The Game of God: Day 157 - part 10
Blanket statement for everyone, forever: they deserve to be saved.
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— Day 157, continued —
Castiel considers the necessity, then turns to the back stairs. As their commander, he should assure James and his team are doing well, and as he is here anyway, assure that Sudha is comfortable or feeling threatened so he can deal with it with prejudice; he definitely has enough minutes for that.
When he reaches the new maternity wing, the sound of cheerful voices and laughter, muffled by the walls and distance, is pleasant to hear. Several gravid women—once stuck in series of uncomfortable rooms and moved frequently due to the number of people needing treatment—are now in residence (with their families, of course). The benefits of privacy and comfort during such a time cannot be underestimated; when one is intent on continuing the species, distractions of any kind should be discouraged. All know, of course, that Vera successfully performed an emergency Caesarean in the middle of the ER—the mother, Alexa, is among those in residence—but it’s generally agreed that is not a recommended method of successful childbirth and should be avoided if possible.
He finds Mira sitting outside the door of Sudha’s room in the only remaining chair from last night, straightening with a smile when she sees him. “Hey, Cas.”
“How is everything?”
“Good,” she says cheerfully. “We got everyone settled in the new rooms, did some fetching and carrying, and showed them how to make salt lines and everything. Uh—we didn’t want them nervous, so we explained we’re assigned to this wing to protect it if anything happens.” She tips her head back further, watching his expression, and he realizes she’s wondering if they exceeded their authorization.
“Excellent job,” he tells her, and she relaxes. “I suppose I should ask: is this wing defensible?”
“I pity anything coming up those stairs trying to pull any shit here, that’s all I’m saying,” she says with pardonable pride. “Oh, almost forgot: that priest dropped by on his rounds and told us not to worry, anything coming out of the pipes is covered. Turn on tap, fill cup, throw at demon: we’re good.”
“What priest?” he asks in confusion, then realizes he must have come with the other refugees.
“Father Francis,” she answers. “Really nice guy: almost makes me want to convert.”
“What did he do to the pipes?” Blessing them is a very good idea, but it would only work until all the water in those pipes was consumed, which in the infirmary would be very quickly.
“Not the pipes themselves,” she corrects him. “The water treatment plant and the lagoon or whatever. He was there this morning and apparently blessed everything wet in sight or something. Also, we got word that two more pumps are up: the volunteers told sleep to fuck itself and got shit done, so town-wide drinking water is a go. For everything else…”
“There’s latrines,” he says in resignation, but most of his mind is involved in how much water was blessed and how long that will last. He needs to learn more about water treatment plants, soon; this would be very useful for defense. It occurs to him that Alicia was raised Catholic; though her current spiritual situation is less certain (read: entirely unknown), the cross she usually wears is one traditionally gifted to a child upon their confirmation. “Is he here now?”
“YMCA,” she answers. “He does rounds of the refugees, kind of minister at large or something, Dolores told me. You want to talk to him?”
“I would like to thank him and ask him about his method,” he agrees; it’s been some time since he formally examined a priest on their spiritual calling, but it’s not as if that’s something you can forget. “Where are the others?”
She tips her head down the hall. “Dolores asked James and Zack to check the empty rooms, see if any of them are big enough for three beds. They’re getting measurements now.”
“Neer said Sudha wanted him about an hour ago,” she says with a fond smile. “Nate’s a baby person, did you know that?”
No, he didn’t, but then again, Jaya is not exactly a standard baby. “No. Did they say what for?”
“Probably important baby-holding duties. Neer looked a little tired, so maybe Sudha and Rabin wanted some them-time and she wanted a nap. That is one judgy baby, Cas; first time I got to hold her, she just stared at me like—actually,” she says, as if experiencing a minor revelation, “it kind of reminded me of you when words aren’t enough and disappointment must be glared into us.”
Mira snorts, which he decides to ignore in the spirit of not bickering with one’s subordinates. Glancing at the door, he reluctantly decides against a professional check-in. “Keep me informed if they need anything,” he says.
She nods cheerfully. “I will.”
“We’re up,” Amanda says, sliding off the jeep as the South Gate opens and two jeeps come inside.
As the gate closes, the jeeps turn toward them, and Dean waits as they come to a stop and Lee gets out. “Everything okay?”
“Nothing happened, so I guess,” he answers as Jane circles the jeep to join him. “Jane marked down where we saw bodies during our circuit. It’s gonna be hell getting them all burned, but better than a strawberry spring happening with them still out here.”
Dean winces: yeah, he’s not gonna think about that.
“Also, Jane saw something,” Lee says, and Jane stiffens, expression conveying ‘what, no, God’ which Lee ignores. “Figured you might want to know.”
“It was nothing,” Jane says, tossing a glare up at Lee, who looks back impassively. “I mean, really, it’s not like I… Just off the cuff to my leader making conversation during the drive thing.”
Fighting a smile at Lee’s impression of long-suffering patience in the face of off the cuff conversation with his second, Dean leans back against the jeep. “Let’s hear it.”
With a final glare, she sighs. “Midpoint between the South and East Gate, that’s where most of the Croats still living were. Until Ana and Sean killed them all before we went out,” she adds, crossing her arms over her chest unhappily.
“Assholes,” Dean says consolingly as Lee’s expression turns regretful: crazy, crazy militia. “What about it? Those were the wounded ones, right?”
“So Gretch and Brenda said when they saw them a couple of days ago,” she answers. “Not a lot of mobility—I’m pretty sure some were missing key leg parts, as in all the parts—but I’ve been thinking about it, and that’s weird, right? All the fighting was north of the wall, so why would they have come to the southeast?”
Lee shrugs. “Not like a Croat can’t crawl really fast.” Dean immediately dismisses the horrifying image that invokes (seriously, was Lucifer literally getting tips from horror movies?). “I agree, though. All the good eating was to the north.”
“They’re Croats,” Dean answers. “Thinking isn’t their strong suit.”
“No, but prey is a motivation,” Jane counters. “I saw bones, picked clean, and I counted four skulls in passing, but there could be more; those were the ones on top of the snow, and there’s been at least a couple of falls the last two days.”
Dean looks between them. “They ate the weakest.”
“They were the weakest,” Jane answers, and just as Dean starts to wonder if he’s missing something, he remembers the first time he came here: that kid in the alley, then those others showing up almost as soon… as soon as he took the little girl bait.
Croats don’t actually need to eat; it’s just fun.
“They were a pack,” he says experimentally, and Jane and Lee nod, like this should be obvious: okay then. “They wouldn’t eat one of their own.”
“Not if they hooked up two days ago,” she confirms. “That’s faster than usual, but who knows, maybe they were all friends or something before. In the shape they were in, they had to be together to keep off the other Croats, which honestly, would motivate me to make friends with my co-monsters fast.”
“So what are you thinking?”
Jane makes a face, looking at Lee for reassurance. “Look, has there been any reports of people not coming back from wall duty?”
He tries not to twitch. “You think someone fell and the Croats got them? Several someones, I mean.”
“It would explain why the Croats were motivated to come halfway around the walls,” Lee offers. “They’d smell them, especially if they were injured. And why they stuck around: those bones were picked clean and cracked for marrow and brain, and even for a Croat, that takes time, especially those missing key finger parts.”
Dean doesn’t say they can smell if we’re injured? because apparently, they can, Jesus Christ. So he knows nothing about hospital protocols or Croats: awesome. “No reports,” he answers, which is actually worse, now that he thinks about it. “Wall tourists, maybe?”
Jane winces, leaning against Lee for a moment. “The wall’s twenty-something miles; if you know the patrol routes and times—and have a rope and know how to use it—it wouldn’t be hard to get up there. With the snow—easy to slip.”
“Or suicides,” Lee says reluctantly. “This many people… there’s no way Volunteer Services can keep up with everyone.”
Now Dean gets why she didn’t want to say anything. “Any kids?”
“All the skulls I saw were adult-size, if that helps.”
That she saw: fuck knows what could be under the snow. “Okay, all of you go to Admin and tell Alison what you saw, so she and Claudia can start inquiries, then food and bed. We got a long day tomorrow. Dismissed.”
After they leave, Dean finds himself searching the snowy fields; it’s too dark to see much now, the moonlight hidden by the clouds, but the only shapes seem to be livestock.
“All right,” he says, pushing off the jeep. “Let’s move out.”
Castiel just reaches the waiting room again when Karl suddenly comes down the front stairs, a limp body in his arms. “Dolores!” he yells as he jogs into the ER. “Someone get me a stretcher!”
Frowning, Castiel goes to the door of the ER just as Karl deposits the body on a hastily acquired stretcher. Dolores appears almost immediately beside him, blocking Castiel’s view. “What the hell—”
“I don’t know,” he answers distractedly as Dolores takes out a penlight. “Found her collapsed by the second floor stairs, west wing. Haruhi, come on,” he says urgently, and Dolores suddenly moves, turning Haruhi’s head to the side as she vomits onto the floor.
He’s not entirely surprised when Alicia joins him, a clipboard forgotten in one hand. “I thought Haruhi was on duty—”
“She was,” he answers. “Here. She and Rosario were assigned to see who came to visit Carol.”
Alicia looks blank for a moment. “On the second floor, west wing.” Dropping the clipboard, she darts toward the stairs, Castiel just catching her just as she reaches the top. When they reach Carol’s room, the door’s closed, and after a quick check of the knob—locked, which is unusual—Alicia pivots on the ball of her foot and kicks it open with a crack they can probably hear downstairs, gun in her hand and pointed into the room.
“I have you,” he says, coming up behind her with his own gun drawn and scanning the room as she goes to the occupied bed. Throwing back the blankets, she hisses at the sight of Rosario curled in a fetal position on the mattress, golden brown skin faded to a sickly yellow-brown and eyes closed.
“Dammit,” she mutters, checking her pulse and airway. “She’s breathing, good. Cas, can you—”
“I need medical personnel here immediately,” he shouts, and seeing a volunteer passing at the end of the hall freeze, adds, “Go tell Dolores that Rosario is unconscious in Carol’s room and needs immediate assistance!”
As Alicia sees to Rosario, Castiel searches the room, noting the faint but unmistakable signs of a struggle: a pile of clean sheets on the floor in disarray, an overturned wastebasket half-way under the bed. Checking the waste basket, he finds two bottles and two needles inside, one broken.
“This was used on them,” he says, holding up one of the bottles, and Alicia’s jaw tightens.
“She should be okay,” she says, one finger resting against Rosario’s pulse, and he realizes she’s counting. “Probably got her first; Haruhi had time to try and fight, probably didn’t get a full hit, thank God. They could have killed them with this; there’s a reason we go to school for this shit!”
Vera appears at the door with two volunteers, and Alicia retreats, reciting the stats she took, and Castiel retrieves the other bottle, handing them both to the volunteer Vera indicates.
“Got it,” she says briskly, and Alicia tugs him out of the room. “Okay, get this bottle to Dolores,” he hears Vera say, but Alicia is still pulling him down the hall at considerable speed and he doesn’t hear the rest.
“Who would have—Micah’s buddies, right, but why would they go after Carol?” Alicia asks distractedly. “Trade her for Micah, right, but how the hell would they get in the drug cabinet without anyone seeing them?”
“Not to mention how they managed to disable Rosario and Haruhi, kidnap Carol, and escape the hospital without anyone noticing,” he says as patiently as he can; she, at least, can approach the standard of Dean when faced with uncertainty under normal circumstances. “I doubt this was a kidnapping; she went willingly.”
“Cas, the only thing that’s keeping Carol sane right now is morphine,” Alicia retorts. “And there’s no way she got down to the drug cabinet and…” She stops short. “Anyone seen Cathy today?”
“Dolores banned her from the infirmary after what happened this morning,” he answers, then looks at Alicia. “I saw her earlier, a block and a half from our Headquarters. She had a black eye and seemed to be limping.”
“Two, two and a half hours ago,” he says. “She lives on Baltimore; why would she be on Second?”
Her eyes widen. “Son of a bitch!” Dragging Castiel down the stairs behind her, she shouts, “Karl! Get a trauma team to Chitaqua’s Headquarters now!”
Karl looks up from Haruhi’s bed. “What?”
“I don’t know yet, but assume the worst,” she responds, glancing at Castiel when they emerge onto the sidewalk. “Cas—”
“I’m contacting them now.” Taking out the hand unit, he switches to the channel for Jeremy at the front desk. “Jeremy, report immediately,” he says into the hiss, and waits five eternal seconds as they both begin to run. “Jeremy, answer me.” If anything happened to him… “Jeremy, please answer me.”
“He’s not answering,” Amanda says neutrally, looking at Dean. “Second time.”
Dean stares blindly at the passing landscape outside Ichabod. “Try Cas. Now.”
The lobby is echoingly empty, and that frightens him almost as much as the obviously hastily concealed signs of a struggle at the front desk: the chair is pushed against the wall, and the papers on the desk were obviously quickly picked up after being scattered and tossed into a pile. As Alicia covers the room, he goes to check behind the desk, then in the closet, not sure how relieved he should be that there’s no sign of blood. Jeremy and Joelle would not leave voluntarily.
“Where is everyone?” Alicia mutters, gun at the ready as she glances down the hall to the mess.
“It’s halfway through the third shift,” he answers, reviewing the schedule with a sinking feeling. “Those who aren’t on duty are volunteering or sleeping at this time.”
“Who’s duty officer?”
“Kamal.” Who should have been up here to check in with Jeremy at least once an hour.
Alicia jerks her head toward the basement, and nodding, he precedes her, listening carefully before reaching for the doorknob. He’s not entirely surprised to find it locked, but the flimsy mechanism breaks easily at a quick punch.
Listening carefully, he proceeds down the stairs and pauses on the last step, Alicia keeping her attention on the door behind them, but there’s nothing but silence. More quickly, he jogs down the hall, past the door to the pool, and pausing at the corner, he hears a faint thud. Signaling Alicia, he emerges into the hall and sees two bodies on the floor near the interrogation room in a growing pool of blood.
“Fuck,” Alicia breathes, passing him at a sprint and dropping down beside Mark. “Cas, check Gary for me.” Taking Mark’s pulse, she listens to his breathing before stripping off her jacket and flannel. A knife appears between her fingers as she cuts the flannel into strips, binding the wound on Mark’s shoulder quickly before turning her attention to his side and breathes out in relief. “Good boy, magic bullet. Cas?”
Crouching, Castiel presses his fingers against the cool skin of Gary’s throat, but it’s not needed; this close, he can see the blood-matted hair around the entrance wound above his ear. “No.”
Alicia doesn’t answer as she makes a pad of another strip and presses it against Mark’s side, securing it with two more strips quickly tied together. “Through and through, looks like he tried to staunch it before he passed out,” she says steadily, touching his cheek with bloody fingers and after a moment, he slits open his eyes, looking confused. “It’s gonna be okay,” she tells him. “Did you think Vera needed more practice with surgery? Because that’s what she’s gonna assume, and sucks to be you when you wake up.”
He tries to lick bloodless lips. “Kel said—wait. Be fine.” He blinks back tears. “Gary… went. With her. He’s okay.”
“Got it,” Alicia says briskly. “No more talking, okay?”
Castiel looks down at Gary’s still face one last time, lips parted for a last breath he’ll never take. “I’m going to check the room.”
Alicia stands enough to step over his body, gun in her right hand, and places herself between Mark and the door. “Got it,” she says, keeping her left on Mark’s chest—reassurance, he assumes. “No moving: you fuck up my bandaging, you’ll wish for a nice, long, peaceful coma, you know what I mean?”
As he gets closer, he notes the deadlock and hears another thud and faintly, a voice muttering elaborately filthy Nepalese profanity. “Please stand away from the door,” he says clearly before unlocking the deadlock and pushing it open to see Kamal holding a chair leg with a dangerous expression.
“Cas,” he says in relief, lowering his ad hoc club, and Castiel notes the swelling of his cheek and reddened knuckles before scanning the room: Sheila and Chris holding the legs of one of the broken chairs, the table shoved on its side to provide defense; Jeremy and Joelle, however, are not present.
“Are any of you injured?” he asks; Sheila’s knuckles are reddened and visibly swollen, like Kamal’s, but Kamal’s cheek seems the worst of it.
“We’re fine,” Sheila snarls. “Kat and Kyle showed about an hour and a half ago, said you’d sent them to get Micah. Didn’t buy it, and when Kamal said he was going to talk to you, they drew on us. Next thing we know, we hear Cathy in the hall telling Mark and Gary to throw down their weapons.”
“She had a gun to Jeremy’s head,” Kamal says quietly, and Castiel stills.
“Kept her head,” Sheila says with a flicker of approval. “Even when Kat put a gun to her head and got Jeremy to disarm us while Kyle watched Mark and Gary in the hall. Cas, we could have taken them, but Cathy used herself as a bullet shield.”
“We don’t shoot civilians,” he affirms, deliberately not thinking of the feel of Gary’s too-cool throat and Jeremy with a gun to his head. “Where are Jeremy and Joelle now?”
“They took them, I guess,” Kamal says, and his expression tells Castiel he won’t like what he hears next. “They ordered me and Sheila and Chris to the other side of the room—I’m not sure what happened, but Kat shut the door suddenly and then we heard gunshots. He takes a deep breath. “Cas—”
“Son of a bitch!” they hear Alicia say, and darting by Castiel, Kamal freezes to see Alicia bending over Mark. “Mark, you didn’t lose that much blood, stop being so goddamn dramatic!” She glances back at them. “Someone get upstairs to meet Karl’s team and get them down here. Tell them to run.”
“I’ll go,” Sheila says, voice thick as she jogs past them and down the hall. Coming up beside Kamal, Chris looks at Alicia working on Mark, then at Gary.
“He’s dead,” Castiel says flatly. “Kamal, call everyone in immediately; Headquarters has been compromised. You and Sheila are to secure all exits; no one is to leave this building.” He hands Kamal the hand unit. “Contact Dean and tell him everything that happened here and this as well: Cathy assisted Carol to escape the infirmary, and Haruhi and Rosario are being treated for a potential sedative overdose. When you’re done, contact Manuel and Teresa, Alison, and also Maimouna; she knows Joelle was here, and she needs to know immediately.”
“Dean’s going to want to come back—”
“Tell him to continue as planned,” Castiel interrupts with a start of horror at the idea of Dean returning now. “He may be the only one who can stop this now, whatever it is. You’re in command; when at least two teams have returned, have them begin a full search of every room floor by floor. Dismissed.”
Kamal nods, starting down the hall at a run.
“…down here,” Castiel hears Sheila saying, followed by the dull sound of feet, and like an expected and deeply desired miracle, Karl appears, bag in hand and taking in the scene at a glance.
“Mark needs blood, soon,” Alicia states after reciting off statistics without taking a breath as he kneels across from her. “There may be more upstairs. You got this one or need my help?”
“Got it,” Karl says, eyes flickering to Gary and grimacing at her quick headshake. “Sree, take Alicia’s place. Lois, Valli, help me get him stable then go after them. Mark, buddy, don’t move; you’re not helping.”
“Thank you,” she whispers, wiping her hands on her jeans as she gets to her feet and follows Castiel. “Cas, Drew and Phil… they’re her team. She wouldn’t…”
Kat put a gun to the head of a seventeen year old girl with the intention of using it if she wasn’t obeyed; that everyone obeyed her means that they had no doubt of her intentions.
“She would,” he says, and Alicia takes out her gun again and starts down the hall. “Chris, accompany Valli and Lois upstairs when they’re ready.”
There’s no sign of anything amiss when they reach the second floor. Going down the quiet hall, Alicia doesn’t bother to check the closed door, barely pausing as she breaks the simple lock with a single kick and going inside.
Coming in behind her, he sees Drew slumped against the left wall on a sleeping bag, the position of his arms behind him indicating they’re bound and a torn bedsheet wrapped inexpertly around his thigh that’s worryingly red. Phil is curled on his side with his head in Drew’s lap, arms also bound behind him and frighteningly still.
“Drew,” Alicia says coaxingly, kneeling beside him, and his eyes flicker open, dazed but alert: only blood loss, he hopes.
“Don’t move,” Alicia orders, checking the bandage with careful fingers as Castiel confirms Phil is breathing normally, pulse beating reassurance against his thumb. “Maybe nicked the femoral, but that’s it,” she says after a moment, looking Drew in the eye. “Good job keeping still: move that too much, could have ripped it open, and for fuck’s sake, don’t move now.”
“I’ll deal with the restraints,” Castiel says after cutting Phil’s, and she shifts over to concentrate on Drew’s leg and give him space to work. “Drew, can you feel your fingers?”
He nods, wetting his lips. “Wrist and above the elbow. One—one diagonal. They were in a hurry. Ran out of zip ties.”
“Excellent.” Reaching behind Drew, he maps them by touch without moving him and risking jostling his leg unnecessarily, visualizing their locations, then takes out his knife. “Continue to be very still; you’re bleeding enough already.”
Drew snorts, sighing in relief when he’s free. Checking his wrists—Drew didn’t make the mistake of fighting them unnecessarily and doing himself damage, but the reddened strips of skin will result in deep bruising—Castiel watches him flex weakly, satisfied. “What happened?”
“Kat and Kyle,” Drew spits as Alicia cuts a long strip lengthwise and makes a knot in one end. “Cathy was downstairs, wanted to talk to Kat, and she wouldn’t. Wouldn’t leave them alone. Jeremy asked for help—” He hisses, face ashen.
“It can wait,” Alicia says, looping the sheet around Drew’s upper thigh above the wound and twisting the ends together. “Cas, I need something…”
Getting up, he checks their bags and quickly finds a sharpening stone in Phil’s, long and narrow enough for a tourniquet. Bringing it to her, he kneels beside Phil, hesitant to do anything before Alicia can examine him.
“Can’t wait,” Drew whispers as Alicia tightens the tourniquet, sweat standing out on his forehead. “Gonna be out in a few minutes. Phil went down to talk to her; next thing I know, Kat pulls a knife on me.” He licks his lips, gritting his teeth for a long second. “Stupid: should have checked her after Sarah left. Went for my leg, no hesitation: guess I’m lucky my throat wasn’t in her way.”
Alicia loosens the tourniquet, eyes unreadable as her lips move in a silent count.
“Next thing I know, Kyle’s dragging Phil in here, said—” His eyes clear, pain erased for sheer rage. “That he didn’t hit him that hard.” He meets Alicia’s eyes. “Bandaged me up with Kat holding a gun to my head, though, so there’s that.”
“He’s been out the whole time?”
Drew nods tiredly, and Alicia looks at Castiel: that would be a very long time for a concussion. “Two hours, maybe a little less.”
“Trade with me,” she says, and Castiel steps carefully to Drew’s side and takes the tourniquet as Alicia takes his place by Phil. Fingers light, she checks Phil’s head carefully, mapping his skull with the tips of her fingers.
“Over here,” they hear Chris say, followed by quickly moving feet. “Fourth door on the right.”
Valli and Lois appear at the door, taking in the scene at a glance; Lois joins Castiel as Alicia relates Drew’s condition, then stills in her examination of Phil.
“Grade Three Concussion from blunt force trauma to the left parietal,” she says to Valli. “Open wound, about three, three and a half inches, possibly cracked his skull but can’t tell for sure. He was moved, not sure how far: probably happened in the lobby and carried up here after. He’s been out about two hours.” She meets Cas’s eyes. “Probably got hit with the butt of a gun from behind, as cowards like doing that kind of thing.”
Kneeling by Phil, Valli bends down to examine the wound before her hands shift to Phil’s neck, quick and gentle. “I think his neck’s fine. Lois, take over for Cas and call the infirmary: we need all the help we can get. Cas, Alicia, we’re going to have to move Phil; I need you to help me keep him flat and his head immobile if we can.”
“Let me get a sleeping bag down,” Alicia says, clearing an empty space on the floor and spreading out the sleeping bag carefully before coming back. “Okay, walk us through.”
Valli gives precise instructions to them both—with all the volunteers, it’s probably second nature now—and Alicia, at least, knows exactly what to do. In a few moments, Phil is flat on the floor, the blood-clotted hair clearly visible in the dim light As Valli examines Phil again, Alicia helps Drew lie down while Lois speaks to someone in the infirmary on her hand unit.
“Chris,” Castiel says. “Stay with Lois and Valli—anything they need, make sure they have it.”
“Yes, sir,” he says, holstering his gun before going to Valli, who gives him a calmly professional smile as Alicia talks quietly to Drew, only looking up when the hand unit comes to life in Lois’s hand and she places the earbud back in her ear.
“Chess is coming with two more teams and an ambulance,” she says after listening for a moment. “Lewis left the YMCA infirmary with Usha and is on his way to help Dolores and Vera prep for surgery.”
“What do you need me to do?” Alicia asks as Lois opens her bag.
“We got this,” Valli squeezes Alicia’s shoulder. “Go do what you need to.”
“Thanks,” she whispers, getting unsteadily to her feet, and Castiel follows her into the hall, watching her lean back against the wall, head bent. Her tank top, like her hands and the thighs of her jeans, are soaked in blood. “Why didn’t I see it?”
“I was distracted,” she interrupts. “Cathy and Kat only have two things in common: Carol and a reason to make a deal. What the hell did he do to Carol to get her to recruit for him? That’s why she wanted to make friends with Kat and Cathy, have a nice, long bonding night last night for the hard sell. But why would Kyle…” She trails off, looking sick. “Cas, people don’t trade their souls to get back an ex, do they? That wouldn’t… wouldn’t work, right?”
“People will try and trade their souls for anything,” he answers. “Earlier, Kyle told me that Micah was going to trade you to Erica for the nullification of his contract. When Dean spoke to Micah, he confessed that he’d planned just that but changed his mind when he saw you outside the walls. He must have made a second deal with Erica that night.”
Alicia’s eyes widen. “Last time he saw me before then, I was putting a knife in him; how the hell did he think he was going to get me to Erica?”
Anyone with any sense of self-preservation would assume—correctly—that being forced to leave Chitaqua at the point of a knife would be an indication of hostility. Castiel remembers that interview with Carol: tired, angry, defensive, afraid… and the unexpected venom that she directed at Alicia. As if, perhaps, Micah took the time to visit her in the infirmary and explain his intentions and reasons just before they arrived to question her. That does sound like something he would do.
“I’m going after them.” Alicia pushes off the wall and starts down the hall. “Cathy doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing, fuck knows what Micah did to Carol to get her to do this, Kat’s crazy—”
“—Kyle was misled, and Micah is probably indeed desperate regarding his soul and not thinking clearly,” he interrupts, and she stops short. “And lest I forget, Erica was traumatized by the death of her entire family and losing her child.”
She turns around, jaw tight. “I’m not excusing them—”
“Yes, you are.”
“They fucked up, fine! So the fuck what? My job,” she continues flatly, “is to save people; if I’m supposed to pass judgment on whether they deserve it first, consider this a blanket statement for everyone, forever: they deserve to be saved. Anything else?”
“This would be how, yes.” Alicia opens her mouth. “How to get you to Erica, I mean. You do realize this is a trap? Erica isn’t stupid; she manipulated you and Micah two years ago and she’s doing it right now. No matter what second deal Micah made, she wants you there, and Joelle and Jeremy were taken to make sure we let you go.”
She grimaces. “I just needed another minute.”
“Yes, you’re distracted, so you said,” he says acidly, starting down the hall. “I need more weapons.”
Alicia jogs to catch up. “You’re going? With me, I mean.”
“Of course I’m going with you,” he replies, and that’s the end of conversation until they reach the door to the back stairwell. “Go to your room and get everything you can comfortably carry, then we’ll…” Yes, that. “Kamal is searching the building and he’s good at it.”
She understands immediately. “Your balcony?”
“I’ve never attempted thirty feet with the expectation of fighting afterward,” he admits, hoping she understands the unspoken ‘or at all, at least voluntarily, and this would not be the time to try.’
She nods as she opens the door. “I got twenty feet of rope in my room. Project I was working on.”
He wonders if it involves a net. “That should work.”
Dean lowers the walkie-talkie and finishes with a voice so steady it’s like it’s not his own. “Dolores sent over an ambulance; they’ll all be in the infirmary in a few minutes. Mark’s going into surgery immediately; Valli’s not sure if Drew’s leg will need more than sutures, but he lost enough blood to need a transfusion. Phil’s—” He didn’t like the way Kamal skipped over detail other than Dolores was going to need to examine him. “—going, too. Kamal has Headquarters locked down and started a full sweep.” He makes himself say the next part. “Mortuary’s on its way. For Gary.”
Amanda nods, closing her eyes, and he sees Joe cover his face. From the front seat is silence, but Dean can’t imagine how Sarah feels right now; Mel’s arm is the only visible sign, stretched across the seats toward her.
“Kamal’s pretty sure that Kat and company took Jeremy and Joelle with them.” Joelle’s a local; threatening her may get them to open the gate, assuming Ichabod residents are stationed there. Or people with souls, who aren’t down with watching anyone shoot a terrified seventeen year old girl. “Manuel and Teresa are sending teams to check the North and East gates.”
“Cas is going to kill them,” Mel says very softly, not without satisfaction. “Jeremy’s got a scratch on him…”
“We need to—” He stops there, feeling helpless. If Cas hadn’t gone to the infirmary… the part of Dean that knows none of them are in Cas’s class doesn’t stop the relief that he wasn’t there when Kat and Kyle pulled their little coup. Especially when at least one of them isn’t above going for your back.
“I told Kat everything,” Sarah says tonelessly. “I thought it might help to know we were getting rid of Erica. She seemed interested,” she adds. “I thought it was a good sign. I should have—”
“Don’t,” he says roughly, hoping she takes that in the spirit given. Scowling, he realizes he’s rubbing his palm against his jeans and makes a fist, ignoring the flare of sharp pain from wrist to shoulder. “No way anyone could have seen this coming.”
“They must have planned this last night,” Amanda says. “The rest I get, but Kyle—what the fuck is he doing? It’s not like can sell his soul for Alicia’s affections!”
“No,” Dean agrees. “But he may think he can buy them.”
“Go,” Alicia says once she’s in the jeep and no longer hiding in the alley one street down from their Headquarters. “Where—”
“It was parked out of sight of Headquarters,” he answers. “That was convenient.” Going all the way to the garage and stealing a jeep—if there is another one available—would have taken far too much time and been rather awkward to explain.
When they reach the West Gate, Castiel sees patrol waiting for them and wonders uncomfortably if Dean left orders before he left not to allow him to leave. As Hans jogs toward them, the others spread out behind them in a loose semicircle, guns ready, while others stand ready with bags of salt.
Coming to a stop, Castiel rolls down the window as Hans reaches them. “We just got word: the North Gate was compromised.”
“Three,” he answers grimly. “Five injured, not too bad; made them all come off the wall and took their walkie-talkies. One came to report, but on foot; it took her a while and she took a good knock on the head. Said several people and two jeeps, but she’s pretty shook up, couldn’t tell us much more. Anthi’s team is there, but they’re concentrating on the injured right now, so that’s pretty much all we know for sure. Guessing you’re going out after them?”
“Yes,” he says; Jeremy and Joelle are alive. Surely if they were among those at the North Gate, Anthi would have sent word.
“Good,” he says with unsurprising ferocity, glancing back at something before nodding. “Okay, we’re ready.”
“Don’t open the gate for anyone until we return,” Castiel says. “I should be visually identified before my verbal confirmation to open the gate is accepted. If those don’t match, shoot until you run out of bullets.”
“Got it. Good hunting,” he says, stepping back and signaling the gate. “Go slow so we can fix the lines the second you pass.”
Castiel nods, keeping them in his rearview mirror, and isn’t sure he breathes until they’re outside and the gate is closed, all salt lines fixed.
Alicia stares at the road before them, naked trees like blackened limbs reaching for the sky.
“The shelter at the base of the hill, Station Zero,” she says finally. “Carol’s in bad shape, she can’t stand in the snow forever waiting, and I don’t see this going well if Erica thought she had to depend on everyone remembering directions in an area they don’t know. This thing needed accessibility and flexible timing. Make it easy on us.”
Castiel nods, putting the jeep in drive. “It’s a very convenient trap.”
“What do you mean you can’t find them?” Dean shouts, ignoring Joe and Amanda jumping.
“Dean, all I can tell you is that they aren’t in the building.” Kamal sounds harassed enough for Dean to believe him. “I had every door covered, I swear, and all the windows are sealed, so how they got out without anyone seeing them, I don’t know.”
He doesn’t need to ask Kamal to check their room for a stripped bed and a suspicious trail of knotted sheets; he assumes if Cas didn’t jump it outright, he and Alicia had the sense to find a goddamn rope. Probably. “I think I know.”
“Dean, uh… I think—”
Dean closes his eyes and finishes it for him. “They went after Erica, I figured out that part! What about Matt and Jody?”
“They reported a few minutes ago,” Kamal reports grimly. “They had no idea there was even a plan, much less that they were part of it.”
He tries to think; what went down in the infirmary interrupted the ‘send for Matt and Jody,’ fine, but Christ, Cas and Alicia could have detoured to get their goddamn backup. It’s on the tip of his tongue to tell Kamal to send Matt and Jody anyway to find them and just barely stops himself.
“Matt wants to go—”
“No.” Erica’s already got two hostages and two people to use them against; there’s no fucking way adding two more on either side of that equation will improve anything, especially if Cas and Alicia don’t know they’re coming. “Tell Matt and Jody that’s an order.”
“Yes, sir,” Kamal says without a trace of irony. “We finished searching, but only a few people were here and they were sleeping from second shift. Damiel’s team went straight to bed when they got back. If shots had been fired anywhere but the basement…”
“Yeah.” Kat and Kyle weren’t stupid about that part. “Keep me informed.” Belatedly, he realizes that Sarah’s starting to slow down, and looking at Amanda, sees her unbuckle her seatbelt. They’re past the East Gate. “All right,” he says, tucking the walkie-talkie in his jacket. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
The jeep by the shelter would have been confirmation enough, but it’s not needed; the floodlights have been turned on to illuminate the snow-covered road, last used to help desperate people traveling up the hill to Ichabod, now for Erica to perform what appears to be a very anticipated show. It also has the benefit of making the dense brush on either side of the road nearly impossibly dark, which he assumes was a factor: very useful when hiding your minions from sight.
As they slow, Castiel scans the clearing: to the left of the road and up to their ankles in snow, Jeremy, Joelle, and—interestingly, Kyle—are under Micah’s gun-enforced supervision, just short of the thick brush; Kat, expression unmistakably exultant, is standing halfway between them and Erica, with Carol in her wheelchair beside her; and Cathy is stopped just a few feet from Erica, standing in the middle of the road as if waiting for them. Which she is, of course.
As they come to a stop, Alicia leans forward, hand on the dashboard. “What the hell happened to Micah?”
Micah as he’d seen him in the lobby of Headquarters had been very different from as he’d appeared in the interrogation room, but there’s no comparison to now; the usually pale face is flushed with more than just cold, and his coordination seems questionable, every movement too sharp, which is something of a concern when he’s holding a firearm. Worse, it’s clear he’s trying to concentrate on what’s going on here, blinking rapidly, but even as Castiel watches, his head jerks around to study empty space suspiciously—do you hear that?
“It apparently started a few hours ago.” Of all the things they need, Micah becoming an even more unstable quantity isn’t one of them. “It seems to have become worse.”
“Teresa said geas-telephone could go anywhere, but I didn’t see ‘acting crazy before a catalyst event’ coming.” Her lips tighten as Micah’s gun traces an erratic parabola when his attention wanders again. “Especially armed.”
Cutting the engine, Castiel takes a deep breath. “I need to apologize to Dean; this isn’t even an attempt at a plan. At best, it’s a series of actions that we may or may not be able to perform in any possible conjunction and no hope of order.”
“I know,” she answers, frowning out the windshield. “How many do you think are with her?”
“If she’s not stupid, everyone she could get,” he answers. “Which wouldn’t actually be many if this isn’t authorized: only those—”
“From Chitaqua,” Alicia finishes for him, nodding. “How long until Dean reaches—”
“By now, Kamal’s reported he can’t find us, and Dean is doubtless either almost at the Crossroad or waiting for Crowley now,” he answers after doing some quick calculations. “The other option would be he followed us here, but in that case, he’d have arrived already.”
She exchanges a glance with him and he nods; now is as good a time as any. “Okay, I keep Erica distracted until you signal, then exorcism on the fly, everyone goes home happy—”
“That choose to come with us,” he says, and Alicia reluctantly nods.
“All right, let’s get started.” She reaches for the door, adding, “I wonder how long she would have kept them waiting just in case I showed up?”
Startled, he starts to correct her, but she’s already out of the jeep. Getting out, he meets Alicia in front of the hood. The lights are doing an excellent job of both illuminating the area and making it far harder to search the darkness outside for her companions.
They’re halfway to Erica before Micah snaps into the present, focusing on them and then Alicia in surprise; apparently their very subtle approach down the road from Ichabod in sight of all and sundry escaped his (very questionable) attention. “What are you doing here?” he demands, gun almost but not quite wavering from his hostages as he jerks his gaze to Erica. “What the fuck’s going on?”
Ignoring him, Erica smiles at them—or more specifically, at Alicia. “Look who joined the party.”
“Get out of here!” Micah shouts, turning to wave his gun toward the road in an uncomfortable echo of Jeffrey in the clearing that day. Castiel isn’t sure if he should be disappointed or not that Kyle—who is both physically closest and has proven to have no inhibitions regarding attacking someone’s unprotected back—doesn’t take advantage of the situation and try to disarm him. A quick check of Jeremy and Joelle shows her gripping Jeremy’s hand tightly enough to keep him from trying despite the greater distance and almost inevitable failure; excellent, someone here is exercising good sense, at least.
Jeremy catches his eye, staring at him for a long moment before looking toward the brush roughly ten feet away; concentrating, Castiel just makes out a human shape. Catching Jeremy’s gaze again, he nods, and Jeremy’s gaze fixes on a different point behind Micah: two and three. So two of them are thinking: excellent.
“Sorry I’m late,” Alicia says brightly as Jeremy indicates the fourth, fifth, and sixth in a direct line behind Kat and Carol. “Casualties, injuries, had to do some triage and stop some bleeding, you know how it goes.” Alicia changed clothes in her room and made some attempt to wash her hands, but even Castiel can see the blood beneath her fingernails, a stripe below her chin, and decorating her wrist beneath the open cuff of her flannel.
Kyle shifts in place, looking sick; Kat seems deaf. Erica’s grin widens. “I can help with that.”
“I bet you can.” Alicia stops short in the middle of the road and unexpectedly laughs. “You never took me to the Crossroads,” she explains. “Gotta admit, I was a little curious what it was like. Less lights, more guns to the head, am I right?”
Erica cocks her head. “Why are you here? Micah was supposedly very certain he couldn’t persuade you to do as you were told. That would be a first, but—”
“I got such a nice invitation, how could I refuse?” Alicia’s gaze flickers to Jeremy and Joelle, then Cathy and Kat, before inexplicably lingering on Carol, who doesn’t seem able to meet her eyes. “Come on, Erica, you hate him; of all the people to give a ‘get-your-soul-back’ card, he wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice.”
“I received an offer I couldn’t, in good conscience, refuse,” Erica answers. “Fifty souls in two days? That’s a record for a Crossroads demon; they couldn’t pull that off when Pompeii burned.”
“The Lares send their regards to the Crossroad,” Castiel interjects, but Alicia looks as shaken as he feels: fifty souls.
“Don’t suppose you’d tell us how you pulled that off?” Alicia asks. “Or prove it? Just wondering.”
“For the first, no, but the second…” She thinks. “Check out south of the wall. You may have to fight the Croats for what’s left. I call those—”
“Those that said no,” Alicia interrupts. “Ever heard of originality?”
“Ever heard why fix what isn’t broken?”
“Listen to me,” Micah says urgently.
“Shut up,” Alicia says, never looking away from Erica. “So what’s the deal now? All of them for me? Tell me you have something better than that.”
“I’m not that stupid.” She snaps her fingers, and Castiel feels a surge of nausea and vertigo before he realizes he’s frozen, Ruby’s knife only inches from his hand. Eyes darting around the field, everyone in his line of sight is equally still. “Except you,” she adds, and Micah tumbles to the ground, gun torn from his hand. “Now we’ll talk. It’s been a while, hasn’t it, Stephanie?”
“Christ, what’s he waiting for?” Amanda says, eyeing the mound of Crowley-bait in frustration. “We got demons for him to punish. Should be his favorite thing.”
Dean starts to answer before going still at the flare of raw panic, closing his throat and cramping every muscle from sympathetic reaction: Cas.
“Dean?” Joe says worriedly, and from the way he says it, distraction isn’t gonna cut it.
“Something’s wrong,” he manages to grind out, understatement of the goddamn century. This is bullshit: there’s no way to work out what the fuck’s happening to him from here, but blind, mindless horror tells him it’s not good, and worse, Cas isn’t thinking, isn’t even able to. Stop. Control it. Like that shit’s going to help. “We need to—”
“It’s Cas!” he snaps; if he could move his legs, he’d already be running. “Something…”
“Dean, the best thing we can do now is get Crowley,” Joe says ruthlessly. “We don’t even know where Cas and Alicia are.”
“They’re at Zero.” He tries to think reassuring thoughts toward Cas, but it feels a lot like someone saying they’ll direct positive vibes or something; this is bullshit, what’s Erica doing to him? “Fuck this, we can’t wait—”
“Dean,” Amanda says in the calm voice of someone staring at their own death. “We got company.”
Crowley raises an eyebrow, and Dean’s never hated that smile more. “Dean Winchester,” he purrs. “So nice to see you.”
He’s in a concrete box and can’t get out, a box, a coffin, a body that won’t move…
Castiel sucks in a breath—he can breathe, yes, he can feel his chest move, but nothing else will, can, does, he can’t can’t can’t…for a second, he sees Crowley smiling genially at him and does the only thing he can do: he punches him.
Except that wasn’t real: he can’t move, can’t breathe, he’s in a box, a coffin, a dead and rotting body that won’t…
Control it, and he blinks slowly, forcing himself to focus. Blinking—he can still do that, excellent, and breathe, that, too—there’s room to think again, and he examines what’s holding him. He’s not the only one; Jeremy and Joelle, Carol, Cathy, and Kyle, all show signs of similar immobility, though Alicia and—unfortunately, Micah—do not. He tests the pressure surrounding him—it’s malleable, nothing at all like a box or a corpse—but there’s very little give. He’d be interested in finding out how Erica did it—and where on earth she acquired the power, for that matter—but Micah’s standing again, snow clinging to his jeans and looking considerably less sane, which is saying a great deal.
“Steph, stop it!” Micah pleads desperately; his balance seems questionable, and there’s a definite sway when he tries to take a step. More importantly, however, he seems to have lost his gun, which is perhaps the only thing that’s improved the situation. “You’re not part of this, I made sure of it! She can’t change the deal now!”
“You remember the first time we got drunk?” Erica asks, smiling at Alicia like the woman she’d once been. “It was late, we came back from that shitty patrol, you stole two bottles of whiskey from Terry’s cabin and got me drunk—”
“Didn’t.” Alicia’s lips tighten. “Nice stroll down memory lane, but—”
“Maybe I didn’t fight too hard,” Erica agrees, taking a step toward Alicia, red skirt flaring around her bare legs. “Micah was doing extra time on sewer duty for pissing off Stan, so we had the whole night. Remember?”
Alicia nods jerkily. “Yeah, I—Erica, what—”
“We sat on the floor in my room and did shots until we couldn’t see straight,” Erica continues, taking another step. “Never been that drunk in my life: half way through, went to the bathroom to throw up, then came back for round two.”
Despite herself, Alicia’s lips curve in a reluctant smile. “Crawled back, you mean.”
Erica laughs. “Like you were any better. Who was in there right after me for her turn at the toilet? And who got you a blanket so you could moan on the floor in comfort?”
Alicia ducks her head. “Erica—”
“I told you about—about those two days,” Erica says, and Alicia’s head jerks up. “Before they got me out. I never told anyone, not until you.” She shakes her head ruefully. “Probably don’t remember—”
“I remember,” Alicia says softly.
“And I told you about my baby,” Erica says, and alarmed, Castiel realizes Erica’s less than ten feet from Alicia. “The names I picked—”
“Richard or Sophia,” Alicia finishes for her. “Still not feeling Richard, gotta admit.”
Erica rolls her eyes. “You have no taste.” Alicia laughs, expression softening. “I told you how I lost my baby in that basement.”
Alicia nods tightly.
“Then you told me,” Erica continues more softly, “how you lost yours.”
Dean will later remind himself that Crowley really didn’t expect it, but he’s gotta be honest; that’s not any kind of excuse for not even ducking.
Rubbing his knuckles, Dean ignores Amanda and Joe torn between keeping their guns trained on Crowley and looking at him like he’s an idiot. Not like it’s not true; that was stupid, it may have fucked everything up, but watching Crowley getting up from the dirt—he’s gonna enjoy that.
“I take it,” Crowley says, straightening to study Dean with open curiosity, “that this isn’t a social call?”
“Amanda, Joe,” he says, never looking away, “back to the gate.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Amanda starts, and then there are two audible thumps, and Dean just stops himself from flinching. He’s gonna pay for that.
“I assumed the problem was the audience,” Crowley says, looking utterly comfortable in his stolen human skin in the middle of the remains of what was once a town. Cocking his head, he studies Dean, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. “I’ve been curious about our replacement savior,” he remarks. “Interesting.”
“I don’t have time for this.”
“You have plenty of time,” Crowley demurs, looking amused by something. “Could be forever, for all I know. Tick-tock, we’re—”
“—on the clock,” Dean finishes for him, words out before he even realizes what he’s saying, familiar on his tongue. “Where did you—”
“I assume you’re here to do the sensible thing and deal for your life,” Crowley continues smoothly. “Out of here, back to Chitaqua—you left it long enough, but better late than never, I suppose. I’ll even throw in your little militia; I’m feel generous.”
“That’s not why I’m here,” Dean says, forcing himself to focus and is rewarded by a brief but definite look of utter shock on Crowley’s face. “I’m here for you, actually. Professional courtesy.”
“Professional…you must forgive me, is there something wrong with the water in Chitaqua?” Crowley asks sincerely. “First Cas, then you—”
“I’m offering you your life,” Dean says patiently. “I won’t make this offer again.”
Crowley’s smile doesn’t change, but his gaze sharpens. “Lovely walls you have here.”
“The demon blood thing, yeah, that too,” Dean tells him. “But dude, making out with my boyfriend? Dick move.”
This time, Crowley can’t hide his surprise. “What?”
“Hindbrain,” Dean says. “Talk about a rewarding way to get a revelation. Money, power, sex: we do crazy shit for all of it, but love? We’ll destroy the world for it and never count the cost. I sold my soul for my brother; you think I wouldn’t hunt you down for Cas? Obvious shit here, Crowley. Six year old test: you’re failing it.”
“Are you insane?” Crowley asks in genuine worry. “I didn’t—you’re upset about—”
“We’ll destroy the world for love, but jealousy, that shit we’ll take ourselves out just to prove we will, and take everyone else with us. What’s a soul,” he continues flatly, “compared to proving you should be loved best?”
Crowley’s mouth quirks. “Oldest story in Creation, isn’t it?”
“The first story,” he agrees. “Cas was so sure it was what he was, but it was about who; Dean played favorites and didn’t bother even trying to hide it.” They didn’t know—they couldn’t know—that was one competition no one sane wants to win, not the way Dean Winchester showed he cared. “They didn’t just want to kill him. They wanted to be him.”
Christ, it would figure it took him this long to recognize what he saw when Erica looked at Cas, looked at him, and match that to what she told them. Her reasons, the other team leaders’ reasons—they might have included Lucifer, but that script was all about Dean and what they weren’t and wanted to be, so much that they sold their souls to try and get it.
“We didn’t do anything but appear on request,” Crowley says. “They came to us.”
“And found out some things can’t be bought.” The Crossroads could make them faster, stronger, luckier—Christ, he should have figured it out then, Micah said it straight out—better shots, but they couldn’t make them into fallen angels in a human body; they could be loyal, devoted, obedient, ruthless, but they couldn’t be someone else.
“We did the best we could with what we had to work with, but we couldn’t make them something they weren’t already. They were desperate enough to take it, but living with second best seemed to have taken a toll on what was already a fairly precarious hold on sanity. Which I assume is why, for the first time in history, there was quite literally a line waiting for us at the Crossroads.”
“At the point of a gun.”
“I don’t make the rules,” Crowley answers. “I just enjoy the technicalities.” He makes a moue of distaste. “I must admit, it does take some of the shine off when you can’t tell the difference between them before and after the rack.”
“How many took the deal?”
“I don’t know,” he answers, and if Dean’s not crazy—which is a real possibility now—there’s regret in his voice. “Dean’s team leaders did know what they were doing when they made contract, at least. All names are locked until all their contracts are complete, for reasons you can guess.”
“Dean was torturing demons,” he says, too numb to feel anything, even horror. “They couldn’t risk the one who made their contract might end up in Chitaqua.” Or a too-early death of one of their own telling all their secrets under Dean’s knife. “Not bad.”
“Smart boy,” Crowley says approvingly. “They were very good at making terms, though sadly shortsighted when it came to anything closer to home. I don’t know what Dean was thinking with them, not keeping better control of his pets.”
“Not like you’re doing better.” Finally, Crowley drops pretense, eyes narrowing. “Either you’re slipping, you’re scared of baby demons still bloody behind the ears from the rack, or you’re giving Erica—and all her buddies—enough rope to hang themselves because you want to know who else signed the contract, and their owner is one of the names. Trying to get his attention? It’s gotta be killing you to not know everything about your own contract.”
Crowley doesn’t smile. “I wondered,” he says slowly, “who could so easily put Castiel on his knees again that even he didn’t realize he was there.”
“Experiments in contract bending are done for the day,” Dean tells him. “Get your problem children and make an example of them before anyone else gets any bright ideas. Whoever owns them’s not showing, and this shit’s getting old.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” Crowley agrees. “But not until she’s done. Erica was brilliant—if somewhat crude in her methods—when she was still human, and I want to see if she can pull this off. Let’s find out, shall we?”