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Dignus Amore

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"Please. I've worked here for fourteen years."

This was one part of many that Castiel hated about his job. He disliked the soul-sucking monotony of a nine-to-five, spent in his dismal, windowless corner office with yellowed tube lighting. He didn't care for the small talk at the copier ("Did you see the game last night?" they all seemed to ask, no matter the season, no matter the day of the week, which Castiel had always managed to miss.) Even more so, he hated the way he was seen as the Novak's less charismatic son, the one stuck down in Human Resources because he lacked the skills his brothers had. Gabriel was charming, Michael ambitious, and Lucifer ruthless.

But Castiel? He was the black sheep of his notable family. They could handle his freakish level of intelligence; Gabriel, after all, had profited more than once off of Castiel's ability to forgo "gut feelings" and deduce gambling choices by logic, often calling Castiel before he placed horse bets at the racetrack one town over. If Castiel had simply been bright and nothing more, he'd likely share the top floor of this wretched building with his three brothers and their parents, ruling over the city like a royal family in a gilded tower.

"I'm sorry," Castiel replied softly, shuffling around his desk for a pen and paper. "As of now, you are no longer employed at Novak Pharmaceutical Company."

His family was right. He was intelligent.

"What will I do?" Anna’s lip trembled. "I don't have any savings, nothing."

He was also, however, something far less forgivable.

"Here," Castiel said, and he scribbled something down on a pad. "This is my cell number. Go right now and file for unemployment. Have them call me, and only me. Do you understand?"

"I can't get unemployment if I'm fired."

"I'm aware," Castiel said with the barest hint of a smile. "That is why the head of HR will need to explain you've been laid off, not fired. There just wasn't enough work in the advertising department right now...no fault of your own, of course."

Anna stared down at the paper in her hands.

"But your family-"

"Does not need to know," Castiel finished for her. "Go, Anna. If you hurry, you can get to the unemployment office before lunch."

Anna rose from her seat and grabbed her purse, heading for the door hastily. She glanced back before she left, smiling at Castiel.

"You're a good guy," she said, closing his door behind her.

Castiel was good. And to his family, that made him weak.

*

Castiel spent the rest of his workday filing meaningless paperwork for the company. The paperwork was droll and not typically part of an HR manager's job, but his family insisted that anything crucial for running the company's finances be reviewed only by Castiel.

"Are you busy?" a voice asked carelessly at his door, and Castiel raised his tired eyes to the menacing figure of his brother.

Lucifer Novak had a reputation to uphold. Most people would've balked at being named after Satan himself; he relished it. Lucifer was the company's go-to man for deal making, because what Lucifer wanted, he received. And as he was now, leering at Castiel from the doorway like a villain in a monster movie, he looked nearly predatory.

"I'm just finishing up," Castiel replied. "Is there a problem?"

"A little birdie told me that Anna managed to get unemployment."

Castiel's silence filled the room and Lucifer stepped inside, taking a seat across from him at the desk.

"Now, baby brother. How did she do that?"

"She has been here for over a decade, Lucifer. She helped our company become what it is today-"

"And she fucked up an important ad campaign. Didn't do her research. We ended up running a commercial similar to our biggest rivals...do you know how that made us look? Pathetic!" Lucifer slammed his hand down on the desk and Castiel flinched. "But she comes in here, bats those pretty eyes at you, and you let her have unemployment? That little whore is going to live off the system! She'll be rewarded for her uselessness."

"She-she couldn't have known. Those ads were released at the same time-"

"What did she do to you to get unemployment, huh? She suck you off under the table?"

"N-no!" Castiel sputtered.

Lucifer leaned forward and put his elbows on the table, studying Castiel over his clasped hands.

A grin broke across his face.

"You could've asked her for one. A blowjob. I know she'd have done it. But you wouldn't do that, would you?" Lucifer sat back, anger evaporated, and smirked at his brother. "Saint Castiel, our savior. Do you even know what time it is?"

Castiel did. He didn't say a word.

"It's almost nine, brother. You're in the office, working, at nine o'clock on a Friday night. Again."

"So are you," he answered, and immediately closed his mouth. Talking back to Lucifer had never ended well as a child, and Castiel had no desire to see if his brother's strength had continued into adulthood.

"Ah, but I'm not working," Lucifer replied with a smile. It didn't reach his eyes. "I'm here to see Eve."

"The receptionist."

"That's her," Lucifer winked. "And we're going to do a little kink exploring. You know, the fantasy of fucking the boss."

Castiel couldn't hide the look of disgust on his face fast enough and Lucifer rolled his eyes.

"You need to let loose too, brother. You follow every rule and you'll end up like Michael. So fucking boring. Just you and your finger paintings, all alone in your apartment. Look, I've got something for you," Lucifer dug around in his pocket and pulled out a small business card before handing it to Castiel. It was blank except for an address, roughly four blocks from his own apartment. "Go there. Take your pick of any whore you want, and tell Al I'm paying."

Castiel blanched and tried to shove the card back.

"A prostitute? I can't-"

"Castiel," Lucifer stopped him, a cold look back in his eyes. "I'm doing this as your brother. You remind me too much of Michael, and Michael is a dick. Go break the rules for once. I'll call Al and check in later. If I find out you didn't go, I'll have to let Mother and Father know about Anna. We don't want her to lose her unemployment, do we?"

Castiel sighed and took the card back, and Lucifer stood with a clap of his hands.

"Perfect! Have fun. Oh, and don't forget to lock the main doors on your way out. I want to make sure Eve gets the full experience."

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Dean groaned and slapped at his phone when it went off. He'd been out until nearly four a.m. with his latest client, and had barely had enough energy to stagger back to his tiny apartment and shower before collapsing into the bed. Sleep, eat, shower, work, shower, repeat. Seven days a week, three hundred fucking sixty five days a year, for just over a year now. Only three hundred and fifty four days to go. Almost a full year ahead of violence and shame, loathing-

Dean kicked the blanket off and sat up, then headed to the bathroom. He wouldn't let his thoughts go down that road. He was over halfway done, and that was reason enough to keep going. The main reason, of course, was Sam, but he'd take anything at this point. He was lucky he hadn't succumbed to the drugs that most of his coworkers had; then again, he didn't have the predilection to them that the others did.

Morning showers (or afternoon, in his case) were always the most time consuming. Alistair required all of his employees to be thoroughly clean before they came in for their shifts. Dean took care to wash every inch of skin that could possibly be touched, then some areas that were a little more invasive. When he had first started working for Alistair, he had blanched at the very idea of using the douching nozzle in his tiny shower. Now, it was second nature for Dean to wash himself without a thought. Once the shower was complete, he gave himself a quick shave and set about to choosing his clothes from the box by his mattress. It was Friday, which meant he'd be in the Cube, so Dean chose carefully. His jeans clung to his body just so, and a simple black t-shirt highlighted his muscled arms. It should be enough to get attention from someone.

The kitchen was his next stop, and Dean heated up some leftover soup while his phone pumped music into the room. The apartment itself was an utter disaster. Alistair owned his workers and the building; he didn't have to provide anything but the most basic amenities. Dean had a bathroom (the most luxurious room in his apartment, because he couldn't make money if he was filthy, and Alistair knew it), a tiny kitchen with one pot, a dorm-style refrigerator, a beaten microwave, and a hot plate for cooking, and a living room that doubled as a bedroom, with a bare mattress thrown on the floor and a wool blanket left over from what Dean could only assume was World War II. He hadn't known what to expect when he first came to live in Alistair's building, but he knew it would be about the same as he had left. Dean gave up a dirty, rundown apartment and a meaningless job to come here. He had nothing to leave behind. Sam, though. Sam had a bright future and a dream of big things, and Dean would've fought through hell to make sure he could take his brother's place.

The microwave dinged and Dean jumped and pulled his meal out to eat with a sigh.

Only three hundred and fifty four more days.