Castiel Milton glanced at the small clock on his desk. Only five minutes until his lunch break. Sighing, he ran a hand through his dark hair. It had been a tiresome morning. The 'problem' clients he usually dealt with were even more problematic, and his patience had been well worn. Castiel would need to go to one of his happy places, in the literal sense.
Picking up the receiver and pressing the button that called his assistant, he planned his dialogue. He was getting better these days, but when Castiel felt as tense as he felt now, it was almost relaxing to revert to the ways ingrained into him from his childhood. 'Think before you speak, Castiel,' were the words that echoed through his clustered head as he continued with his own words. Alfie, I will not be eating in the office today, so no need to add my usual to the floor order. Or should he add a greeting? Hello, Alfie – No, definitely keep it formal. Perhaps should he just state the first half of the sentence? However, Castiel's second thoughts and anxieties were interrupted by the answer of the phone. He really should have thought about this before he pressed 'call'.
“Yes, Mr Milton?” his assistant chirped. The happy familiarity of Alfie's boyish tone almost soothed him. Alfie wouldn't talk down to him or raise his voice for no reason, nor would he sigh with exasperation when all Castiel was trying to do was help.
He took a breath and said what he had planned, hoping it would suffice. “Alfie, I will not be eating in the office today.”
“Would you like me to order your usual anyway, or are you getting food elsewhere?”
Castiel almost stuttered on his answer. He should have foreseen questions like these, should have calculated answers to every possible thing Alfie could ask of him. But instead, he had been ironically lazy in favour of getting it over and done with, and now his pulse was racing. “No thank you, I will be straying from my usual today.”
“Of course, Mr Milton.” With that, Castiel put down the phone. Blowing air out through his nostrils, he tried not to be frustrated with himself. If he'd have just said the first sentence he planned, there would have been no need for the longer conversation. He liked to be concise, clear, and comprehensible. In his line of work, there was no time for confusing the client. Or at least, that was his excuse for the borderline-compulsive behaviour with strangers and acquaintances that had recently reared its head again. It definitely had nothing to do with his concerns of going too long without one of his attacks, and again, today had been vexatious and trying on his ever-present tendency for nerves.
But it was only Alfie he was speaking to, after all. Alfie, whose bright boyish smile had taken up his whole face whenever he was given praise. Alfie Pike was a hard working boy, and when Castiel gave him the job, he was ecstatic. He could tell the boy didn't think he would even make it through applications, but Castiel liked an underdog. He had once lived by getting chances, and now he liked to live by giving them.
His eyes scanned over the clock's face. Three minutes to go. If he was fortunate, he would get no calls; but if there was one thing Castiel wasn't, it was lucky. The phone chirruped in its high pitched grate, and the little 7 flashed red. The customer was being put through by tech support. Arming himself, he ran his usual beginning spiel, attempting a cheerier tone. The people put through from tech were always the rudest.
“Good morning, Higher Planes, my name is Castiel. How may I assist you?”
“Jesus Christ. I'm telling you, you'd better be able to damn assist me, you're the fifth guy I've spoken to about this.”
Castiel was slightly taken aback by the customer's seeming lack of tether, but had no worries that he could solve his problem. There was a reason that this job was created for him, after all. “If it reassures you, I will be the last person you speak to about your issue. If I cannot assist, then any problem you may have will be taken care of in the monetary sense.”
“...Right. Well, I wanna know how I can take a stupid iPod player outta my car. I was in hospital for a while, and the guys fixing my car asked my son if I wanted it, and him, being the idiot he is, said yes. All I know is that the player belongs to your company, and the mechanics won't do it because your company also endorses them, so what the hell am I supposed to do? They said to wait for a year or something 'cause of a warranty, and I really don't want to smash my car up again. So, Castiel, you gonna have to pay me to live with it?”
He released a breath of relief. This man wasn't so difficult. Well, not as difficult as some of the people he'd had to listen to today. “No, sir, I am not going to 'pay you to live with it'. If you simply give me the name and number of the mechanics, I can get them to remove it, as well as reimburse you for the unwanted player.”
“Oh.” The man sounded pleasantly surprised. “Well, thanks, I guess. Do you want my name and number as well? You know, for when you're talking to the mechanics.”
“That would be helpful, yes.” Castiel took down the information he needed, and planned to call the mechanics after lunch. Usually, he would have done it immediately, but his office walls were closing in on him and he needed to get out before they crushed him. To breathe a little easier, he undid the top button of his shirt and went to loosen his tie but upon doing this, he felt something odd. Stroking the knot, he frowned down at the piece of blue silk. How had he managed to put it on back to front? Making a mental note to take care of it later, he stood up, tucked in his chair and strode out of his office.
“Mr Milton! Sir!” It was Alfie, scrambling out of his chair.
Spinning on his heels, Castiel looked at his assistant expectantly. He knew where he wanted to go, and wanted to make the most of it. But Alfie did not reply, instead half-running, half-walking towards the small alcove that Castiel had never paid much heed to, despite his long run with the company.
“Alfie, I really need to leave, what do you – oh.” His assistant was returning with his overcoat at the same pace as earlier. “Thank you.”
“It's colder out there than it was this morning, Mr Milton, I thought you might want it if you were leaving the building.” Alfie smiled and handed it to him, slightly out of breath.
Castiel shrugged on his coat, nodded his thanks, and made his way out of the building. Usually he wasn't one for distraction, but he stopped at a burger stand on his way. Sometimes, he just couldn't say no to street food, especially if the food in question was the best cheeseburger he'd ever had. Castiel didn't have to say anything to the street vendor; he had frequented it often enough for his order to be remembered. As he ate, he rounded the few corners to his destination, which was marked by an old sign. It had initially read 'Haeds Train Station', but had been heavily vandalised, the 'e' and the 'd' switched to now read 'Hades: Welcome to Hell!'.
He understood why one might think it were hell. Back in the 70's, the Mayor at the time had gone ever so slightly insane and bankrupted the town. People were laid off every day, they were evicted from their homes, and worst of all, it was all covered up. It was unseemly to have voted for an unstable man, and even more unseemly for the government to fail with the appropriate background checks. So a new Mayor was elected ('suspiciously quickly', his aunt had added when she told him the story), but not before the local train station became a suicide hotspot. After that, Mayor Crowley shut down the train station, and introduced a fast bus system to the nearest station.
Castiel had only found it after running away from his older brothers when they were younger. Michael had politely threatened one of the kids walking past their turf—what it was about, he had forgotten—but he did remember throwing an empty plastic bottle at his brother and yelling, 'Hey assbutt!' to distract him. Looking back at it, it was fairly amusing, but at the time he had been absolutely petrified of his brother's fiery temper and what he or Luc might do to him or the boy. Castiel had ran and ran until he could could only hear the sound of his own feet slapping along the pavement. Slowing and catching his breath, he had seen the sign welcoming him to hell, and his inquisitive nature got the better of him.
Since then, this was his main escape. He had others of course, for when the station was otherwise occupied by children on a dare or train-spotters, and his mind had taken to collectively calling all of them his 'Heavens'. Castiel wasn't sure when he had attributed that name to them, but it seemed fitting as there were seven of them and because he felt completely at peace in all of them. There in his Heavens, he could feel his heart beating a relaxed rhythm in his chest - something he barely had time to feel anymore.
Castiel walked through the main waiting room and out onto platform one. There was no one else here. He released a sigh of mollification and smiled a little, ambling up the platform to his usual spot: the bench obscured by a small billboard that somehow had weeds growing out of it. But of course, in its dilapidated state, nearly all the crevices and nooks at the station had weeds or plants growing out of them. In the spring, the weeds would grow little white bell-shaped flowers and trick the sleepy bees into thinking they held pollen. Looking at the weeds now, in the fall, there wasn't even the hope of a flower growing. There was only the rustle of a few stray dead leaves skirting along the concrete platform. It stayed that way for a while, and so did Castiel while he took conscious control of his breathing and erased the toil the day’s events had had on him.
Although, there was another sound. The almost metallic echo of footsteps in an empty room. Someone was walking through the waiting area. This wasn't strange nor an uncommon occurrence, but what alarmed Castiel was the lack of chatter, or other footsteps for that matter. Just one pair of feet, walking without purpose. So, he thought, not two teenagers looking for a place to illicitly 'make out'. The noise was closer now. The person who belonged to the mysterious feet was on the platform. He couldn't hear the sound of graffiti being sprayed, so it wasn't a vandal. With a frown, Castiel tried to reign in his curiosity.
There was never anyone else here on their own. Not at the same time as him, anyway. A thought struck him that he probably shouldn't be here, with no one knowing where he was and only a stranger for company, who could very well be a murderer or a rapist. But Castiel wasn't frightened. Maybe the stranger came here to get away from it all as he did, and they had simply never crossed paths before.
He leant forward and surreptitiously peeked out from behind the billboard, a few green stalks obscuring his vision.
It was another man.
Castiel could only see the back of him; slightly bow-legged, perhaps an inch taller than himself, with short blond hair. No, it was brown. And blond. It changed as the man paced in and out of the sunlight, stray rays shooting through the shield of leaves, glinting it golden. Castiel did think of striking up a conversation with the man, but what would he say? He couldn't even talk to his assistant without meticulously planning his words nowadays. The only people he could speak to with any semblance of confidence were his clients, and that was only because he had been doing it for years, and because he never needed to say anything about himself. 'Think before you speak, Castiel', his aunt chided in his head again. It was a bad habit, he knew, but he couldn't help what had been drilled into him since childhood, even when his family had cut him off. And even though he did think before he spoke, he always managed to be too blunt or use too-long words for people to have patience with. Castiel supposed he could blame either for his lack of friends.
The sound of a nearby train roared in the distance. They never stopped here anymore, not since the closure, and the declarations of “This train will not be stopping at this station. Please stand well behind the yellow line,” had long stopped, the automatic announcements growing more distorted as time passed until the local council were forced to deactivate the twisted voice that would repeatedly and uglily chirp the same phrases. It seemed as though the man had heard the train too, because his head snapped up and he walked up to the edge of the platform to get a better look. Ahh. A train-spotter, Castiel affirmed. But as soon as he thought the words, he realised how wrong he was.
The man sat down on the edge of the platform, legs swinging before he carefully eased himself onto the tracks. Castiel's eyes widened at seeing that the man planned to stay in that spot until he was forced into several, and it was a natural instinct to stand and run over to him. He had, what, ten seconds to get him out of there? Not even that. The man was facing the oncoming train, arms outstretched and eyes closed. Somehow, he had managed to miss the lines that would get him electrocuted. That made Castiel wonder whether the man really wanted to die after all, but there was no time to lose.
With a surge of adrenalin he jumped down, and the man glanced over his shoulder to see where the unexpected ruckus was coming from. The train blared its horn, distracting the man long enough for Castiel to wrap an arm around his waist, bring another to his shoulder, and tackle him to the harmless tracks beside them. Well, Castiel guessed they were harmless, he had never seen a train run on them, and platform two had been out of service since before the station closed. They landed sprawled on the gravelly tracks, the man beneath him. Castiel tried to protect the man's body as much as he could, keeping his left hand on the man's shoulder, his right turning his head away from the close up of the trains underbelly.
It felt as though it look minutes to pass.
When the thunder of the carriages finally sounded far away enough, Castiel took his hand off his face. The man's head slowly turned to look up at him, shock, wonder and anger playing out in his expression. His jaw was slightly agape, and Castiel couldn't help but think how beautiful the man he just saved was, even with the ghost of gravel on one side of his face and a faint hand print on the other.
“Are – are you God?” It was a little voice, almost as if a child had asked the question, but the gruff tone countered it.
“No, but that's a nice compliment,” Castiel began. “I'm Castiel.”
The man realised himself and pushed Castiel off of him. He slowly got to his feet, shaking a little and glaring down at Castiel. “What the hell, man? Why'd you do that? You smell like goddamn cheeseburgers!”
Ignoring the comment about cheeseburgers, Castiel drew himself to his full height, disdain and pride colouring his features. “I cannot stand by and watch a man throw himself under a train.”
“Yeah well next time, just stand there. Or walk away. 'Cause they want to end it. Okay?”
Castiel tried to keep a calm composure. He pulled himself up onto the platform, reaching a hand out to help the other man up. The man in question just looked at it with his nose wrinkled, like it had offended him. Which, Castiel supposed, probably had done. The man shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I'm waitin' here for the next one.” The man crossed his arms in defiance.
“No, you're not. Take my hand.”
“Yes, I am! I'm not taking your damn hand, Castiel.” He spat his saviour's name out, and it shouldn't have hurt him, but Castiel felt a pang of pain.
He scowled. “I will pull you up, whether you like it or not.”
Pursing his lips, the man looked around in irritated dismay. Narrowing his eyes, he muttered, “Fine,” and allowed himself to be pulled up. They stood facing each-other for a few seconds, each eyeing the other up. The man was still trembling slightly. Castiel recognised the look in the man's eyes; the numbing hopelessness and great sadness was instantly identifiable if one had seen it in a mirror.
Castiel cocked his head to one side. “You don't think you deserve to be saved,” he matter-of-factly said and the man's eyes wandered, looking everywhere but him. Castiel took it upon himself to talk some sense into him. With a hand on his shoulder again, he made the man meet his eyes, and slowly started:
“Every soul is worth saving. I don't know why you chose this, but it is not the favourable option. Death is not the only way out. There is help, there are friends, family, people who love you. They would be sad to learn of this, I think.”
He gestured to the tracks, and glanced back at the man, who had that childlike look about him again. Castiel sighed, and led the man over to the nearest bench. Perhaps that would ease his quivering legs.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, listening to the wind pull off the last of the autumn leaves from the trees that decorated the outskirts of the station. The man was calm. Too calm, thought Castiel. Surely someone who had just tried to commit suicide would be a little more...broken. He certainly was. But the man's face was now a blank, the formerly-expressive green eyes glossed over. Castiel almost expected it when rage bubbled up from inside his body and spewed out of his mouth.
“And who are you, huh? Who are you, to decide if I live or die?” His tone was cold and harsh. “You don't know me. You know fuck all about what family I got, or friends, or anything about my life! You're right. Did you wanna hear that? You're damn right I don't think I deserve to be saved, but it's not up to some dude in a trenchcoat to decide for me whether I live or die.” The man was standing up now, just shouting. Castiel planned to take it, but he couldn't listen to the man berate the both of them for long.
“You're probably just some guy in a suit with a hero complex. Well, pal, you don't know how I feel, or even what it's like to feel like this, like -”
“Like you're a failure to everyone?” Castiel growled, grabbing the man's jacket lapels and throwing him up against the exterior of the other waiting room. He got in close to the man's face, keeping his voice low. “Like anything you could possibly do, you'd only make it worse? Like the only way forward is to rid the world of you? Yes, I suppose you're right. I know nothing of how you feel. About what it's like to not see a light at the end of the tunnel, and not care. Perhaps before you cast these kinds of aspersions, you should think about whether this 'guy in a suit' would understand your plight.” He punctuated some of his words with pushes, and the man was just taking it as Castiel had done earlier with his words.
“I am going to give you my number, and the next time you feel like this, I want you to call me. I don't care what time of day it is, you call. I will answer. Do you promise? Do you promise me?”
“Yes,” the man breathed, barely audible.
“Good.” Castiel let go of him, and stepping away, he resumed his stoic stance. “Do you have a phone I could enter it in?”
The man searched about in his pockets for his phone, wordlessly handing it over when he found it. Castiel keyed his name and number in, and gave it back. “What's your name?" he asked softly, deliberately more gentle after the forceful nature of their previous conversation.
“I'm Dean. Dean Winchester.” Castiel could scarcely read him. He was so closed off, so guarded. But he was hardly one to talk, Castiel could probably count his default expressions on one hand.
“Hello, Dean.” Castiel stretched a hand out. “My name is Castiel Milton. It's a pleasure to meet you.” Dean stared at the outstretched hand for a second, before taking it and shaking it firmly. Their eyes met once more, and Castiel could have sworn he saw a hint of gratitude. He gave a small smile to Dean, attempting to reassure him.
Dean shrugged non-committally, as if he knew what Castiel was trying to wordlessly communicate. “You don't have to worry about me, man. I'm not gonna try again. Not today at least, you kinda ruined it for me.”
“Well, I'm glad I did. Are you sure I can't take you home, or to a friend's? I would like to be sure that you are safe and well.” Castiel didn't know why he offered, he had walked here, for goodness sake. This is what happened when he didn't think about what he was going to say.
With a quiet snort, Dean shook his head and said, “Nah, I'm good. I'll just - hey, Castiel, do you know what the time is?”
Castiel wanted to know where that sentence was going, and eyed Dean suspiciously. The man was already wearing a watch, why did he need Castiel to confirm the time? He flicked his wrist to look at his watch anyway, and his eyes widened upon noting it.
“It's almost 12:40. Dean, I'm sorry, but I have to leave. Are you sure you're going to be all right?”
Castiel saw the silent plea to stay in Dean's eyes, and was all too willing to if he needed him. But it was blinked away, replaced with internal barriers and coupled with a thick voice. “Yes! If I want to do it again, I'll call you. I know the drill.”
Wanting to adhere to Dean's wishes, he chose to forget the man's expressive eyes. “Thank you. Goodbye, Dean.” Castiel turned to leave, but had another thought. Swivelling around to face Dean, he called, “I don't regret saving you. And I don't think you regret it either.”
Dean looked a little taken aback by that, and Castiel didn't think he would reply, but after a few beats he responded, “Yeah well...Your tie's back to front!”
Castiel smiled and made his way up the stairs, back to platform one and through the exit. He took one last look at Dean, who had sat down on the bench again and was watching him right back. The only thing Castiel regretted was having to go back to work. He would have liked to stay with Dean until he knew that he definitely wasn't going to do something like that again, but there was something in Dean's eyes (those eyes) that told him that this was over for today. Dean was telling the truth when he said, 'Not today'.
Castiel could think of nothing else as he walked back to work, and Dean was on his mind so much that it distracted him from his calls. Even Alfie had picked up on his strange mood. Castiel had spoken to Dean without contemplation, without reviewing all outcomes of his speech before talking. What was that about? Dean had somehow unlocked a part of Castiel without even trying. There were only a handful of people he could fearlessly and freely talk to, and now this man was one of them. He was conflicted. On one hand, Castiel longed to know everything about the man who had wormed his way through the cracks in his psyche, destroying all evidence that he ever thought before he spoke, and wished for his call. On the other, however, if Dean called him, it would mean that he was contemplating suicide again, and Castiel didn't want that. For now though, he would give up his selfish instincts, and hope that Dean didn't call.