Title: Performance Anxiety
Series: Playing the Angel
Category: Drama, Humor, Het
Characters: Dean/Jo, Sam, Castiel
Spoilers: Though Wishful Thinking
Summary: Dean's new situation brings with it problems, in more ways than one.
Warnings: Sexual situations, sexual language, wing!kink
Word Count: 7283
Notes: Thanks to smartasschef14 for the beta. Any other errors are mine, obviously.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
Maybe they're temporary, Sam had said.
Temporary his ass. Three weeks. He hadn't been laid in three weeks.
And it was all their fault.
Dean didn't know how or why it all started. He had to assume this wasn't at all part of the Master Plan. If it was, then God needed to get his priorities straight. Instead, Dean figured it had to be Castiel. He didn't know if this was another lesson or some sick game. Hell, maybe this was how angels got their kicks. Whatever it was, Dean thought it sucked.
He leaned against one of the walls of the bar, beer in hand, lazily sipping from the bottle as he dangled it by the neck. In front of him, two sexy blondes were working the pool table. Every so often, one of them would turn her head and send him a cute, coy smile. He'd smile right back and raise his bottle to them, nearly forgetting his dilemma. The invitation was clearly there, and he certainly wanted to go. Normally, he'd just swoop right in and flash them a dazzling smile. But after that stint in Cincinnati, Dean knew he had to keep a low profile. Sam was right; he didn't need his mug splashed across the cover of Weekly World News.
So, he'd just stick with Plan B.
He said nothing as the hours burned by. The cast of colorful characters that surged in and out of the bar did nothing to ease his anxiety, and the beer barely numbed the incessant itching that prickled his shoulder blades. He tried to cool himself down several times, but the relief was only temporary. Finally, he let himself out, deciding to wait in the chill of the fall night.
He was glad when the bar had its last call. After the last drunken sleazebag had stumbled out of the bar, Dean found himself alone in the alley, waiting for her shift to end.
Twenty-minutes later, she slipped out the back door.
Part of him expected her to jump. The other half was glad she didn't.
"Dean." Jo didn't look at him and focused on locking the door. "Took you long enough."
"You saw me, huh?"
She glanced up at him. "Kind of hard to miss a guy following you all night." Jo pocketed her keys and started down the alley without him. "So, aside from stalking me, why are you here?"
Dean took one last swig from his last beer bottle and tossed it in the trash. "Sam and I are working a job," he said, jogging to catch up with her.
"I'd heard you both were in town." Her gaze darted over to him before she looked back down the alley. "I've heard a lot of rumors."
"Rumors are rumors," he said, trying to choke back a nervous chuckle. He grimaced, realizing the prickle on his shoulders was returning. As the itch intensified, he squirmed, pulling his jacket close. He couldn't help but sigh in relief as the fabric underneath scratched against his skin, cooling the fire that has dotting his back.
She was staring at him.
Dean looked away. "Nothing but crazy talk," he muttered. "But hey, we heard you lived around here. Thought I'd drop by."
"Uh-huh." Jo quickened her pace. He frowned, noticing she was holding her bag a little closer to her chest.
Dammit, he thought. This wasn't going to be easy.
He pushed down the craziness that overran his mind and centered on Jo. He flashed her his very best smile. "How bout bygones be bygones. I walk you home, and we have a nice chat in private, just you and me?"
"How about you lay off the charm for five minutes?"
"Fives minutes. I can do that."
She sighed and rolled her eyes. "All right."
He nodded and kept smiling. He knew he was going to have to approach this delicately, but he was up to the challenge. Hell, after all he'd been through, he deserved a good time.
Jo knew this was a bad idea. She knew it the moment she had spotted Dean in the bar. She knew it when her coworker had told her he as waiting outside. She knew it when he walked her home. And now she knew it as she fumbled to unlock her apartment door.
Dean stood behind her as she found her key. He was quieter than she remembered, more thoughtful and reflective. She had a feeling he was guarding some big secret, something so big that it weighed him down more than the loss of his father.
Then there were the rumors.
Jo breathed out as the door opened and she hurried inside. Dean strolled in behind her, pausing at the doorway to close the door behind him. He just stood there as she headed for the open kitchen in her studio apartment. Though she didn't look up, she could tell he was watching her. She ignored the nervous jitter inside and poked through her kitchen drawers. She knew she kept it here somewhere. Jo only stopped and glanced up when she heard chuckling.
Dean was still standing by the door, but his gaze was rooted on the ceiling. He pointed to the Devil's Trap with a grin.
"You think I'm a demon?"
Before Jo had a chance to respond, Dean walked out of the circle. He cocked his head and looked back up to it, mild amusement in his face, before he shook his head and followed her into the kitchen.
"Not bad," he said. "Little sloppy, but it'll do the job." Dean leaned over the counter and eyed her closely. "You hunting?"
Jo shook her head. "I've been studying. One can't be too careful."
He nodded. "It's probably for the best."
Jo felt her cheeks flair. Still the same old Dean. "Don't think I can do the job?"
He didn't answer right away, instead turning to study the occult book she kept on her counter. "I'm sure you heard about what happened to the old hunter population some months back," he finally said.
She felt her blood run cold. She'd heard. At first, she had hoped it was just a senseless rumor, something to scare the hunters out of their complacency. But as more and more hunters dropped out of the network, she knew it had to be true.
Hunters were dying. She had thanked God that night that her mother wasn't a hunter, but she couldn't help but wonder about Sam, Dean, and all the others she had met over the years.
She'd almost called. Almost.
"People don't just come back from the dead," she said. "There's always a price."
"Yeah." His voice was sad – heavy – and the weight she felt before came back tenfold. Though, in typical Dean fashion, the moment of insight vanished and was replaced with his gruff devil-may-care abandon. "So, you heard about that?"
"I may not be a hunter, but I know where to go for the gossip." She glanced down at her open drawer before returning her attention back to him. "I heard you were killed." She paused. "By a demon."
"Well, you heard right." He paused and tried to fool her with his charming grin. "I was dead, but I'm better now."
"You know that doesn't work on me," she said. And with that, she whipped out a small pistol and aimed.
Dean flinched as the stream of water hit him square in the chest. "What the hell?"
"Like I said, one can't be too careful."
"I'm not a friggin' demon." He grimaced and flapped his wet shirt. "Or an angry spirit. Or whatever else comes to mind."
"That's good to know."
Jo tossed the pistol back into the drawer and let out a silent sigh of relief. When she'd first heard of Dean's demise, she couldn't believe it. Then more and more rumors spun around the grapevine until she found herself urgently calling Sam.
She finally had swallowed her pride and called her mom, only to be heartbroken to learn it was true. Her mother had confirmed it through Bobby Singer.
She'd felt numb for months.
Then, suddenly the gossip reared its ugly head again. Reports of the Winchesters back in action had flooded her with both relief and anxiety – relief that Dean was alive, but anxiety over what could be the cost.
Now, here he was standing in her apartment.
She set her jaw and looked him in the eye. "What do you want, Dean?"
He settled onto one of the stools she kept by the counter. He seemed to ignore her question and instead focus his attention between one of her books from the occult shop and a few texts from her classes at the local college.
Dean picked up one of the textbooks. "You're in school?"
"Part-time. I work at the bar every night."
She nodded as she watched he begin to flip through the book. "I wanted to study something useful."
"Huh." He tossed the book to the side. "How appropriate."
She frowned. "What?"
Jo scowled with frustration. She didn't understand why he always had to dance around the issues.
"Are you going to tell me why you're here or not?"
He sighed. "All right. But don't you freak out on me."
Jo frowned. What was that supposed to mean?
Dean was already on his feet. He shrugged off his jacket and tossed it on one of her nearby chairs. After he paused to take a deep breath, he tucked his amulet under his collar and pulled off his shirt.
She was about to rail on him for daring to strip in her apartment after not seeing him in over a year, but her thoughts sidetracked. Jo stared at his half-naked body, mesmerized by the head of the amulet as it swayed against his bare skin.
In that moment, their eyes met and she knew that Dean was aware of what she was thinking. While Dean tended to be a gentleman around her more often than not, she knew his type and she knew his reputation. But instead of his sly smile and a strong come-on, she watched him wince, his shoulders rolling back as if he had an itch he just couldn't scratch.
He lifted a finger to silence her.
That was when Jo noticed it. Dean's shoulders were shaking and a light sheen of sweat had dampened his skin. He looked as though he was in pain and aching for relief.
Suddenly, he fell forward, using the counter top to brace himself.
His breathing became harder, and the words were threaded between light gasps.
Her immediate impulse was to go to his side and hold him in support, but as she took a step forward, he shook his head, silently keeping her back. The gesture, she realized, wasn't just a flash of machismo. He was bracing himself for something big and that something needed distance.
Feeling a bubble of panic start to rise, Jo took a step back. She slid the knife from her jeans just in case and waited, frozen with part curiosity, part terror.
Then she saw it. Shadows: smooth and wispy, swirling behind him like the slender fingers of shadow puppets. Then, one by one, the shadows changed. Little pinpricks of light, golden and silver, fluttering around Dean as if an aura surrounded him. The flashes were bright and warm, but light enough to dance like feathers.
Her eyes widened. They were feathers.
The wings fanned out on either side of his shoulders, long but robust, yet still carrying an airy, almost ethereal quality. As they stretched out with majestic power, he breathed out and collapsed onto the stool.
Jo stared. This wasn't Dean. This wasn't human.
She clutched her knife.
Dean's tired face bobbed up to look at her. Immediately, his gaze fell to her knife. Instead of lunging, he just sighed, the exhaustion leaking from his sweat soaked skin. The wings lightly folded back, resting behind his back.
He cleared his throat. "You got whiskey or something?"
Jo blinked. "You want a drink?"
"Hell, yeah. I've been holding that in all night."
Jo wasn't hearing this. He looked like Dean. He sounded like Dean.
Except for the obvious fact Dean didn't have wings.
She thought maybe he could be a shapeshifter – a crazy one, but from what she heard they were all off-balanced anyway. Or some other winged creature she hadn't studied yet.
She raised her knife and pointed to the door. "Out."
Dean sat straighter, almost appearing wounded, and his wings – she couldn't even believe she was thinking that – slicked back in response. "Now?"
Jo glared at him.
He let out an aggravated sigh and stood. She tried not to watch as his wings rippled and readjusted as he moved. Instead of heading toward the door, he grabbed his jacket and shirt and dug inside. Dean took out his cell phone and with a flick of his fingers, shot the phone across the counter. "Call Sam. He's been dying to throw this in my face."
She stole a glance at the phone. Jo wasn't sure if this was a trick or a ploy to bring down her defenses. She had been fooled once before when that demon had possessed Sam. She wouldn't be fooled again.
Yet, this time it was different. Even though Sam had gotten the jump on her, she hadn't been comfortable near him. Now, despite the extra appendages, Dean still felt like Dean. She wasn't afraid to be in the same room with him. In fact, she almost felt a little sorry for him. There was a heaviness about him and a deep sorrow in his eyes.
She flipped the knife and sheathed it before flicking the phone back across the counter.
Dean arched his eyes, but said nothing. He grabbed the phone and shoved it into his jacket. With only the rustle of his feathers, he quietly sat down at the counter again.
There was a moment of silence before she started to speak.
"Dunno," he said.
"You don't know?"
"Woke up this way 'bout three weeks ago." He made a vague gesture behind his back. "Sammy and I…Well, we've been trying to figure it out and get some answers, but so far nadda."
Jo didn't know what to say. She wanted to comfort him and suggest it could be a hex or a curse or just some joke, but judging by the stern look in his eyes, she knew it was nothing of the sort.
For some unknown reason, Dean Winchester was walking around with a pair of wings.
She thought that now was a perfect time for that drink.
Jo opened the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and a couple of shot glasses. She poured Dean a glass and then one for herself. She had a feeling she was going to need it.
The two of them downed it easily. She poured them both another.
"So why did you come down my way?" she finally asked.
He bowed his head. "Well, it's hard when you got a couple of feather dusters attached to your back. Just been me and the four walls." He glanced down at his glass. "I was looking for some company. I thought maybe you and me could reconnect."
She snorted. He jerked at the sound and the wounded look returned, but it wasn't going to work on her again.
"Give me some credit," she said. "You're obviously not housebound."
"More than you know," he muttered. She thought she heard some grumble about Sam, but his voice drowned into the glass. After he finished the shot, he reached for the whiskey bottle again, but she pulled it back. He'd already had several beers earlier that night. She didn't need a wasted man with wings plastered on her floor.
She grabbed the shot glasses and left them in the sink. Then she went over to the fridge and opened the door, bending over as she peered inside. The least she could do is find some leftover pizza or Chinese to feed him as he loitered in her apartment.
She heard the sharp flap of wings behind her. Jo slammed the fridge shut and spun around.
Dean was standing behind her, a haphazard grin on his face. Her gaze fixated on the wings again. She resisted the urge to touch them. He was dangerously close to her, the fire in his eyes unmistakable.
She swallowed hard. Ever since she had met him, she had fantasized about this moment. Whether it was bad timing or something else, Dean had never made a move. He had kept himself reserved, controlled, and distant. Yet at the same time, he had been warm, loose, and open. The contradiction had nearly driven her mad.
Then he was gone.
And then he was dead.
Now he had wings.
Again, she saw that contradiction at play. She felt the same old Dean – the one that was gentle and kind, if not sometimes a bit insecure – was brewing under the surface, wearing a mask driven by need.
Dean leaned in to kiss her, but she drew back, pressing on his chest to keep him at bay. He frowned at her, the confusion evident in his eyes. She held her breath as his feathers rustled impatiently.
"You came here to get laid, didn't you?"
He went to open his mouth, surely with some snappy comeback, but she shook her head. She didn't want to hear his nonsense.
"I know you," she said. "Why not pick up some easy girl from the bar?"
He let out a chuckle. "Easy? Hey, I do have standards."
"No." She pushed him back. "It's something else."
Then it dawned on her. The tension in his face. The discomfort she had seen painted in his eyes all night.
Jo knew she should be angry. She knew that she had every right to toss him out that instant.
Instead, she found herself laughing. "Your wings come out when you're horny?"
"No," he said, sounding defensive. "I can control it."
"Sure you can." Her eyes widened as she started to understand. "Is that why you kept running to the men's room tonight?" She laughed. "You're like a teenager who just shoots his load."
"I'm glad this is a big joke."
She couldn't help herself. She couldn't stop laughing. She kept picturing Dean spontaneously bursting into a fit of feathers and light every time he had a hard-on.
"So, you thought I would be so desperate and star struck that I would happily let you in my pants?"
"Well, what am I supposed to do?" Dean's wings flattened as he frowned. "It's not like just anyone can hop in bed with me like this!"
"You have to have some control."
"'Course I do."
She crossed her arms.
"The friggin' things used to pop out all the time," he muttered. "Now it just sorta happens when…"
She kept the grin on her face. It must have taken everything in him to keep his wings wherever they went when invisible. It was no wonder he nearly collapsed when they sprung forth tonight.
Jo's eyes lit up as she studied him. She couldn't pass up an opportunity like this. Karma had come back to bite Dean in the ass.
And she was going to milk it for all it was worth.
She cocked her head and put her hand on her hip. "Okay. Let's say that I humor you. What's in it for me?"
"What?" he asked. "What do you mean what's in it for you?"
"I can't be guaranteed you'll perform. I heard that angels are sexless."
"I'm no angel."
She nodded. "So you're no angel. You're the butt of a joke – some guy with wings."
Dean frowned. "Now that's just a technicality."
"Pretty big one." Jo paused. "Unless…maybe this time around it enhances performance?"
"You know. Your stamina."
His face darkened. "My stamina's just fine."
"Right." She bit her lip, struggling to keep the laughter from slipping out. "But what if the wings make you, I don't know, too quick?"
"How would you know?"
"Let's test it out," he said, the charm back full force. Dean waggled his eyebrows. "Take the shiny new model for a test drive."
He did seem brand new, she realized, staring at his chest. She couldn't discern any old bullet or knife wounds. The only thing that caught her eye, aside from the wings, was a flash of pink on his left shoulder, but before she could examine it, he rolled it back, obscuring her view.
He was almost like a new person. That thought struck her hard and Jo felt her smile fade. "I think I liked the older model."
To that, Dean was speechless. Jo instantly regretted what she said. Not the meaning or the feelings that backed those words, but more the way she said them. Dean genuinely looked hurt, and she felt bad, remembering that he had no control over this situation.
"I should go," he said. "Sam's probably going out of his mind."
He moved away, but she caught him by the forearm and pulled him back. "Don't go," she said. "Don't shut me out. Not again."
Dean lingered, allowing her to keep hold of him. She could see the resolve in his face crack – like it always did with her – and the insecurity well in his eyes. For a second, she thought he would pull her close, but he remained stiff, aloof, and motionless as if he were being pulled by two opposing forces.
Jo drew him closer. "As much as I like this – this whatever back and forth happens between us, I'm not the same anymore, Dean. I'm older. I know more." She pressed her palm to his chest. "Let me in."
For a moment, Dean hesitated. She could see the conflict in his burdened face. She didn't know why he had such a fear of intimacy – of real emotional intimacy – or why he had to keep pushing her away. She figured maybe it was the nature of the job or maybe his feelings were deeper than he ever wanted to admit.
She just wanted him to open up to her, to finally trust her.
And tonight, maybe he finally would.
Dean slid his hand over hers and gently pushed it away from his chest. She said nothing as he clutched her hand in his, bringing it slow and steady to rest on his left shoulder. She frowned, feeling the raised mark on his skin, her eyes widening as she discovered the shape that was etched there.
"I was pulled out of Hell," he said, his voice nearly cracking.
She rubbed her fingers against the raised welts. With every touch, his wings fluttered, rippling back as if they had a mind of their own. If they could speak, she wondered what they would say.
"By who?" she asked.
Jo watched Dean's face pinch in a mix of emotion, uncertainty and pride, fear and respect. "Angels," he finally said.
Jo jerked. Her gaze fell back to the wings that quivered behind his back. The thought sounded ridiculous, so much so that she knew Dean couldn't verbalize it any more than she could. The idea that angels could come down and bless Dean with wings didn't make sense. How was that useful? What could it even achieve?
She was having enough trouble getting past the "angels" part.
Jo stood with him, trying to approach the topic gently. She hedged on the questions she was dying to have answers for, but at the same time she felt awkward and funny.
Jo pursed her lips before she spoke. "Do you--?"
He shook his head. "No clue. No laying of the hands. No funky powers. Just a bunch of feathers that would make Hawkman jealous."
The joke helped bring a small smile to her lips. Though she appreciated the humor, she couldn't take her mind off the wings behind him and what he must be going through.
She wondered if his comment about being alone was more truthful than she originally had thought.
"Do they hurt?" she asked.
"Not much anymore," Dean admitted. "At first the suckers hurt like hell, but now it's some itching and burning." He paused and frowned. "That totally came out wrong."
Despite herself, she laughed. She was grateful that he chuckled with her. Some of the heaviness that he had carried when she first had bumped into him in the alley seemed to float away. He wasn't completely carefree – she suspected he never would be – but it was nice to hear him laugh a genuine laugh, one filled with true heart and emotion.
His wings seemed lighter as well. Now that she was closer, she could see every detail. Each feather had its own gleam to it, wispy and delicate, while tucked into a frame that looked sturdy and stable. She started to wonder if they were made of light.
Jo wanted to ask. She wanted to be able to slide her fingers through the feathers just to see.
She didn't need to say a word. Suddenly, his wings expanded, fanning out on either side, once again showing the extent of their wingspan. She vaguely wondered if he could read her mind, an uncomfortable thought, but quickly remembered that he had no other abnormalities besides the wings themselves.
Trying to keep the tremble from her hand, Jo reached forward and touched one of the feathers. It was light and airy, malleable and warm. She stroked the surface, inching up toward the wing linings.
With each touch, she felt Dean quiver. He let out a rattled sigh, his hot breath on her neck. His response encouraged her so she rubbed her palm against the linings, back and forth, cool and controlled, as she kept silent, listening to his breathing.
Dean moaned into her.
In turn her own pulse, usually slow and steady, fluttered as Dean pulled her to his chest. First, she felt his hands, rough and hardened from the life he had been forced to live, caress her neck before they slid down her back and under her shirt. Despite the roughness, there was no mistaking his tenderness, the soothing warmth that thrummed beneath the surface.
Jo kept feeling her way through his wings, tickling each one to give him the highest sensation. Soon, she reached the arm of the wing, caressing him on either side.
Her hands roamed downward, past the leading edge to the tips of the primary feathers. Each one was remarkably and strangely soft like a down comforter, but as she ran her fingers over the tips she felt a chill. As one, she knew these feathers could be deadly. She couldn't say how or why she felt this way, but the power and uniformity of the feathers reminded her of soldiers, warriors.
For a brief second, she felt scared for him.
The moment was fleeting. Before she could dwell on the nature of his condition, Dean broke from her neck and pressed his lips to hers. She felt his need and desire waft off his skin like heat from a fire. It nearly overwhelmed her. He was full of raw need, not of desperation, but the relief that came with finally being able to drop false pretenses and just be.
She too wanted to just be. Nothing else. Just this moment.
Jo wrapped her arms around him, careful not become tangled in his wings and kissed him back. They moved together, stumbling toward her bed, his wings smacking lamps and tables and whatever else was in their way.
She didn't care. Neither did he.
Between gasps, pulls, and tugs, they made it to her bed, crashing in a tangled mess of limbs. His wings remained rigid, arched outward to their full height. They blocked the overhead light, consuming her, enveloping her, but she never felt safer.
He came down with a bruising kiss.
Jo pulled him on top of her and immediately went for his waist. He grinned that devilish grin of his and reached for her shirt.
And then he stopped.
Jo frowned, her body throbbing with frustration. "What?"
She wasn't the only one frustrated. Dean's frown matched her own, if not deeper, as he pulled back from her. Slowly, the wings started to bend, becoming softer and softer until they neatly folded behind his back.
Understanding hit Jo.
She threw her head against the pillow. "You're kidding me."
Dean let out a string of curses as he slid off her and sat at the edge of the bed. His wings were too long and squashed against the top of the bed, but he didn't seem to care. The anger and frustration in his dark face told her more than enough.
She went to try to comfort him, but he jumped to his feet and stalked across her apartment, snatching up his shirt and jacket with a quick scoop.
He kept his back to her. She hopped off her bed to meet him, but by the time she crossed the floor, his wings had already started to fade. She stopped, surprised, watching as the feathers seemed to dematerialize, growing fainter as each second rolled away. The bright solids eased into transparent wisps of white smoke before devolving into black shadows. Then, they were blown away like smoke on a windy night.
No one would have ever known Dean had wings.
"Dean." She reached out to touch his shoulder.
He shrugged her off and pulled his shirt over his head. "'Bout time I give those angels a piece of my damn mind."
"You don't have to go," she told him. "We'll find something else."
He already had put on his jacket. "I'm not letting them mess with me." He gave her an apologetic look and stopped to touch her cheek. "I'll call you."
Jo felt her stomach bottom out. This time, she said nothing, knowing it wasn't worth her time. Instead, she let him go and vowed not to be hurt again. She thought she had changed. She thought she had matured and reached a level of understanding, of comfort with herself and her life. She thought that she had finally grown up. Deep down she was sure that Dean had too.
So much for her ability to read people.
Jo set her jaw and kept her anger in check, refusing to let her emotions get the better of her. She was done. She wouldn't be used again.
With that, she closed the door to her apartment and on Dean forever.
Dean slammed the door behind him.
Sam's head bobbed up and he closed the book he was studying. "You're back early."
Dean ignored him and stormed over to his bed. He grabbed his duffle and tore it open, checking for the few occult items he always kept handy. He didn't really want to know why Sam was up at 3am reading. It really wasn't important now. It was still dark enough where Dean could find an abandoned building or something to get this rite done.
"I'm going to take a wild guess and say things didn't work out with Jo."
Dean refused to look up at Sam. He wasn't going into this right now.
But Sam had always been quick. Dean hated that about him.
"You've been ready to explode for nearly three weeks." He saw Sam hover from the corner of his eyes. "You finally think you have enough control to get some action and…?" He heard Sam laugh. "You're not up to task."
"Hey, don't you talk about Dean Jr. that way."
Sam glanced down at the duffle bag. "You think this has to do with the angels."
Dean glared at him. "No, I think it has to do with Mickey Mouse. Of course, I think it's the angels."
"Dean, why would the angels care about your sex life? Don't you think they have more important things to worry about?"
"Well, that's what I'm going to ask them," he said. Dean was getting tired of Sam's prying. One day he insisted the angels were directly involved with his problem. The next day he was positive they had nothing to do with it. Truth was neither of them knew for sure either way.
It had to end.
Dean double-checked his stash – he made sure he had a couple of candles, a ritual dish, and some chalk. He knew Sam was watching him carefully.
"You're going to summon Castiel."
"Dean, you haven't been able to reach them in weeks. Just think about what you're doing."
"I am." Dean had thought about this long and hard. "I'm being screwed by angels."
"Apparently, you're not getting screwed by anyone."
Dean scowled and shook his head, trying to keep his anger in check. "Oh, that's real cute, Sam. Nice."
Sam laughed but the humor quickly died from his eyes. "Dean, seriously. Just think this through. If Castiel or Uriel is involved somehow, don't you think there's a reason?"
"What possibly could they gain from this?"
"Maybe not anything. Maybe this is about you." He paused, his eyes unwavering. "Maybe God is trying to teach you a lesson in humility or self control."
Dean stared at him. If God was messing with his sex drive, then Heaven just lost a player on their side. He hadn't been brought back to become a celibate monk.
He zipped up the bag. It ended tonight.
Sam quieted. "Dean…"
"What?" When Sam hesitated, Dean rolled his eyes. "Now what?"
"Maybe this is simpler than you think."
"How so? Because no mojo? That's not cool, Sam."
"I know. But did you ever think you're just too scared to commit to one person?" Sam asked. "Or maybe you like her more than you want to admit."
Dean pointed a finger at Sam. He kept his voice even and controlled and waited for his brother to sigh and back down.
"I'm not having this conversation with you," Dean said. "This isn't about me. It's about heaven and hell constantly mucking up our lives." He grabbed the duffle and slung it over his shoulder. "I've had it. I'm fixing this tonight."
Dean pushed his way past Sam, ignoring the looks and the protests his brother called behind him. He knew an old building just a few blocks from here that would do. Satisfied, he tossed the duffle in the Impala and started the engine. Within minutes, he was speeding down the street with only one goal in mind: getting his life back on track and ridding himself of those damn wings forever.
Dean finished the incantation and leaned against an old printing press. He didn't have to wait long.
Castiel strolled into the old warehouse. This time he left the pomp and circumstance checked at the door, entering the building without any flash or flare like the last time Dean had consciously summoned him.
As usual, Dean had a hard time reading him. His face was impassive, but powerful, and Dean knew anything he could be thinking or feeling was closely guarded. He couldn't tell if the angel was pissed at him or not, but that didn't mean squat. If anything, it made Dean anxious. He preferred when people – or supernatural beings – were cut and dry. Guess work made his brain hurt.
"There are easier ways to summon me," Castiel said.
"I figured the angelic version of the Bat Phone wouldn't fail," Dean said.
"What do you want?" Castiel asked.
Castiel was always no nonsense. No small talk. He always got right to the point. While Dean appreciated that about the guy, he still was pissed at his condition. The fact he liked Castiel made this even harder.
"I want you and your buddies to stop messing with my body."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Oh sure you don't." Dean couldn't believe it. He thought angels couldn't lie. "I'm talking about the nice little present you and your buds left me."
Castiel remained impassive. Dean couldn't tell what the guy was thinking. He swore by the time this was all over, he was going to go insane.
"The wings, Cas. You can't tell me you don't know about the—" Dean made a vague moment over his shoulder.
Again, Castiel stared and said nothing. Dean was near his breaking point.
"I don't know if this is how you get your kicks, but enough is enough. Snap your fingers. Do some divine incantation," Dean said. "I don't care what you got to do. I'm not a damn bird."
This time Castiel frowned in that disapproving but compassionate way of his as he stepped toward Dean. Without warning, he reached forward and touched Dean's shoulder, pressing down on the same spot he'd once left his mark months ago.
Castiel's eyes were fluid but piercing as if he could cut through Dean down to his very soul. Dean had no doubt that was exactly what he was doing.
Then he pulled away and for a second, just a brief one, Dean was positive he'd spooked the angel.
"I have to go," he said.
Dean blinked. "What?"
Castiel didn't reply. He stepped back into the shadows and before Dean could curse him out, he disappeared.
"Son of a bitch," he said to himself. He'd just been dissed by an angel.
Dean remained there for a couple of hours, hoping that maybe Castiel would eventually come back. He wanted to think Cas had been snagged for some demon war or was needed to fight another seal from being broken. But as the minutes had dragged into hours, he knew Castiel wouldn't be coming back.
Again, he only had one thing to say to that: son of a bitch.
"I'm sure he had a good reason."
Dean stared out the windshield of the Impala. While he knew that Sam meant well, he just didn't want to hear any more excuses. He had wanted to believe in something more. He really had. Dean knew he had been ripped from Hell for a reason.
But this? Dean wanted no part of this stupid plan. He had enough on his plate without having to deal with some freaky ass wings. He didn’t want to think about the changes or what could be happening to him.
Supernatural mojo always had some kind of price. Always.
"The omens have moved South," Sam reminded him. He sat in the passenger's seat and closed his laptop. "If we're going to try and stop them…"
"Yeah, I know," Dean muttered. "It'll only take a sec."
Dean climbed out of the Impala and started toward the small apartment building. Jo didn't live in the best of neighborhoods, but with that killer knife collection of hers, he was sure she would be just fine.
And she'd be fine after he left too.
Dean rounded the corner, leaving Sam and the Impala behind him. They were quickly obscured by the overgrown shrubbery that lined the building on its West side. The brush was so thick and weedy that Dean nearly missed the somber man waiting for him by the apartment entrance.
"You got balls coming back now," Dean said, his voice low.
"Take this." Castiel held out his hand. As he unfurled his palm, a small slender vial rested inside. The container was filled with liquid the color of the sky.
"What the hell is this?" Dean wasn't about to take some divine LSD.
"It will help," Castiel assured him. "For now."
"I don't know what is happening to you, but I will find out." Castiel dropped the vial into Dean's hand and closed it, but allowed his own hand to linger. "This is my promise to you."
Dean couldn't really explain it, but despite all his anger and his frustration, he believed Castiel. The angel honestly didn't know.
And that scared the hell out of him.
Castiel withdrew his hand and gave Dean one last, lingering stare. "I'll be in touch."
And with that, he vanished from view.
Dean stood there, staring into the distance, as he fought to process everything. He didn't want to consider the possibilities of how or why any of this was happening to him. If Castiel didn't have the answer, he was afraid to know who did.
But that was a problem for another day. He and Sam had work to do. He took a deep and breath, popped open the vial, and downed the blue stuff in one gulp.
It tasted like ash.
Dean gagged, but forced himself to hold it down. If that kept the stupid feathers at bay, he wasn't going to argue. He'd go back to pretending everything was fine, wings or no wings, but deep down he knew the charade had ended long ago.
If and when Castiel found the right answers, Dean knew they would be game changers. Nothing would ever be the same.
And that terrified him.
But that was a worry for a different day. He tossed the vial into the nearby trash and continued to the apartment building. This was it. Dean took a deep breath and buzzed the ringer.
Jo met him downstairs by the intercom. He looked a little haggard, even distracted, as he waited on the steps with his hands in his pockets. Jo thought he looked like a regular joe just them, the false reality almost too tempting to ignore. But he was damaged, far more damaged than she had ever imagined, and she knew that reality could never exist in the way she had hoped.
She rested her head on the doorway. "Come back for more games?"
"I'm so done with games," he said.
"Then why are you here?"
"Sam and I are leaving town. The job has us heading South."
Jo nodded. She wasn't surprised. She knew that the two of them would pack up eventually. Two wandering and restless spirits – she wondered if they would ever find peace.
"Is that it?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No. I came by to…" Dean shifted his weight and then cleared his throat. "Screw this."
To her surprise, Dean climbed up the steps, wrapped his arms around her, and drew her into a deep kiss.
The kiss was different from their late night rendezvous. His soft lips were warm and giving, almost hesitant, but filled with a sweetness that only deepened the passion that they had shared overnight. Jo found herself lost in his embrace.
When he withdrew, he lingered, holding her close. The two of them fell into a comfortable silence, just content to stand there and hold each other. He rubbed his thumb over her cheek.
"Dean, your…problem. It doesn't matter to me."
He forced a small smile and nodded. "I know. But I still got to figure this mess out."
He leaned over and kissed her again, ending with a couple of gentle brushes against her lips. "I have to go now."
She nodded and let him go. Part of her wanted to go with him, to join him and Sam on the road. Jo knew better. This was a time for Dean to find himself, just like she had spent the past year discovering who she was. The Winchester brothers need to reconnect and finish what they needed to finish. They had a job to do.
A year ago, Jo would have passively waited until they worked out their problems. But she was a different person now. While she knew that this was something Dean needed to figure out on his own terms, she wouldn't stand idly by. She would keep working on her studies, on her life, and she would do whatever it took to help Dean and Sam while still allowing them to follow their own path.
Maybe that is what they were meant to do. Maybe everything that happened was for a reason.
She watched Dean hurry down the steps and head back to the walkway that lead to the street, but before he disappeared behind the overgrown bushes, he called back over his shoulder, "I'll call you."
And this time, she had no doubt that he would.