me or not, it won't change matters. I'm no healer and what little I could do would be of no affect in the long run. I would suggest finding someone else to help you, if you can find it in yourself to ask politely."

He advanced on her, but the fury was already gone. His fist clenched in anger, he took the book from Emma's grasp and threw it against the wall.

"God damn it!" he yelled. "Why is it nothing ever works?! Why is it these uptight pricks can never get off their asses and do anything to help us?!"

"I'm sorry. This was my idea and instead of helping we just wasted time," Emma apologized.

"It's… you were trying to help. It's alright," he said, though she wasn't sure if that was true. "I'm gonna get back to making calls. If you think of anything else, let me know."

"She mentioned angels," she pointed out. "Perhaps you could contact someone of your faith?"

"It's not faith," he muttered. "There's a difference in knowing something is out there and putting your faith in it."

"I don't understand."

"Yeah, well let me put it this way. Those gods and spirits and everything else? They don't care about me. They don't care about Sam. They don't care about you. They use humans, chew them up and spit them out. I know they exist but I don't believe in any of them to make not a single thing better, not unless they can get something out of it."

"Then the angels used you?" she asked. Did this have to do with whoever Michael was?

"They tried to," he breathed before shaking his head. "At least..."

"Father?" she questioned when he hesitated.

It looked like he wanted to say something but she didn't know what. He seemed to be pulling back again but not with the fierce determination of previous refusals to tell her what was going on. He seemed withdrawn, smaller, almost hurt.

"There was one… he was different. He was…" he said before swallowing and rubbing at his face. "Well, he was a dick but he tried. He tried so hard and gave up so much to help me. If there was one I could say I had faith in, it was him. If he had any flaw it was he always took on too much. He felt he had to help, had to always throw himself in the fight no matter how much it risked himself."

"Sounds like you."

"Except in his case it lead him to making some really stupid mistakes."

"I'm not taking back my statement," she informed him, to which he shot her a look. She gave him a small smirk, showing him she was joking before he shook his head and patted her on the shoulder.

"Brat," he muttered. "You're getting a mouth on you. Guess that's my fault. Anyway, guess it's back to work."

"Want me to help make some calls?" she asked but he shook his head.

"I'm having enough trouble getting any information out of them and some of these hunters know me," he informed her. "A young girl calling on the phone with no ready explanation how you know Bobby? Not likely. You didn't even meet him before he died so you'd know nothing about him, and these paranoid sons a bitches love asking questions on details to ensure they're talking to the genuine article. Just leave it to me. Tell you what, why don't you make dinner and then look through some more books. Maybe we can find another being that'd be willing to help us out."

He grabbed the little leather book of contacts before giving it a second thought and tossing it down onto the table to grab another drink. However a breeze seemed to blow by and knock it over, causing Dean to look at it uncertainly.

"Did you..."

"I didn't touch it. I think this place has a draft. I keep feeling chills," she said, though she wasn't so sure. She'd seen it move and a little breeze knocking off a book that thick and heavy seemed unlikely.

He stooped down to pick it up, looking it over before grabbing a small green card for Mackey's Taxidermy. Flipping it over, they saw there was a cell phone number written on it. Though they glanced at each other uncertainly, he quickly pulled out his phone to call.

He waited a while before closing his eyes in annoyance.

"Yeah, hi. Uh… my name's Dean. I'm a friend of Bobby Singer's. Looking for some info. If you could call me back," he said before leaving his contact number. His tone didn't sound very hopeful.

"I'll start on dinner," she said, turning to the kitchen before stopping and suddenly giving him a hug. He could say all he wanted that it wasn't her place to offer him comfort but she wasn't going to listen to that. They needed each other to get through this and she would not allow him to face it alone, even if all she could do was offer small comforts like this.

He hugged her back tightly, resting his chin on the top of her head.

"It's gonna be okay," he breathed though she didn't know if he was talking to her or himself at this point.

She nodded and smiled up at him. Best to keep their spirits up she supposed. Walking off, she started to pull out some cans for dinner. They didn't have a lot, mostly just spaghettios, snack foods and other such junk but it was certainly better than going hungry. Though she was starting to see why he preferred to hit diners as much as possible. It was the closest thing to a home cooked meal they'd ever been able to have on the road. She hadn't had a proper meal like that since her mother had last made her lunch before sending her off for training.

A thought hit her that she probably should have asked the fury for information on her mother and the tribe, maybe where they were or what their reaction to being told she was still alive and a willing traveler to the Winchesters now. She couldn't help but wonder what they would think of that. Then again, it might not have mattered. They did not have the time to track them down now and they'd be long gone from wherever they were staying before she and Dean could arrive even if they did. He might even be stubborn enough to go on his own if he thought it was worth it.

Besides that, she didn't think she cared what the tribe thought of her. Every moment she spent as a Winchester made her care less about her tribe and the horrible things they'd wanted her to do. Yes, she was an Amazon, but she was going to find her own meaning behind her blood, not allow anyone to dictate to her what it meant. She might never be allowed to hunt but she knew who her family was and nothing was going to change that.

Once the meal, such as it was, was heated up, she handed it to him so they could eat, him mostly spooning the food in while looking over websites on the computer. The teenager left him to it, and began to look through the books like she'd been asked to. Not that it helped much. A lot of it she didn't know the language to. She had not yet got to Latin after all. If he knew it, she would have to ask him to teach her sometime or try to learn it on her own.

A couple hours passed and she was just thinking she should check up on him and remind him that sleep would be a good idea when she heard his phone ring. Curious, she sneaked back into the room as quietly as she could, not wanting to make too much noise and distract him. He seemed to be in a conversation with someone, though she couldn't really tell what was being discussed from the short snippets of what her father was saying. After a few moments he went silent except giving a small thank you and hanging up.

"Bad news?" she asked him from the expression on his face, but he was already surging forward to grab his car keys.

"We're going to Colorado," he said. "Now. Grab your coat."

She didn't protest or ask what was going on, knowing by now obeying was the best option. That tone of voice was a rare one from her father, but she'd been through enough with him by now to know it wasn't best to delay him with questions or comments. They sped off down the road quickly and he seemed to be in a rush.

"What's in Colorado?" she asked him, once she felt it was safe enough to mention it.

"Some kind of healer," he replied. "Just got a call back from the number on the card. He said he knows someone who can help us. Emanuel is his name, married to a woman named Daphne. Apparently she sends him out to help people. We're going to try and track him down, pick him up and get him to Sam if it seems like he can cure him."

She didn't ask what they would do if he couldn't. She wasn't sure there would be much more time after that and those were the kind of thoughts she would rather not dwell on.

They only stopped once to grab some coffee before heading out again. As it was, they didn't make arrive until morning and it was a bit out of their way as it was. Even if the healer would come with them right away, it would be nightfall again before they arrived back at the hospital. Emma was starting to feel anxious, the time seeming to slip away faster and faster. Telling herself firmly that in a couple days they could have Sam back was the only thing that kept her sane about the whole issue.

"Should I stay in the car?" she asked as he climbed out.

"No, but stay by the gate. I was told this was legit, but something might still be up. I'd rather talk to this guy for a bit first before I make any judgment calls."

She nodded her head and followed him to the house, staying back a bit as he'd been asked. Though if this was a trap of some kind, the so called healer had found a very quaint and nice place to hole up in. Didn't look very suspicious. Then again, she supposed that might be the point. Not like Lydia's home had come with a sign over it. 'Warning for all men. Sex in this home will result in death.'

Her father went up to the porch and knocked on it, and she watched idly as a man came outside, introducing himself as Emanuel. She wasn't sure what faith healers looked like, but she could only guess he fit the bill. He looked fairly unassuming, though she was shocked when she saw his eyes go black and Dean was suddenly gripped by his jacket and thrown against the door.

Despite knowing he would surely want her to run away, she was about to rush up the steps to try and help him. However before she could even move, she felt someone come up behind her and touch her shoulder. Whirling around to strike out at whoever the backup was, she nearly cried out in pain when she punched the man right in the chin only to feel like she'd smashed her fist right into solid steel. In fact, she was sure steel would have actually given way to her. He didn't even look affected. Wondering if her knife would even do her any good, she didn't even have a chance to draw it before a body rolled down the steps, the demon dead at her feet. Dean looked down at the two of them, shock evident all over his face.

"What was that?" the stranger asked, looking up at her father, though he seemed to be at a loss for words.

"Emma, grab the body. Move it into the bushes," he ordered after a moment as he quickly looked up and down the street. Luckily it seemed like no one had seen the confrontation. She grabbed the body and drug it as quickly into the foliage as she could. It wouldn't remain hidden for long, but no one would see it just walking by.

"I think it might be best to go inside," the stranger said, nodding to the house. She couldn't help but feel he was being awfully calm about seeing someone in front of him getting killed, and her father looked so off kilter. Something was wrong here.

Still, they moved inside where it would be safe to talk and the man moved to a woman tied to a chair, working to undo her bindings. Just what was going on here?

"Did they hurt you?" he asked her.

"I'm okay," she assured him once she was free, reaching up to touch his face tenderly. "But Emanuel, they were looking for you."

"It's okay," he replied as he took her hand and led her to Emma and Dean. He extended his hand to shake but Emma didn't really want to touch him and her father only did so after a moment of hesitation. "I am Emanuel."

"Dean. I'm… I'm Dean," he introduced himself. "This is Emma. She's my… She's my daughter."

The hesitation caused her to wonder but she didn't find herself insulted. Something was off kilter with her father. He didn't seem at all comfortable here and she wasn't sure it was from the fight. He kept staring at the healer, as if he was the cause of all his issues.

"Thank you for protecting my wife," he said, seeming not to notice the stiff mood in the room or at least politely ignoring it.

"You're wife?" Dean asked, almost seeming to stumble over the word. "Right."

"I saw his face," Emanuel confessed to said wife. "His true face."

"He was a demon," Dean said, his tone carrying as if this was supposed to mean something to him.

"A demon walked the earth," he whispered, seeming shocked and horrified at the knowledge.

"Demons," he corrected as if this should already be common knowledge. "Whackloads of them. You don't know about..."

He drifted off, seeming unable or unwilling to continue.

"You saw the demon's true face," Daphne said, smiling a little. Emma felt an itch crawl up her spine as she looked over the woman, something not at all right about how calm she was being about all of this. Something was wrong and no one seemed willing to say it. "Emanuel has very special gifts."

"Yeah. I've heard that about… Emanuel. That you can heal people up."

"I seem able to help to certain degree," he admitted. "What's your issue?"

"My brother," he said. "He needs help. He's in a hospital and no one can help him. You're my last option."

"Of course. I'll do whatever I can to help you, Dean."

Her father seemed to flinch back at those words before mutely nodding.

"Right. Well, let's go then," he said, turning quickly. He couldn't seem to watch the sight of the two as Emanuel drew his wife close in a hug, their foreheads touching gently.

"I need to go. I'll return soon," he promised her.

She smiled and traced a hand down his arm.

"Be safe," she said before she let him go and the healer walked out with them.

Emma cast one last look at Daphne, the sense of unease never leaving her until she finally turned around the left too, the sound of the door closing behind them. She didn't seem the look of pain on the woman's face, sighing as she locked the door slowly.

"I'm never going to see him again, am I?" she asked softly, her fingers trailing over the wood, watching through the window of the door until they were gone.

"Remains to be seen. Probably not. Plans are being rearranged but still doubtful," a clipped voice said behind her. Daphne didn't jump, only sighed again and turned to face who was in her house, a woman with long blond hair and a hard expression on her face. "You've done your part. That's enough. We have others to see to."

"He's going to be hurt out there, won't he?" Daphne asked. "It might have just been common law, but he's still my husband. Of course I'm worried about him. If there's anyway I can still help..."

"You want to help? Him, you can't. Though if you're willing there's another you might need to see to soon. Someone is going to need to be kept safe. If you're that eager, we can give the job to you."

Daphne quickly nodded her head.

"Thank you, Atropos," she breathed. "I won't let you down."

"Right. Just be careful not to get in too deep. You're just a water nymph after all. Not even a match for one demon. The Leviathans are going to eat you alive if you take a wrong step. You sure you don't want to stick to just rescuing Castiel for us?"

"I'll serve the fates however you need me to. If we're allowed to get involved, then I'm getting involved. That Amazon girl opened the door for us. We need to help if we can."

"Don't be so altruistic," Atropos snorted. "If it were up to me, Castiel would have drowned in that river you found him in. If there was ever a spanner in the works it was that lousy angel."

Chapter Text

Cas was alive.

The angel was alive and sitting right next to him in his car, still and silent as a statue and staring ahead at the road without even moving a muscle. It was so much like an angel, so much like how he remembered Castiel that it felt like a punch to the gut. He couldn't help but glance over at him once in a while, looking him as much as he could get away with without taking his eyes off the road for too long. He saw in the rear-view mirror that Emma was laid back against her seat, her eyes twitching but every time it seemed like she was about to fall asleep, she'd jerk herself back awake. He had a feeling she didn't want to miss anything, despite the fact there had not been much time to rest.

"You can sleep, Emma. I got the wheel," he assured her, and though she shook her head, it was a sleepy and sluggish motion.

"Your daughter?" Cas… no Emanuel asked. His tone didn't sound overly curious, more making polite conversation than anything. Dean had felt odd introducing her as such back at the house. Coming face to face angel again, after everything had happened, it had been hard to tell him who she was. He'd expected some kind of reaction and he didn't even know what it would have been. He didn't know how Castiel would have responded to the knowledge Dean now had a daughter and how she'd come about. Understanding? Judgmental? Perhaps he would have just accepted it as another Winchester to protect.

Though… Castiel's protection had been more than a little off balanced lately.

"Yeah," Dean said softly. "Yeah, she's mine."

"She's a beautiful young lady," he said with a kind smile. "A little quick to jump to violence. Though I think I might have scared her before she punched me. I apologize."

"She punched you?" Dean asked, eyebrow arched at the memory of the times he'd taken a swing at Cas and hurt his own hand.

"Oh, no worries. I barely even felt it."

She grunted a bit and shifted, her eyes opening again before sliding shut again. He was getting the feeling she wasn't trying to stay awake out of worry about the road. Was she getting suspicious? She was way too curious about things for her own good. He could imagine a man she couldn't hurt with her fists would be very weird to her.

"Things have been a bit tense with her lately," Dean admitted. "Her… her mom raised her. Kind of made her into a bit of a spitfire. I've got custody now, you could say."

"And you bring her with you to kill demons?" Emanuel asked him. His tone never changed, never left that territory of mild curiosity and yet he felt like he was being judged somehow. It was his own guilt crawling around in his stomach, he told himself firmly. He felt guilty about too damn much these days.

"Not by choice," he replied with a shake of his head. "It's just that with me, it's the safest place for her right now. One day I'm going to find her a nice little hometown to stay in, safe and sound, where she never has to worry about any of this… stuff. It's the best I can do by her as her dad, you know?"

"I really don't," he admitted. "I have no children with Daphne. I would hope that I could be a good father though."

"So Daphne. Is that your wife?" he asked, the horrid reminder in the back of his head. A tense and hot ire flickered into life inside of him, the thought making him feel terribly sick. Anger, it had to be, and it was reasonable enough. Here the angel was, married to some chick and living out a happy little life while Dean had been mourning his death, hurt and angry and confused about all of this mess. He refused to look at it closer, too much on his mind already to give it much attention.

"She found me and cared for me," Emanuel answered.

"Meaning?" Dean asked, more than a little curious. He wanted to know how Castiel had gone from trying to cleanse the world in fire to married in the suburb.

"Oh, it's a strange story. You may not like it."

"Believe me, I will."

"A few months ago she was hiking by the river and I… wandered into her path, drenched and confused and… unclothed," he admitted.

Ah, might have explained why she had taken him in. The vessel of Jimmy Novak was certainly not one to sneer at, that was for sure.

"I had no memory," the angel continued. "She said God wanted her to find me."

"So who named you Emanuel?" he asked, even as he imagined finding the ever absent god and punching him in the face for all of this. If the jackass had ever bothered to show up, ever done anything about the apocalypse, then Castiel never would have felt the urge to go back to heaven. He wouldn't have had to act as a leader again Raphael in some crazy civil war. He never would have had to leave earth or Dean. His fists tightened on the steering wheel, thinking about it. The angel with him, maybe with Lisa and Ben… maybe… maybe happy and not with the weight of the world on his feathered shoulders feeling like he had to fix things because a fucking absent father didn't give a damn about the world anymore.

"Bouncingbabynames dot com," Emanuel replied. Dean was getting so mad he almost forgot for a moment what he'd even asked.

"Well, it's working for you," he stated coolly, his mouth dry as he wished he had a drink. This was getting to be too much. "It must be weird, not knowing who you are."

"It's my life, and it's a good life," he said with a small smile.

Dean bet it was. Part of him even felt guilty about ripping it away from him.

Because Cas was alive.

Even as Emanuel, he was alive.

He'd go back though, surely. He'd fix Sam and then go back and that would be the end of it. That was all. Probably for the best anyway.

"So, your brother?" the angel turned healer asked, almost sounding tentative.

"Sam," Dean supplied, not even surprised he didn't know his name.

"Sam," he said, as if to try to remember. "What's his diagnosis?"

"Well, it's not exactly medical," he admitted.

"That should be fine. I can heal illness of a spiritual origin," he assured him.

"Spiritual?" he asked, his temper seeming to rise up. It was taking everything not to shout at Castiel this was his fault, that if he hadn't done all of this his brother would be fine.

He broke his brother.

He brought his brother back from hell.

This was all too confusing. It had been hard enough to process all of this before. Having to explain it to the one that did all of it made him feel sick to his stomach.

"Someone did this to him," he confessed, some of the anger starting to creep up into his voice. Emanuel or Castiel or whatever he was calling himself now might not remember what he did but he was just as guilty.

At once Emanuel turned to him, the motion smooth and unnatural, even posing as a human it seemed so easy to see the fact that he wasn't one, not really.

"You're angry," he noted.

"Well yeah," he said. It was pretty obvious, wasn't it? "Dude broke my brother's head."

"He betrayed you, this dude? He was your friend?" Emanuel asked and it shot straight through Dean that he somehow knew that, that Cas was still inside of him somewhere. Nothing he'd said had hinted friendship at all, yet he guessed it somehow, knew somehow. He didn't know if that made it better or worse.

"Yeah, well he's gone," he said finally. Maybe that would discourage further comments on the matter. Did it really matter how Sammy got hurt? All that mattered was if he got better.

"Did you kill him?" the angel asked, not seeming to get the hint at all it was better not to talk about this. "I sense that you kill a lot of people."

The words were spoken simply but they still hit hard for him. A normal person shouldn't ask that kind of thing, shouldn't make such statements so easily. Once again, there was no judgment in his voice, just the calm and even tone of Emanuel, as if they were discussing the weather or a ball game.

Dean never would have wanted to kill Cas. Been willing to, yes… but not want to. He'd summoned Death because it had seemed like the only option. The angel hadn't been willing to listen to reason, wouldn't stop, but Dean had never wanted to, not even after what he'd done to Sam.

And then he'd gone and gotten himself killed and Dean had hated him for leaving him.

Only for him to end up in the car right next to him as if he'd never even left at all.

Except he had left. He'd died.

Oh god, Cas was alive.

He shut his eyes tight for a second before looking back out at the road and tried to keep himself from screaming at the angel and demanding an answer about all of this from him, why he'd gone and done all that only to come back into his life again but with no idea of who the two of them were or the strange and complicated emotions and history between the two.

"Honestly, I… I don't know if he's dead," he said honestly. It was true. He didn't really know. "I just know this whole thing… it couldn't be messier. You know, I used to just be able to shake this stuff off. Whatever it was, might take me some time but I always could."

He swallowed the lump in his throat, feeling like he was confessing a sin of some kind.

"What Cas did..." he breathed. "I just can't. I don't know why."

"Well, it doesn't matter why," Emanuel said.

"Of course it matters," he snarled out.

"No, you're not a machine, Dean. You're human," the angel reminded him. Right, like he'd know how that felt. Yet here he was… still giving advice, still caring.

Why was Cas still alive?

"Your friends name was Cas?" he asked softly. "It's an odd name."

"God given," he muttered as he glanced back up at the mirror to check in the back seat. He suddenly choked when he saw Emma awake and staring back at him through the mirror, a look of shock on her face. Before she could open her mouth and say a word, he pulled off the road quickly and opened the door before pulling her out with him.

"Is something wrong?" Emanuel asked at the sudden stop.

"No, everything's fine. Just give us a second," he said as he pulled the girl along. Emma was making protesting noises, but she went along with him easily enough despite the fact they both knew she could have ripped out of his grip without any trouble.

Considering he often made her do things she didn't want to, he had to wonder just how deeply the Amazons had ingrained obedience into her head. He himself at sixteen had been more rebellious and he'd considered himself a very loyal son who followed orders pretty well. Objections were one thing, but besides the time she'd pushed him, she never went against his wishes.

He really hoped her patience for that wouldn't dry up again any time soon, especially with their current guest in the car.

"He's not human," she accused once they were a safe distance from the car.

"Say it a little louder, Emma. I'm not sure the border patrol heard you," he replied, though didn't deny it.

"I knew it. I knew there was something strange about him. Ever since we got to his house everything felt weird. I never hit someone like that and have it hurt like that."

"Speaking of, how's your hand?" he asked.

"It's fine. Don't change the subject," she argued, but he grabbed it anyway and she scoffed but allowed it. It was the same hand she cut, and he removed the cloth to look it over. Scabbing a little, and overall fine. Her knuckles looked a little bruised though, but at least nothing was broken.

"Father," she said as she blushed while he looked her over. "I'm not a little girl. I'm fine."

He didn't say it, but the way she pouted certainly made her look like a little girl. He couldn't help but remember seeing her at a distance when doing the stakeout at Lydia's, hours later and she'd gone from toddler to a kid who had to have been about five or so. She'd been so small then and something in his gut had told him that things were wrong. If he'd gone forward, fought off the Amazons that had taken her away, she never would have been put through that training.

He pushed the sleeve of her coat up a little, looking at the brand on her arm. It had long since healed, but it would stay there forever.

She never would have been given this if he'd saved her tehn. How could she be proud of this damn thing, of her heritage and gods when this sort of thing had been inflicted on her?

"I'd give anything for you to be away from this, Emma," he breathed as he looked at her in the eye. Even as he saw pain start to fill her expression at his words, he knew what he was doing. Someday she'd be safe and she'd understand. "That person in the car? We need his help, but you're right. He's not human. He's… he's dangerous, okay?"

"Doesn't look dangerous," she replied.

"Neither did your mother," he scoffed. "Look where that got us."

"It got me with a pretty great father," she said, smiling a bit.

"Okay, now your just buttering me up. I mean it. Emanuel? We're getting him to Sam and then back to his home. You don't say anything to him. He doesn't know he's not human."

"But you know he's not?" she guessed. "You know him?"

"I used to," he admitted.

"Is he Michael?" she asked him suddenly. "Is he the one who hurt you?"

"No, Emma. He's not. He's..."

How could he explain this to her? How could he tell her all the things that had happened in his life? Where did he even start? 'Well, honey. One day when Daddy was four years old he saw his mommy burn to death on the ceiling because Daddy and Sammy had the destiny to end the world and the amnesiac in the car helped keep said world from ending and then exploded after driving your uncle coo coo for Coco-puffs.' Yeah, that'd go over well.

"His name is Castiel," he said. "He's an angel."

"An angel? What was an angel doing in Colorado? Is that normal?" she asked him.

"Ah, not exactly. Look, he doesn't remember who he is, and we're not going to tell him. It's important he doesn't remember."

"Why?" she asked, clearly confused. Honestly, he wasn't sure why on that himself. If Castiel remembered, he'd just be able to zap them to Sammy and heal him right up. He'd be able to protect himself from the demon that had come after his new wife. He'd also remember all the things he did and Dean was not sure he was ready to face that kind of crap. The angel might just run away if he was confronted with his sins.

"Remember the one I told you I had faith in? That's him," he explained. Her face lit up a bit at that, though he couldn't see how she thought this was good news.

"He came for you," she said, smiling. "Your faith brought him to you, Father."

"A phone call brought me to him. Little different, Emma."

"He had to have known you needed him, on some level. The gods work like this, Father. They give you what you need to face your tasks. If-"

"Emma," he said sternly, cutting her off. "Whatever brought him here, it doesn't matter. Okay? Once Sam is on his feet again we're going back to hunting and we're not going to talk about or to Castiel ever again. He's going to go back to his wife and live a normal life."

"Why do you insist on everyone being normal?" she asked, some heat in her voice.

"It's more about being away from me than anything. I bring a lot of crap with me," he muttered. "Come on, back to the car, and not a word to him. You got it?"

She scowled a bit, clearly not liking the idea. For a moment he regretted telling her anything but finally she nodded her head in agreement.

"At least you told me something this time," she grumbled.

"There's a lot I don't tell you for your own good."

"My own good or yours? Because it sounds like you're trying to let some of that crap you bring along with you go," she pointed out.

He looked at her for a second before he turned around and started back to the car, trusting her to follow. From the stomping of her boots, she didn't seem happy, but he wasn't about to indulge those kind of comments from her. It was understood between them when this Dick Roman stuff was over he was finding her a home, a good and safe home where nothing from his past could ever threaten her. He'd done it for Lisa and Bed. He'd do it for her too. He wasn't going to make his own kid into some kind of soldier in a war that never seemed to ever end.

It made him wonder just what his dad would have done if he'd been around when Emma popped up, but he quickly killed that thought. He didn't like where it led. Sam had been worried about Dean, had wanted to shoot Emma, but he'd listened to reason when his brother had insisted on not hurting her and explained she'd done nothing to threaten him, and that she had pretty much begged to die. His dad on the other hand?

Yeah, he didn't want to think about that. He was pretty sure his own father would have been too pleased to hear Dean given that title by a monster.

"Is everything alright?" Emanuel asked when they were in the car and back on the road.

"Yeah, everything is just peachy," he assured him. "Emma just had to stretch her legs for a bit. Don't worry. We're good to go again."

He looked over his shoulder at the girl, noticing the cut on her hand before she had a chance to wrap it back up.

"If you like, I could heal that," he offered, but she shook her head.

"No," she said. "I'm good. It'll be gone in a few days anyway."

"Are you sure? I don't-"

"I said I'm fine," she cut off before throwing herself down to the seat. "I'm going to sleep."

"I… I think I might have upset her," the angel noted as he straightened in his seat.

"Ah, don't worry about that. She gets kind of moody when she doesn't get her way. Then again, what teenager doesn't?" Dean said. He really wasn't equipped to handle a teenager for a daughter, but he supposed he'd done alright so far. Still navigating how far he should go in letting her be involved, and how much was safe to tell her about his past, but she wasn't as hard to handle as she could have been all things considered.

Heck, she was probably just worried about him. He hated that, that she was the one who worried about him. It really wasn't the place of a child to have to feel concern for the parent. If he just held himself more together than this whole mess would be easier to deal with.

"I suppose that age is the time when they start to get rebellious. Not old enough yet to find their own way, but old enough to know the time is coming. I can imagine it can be very difficult for them," Emanuel said. "Just as difficult for the parent as well."

"It's been… strange," he admitted before he checked the back seat to make sure she really was asleep. "Honestly, I didn't know about her at first. I mean… I shacked up with her mom, just a one night thing. Well, come on, you know the story. You're married."

Emanuel looked over at him, confusion on his features that caught Dean off guard.

"Story?" he asked.

Wait, was he kidding? After all this, he still hadn't…

"Well, you know. Guy meets girl, girl is hot, you do a little vertigo tango," he said, laying the hint on as hard as he could.

"Oh. Oh… no, Daphne and I didn't… do that kind of thing," he admitted.

"What? Really? But, come on, you're married to her," Dean said. Seriously? How far was this angelic virginity thing going to go?

"She explained to me she was not a fan of having sex," Emanuel admitted. "She said it made her uncomfortable. We held each other, cuddled, shared a bed, but never our bodies. I care for her too much to have ever pushed her boundaries."

Cared for? Dean couldn't help but notice he didn't say love… but that wasn't really his business, was it?

"Well, Lydia didn't have the same feelings on the matter," he admitted. "We hooked up and I bumped into her later to find she had a kid and… well, things seemed off but she didn't tell me so I just brushed it off. Then I saw Emma again when she was a bit older and just got this feeling. It wasn't until she was a teenager that I found out the truth."

"What happened to her mother?"

"Gone," Dean said softly. "Just left Emma with me and didn't look back. I've been taking care of her ever since."

"I imagine that must have been a sudden change for you. Has it been difficult?"

Dean hesitated for a moment before he nodded his head.

"I don't know what I'm doing half the time. I don't know how to be a dad. Heck… she calls me father and it feels so formal and weird, but I've never been able to tell her she shouldn't. She already feels abandoned as it is, I know she'd never react well to me telling her not to call me that. I'd much rather just be dad to her though," he confessed.

"What's the difference?"

"Just feels like I'm on a pedestal for her. It feels like she looks up to me and sees something that I'm not, someone decent and together that she can rely on," he said. "Here I am barely managing my own life and now I'm playing parent to a teen and… well, I mean I've been around kids before but this one's different."

"You have experience with children?"

Dean wondered if he was ever going to be able to think about Lisa and Ben without feeling regret. He'd moved on, as hard as it had been, but he'd done it. Enough time had passed that the spark of pain was no longer there at their memories, but it still made him wish for something else. That time with them had been great, happy for the most part, though Ben had worried him at times with the things he wanted to learn about shooting and the like. It was easier when you were a kid, he guessed, when the weight of those scary things hadn't pulled down on you so much. Ben had wanted to learn and Dean had nearly lost both of them to demons. Now he had Emma and she was even more insistent about being a part of this dangerous world of his.

"Some," he admitted. "Not enough though. It's never really enough."

Heck, raising Sammy had been easier than the rest of this, and even that had been difficult a lot of the time. He thought of himself at twenty-six, going after his brother to help him find their dad. Back then it had been natural to rely on family, to insist on his brother's help and scoff at the idea of him living a normal life and going off to be some lawyer. He wondered if he knew what he did now would he have still gone after him or would he just have left him safe in Stanford?

Probably not. That damn demon still would have gone after him and his girlfriend.

No one would be going after Emma though, not if he could help it.

"I'm worried about her," he said to Emanuel. "The kind of life I lead? It's not something you should put on anyone, much less a kid. She's too young, too inexperienced. She's got a chance to go out there and be anything she wants, anything at all. All she has to do it reach out and grab it, but she won't listen to me. Emma wants to stay with me, even if means walking head first into every bit of danger that comes after me."

"This kind of danger comes after you often? You and your brother?"

Dean looked over at him, the angel playing at being a human healer and didn't answer. He didn't think he could. When he didn't say anything, Emanuel seemed to understand the conversation was over and didn't ask again. Dean was getting pretty good at ignoring important questions, not allowing himself to give away anything too incriminating to the people who wanted to dig so deeply into his past. No good came from talking about this stuff. It was easier just to lock it up and ignore it. Just go on, one step at a time until it got easier.

Only it wasn't getting easier. It felt like his walls were being torn down, no matter how hard he tried to keep it all close to his heart. No matter what he did, what he said, he had others trying to pry in. Emma was so desperate to know anything about him and she just wouldn't accept that he didn't want to tell her. Maybe she stopped asking when he closed up but he could see it wasn't because she wanted to. She was just smart enough to know nothing would come from it. He was getting better at ignoring the questions, but it didn't mean they weren't still coming.

Even in the cage, Michael had him worried. It was better when they could kill the monster, do away with it for good. An immortal archangel specifically gunning for him? Yeah, that was pretty uncomfortable to think about. That damn fury was right too. The bloodline of John Winchester was inside of her, all because of a stupid one night stand. He was sure the angels would just love to get a hold of her if they could, and the demons too. Hell, at least he didn't have to worry about the Amazons getting any leads on her.

Amazons were hardly the top of the food chain when it came to supernatural elements out there. She wasn't the toughest thing out there. Oh yeah, she could easily overpower a human, but she was just strong, that was it. Nothing else that could protect her. She wasn't impervious to harm and she certainly wasn't the strongest thing out there. In all reality, she was vulnerable compared to some of creatures he had encountered. Why allow her to risk herself? For him? What was he worth?

"You're too hard on yourself, Dean," he heard, in a voice that sounded so much like Castiel his eyes snapped to him and he had to wonder for a second if the angel had read his mind. He opened his mouth to say something, not even sure what, but Emanuel continued. "I can see it. You carry a heavy weight on your shoulders. I'm not sure what it is, but it's there. I do not think you deserve this. Why do you carry it around?"

"Because if I don't then someone else would have to. Better I do it."

"Those that try to carry the weight of the world will be crushed by it," Emanuel stated, and the hunter could only laugh.

Oh, if this guy only knew just how ironic that bit of advice was coming from him, the angel who'd swallowed souls whole sale and tried to solve every problem this planet had. Really, it was ridiculous. Just what kind of stupid situation was he in? Out of all the people in the world, out of all the kind of people he could have found to try to fix Sam and this is what he ended up with? It was enough to nearly tear his heart out from the pain of it.

Because he felt like it was. Having Castiel be back with him, so close and yet so far away? Even after everything that had happened between them, he would give anything to have him back. He wanted to yell at the angel, scream at him for how he'd hurt his little brother, the only person in this world he'd had for so long. He wanted to shake him and tell him everything, to explain every little thing he'd done wrong in the past.

But he also wanted to pull him into his arms and never let go. He wanted to thank Castiel for everything he'd done. He wanted to assure him he valued him, and understood how hard it must have been for him over the years. Castiel had killed his own brothers for him, rebelled against heaven, all to give them a chance… no, to give Dean a chance. The angel seemed to have a bit of a soft spot for Sam but it had always been clear that he cared for Dean the most. He'd never really addressed it, too awkward to but it was there and it was so clear. He wanted to tell him he forgave him, even for hurting his brother.

He couldn't though. Dean couldn't do any of that. It was too hard to express it, too hard to say. He didn't even understand his own feelings for the angel anymore. What was the likelihood he'd be able to explain it to the amnesiac? Not a chance in hell.

Because Catiel was alive.

But Castiel was also gone, and he wasn't coming back.

No one ever came back to Dean, not willingly.

Chapter Text

The road passed along, stretching out at Emanuel watched the trees and grass by the road slip past. They'd had to stop so Dean could sleep, finally passing out in the car. He'd groggily told him to wake him up in an hour so he could drive again, yet when he had reached out to wake him, something had stopped him. His hand had been close to his shoulder, only an inch away before it had moved to his cheek, peppered with stubble and creases on his face. It had struck him as odd. Dean did not seem old enough to have such marks on his face, such worry on his brow. He had stared at him, wondering about it, how someone could look so young and so old at the same time. For hours the sight of the man had captured his attention, even as the night passed and gave way to sunlight. He memorized every blemish on his skin, the soft look of his lips and every way he shifted as he slept.

Emanuel didn't need to sleep, yet everyone around him did. It was a strange sight to him every time, like watching Daphne sleeping. He'd often looked at her and found her so fragile, sat on her couch as night passed and she slept in her room until one day she had smiled at him and invited him to rest next to her, even if he didn't need to. Watching her sleep had been the same as sitting in the living room and watching the furniture, unchanging, nothing different as she laid still under the covers next to him.

He hadn't found himself as nearly as fascinated by her as he was with Dean, and he didn't understood that.

When Dean had finally awoken, he'd checked the time and cursed under his breath as he started the car and drove off. Emma had groaned and rolled over, also awake now, but looking stiff in her bedraggled state.

"I thought I told you to wake me up," he had groaned as he began to drive. "Damn it, how much time did we lose?"

"Apologies. It seemed better if you got your rest. You didn't seem to be in condition to continue behind the wheel of a car," Emanuel had excused, not feeling it would have been best to share the truth.

"Get around to teaching me how to drive, and we won't have this problem next time, Father," Emma said while she'd stretched out as best she could. "I can drive while you sleep."

"Yeah, yeah. Add it to the list," he'd shot back, pushing the pedal to the floor and speeding off as fast as possible.

That had been several hours ago. It seemed Dean was trying to make back lost time as much as possible. A pit of guilt had begun to settle in his stomach. His brother Sam needed help and from the looks of it, it seemed he needed it as soon as possible. Yet he had allowed himself to become distracted. Though his words hadn't been untrue. He did not think that Dean would have been in the proper shape to drive, especially in the dark, after only a single hour of sleep. Still, perhaps it was not his place to prioritize such matters between their family.

The ride at that point had been mostly in silence, though the driver did occasionally make the odd comment, asking Emanuel about himself. He seemed interested in the healing he had done before, who he had helped. It had really been everyone and anyone that had come to him. There was only so much one man could do, but he liked to think he had made other people better as much as he could manage. The small talk seemed mostly polite though. It was clear there was only one thing Dean was focusing on.

He glanced over at the man, his head tilting to the side slightly to try to get another good look at him.

"You push yourself so hard for your brother," the healer said softly.

"Sammy needs looking after. He always has," he replied, refusing to look back at him, but he noticed he'd gripped the wheel much harder than he had before.

"What I've said seems to have distressed you. I'm sorry. I only meant that it's an amicable quality," he assured him. "I didn't mean any offense."

"Well, we're family. You never give up on family," Dean said, to which Emanuel looked in the backseat at Emma. She met his eyes only for a minute before looking away, glancing out the window. It was remarkable how much she looked like her father. Odd how he'd known them only a short time and yet the features seemed etched into his brain so completely. "Taking care of Sammy is just what I do. It's what I've always done. He's my little brother."

"That only makes it only more commendable that you've done it for so long," he informed him.

Dean's eyes met his own for a moment, his expression seeming to soften before he shook his head and looked away. He wasn't sure what he felt about this conversation. He was trying to say something complimentary and yet it seemed to have been distressing him. Even though Dean said nothing, he had the feeling his words were not having the effect he was hoping for.

"I'm going to stop for a bit," he said after a few minutes as they pulled into a town. "Gotta get something for breakfast, well lunch now I guess. Emma, you want something?"

"Yeah. Some burritos if they have any. Otherwise a couple of sandwiches will be fine," she said with a nod. "Um… Emanuel, you want anything?"

"Oh, no. Thank you. I appreciate the offer but I don't really… well, eat," he admitted to the pair. He could, but he never seemed to get hungry, and more than that it never seemed to taste as it should when he tried. He had shared some meals with his wife, not wanting to just sit with her while she ate and do nothing, but he wasn't sure how much money the pair of travelers had and did not wish them to waste their funds on him.

"Right. Yeah, I guess that makes sense," Dean said as he drove around until he found a convenience store across the street. Parking, he looked around for a moment when he got out of the car. He leaned in through the window to address his daughter. "Emma, stay here with him, okay? Just sit tight. I'll be right out."

"Okay," she said with a nod. The two of them watched him cross the street before she coughed a little and leaned over the driver's side seat. He couldn't help but notice her staring at him.

"Yes? Is something the matter?" he asked her.

"No. Well, nothing's the matter," she admitted. "Just kind of curious about you, I guess."

"That seems to be a natural reaction to me," he conceded. "I suppose with the things I do, how I help people, that is only to be expected."

"You don't remember anything?" she asked. "Like… nothing at all?"

"I'm afraid not. Before I was found, everything is a blank," he told her.

"Yet, you know you're not… normal. Not that I mean any offense but, you know you're not, right? A lot of people out there don't heal others like you say you can," she said.

"You don't believe that I can?"

"No, I believe it," she said with a roll of her eyes. "Trust me, I have plenty of reason to believe in things like this. I just was wondering if you realized you're different from other people."

"My abilities are different, yes. I am aware of that," he stated. "I believe God gave me the chance to help people, to do his work through me. I do not know why he chose me but it is a fulfilling feeling to know that I am able to help others thanks to Him."

She paused for a second and her shoulders sagged.

"It must be nice, having a purpose and all that," she mused. "Wish I did."

"What do you mean?" he asked her.

She hesitated a moment before craning her neck to look out the dashboard window, checking to see if her father was on his way back or not.

"Promise you won't tell my father?" she asked.

"I swear. Anything you say will be in held in the strictest confidence," he assured her. It was not polite to spread secrets after all, and Dean had informed him about Emma as well. Perhaps they both just needed someone to talk to.

"When I was with my mother, before… well, before I ended up with him, I had my life planned out for me. I knew what I was supposed to do, who I was supposed to be. My family had very clear expectations of me. Thing was, I hated it. I hated what I was told to do and how I wasn't even allowed to object. Every moment it bore down on me that if I didn't toe the line, I would be a disappointment to her and everyone else," she said softly. "Then I met my father and everything changed. He didn't have any of those expectations. He took care of me in a way no one else ever did before. I feel so grateful to him every day."

"I'm sensing a but is coming," he noted.

"But," she agreed, "he doesn't really let me do much either. When I first ended up with him he just wanted me out of the way. He said he was protecting me… and I believe that. I know he worries. He worries about me a lot. I think because of what's going on with my uncle. It's driving him crazy and I'm just kind of along for the ride. Even now, when he allows me some freedom, teaches and shows me some stuff I feel like it's not what I'm supposed to be doing. I didn't want what my mother wanted for me, but I don't exactly want what my father wants either. I feel like I should be doing more, that I have some purpose, just like you, but I don't know what it is or how to do it."

"That's not an uncommon feeling," he stated. "You're young still. Many your age have similar circumstances. You're not an adult yet, but you're getting closer to it every day. It is a part of growing up, finding a spot in the world for yourself. It's perfectly normal."

"Not sure normal is the word for me," she snorted. He refrained from saying so, but it was a reaction many teenagers had to such words. All of them felt their problems were new and unique, that no one understood them.

"You have a long life ahead of you," he stated instead. "Time enough to figure out what your purpose is. You'll find it. For now, just trust in your father. He clearly cares a great deal about his family after all. You care about him?"

"Of course I do," she said quickly, her tone almost a little offended as if he shouldn't even have asked. "I wouldn't even be around if it weren't for him. He's been great. Takes care of me and he's patient even when I get upset and mad at him. I've acted out and he just forgave me, treated it like it didn't happen. He's the best father I could have ever hoped for."

He smiled at her so strongly stating her feelings for the man.

"I think you'll be fine, Emma. No matter how things turn out for you, you have your father's love," he told her. "Whatever he does, it's to protect you."

"How do you know? You don't know him," she pointed out.

"No. No, I do not. Yet I can tell he's a good person," he admitted. "He wears that on his sleeve, so to say."

"Yeah, I guess you have a point about that," she said before sighing out. "By the way, I'm sorry I hit you. You know, back at the house?"

"Oh, it's alright. Under the circumstances, I think such a reaction is normal. Besides, it didn't hurt," he assured her. However, his words caused her to frown. "You wanted to hurt me?"

"Ugh. Don't say it like that. Makes me sound like a jerk," she grumbled but nodded. "I mean, at the time I did. That's just normal. I thought you were attacking me. Now I'm glad I didn't… but… I mean..."

She sighed again and her forehead thumped on the back of the car seat.

"It's a big world," she grumbled. "I didn't realize I was so small in it."

"Beg your pardon?"

"Nothing. Forget it," she said before she opened the door and climbed out. "I need to stretch my legs. You?"

"I think some air would do me good," he agreed and climbed out as well. "Your father seems to be taking his time though."

"Probably looking for pie. He loves the stuff," she said casually, but he noticed she seemed tense. She relaxed a moment later when he came back across the street. "Wait, who's that with him?"

He looked up at her words and immediately felt panic rising up in him at the woman trailing after Dean. It was no woman though, something darker, sinister and powerful.

"Her face! She's one of them," he exclaimed to warn Dean, but she only smiled.

"It's okay, we come in different flavors," the stranger said. "No harm here."

"What do you want, skin rider?" Emma said, immediately on the defensive. She'd stepped between the pair and Emanuel, though he didn't feel right about a child trying to defend him, he felt too shocked to put a stop to it.

"Cute," the demon said the at the sight of the teenager bristling at her, as if she was a cat being threatened by a mouse. "Been a while since I've seen one of you. I can assure you, whatever you want to do to me? Not going to do any good."

"She's a… a friend," Dean explained in a way that did not sound at all convincing. "Emma, don't do anything dumb, alright?"

"Are you kidding me?" Emma asked. "What's she doing here?"

"Meg," the demon supplied. "Just here for moral support. After all, we go way back."

Emanuel felt confused by the words, but she laughed a bit with another smile that he was sure she thought looked charming.

"Dean and me," she explained. "Just met you, of course. But I think we're going to be good friends too."

She walked up to approach him but Emma took a step forward, clenching her fists with a snarl. Despite her age, she stood at the same height at the demon and seemed determined to stare her down.

"Back off," the redhead growled.

"Ooh, feisty," Meg chuckled, but didn't try to get closer.

"Alright, can we go?" Dean said, clearly exasperated. "We've still got a long way to go."

Emma didn't move, not until Meg went for the backdoor of the car and sat down. Dean arched an eyebrow at her and she hesitated before she got in herself.

"Great. Just great," the man muttered. "Come on. Let's get out of here."

The air felt tense but the healer didn't feel right about saying anything and just got in as well, allowing Dean to drive. The food was passed out between him and his daughter, though Meg took nothing and just leaned back in her seat comfortably. She seemed to be the only one who wasn't wound up, the other two seeming all of a sudden very on edge.

It lasted for a long time, until it got dark again and they drove and drove. No one was saying anything any longer, and while the conversations he'd had with Dean had been a little awkward before, it had been much better than what was going on now.

Finally he couldn't stand it any longer and felt he had to say something.

"This silence is very uncomfortable. Is there something I should know?" he asked. He could tell something was being kept from him, but he was not sure what it was. How did Dean know a demon? How was she a friend? It didn't seem like a friendly relationship, especially with how Emma had been stiff and angrry the whole way through, scooted back in her seat to keep as far away from the demon as possible. Meg had playfully shoulder bumped the kid a while ago and Emma had nearly jumped her before Dean had snapped at the both of them to knock it off.

"Oh, I don't know," Meg replied casually. "Dean? Something he should know?"

"No," he said coolly. "Meg just has that effect. Awkward, you know?"

Despite what she was, he felt some sympathy for her. So far, she had done nothing bad that he could see. It couldn't be much fun for her, being so mistrusted.

"That must be difficult for you," he said softly to her, but she only frowned.

"Dean's making a joke, Emanuel," she muttered, to which Emma snorted in laughter.

"Yeah, sure," the teen muttered.

The healer had a feeling he shouldn't have said anything. Tense silence seemed better than barbed and veiled words. There was no doubt about it. There was something he did not know and no one seemed eager to share it with him.

They arrived not much longer, but it wouldn't be as easy as walking in. There was a group of people in the parking lot and Emanuel felt a jolt run through him as he looked at them. Even from far off, he could see their faces, the same twisted and carnal evil at Meg and the one who'd attacked his wife.

"Oh gracious," he breathed.

"Damn it. Demons," Meg muttered.

"All of them?" Dean asked.

"No grass growing under your feet," she quipped.

"How many of those knives do you have?" Emanuel asked.

"Just the one," he admitted before looking at Emma. "What about yours? It hurt demons?"

"The ones down there, yes," Meg said. "But only barely. I've seen the blades those women are so proud of and it's strictly low level. Good for grunts, but that's it, and only if you get them in a vulnerable spot like the neck. Doesn't immediately destroy them like your knife does, Dean."

"You shut up," Emma said with a frown. "My weapon is-"

"Your weapon is a pig sticker," she replied before Emma could even finish. "Made for a war you couldn't hope to win."

"Was good enough to chase your kind off. I know my history. We did win."

"Pah. I was there for that history, little girl," the demon replied. "Your land and people just weren't worth the effort."

"Fancy words just to cover up you lost!"

"Emma! Enough," Dean snapped. "Neither of you are helping."

"I agree," Emanuel said. "What are we supposed to do?"

"Yeah," Meg said. "You know any other idea on how to blast through that, Dean?"

Dean hesitated for a moment before moved toward Meg.

"Excuse us for a second," he said as the demon rolled her eyes.

"Oh for the love of crap," she said before she followed him.

"I don't like this," Emma grumbled.

"I have to admit, you're right," he told her. "She mentioned a war?"

"Yeah. I don't care what my father says. She's no friend of ours," she said coldly.

He'd had enough of this. There was too many questions hanging over all of this, too many cloaked words with meanings he did not know. However, he was starting to get a picture. He walked over to the pair of them, determined to get the truth.

"I gather we know each other?" he asked. With every word Dean spoke, every moment passed with him, he became more and more sure of it.

"Just a dollop," Meg stated with a smile.

"You can tell me," he assured Dean. The man seemed so agitated, so scared right now. He wanted to assure him, to let him know no matter what he learned that he would not turn away from him and his need. He'd help Dean, no matter what. Why did he not see that? "I'll be fine."

"How do you know?" he snapped back, the build up in his body seeming to explode. Words spilled from him, like he'd wanted to say them for a while. "You just met yourself! I've known you for years!"

"You're an angel," the demon cut in, clearly not wanting to wait for the drama to play out. Her words only confused him though.

"I'm sorry. Is that a flirtation?" he asked her.

"No, it's a species," she informed him with a roll of her eyes. "A very powerful one."

"She's not lying," Dean admitted. "Okay? It's why you heal people. You don't eat… I'm sure there's more."

There was more… but Emanuel wasn't sure he knew what it was.

"Why wouldn't you tell me?" he asked him. "Being an angel, it sounds pleasant."

It certainly explained why God had given him the abilities to help so many people.

"It's not. Trust me," Dean corrected him. "It's bloody. It's corrupt. It's not pleasant."

"He would know. You used to fight together," Meg stated, looking like she was enjoying every second of this. "Best of friends actually."

If the words were meant to be reassuring, they weren't. In fact, it was having the exact opposite effect. The words Dean had spoken before were starting to come back to him.

"We were friends?" he asked and he couldn't help but note the moment of pain that flickered across the man's face. "Am I Cas?"

Silence greeted him, but it seemed to be answer enough. It was not that someone had hurt Dean's brother, hurt him, it was that the one who had done it was himself. He'd broken Sam and he didn't even remember who that was, no face in his mind to put to the face. He felt his heart ache for Dean, sure this had to be so painful for him. No wonder he had not said anything.

"I had no idea. I don't remember you. I'm sorry," he urged to him, wanting Dean to understand how sorry he felt about all of this. Guilt was building up inside of him, gnawing at him.

"Look, you got the juice," Meg cut in. "You can smite every demon in that lot."

He turned away from the group, his throat feeling tight. Despite her words, he felt hesitant. He was still caught on the pain this must be causing for Dean, how betrayed he had to feel about all of this, scared to tell the truth for fear of the consequences. How bad of a friend had he to have been that the man would be so cautious around him so as not to allow him to remember?

"But I remember know how," he said softly. There was so much he didn't remember.

"It's in there," Dean assured him. "I'm sure it's just like riding a bike."

"I don't know how to do that either," he admitted.

"Don't feel bad. Neither do I," Emma pointed out, probably trying to be helpful.

Dean only looked stressed out by the whole situation, and Emanuel knew he had to go down there whether he knew what to do or not.

"Alright. I'll try," he said before he started to stride up to the parking lot. He set off with a determination, hoping it would come to him if he started with enough confidence.

The demons noticed him approaching, seeming shocked at the sight of him.

"Hey, I know you," one of them said, glancing around. Wanting back up or just afraid, Emanuel wasn't sure. He supposed it didn't matter. "You're supposed to be dead."

"Yes, I've heard," Emanuel said before he grabbed him and yanked him forward. He almost apologized for what he was about to do, but the words never left him as he pushed his hand to his forehead to banish and kill the foul thing.

Memories burst forth in his mind, exploding inside of him without a moment of mercy. It flooded inside of him, the sight of Dean the first time he'd met him, the uncertainty in the hunter as he explained who he was. Castiel, angel of the Lord, a soldier on a mission to help Dean save the world. Dean, who he'd started to feel sympathy for in his hard life, who'd grown to feel attached to.

Dean, who he had fallen for both figuratively and literally, worked to save him and his brother… and he'd failed. They'd stopped the apocalypse but it had cost Sam and in it all, he'd betrayed Dean over and over again. Taking Sam from Hell and refusing to tell Dean, breaking his mind, unleashing the Leviathans…

All of it burned into him as he killed the demons without a single one getting away, standing there in the lot and feeling all alone and cold in this wide world. He heard words spoken by Meg, but they didn't register. Everything bore down on him, even as Dean called out for him uncertainly.

"Cas?"

Such a simple thing, a little nickname. It shouldn't have mattered to him. He'd been built as an angel, a celestial being who was supposed to be without feelings or longing, and yet the name meant so much to him.

And he'd thrown it away like it had been nothing, even though it had been his whole world for the time he'd been allowed to have with Dean.

He turned to the three, all of them staring at him but he only had eyes for hunter, not the two women behind him. Guilt and fear flooded him, fear he'd never have Dean again, that his betrayal had ended whatever good will he'd worked so hard to build with the hunter.

"I remember everything," he breathed as self-loathing hit him. "What I did. What I became."

Emanuel seemed to fall away as Catiel took his place, understanding hitting him with an unmerciful force.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because Sam is dying in there," Dean stressed.

"Because of me," he threw back. "Everything. All these people… I shouldn't be here."

He shoved his way past the group, intending to run. He needed to get away, needed to find some sense to all of this.

"Cas? Cas!" Dean yelled after him. "You two stay here!"

He felt Dean following him, and found himself wishing he wouldn't. As much as he longed for Dean to still want to be by his side, as much as he still needed the human, he didn't deserve it.

"Cas, if you really remember then you know did the best you could at the time!"

"Don't defend me!" he snapped back. Dean couldn't possibly mean that, and if he did it was even worse. The hunter still having faith in him burned and he hated it. "Do you have any idea the death toll in Heaven, on Earth?"

He'd caused too much damage, and while it had been with good intentions, there had been pride there as well. He thought he was special, brought back by God to save humanity and he'd abused that trust from God.

Abused the trust from Dean.

In all his memories, as long as he'd been alive… He was aware before humanity had even taken its first steps and the first thing that had come back to him was the hunter, their relationship and how he'd tossed it away.

"We didn't part friends, Dean," he breathed.

"So what?" he asked.

"I deserved to die," he stressed. So what? How could he say that? After all the hurt he'd experienced because of the angel and that was his answer? So what? He had to be hurt by this. Why was he acting so forgiving?! "I can't possibly fix it. So why did I even walk out of that river?"

"Maybe to fix it," Dean breathed. As if he could do that. Where would he even start?

He watched Dean open the trunk of the car and pull something out. Surprise filled him as Dean handed him his trench-coat, still stained with blood and grime. He still had it? After all this time, after what he'd done? Why? The hunter could not have possibly known that he was going to come back. What would have inspired such actions? Mourning? Loyalty? Castiel didn't feel worthy of either.

Yet he took it, because he couldn't refuse. He could not refuse Dean anything. He never had been able to, as much as he'd once tried.

"I'll save Sam," he promised him softly. "But how can you still believe in me?"

"Because you're Cas. Because… well, just because, okay? Does it matter?"

"No," Castiel admitted. "I suppose it doesn't."

It never did matter, not really. The things between them were unspoken. They always had been. That was where Dean was comfortable with it being. The human had never moved forward, never said a thing about their bond, and Castiel had never felt right about pushing his own feelings onto him.

How could he tell Dean he loved him so deeply, when he knew how unhappy such feelings would make him, how uncomfortable it would all be for him? He certainly could not say it now, not after everything that had happened.

"We should go," he said as he shrugged the coat on. As always, things were just best left unsaid.

There was only one demon inside the hospital with Sam, and it died just as quickly at the others, probably not even aware as he destroyed it completely and utterly. The younger hunter was a mess, twitchy and shaken as his eyes darted around wildly like a caged animal afraid to be hurt. He quickly freed him from the machine attached to him, wondering what kind of torture he'd been forced to endure.

"I never should have broken your wall, Sam. I'm here to make it right," he said, touching him to fix him, trying to remake the wall, build it again and make it stronger.

Only to have nothing happen. Dread and realization hit him as he saw it have no affect on Dean's younger brother.

"Oh Sam, I'm so sorry," he breathed.

They transported Sam back to his room, Emma easily lifting the tall and heavier man and getting him back in his bed, trying to make him comfortable. She tried not to touch him skin to skin as he jerked around, just pulling a blanket over him and whispering to him it would all be okay somehow.

Castiel didn't mention to Dean about her soul, throbbing strongly inside of her body and the mixed colors to it. He had a feeling the hunter had enough on his mind as it was. It didn't seem tactful to even ask about the girl, wondering how he'd ended up with an Amazon daughter of all things.

"There's nothing left to rebuild," he confessed to Dean.

"Why not?" the human asked.

"Because it crumbled," he explained. "There were pieces left after my actions, but they were crushed to dust by whatever is happening inside of his head now."

"So you're saying there's nothing?" he asked. "That he's going to be like this until his candle blows out?"

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "This isn't a problem I can make disappear. You know that."

Dean sighed softly and Castiel knew he didn't have a choice. There was one other option, one he knew he had to take.

"I may be able to shift it though. It would be enough to get Sam back on his feet," he said as he put a hand to Emma's shoulder, moving her gently to the side as she and Dean watched curiously. "It's better this way."

He sat next to Sam, placing a hand to his brow.

"This may hurt a bit," he told him. "And if I can't tell you again, I'm sorry I ever did this to you."

He tried to ignore the shouting of Sam as he felt the madness inside of his mind and soul, burning hot and angry. He grabbed a hold of it, pulling it inside of him. For a moment, the world seemed still, calm, nothing happening. Yet when he looked up, terror gripped him at the sight of Lucifer himself laying out on the bed and waiting for him, a smile on his lips.

"Hello, brother," he cooed.

He jerked up and scrambled away, pressing himself up against the wall as the devil laughed.

"Oh, one fallen angel to another, we have so much to talk about!"

Castiel didn't hear it, but he was sure he screamed.

Chapter Text

If Sam had ever learned anything about the trauma in his life, it was not to talk about it. It seemed to be an unofficial motto of the family to bury things, encouraged to a great degree. While growing up, John had rarely spoken about their mom without it following a grim, determined look and a statement they were going to bury the thing that hurt her but that was all that ever came out of him. There was never really talk about how he missed her, how she'd impacted their lives shortly but sweetly, how John wanted her back. Sam assumed it was all there somewhere. You don't devote your and your family's lives to avenging a woman you don't still love with all your heart, but apparently you also don't express how hurt you are in a healthy way either, not when you were John Winchester. Sam used to despise it, and that had turned into despising his dad for a while, and then it had… well, after Jessica and living life on the road again he had started to understand the man more than he ever would have thought possible.

As great as it would have been for John to move on, to get some therapy with the cashed out insurance for the house, to settle down again elsewhere and try to make a life again for his two boys, it wouldn't have done any good. The demon blood still would have been in Sam, the monsters still would have been out there, and Micheal and Lucifer still would have wanted their hosts. John had made the emotionally stunted decision, but he'd still made the right one.

Dean was the same way, deep down. When he got hurt, he brushed it off outwardly and tried to pretend he wasn't affected or it didn't matter. He bottled it up or drank it away. Sam knew pain still affected him. There had been too many fights between them where Dean exploded with his emotions and screamed them out, only to want to forget he'd said anything later on. Very rarely did the questions like, "Are you alright?" or, "Do you need to talk about this?" work on him. Sam always hated it when he did that but it was just how Dean coped, unhealthily.

The younger Winchester brother was aware how hypocritical it was, considering he was every bit as insistent at shutting himself down too and refusing any kind of help. The two of them were very good at resisting the other one trying to get a dialogue going until it all got to be too much.

So when Dean kept trying to bring up the hospital and asking how he was feeling, Sam shut it down despite knowing it would probably come to a head eventually. Knowing their pattern after an extremely personal hunt where they would sit on the Impala and either scream at each other or try their best not to break down even as there was encouragement just to let it all out.

He just didn't want to talk about it now. He'd slept, shaved, ate and was driving aimlessly and felt… well, not good, but okay at least. It was enough for now.

"I don't trust that skin rider," a comment came from the back seat. Dean had only just been on the phone, asking Meg about Castiel to check in. So far no change. "How do we know she's being up front with us?"

"We don't exactly," Sam said.

"So why leave him with her?" she asked.

"We can't exactly tote an angel along with us in his condition, and there are others who are gunning for him. Better to keep him safe and hidden," Dean explained. "We don't like it but Meg is our best bet. She's desperate for allies and no one else to turn to. She's using us for protection, but we're using her too. Just have to hope a better deal doesn't come along. How it works as a hunter sometimes."

Sam really expected an argument, for Emma to demand to know how Dean was sure of that, but she only sat there for a moment before nodding her head.

"I guess if you think it's best," she agreed.

The younger brother felt a little confused. He'd expected an argument of some kind. Emma had a lot more tendency to demand further answers than that and then get pissy when she didn't get them. Since when had Dean stopped being so tight lipped about their work too? Had something happened between the two when he'd been locked away in the hospital?

He didn't have time to ask before Dean's phone went off and he answered it, talking on for a few minutes before closing the phone.

"Turn around, Sammy. We're heading to Kansas," his brother instructed.

"Back to Kansas?" Emma asked. "Why?"

"There's a case there. A hunter who helped me out on something is working there. Says he needs some back up," he explained as Sam did a U-turn and started heading in the opposite direction. "We'll be there by morning. Why don't you get some sleep, Emma? I'll wake you when we arrive."

"Alright. Good night, Father. Night, Uncle," she said before she laid down on the seat. After a few minutes the only sound that came from behind them was the gentle sound of light breathing.

Dean settled down himself, crossing his arms over his chest and closing his eyes while Sam could only look at the back of the car for a second, confused.

"What's going on?" he asked, before Dean could fall asleep.

"What do you mean?" he replied, eyes still closed and relaxed.

"Is it just me, or are things more mellow between you two? Did something happen? She seems way less… I don't know, antsy teenager and more like… how you were with Dad when we were kids. Willing to listen without needing explanations."

Dean hunched in on himself and stared out at the road before shrugging his shoulders.

"I don't know," he admitted. "Back when we were trying to find someone to help you I needed a second pair of hands. She was trying her best to be helpful, and I let her. She was pretty worried about you too, you know? Then we found Cas and she figured out who he was, well for the most part. I explained a bit about him and she… I dunno, man."

"Maybe she saw something that scared her. Realized this wasn't a game," Sam said softly. He'd remembered when the insanity had left him, watching Castiel in confusion when he'd back away and practically had a fit right in front of them. Emma had been there too, confused looking and a little bit frightened. And after Sam had gotten dressed and they'd been on their way to go, she'd practically tackled him and hugged him tight as she'd buried her face in his chest.

He hadn't said so, but it had kind of hurt given her strength that she clearly hadn't been keeping in check in the emotional moment. His ribs were still sore from where she'd squeezed him but he'd refused to mention it. What would he even say to Dean, his monster niece had hugged him too hard? Yeah right.

"Maybe," Dean said softly. "Whatever happened with her, she's trying. Guess I'm trying too. Man, it's just I don't want her to know this crap but she's still seeing things with her own eyes. It's scared her, it's scared me and we're kind of at this impasse so we're both trying. Give a little and get a little with her, I suppose."

"She said anything more about leaving once this is over?" he asked.

"No, but I think she gets it now."

"Let's hope so," Sam agreed though he wasn't sure if it was more for his brother's sake or hers at this point.


Emma had to admit, Garth was not anything like she had ever experienced in a hunter. Then again, she really hadn't met any that wasn't her own family, but the two male Winchesters gave a vibe of doom and gloom at the best of times and she was starting to see why that was. It had given her the conclusion that all people who did this were like them, gruff and withdrawn, a touch paranoid and very antisocial.

From the first moments they'd interacted, he wasn't like that at all.

"Why who's this?" he asked when he saw her. All three were dressed in suits while she waited around for them. With no hotel yet, she'd been dropped off at an arcade, run down and dirty but with other teens hanging about so good camouflage. She'd amused herself on the boxing game, having more fun in trying to hold back than hit it full force, attempting to get a good score without breaking it. It had been fun for a while, but she'd been getting antsy by the time they'd finally come back. "Here I thought you guys wanted to win a prize or something, not that I would have minded. I'm a mean hand at Wack-o-Mole. Keeps the hand eye coordination sharp, you know?"

"Eh, right. Garth, this is Emma. Emma, this is Garth," Dean supplied. "Come on, kid, time to get going."

"Apprentice or something?" Garth asked as he held out his hand to shake hers, all smiles and not looking at all suspicious like she would have expected. She found herself taking it, his grip a little weak but shaking her hand enthusiastically all the same.

"Daughter," she supplied, finding herself smiling without even knowing why. "I'm Emma Winchester."

"Dean, you sly dog. I didn't know you had a kid," Garth laughed. "Should have figured. She's the spitting image of you."

"Yeah, yeah. We're still on the job. Let's get going," he replied with a roll of his eyes.

All too soon the four of them were in Garth's hotel room, the three men discussing the case. Emma herself listened in, but didn't bother to raise any questions. She had better luck picking up info without seeming like she was listening anyway, pretending to play with her shoelaces while they talked about a brewery and dead kids, trying to figure out what monster had torn them up. Dean seemed more interested in insisting the beer this company made wasn't worth all the fuss it was getting, moving over to grab a few bottles. He handed one to Garth and Sam before opening one himself.

"Don't even think about it, Emma," her father said when she moved to grab one herself. "Not even close to twenty-one."

"You know, there's no drinking age limit in Greece," she said, feeling a little cheated. She was curious herself about why adults drank this stuff so much, and she had the strongest hunch in her gut he had not waited until he was legal to indulge.

"Then hop a plane," he said to her mockingly before his attention was caught on Garth downing a whole bottle. "Wow. Party on, Garth."

She couldn't help but watch the man giggle and laugh after he'd drank the whole bottle in one go. That had to be strong stuff.

"So, something interesting," Sam said once they'd gotten him to calm down a little. He indicated to his computer where he'd been researching. "Says Dale actually left the company two weeks before he died, or maybe he got pushed out cause he didn't want to sell?"

"That would explain the widow. She's suing," Dean supplied. "Maybe Dale had a bone to pick and he's still picking it."

"Right," Garth said, seeming to sober up fast. "Maybe he's spirito malo."

When the police radio picked up and ordered a unit to go to a McAnn residence, she already knew she was going to be told to stay behind, and only nodded when Dean told her to lock and deadbolt the door.

"Oh, she's not coming?" Garth asked. "Guess you're a little young to play Fed yet, huh sweetie?"

"Something like that," she said. "I'll hold down the fort until you get back. Be careful, okay?"

She saw them off before locking the door as she'd been told before glancing back at the couch. Her mind was whirling and while she felt much less rush to run into danger now and do something potentially dangerous, it had not cooled her need to be involved. She was just more conscious of her father's worries now.

Honestly, she had that worry now too, that fear for her family. The image of her uncle in bed was still clinging to her mind, helpless and being tortured by something, in danger while she could do nothing to save him all because she barely had any idea what was going on. Well, she was done with that. Emma was not going to risk losing a member of her family. Not again.

Luckily, she finally had a good place to start figuring out her family's past.

In their rush to leave, Dean had left the journal out.


It was a couple hours later when there was a sudden pounding on the door and she stashed the book away under her jacket. She went to the door and looked through the peephole before unlatching the locks and opening the door quickly to see Garth dragging someone inside.

"Who's that?" the Amazon asked, shocked.

"Got caught investigating," the hunter groaned. "Here, help me with guy before someone sees."

"Right. Sure," she said as she bent over helped drag him across the floor. She could have just picked him up but didn't want to tip any hunter off to her strength and that she wasn't really human, even one as friendly as him. "Where do you want him?"

"Let's throw him in the hot tub. I'm going to cuff him up for when he wakes up," he instructed. She did as he said, dumping the body in and watching as Garth secured him.

"Man, I'm stressed. Usually try to avoid kidnapping, you know?" he asked with a small laugh. "Think I'm going to do some meditation to chill out. Want to join me?"

"What?" she asked blankly. That odd question had come a little out of nowhere.

"Mediation. Helps me find my center," he said as he went to a CD player and put on some music, a soft and gentle tune playing. It reminded her of a Chinese restaurant she'd once eaten at with her family. "This job can be stressful, you know? Best way to deal with it is just relax when you can and get in the little pleasures."

Emma felt more than a little baffled. Mediation? Relaxing? It wasn't at all what she would associate with hunters from her experiences so far, especially not with her father. Was Garth the exception to the standard or was Dean?

"I… I suppose I can," she admitted, more than a little curious anyway. Besides, the last few days had been terribly stressful for her too, not just her father and uncle. Maybe it could help. "What do I do?"

"Oh, it's easy to learn. Just let your body relax," he instructed her. "Breathe in and out slowly, and let your limbs move to the music."

She tried to follow his example, glancing at him occasionally to figure out his stance. It felt awkward to say the least.

"You're thinking about it too much, I can tell. Don't tense up. Just go with the flow," he said with encouragement.

"I don't know the movement I'm supposed to do," she admitted, feeling dumber by the minute.

"It's less about doing something specific and just feeling it. Instinct, you know. Just let your limbs go as they like," he told her.

She tried to do as he said, thinking less about what she was doing and just listened to the music. It was relaxing admittedly, when she wasn't too focused on following his lead exactly. It was nothing like her training, strict and with perfect form expected the first time. Even with the memory of the Amazons, able to learn from only the smallest amount of study, there was limited time before the trial to kill the father came. Mistakes were not tolerated, the demeanor of her teachers like stone.

Emma made herself think of water instead, of the river she'd been saved from, by her father. He'd saved her… and she wanted to save him in return. Before her desires had been selfish. She wanted to know who they were to understand herself. Lineage was everything to her people, and she'd felt held back from it being denied to her. Now… now she still wanted to know, but for a more altruistic reason.

She needed to know who her family was, needed to know the threats that were chasing them. Emma would not allow her father to face this alone, not if she could help it. She finally found her purpose, the reason she was here in this life. Her path was not to be the sword that struck him down, but the shield that kept him safe.

"Ah, see. I told you'd get the hang of it," Garth said with a smile. She felt surprised at the voice suddenly breaking her concentration.

"I… what?" she asked.

"Helps if you find your focus," he said with a wink.

The Amazon realized her body had been moving without even thinking about it, trailing her hands through the air as if slowly treading water, just letting the movement flow through her. Huh. Maybe this meditation thing did work after all. She wasn't sure if she felt less stressed, but there certainly was a focus in her.

"Garth?" Sam suddenly called out and she whipped around suddenly to see her family watching in both confusion and mild amusement. Okay, not so focused she hadn't heard the door to the room open. "What were you two doing?"

"Uh… meditating?" she said, feeling heat creep up her neck. Suddenly it felt weird again knowing she'd been getting watched. "Just… trying it on for size."

"Please don't start telling me you want to listen to new age hippie crap," Dean said, snickering a little as she flushed.

"Yeah, still think I'm going to stick to ACDC and Black Sabbath, thanks," she said, a little personally insulted he would suggest otherwise. Ever since listening to the Styx tape she'd found herself to be a big fan of her father's music, much to Sam's annoyance, but clearly it wasn't meant for… whatever kind of movement she and Garth had been doing just now.

"So where's Baxter?" Sam asked.

"Over there in the hot tub," Garth answered. "He's a lot heavier than he looks, FYI."

"You have the C.E.O. of the douchiest micro-brew in the U.S. gagged in your hot tub? You really think that's gonna end well?" Dean asked.

"I'm not feeling the love," the smaller hunter replied.

"Alright, shojo. Let's see what we can see," Sam said as he went back to his computer. Before he could get to it though, Emma quickly launched herself forward at it and hit a few keys. "Uh… Emma?"

"Sorry. I was playing some solitaire on it. Got bored," she excused, not wanting to admit the truth. Having flipped through the journal for a bit, she'd also looked up a few things online that she really didn't want her relatives to know she'd been looking at. "Just wanted to close it down for you."

"Uh huh," he said before he sat down.

"So what's a shojo?" Garth asked.

"Japanese booze monster," Dean replied as he grabbed his flask to get a drink for himself.

"I guess that would explain why you got to be drunk to see it," he admitted.

"Okay, so a shojo is said to roam where there's lot of alcohol. Apparently you can harness the will of one with the right spell box. Then you basically have an attack dog to carry out whatever kind of revenge mission you want."

"So then this Dale person set this up to hurt the people who hurt him?" Emma asked.

"Wait, except it's not killing the people who screwed him over. It's killing the kids."

"Well, his widow said the company was his baby," Sam replies. "So if he really wanted his friends to feel what he felt..."

"He'd take theirs," Dean finished.

"Wait… this guy intentionally set up a monster attack on innocent people over some alcohol?" Emma asked, flabbergasted. "That's horrible!"

"Yeah, well there are screwed up people out there. One way or the other, it's now our job to put this thing down," Dean replied.

"But… the shojo didn't..." she said before she trailed off. It was being forced to kill. It wasn't its idea to do this, just compelled against its will. Sure, it had killed but… was it alright to kill it in return? Wasn't that monster just a victim too? If they didn't though, more people would get hurt, and she wasn't sure these three seasoned hunters would feel the sympathy she was anyway. It wasn't fair to the shojo but since when had life really been fair. When it came down to it, the kids were more innocent than the spirit was so they clearly won out.

She didn't care how screwed over this Dale person felt. He was the monster in this situation in her mind, all that blood spilled over a personal vendetta, and not even with the courage to go after the ones who'd hurt him himself. It was pathetic.

"Good news. It is killable, but only with a samurai sword consecrated with a Shinto blessing," Sam explained as he read over the screen some more.

"Not a silver lining, but doable. I'll hit the pawn shops to get the sword. Shojo already cleaned house so there's only Marie's still standing. You can babysit her," he said before a sudden noise of an EMF reader went off, Garth fumbling with something in his hands.

"Yikes, sorry," he said, as he held it up along with Dean's flask, both quickly getting snatched away.

"Don't worry about it," he muttered, though didn't sound very forgiving on the matter.

"Unless I don't have anything to be sorry for?" he pressed.

"What's he talking about?" Sam asked.

"I'm concerned Bobby might be haunting you. I brought it up to Dean and he shot me down," he explained.

"Garth! Leave it," Dean demanded.

"Dean, it's okay," Sam reassured.

"No, it's not. It's far from okay," her father said, clearly getting irritated.

"I already tried contacting Bobby," he confessed. "When that beer disappeared I pulled out a talking board."

"Without me?" Dean asked, clearly getting angry now.

"I figured why drag you in when I could just put it to bed myself?"

"And?"

"And he'd been there I would have told you," Sam promised him.

Further talk was cut off by groaning. It looked like the kidnap victim was waking up.

"We'll talk about this later. You follow Marie. Garth, let me borrow your keys," Dean muttered before leaving, Sam following after him shortly afterward.

"Are you going with them?" Emma asked, feeling more than a little awkward about all of this. She knew of Bobby as an old hunter who'd collected a lot of research material and was now dead, but that conversation had felt much more personal. Like everything else, it felt like a bigger story.

"Mmm, no. Actually… I got a hunch about something," Garth replied before he walked over to the C.E.O. and started to grill him about what was really going on, asking about some slacker janitor only to have it revealed this guy was the kidnapped victim's son.

"Alright, that's it. We're going," he said to Emma.

"Wait, I'm coming?" she asked, shocked.

"Well yeah. Don't you do this stuff with you dad all the time?" he asked as he started to grab small liquor bottles and stuff them in his pockets.

The teenager only hesitated for a moment.

"Yes. Yes I do," she lied smoothly, trying her best not to appear eager at all.

"Then grab your coat and let's go," he urged as he tossed the key to the old man in the tub. "You care about that kid at all and you won't call the cops on me just yet."

She followed him out in a flash, terribly excited at the idea of getting some hands on experience for hunting even with her sympathy for the spirit. Her father would be livid she knew, but it wasn't like she was going off half-cocked on her own. An experienced hunter was with her so it'd be just fine.

"Oh darn… forgot Dean took the car..." Garth sighed. "You know how to hot-wire a car?"

"Uh… no," she admitted. "I don't even know how to drive yet."

"Well, time for you to learn both. Can't drive, I'm gonna be drinking," he said before pushing her to a banged up vehicle they both hoped no one would miss for the short time it was gone. He got the car started while explaining to her how it worked, but he was too rushed for the lesson to be much good before he shoved her into the driver's seat. "Accelerator's the skinny one. Break is the fat one. You look like you're about to hit something, slam on that! Turn the wheel in the direction you want to steer the car. Now let's go!"

"That is not a lesson in driving!" she snapped back, starting to feel maybe going off on this hunt was not wise after all.

"We've got a kid to save! Drive, drive!"

She decided to just shut up and do what he said. By the time she even thought to ask if there was anything else she should know about cars he was already chugging the bottles. Figuring she would learn best by doing, she hitting the gas with her foot and they sped off.

Good thing the car was already so banged up. No one would notice more dents, hopefully.

The drive had been far from smooth, but they managed to make it there, Garth already sloshed. He pulled out his phone to call Dean and warn them about the shojo being after the lovechild victim, fumbling with his keys as he tried to get the door open.

"Okay, I've had enough of this," she said before she kicked at the door, shattering the glass with her boot. "We don't have time for this! Come on!"

"Wow… you got one tough daughter there, Dean," Garth supplied before hiccuping.

"Wait! Emma's there?! Garth, what were you thinking?!" she heard her father yelling over the phone before she grabbed the jacket of the man and pulled him along.

"I'm sober. You're going to need to be the eyes," she said, trying to distract him from the fact she wasn't technically supposed to be here.

"Oh right. Good call," he said as he lead the way through the brewery as Emma took the phone from him.

"Hey, Father. I'm fine. It's all under control here at the brewery. Don't worry," she said before quickly hanging up. She was in so much trouble for this.

They sneaked through the building, Garth surprisingly stealthy for someone who'd down five or six small bottles of wine and whiskey. He stopped suddenly at seeing a young man in a uniform cleaning. A bit of dread filled her when the hunter looked to the side, clearly seeing something she couldn't. Just how was she going to be able to fight, and more than that, how had that thought not occurred to her until just now? That guy barely looked older than her and now his life was directly in their hands.

"It's here. Okay, we grab the kid and run for it, got it?" he said to her. "We don't have the sword so it's the best plan we got right now."

Running away. Right, okay. She could do that. Rushing forward with him, she grabbed the janitor by the arm as he yelled out a protest.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! What the hell?!" he cried out before Emma just yanked him forward into following her.

"Any idea where we're going?" she asked as they made their way down the hall.

"Away from here is a start!" Garth cried.

"Dude, what's going on? Who are you two?" the janitor asked.

"Now's not the time," she snapped at him as he tried to pull out of her grip, not that she was letting go.

"Look, I'll just shoot straight," Garth said, seeming to want to placate him so he'd come willingly. "Baxter is your father. Baxter screwed Dale. Dale roped this Japanese monster you can only see when you're drunk and now it's here to kill you."

"Yeah, that kind of sums it up," Emma agreed.

"Wait a minute, Baxter is my father?" the guy asked, clearly missing the point of the situation they were all in.

"Now's not the time for that!" she snapped before Garth went still. "Garth… what is it?"

"Grab the kid and go!" he ordered. "Damn it, run!"

"Dude, there's nothing there!" the janitor yelled before the hunter was suddenly hit by an invisible force and sent flying through a window.

"Oh… oh damn..." Emma whispered. There went the only one who could see it. "Come on!"

This time she didn't need to grab the guy and force him along, seeming eager to believe something was after him now. They needed to get out of here and fast. Could this thing keep up with a car?

"Don't worry! I'll protect you, okay?" she said as they skidded around the corner. She wasn't feeling as confident as she would have liked, but panicking was not going to help in this situation. "We need a way out of here. Where's an exit?"

The door slammed shut to their left just as the other teen pointed to it.

"Other door! Through here," he said as he ran into it, her following after him as fast as she could. "There's a fire exit just up ahead!"

"Okay! Just stay ahead of me! I'll keep between you and it!" she ordered as they ran, nearly slamming into Sam on their way. "Uncle! What are you doing here?"

"Dean called me! Where's Garth?" he asked.

"Knocked through a window. Look, we have to run!" she said before he grabbed the two of them and shoved them behind him.

"Wait, you can see it?" the janitor asked.

"Yeah. I'm… I'm skunked," he informed them. "Emma, make for the fire exit with him, on three."

"Uncle, it can-" was all she managed to say before the door closed with a loud bang, "close doors from a distance. Yeah..."

She was starting to think getting out of the building was not a sound plan.

"Okay, so much for that," he said before he found himself slammed up against the wall.

"Ahhh!" the janitor screamed as she stepped in front of him.

"Calm down! Look… just stay behind me, okay. Just… just run when I tell you to," she said, looking wildly around. There was nothing there, nothing at all, but she had to do something. Maybe she could grab a hold of it when it came after her, wrestle it to the ground while he made his escape. It wasn't much of a plan but they were fast running out of options. This kid would die if she didn't do something and fast!

"Emma! Get down!" Dean yelled, running up behind the pair and brandishing a sword. "Move it!"

"Come on," she said, pushing the kid against the wall and trying her best to cover him. It was all she could do in this situation as her father swung wildly, trying to hit something he clearly couldn't see either as it started to beat on him and knock the sword away. She'd almost run to grab it for him before it slid back towards him on it's own.

"How… how did..." she whispered before the fight distracted her again.

"Where is it?!" Dean demanded to know of Sam who was slowly getting back up.

"Uh… swing right!" Sam ordered only for his brother to hit air. "My right. No, no. Three o'clock! Six o'clock!"

Dean spun around and slashed at the monster, hitting it this time from the sound of its scream before shoving the blade inside of its torso. Emma watched, fascinated and horrified as the creature became visible, a gangly woman in white with long black in a white robe before it fell to the ground in an explosion of air.

"Are you okay?" he asked, out of breath and looking pissed.

"Uh… we're alive..." she supplied.

"Where's Garth?" he asked.

"Over back there," the janitor supplied. "I'll… I'll go get him."

"Yeah, good idea," she said as she followed him, not eager to face Dean's wrath right now. However, she paused when she heard him talk, lingering by the corner as Sam and the saved victim walked off.

"This moved..." Dean breathed. His voice sounded heartbroken and she couldn't help peek around the corner. What was going on here? "Bobby? Are you here?"

He paused for a second before shaking his head.

"Come on, do something."

She looked behind her as Sam approached, clearly hearing the same thing she was. The worried look on his face only made her feel even less at ease.

"Let's go," he said softly to her. "On the way you can explain to me what you were even doing here."

"Garth asked me along," she supplied lamely, knowing that wasn't going to fly.

"And did you tell him you're not allowed to hunt?" he asked her.

"It… it didn't come up," she sighed out. "Am I in trouble?"

"That's up to Dean. Come on. Let's get out of here," Sam said. "What were you even thinking? You know we worry about you. Why would you put yourself in danger like that?"

"Because I'm worried too," she confessed, causing him to stop in his tracks and look back at her. She felt miserable, staring down at the ground. "I didn't know about your past… so I… I just want to learn. I want to help, to keep you guys safe. I..."

"Emma, that's not your job, okay? You don't have to worry about us. Dean doesn't want you to have to do what we do."

"Like John did to you two?" she asked softly. Sam stopped and stared at her hard.

"How do you..." He trailed off when she pulled the journal out of her jacket, feeling more guilty about that then the fact she'd run off.

"I read some of it," she said softly. "It mentioned something killing a woman named Mary and the writer… John… and you two just being kids… They were your mom and dad, right? I looked up graves in Kansas on your computer and found her listing… Father told me two were from Kansas. We're just a short way from here in Lawrence in state so… it was kind of easy to find."

"Emma… that's… you don't need to..."

"I'm scared, Uncle," she confessed to him. "I'm scared about you and him. I don't know anything, anything at all. I just want to keep you two safe. I want to keep whatever happened to you at the hospital from happening again. I want-"

He silenced her by pulling her into a sudden hug, cutting her off with the unexpected display of affection.

"Shh. Don't… just don't, Emma. What happened in the hospital, that's never coming back, ever. What killed Mom is never coming back. I swear."

"Then why can't I stay?" she breathed.

Her uncle paused for a second before sighing.

"You really want to know? I'll show you then," he said softly.

It wasn't until they got back to the hotel and returned the stolen car did she start to feel calmed down again. She didn't know what Sam had meant by what he'd said, but stayed silent. Her father seemed to exhausted to say anything to her about what she'd done and just collapsed in the bed.

"I'm feeling a bit more clear headed," Sam said after a while, a cup of coffee in his hands. "Gonna take Emma out for a bit, talk to her about what she did, okay?"

Dean looked up at them before nodding and letting his head fall back on the pillow. Emma got to the car before pausing.

"Garth showed me how to drive," she mentioned. "I mean… it was rushed, and I wasn't all that good but if you need more time before you're good, I can do it."

"Alright," he said before getting in the passenger side of the car. He was much slower in giving instructions to her and she started to feel more confidence behind the wheel. It felt calming to be learning something at her family's instructions, almost like the meditating she'd tried with Garth. "So we're going to be heading out of town. Don't worry. It's pretty much a straight shot."

"To where?" she asked.

"To Lawrence."

She stared at him for a second before nodding her head slowly. Deep down she knew her father probably wouldn't want this, would have forbidden it, but it didn't stop her from following the directions of her uncle. The drive was mostly silent. She didn't need to be told to take many turns for the hour and a half that she drove. A feeling of trepidation was starting to fill her gut, but she didn't make any attempt to speak.

They eventually reached a graveyard, fenced off and locked up. Getting a boost up from Sam, she climbed up it and then helped him up as well before he turned on a flashlight and led the way. He didn't seem to need it though, even in the dark knowing exactly where he was going.

The sight of the grave was chilling to her, reading the name on it. She'd already seen the listing on the website she'd looked at, but being so close felt damning somehow.

"There's no body here," Sam said softly. "There's nothing here. Nothing at all."

"Right. The journal said she was bur-"

"Don't say it," he cut her off, his tone getting harsh. She immediately shut her mouth. "Emma, I know you get how dangerous this is. I'm not going to stand here and scold you about it. I don't think you went off on that hunt expecting any kind of fun adventure. Dean treats you like you don't get it, but you and I know you do. You're… you're not like other people. You're different."

"Uncle..."

"I'm different too," he admitted. "For a long time, I tried to get away from this. I tried to be normal. I tried to live the life I wanted. It got someone I loved killed. What affects our family, it got Mom killed. Fate chased us down. Didn't matter what we did, we were stuck with our lot. And our dad… you know what got him killed?"

"The same thing that got my grandmother?" she asked.

"No. It was keeping damn secrets," he told her. "From the very start he prepped us our whole lives to fight the thing that did this to us, and then he didn't want us around. He wanted to protect us, but we followed anyway. If we'd known everything from the start, the curse that's on our family, what was planned out for us… Dad didn't know everything, but he knew enough he could have prevented getting himself killed if he'd just shared with us. He knew I wasn't normal, that I was dangerous, and he kept it from me to try to protect me. I could have kept the girl I loved, that I wanted to marry, safe if I'd told her the truth. So what I'm saying is, if you want to learn that badly, I'll talk to Dean for you. But this? This running off, looking stuff up on your own, and especially the keeping secrets thing? It stops. Now. Or I'll get Dean to drop you off with a hunter who'll look after you and you don't see us again until you graduate and maybe not even then. But if you promise to stop acting so recklessly… I'll start teaching you, even if Dean doesn't approve. He might trust you enough to let you know what's going on with the odd hunt, but I'll show you what to do and I'll do my best to convince him it's for the best. Only if promise me though."

She waited a second before nodding her head slowly.

"I promise. No more secrets," she said. He patted her on the head before sat down in front of the grave. "Are we staying?"

"For a bit. Your kind look up to strong women, right? Well, maybe you'd like to hear a bit about her," he offered. "We'll be back before sun up, and I'll talk to Dean."

She quickly sat down next to him, listening as he started to tell her what little he knew about the hunter known as Mary Winchester.

Chapter Text

"I can't believe you promised her that! She's not hunting!"

"Dean, I'm not saying she needs to hunt! I'm saying she needs to learn!"

A small crash sounded in the hotel room as Emma winced, just outside the door with her bag at her feet. Her posture was stooped down, hunched over a bit, and clearly uncomfortable. She glanced up for a moment, her eyes searching, possibly looking around to see if anyone else had heard but no one was around that she could see.

Of course, that didn't mean that no one was there.

If Bobby still had breath in his lungs, he probably could have sighed, or more likely would have snapped at the two for fighting. It wasn't something he hadn't seen before. Those two boys loved each other dearly, more than life itself, but they were both stubborn beyond belief and didn't always see things the same way. It led to arguments between them often and he'd long since gotten used to it. You could love someone deeply and still want to rip into them like no one's business.

From the looks of it, this was the first time Emma was experiencing the intensity between the two Winchester brothers, and she did not look at all comfortable with it. He hadn't been quite awake the whole time she had been traveling with the pair, coming in and out for some reason, but he was sure she hadn't seen this side of them before just from the pensive way she was perched by the door.

"Don't worry," he said to her, despite knowing she could not hear him. "You get used to those two idjits after a while."

"Dean," Sam pressed from inside the room, not aware of the presence outside anymore than Emma was. "You want to protect her, I get it. I want to protect her too."

"Oh? You want to protect her? And teaching her about monsters so she'll hunt them-"

"It's not to hunt them, Dean! It's so she can defend herself when they hunt her!" the younger brother insisted. "I mean think about it. You really believe there's no chance something will ever come after her?"

Dean hesitated a second before snarled at him.

"No one is going to come after her," he insisted. "Not when we put her somewhere safe."

Sam just sighed and shook his head.

"Where on Earth would she be safe?" he asked his brother. "Where were we safe, Dean? Look at what we were picked for, what the big plan for us was. There was nowhere to go to, no where to run. We didn't have anywhere to go. Heaven wanted us, and in the end… they got what they wanted. I said yes, and if it weren't for Castiel I'd still be down there."

"Sam, don't-"

"What would have happened if Dad hadn't gone for revenge? You know as well as I did that for years I hated him for what he did, but he was right! If he hadn't learned, hadn't trained us, we never would have a chance to fight back. Hell, his biggest flaw was not telling us enough," Sam reasoned. "If we had known… We could have ended it before it ever got that far."

"Yeah right. They were pulling the strings from the beginning," he muttered. "Micheal talked a big game about fate, but they were making things the way they wanted from the very first steps. Course it works out the way you want when you're manipulating it."

"Okay, fine, maybe, but that doesn't change the facts that if we'd grown up normal, if we hadn't known anything, we probably would have made things worse. I mean, imagine you growing up believing someone like God actually cared about us? Imagine if you had said yes, that we both said yes, because we didn't know any better. That's what happened to Adam."

"Don't you mention him!" Dean snapped. "It's not the same!"

"It is the same!" Sam insisted. "Dean, he didn't know anything and he's gone! She doesn't know anything! Not really! We keep her in the dark and one day something is going to come for her and she's not even going to know what it is! You think heaven doesn't know about her? You think they're not going to take an interest, or one of the thousands of things we've killed over the years isn't going to want to come after her! Damn it, you should know better than that!"

Dean glared at him, but Sam didn't back down. Over the years had things had shifted in their attitude about their dad. He could see the resentment that Dean had for the man, how much had been put on his shoulders, things he hadn't deserved. Dean should have been able to grow up a happy kid and had been turned into a soldier. When they'd been younger he'd never seemed to mind but the worse things that had happened to him, the more he'd started to crack under the strain.

Sam didn't want that to happen to Emma. He didn't want her to grow up bitter about her life and how it had ended up, up to her elbows in blood and misery just because as a teenager she thought this lifestyle was worth pursuing, just like Dean had when he'd been her age, but he also didn't want her to end up a victim, just another dead body on the long list of people they'd failed. They'd saved a lot of people, but they'd lost a lot too.

He couldn't stand the thought of the young Amazon just being another person they couldn't save.

"Look, we can prepare her," he said softly. "I'm not saying let her go out and look for trouble, just… know what to do if something comes after her."

"It's just encouraging her," Dean muttered. "I thought giving her a bit of freedom would work, and then she runs off with Garth to find that shojo. She couldn't fight that thing. Her strength wouldn't have done anything for her. She should have known better than to go out there and be so reckless. So why'd she do it? Because she thinks it's some kind of game! Because she thinks it's fun!"

"No. She did it the same reason we do," Sam remarked coldly. "To save people."

"And who'd she save?" he asked. "No one. She was in danger. She was in the way!"

"Did you ever think that maybe she did it to try and save you?!"

Dean hesitated for a second before scoffing.

"I don't need saving, least of all by her."

"'Fraid this is gonna go on a while," Bobby said to Emma. The boys were going from talking to yelling and back again every couple of sentences, but he was catching the gist of it and he had a feeling she was too. This wasn't going to calm down any time soon, that was for sure. "Trust me, you get used to it. Their bark is always worse than their bite when it comes to each other, and I'm sure that's true for you too."

At first he hadn't been too pleased about this whole situation. Trust Dean to go and be stupid enough to knock boots with the creature they'd been hunting. They'd been lucky he helped in a similar case some time ago and had been able to get the paper to them. He was sure the girl would have end up six feet under when the boys put the clues together but he supposed that just proved life was full of surprises.

He'd grown up raising the boys, taking care of them when their dad couldn't or wouldn't. He knew the looks of Dean and Sam pretty well, and he had to admit she was the spitting image of her father when he'd been younger. Same soft eyes, narrow face and look of bitter determination that was bound to end up getting her in trouble someday. He could see why Dean was worried.

Made him wish he was still alive. He'd have happily taken the girl in on the boy's request, looked after her to teach her and make sure she was still allowed to have normal things, maybe sundaes on warm afternoons while teaching her how to take out an engine of an old clunker. It probably would have taken some stress out of the situation, that was for sure. The boys certainly didn't have a hunter anymore they could trust enough to look after her. She was something most hunters put down. If any of them found out what she was, it was a gamble if she'd make it out of the situation alive, but it was clear dragging her along was causing the boys to wig out a little too much.

"Never should have gone with Garth," she whispered before rubbing her face. A look of finality crossed her before she sighed and went inside the room. It took a full minute of yelling before the two even noticed she was in there.

"Emma, we asked you to wait outside," Sam said.

"I don't need to learn," she said before anything more could be said. "Father's right, it'll just get me into trouble."

"No, trouble is what you need to avoid by learning how to defend yourself. Look, we'll work this out," he assured her, but Dean just shook his head.

"She'll be fine once she's out of the way," he said, not even seeming to notice the way the girl flinched at his words.

"Oh for the love of crap! You know, for someone who doesn't want to end up like your dad, you're acting a lot like him!" Bobby snapped. "You hated it every time he went and left you behind to go on some hunt! Stubborn idjit!"

The three living Winchesters looked up as the lights flickered for a moment and Bobby groaned a bit. Stuff like this always took it out of him. How could he feel winded by so little? He'd hunted ghosts that were strong enough to bring down walls and getting excited enough to flicker lights made him feel like he'd run a marathon.

"Come on. Let's get out of this cheap place," Dean said as he grabbed his jacket and walked out.

"Guess that's the end of that," Emma said softly.

"No it's not," her uncle assured her. "Let me work on him."

"He seems pretty adamant about it. You've been arguing with him about this for a whole week now."

"He's just stubborn. He'll come around," he said with a smile but Bobby, and he was sure Emma too, couldn't help but notice it was a pretty forced one.

It wouldn't do much good. If there was anything that Dean knew how to do, it was it was dig his feet in and stand his ground. Sam tried when his brother wasn't around, but the teen girl always was a mess during the attempted lessons, refusing every time to touch a thing whenever her father went out to grab a bite to eat for the group or left for another reason. It was pretty obvious she wanted to learn, but she wasn't allowing it without permission from him first. Bobby himself just sat on the sidelines, often carried along with the flask in Dean's pocket while the man stole away to drink away the stress.

"It's okay to be worried, you know," he said to him one night when the younger man had gone off to buy burgers for them all, perched on the trunk of a stolen car and hitting the whiskey. He often talked to the boys even if he knew he couldn't be heard. He'd always had a lot to say in life and death certainly hadn't changed it. "I agree with you. She needs to grow up, get a chance at a life, but you got to stop saying things like getting her out of the way. Think about how that would have made you feel at her age. Hell, Sam ran away for two years because all the ways he disagreed with your dad. You got to try to fix this."

Dean didn't make any indication he heard him. He never did. It made Bobby want to smack him one.

It was several weeks and a couple hunts later and things weren't getting any better. Relegated back to waiting, Emma was getting twitchy with agitation, and her dad wasn't much better. It would have been a tense enough mood without the issue of what to do with her, but the debate of Bobby's death was adding to it. Dean kept trying to see if Bobby was alive, but he never seemed to be paying enough attention, never seeming to notice whenever the ghost was able to ruffle a curtain or move something small, the best he seemed able to pull off. Sam himself seemed determined not to believe, seeming to find comfort that they were just imagining things and it was all fine.

And the girl, well he didn't know much what to do about her. Of course she had to be one of the creatures that didn't see ghosts. He couldn't get that lucky to be able to talk to her. He'd tried a couple times, to get her attention to, but she was too wrapped up to seem to notice either.

"Fools, the lot of you," he bit out one night as they parked out in the middle of nowhere, eating. The boys were on the hood while Emma had lifted herself onto the roof, picking at her food.

"How do you eat hard shells?" she asked. "Mine keeps splitting down the middle and it falls out from the bottom."

"Heh. Bit a trick to it. Hold it in the paper from the bottom," Dean said. "It helps keep it all together."

He seemed to be a bit of a better mood tonight. It was a good sign, and behind his back, she smiled a bit before adjusting her grip and kept eating.

The peaceful moment was shattered when the man's phone rang and he answered it.

"Annie," the hunter answered. "This is a nice surprise. How you been?"

He looked somber for a bit before answering.

"Yeah, me too," he said, his good mood immediately failing. Damn it, they were talking about him, weren't they?

"Who's Annie?" Emma whispered softly to Sam.

"Old hunter buddy," Sam replied softly before putting a finger to his lips. "Just wait a second."

Dean hung up a moment later before glancing over at Sam.

"Annie said she's got some old books of Bobby's," he said before either could ask. "She's on a case nearby. Wants to meet with us for lunch. We're close enough we can get there before it's too late."

"A female hunter? Really? What's she like?" the Amazon asked, her tone clearly excited before coughing. "I guess I'll be waiting while you talk to her?"

"We're just getting some books. You can come along," Dean said. "Unless she needs help on a hunt. Then you stay behind, yeah. And don't sneak out this time."

"Yeah, okay."

"I'm taking your knife with me too."

"Go ahead."

"I mean it, Emma. I expect you to behave yourself."

"I said okay!" she snapped before savagely biting into her taco. Sheesh, girl even ate angry like her dad. This was getting ridiculous.

"Three of you are gonna kill each other before the Leviathans get the chance," Bobby muttered as he shook his head. "Figured Sam woulda been the one to refuse to train a kid and you would have dragged someone in just fine. Damn, your daddy did one something fierce to you boys, no matter how I tried to shield from it."


This was getting ridiculous and Bobby had about had his fill. He couldn't believe how dumb the boys were being right now, so damn slow that the house Annie had been investigation in was going to fall down on its own before they figured things out. Poor Annie was dead, and he was stuck in a hotel room while Sam flipped through papers and Dean just showered. How the hell was this going to get them anywhere? Right now he was the only one close to the boys that could also tell them what was going on.

He perched himself in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to calm himself. There was one option he could do, but it was going to take some effort. He needed to though. Every minute they waited around, the longer she was in danger.

"Alright now. I can kill werewolves, fix a Pinto, and bake cornbread. I will be damned if I can't get zen."

He focused as best he could without tensing up. This was too important to screw up, and he just let himself think about doing this for Annie and the boys. People still needed his help. He had to do right by them. Slowly his finger made contact with the mirror, feeling more solid to him than anything had for a while now. He moved his finger slowly, trying not to get excited and risk jinxing it.

He heard the footsteps behind him as someone walked in, turning his head to see Emma staring at him, or more specifically the mirror he was writing on. The towels she'd been carrying dropped from her hands and she suddenly gave a shout.

"Father! FATHER! Something's in here!" she cried out. Dean's curtain ripped aside enough for him to see, grabbing the towel on the rack and the gun right next to it, not that it was needed. The message itself should have been clue enough to that. 'Annie trapped in house,' had a pretty clear meaning to it after all.

"Sam? Tell me you wrote that..." Dean said after his brother had rushed in to see what was going on.

"Uh… No. No, I didn't," he said softly.

"It was appearing by itself," Emma explained in a rush. "Someone was writing it, but there was no one there!"

"Someone has to be. Who's there?!" Dean asked loudly.

"Looks like you three are finally getting it," Bobby said before he started to spell his own name.

"Bobby?" Dean asked.

"Yes," the ghost sighed out. It was about time.

"This whole time we've been trying to talk ourselves out of it, he's been… What's he doing here?"

Sam looked around for a second before grabbing the flask, trying to bring Dean and Emma's attention to it.

"We don't have time for this! Get your asses back to the house!" he ordered. They could go over the flask with a fine tooth comb if they wanted to later!

"We got to get back to that house, stat," Dean realized. "Emma, out! I gotta get dressed, and we head out. You stay here."

"We're not going to talk about there's a ghost in the hotel?" she asked incredulously.

"Not now. Now out!"

"Fine, fine!" she said before stalking off and throwing herself to the bed. "I saw the message. Think I could get some credit."


It was a shame for Bobby to see Annie gone, it really was. She'd been one hell of a strong woman, willing to continue her last case even dead, and seeing to the burning of her own body without so much of a whimper. It had been a shame to see her gone, it really had been. Then again, it hit them all one time or another. Very, very few hunters got a chance to retire. Hell, most of them didn't seem to want to, just look at him.

Dean was clearly upset when Bobby had revealed he'd stayed on purpose, and he himself was mad too. Both the boys had come back from death, literal hell and high water, and Dean was off spouting it wasn't natural? Logically he knew the boy was getting things piled on higher and higher on his shoulders, was about two or three pieces of bad news from cracking, but Bobby would have thought this would make him pleased to know the old hunter was still around to help, dead or not. Seemed it didn't matter though. Give it enough time and they'd all calm down and be able to talk it over. They'd make it work somehow.

When they reached the hotel, Emma was still laying on the bed, curled up on her side and sleeping soundly, her hair hanging over her face. Dean walked slowly up to her, reaching for her and gently brushing a strand of her strawberry red hair away before smiling softly, just the tiniest crook of his lips.

"Dean..." Sam said in a soft tone as he noticed, frowning when his brother suddenly yanking his hand back as if he'd been caught doing something he shouldn't be. "Dean, why are you doing this to yourself?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, shoving his hands back in his pockets. Bobby was gone for the moment, invisible and too annoyed to want to show himself anyway, but he was still watching and would have scoffed if he felt it would do Dean any good.

"We're not going to do this, are we?" Sam asked. "This is how it always goes. You and I argue, we refuse to talk to each other about the issue, then something or someone literally blows up in our face and we end up having to talk anyway. Can we just skip that headache, just once?"

"And blow our perfect track record?" Dean snarked. "Besides, you've kept just as many secrets as me, so you're not one to talk. What's the difference now?"

Sam leveled him with a look, a fierce look on his face.

"She is. I mean, accident or not, now we're basically her parents now. She learns everything from us," he said simply. "You want her to be like we are, unable to process our own crap in a healthy way or you want to talk this out like a couple of adults?"

"Sam, I'm not getting into this. Don't."

"Dean, I'm not stopping until you listen to me. Don't you get it, or are you just refusing to? Look, I know you want to keep her safe, but-"

"But what, Sam?" the older man hissed at him. "I want to keep her safe, but she should learn how to kill things? She needs to know how to take a shotgun to a monster's chest? She needs to learn the tricks to the trade? She needs the understanding of the family business?"

"Yes," he sighed out. "Why is that so hard for you? She can still go to high school. She can still go out and make friends, and live in the suburbs and be normal. I just… I want to know if anything comes after her, she'll be able to handle it. Why are you so against that?"

"She likes the music I like," Dean muttered as Sam looked on him confused.

"What?"

"She likes the music I do," he reiterated. "She's so protective of others she's willing to let herself get hurt or worse for them. She's good at fighting, like I am, and she likes it, like I do."

"Well, Emma is your kid. Stands to reason-"

"She likes all the things that I like, like she's trying to impress me, like she wants to be just like me!" Dean snarled. "Sound familiar? Dad liked that music! Dad made a deal to protect us! Dad seemed happier killing something than he ever did anything else to the point of being obsessed with it! I idolized him! I wanted to be just like him, and I got my wish! I'm just as screwed up and empty inside as he ever was! You should know that! You tried to get away from it, tried to get away from him!"

"Yeah, but he was-"

"He was an obsessed bastard, Sammy! I couldn't fucking live with myself if I did that to her!" he snapped before shaking his head. "Damn it, Sammy. I'm not blind. I know she wants to learn, she wants to come along because she thinks it'll impress me if she does well. I was the same way. I wanted so bad for him to see me as good as he was. I was an idiot kid back then, and now everyone's gone and I'm to blame. I wreck lives and get people killed. Dad's dead, our friends are dead, Bobby's dead and Cas is..."

"Cas is alive, Dean."

"No he's not, not in the way that matters," he muttered. "And I did it."

"The Leviathans did that."

"No, the Leviathans broke his body. I broke his head. I drug him out from his happy life and screwed him!"

Sam put hand on his shoulder, trying to get his brother to look at him.

"Nothing would have changed. Demons were after him. You kept him safe and he chose to help on his own in the end," he said. "Is that what this is about? Are you scared she's going to end up like Cas?"

"No… I'm scared she's going to end up like us. We teach her and what? She starts to wonder about us, about what kind of job we're on and if we're okay? She gets worried cause we don't come and visit? She thinks she can do something about it and gets tempted to? What if one day she's somewhere safe and comfortable, happy and content only for some selfish idiot to come into her home and tell her that her dad's on a hunting trip… and hasn't been home in a few days?"

"Dean..."

"Revenge loves us, Sam. Always has. Much as Dad to us, we'd both take a bullet for him in a heartbeat and you know it, even now. I can't stand him now but… I'd still do it. I don't want her to learn, I don't want her to look up to me. I don't want her to be like me because then she ends up on the exact same road, alone, empty and out in the dark looking for one more case to keep her mind off things while she tracks me down. Maybe you're right, maybe someday she'll get caught up to and hurt… but this way I can guarantee she'll resent me too much to give a damn if I end up missing. My way she has a chance, however slim. Your way? She either dies or end up bitter and angry, and then dies anyway."

"ALRIGHT! THAT'S ENOUGH!" Bobby suddenly yelled as one of the lights in the room exploded. The two boys jumped in surprise and Emma was awake in a heartbeat, shock evident in her wide eyes as she looked around. Her sight landed firmly on Bobby and she immediately pushed herself back on the bed, her hands and feat scrambling as she shoved her back into the headboard.

"Whoa! Emma! Emma, it's okay!" Sam said immediately, reaching for her hand to try and calm her down. "Emma, it's fine. Everything's fine. It's just Bobby. Who can apparently explode electronics now… I guess. Totally normal."

"B-Bobby?" she asked as she looked at the ghost. She didn't look relieved, but the old hunter wasn't surprised. He was feeling pretty livid right now and he'd been a fierce man even when alive. The Swayze act probably wasn't helping. "The one… the one with the books… and the mirror?"

"Yeah," Dean said before turning to the ghost. "What the hell, man? You can't just cough to announce your-"

"You be quiet, you damned fool!" Bobby said loudly as he rounded on him. "Now I've had to watch your asses nearly your whole life and this has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever heard you say, and trust me it's a long list."

Dean looked like he was about to open his mouth to argue, clearly offended, but Bobby just cut him off.

"Your dad might have had a lot of things wrong with him, and his parenting left a lot to be desired! He should have let you be kids, but he did raise you! You think you can just ditch that girl in whatever suburb you deign good enough and it's not abandonment? Well, you're an idjit! I can't even say that enough! He might have not been perfect, hell he was far from it, but he certainly tried and he never gave up like you seem so determined to do. People died, yeah! They do it all the time, and it's not easy but it's no damn reason to not allow yourself to let others in! The reason you're trying so hard to push her away is you don't want her to end up a mess? Sounds more like you're afraid to have one more thing on your shoulders! Don't make her feel unloved just cause you're hurting right now! Grow up! You're a father now, damn it! Act like it!"

"Hey, I-"

"A father does more than feed a kid and keep them alive! A father is there for them, gives attention and love, takes the kid out to play ball and have fun! I get you're busy trying to stay alive right now, but you certainly don't imply that they're in the way, and you don't tell them the second it's convenient they're never going to see you again!" Bobby interrupted before rounding on Sam. "And you! You certainly seem eager to talk things out and that's great! God knows you boys don't communicate enough. You're right, you got that bad from your daddy, but it's one thing to say it and then actually do it! You can't say you want to get Dean's permission and then try to teach her the second he leaves!"

"You've been teaching her behind my back?!" Dean asked angrily.

"No! No, I've said no when he brings it up, I swear!" Emma quickly interjected.

"He's trying to though! Don't tell him you're willing to talk when all you want is to get your way cause you think you know best! It's no different than keeping secrets from him! You two have got to learn to compromise! I can't believe all these years and I still have to tell you this crap! Oh, and you!"

Emma looked shocked when he turned to her.

"You are acting like a total brat, you know that? Going behind your father's back one minute and then telling him you're willing to listen the next?" he informed her. "You want credit for listening to him and yet the second you don't get to run off on a hunt you sulk so hard I'm surprised you don't start throwing things to keep the tantrum going! Either listen to Dean and respect his wishes, or tell him you're hunting and be damned with his opinion. Stop this middle-ground crap and expect both him to trust you and still get your way! Only one is going to happen, trust me! And you don't need to be out hunting anyway, you're a damn child!"

"I'm sixteen..." she said weakly.

"Girl, I'll have you know I was there when you were conceived! I know you're months old, tops!" he barked at her.

"Wait… uh… you… you saw that?" Dean asked, fidgeting a little uncomfortably.

"Yeah, I did. Smart move, by the way. No idea what the monster is, and you decide to go for drinks and home with a stranger? No idea what it is, and the number of monsters able to look human are staggering, but good idea, you brain dead moron. You're lucky I was still there with the flask when that lady came back with her as a new born. Saw her grow right in front of my eyes. It was pretty obvious what she was and when you brought me back I was able to give you that clue with the paper. You boys would be lost without me, I swear."

"This is like being lectured by the matrons," Emma said softly before Bobby glared at her, causing her to duck her head. "Sorry, sir."

"Bobby. Don't call me sir. Makes me sound old," he scoffed. "If you're worried about her becoming like you, Dean, you got a reason for it, cause she's every bit as stubborn and dense as the both of you put together. Watched you three for months every time I was aware of what was going on around me, and the lot of you are total idjits."

He was relieved to see the three of them look at least abashed from his lecture. He knew he'd probably laid it on pretty thick, but watching all of this without being able to get it off his chest had really gotten to him. Being a bystander really wasn't his strong suit, having an opinion for everything and he was usually more well adjusted then these two liked to pretend they were. It helped him see the big picture more often then they did and it never hurt to knock some sense into them.

"I just don't want her getting hurt," Dean said, though his tone wasn't very firm.

"I get that. Believe me, I get that. You two are my boys, and I'd give anything to make sure you never got hurt either. Hell, why you think I'm still here, for kicks? You two are too damn important to me for me to turn my back on," Bobby said. "But not letting yourself show her how important she is to you is going to damage her more than teaching her, and it's damn stupid to think she's going to resent you enough to not to try and help you if you ever go missing. Hell, look at how many issues you boys have with your father and you jumped through every hoop to try and save his ass. Separation ain't gonna fix that kind of family bond, not now. Maybe when she'd been just a couple days old, but certainly not now. So will the three of you please stop going on like this and maybe think about your actions a little less about how it serves your own good, and more how it will affect others around you? God damn."

There was silence for a while, the living people in the room seeming to at least listen to him. Sam was the first one to speak.

"I was trying to train her," he admitted. "Just small stuff until you were okay with it, things out of the journal. She did keep her word to you though. She hasn't let me teach her anything, I swear."

"It's true. Father, I do… I do want to help out, but I won't without permission," she added. "I just want to be useful."

Dean sighed and rubbed at his face before grabbing the girl by the wrist and pulling her from the bed. He wrapped his arms around her in a hug, gently patting her on the back.

"I know, but it's not your job to look after me. It's my job to look after you. That's never going to change," he said before swallowing hard. "Just… you gotta stop, Emma. Please. Nothing is going to ever change my mind. I won't have you grow up the way I did. I won't. You're not ending up like me and Sammy."

She buried her face into his chest and hugged him back. Her back started to shake as she sniffled and her father held him tight.

"It's okay. I know you just want to help. It's gonna be okay. I promise, I'll make it okay," he assured him softly. "I just… I need to know you're going let me make it okay."

"You really don't want me, do you?" she asked with a whimper.

"I do, but I have to do the responsible thing and let you go," he admitted. "I'm sorry."

She pulled away after a second and rubbed at her eyes.

"Okay," she relented. "Normal home, normal life… and I'll never come looking. I promise."

"Dean..." Sam said before shaking his head. "Damn it."

"You can teach her," Dean said suddenly.

"What?" both Sam and Emma asked at the same time.

"You can show her how to defend herself," he said. "Give her the best chance she has to stay alive and just hope it never comes to it. Just… don't do it when I'm around. I'm going out. There's still all the books Annie had. Someone better go and collect them."

He walked out of the hotel before either had a chance to protest, and the flask still in his pocket pulled Bobby along with him.

"You really don't want to teach her yourself?" Bobby asked as they walked along. Luckily it was in the dead of night. No one was even going to be around to notice if Dean looked like he was talking to himself. "Could be some good time to bond with her."

"Yeah, honestly that's the last thing I should be doing," he replied. "It's just going to make it all harder in the end. Why bother?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Come on, Bobby. Think about it. I can't even let Sam go. He's my brother, all I got left. I'm losing everything. I've been losing everything for years. It's getting too damn hard. Sam can deny it all he wants, but I screwed Cas. He could have been happy, and Sam could have been happy too, but I went after him..."

"Oh Dean, that's crap. Sam couldn't have stayed in college. You going to get his help did not end that life for him. You're taking too much on yourself," the ghost insisted.

"Maybe, or maybe if he'd been there he could have done something, saved his girl and would been happier without me. We've done more than enough hunts together to know by now I can't let him go. I can't be alone, it hurts too much. I need him and he needs me. We look after each other, but her? She still has a chance, just like Lisa and Ben have a chance because I walked away. That's the end of it. People in my life get hurt, people not in my life are fine. Simple as that," he said coldly. "I'm trying damn hard not to be selfish about her and believe me it's tearing me up inside. You think I don't kind of like it in some twisted way that she's just like me even though it scares me at the same time? All I want to do is show her everything, teach her how to drive, how to play pool, how to fix a car while we sing along to music by bands Dad listened to. I want to pass all that on, know out there somewhere there's someone I really could have all to myself, who wants to stay! Not even Sam wanted to stay! But I can't… I can't be selfish cause it's not right..."

He stared down at he ground before he looked up at him, tears in his eyes.

"Damn it, it's not right to keep her here. She'll just end up like this, like me, in the worst ways."

"Dean, you're a good hunter, but you're a dumb ass," he sighed. "You want her safe but you don't warn her of the danger. You mourn your loss with a family you could have had and won't accept the one right in front of you. You're flip flopping as much as she is. Indecisive brats, the both of you."

"Thanks Bobby. One more thing we have in common. Makes me feel a lot better," Dean muttered.

"Smart ass."

"Thought I was a dumb ass?" he asked with a smirk.

"Shut up," he replied. "Geez, you would be the death of me if I hadn't already kicked it. Look, it's up to you. Clearly it is. I could nag you until the end of time and you'd just go ahead and do what you want anyway, you always do. Now you want to give her something good and that's great. If the time is up when Dick Roman is smoked, then time is up, but giving her some affection, some honest to God love to let her know you care about her isn't going to kill you."

"And when I can't let go? When I get too attached that I drag her along with me and Sam?" Dean asked. "What then?"

"Then you think about what's best for her, not for you. If that's letting her go, you do that, your own feelings be damned. You do it because you're her father and you love her, just like how right now you got to spend time with her and let her know you love her, even when she breaks your heart and makes you feel like crap. That's what fathers do, Dean. That's what you have to do," he stressed. "I know it's hard. It's not supposed easy, kids never are. But they're worth it."

He placed a hand on Dean's shoulder as the younger man stared at him. There was an emotion in his eyes that Bobby couldn't place, surprise or pain, he wasn't really sure. Dean never was open, hated to share, and even at his most emotional moments there was always a wall that he guarded harshly. Still, he had a feeling he knew what the boy needed to hear.

"Things that have happened to Cas, it's not your fault. What happened to Sam is not your fault, and what happened to me is not your fault," he stressed. "I am so proud of you, and I came back to help you, but I came back on my own. This is not your fault."

"Then why do I still feel like this?" he asked softly. "Why do I still hate myself so much for everything that goes wrong?"

"Because you're a good man," Bobby told him. "Even if you don't see it. It hurts because you care, no matter how hard you wish you didn't."

Dean gave out a weak laugh and clapped his own hand over the ghost's.

"It's good to have you back," he admitted in a whisper. "I… I just..."

"I know. Come on, let's go get those books. We got work to do."

Chapter Text

The gun felt clunky in Emma's hand, a mixture of oil, metal and a bunch of little parts. She wasn't sure she liked it all that much, even as Sam handed her a cloth to get it cleaned. He'd laid a mat out in front of her so nothing would get lost in the small forest next to their cabin that they were practicing in. Dean was inside looking over the dig site information of Dick Roman, no doubt an excuse to give them time to themselves, still refusing to take part in this himself. The teenager felt a small amount of guilt doing this, even when given permission, but they couldn't forget the Leviathans. They were still up to something and even in her training someone had to be working on it.

"Emma, you're supposed to clean it, not bend it," Sam said suddenly and she looked down, seeing the pistol's barrel in her hands at an odd angle in her hands. She stared down at it before looking up at him.

"Oh… sorry," she said, trying to force it back into place. "Didn't mean to."

"Is this normal, to stop having control of your strength?" he asked her.

"I think so. Normal as it is for anyone else," she answered. "I'm just distracted, thinking too hard. Did my eyes change and I didn't notice?"

"No, all normal," he assured her before he took the piece away from her.

"It's nothing then. Just a little boost. Even without going all out in Amazon mode I'm still stronger than humans," she said.

"Right, makes sense. Let me get this put back together, see if it still works. We should focus on shooting anyway, see how you handle it," he said, seeming to deliberately not ask her what was distracting her so much. He probably already knew.

"I like hand to hand," she admitted as she stood up and dusted the dirt from her jeans. It was a nice spring day, warm and comfortable, but in the heavily wooded area the dew had a tendency to make things stick when outside.

"There are a lot of things that can tear you to pieces close up," he answered as he loaded the gun. "We've never done anything to see exactly how strong you are, should probably try and get you into a 24 hour gym sometime so we can check that out actually. Point is, you need to learn how to fight at long distance too, for the things that can overpower you. Guns is just the start. I'll show you all sorts of spells and traps you can use. With your memory, it'll be easy."

"Uncle," she said as he handed her the gun. "Um… thank you. For all this. It means a lot."

"It's no problem. Now, raise the pistol up and just take the shots. Aim for the cans and let the recoil go through. There's a bit of a kick," he warned her as she raised the gun. She couldn't help but find it ironic just months ago he never would have trusted her with any weapon, much less right next to him. Breathing deeply, she pulled the trigger, wincing when it hit the post instead of the can. "Okay, you're a little off. Raise the gun up a bit more, use the sight on it, let them line up. Try again."

The second was closer though still a miss, but the third she was able to hit it, though when she'd used the whole clip and was out of shots she'd only gotten four of them on the line.

"I missed a lot," she sighed out.

"It takes practice. Give it some time, you'll get use to it. Knife fighting took time to learn, didn't it?" he asked her as he made sure the gun was out of rounds before storing it in his pants.

"A couple lessons on stances and moves, that's all," she said. "It felt really natural."

"Could be natural talent, or something about your race," he admitted. "When Detective Penn, the Amazon I killed on my way to find you and Dean, attacked me she didn't use a gun. Could have just shot me before I even knew she was one of your tribe. Instead attacked me and went for her knife. Could be your more suited to fighting up close?"

"Considering our strength, that does make sense. I think we might do some distance fighting though, maybe? I'm not too sure. My mother did tell me she'd teach me how to use a bow though when I came back triumphant from… ah… you know."

"Killing Dean?" Sam asked with a smirk. "Emma, you can say it, you know. Not going to get mad. I'm not worried about you anymore. I know we can trust each other now."

"Thanks," she said honestly as she pulled her hair back out of her eyes. "I never would have thought I'd end up here with two men but… Mom was wrong. Father isn't my mark, he never should have been. I know there's a lot of worry about where I'll end up, if I'll be alright, but however it works out I am happy for the time I had with Father and you."

He reached out and ruffled her hair, annoying but she only playfully batted his hand away with a smile. Things were still weird with Dean. She wasn't sure where she stood with him right now. Honestly it was all kind of confusing. Sam had told her he needed time to find himself, that he'd been through a lot and he had a tendency to withdraw and bury himself in other things to distract himself. It wasn't personal and it would be best if she didn't take it that way.

Easier said than done but she was doing her best.

"Hey, you two, get in the house!" Dean called out to them from the doorway. "Bobby's back!"

"He is?" Sam asked as they hurried back to the cabin. It had been a couple days since they had seen him, just fading out with a sound like static and hadn't answered them at all when they'd tried to contact him.

Sure enough, the ghost was standing there, looking a little disoriented, but definitely visible.

"Damn it, it's hard to to stay focused. I'm still kind of worn out," he said as he shook himself a bit.

"Well, you've been pretty busy for a dead guy," Dean excused.

"Alright, listen. I don't know how long it is before my next ghost nap, so let's just skip to the skinny," Bobby said. "Those numbers I gave you before I died? It led to an empty lot, but it's not going to be empty for long. I got a look at Dick's big plan before he Lincolned me. They're breaking ground to… Wait, what month is this?"

"Uh, April," Sam replied, sounding a bit confused.

"The grounds already broke. Check it out yourself," Bobby said as Sam went to his laptop. "They're building as we're yammering. It's alright, you guys have been busy killing ghosts for the last few days. But Dick is about to get into the Soylent Green business. Humans, basically."

He said the last part to Emma, her mouth open to ask just what kind of business that was, and she felt a bit nervous.

"He's planning to eat people?" she asked. "Don't they already do that?"

"Yeah, but this is going to be big scale. The site Sam's bringing up on the computer, shows they're building a biotech lab, right? Biotech my ass. That sucker is a state of the art slaughter house, and we're the beef."

"Isn't that kind of bold, even for Dick?" Sam asked.

"I bet'cha no one is even going to notice, cause first he's going to dumb us all down with the food. The formula being used in the Turkducken that makes people docile, it's being spread around, to businesses he's bought, a list ten pages long and probably more now that time has passed since I saw it. Next, he's going to cure us."

"Cure humans? Of what?" Emma asked.

"All the big diseases. Cancer, AIDS, heart disease," he explained.

"That's why the Leviathan real-estate mooks were talking about that research center to cure cancer," Dean realized. "They're already starting."

"Should have killed that son of a bitch," Sam muttered.

"How? Only way we killed his boss was by letting him eat her," Emma pointed out. "Even if we got them both, more just would have been sent out to finish the job. These sound way more organized than a pack of hungry monsters."

"Yeah, that's the issue. We've come across plenty that liked to eat a few folks out in the wood. This ain't it. They're not hunting anymore. They want to make us into the perfect herd, fat and dopey, marching our happy asses to the shiny new death camp on every corner while they take the place on the top of the food chain."

"So what do we do?" Dean asked before Sam's computer beeped.

"It's an e-mail," the man announced. "From Frank. Sam and Dean, if you're reading this I'm dead… or worse. This e-mail was sent because some prince is trying to hack into my hard drive right this second, so if it's not you then you've got trouble. Um… My drive is full of compromising info, your new aliases, hangouts, where you stored your car."

"Baby?" Dean asked, immediately looking worried.

"Even though he encrypted his drive, he said we should assume someone can break into it eventually. He did put in a tracking device though, so we should be able to track it," Sam continued as the three others looked over his shoulder to see what he was bringing up. A map came up with it along with an address, labeling it right in the middle of Richard Roman Enterprise building.

"Perfect," Dean muttered. "Right in the middle of the Death Star. Well, I guess it's off to Chicago."

"Wait boys," Bobby said as he got up. "You can't just break in. They know your mugs. If Emma was seen by one of them too then she's out also, even if Dean would be willing to let her go."

"Yeah, being tossed around by one of them proved I'd never have a chance if I run across a group of them," she admitted. "Armed with some borax I might get closer, and humans shouldn't be hard to handle, but at best I could cause a distraction, not handle it myself."

"Yeah, that's not going to do," Sam said with a sigh. "During the night might be possible, less people around but still way too risky. Alarms would be going off and you'd probably be up to your neck in guys in riot gear in minutes."

"What if you boys mailed in the flask?" Bobby suggested. "I could ghost through the joint. I mean, it's not like Dick can kill me twice."

The two brothers looked at each other, seeming a little worried. Emma herself thought it sounded like a good idea but it was pretty obvious they weren't going to allow it anymore than letting her break in herself. What was with them and being willing to risk their own well-being and no one else? She could only assume it was to avoid guilt if something went wrong.

"Oh come on. Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I don't know how to do my damn job," the ghost pointed out.

"Bobby, that's Dick's office," Sam stated.

"I think what he's trying to say is what happens if you run into Dick and go vengeful? That's not just something you can shake off," Dean said.

"Give me some credit," he bit out. "What, I'm just supposed to ride the pine?"

"That's not a bad idea though," Emma said. "No matter what we do, it's going to be a risk somehow. Considering we don't even have a plan yet, options might be worth throwing out."

"We'll drive to the city, see what we think of on the way," Dean decided. "Sam, keep looking at the information on the computer while we go. Maybe something will come up."

"At least he's taking the flask with," she said to Bobby with a shrug as they left to join the brothers in the car. Bobby didn't look pleased with the fact, but he certainly didn't look like rage was going to take him over any time either.

The drive was long, just like it always was, but it was a race against time and stops were kept to the minimum. She wanted to stretch her legs out, but she assumed the ghost was sitting in the seat next to her. He kept disappearing but it might just be because he didn't want to be visible. She assumed that took energy and if he had to rest between bouts then it would make sense for him to conserve energy where he could.

Honestly she was surprised she'd been allowed to come along with not even a word of argument. Though she already knew she would have to stay out of sight, it showed a remarkable amount of trust her father was going to let her anywhere near the Leviathans and not have to stay in the cabin. They each took turns driving, letting each get some time to sleep, and she found herself behind the wheel of the car after dark with Dean sitting next to her, resting but still awake while Sam snored in the backseat.

"So he found something while you were out like a light during the afternoon," Dean said as they sped down the highway. The street was fairly empty, only a few other cars, but Emma was confident enough. So far she'd only driven at night anyway and nothing was as bad as when she'd been driving with a drunk Garth giving her directions.

"A lead of some kind?" she asked curiously.

"Yeah. The hacker is an employee of the company, named Charlie Bradbury. Frank must have gotten access to her webcam somehow while she was hacking into his drive. She hasn't cracked it yet, but we were able to find her information by her face and the company database. We're going to go to her address and see if we can get a hold of her," he said.

"What are you planning on doing with her?" she asked. "Do you know if she's dangerous?"

"Not yet. She could be another copy pretending to be human. If she is, we take her down, chop her head off and stuff it somewhere, keep her from regenerating for as long as possible," he said. "With luck we'll be able to find something."

"I've got to ask, how many of your plans are just slapped together like this at the last possible moment?"

"Far too many," he chuckled. "Oh, by the way. I got you something."

He pulled a small plastic item from his pocket and held it up so she could glance at it.

"Emma Smith?" she asked, confused. It was a white little rectangle with the name, a birth date and her picture on it. When had he taken her picture?

"First fake ID. A driver's license," he said. "Since you already know how to drive and all. Smith is a really common name. Probably a million Smiths in this state alone, easy to remember and help you blend in."

"Is that the name you want me to take when I leave?" she asked him.

"Emma, you can take any name you want," he assured her. "It's going to be a brand new life, brand new you. You can be anyone you want, anything you want. I mean, there's something, isn't there? Besides hunting and fighting?"

"I… I never thought about it, honestly," she admitted. "I mean, I never even considered what else I could be good at."

"See? That's why you should do this. You deserve the chance to be something different, something you never even thought possible. Your memory could probably help a lot. Learn a few languages quick, get jobs as a translator. You'd be set for life on easy work," he encouraged. "Hell, maybe you can even travel. Go see Greece."

She didn't even know what to say to that. For once it didn't sound like he was just trying to get her away and was actually thinking things out for her. A real future, not just some, 'get away from me,' vibe. It felt almost like the moment when he'd taken her into one of the previous cars and played Styx for her the very first time, a moment of real bonding between father and daughter. Could they really get that back, even for a little bit of time?

"I would like to see Greece," she admitted. "The temples of the gods, the ruins, the foundations of my culture."

"See? It'll all work out. You'll be great, no matter what you choose to do," he said as gave her a gentle punch in the shoulder. "You got this, Emma."

"Thanks, Father. I just… Thanks."

She drove down the road in comfortable understanding with him, placing a tape into the deck and letting the music swim over them. She hadn't picked a favorite yet, still getting through the collection, but she'd found a particular interest in AC DC, the loud bass and guitar really energetic to listen to. Before she knew it she and her father were singing loudly to TNT, not even noticing when they'd woken up Sam in the back seat as he groaned and covered his ears.


"So this is the apartment building?" Dean asked as he looked up at the place, a multilevel brick building.

"According to the employee information I was able to dig up, yeah," Sam said.

"Wait, red hair, blue jacket, that girl over there?" Emma asked as she watched a woman literally running into the building.

"Shit, she looks like she's in a rush. Think she found anything she wasn't supposed to?" Sam asked.

"No, I'm sure it's just the morning jog," Dean bit out sarcastically. "Crap, you go for the window. I'll follow after her to the front door. See if we can cut her off."

"Alright, come on," Sam said, pulling Emma along, jumping up to the fire escape ladder and lowering it for Emma before making his way up. She followed along quickly as he jimmied the lock at the window and climbed in.

"Get away from me, you shapeshifter!" a female voice threatened, and they saw the hacker holding a dagger out on Dean.

"Look, we're not shapeshifters," Sam said quickly as he approached her quickly. She squeaked out in surprise and swung at him as the dagger, only to get her hand grabbed by the wrist. Emma snarled and pulled the weapon out of her grip, tossing it aside and shoving Charlie roughly into the wall, her eyes a dark gold as her face went red.

"Emma! It was just a prop, calm down!" Dean ordered.

"She was going to stab you!" she protested before the man rolled his eyes and snapped the thing in half.

"See? Prop. Let her go," he said. That only confused Emma.

"Why would anyone have a fake weapon in their house?" she asked in confusion as she looked at the woman and released her. Charlie rubbed at her throat, breathing deeply.

"That was two hundred bucks, you jerk!" she snapped at Dean.

"Yeah, yeah. Look, we're not Leviathans," he replied calmly. "It's okay. You want us to prove it? You know what borax does to them?"

"Yeah," she said weakly as she looked out at the group.

"Sam," he said as he pulled a large bottle from his jacket, all three of them taking turns to splash their own hands before giving it over to the hacker. "Your turn."

She took it and splashed her own hand, though kept shooting looks at Emma. The suspicion was pretty clear in her eyes. Emma had probably flew off the handle there.

"Who the hell are you guys?" Charlie asked.

"Long story short, we're the guys who hunt the things that go bump in the night," Sam explained. "Monster movies, vampires, werewolves, zombies and more? They all exist, and they hurt people. We're the one's who stop them. I'm Sam, this is Dean and Emma."

"I… I think I need a minute," the woman said as she went to her kitchen and pulled a drink out for her fridge.

"Okay, what was that?" Dean hissed at Emma.

"She had a dagger on you," she protested. "It looked real from a distance."

"Yeah, Emma. It was a movie prop. Even if it wasn't, you think I never had a knife pulled on me before? I was fine," he whispered. "Girl is human, and an innocent and we don't hurt innocent humans, got it? That's the kind of thing that'll get a hunter coming after you."

"I'm sorry, but-"

"No buts. Calm down," he told her. "I get you've got this whole protection thing developing but I was in total control. Now, one more time, you don't attack innocent humans."

"Okay, I'm sorry," she said before muttering, "didn't look innocent."

She saw Dean roll his eyes before they all moved to the living room, waiting for the hacker to process all of this.

"So what you guys are saying is that you're monster hunters?" Charlie asked. "So there are other monsters?"

She held up her hand suddenly as she shook her head.

"Shh. Never mind. I don't want to know. Okay, so I get how you tracked the drive, straight GPS, but it's still at the office. How did you guys find me?"

Sam coughed and showed her his own laptop, bringing up a recording of Charlie working at her desk, wearing her ID badge around her neck and even in the same outfit as she was wearing now.

"Son of a gun jacked my webcam?" she shouted in surprise.

"Welcome to Frank," Dean said.

"Creepy, but it's good," she sighed out. "Wait, so you're telling me everything he had on his hard drive was true?"

"Everything and more," Dean assured her.

"Wait… so how long did it take you to get into Frank's drive?" Sam asked.

"I dunno. Like a day or so," she replied.

"Is there anything you can't hack?" he pressed.

"Not yet."

"How about Dick Roman's email?"

"Why would I… Oh, he's one of them," Charlie realized.

"Not quite. He's their leader," Sam explained.

"So what's the end game? Steal our resources, make some of us slaves or something?"

"More like planet wide value meal," Dean stated. "We're the meat."

"It's true," Emma said. "He's going to turn the entire human species into a herd to feed off of, like cows."

"And they don't do the whole… Eye of Sauron thing you did?" Charlie asked as she indicated to her own face and waved her hand around a bit. "Cause that was freaky."

"Eye of… what?" she asked, tilting her head to the side in confusion. "What's a Sauron? I've never been taught about that kind of monster."

"You're kidding, right? You don't know Sauron? I mean, it's only one of the most influential set of books and movies in our time," she replied incrediously.

"Getting a little off track, ladies," Dean stated. "Look, Emma's a bit special but it's not important right now. The important thing is that we stop this. Can you hack into his e-mail or not?"

"Yeah. Give me a bit," she said as as sat down in front of her computer. "So what am I looking for?"

"Anything to do with archaeological dig sites," Dean informed her.

"What, like Indiana Jones stuff?"

"All we know is Dick has been digging all over the world, and we need to know what he's looking for," he stated.

"You know, I was having a really good week," she said as she typed. "I met someone, downloaded the new Robyn album. Everything was coming up me. Oh crap."

"Look, we get it sucks," Sam tried but Charlie just shook her head.

"No, not that, this," she said as she indicated to her screen. "Dick's e-mail isn't on a company server, it's on a private one in his office. Meaning you can't get to it unless you have his phone or you're at his computer in his office."

"So you're saying if we're inside Dick's office we can hack into his e-mail," Dean guessed.

"Well, you can't. Only someone like..." she trailed off as realization seemed to hit her, looking at the three of them. Emma was particularly interested to see where this would go. "No, I'm not doing it. I'm going to do my job. I mean, I can just erase everything on the drive and go back to my old life."

"It's not that easy. You're on Dick's radar now. What do you think the honest chances of you living is? You don't have an old life anymore," Dean explained.

"I'm going to die," she realized softly. "I should have taken that job at Google."

"Look, Charlie, we get it. You didn't volunteer for this," Sam assured her.

"So back to plan B, go inside and cause a distraction for you two?" Emma suggested.

"We wouldn't be able to hack it anyway," Sam said. "Not in time anyway. We could grab the computer and run for it, but Dick would probably just delete everything the second he realized what was missing."

"Wait, I'll do it," Charlie groaned out. "I'm volunteering now. These things are going to eat everyone I know. What kind of douche bag stands by for that? However, I've never broken into anything in my whole life, so we got a plan?"

"Don't worry. We're pretty good at that at the last minute," Emma assured her as they sat down to figure this out.


Dean parked the city electric van he'd stolen for the job on the street right in front of company before climbing in the back with Sam.

"Everything good?" he asked.

"Yeah, Charlie set this up like a champ. I can put the cameras on a recorded loop for fifteen minutes," explained as he worked on the woman's laptop.

"Not a lot of time," Dean commented.

"She said if it took her longer than that she deserved to be eaten," he replied, causing Dean to chuckle.

"I like her," he admitted.

"I guess," Emma said as she sat up front in the van. She herself was acting as look-out with a pair of binoculars, just in case of any nasty surprised came their way. "I still don't get why she had a fake dagger. Think she couldn't afford a real one? I mean, maybe we can give her one, right?"

"Don't think she knows how to use a real knife, Emma," he told her. "Some people just have fake stuff like that for decoration."

"That makes no sense."

"It's fun," Sam explained. "You know, like singing rock and roll at two in the morning while driving?"

"Hey, I said we were sorry for waking… hey… what's that?" Dean said as he pointed to the camera's feed. "Is that Bobby's flask in her bag?"

"You think he..."

"Hitched a ride after we told him to cool his jets? Yeah," Dean replied. "What the hell is he thinking?"

"He's not thinking. So what, we call the whole thing off?" Sam asked.

"No, we only got one chance at this," he reasoned before picking up his phone and called the woman. "Charlie, it's Dean. Are… are you singing?"

"I sing when I get nervous," she replied over the phone's speaker. "Don't judge me."

"Judgment-free zone," he assured her. "Hey, the pouch in your bag, check it for me, will you?"

"Oh… oh, good idea." There was a sound of a swig and then they watched her put it back in the bag.

"Yeah, look it's kind of a family heirloom. Good luck charm so don't loose it, okay?" Dean stressed to her, even as he imagined strangling Bobby for this stunt. Going off and doing this while scolding them all the time for acting reckless, it took a lot of damn nerve.

"He's in there with her? Well, can't he keep her safe?" Emma asked.

"Maybe, but ghosts are almost all vengeful. They go crazy with anger over their deaths, attack people," Sam told her. "So far he's fine but if he runs into Dick, he can risk going nuts on him."

"And that's bad how?" she questioned.

"Because once he starts, he can't stop. He won't be able to," he explained before Dean yanked at his sleeve. "What?"

"Charlie's not moving. We got to get her to go," Dean told him as Sam took the phone.

"Hey, Charlie? What's your favorite Harry Potter character?" Sam asked as his brother raised an eyebrow. Really? Harry Potter? That's what he was going with? "Okay, listen, did Hermoine run when Surius Black was in trouble, or when Voldermort attacked Hogwarts? What did she do?"

"She… she kicked ass," Charlie replied.

"Right, so what are you going to do?"

"Kick it right in the ass," she said with confidence.

"Alright, good girl," he said.

"Way to go, Dumble-dork," Dean muttered. God, his brother was such a nerd at times.

There was no choice but to wait as Charlie made her way through the building, getting through the place quickly at least. Even when Dean had to take the phone and encourage her to sweet talk her way past a guard to keep going into Dick's office.

"Look, he's not my type," she informed him.

"You're going to have to work your way past that," he said. Right now she didn't really have the luxury to be picky. Not like she had to sleep with him.

"As in he's not a girl," she reiterated.

"Wait, she's a lesbian?" Emma asked as she perked up from the front seat and poked her nose into the back.

"That doesn't matter right… wait, how do you know what that is?" he asked his daughter. She had better not have stumbled upon his magazines under the couch.

"I'm from a tribe of Amazons who have magically induced pregnancies that can bypass protection from a single sexual encounter," she explained to him, her tone even. "I couldn't be with a boy even if I wanted to. Where do you think we go for companionship?"

He could only stare at her for a second. A lesbian. His daughter was a lesbian… or at least bisexual with a leaning toward her own sex. How… how was he even supposed to respond to that?

"Dean?" Sam said. "Uh, Dean. Charlie need our help? Dean!"

"Oh! Right, right. We'll uh… have that talk later," he said before he quickly turned around away from Emma's confused expression. "Okay Charlie, I'm going to walk you through this."

He felt his face burning in shame as he talked to Charlie, feeding her lines to flirt with the guard. It wasn't that different from flirting with a girl, he told himself firmly. After all, everyone liked to hear someone was interested in them… though telling a woman she looked like she hit the gym regularly wasn't exactly a prime pick up line.

"Stop laughing, Sammy," Dean hissed to his brother when he couldn't stop snickering, panicking when the hacker repeated it and started to babble to cover up her mistake. "Charlie, stop talking! Calm down and ask him if you can use the restroom. Give him another smile and twirl your hair. It'll work out fine."

Luckily it was enough to get her inside the office. It was nothing but a waiting game now, but Dean was feeling completely tense. She was out of their reach now. If she got in trouble they wouldn't be able to even reach her to help out. Only a few minutes had passed and he was ready to climb the walls.

"Well this is awesome," he muttered. "You know what, new plan. From now on, why don't we stay in the van and send in the 90 pound girl. Don't even make a smart comment, Emma."

"How'd you know I was going to say anything?" she asked him, her tone clearly surprised.

"Dad powers," he snarked.

"Dean, every chomper on the earth knows our face," Sam reasoned as he worked, pouring borax into smaller bottles to use if things got hairy. "How many do you think are in that building? We'd never make it past the lobby."

"Yeah, I know. Doesn't mean I'm happy about sending in Veronica Mars," Dean sighed out.

"She'll be fine, or we go in," Sam assured him.

"Yeah, as far as we can," Dean agreed before the phone came back on.

"Guys, I'm back," she said. "Got the information but… my manager the monster just showed up. He thinks I'm working, but we got to finish this fast."

"Okay, what do you see?" Sam asked. "Anything about digs?"

"Yeah, except he stopping digging several days ago. I guess he found what he was looking for," she said. "I'm getting all the information to you. Looks like something is being personally shipped to him, armored cars, personal airplanes, the works. Due to arrive in an airport nearby in exactly 42 minutes from now."

"That's not a lot of time," Emma noted. "What are we supposed to do?"

"We need more time," Dean said. "Charlie, can you do us one last favor and then get out of there."

"Yeah," she answered. "I'll send an email for a delay in weather, give you about 30 minutes."

"That'll be perfect," Sam said. "Enough to get in there and make a switch. Charlie, call us when you're safe, okay?"

"I'll text you from the border, bitches," she replied before she hung up.

"I'm worried," Emma said. "Father, Uncle, drop me off on the corner when you go."

"What? We're not doing that? Are you crazy?" Sam asked her.

"Look, I know it's not ideal but she's in there with man eating monsters and I can't help you with the switch anyway. I swear I won't get close. I'll just keep acting as look out and call you if there's trouble," she stated. "Father, I promise, I swear on my life I will not go in there. I'll call you only. Unless you can't get in to help, then I'll grab her and we run for it. I'm just really worried. I don't like the idea of driving off without her."

Dean really, really didn't like it. This was worse than sending Charlie in. What if that Leviathan had talked about Emma? What if they knew who she was? Worse yet, what if they didn't know and she tipped them off somehow.

"Father? Please, you need to trust me," she urged.

"Alright. You swear to me you don't go in there. You call us only," he ordered her.

"As long as I don't see her in danger I-"

"No! No going in there at all! I gave you an order!" he snapped, not even seeming to realize the way Sam was staring at him, or the words that had even come out of his lips. Emma blinked at him in surprise before sighing and nodding her head.

"Okay," she promised. "If that's what it takes to keep an eye out for her, then I won't go in the building. I swear."

He watched her climb out of the vehicle as they made their way off.

"Dean," Sam said softly. "Do you even know who you just sounded like?"

"Yeah, I know," he answered after a moment of hesitation. "You don't have to bring it up."

"Alright. As long as you're aware of it," he replied with a sigh.

The switch went off without a problem, but no word from either Charlie or Emma. It was making him nervous, even as he opened the case they'd stolen right out from under the nose of the one who'd come to pick it up.

"Did we just steal a hunk of red clay?" Sam asked as they looked it over.

"Let's answer that a few thousand miles away from here," Dean suggested as he packed it back up. "Now where's Charlie and Emma?"

"No call yet so no worries, right?" his brother tried to reason but it was clear from the tone in his voice, he sounded worried too. "We head back and get them. Maybe nothing is wrong."

"Right. Get in the car and step on it," he answered, getting a feeling like a pit in his stomach. He hit the gas the second the doors were closed, heading out as fast as possible.

They were only a few blocks away when Sam's phone suddenly rang and he answered it.

"Emma, thank God. Are you two okay?" he asked as he put the phone on speaker so they could both hear.

"No. Charlie's still inside. She's trying to get through but the door isn't opening. Look, I think she's locked in there," Emma frantically answered. "You need to let me in there! I can see Dick Roman and some other man coming for her! I can break the door and get her out!"

"Emma, stay there! We're close by," Dean assured her quickly. "Don't do anything. You'll just get yourself killed!"

"Wait a second, something's happening. The door is shattering by itself. I think Bobby's trying to get her out."

"Okay, we're there in 30 seconds! Just hold tight!" Sam told her. "We're coming!"

The tires of the car skidded to a stop as they pulled up right in front of the building, Emma running as quickly as she could towards the car as the rushed past her at the shattered glass and easily broke through it to see Charlie on the ground and clutching her arm in pain.

"Dean! He's one of them!" she cried out in warning as she pointed to the man next to her. He didn't waste any time in dousing the bastard, causing it to scream and cry out as Sam scooped Charlie up. Dick was closing in on them, a grin on his face before he was suddenly sent flying backwards into a display.

"Bobby?" he breathed.

"Dean, come on. Come on," Sam urged as they watched the Leviathan struggle to get back up only to get shoved back down again. It was as good as a get away as they were going to get.

It was only later when they were driving away as fast as the car could manage, Emma in the backseat and trying to help Charlie with her arm, did he allow himself to breathe.

"Charlie, talk to us. You okay?" he asked her.

"No, my arm is broken," she shot back in pain. "Why didn't you kill him?"

"Cause we can't yet," Sam replied. "But we will."

"The really evil ones always need a special sword," she grumbled before gasping softly and laying against Emma. "Think I'm going to pass out now."

"Yeah, that's fine. I got you, Charlie," the Amazon said as she held her close, making sure the woman didn't jerk around in the car while unconscious. "So… did I do good?"

"Yeah, Emma," Dean admitted. "You did great. Good girl."

Chapter Text

Paying cash for medical attention was something that Sam had long since gotten used to. Hunter's work was dangerous, he'd learned that before his age had hit double digits. While they'd been taught first aid and knew how to stitch up and treat all sorts of injuries, there were some things people just needed a hospital for. Charlie had been too hurt to wait it out like they often had, and the second it seemed like they were far enough to not get caught by Leviathans if they stopped, they got her to a clinic so she could get her arm seen too. One cast and a lot of pain killers later, Sam was paying the head nurse in full with stripped off bills and a fake address and name jotted down on the paperwork. He doubted it would be followed up on, but it never hurt to be careful.

The plan was to get her to the bus stop and wait with her until the sun was up, get her a ticket to anywhere she wanted to go. Charlie ended up buying five all in different directions before pulling out a dice to pick which way she'd head out. A little unorthodox, but effective. If the bastards looked into where she was heading, it didn't seem like she planned to make it easy for them. It made him breathe a little easier. Breakfast was hot egg sandwiches from the station's little deli area along with some food and drinks from the vending machine. It was a comfort to Sam, to know things were getting back to normal, a fairly routine meal for him.

They had gotten away from Dick, no one had died for once, a decent enough breakfast, and they had something in the backseat of their car that would hopefully lead to them finding a way to stop all this. If it weren't for the concern about Bobby niggling in the back of his head, it would be pretty close to a perfect kind of morning for him.

When it was announced the bus at Terminal 4 was ready to go, Charlie got up without a second of hesitation and made her way determinedly to the door. She was pretty strong for all of this, he'd give her that. A lot of people who had made it through this kind of nightmare had been shaken and nearly broken by the end of it.

"I left your dumb flask on the backseat, by the way," she informed them as they made their way to her bus. "Worst good luck charm ever."

"Heh. Yeah. Here you go," Dean said as he handed her her bag she'd packed up before they'd come with the plan. There hadn't been any point to lying to her and telling her she could stay in Chicago after all. The second she'd been given the drive it had broken down all her options to run for it or die. Might as well be as prepared as possible.

"Thanks for all the help," Emma said with a soft smile. "And sorry about before, with the whole shoving you thing."

"Clearly not the worst thing that happened to me yesterday," the woman replied as she raised her broken arm in her sling a bit to emphasize her point.

"So listen," Sam said. "We can't thank you enough."

"Actually you can," she said, surprising him a bit. "Never contact me again, like, ever. Okay?"

The hunter didn't even feel offended. It was fair enough of a request.

"Deal," he said as he gave a shaky little laugh and all three of them shook Charlie's hand in parting.

"Keep your head down, okay?" Dean advised but she only gave a shrug.

"This ain't the first time I disappeared," she informed them as they looked at her in confusion. "You think my name is really Charlie Bradbury? Please."

Sam had to admit, it was a reminder to him that people other than hunters could have complicated lives. He supposed not everything that had to be run away from had teeth and claws.

"Anyway, good luck with saving the world," she said as she walked away. "Peace out, bitches."

"Think she'll be okay?" Emma asked as they watched her leave.

"I hope so. Jeez, she's like the little sister I never wanted," Dean said with a chuckle.

"Eh, I wouldn't have minded an aunt," the Amazon replied before rubbing her face. "So what did you two get a hold of anyway?"

"We're taking a look later," Sam informed her. "Before that, we got to talk."

"You mean before or after we get to the car and the flask?" Dean asked.

"Exactly," he answered. "So what the hell happened back in that lobby, Dean?"

"Man, if I'd gotten a free shot I would have bitch slapped the hell out of Dick," his older brother sighed.

"If it weren't for him, she might have been caught up to," Emma pointed out. "He was trying at least."

"Yeah, but I mean Charlie got her freaking arm broken," he refuted.

"He didn't mean to do it," Dean sighed, though Sam had a feeling he was only putting up a token resistance to this argument.

"Exactly," he said. "He's not in control, not about Dick. That was vengeful spirit crap."

"I know," Dean admitted. "But it's still Bobby."

"But if he goes there, he won't be anymore. And we won't be able to pull him back. And then what are we supposed to do?"

Neither Dean nor Emma looked entirely comfortable, but he had to wonder if it was for different reasons. Dean he understood, but Emma didn't know Bobby, not the way they did.

"Just because he's not human, doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to get angry," she said softly.

"Except him getting angry is dangerous, to everyone, himself included," Sam said.

"Right, because hurting people gets monsters killed by hunters," she whispered. "Even if it's an accident."

"Emma, there something you want to share with the group?" Dean asked, eyebrow arched.

"He saved her life. He did a good thing," Emma said. "I was there. I saw it. That Leviathan was going to kill Charlie if Bobby hadn't stepped in. What happened after was an accident."

"Maybe, but it's still needs addressed," Sam said. "We have to find a way to calm him down."

"Calm him down? Not… hunt him?" she asked, and damn if her tone wasn't hopeful. He didn't understand it. She'd had a grand total of one or two conversations with the guy. Was she attached that quickly or…

Oh. Wait, he got it.

"No one's gonna hunt you, Emma," he told her. "You're going to be fine. Monsters who don't hurt anyone don't usually fall under anyone's radar, I promise."

"Except if there's an accident," she muttered. "Or they get forced to, like that shojo. Human gets brainwashed into killing people, they get stabbed too or you save them?"

"Hey, what's with this all of a sudden?" Dean asked.

"I just think it sucks no one wants to look at it from Bobby's point of view," she said firmly. "Just because he's not human anymore."

"No one is going to do anything to him, Emma. We'll fix it. Let's just get out of here and figure out what that thing we stole is and then we'll plan out what the hell to do about Bobby," the oldest hunter reasoned. "Come on, let's go."

They ended up crashing in a seedy little hotel in the southern part of Chicago. They were going to need a place to take a look at what they had, but later. They'd stayed up all night and it was time to get some sleep before anything else. The second they found out what was in the case, they were probably going to need to get moving again and while they could pull several days with no sleep, no one was eager to, especially Sam. If there was anything recent events had taught him it was that sleep was more valued than gold.

Dean was already out like a light, the case next to their bed. Neither felt comfortable leaving it in the car. After a shower and a change of clothes, Sam was pulling aside the cover to sleep as well when he saw Emma by the window, looking out at the street. Painted almost yellow from the morning light outside, she looked pensive and even a little sickly. He sighed before lowering the cover back down. A little bit more time. He'd sleep then.

"You okay?" he asked her.

She hesitated a second before shaking her head.

"Want to talk about it?" he offered. Rarely did that question work out. Both Sam and Dean were raised by a stubborn father who was not the most open individual out there. Neither of them liked sharing burdens, sure they could handle it themselves. Still, he wanted to listen if she needed to get something off her chest. "We can go outside, grab a bottle of water?"

"Yes, please," she said and he followed her out. A couple bills in a machine later and they were resting against the wall outside the room, sipping down their drinks.

"So, what's up?" he asked her.

"Are you going to hunt Bobby if he gets out of control?" she asked him, causing him to sigh.

"Honestly? I don't know. I don't want to. Bobby raised Dean and I. We owe a lot to him. He's a cranky old man, but he's always there for us," Sam replied. "I'd rather find another way. Maybe when Roman is dead he'll start feeling better, but to be fair, there are plenty of ghosts that kill the ones who hurt them in vengeance. After that, they just keep going, find new people to haunt and kill."

"Is a hunter going to kill me one day?" she asked next. "If I get out of control?"

For a moment, a brief moment, he thought about lying. He considered reassuring her, telling her that everything would be fine and she'd never have to worry about that. He knew it wasn't true though. Hell, it wasn't true that she'd never be bothered even if she did keep to himself. Sam thought himself as understanding, willing to give monsters a chance, to be understanding of circumstances. He was the rare one though. Hunters like Gordon were out there, where being anything but human was enough of an excuse to bring it down.

"You mentioned the shojo before," he stated instead, wanting a bit more time to think about how he was even going to broach that subject. "Why?"

"I felt sorry for her," she admitted to him. "She was just being mind controlled. Some guy got messed with and used someone else for his revenge. Killing it seemed the only answer but… maybe I should have said something. Maybe we could have saved her. Now with Bobby, him being a ghost and angry… If he were human you wouldn't-"

"If that guy who used the shojo was still alive when we were on the case, we would have killed him too," he informed her suddenly. "We don't just go after monsters. Just a lot of them time, because it's the monsters doing the killing. Our job is to take out whoever would use supernatural means to hurt others. The case you were with us on, with the kid's parents getting killed? Remember that?"

"The one you came back with, covered in glitter?" she asked him.

"Yeah… that one," he replied deadpan. God damn clowns. "It was a guy doing it, just a normal guy. He used some magic to kill those people, so Dean shot him. We don't just go after monsters, and I get you being an Amazon makes you feel like you have a kinship with these things. That's not a bad thing. It's good you have empathy. I've spared people too, human or not. Dean too, though he's a little more black and white, he can have sympathy."

Sometimes anyway. He firmly decided never to bring up Amy to Emma, ever. That would go sideways fast. He'd come to understand Dean's reasoning for what he did. He didn't like it, but he'd understood it. Emma was a teenage girl who didn't seem to have a place in this world, and she clung to the both of them because of it. Her world view was small, and shaky, still in a place in her heart were the people she looked up to couldn't be flawed or complicated because she didn't have anything else.

Dean was right. Her looking up to her father so much, wanting to be just like him without knowing what that even really meant, it was dangerous. She was going to fall hard if she ever saw it. Sam wanted to protect her from that, never wanted her to see just how badly life had twisted them both up. All she saw right now were victims and the heroes who saved them or at least gave them justice. She felt sorry for them because she was a monster too and was starting to get not everyone could be saved, and the heroes didn't always even try that hard.

He felt zero amount of compassion for that shojo, even knowing it was being controlled. Maybe there had been a personality there or maybe it was just a mindless spirit that only followed orders. He honestly didn't know and he hadn't been worried about it back then. He certainly wasn't worried about it now, not when they'd had that kid to save. He wondered how deeply Emma regretted not saying anything back then. It didn't matter. It wouldn't have changed anything.

"No one here wants to hurt Bobby, and we don't plan to," he told her. "We'll figure it out somehow. I've run into ghosts before that are suffering, that don't mean to hurt anyone, but some of them still have. Helping them move on is sometimes the best solution. Right now I don't know what the best option is, I don't, but somehow it'll work out. As for you… You know I can't promise one day someone isn't going to bust down your door to come after you, even if you haven't done anything wrong, but it's why I'm teaching you. Whatever happens, I want you to be safe. Dean wants that too, it's why he's..."

She saw him turn away and wipe at her eyes, causing him to stop. There was no need to go on, she'd heard this before.

"Emma, let me ask, what do you want?" he questioned. "If you could have your way, what would you do?"

"I… Travel, with you guys," she said softly. "Hunting monsters or just doing anything. I know I can't but… I'm sorry. I'm being selfish, just like Bobby said. I've already said I'll go but I don't want to. I am a brat, aren't I?"

"No. This is just all you know," he said. "You'll learn, grow up, see other things and your worldview will widen. Hopefully into something better."

He gently placed a hand on her shoulder, gently rubbing the spot as he looked out at the road, cars driving by. Charlie was on a bus, safe now and going onto some place where she could start over. It didn't seem like it had been hard for her in the end, as much as she'd freaked out at first, she'd been able to get on that bus without a single glance back. Maybe it not being her first time had made it easier in the end. Maybe it'd be easy for Emma too, when the time came.

"You can see things from their point of view because of who you are," Sam said. "Most hunters are humans, almost all of them victims. They see someone they love torn to shreds or worse. They feel powerless because of it, and they go out for revenge. Sometimes it turns into something noble, wanting to save people. Sometimes it's just about hurting something in return. Some see people even if they're not human, and do everything they can to help anyone who's a victim no matter what they are, but sometimes there's not an option. Sometimes you got to take the shot no matter how unfair it seems because at the end of the day it's the best option on the table. Not everything is black and white, Emma."

"You didn't shoot me," she said. "When I went after Father. He asked you not to and you stood down, even though you didn't trust me."

"Well, he's got good instincts and he was right. You hadn't hurt anyone."

"I was going to."

He stopped and turned to her, giving her a hard stare.

"What?"

"I was going to try to kill him," she confessed softly. "A small part of me even wanted to. I didn't see a way out, and I was told that it's what I had to do. He was a hunter, he'd kill me if I showed a moment of weakness. During my training… I was weak, I was so weak. I didn't want to do any of it, but I was too scared to say no. When I found him, I was physicking myself up for it. If I pulled it off and killed him, then it would all stop. I'd be one of the sisters, they'd see me as strong, I'd be accepted and okay and not get hurt anymore."

"Then why didn't you?" he asked. "Dean said you never even tried to attack him."

"I don't know," she admitted. "I was at the door, I was telling myself to get ready and then I just… I remembered what he said to me. He saw me when I was little. I could already talk, understand language but I was still really small, and he just said hi to me. It wasn't profound or meaningful or… anything really. He just smiled at me and said hello. When I remembered that, I didn't… I wasn't afraid anymore. I decided just to let him kill me, because I had a feeling if we fought that's exactly what was going to happen, but he wouldn't do it. After I told him, he refused, then you showed up. I didn't think I'd be taken in."

"You hadn't done anything then. Why so eager to die?" he asked her.

"Cause I thought it was the only way. Because the matrons made me believe it. I thought if I fought him honorably he'd remember me and I didn't need anything else. I was just looking for a way out."

"They really messed up your head in there, didn't they?"

"Yeah, yeah they really did, but it's okay. We all have trials we have to face, and I guess I came out of mine okay. I just… back there I was told what to do. It wasn't easy, but it was clear cut. I don't even know what I'm supposed to be doing now. It's like I'm facing another trial and I don't know what it is, or how to pass it. Everything I learn just gets more confusing. Like what if a hunter does come for me? Am I supposed to fight for my life or just let him do me in? If I kill a hunter will more just come after me? Is it okay for me to kill people, bad people, or would that make me just another evil monster?" she wondered.

"Those are a lot of deep questions," he conceded. "To be honest, I don't know sometimes myself. It's never easy."

She looked up at him for a moment before snorting out a laugh and rolling her eyes.

"Thanks. That's real helpful," she said.

"Ah, it's true," he said as he patted her on the back. "Look, things don't always make sense. It's not hunting either, that's just life. Best thing to do is just work out the emotions case by case and move on. If you're worried about hunters, don't let yourself hurt humans. It's not a guarantee something won't came after you at all, but the less trouble you make the less chance there is something is going to come after you. Not a perfect answer, but it's the one I have for you."

"Yeah. Still doesn't answer what to do about Bobby," she said. "He doesn't deserve this."

"No he doesn't. That's what makes this so hard. I think in the end we'll just have to hope he can move on after the Leviathans are taken care of. Anyway, we have all been up way, way too long. There's a pile of stuff we have to do. There's that thing in the truck to look at, we haven't even had a chance to go over any of the books Annie gave us, and we're going to need to get a move on soon. Let's get inside and get some sleep, okay?"

She nodded and headed inside, sinking down on the bed that was hers. Sam watched her for a second before settling down himself. It'd be okay. He and Dean would fix this somehow, like they always did. Bobby would calm down once Dick was down and out, and maybe move on of his own free will. He had to have stuck around. He'd told them about the dig sites in the nick of time, about what the big plan was. They still would have gotten the e-mail from Frank but this gave them a much bigger picture of what was going on.

He just had to keep telling himself it was worth it in the end. Somehow it'd work out, and maybe things could calm down for a while.


Things were not calming down. He'd been kind of dumb to think it would.

Sam listened to the thunder outside as Dean took a hammer to the slab of rock that they'd stolen from Dick. Honestly, it was making him nervous. Locked up in a small, abandoned warehouse beating on something that every time it got hit another roll of thunder would go by overhead. His brother was determined to keep going despite the clear warning.

Yet when it was finished, nothing much happened. Sam had been expecting fire and brimstone of some kind, yet it just stopped as soon as the item that was embedded in the rock came free. They waited a full five minutes before picking it up, almost surprised by it being such a calm moment now.

"What is it?" Dean asked, but Sam could only shrug. It looked like it could be letters, but none that he'd ever seen before.

"I'm guessing writing, but it's going to take some time to look up," he said. "I'll see if I can come up with something but it's going to take some work online. Hey, Emma. Why don't you bring up the books we got from Annie and bring them up here. Maybe we'll luck out and there will be some references we can start with."

"Okay," she said with a nod as she started to make her way downstairs.

"How's she doing?" Dean asked.

"She's worried, confused, trying to find her place in the world. Oh, and feeling sorry for other monsters," Sam informed him.

"I actually meant about the whole thing with Bobby."

"Yeah, me too. I don't think she wants him to be forced to move on. More on his side about his fit than we are. Oh, and she isn't entirely okay with how we handled the shojo thing either. Who knows what else," he told his brother. "She's not human, and I think she feels like taking their side on some of the issues we've faced. So yeah, just a heads up."

"Great," Dean muttered. "Maybe I should talk to her."

"Maybe, but I'm not sure it's going to do much good. Things are building up in her head. You got to figure everything is a new experience for her and the concepts of right and wrong are learned, not just hardwired into your head. She comes from a people were she's just told what to do and they do it. It takes time. Hell, we still struggle with it at times," he reasoned. "What would you even say to her?"

"I don't know. I never planned to have any kids, not like this. There's a reason I was always as careful as possible with any girl I meet. Hell, the idea is scarier than most I've face out there. She ends up screwed up, it's my fault."

"Nah, it'll be both our faults," Sam joked. "You know, I wouldn't worry too much. She's got a heart, and she feels for people. She just doesn't think humans are the only people out there. If anything it could be a good sign, once she's experienced more life. It'll give her a good moral compass."

"Well, it's looking like that might be coming soon, if we can get this figured out," he said as he tapped the rock. "If Dick wanted it so bad, it can certainly be used against him. Maybe all these freaky letters will leave a nice imprint in his face as I bash his brains out with it."

Sam had to admit, hours later he was starting to think maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea. Book after book and he hadn't seen a single letter he could link back to the tablet they'd looked at. Going online had given him nothing either, only getting a little sleep before getting back to work as Dean woke up and washed.

Bobby was out of it, it seemed. A couple things had moved but he hadn't seen the guy. He figured the ghost was out of it for the time being concerning all the energy he'd used. Honestly it was probably best that way. Less damaged caused, the better. Emma was still asleep too, wrapped up in a blanket on the floor.

"News is talking a lot about the storm, and there was some weird signs last night," Sam informed his brother as he approached. "Every maternity ward around a hundred mile radius radius got slammed. Any woman in her last month of pregnancy went into labor."

"Well, this one goes out to all the ladies," Dean said. "Okay, so heavy signs, omens? What we got?"

"I assume it's writing, but I don't know. I've never seen anything like it, ever. No books have the letters or online," he explained.

"Right. So Dick has spent all this time and money into finding it, why?"

"No idea, but we got to hole up somewhere safe and see if we can find out."

"Back to the cabin then?" Dean asked to which Sam nodded. His brother went to go wake up his niece as he collected their stuff, only to hear Sam's phone go off. He felt more than a little trepidation when he saw it was Meg.

"What?" he asked, not feeling like being polite.

"What's up, Bullwinkle?" a honey sweet voice that he didn't believe for a second chirped on the phone. "Just an FYI your boy is awake."

"Wait, what? Cas is awake?" he asked as he saw Dean's expression to the news, rushing over.

"When?" the hunter demanded as he put the phone on speaker. "When did he wake up?"

"About eight last night," she replied.

"And you waited until now to tell us?!" he demanded angrily.

"What's going on?" Emma yawned as she walked up to them, rubbing her eyes. "Everything okay?"

"Cas is up. Just shush for now," he whispered as Dean was talking angrily on the phone, demanding to know what was going on with Castiel.

"He really worries about him, huh?" she asked.

"Boy, don't both you and I know it. Guess we're going to Indiana," he replied.

"Why does he worry so much about that angel," Emma asked him, her expression a bit more sharp than he would have liked. "I thought Castiel hurt you. Father is acting like he can barely even remember that. Why's he so important to him?"

Sam chuckled and just crossed his arms over his chest.

"Probably the same reason Castiel rebelled against heaven for Dean, and the same reason Dean has given Castiel more chanced then he's ever given anyone else besides me. Same reason they can be in a crowded room and just stare at each other like there's no one else there," Sam muttered.

"I don't think I get what you mean," she replied but he only clapped her on the shoulder.

"Don't feel bad, neither do they," he said simply. "Come on, get your stuff. Looks like we need to go check in on him."


The angel wasn't what Sam was expecting, and he'd been trying to prepare himself for a lot of different things. The last time they'd seen Cas, he'd been screaming at things that weren't there before he'd curled himself in a ball and hadn't wanted to be touched. The last thing he'd wanted was to leave him with Meg but they hadn't been given much choice. He'd been expecting scared, angry, or broken or… well, not goofy. Telling people to pull his finger and breaking lights while he laughed.

It was kind of the most depressing out of all of it. It was hard to tell why he was smiling. He didn't even have anything to smile about, as he rambled about bees and plans in patterns it seemed like only he could see. He cooed poetics to Meg, even as the demon told him off for bringing up thorny and beautiful pain.

"This is not a good sign, and I don't know the first thing about angels," Emma said.

"No, probably not," he agreed before he pulled out his bag to show the angel the rock. "We found this the same time you woke up. Any idea what it means?"

"Ah, this makes sense," Castiel said as he looked it over.

"What makes sense?" Dean asked.

"If someone was going to free the Word from the vault of the earth, it would be you two," he said before he pulled them both into a hug before he began to wax on about cat's penises.

"Cas, please. We're losing ground out there. Don't you-"

"Oh, this looks like Metatron's hand writing," Castiel suddenly piped in, cutting Dean off. "The scribe of God. He took down dictations when creation was being formed."

"And that's the Word of God?" Sam asked.

"One of them, yes," he replied with a grin.

One of them, so there were more. Why did that give him a bad feeling?

"What's it say then?" he pressed, but as Cas read it he only spouted random words before shrugging.

"I can't read this, it wasn't meant for angels," he informed them.

"Okay, this all sounds bad. What are you two jackasses doing with the Word of God?" she asked before taking a step forward. "Let me see that thing."

Dean moved to step in front of her but Emma was there first.

"Yeah, no. Somehow I get a feeling you're not one to trust with something like that," the Amazon snarled.

"Oh please. It's my ass on the line too," she snapped.

"Back off. You shouldn't even be in this room with us," Emma said, taking a step closer to her. She looked like she was about two seconds away from swinging on her.

"Enough of this demons are second class citizens crap!" Meg bit out. Sam had to scoff at her. She was trying to pull the sympathy card? The same demon who'd killed Pastor Jim, one of the men who'd helped raise them? Same demon who'd taken his body a joy ride and killed another innocent hunter just to screw with him and Dean, had giggled like a damn schoolgirl as hell hounds had ripped Jo apart and gotten both her and Ellen killed? He was just about to round on her and tell her to go to hell before Cas spoke up.

"I don't like conflict," he said, his smile gone, looking like a kicked puppy before teleporting out, the tablet smashing on the ground in large chunks after he'd dropped it.

"What the hell was that?" Dean demanded.

"You heard him, he doesn't like conflict," the demon replied with a grin as she locked eyes with Emma. "Good job."

Sam had to grab Emma just as she went to attack the demon, pulling her back and it wasn't easy. Hell, what was her issue with demons? Dean and himself he could understand but…

"He's down in the rec room. I guarantee it," she said calmly as if there wasn't an Amazon struggling to take a swipe at her.

"I'll go get him," Dean said immediately. "Sam, will you please pick up the Word of God?"

"Yeah," he said as let go of his niece and began picking them up.

"What are you guys caught up in now?" Meg asked but he only ignored her. "I deserve to know, Sam."

He felt like throwing holy water in her face just for saying that.

"Okay fine," she muttered when he didn't say anything. "I'll just hit the road then. Let me just go and get my angel."

His head jerked back up at that, the words immediately causing him to chase out of the room, ignoring Emma's cry of protest as he tore after the demon.

"Meg, what are you talking about? Stop," he demanded. Cas wouldn't go with her, would he?

"We both call Cas, who do you think he'll run to?" she taunted as she turned back to him. "I'm guessing me. You heard him, thorny beauty, blah, blah. I'm the saint who stayed with him. He owes me, his words."

"What about what he owes us?" Sam demanded even as he realized this had been her plan all along. No wonder she'd been so willing to stay, and wait a while before calling them. She'd probably spent all night before the phone call working on him and the time they'd used driving over too

"Well, work on him a little. Maybe he'll start crushing on you too, hot stuff," she flirted in a way that made his skin crawl.

"What are you even going to do with a broken angel?" he said, frantic for a way to get her to back off. It wasn't just that they needed Castiel's help. Dean was hovering on the edge most days and he would surely break if he lost the angel again to a demon of all things. He couldn't let that happen.

"I'll take power where I can get it," she replied easily. "I've got myself to look out for."

"UNCLE!" Emma suddenly called. "Maybe you should get back in here!"

Turning back to the room where he realized he'd left the Word, he ran back to it, seeing Emma holding another teenager by his jacket even as he struggled against her. He was holding Sam's back to his chest, looking even more confused than the hunter felt.

"I'd like you to meet Kevin Tran. He's in advanced placement, whatever that is," she informed him. "You know him?"

No, but Sam had a feeling he would pretty soon. He went to grab the bag away from him, but the boy refused to let go, even as he panted and whined a bit.

"I-I'm sorry. I don't know why but I can't let go of this," he said in a wavering voice. "All I know is it's for me. I'm supposed to keep it."

"I caught him trying to steal it," Emma explained. "What do we do now?"

Somewhere, somehow, there was someone laughing at Sam, he just knew it. Whoever it was, they were having far too much fun at his expense. Things would calm down for a while?

Yeah right.