"Cas. Dean. This looks kind of interesting," Sam said, brandishing a newspaper.
Dean glanced at him when he was able to take his eyes off both the road and Castiel in the back. "I thought we went over this, buddy. We're on a break."
"I'm not your buddy, guy," Sam retorted. "But no one is in danger. It's a case of a guardian angel."
"Huh?" Sam's comment had gotten Castiel's attention. "Elaborate, if you would," the angel said, perking up and gaining an attentive spark in his eyes. Dean just sighed. "Fine," he grumbled.
Sam smiled triumphantly. "It says here that in Spokane, Washington, there's a guy who thinks he has a guardian angel. His friends think it's this girl he hangs out with a lot, and so does he, but he's not sure."
"So?" Dean said. "What's this girl doing?"
"Apparently, since he started hanging out with her, he's avoided a number of unlucky accidents, and his hearing has improved significantly. His tinnitus is gone, for instance," Sam explained.
"Tinnitus?" both Dean and Castiel inquired.
"It causes your ears to ring constantly. Messes with your hearing. So, Cas, you got any ideas? Any of your relatives who might be doing this?"
"Is there a name listed?" Castiel asked in response.
There was a pause as Sam scanned the article. "No," he said finally. "Just the name of the guy. Thomas Sharpe."
Castiel nodded. "I don't know, then. A lot of the others find someone to watch over. It's hard to narrow it down."
"You got any sisters, Cas?" Dean asked.
"A few. Sandriel is a likely candidate if this is, in fact, real. Then perhaps Sabriel or Lirael."
"Do they change their appearances?" Sam asked.
Shrugging, Castiel replied, "Sandriel probably wouldn't, but Sabriel almost certainly would. With Lirael, it could go either way."
"So what do they all normally look like?"
"Sandriel is small and skinny. She might be about five and a half feet tall, and she has long light red hair. Then Sabriel looks somewhat like Uriel and Lirael looks a lot like Gabriel."
Dean and Sam glanced at each other and nodded sagely. "Okay," Dean said. "You've got me. We're about five miles from Spokane. Let's check it out."
When they crossed into Spokane a few minutes later, Dean asked, "Sam? Where do we find this Sharpe dude?"
"I dunno. We should check there," Sam replied, pointing to a boxy brick building marked City Hall. "His address might be on public record."
"Good idea," Dean agreed, pulling into the parking lot. All three of them groaned as they emerged from the Impala, stretching cramped limbs. "So what do we say?"
"We should use our real names," Castiel replied. "We'll tell them that we're paranormal investigators inquiring further on the Sharpe story in the paper. It'll sound credible, and we won't have to get caught up in a lie."
"He has a point," Sam said.
"Damn right he has a point. I like it. Sure. We're Dean and Sam Winchester plus Castiel Novak, paranormal investigators. Little lengthy, but it has a pretty nice ring to it," Dean mused. "Let's do this."
With Dean in the lead and Sam and Cas following in the manner of lost puppies, they entered the building. At the front desk was a fetching young clerk with blonde hair and a winsome smile. "How may I help you gentlemen?" she asked sweetly.
"Ah . . ." Dean started. He was stopped rather quickly when Cas reminded him that he was there. Seeing what was going on, Sam shrugged and took it upon himself to answer the question. "We're paranormal investigators –"
"Oh! Are you looking for Thomas Sharpe?" the clerk interrupted.
"Oh, um . . . Yeah. We'd just like to ask him a few questions."
"Sure. Let me find his address for you. I'll just be a moment." With a quick smile, she slipped out of her chair and dashed into a back room.
"Dean. Cas," Sam muttered. "You OK now?"
"Yes," Cas answered. "All is well, and Dean has learned his lesson."
"You only have two eyes. Use them wisely."
Sam couldn't help but laugh, but he was forced to choke back most of it by the sudden reappearance of the clerk, whose nametag he now realized read 'Aimee'. "Here you are," she said, handing Sam a Post-It note with the address written on it in a neat, rounded hand. "Thanks, Aimee," he said.
"No problem. You all go get your answers."
Thomas Sharpe looked mildly worried when he opened the door, though the expression failed to do much more than add a few years to a handsome face. "How may I help you, gentlemen?" he inquired, his soft voice tight with an air of strained cordiality. Sam noticed that his accent hinted of origins in both the East and the West.
Matching Sharpe's volume, Sam answered, "I'm Sam Winchester. This is my brother Dean, and this is our associate Castiel Novak. We're paranormal investigators, Mr. Sharpe, and –"
Sharpe cut him off by raising his hand. "I know. That damned newspaper article. This isn't exactly the best time, Mr. Winchester."
"We're sorry. We can go –" Castiel started, his words tumbling over each other in their haste to escape his mouth.
"Shut it, Cas," Dean growled, grabbing the angel's wrist. Castiel's mouth hung open as if he was going to continue for a moment before easing shut. As soon as it did, he glowered at Dean, but they both knew that could never last for long.
Sharpe seemed to pretend that nothing had just happened between Dean and Cas. "Fine. As long as you know it's real. Mark my words. Come in and have a seat if you believe me. I don't recommend sitting too close to the stairs, but if you do and don't like it, don't say I didn't warn you."
Sam and Dean shot each other puzzled glances before following Sharpe inside, Cas in the rear. "What do you think?" Sam mouthed. Dean only shrugged. "I'll sit by the stairs," he mouthed back.
In the living room, Sharpe had already situated himself on the stairs, his long legs crossed over each other. Dean's lips twisted in an annoyed grimace. "Please," Sharpe said, gesturing magnanimously in the general direction of two leather sofas. "Care for any water? Soda?" he asked. If possible, his voice was even quieter than it had been at the door.
"No, thanks," Sam replied, much to Dean's chagrin. Miraculously, the elder Winchester kept his mouth shut, effectively preventing the situation from getting any more awkward than it already was for the moment. "Just some information. Can you tell us a bit about your angel?"
"So you believe me?"
"Yeah. We do," Dean replied. "There's no reason for us not to."
A noticeable expression of relief lent a more energetic cast to Sharpe's expression.
"Cas," Dean continued. "Show him."
Castiel's blue eyes widened as the implications of what Dean had said registered with him. "Are you sure? Should I really . . . You know?" he asked, his tone at once skeptical and nervous.
When Dean nodded, Cas sighed heavily and stood. His gaze lifted to some random spot on the ceiling, he slowly unfurled his wings. "You're right, Mr. Sharpe," he said when they were fully extended. "We're real."
Sharpe was motionless in his awe, but he wasn't entirely speechless. "You have handsome wings, Mr. Novak," he said finally, his eyes quite exophthalmic. "May I ask who you watch over, then?"
In response, Cas tilted his head in Dean's direction. His demonstration concluded, he folded his wings back into place and resumed his seat. Dean rubbed the angel's thigh with more than a modicum of affection before Cas slapped his hand out of the way and semi-playfully accused him of being highly unprofessional in a low, husky whisper. Sharpe looked like he wanted to laugh, but he remained silent while Sam rolled his eyes and resisted the urge to punch Dean in the arm.
In an effort to get the conversation back on track, Sam spoke. "Now that that's over with, allow me to ask you something, Mr. Sharpe. Why did you discourage us from sitting near the stairs? So you could sit there?"
Sharpe chuckled, a bitter note present in the sound. "I believe you are aware that my name is not Sheldon Cooper, Mr. Winchester." He glanced up the stairs before returning his eyes to Sam's. "Elena – the woman suspected by my friend Mark and I to be my angel - is up there. She's . . . She's very sick."
A sound that was somewhere between a moan and a scream cut through the air almost before Sharpe finished speaking. "That's why," he said, the worry Sam had seen in his face earlier returning. OK, he's worried about her, he thought. Who is she, though?
Cas seemed to have an idea. "May we examine her, Mr. Sharpe? I at least have an idea of what might be making her sick."
To his distinct surprise, Sharpe nodded. "If you can do anything, please do it." He rose and beckoned for the others to follow. In a line as if they were schoolchildren, the three men and the angel ascended the stairs, Sharpe in the lead and Sam bringing up the rear. As they walked, Dean quite clearly stared at Sharpe's ass before showing some restraint and dropping back behind Castiel.
They were silent until something occurred to Dean. He tapped Castiel's shoulder and whispered, "I don't think that's an angelic name, Cas. What are you doing?"
"I never said that my sisters weren't in the habit of assuming false names," he replied quietly. Dean released an explosive sigh in response, but said nothing else.
If Sharpe heard any of their exchange, he gave no indication. By that point, they had reached the door behind which Elena languished. Sharpe didn't bother to knock and instead gave the door a bodily shove, stumbling and nearly falling when it swung inward. As soon as Cas was able to see inside the room, he broke into a short sprint, bolting to the side of the bed like a prince to a stricken princess in a certain fairytale. "Sandriel," he whispered. "What have you done this time?" Even when he gripped her hand, Sandriel didn't respond.
"It looks like you definitely have an angel watching over you," Sam remarked. "Her real name is Sandriel. She's Castiel's little sister."
Sharpe blinked. "I . . . I didn't know angels could get sick."
"They can't, usually," Cas explained. "It's just that she isn't supposed to be here and she's doing all she can to resist the pull of whoever is trying to bring her back. She won't have a chance to return, so she's staying as long as she can."
"Why? Why would she do that if it's causing her so much misery? And who wants her back?" Sharpe asked, getting more worked up by the second.
"My guess is that Gabriel wants her to be a good little girl and come home," Dean said.
"No," Cas replied. "It's almost certainly Jophiel. He's the only one who would do this. Mr. Sharpe?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr. Novak?"
"This may be slightly alarming. It is perfectly normal if what I am about to do causes you to question my sanity." Before Sharpe could respond, Castiel inhaled deeply and threw back his head. "Jophiel! Unhand Sandriel, for thy sister does no harm to thee by remaining here on Earth!" he shouted, one hand on Sandriel's slim shoulder.
There was a still silence for an agonizing few moments. Then Sandriel convulsed, her eyes flying open as her back arched to an impossible angle. Only Castiel's hand prevented her from falling off the bed. Sharpe cried out and made to lunge for her, but Sam grabbed his wrists and yanked him backward. "Don't disturb this or you'll kill her," he said, his voice low and menacing. He didn't know whether he was bluffing, and at that point he was too afraid to ask, but Sharpe seemed to believe him or was at least unwilling to chance it. He went slack as Sandriel began to speak in a voice that was not her own.
"Ah, Castiel," she said in the voice of Jophiel. "Don't use such antiquated language with me. The only thing about this that isn't antiquated is the fact that our dear sister is, quite frankly, being a whore. I want to have a bit of a talk with her about that."
Sharpe growled, but no words escaped from his mouth.
"Let go of her, Jophiel," said Castiel. "Her cause is noble. She is doing for Thomas Sharpe what I do for Dean Winchester."
"And since when have you been a good role model, Castiel? Since when has it been a good idea to follow your examples?"
"Remember that the examples of saints were for no coward to follow," Cas answered. "Sandriel is no whore. She has chosen to stay out of devotion to this man. Let her."
"She will never be able to come back. Do you want her to be just like you, Castiel? Stranded down there with . . . Them?"
"I don't want to go back, and neither does she."
"How do you know?" Jophiel asked.
"Because . . ." Castiel trailed off, floundering for words in his struggle to articulate his reasoning.
Jophiel seemed to take Castiel's silence as surrender. "I'll tell you what," he said, still speaking through Sandriel's mouth. "I'll let go."
"At what cost?"
"Shut up. I know what you intend to say anyway."
Obediently, Cas said nothing. "Ah, silence," Jophiel said. "Good. Now you should be able to wake her up as soon as I vacate the premises."
Then Jophiel was gone. Sandriel collapsed, the air rushing out of her lungs. Her eyes focused on Castiel, and she gasped. "Cas! Oh, what are you doing here? And what just happened? Was that Jophiel? . . . Oh. It was."
Castiel chuckled. "Are you OK, Sandriel?"
"I'm done resisting, so I'd say so. Thank you, Cas."
"Let me know next time. If Sam hadn't found that newspaper article, you could have died."
At Castiel's mention of the article, Sandriel seemed to remember whose company she was in. "Thomas?"
"Right here," Sharpe said. Sam let go of his wrists and Sharpe sat down next to Sandriel. "Why?" he asked her. "Why did you do this?"
Sandriel was silent. She glanced at Cas, who then relayed her wordless answer to Sharpe. "It's actually quite obvious. She loves you, Mr. Sharpe. Keep that in mind. She's chosen you."
Sharpe was speechless. Tears welled in his eyes as he bent to kiss Sandriel's forehead.
"Once we see someone we love, we tend to stay with them," Castiel continued. "Both of us are a little shy when it comes to things like this. We just hope the other person realizes how we feel. To us, watching over someone is a declaration of affection."
"No one fucks with a man who has a guardian angel," Dean cut in, adding the obligatory vulgarity to the situation. "If they do, they need to be prepared to get fucked up right back."
"To use Dean's choice word, no one should fuck with Sandriel. Not me. Not you. Remember that."
"I will," Sharpe said. "Thank you, Castiel. Thank you, Sam. Thank you, Dean."
It was only when they had all piled into the Impala that Dean said, "He thanked me last? Oh, come on! That's not right! Sam, you're last in the alphabet!"
Sam and Cas laughed, and continued to as Dean began to sing Led Zeppelin's 'Black Dog' at the top of his lungs.