Word count: 9,557
Warnings:[Spoiler (click to open)]character death (OC)
Spoilers: general for first half of S9
Summary: AU for S9. After the Wicked Witch was dispatched, Sam and Dean decided it would be a good idea to try mapping out the rest of the bunker. Dean never expected to find something as unreal as a hatching dragon…or that it might prove to be the answer to how to get rid of Sam's no-longer-welcome passenger.
A/N: This is my entry for the 2013 spn_reversebang. I was lucky to get in fast enough to choose a wonderful piece of art that turned out to be by lightthesparks, which made it even better! She's been great to work with and I've had a good time collaborating with her. I also owe her for the title, which is perfect for the story. One of her most excellent posters is below the cut, but you should see all of her awesome art here. Thanks also to fiercelynormal for the beta job.
Dean couldn’t believe he hadn't known about the garage. All these months, poor Baby had been sitting out in the open with not even a tarp to cover her. This was Kansas, too—hail was not an uncommon occurrence. Dean shuddered just thinking about it.
Anyway, that wasn't the point. The point was, if there was an entire fucking garage in the Batcave that they hadn't known about—and there were some cherry rides down there that Dean was going to be searching high and low for the keys to give them a test drive—what else might the Men of Letters had hidden away down here?
At least, that was Sam's thinking. "For all that Henry was kind of a dick about hunters," he said, "they had a lot of facilities for them here. Like the shooting range, or the dungeon. Maybe there's other stuff we haven't been looking for because we assumed it was all books and magical objects."
"Sam, you're not saying that there're more important things than the library?" Dean asked, eyebrows raised. He was about to make a joke along the lines of, what's gotten into you? or who are you and what have you done with my brother?, but neither of those was very funny right now. For some reason.
Sam's exasperated eyeroll was familiar enough to be comforting. "I'm saying that we need a map of this place. Down to the walls, the insides of the walls, to see if there are any hidden passages or rooms or things that don't add up. Obviously there's stuff in here we don't know about, and like the Witch, it could hurt us."
Dean nodded thoughtfully. Sam hadn't yet berated him for being the one to knock over the jar that had let out the Witch, and he hoped he never would. "Right. So, you start on the top floor, I'll start on the bottom?"
"If the bottom is what you prefer," Sam smirked, and it was Dean's turn to roll his eyes. Goddamn smartass little brothers.
After the first day, Dean made the drive up to Grand Island to find a hardware store big enough to sell a laser measuring device, then almost forgot to buy two. When Sam looked over the tool with a questioning expression, Dean grabbed it back out of his hand. "If you'd rather use a measuring tape—"
"No, no, it's fine." Sam snatched it back. "You, uh, your note just said you were getting some supplies. I figured you were trying to get out of the work."
"Would I do that?" Dean asked, trying to look wounded. Sam's bitchface told him he wasn't trying hard enough, so he put up his hands and made his escape to the garage.
The garage was the lowest level they'd found yet except for the back stairs and hallway leading up to it, ground level on the far side of the hill but three stories down from the main entrance. Dean measured every inch of the room, top to bottom, including the side rooms where an amazing array of tools had his hands itching to take a look at the cars they had there. He sketched it all out in a crude map and then realized he had no idea if there were any secret rooms surrounding this one, or if the Men of Letters had simply dug the garage into the hillside and called it a day.
"Son of a bitch," he muttered, looking around. The blank wall in front of him was where Charlie and Dorothy had disappeared into Oz, but they'd simply used the key to open an existing door. That didn't mean there was anything special about that wall, or any other one, for that matter.
But it didn't mean he shouldn't look.
An hour later, Dean's knuckles were killing him. He'd rapped on every square inch of wall that he could reach. He tried banging on the wall with the laser measuring device, but he didn't want to damage it, so it was back to the old-fashioned method.
He was a foot away from the corner when he heard it. One of the bricks sounded off from the others. He tapped it again, ignoring the twinge of pain from his reddened knuckles, and there was no doubt about it: something was hollow.
It took another half hour of searching before Dean found the trigger: a loose brick three rows up from the floor and in the very corner. He poked at it, and a much larger section of wall than he had expected slid backward with a low rumbling noise.
Inside was a dusty passageway, lined with cobwebs. "Why do I feel like I need a whip and a fedora?" Dean muttered as he made his way forward, one hand up in front of his face. There was enough light behind him to see by, at least until the corridor took a sharp turn to the left before opening into a much bigger space, judging by the echo of his footsteps.
He dug into his pocket and cursed when he didn't find a lighter. "That's what happens when you stop salting and burning for a few weeks," he muttered, turning to go back for a flashlight.
Behind him, there was a faint tapping noise.
Dean whirled around, the hair on the back of his neck standing up. This room had been sealed off for decades. There shouldn’t be anything in here to make noise. He backed up one step and then another, hand feeling for the wall so he could back his way out to where the lights and the weapons were.
His hand brushed against a box on the wall, and he felt a dial on the front. "Here goes nothing," he said, and turned the dial.
Nothing happened for a moment, and then light dimly flickered overhead. Dean looked up to see the ceiling arching high above him, a stone vault that looked more like a medieval castle than a 1930s bunker, despite the electric lights in the sconces on the walls. The room itself wasn't as large as he had thought, maybe the size of the two-story entryway to the bunker, a hexagonal shape with the only door being the one through which he had entered. There wasn't as much dust as he would have expected given the state of the hallway leading here, and not a single spiderweb, which had his hackles rising again.
Besides the lamps, there was only one object in the room, and it had Dean rubbing his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things. In the very center, where lines emanating from each of the six corners of the room met in a complicated compass rose design, sat a huge egg.
It was bigger than any egg Dean had ever seen, on par with a really large watermelon. It was a shimmering green color, mottled with dark blue, gleaming in the light of the lamps.
And as he watched, it rocked back and forth, making the same noise he'd heard earlier as the egg rattled on the stone.
"Whoa," Dean breathed out. He knelt down beside it and put one hand on the shell. It was warm to the touch, almost uncomfortably so. As he watched, it seemed to glow from within, pulsing in a regular rhythm.
When he realized the rhythm matched his heartbeat, he jerked his hand away. "Dumbass," he chastised himself. "You have no idea what this thing is."
Standing up, Dean started backing away. Maybe Sam would know what this was, or at least where to find out what it was. If this egg had been shut up in a room of its own with no hint that there even was a room here, chances were that something very powerful was inside. And he'd had enough of unleashing evil powers inside his home for one week, thank you very much.
The egg rocked back and forth harder, as if it sensed that he was leaving. The glow from within seemed to be brighter, and the lamps flickered as if in a breeze. Dean reached into his back pocket and came up empty, cursing when he realized he'd left his knife and gun behind because he was only mapping out the bunker, he wasn't doing anything dangerous.
"Famous last words," he muttered, watching as the light intensified. There wasn't even a door to shut to keep this thing in, not unless he could pull the brick that had opened the door back out of the wall.
There was a sharp crack, and then another. A spider-web of cracks split across the egg, the light growing bright enough that Dean had to shield his eyes. The ground was rumbling beneath his feet, the lamps flickering more and more, and then there was a sharp crack, followed by silence.
When Dean lowered his arm, he gasped. There, sitting inside the shattered remnants of the eggshell, was a small, dark green lizard with wings folded against its back and a long, spiked tail. It was no bigger than a housecat, though its tail was longer than a cat's would be.
Then it lifted its head and emitted a piercing cry, followed by a small jet of fire.
"Holy shit," Dean exclaimed, and then the baby dragon—for that had to be what it was—turned towards him.
It had big eyes, blinking as it tried to focus on Dean. It took one step forward on its stumpy legs and then another, nearly faceplanting on the stone floor. It paused, shaking out its wings, fanning them out to the sides and revealing that they were wider than its body was long. It gave another cry, and this time only a puff of smoke escaped its mouth.
Despite himself, Dean crouched down and held out a hand, palm down. "Bet you're hungry, aren't you?" he said. "This is not food," he added quickly, shaking his hand back and forth. "So don't be trying to flame-roast me. Burger King's an hour away."
The little dragon cocked its head to the side, staring up at him. It had ridges above its eyes that met in the center, blending into the spine that stretched between its bat-like wings and on to its tail. It blinked a couple more times and then stretched its neck out and sniffed at Dean's hand.
Dean held his breath, ready to jerk his hand away at the slightest hint of fire. But it only sniffed at his fingers and then drew back, neck curving sinuously as it tried to look him over from head to foot.
"Where did you come from?" Dean murmured. "And what are we going to do with you?"
It emitted a small puff of smoke through its nostrils, and Dean chuckled. The little guy was pretty cute.
There was suddenly the sound of running footsteps in the corridor, and then "Dean!" Sam shouted as he burst into the room behind him.
Dean looked over his shoulder to see Sam's gun drawn, and he rose to his feet, hands out from his sides. The second Sam's eyes lit on the dragon, they went wide.
Then he aimed the gun.
"No!" Dean stepped between Sam and the dragon. Behind him, he heard a low hiss.
"The lights on the board in the main chamber went crazy," Sam said, settling into a firm stance. "Just like when the Witch showed up. What is that thing?"
"It's not a threat," Dean said, holding up his hands placatingly. "It's a newborn, for God's sake."
"Look at it," Sam insisted.
Dean looked over his shoulder to see the little dragon's wings spread wide, eyes glowing yellow as it opened its mouth with that same hissing sound. An inch-long spurt of flame came out from between its small jaws.
"Whoa, hey, calm down," Dean said, turning to the dragon. "Sam's not gonna hurt you."
"Dean, it's trying to roast us!" Sam protested.
"It's defending itself, Sammy. Same as you would do if some overgrown lug burst into the room and waved a weapon at you." He crouched down and held out the back of his hand again. "It's okay, little guy, you can turn off the fireworks."
The dragon drew back its neck and eyed Dean's hand, then Dean. It sniffed his hand again and then folded its wings against its back.
"Now you, Sam," Dean said without looking. "Put down the gun."
"Dean, I don't—"
There was no sound for a moment. Then Dean heard an all-too-familiar huff of breath and the deliberate click of a gun being uncocked. "Fine," Sam said. "But did you stop to think why it might have been in here alone, sealed up behind that wall?"
"It wasn't alone, it was in its egg." Dean pointed at the eggshell shards scattered across the floor.
"It happened to hatch just as you walked in?" Sam asked, eyebrows up and forehead wrinkling.
"Uh, something like that," Dean said.
He sighed. "This is my brother," he said to the dragon. "Sam. He's kind of a know-it-all."
"Dean, what did you do?"
There was a time to dissemble, and then there was a time to man up. "I might have touched the egg a little bit."
"A little bit. Seriously?" Sam flung his arms out from his sides, and the dragon's wings started to spread again. "You're like a five-year-old sometimes, Dean."
"I'm sure it was back here for its own protection, Sam." He crooked a finger. "C'mon, let it sniff you so it can learn what a geek smells like."
Sam rolled his eyes, but he dropped to his haunches and studied the dragon more closely. "It is kinda cute."
"Yes, Samantha, it's adorable. Now here, like it's a dog." He held out his hand, and after a moment, Sam did the same.
The dragon leaned forward, wobbling for a moment before catching its balance. It curved its neck downward, sniffing at Sam's hand.
Then it gave a low hissing sound and opened its mouth.
"Whoa!" Sam shouted, scrambling backwards just as Dean called, "No!" and fell onto his side, in front of where Sam had just been. A tiny spurt of flame came out of the dragon's mouth, followed by a cottonball-sized puff of smoke.
"No!" Dean said sternly, crouching lower to glare at the little dragon. "That's Sam. He's my brother. No flambéing him, you got it? You hurt him, you are in big trouble."
"Dean, you can't expect—"
"Shh." He held up a hand, finger pointing over his shoulder, and Sam went quiet.
The dragon followed the path of his finger, then arched its neck to peer over his shoulder. Behind Dean, Sam was flat on his ass with his jean-clad legs sprawled out in front of him, propped up on his elbows and warily watching the dragon.
Then the dragon gave the same cry it had made when it first came out of the egg and lowered its head, nudging at the back of Dean's hand.
"That's better," Dean said. He turned his hand around, and then his fingers were scraping over the underside of the little guy's jaw. It felt like dry, cracked leather.
The dragon made a warbling sound and moved its head back and forth over Dean's fingers, looking up at him with now-blue eyes.
"Oh, I get it," Dean said. He gently rubbed the underside of the dragon's chin, and it closed its eyes and warbled again. A slow smile spread over Dean's face as he continued to scratch it.
"Are you sure the aftereffects of that animal spell have completely worn off?"
"Shut up," Dean retorted. "C'mere, let's try this again."
"I kinda want to keep all of my fingers, Dean."
"No, c'mere." He stopped scratching, and one blue eye cracked open. "Yeah, you better pay attention," he said to the dragon. "I know Sammy smells like spinach sometimes, but we gotta put up with it, okay?"
"Shut up," Sam said, elbowing him in the ribs. He eyed the dragon hesitantly, and then slowly, carefully, reached forward until his long fingers were entangled with Dean's, scratching the rough skin.
A moment later, Sam's eyebrows shot up. "Huh. I didn't know dragons could purr."
"Have you ever seen one close up before today?" Dean asked pointedly.
"Well, no, but in the lore…" Sam trailed off and suddenly sat up straighter. "Dean, this is a dragon!"
"No shit, Sherlock."
Sam lowered his voice and leaned closer. "We've encountered full-size dragons before, Dean. Full. Size. This thing is not going to stay tiny and adorable."
"This thing is not a thing, Sam. It's a dragon."
"And at some point, it's not going to fit into this room," Sam retorted. "Depending on how fast it grows, we might not even be able to get it out into the hallway for much longer, but at least in the garage it would be able to spread its wings once it grows."
Dean frowned. "I guess I could train it not to scratch any of the cars."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, you do that, Dean." He tilted his head, examining the dragon more closely. "You know, the lore says that dragons can be tamed by fair maidens. Maybe that's why it came to you so readily."
"Shut up, Samantha." Dean shoved him, and then Sam shoved back, and then they were grappling with each other right there on the stone floor.
There was a small, piercing screech, and they broke apart to see the dragon's wings flaring wide. "Hey, no, it's okay," Dean said, putting his hands up in the air despite Sam half-pinning him to the floor. "We're just playing around."
It cocked its head to the side and took a few stumbling steps forward, using its wings to help it balance. When it got closer to Sam's hand, clamped over Dean's shoulder, it leaned forward and cautiously sniffed.
Then it turned its head to the side, and light suddenly flared in the room as it sounded like a firecracker going off. The dragon backed up, eyeing Sam, and then sat back on its haunches.
"It's allergic to you," Dean said slowly.
"What? How can that be?" Sam climbed off of him and sat down heavily on the floor. "It doesn't have any problem with you."
"Maybe short-haired humans are okay," Dean replied.
Sam shot him a classic bitchface.
A disquieting thought started forming in Dean's mind. Could it sense Ezekiel? Was that what it was objecting to, and not Sam?
The dragon emitted another sneeze, sparks shooting from its nostrils. It glared balefully at Sam.
Dean started to say something and then froze. Sam had straightened up, and then there was the all-too-familiar flash of blue in his eyes. Dean's stomach dropped.
"This creature cannot stay here," Ezekiel said.
The dragon hissed, wings spreading wide.
"Hold on, little guy." Dean put a hand out, and to his surprised relief, the dragon went quiet. "What do you mean, it can't stay?"
"Dragons and angels do not mix well." Ezekiel frowned. "I am surprised it will come so near you, considering that you are the chosen vessel of the Dragonslayer."
"Hey, I never let that dick inside me." Dean winced when he realized how that sounded, but figuring Ezekiel wouldn't notice the double entendre, he plowed on. "Any angel's a problem, though, huh?"
"Sam has twice been a vessel," Ezekiel reminded him. "It is not surprising the lizard can sense that."
"Don't call him a lizard," Dean protested, but then the rest of Ezekiel's words sank in. "Are you telling me there's still some traces of you-know-who in there?"
Ezekiel frowned, his eyes going distant. When he came back, he shook his head. "Only a minute amount of his grace. Nothing of him."
"So the dragon only has a problem with you, is what you're saying." Dean slowly let out the breath he'd been holding.
"I believe so." Ezekiel hesitated. "Sam was right—it cannot stay in so small a room. It will eventually grow to the size of one of your aeroplanes. I can take it somewhere distant and then return, perhaps to the Tian Shan or the Torres del Paine."
"No, no, no, no, no." Dean waved his hands. "You can't fly Sam halfway around the world like he's your personal aircraft. The dragon stays here. We'll figure out what to do with it before it gets too big."
"It does not like my presence," Ezekiel returned. Indeed, the dragon still had its wings arched up, and thin smoke came out of its nostrils like steam. "And I am no more comfortable with it."
"Well, you're going to have to get comfortable." Dean folded his arms over his chest and put on his best poker face. "Listen, if you can pick up and jet to South America without thinking about it, you must be pretty well healed, huh?"
Ezekiel tilted his head to the side. "I am improved, yes. And so is Sam, or at least he would be."
Dean lowered his eyebrows. "Would be?"
"The damage he suffered from the Trials would have been healed by now had he not needed additional assistance. Your brother has suffered a fatal wound while I have been here, and you requested me to save your friend as well." Ezekiel narrowed his eyes. "It is a wonder the two of you have lived as many years as you have."
"You have no idea," Dean murmured. "Wait, a fatal wound?"
"When he battled the chef in the kitchen."
Ezekiel's frown turned deeper, and Dean resisted the urge to stick out his tongue. "He did not tell you?" Ezekiel asked.
"I guessed, given the blood." Dean gestured at his own neck. "Thanks for that, though."
"Of course." Ezekiel leaned slightly forward. "Your brother is still far from healed, I am afraid. My strength returns more rapidly than his, but for the time being, he still needs me."
Dean ran a hand over his face. "Yeah, all right. But the dragon stays here, at least for now."
"If you say so." Ezekiel straightened up again, his eyes flashing brightly.
The dragon gave a low rumble, and then Sam was standing there, blinking. He looked down at the little dragon. "Guess it doesn’t like me for some reason."
"Probably senses you're not a carnivore," Dean joked. He rubbed his jaw. "Which reminds me. We gotta figure out how to feed the little guy."
Sam held up his hands. "It's your dragon, dude. I don't think it's going to let me get close enough to feed it."
"Fine." Dean eyed the dragon, which was folding its wings back into its sides. "Hope you like hamburger, 'cause that's what we've got in the kitchen."
It turned out that it did like hamburger. Raw and pink, which it seared to a crisp brown before eating. Or at least it tried to: it couldn't sustain a flame long enough to actually cook the meat, and the little warbling cry of frustration that it let out had Dean giving a sympathetic chuckle.
"Ok, here," he said, laying a fully-cooked patty on the ground next to the raw beef.
He jerked his fingers back as the dragon dove forward, tearing into the meat with its tiny teeth. "Whoa," he said. "Remind me not to get in between you and your food, little dude."
"So he likes it?"
Dean looked over his shoulder to where Sam was hovering in the doorway. "Yeah, he does. Looks like your salad bowl is safe."
"We should probably check the library, see if there's anything there about raising dragons." Sam shook his head. "Never thought I'd say anything like that."
"Right?" Dean looked down to where the dragon was chewing the last of its dinner, looking up hopefully at him. "You want more?"
Two puffs of smoke came out of its nostrils.
"Here." Sam came forward and crouched down, putting a second hamburger patty on the floor. He watched as the little dragon devoured it while keeping a wary eye on him. When it was done eating, Sam stood up. "Do we know if it's male or female?"
"I haven't exactly checked to see if it has boy parts," Dean replied. "If they're the same on a dragon, anyway."
Sam's features softened in a smile. "Something else to check in the books, I suppose."
"Right." Dean looked down at the dragon. "You stay here, okay?"
It gave a huge yawn, jaw opening to show tiny but razor-sharp teeth. It settled back onto its haunches, wings folding over its back. It gave what sounded suspiciously like a belch, a small cloud of black smoke puffing out into the air, and then curved its head back over its shoulder.
"Like a bird," Sam said softly, face alight with awe. "Dean, it's like the dinosaurs, more like a bird than a lizard."
"And it's sleepy, so let's…" Dean made a shooing motion at Sam.
When he followed Sam out the door, he spent a moment poking at the brick before realizing he wasn't going to be able to get that wall closed again. "Think one of those kiddy gates would work here?" he asked hopefully. "I think they have them at the hardware store."
Sam's responding bitchface was priceless.
They finally agreed to shove one of the huge shelving units from the garage in front of the doorway. "Think that'll hold it?" Sam asked once they had it in place.
"Even if he manages to knock it over, the noise'll give us enough warning that we can make it down here before he does anything to the cars."
"Of course. The cars." Sam rolled his eyes with that look of barely-held-in impatience that Dean loved to provoke. "And I thought you didn't know if it was male."
Dean shrugged one shoulder. "I don’t like calling him 'it'."
Sam looked at him for a moment, and then he started to smirk. Dean worried for a moment that Sam was going to suggest his recent experience with The Colonel was still in his head, but instead, he said, "You're taking care of it, you know. Droppings and all."
"Yeah, sure, I'm—wait, what?"
But Sam was already heading down the stairs and out of the garage, tossing a wave over his shoulder. "Gotta get back to mapping out the bunker!"
Dean looked at the shelving unit acting as a makeshift door, imagining the little creature behind it and what was going to happen to the hamburger it had just eaten. "Son of a bitch."
Sam's map-the-bunker project soon turned into a find-the-dragon-lore project instead. That meant scouring the library and assorted storerooms for anything that could tell them about how to take care of their new friend, or what to expect as it grew. The dragon didn't seem to grow at all in the first couple of weeks, despite Ezekiel's warning, but Dean wasn't complaining. If it stayed the size it was, it might be able to stay in that room for quite a while.
Maybe he could get Kevin to feed it while they were out on cases. They'd tried feeding it all sorts of different things, but cooked meat went over the best. He still couldn't produce enough flame to cook his own food, but Dean kind of liked making a separate meal for the little guy.
One morning, not long after returning from seeing Castiel in Oklahoma, Dean had been talked into yet another library search. They'd gone through the books that were catalogued as being about dragons, but they'd learned a while back that the Men of Letters had been a little spotty in their cataloguing. Sam maintained it was another line of defense in case someone like Abaddon had managed to infiltrate the bunker through possessing someone and reading their memories, but Dean privately thought they had gotten bored at some point and wandered off.
Whatever the reason, they were now sifting through books by hand to see if there were any chapters on dragons. Dean was a few aisles away from Sam, in the section on demons. He didn't expect to find anything interesting about their dragon, but it never hurt to pick up a few tips on how to deal with demons when their king was chained up a few floors down.
Former king, he reminded himself, and then he smirked.
"Hey, Sam?" Dean called out, putting the book back on the shelf and reaching for another. "Is it lunchtime yet?"
He didn't get a reply.
There was still no response.
A tendril of worry started to crawl down Dean's spine. Sam was the one who insisted on using gloves to touch some of these books, but maybe that hadn't been enough of a precaution. Patting down his pockets to see if he had a flask of holy water, he cursed under his breath. Maybe Sam had just gotten distracted by what he was reading and was too busy geeking out over it to hear Dean.
The sudden flash of blue light in the dim library told Dean otherwise.
He strode down the aisle and sharply rounded the corner, ready to demand of Ezekiel what the hell he was doing, when there was another flash. When he got to the aisle where Sam was standing, Sam was staring at the shelves, long fingers resting on a tall green volume like he was putting it back on the shelf.
"You okay?" Dean demanded.
Sam kept staring for a moment, and then he shook his head like a dog drying itself. "Yeah, I'm fine," he replied. "Why?"
"You, uh, you didn't answer when I called you." Dean nodded sideways at the bookshelf. "Must have been something pretty interesting in there."
Sam's brow furrowed. "Not really. Guess I must have spaced out."
"Guess so." Dean clasped his hands in front of him and rubbed them together. "I think it's time for lunch, what do you think?"
"Yeah, sure." Sam still looked distracted, but he gave Dean a quick smile. "Let me grab some of these to look at while we're eating."
Later, after sandwiches had been eaten and the table cleared and Sam had his nose buried in the books on the table, Dean slipped back into the library and made straight for the shelf where Sam had been. He pulled the green book off the shelf and made his way back to the aisle where he'd been searching. Propping the book on the shelf in front of him, he opened it and began to read.
The first couple of chapters read like a fairy tale from a dragon's point of view, and while Dean was kind of enjoying it, he was starting to wonder what had spooked Ezekiel so much. Then he got to the heart of the story, about a battle between a winged man and a dragon, and then he understood. It was one of those—what would Sam call it—allegories, couched in the language of fiction while conveying a deeper sort of message.
"Son of a bitch," Dean murmured as he brushed his fingers over an illustration of a cluster of humans watching from behind a large boulder as the battle raged on, white fire from the winged man being forced back by red flames from the dragon. The people were on the same side of the drawing, and then Dean understood.
This book was about how to use a dragon to fight an angel.
No wonder he freaked, Dean thought. As he read on, he found that the dragon won the battle, burning the wings off its opponent but keeping it alive. The formerly winged man joined the humans at the end of the story. "Happily ever after, yadda yadda yadda," Dean murmured as he closed the book. Apparently dragons were not only the enemies of angels, they could remove them without damaging their vessels. At least, if he was interpreting this story correctly.
Carefully tucking the book between two taller volumes on demonology, Dean noted exactly where it was and then moved away. He was going to wait until he was sure Ezekiel couldn't interrupt him, and then he was going to go over that story with a fine-toothed comb.
Just in case.
Before he could get back to the book, though, Jody Mills called, and it was off to South Dakota and being re-virginated. Dean barely had time to consider his second re-hymenation before losing it again, but even their brief captivity afterwards at Vesta's hands made it totally worth it.
Then Sam started going on and on about how Vesta had told him how fucked up he was, and Dean knew he'd run out of time. But the second he started to tell Sam the truth, Ezekiel was there, and the frustration Dean had been feeling every time he dealt with the angel began to turn into something more like fear.
He played along with Ezekiel and then tried to reassure Sam as best he could, but it was a long, silent drive back to Kansas. Sam disappeared into the library as soon as they were home, and Dean slunk down to the garage.
They'd introduced Kevin to their dragon before taking off, and after a few wide-eyed seconds of disbelief, he'd taken to it like the pet he'd never had. The feeling had been entirely mutual, and Dean had fought off his completely ridiculous jealousy with the knowledge that the dragon was in good hands while they were gone. It was also good to know that Kevin had someone to talk to other then Crowley, since he had the feeling that despite his many warnings, Kevin hadn't learned to leave well enough alone when it came to the demon king.
He wasn't surprised to find Kevin down in the hatching room when he arrived. "Hey, how'd it go?" Kevin asked, straightening up from where he'd been feeding the dragon.
"The bad guy's dead," Dean said shortly. "How's the little guy?"
"Less little." Kevin nodded at the green dragon, now more the size of a German shepherd than a poodle. "Might be time to take him out of here if you ever plan to."
"And put him where?" Dean asked, rubbing a hand over his jaw. "Sam'll kill me if he sets fire to anything."
"There's a storeroom up on the first floor that's mostly empty," Kevin said. "Zaranth should fit in there for a while longer, and the door's more sturdy than a bunch of shelves."
Dean narrowed his eyes. "Zaranth?"
"Dragonriders of Pern?" Kevin raised his eyebrows like Dean was supposed to know what the hell he was talking about. "Green dragon?" When Dean continued to stare at him, he sighed. "Someone had to give him a name."
"So it is a him?" Dean asked.
"I have no idea," Kevin shrugged. "Haven't found anything in the books on how to sex a dragon, but then I haven't been looking at much besides the tablets."
"Yeah, well, thanks for taking care of Zaranth here."
The dragon looked up and made a whooshing sound, small clouds of smoke coming out of its nostrils. Upset as he was about Sam and Ezekiel both, Dean couldn't help the small smile that spread across his face. "Good to see you again, buddy," he said, crouching down to rub the underside of Zaranth's chin. The dragon arched back, twin plumes of smoke drifting from its nostrils, making a noise that sounded suspiciously like a purr.
"He can cook his own food now," Kevin said, nodding down at a black scorch mark on the floor. "Not too evenly, but he seems to like the crispy bits."
"No rare steaks for you, huh?" Dean asked, continuing to scratch the dragon. "Zaranth," he said carefully, and one blue eye slitted open to regard him before closing again as the purring sound continued.
"He's really smart," Kevin said. "At least, I think he can understand us. Maybe it's just my imagination, I don't know."
"Probably not your imagination," Dean said, thinking of the book he'd read on dragons and angels and the way Zaranth had gradually learned to differentiate between Ezekiel and Sam. He hadn't told Kevin about any of that, since it would be impossible to start the explanation without finishing it, and it wasn't something Kevin needed to know right now. At any rate, some of the books they had come across suggested dragons had psychic abilities, and looking into the dragon's eyes, Dean wouldn't be surprised at all if that was true. "In fact, I'll bet we can get him upstairs without any sparks coming out, can't we, little guy?"
Two puffs of smoke were the dragon's reply.
The move upstairs went fine, without a single book being singed. Dean had just finished being smug about it when Cas called him to say that whoever was inside of Sam, it wasn't Ezekiel. Gripping the phone receiver tightly enough to leave marks, Dean realized he wasn't even surprised. Terrified and furious, yes, but given what their lives were like, surprised wasn't at the top of the list.
When he drew the anti-angel sigil, he decided to do it in the storeroom where they'd been keeping Zaranth. He had piled up hay in one corner, figuring it had to be more comfortable than the concrete floor, and the dragon had trampled it down into something like a nest. It was sitting there now, watching curiously as Dean held up a long, sharp knife and gritted his teeth before setting the blade against his palm.
As the coppery smell of his blood filled the room, Zaranth growled. Dean whirled around to see the dragon's wings spread wide, nostrils flaring. "Hey, whoa," he said, holding up his hand with the knife. "It's all right, it doesn’t hurt."
Zaranth's blue eyes narrowed as if he knew Dean was lying, and he came a step closer.
"Seriously, chill." Dean could feel the blood starting to run out of his cupped palm, and he carefully laid the knife down on the ground before dipping two fingers in the small pool of blood and starting to draw the sigil. "I’m gonna need your help, though, in case this doesn't work. We gotta help Sam, all right?"
He looked over his shoulder to see Zaranth extending his neck out, wings held back as if he was in flight. They didn't even know if he could fly; none of the rooms they trusted to hold the dragon were big enough for flight, and there was no way Dean was risking taking him outside. He didn't know what they were going to do as Zaranth continued to grow, but that wasn't his top priority at the moment.
The dragon stayed quiet as Dean finished the sigil and slipped out to wash his hands. When he returned, Sam was standing in the doorway, head cocked to one side, looking at Zaranth. The dragon's wings were arched up and it was hissing, and Dean knew right away that it wasn't Sam he was dealing with.
He drew in a deep breath. All he had to do was get it inside, and then he could let Sam know what was going on and let the chips fall where they might. "Hey, Sam, can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked, gesturing inside the storeroom.
"Can it be somewhere there's not a pissy dragon?" not-Sam replied with arched eyebrows.
Dean repressed a shiver. The damn angel had gotten so good at imitating Sam. If it wasn't for Zaranth's reaction, he would have thought he was talking to his brother. "It's all right, you know he won't hurt you. Right, buddy?" he asked more loudly. "You're not going to hurt my brother."
Zaranth reared his head back, eyes flashing. He looked at not-Sam and then back at Dean, as if he understood what Dean had just told him. He rumbled but folded his wings back into his sides, backing up to allow them both to enter.
Not-Sam moved inside, still warily eyeing the dragon, and Dean took advantage of the moment to slip in after him and slam his still-bleeding hand against the sigil.
The flash of white light that engulfed the room had Sam whirling around and Zaranth issuing what sounded like a bass note on a trombone. "What the hell was that?" Sam asked.
"A little something to make sure we can talk," Dean said. He rubbed his hands together and, figuring there was no way out but through, started, "Sammy, there's something you need to know."
Zaranth trumpeted again, shaking his wings out at his sides, eyes locked on Sam.
Dean went still. Could he have drawn the sigil wrong? Zaranth had learned to distinguish Sam from his angelic passenger pretty early on, and he'd never reacted like this to Sam once he'd known the difference. "Sam?" Dean asked hesitantly.
"What it is, Dean?"
Dean couldn't tell if it was him. His own brother, standing right in front of him, and he couldn't ask if it was really him, but nor could he tell the difference. The angel had never deliberately pretended to be Sam—at least not that Dean knew of—but given that he'd been lying about his own identity this whole time, who was to say that he wasn't lying about more?
Who was to say that he hadn't been Sam for longer than Dean wanted to think about?
Hesitating, Dean looked at the dragon, who was emitting a steady stream of smoke from his nostrils, eyes hard and cold.
"Dean, what is it?" Sam asked impatiently.
Slowly, Dean replied, "You're not Sam."
There was a pause. Sam tilted his head to the side, brow furrowed. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"I don't know who you are," Dean said, starting forward, "but you're not Ezekiel. And you're not my brother, either. So who the hell are you?"
"Dean, I don't understand." Somehow, Sam's angelic passenger had learned to put on his puppy dog eyes, and damn it, it hurt to see that wounded expression and know it wasn't really him.
Dean came closer, bringing one hand to rest on the back of his dragon's neck. He could feel a low vibration under his fingers, and he felt better having someone there at his side. In a low voice, he demanded, "Who the hell are you?"
For a moment, he thought that Zaranth was wrong, that it really was Sam, and that he'd blown everything. But then Sam's familiar blue-green eyes flashed bright blue, and his always-bowed shoulders straightened back.
Dean's fingers curled across the scales on the back of Zaranth's neck, not sure which one of them he was trying to reassure by the gesture.
"It doesn't matter," not-Sam said, fixing Dean with the half-curious gaze he always seemed to wear. "I am healing your brother, and that is what is important."
"So you say," Dean retorted. "But you also gave your name as that of a dead angel, so excuse me if I don't believe a word you say right now."
Not-Sam's brow furrowed. "That is irrelevant. I have done as you asked, all these months, not only for Sam, but for your friends as well."
Under Dean's hand, he felt the vibration of Zaranth's growl even as his own hackles rose. "Yeah, and I think it's time for you to be on your way."
Not-Sam stared at him for a moment. Then the corner of his mouth turned up the tiniest bit. "Only Sam can make that decision. And he is not currently capable of making it."
Dean's stomach dropped. "The hell is that supposed to mean?" At his side, Zaranth's wings were rustling, his claws scraping on the concrete floor as he shifted his position.
"It means he is out of the way. Peacefully dreaming, but nevertheless, he is not here." His brown wrinkled again. "I think he will not be here for some time, actually. It will be easier for what I have to do."
Zaranth growled, smoke shooting from his nostrils. Before Dean could warn him not to hurt Sam, not-Sam's hand shot up, and they were both flying backwards before hitting the back wall of the storeroom with a thud.
Dean grimaced, his head briefly ringing from making contact. He heard a squawk from the dragon, like a muted trumpet, and then the heavy clang of the storeroom door sliding shut.
"No, no, no!" he called out, stumbling to his feet and over to the door. "Sam, come on, fight him off!"
There was no sound from outside the room except retreating footsteps. "Damn it!" Dean shouted, kicking the iron door for good measure.
Behind him, Zaranth hissed loudly. Dean whirled in time to see the dragon rearing its neck back, one wing sweeping out to knock Dean off his feet.
He hit the ground hard with a grunt. Shaking his head, he was about to complain, when suddenly a roar of flame shot out of Zaranth's mouth. The firebolt was no thicker than Dean's wrist, but he could feel the heat from where he was sprawled on the floor. It hit the door with a whooshing sound, right at the latch, and the metal briefly glowed white-hot as the fire washed over it.
Dean stared at Zaranth, who was flapping his wings weakly and heaving in a breath. "That was awesome," Dean said. He looked at the door and pulled himself to his feet. "Here's hoping these boots are thick enough."
Aiming carefully, he delivered a powerful kick at the door, the heel of his boot connecting with the latch. He could feel the heat through his sole, but the metal groaned only briefly before giving way, the door swinging open to clang against the wall outside.
"Awesome," Dean said. He jerked his head towards the door. "C'mon. I didn't like the sound of that 'what I have to do.'"
The dragon gave a low warble as if in agreement before following Dean out into the hallway.
In the main room of the library, they entered to find Kevin looking up at not-Sam, confusion written all over his face. The angel was looming over him, and then, to Dean's horror, he reached out and put a hand on Kevin's forehead as an all-too-familiar high-pitched whine started to fill the room.
"No!" Dean shouted, sprinting forward.
Zaranth was even faster, wings propelling him in a short flight over the table strewn with books and Kevin's tablets. His trumpeting sound was more like a battle cry than anything Dean had heard from him so far, and he landed on the angel's back with a thump, slamming into him and knocking him away from Kevin.
"What's going on?" Kevin asked, a hand to his forehead.
"Kevin, get out of here!" Dean ordered.
"Why did Sam—?"
"He's not Sam!" Dean grabbed him by the arm and practically hurled him towards the door.
Kevin spun around and jerked himself free. "Dean, what's going on?"
The angel and dragon were tangled together on the floor, Zaranth's green wings spread wide, claws extended in front of him. Even then, he was not even half Sam's size. The angel was emitting a bright, white light, and the shadows of its wings, now fully formed, were splayed out over the floor.
Kevin gasped. "It's an angel! How did he—?"
He broke off as the angel raised both hands and sent Zaranth flying backwards with a bolt of white light. The dragon grunted as he slammed into a stone pillar, sliding to the ground with a thud. But he was back on his feet in no time, stretching its long neck in one direction and then the other, glaring at the angel for all he was worth.
"Zaranth!" Dean called out. "That's not Sam! Don’t hurt Sam!"
The dragon spared him a quick glance before turning towards the angel and flapping both of its wings hard. The buffet of wind knocked the angel back, and Zaranth started to advance, smoke coming from his nostrils.
"Gadreel," Kevin said suddenly. "His name is Gadreel." He grabbed Dean's arm. "Do you know who that is?"
"How do you know that?" Dean demanded.
"Prophet, remember?" Kevin tapped his forehead. "Dean, he was the angel who was guarding Eden when Lucifer got in. Why would Sam agree to any angel possession, much less this one?"
Dean rubbed a hand over his jaw and watched the two combatants warily circling each other. "He didn't exactly agree in so many words."
"What the hell does that mean?"
There was a whooshing noise, and a small gout of flame washed over Gadreel. "Hey!" Dean shouted, but he didn't see any sign of burns on Sam's body.
Zaranth turned towards Dean with an impatient grunt before dodging a blast of light that left a scorch mark on the floor. He flapped his wings towards Gadreel again, but no fire followed. Dean started to worry that his recharge time was going to be too long and that the angel would gain the upper hand in the meantime. Given what he had been about to do to Kevin, and what he apparently had already done to Sam, that wasn't good for anyone.
"Hey!" Dean shouted, waving one arm. "Gadreel! Leave the dragon alone and pick on someone your own size, would you?"
Kevin started, "Dean, I don't think that's a good—"
He didn't get the words out before Dean was flying backwards. He came up hard against a pillar, the wind briefly knocked out of him. By the time he got his bearings, Gadreel was looming over him, exasperated anger warping his familiar face, hand outstretched and fingers half-curled. "Dean, this does not concern you," he said. "You shouldn't interfere."
"Like hell it doesn't," Dean choked out past the pressure at his throat. "Long as you're wearing my little brother, anything you do concerns me."
Gadreel frowned. "Dean, I do not want to hurt you."
"Could've…fooled me," he gasped.
"You need to stay out of my way," Gadreel insisted.
Dean stared back at him, remembering another time when an angel wearing his brother had threatened him and how Sam had pulled it together and fought him off. "Sam, I know you're in there," he forced out. "You gotta fight him off, Sam, you gotta—"
His words died out as Gadreel made a fist, and Dean's oxygen abruptly disappeared. His hands flew to his throat as if to seek out a rope or a wire that he could fight to loosen, but there was nothing there. He couldn’t breathe, couldn't get in any air at all, and the calm, dispassionate air with which Gadreel was watching him was the worst part of it.
There was a roar, and for a moment, Dean thought it was in his head, a side effect of his brain being starved of oxygen. When the pressure at his throat abruptly eased, he realized it was Zaranth, and he staggered to his feet.
Gadreel had turned to face the dragon, both arms out, palms forward. He started to send the same white light as before, but it was met by red-hot fire from the dragon. It wasn’t the actual fire that Zaranth had used to weaken the storeroom door, but something more like a laser. The two bolts of energy curled around each other, red and white intertwining and curling, the brightness of the light building between them with every second.
The little dragon emitted a frustrated cry, wings and neck fully extended as if it was already giving all that it could.
"Hold on, Zaranth!" Kevin called.
Twin plumes of smoke rose from the dragon's nostrils, and then its fire suddenly, incredibly, intensified. It came a step closer to Gadreel, and then another.
The angel's eyes widened, and then he planted his feet. "Call off your dragon!" he shouted even as even brighter white fire sheeted from his hands. "If he hurts me, he hurts your brother!"
"No way!" Dean shouted back. "I found that book you wouldn't let Sam read. Zaranth can smoke you out without touching Sam."
Gadreel's eyes narrowed. "He is too young and too weak," he shot back, and given the way the white fire was starting to overwhelm the red, Dean was afraid that he might be right.
But he retorted, "He can still kick your ass," just to watch the supercilious curl to Gadreel's lip.
It was almost too bright to see now, the room filled with blazing light from both the angel and the dragon. Zaranth had his legs firmly planted, his head straining forward, and Dean could see that he was running out of gas. If he lost, and Gadreel turned on him and Kevin, there wasn't anything Dean could do. If only the fight had started in the storeroom, where the sigil was on the wall—
The sigil. Dean could draw another sigil and blast Gadreel out of here. Sam was probably okay enough without him, given that the bastard had been lying about everything else. Pulling out his pocketknife, Dean strode to the closest wall and hoped he could take another pint out of himself without the consequences being too bad.
The second he cut into his palm, Zaranth made his little warbling sound. "Damn it," Dean muttered. He had wanted this to go unnoticed, but if the dragon was paying attention, Gadreel would be, too.
He dipped his fingers into his palm and started drawing as fast as he could. He wasn't even halfway done when Kevin shouted, "Dean!"
Dean instinctively ducked, and the angelic blast coming his way cracked the wall where his head had been a moment ago. There was a loud growl, and when he whirled, still crouching, he saw Zaranth rear back, and then orange-red fire jetted from his mouth, hot and real.
"No!" Dean shouted as the fire enveloped Gadreel, and Sam along with it.
Gadreel screamed, arms flung back, bolts of white light shooting randomly around the room from his fingertips. A light fixture came crashing down, and Kevin darted under the big, heavy table. Dean watched in horror as the flame completely engulfed Gadreel, gusts of wind whipping the flame upward and sending books and papers flying around the room. White light started to burn from his eyes, growing brighter and brighter until Dean had to shield his eyes and look away.
Zaranth gave a last, hoarse-sounding growl, and then collapsed.
The room instantly went silent, stray papers fluttering to the ground. Kevin cautiously poked his head out, but Dean was already racing to where Sam's body was sprawled on the floor.
There was no sign of a burn anywhere on him, Dean realized with relief. Whatever fire Zaranth had been emitting, it wasn't a kind that burned human flesh. He felt a weak, rapid pulse under his fingertips, and at the rise of Sam's chest, he closed his eyes and whispered, "Thank you."
He looked over his shoulder to see Kevin cradling their little dragon's head. "Dean," Kevin said helplessly. "What can we do?"
Dean's fingers were still resting on Sam's neck, feeling the life beating beneath the skin. Zaranth's eyes were barely open, but they were focused on him. He looked back, pouring all the gratitude and strength he could into his gaze. "Zaranth," he said quietly. "Thank you. You saved all of us."
The dragon made a tiny sound like a muted trumpet, and a trickle of smoke came from one nostril. Then it laid its head down on Kevin's leg, and its eyes closed.
Dean held his breath. Kevin had his hand resting on Zaranth's chest, and when he shook his head, eyes reddening, Dean let out a long sigh and bowed his head. He hadn't asked for the little guy to defend him like that, hadn't asked for him to give his life for three humans who didn't even know how to get him back to his home.
Under his hands, Sam started to stir. When his eyes blinked open, the confusion and bewilderment in them was one hundred percent pure Sam, Dean was sure of it. "What—what happened?" he asked, struggling to sit up.
"Whoa, take it easy there," Dean said, momentarily trying to hold him down before realizing that wasn't going to work with his pig-headed brother. "You've been through a lot, Sam."
"What happened to the case?" Sam asked. "Did you get the ghouls?"
"The what?" Dean stared at him before remembering what Gadreel had said about putting Sam into a dream state. He rubbed his hand over his jaw. "Yeah, about that—"
"Oh my God, Zaranth!" Sam was staring at Kevin and the dead dragon in his lap. "What the hell happened?"
Dean drew in a long breath and sat back on his heels. At least Sam was going to be okay now. That was the important thing, no matter how he reacted to Dean's news.
Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that, piped up a little voice that Dean promptly squelched.
He cleared his throat and prepared to face his own personal firing squad. "Sam, there's something I have to tell you..."