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An Unkindness of Crows

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Castiel Novak was a ghost.

A ghost trapped in a prison of flesh and bone; a body that no longer needed to breathe or eat or sleep. A body without a heartbeat and perhaps without a soul, because what man with a soul would return from paradise with such thoughts of vengeance on his mind? Yet a tiny voice whispered in his brain that he was justified in his quest.

He was due.

He was owed.

He was righteous.

And it wasn’t until he’d walked barefoot across the cold earth of the cemetery, leaving behind the cracked remains of his coffin and reached his half burnt apartment that he started to believe it. He was confused and hurting, wondering where his grandparents were and why he was no longer lounging in a meadow of wild flowers. Why his sister was no longer reading to him while stroking the head of their dog that had been hit by a car when he was seven.

He did not understand the concept of pain any longer. Of a windy chill on his damp skin or why the bright lights burned his eyes until they watered. Everything that used to be so familiar was now so alien.

A shiny feathered crow led him home and once there he remembered why he should be angry. Why he’d been brought back in the first place.

The rope around his neck is squeezing tighter, tighter, tighter and cutting into his soft skin. There are hands on him, delicate and smooth, poking at his fresh bruises and stroking him through his black slacks. It’s the girl with the grating voice saying filthy things. “Wanna suck you down, pretty. Wanna slice you up and make it hurt. Fuck you raw over that expensive countertop with a strap on until we’re both all dewy.”

She squeezes him harder and he’s moaning in pain while she laughs, tells her friends that he’s aching for it.

He can hear Anna crying, shouting please no and pushing at the man on top of her. He’s big yet unassuming; he’s slamming into her on the floor and asking does she like it.

They’re all laughing so loud. The four of them, different as night and day but not because they’re all getting off on the pain. On the screams and the pleading.

“Should have just made it quick,” The black man says behind him. He’s holding the end of the rope and he’s strong, able to heave ho Castiel’s body like he weighs nothing. “This is unnecessary.”

“Come now Gordon, we should take pride in our work.” An older guy smirks. He’s wearing amber-colored sunglasses and they make his eyes look yellow. “The boss says this one deserves something fitting. Something that will put him in the papers. You’ll like that, won’t you?”

Castiel swallows hard; it hurts. “Pl—please. Let Anna go. She—she’s innocent. Take whatever…you want.”

“Cut him down, daddy. I wanna ride him first.” The girl licks his face, tonguing at the cut on his cheek. “He tastes like angel cake.”

“Gordon. Would you do the honors?”

He can’t breathe and his feet are dangling off the floor, black spots are dancing before his eyes. The brunette is watching him and she’s flushed, aroused, but he can’t look away from Anna. Lovely Anna, she’s not making noises anymore. Minutes later…neither is he.

Castiel screamed; falling into the wall as the images kept coming, vivid in his brain and behind his eyes. Everything he touched reminded him of their last moments together. Anna was strangled to death on the once white shag carpet while he hung from a sturdy beam near the window. The moon had been full and they’d been expecting pizza, instead opening the door to their doom. A group of people he’d never seen before barging in, beating him, breaking his bones and splattering his blood. Raping and tormenting and murdering his sister. Murdering him.

“Stop!” He shouted, sinking to his knees. “Please, stop…”

The swift punches.

“No.”

The hard kicks.

“No, no, no!”

The sprays of bright red blood.

“I—I can’t. It—it’s too much!”

The all encompassing helplessness.

The pain. The pain. The pain.

“I said stop it!” Lashing out, he punched a fist through the glass cabinet and stumbled to the dirty floor, panting so hard he expected to be sick at any moment. Trembling violently with sweat rolling down the sides of his face, he tilted his head curiously at the shards stuck between his knuckles. Deftly he plucked them out one by one and watched as the deep gashes healed over, flexing his fingers.

No more pain.

That’s what he wanted—to be numb—but that wasn’t what he needed. No what he needed was…satisfaction. And he was going to get it by any means necessary.

~*~

Dean Winchester heard the deep, exaggerated sigh from the person in front of him but he chose to ignore it for the second time. Instead he focused on the black and white photographs on his desk and the accompany file, trying to decide what he was going to tell Mr. Charles Winston when the man called tomorrow morning. Or this morning as the case would be since it was steadily ticking past midnight—at least that is what the clock said on the wall. In truth he couldn’t be sure because he only paid attention to time when it was time to eat or time to go to bed. And even then he was lax.

But back to Charles Winston. He’d hired Dean two weeks ago to find out if his smoking hot wife was cheating on him. Considering Winston was pushing seventy and popping little blue pills to get it up, and the fact that his wife was twenty five with legs like a supermodel, he was pretty sure that yes she was indeed cheating on him. However he’d taken the case anyway because he needed the money and it sounded easy enough. A few days spent following Mrs. Winston as she shopped, got her nails done, got her dog’s nails done and visited with friends. He was close to suspecting that the chick was actually being faithful until he saw her stick her tongue down her chauffeur’s throat.

He could only guess what they got up to in the back of the expensive Rolls Royce.

Anyway though he had his photographic evidence—he liked the black and white because it made things more dramatic—now all he had to do was spill the beans and collect his five hundred dollars. It was true that being a Private Investigator wasn’t glamorous work but it was relatively safe. He’d only been shot at like three times and only jumped with the intention of bodily harm four. Usually he was very good at keeping a low profile and not being seen. He was sure that Mrs. Winston hasn’t seen him, not that he would care if she had. She weighed like a hundred pounds; what was she going to do? Beat him with her high heels?

“Dean!”

Jerking out of his thoughts, he yawned and rubbed the back of his neck. Joanna Beth ‘Jo’ Harvelle eyed him from her place across his desk, her cute face scrunched up into a deep frown. He had known Jo for a long time now, in that our families are friends with each other kinda way. She was blonde and petite and capable of taking down a man twice her size which is why he liked her. In a totally platonic way though. Once he’d entertained the notion of sleeping with her but quickly decided they were better off as friends. Especially after finding out about her mother’s gun collection.

“What?” He asked and slouched in his chair. “I know I know; you’re ready to go home.”

She nodded. “Duh. Some of us have a life outside of being nosy, Dean.”

He snorted at her choice of words. “I’m not nosy. This is my job. I got a shiny license to do it and everything. ‘Sides not like I twisted your arm to keep you here past your bedtime.”

Growling, she balled up a piece of crisp white paper and tossed it at him. It bounced off his forehead and she smiled. “I stayed cause you looked so pitiful when I got up my stuff to go. What kinda partner would I be if I just left you hanging in your time of need?”

He held up a finger. “You’re not my partner. Look.” He pointed to the open door. “Whose name is it on the glass?”

Jo arched a brow. “Asshole McDumbass?”

“You’re funny. You’re fired.”

“Ha ha. You fire me every day.”

“One day I’m gonna mean it.”

“Sure. Anyway are done perving on those pictures?”

Dean didn’t bother with a witty retort. Instead he shuffled the photos back into their manila folder and pushed them across the desk to her. “Yeah sure. If Winston doesn’t call by four pm tomorrow I want you to get in touch with him. Tell him the deal but don’t let him see the proof until the money is in your hand.”

The pretty blonde sighed, exasperated. “This isn’t my first rodeo, ya know?” She stood, her metal chair scraping loudly on the floor in the otherwise quiet room. “But for the record you should have asked for six hundred. Easy two-way split down the middle.”

Chuckling, he stretched his arms high over his head and vaguely watched as she opened the file cabinet and put his papers away. She wasn’t exactly his secretary since he let her go out on jobs whenever she wanted, but she had a knack for filing that he couldn’t seem to grasp. While yes, alphabetically was probably the appropriate way to go, he often marked things as old guy, hot wife or bald dude skimming money from grandma’s bank account.

In all truthfulness he kept Jo around because she was good company…when she wasn’t being a giant pain in the ass.

“I’m gonna head out then,” Jo related, thumbing behind her. “You should go home and get some sleep.”

“I will mom,” He said teasingly.

She gave him the finger with a smile and walked out, grabbing her coat from the rack by the door before leaving. Dean sat still for a moment and just looked around the room at the cracking paint and mold stains near the ceiling. He shared his floor with one other person—an older man who worked accounting for some of the local businesses around town named Bruce Turner. The rooms above him were empty or used for storage while only one room below had another actual person, a bails bondsman who called himself Tank.

He was certainly big as one.

Things were usually quiet unless Tank got angry. Then he should yell and curse up a storm, most times screaming about money. When his intimidating stature didn’t work, he’d whip out his gun and sometimes let off a few rounds. Dean wasn’t sure why he stayed other than the fact the building itself was rent controlled and any other place would cost twice what he was paying.

It was better than working out of his home; less mess and all.

Pushing back from his desk, he turned off the small lamp and gathered up the things he wanted to take home with him. He slipped on his cracked brown leather jacket—no need to wear a suit; he wasn’t a Detective after all—and fished his keys out of his pocket. Snapping off the fluorescent overhead light, he locked the door and headed down the stairs.

The cool night air hit him in the face once he was outside, making his eyes water as he jogged across the street to his car, his baby, a fully restored black 1967 Chevy Impala. It had belonged to his father before his accident. Now he drove around in a pimped out SUV with special tricks put in for his condition.

Dean stopped at his favorite all night burger joint and then drove to his apartment with the sounds of rock music blasting from his radio. He’d never got into the newer type of stuff, not really. A song would have to be pretty damn good to get him to listen to it if it wasn’t by someone he already liked. Unlike his brother, he didn’t fall in love with whatever poppy tune that happened to be playing. He also wasn’t fond of cds because as far as he was concerned they ruined the bass. Yeah he had to use them cause that’s all there was but he wasn’t happy about it.

Making it to the simple little place he called home, he parked in his usual space and exited the vehicle. His parents still lived in the same two story house he’d grew up in, and his little brother currently lived with his fiancé in some flashy studio apartment, but his residence was more minimal. And cheap. He figured as long as it had a bed, bathroom and kitchen that he was fine.

The trek was short and minutes later he was opening the door, kicking it closed with his boot heel. He flipped on the lights and was greeted by a large black cat rubbing around his legs, meowing loudly. “Dude, you don’t even let me get inside before you’re begging for food?” The cat responded with another meow and he snorted, taking his things into the kitchen. “Yeah, yeah.”

So it wasn’t his cat, not exactly. One morning he’d went outside to find the ass sitting on his car looking more content than an animal ever should. Naturally he’d thrown a rock at it and told it to never come back again. Yeah…it returned every day for that entire week. He’d looked all dirty and skinny that Dean found himself leaving food out for it. Now he couldn’t get rid of the damned thing if he tired, not that he ever did. He would never say it out loud but it was nice to at least have something to come home to that appreciated him.

Before he took off his jacket, he filled a silver food dish with food and scratched behind the cat’s ears. “Enjoy.” He yanked a beer out of the fridge, popped the top and took a long gulp.

Next his phone was ringing and he didn’t even have to check the caller idea to know who it was. “Hello?”

His brother’s voice flowed over the line. “Hey Dean. I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Nah, Sammy. Just getting in.” He cringed. Shit, and here it comes.

“Dean. Another late nighter? C’mon dude you promised to take it easy,” Sam murmured, sounding much like a mother hen. “And lemme guess, you’re gonna choke down some fatty burger and then crash. I bet your arteries are screaming for a salad.”

Dean laughed. He secretly liked it when Sam made a fuss about his health. “Stop bitchin’ at me, bro. We can’t all dress in big boy clothes and eat rack of lamb every night. I haven’t had a heart attack yet so I must be doing something right.”

Sam was not convinced. “Uh-huh. How is work?”

“The same. All old rich dudes and the smoking hot chicks that cheat on ‘em,” He replied taking the wrapper off his cheeseburger. “How’s Jessica? Give her a sloppy kiss on the cheek for me.”

“Heh she’s great. Said she’s gonna make you a lonely man pie,” Sam mused. “Hey, mom and dad are having a cook out next weekend if the weather permits. You’re gonna be there right?”

Chewing on his bottom lip, he eased himself into a chair. “Um, sure.”

“Cool,” His brother said happily. “I was thinking of inviting my friend Veronica for you.”

“Sam—”

“Look just hear me out, okay? She’s really sweet and nice and I think you’d like her.”

“I don’t need you to find dates for me.”

“Well you’re not finding them for yourself.”

“I don’t have time for chicks. Work and shit…”

“Have you had even so much as a hook up since Lisa left you?”

Grunting, Dean rolled his eyes and purposefully bit into his food so that his voice would be muffled when he continued. “Thatsnoneofyourbusinessjerk.”

Sam smirked. “Fine we’ll do it your way. But you can either have me fixing you up or you can have mom doing it. It’s your decision though we both know whoever she picks will probably be either the opposite of what you want or someone desperate for babies.”

That was a scary thought. “I promise to give one of your lawyer friends a thrill real soon. How’s that?”

The younger Winchester snickered. “It’ll do for now. Ya know if you don’t like Veronica, there is this guy named Max who is right up your alley.”

Dean allowed himself to go cross-eyed just because. “What makes you think I’d want some stuffy, stick up his ass dude?”

Pause. “Max is a fun guy, not that it matters. He could be a figurehead of the Republican party but if he had the right eyes, you’d go all crazy intense over him. Just like Cassie, Jake and Lisa. It’s pretty common knowledge that you got a thing for big pretty eyes…”

Okay so he hit the nail on the head with that one. “They are the windows to the soul or some shit like that. And just because you’re—damn it Jon Bonham what have I told you about getting on the counter!”

Sam was silent for a second before bursting into laughter. “You named your cat after the drummer from Zepplin?”

Frowning, Dean shooed the animal away. “He’s not my cat. He’s a freeloading ass who won’t leave. And Bonham was awesome.”

A soft voice called out to Sam and he said that he’ll be right there. “You love that cat and you know it. Anyway I’ll call you tomorrow night and make sure Jo hasn’t tossed your body in a dumpster for being mean to her. Take care of yourself, Dean.”

“You too, Sammy. Night.”

If there was one person that understood him completely it was his little brother. Well maybe not completely but he tried and that meant a lot. When Dean first began having feelings for guys as well as girls, Sam was the first person he told. Sam helped him break the news to his parents expecting the worst but finding they didn’t care so much as long as he found someone to make him happy. Though he got the feeling his dad wasn’t thrilled, there was no way he was going to risk his wife’s wrath by voicing his concerns.

Sam knew most of his dirty secrets—like how his relationship with Lisa Braeden had blown up in his face. Two years together and he comes home to find her gone and a fucken note in her place explaining how she wasn’t happy anymore. How she needed a change and that she was sorry. She’d totally Dear John’d his ass. He’d thought about calling her and yelling, shouting that she could have gave him more respect than that but in the end he hadn’t. Dean was the type to hold on too tight when he had something but he was also the kinda guy who let go for the good of others, even if it tore him a part inside.

However sometimes when he was drinking he’d call her a bitch to the emptiness of his living room.

There was a time when he’d thought they would end up like his parents, John and Mary. Married for a helluva long time and still making kissy faces at each other. Yet Dean got the feeling she felt like he wasn’t doing enough with his life, and hey, maybe he wasn’t. It’s not like Private Investigator was his first choice as a career. He’d wanted to be a cop like his old man every since he was four years old. And would’ve followed the same path if not for the accident.

John Winchester was a powerful man who believed in right and wrong. He loved his family and he loved protecting the people of their city. His job was dangerous but nothing too bad until some bent outta shape crack head had shot him in the back, making it so he would never walk again. Dean was twenty two at the time. Three years later and he could still remember getting the call in the middle of the night. Rushing to the hospital and not knowing if his father was going to live or die while trying to be strong for everyone else. It’s what they’d expected of him after all.

Before then he’d wanted to be a Detective, and was going through the Police Academy training to become an officer. His mother—so distraught over what happened to her husband—begged him not to do it.

So…he hadn’t. It sounded weird to abandon his dream like that but Dean was a people pleaser, particularly when it came to his family. And they didn’t need to know that sometimes he lent his assistance to the cops…or rather one main Detective who managed to trust him for whatever reason.

Finishing up his food, he tossed the wrapper in the trash and took his beer to the living room. He flopped down onto the couch and turned on the television, toeing off his boots. The perky news reporter was smiling widely and talking about Adler Pharmaceuticals, and how the founder and CEO would be unveiling a new drug within the next few months proven to help fight cancer without the side effects that chemo and radiation often had.

The screen flashed to a press conference where a tall, distinguished bald man was currently speaking among a flurry of reporters. “We are reaching a new era in the field of medical breakthroughs. An era where diseases will no longer have a hold on us. With the help of my very intelligent scientists working day and night, we will usher the next generation into a world where things like cancer or even the common cold will no longer exist.”

“Sounds like a pipe dream to me,” Dean said to no one.

He was answered by a lapful of black fur demanding attention. As long as he kept a bowl of food on the floor he never had to worry about the cat leaving him. It was a small bit of solace really. And he didn’t want to whine; he had a good life and he knew it. Healthy family, a few good friends and a job that paid the bills. It wasn’t amazing and he couldn’t afford to jet to Vegas for a turn on the tables, but things were stable.

Still…didn’t mean that he wasn’t lonely. Didn’t mean that he didn’t want someone to share his mundane life with. Being set up though just wasn’t his ideal way to meet someone. Of course his way—trolling bars—usually ended in one night stands rather than meaningful connections, but it was better than nothing. Sometimes you just needed to feel.

Be reminded that even for one brief instance, somebody gave a damn about you that wasn’t related to you.

Dean was happy for Sam that he had Jessica, he was, but sometimes he got jealous. It was natural. His younger brother had found the love of his life and was preparing to get married and one day start a family, while he was taking pictures of cheating spouses or men committing insurance fraud. There were times when he thought maybe he should have proposed to Lisa but then he slapped himself back to reality. That would have been a fucken nightmare, marrying a chick just so that he wouldn’t have to be alone.

Most likely she was with her ex-boyfriend and her son. She said it was better for Ben to live with his father but Dean never thought she honestly believed it. The guy wasn’t a druggie or whatever, but he wasn’t them most attentive either. In spite of that, whenever he suggested bringing Ben down to stay with them she always had some excuse. Like he wasn’t good enough to play step dad. Well fuck her. One day he’d be an Uncle (if not a father) and he’d have a chance to spoil some kid rotten.

Yawning, he tickled his fingers under his cat’s chin and then stood, moving sluggishly into his bedroom after turning off the tv. He stripped out of his clothes and smelled under his arms, deciding that he could put off showering until in the morning. Not like Jon Bonham would care one way or the other if he was a little ripe. He slept on the pillow beside his head anyways.

He fell face first into bed in his boxer-briefs and rolled under the covers, staring at the ceiling. Dragged his blunt fingernails over the tattoo on his chest he’d gotten at eighteen on a drunken dare from his equally drunk friend Chuck and sighed. Tomorrow would be more of the same and while comforting, it also filled him with a sense of dread. He was drowning in his life and as far as he could tell, there was no one around the corner to pull him to the surface.

Just as well though. Someone had to be the straight man.

~*~

Castiel sat on the floor for a long time staring at nothing, lost in his own thoughts. He couldn’t stop the visions and it took him a while to realize as hurtful as they were, he needed them to fuel him. To give him the anger he required to lash out at the ones who deserved it. And they all deserved it.

The crow cawed impatiently, strutting from one side of what used to be the mantle to the other. Castiel nodded, exhaling deeply as he stood and padded into his bedroom. It was untouched by the fire and most of his things were still there, though he wasn’t sure why. Surely his family would have packed up the place and gave whatever they didn’t wish to keep away to good will. Maybe it was too much for them.

Opening his closet door, he looked at his many suits, one for every day of the week and growled. He yanked them off their pristine hangers and threw them all over the room. They belonged to his other life when all that mattered was the next big scoop—the next big story. He’d wanted to see his name on the front page in big, bold letters and instead ended up in the obituaries. All because he’d stuck his nose where it didn’t belong.

And Anna, she’d been just an innocent bystander. Wrong place at the wrong time. Came over to playfully toast the Pulitzer he would no doubt end up winning some day.

Castiel held back his tears as he stripped out of the dirty, faded suit he’d been buried in and slid into a clean pair of pants. He got dressed like he was going to work, dressy shirt and tie and long beige trench coat. His big blue eyes traveled along the wall and landed on a box over in the corner next to the blank canvas where he’d always been meaning to paint. It was open and in his hands a second later, and he was tossing away the colors he didn’t need.

He sat down in front of his vanity, wiping a hand across the dusty mirror. For what he had to do—for what he wanted to do—he felt the urge to hide who he really was. To be a symbol of fear and extreme horror to those that had harmed him so that their last minutes would be nothing but dread and panic. And so he covered his already pale skin in white paint and then rimmed his eyes and lips in black kohl. He looked like a sadistic clown almost but more masquerade mask in actuality. It made him laugh, and he laughed until he couldn’t remember why he’d begun in the first place.

The crow landed on his shoulder and nuzzled his temple. There was no fear.

“I know,” He whispered. “Find them for me. Show me where they are and I will do the rest.”

He watched the bird sail out of the broken window and then frowned; where was his briefcase? He looked under the bed and in the closet but it wasn’t there, which was strange unless those intruders had taken it. It made sense—he’d known the moment they entered that it wasn’t some fluke home invasion. They’d been sent to complete the hit put out on him so that he wouldn’t be able to print his story.

Now the question was where were his notes and files? Hopefully not destroyed because the message still needed to be put out into the world. People needed to know the truth about everything.

Tilting his head to the side, he blinked slowly and found himself looking through the crow’s eyes. The image of a young man walking down the street singing to himself flooded his retinas in a watery orange color; he knew this man. His face inoffensive like the boy next door even while it was hurting you. He watched the man duck into a bar and shuddered, a feeling of rage overcoming him so terribly that had he been alive he would have had a panic attack.

This person that’d caused him so much grief was just walking around and getting drinks like nothing was wrong. Like he hadn’t forced himself on a young girl and smirked as his buddies hung a man from his own ceiling. He wasn’t in jail because the case had not been solved. He was free—in mind and body.

Castiel went over to the window and kicked out the rest of the glass. He crawled onto the ledge and opened his arms wide, letting himself fall the four stories to the cold cement below. He landed in a crouch that rattled his bones but without enough pressure to do any damage. A homeless man in his cardboard box startled and stared at him, hugging a bottle of whiskey to his chest.

“G—got any change?” He asked warily.

Castiel slipped his hand into his pants and pulled out a five he’d long forgotten was there, handing it to the man. He picked up a discarded newspaper and eyed the date. “Six months—feels like only yesterday. Interesting.” Pause. “You should not exceed the recommended level of alcohol intake. That stuff will kill you…” Smiling, he exited the alley and headed for Rufus’s bar. He had a date with a dead man.

+

Castiel didn’t mind walking to Rufus’s bar though he could have stolen a car to get there much faster. He used to walk all the time however and think of article titles or clear his head. This time he focused on the rage brewing up inside of him. It churned and bubbled unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. He’d never known a person could get so furious that they could taste it, but he could. Like hot ashes in his mouth it settled on his tongue, thick and dry. Before this was over he’d probably be choking on it.

The crow stayed vigil on a set of dumpsters outside of the front door, ruffling its’ feathers whenever some drunk patron tried to touch it or threw a bottle its’ way. It observed the man as he exited and pulled his coat tighter around him, strolling down the street with cheeks flush from the alcohol he’d consumed. Castiel elected to sprint and cut through a dark alleyway to cut the man off at the pass in front of an electronic store with several televisions in the window all showing different programs.

He leaned against the side of the building nonchalantly. “Bum a smoke?”

The man looked up from his feet and startled, then broke out into a rather wide charming grin. He appeared to be just some corn fed Iowa boy but there was a distinct creepiness behind his charismatic smile. “I wasn’t aware that it was Halloween already.”

Castiel chuckled softly. “Did you know that Halloween has roots to the feast of Samhain? It was a…harvest festival to honor the dead.”

“Um, I did not know that,” He replied with an amused tone. “Are you some kind of clown that goes around teaching people about holidays?”

“No, but I am an educator of the dead.” Castiel looked up at him through his long lashes. “What do they call you? Names are important you know.”

Perhaps it was ego that made him answer, “Nick. Nick Monroe.” He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and handed them over. “Here. Maybe a few hits of nicotine will level you out.”

Taking the pack, Castiel slipped it into the pocket of his coat and sighed. He stared at Nick and clenched his jaw, unable to wash away the images of this intelligent seeming man defiling his sister again and again against her will. Pinning her to the floor, smoothing back her flaming red hair as if he cared and then slapping her across the face when she tried to fight back. Take him. He deserves your fury, a phantom voice whispered and he knew it to be true.

“I have a poem for you; just a small bit. It’s by a man named Alan Seeger.” Clearing his throat, he stood straight and bowed with a flourish of his right hand. “God knows ‘twere better to be deep. Pillowed in silk and scented down, where love throbs out in blissful sleep. Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath, where hushed awakenings are dear… But I’ve a rendezvous with Death at midnight in some flaming town, when spring trips north again this year. And I to my pledged word am true; I shall not fail that rendezvous.” A beat. “I am Death, Nick, and you’re late.”

Before Nick could question his insane ramblings, Castiel lunged at him and punched him in the face. He grabbed him around the collar and slung him into the brick of the wall, watching as his head bounced back. Nick cried out and started swinging, catching Castiel across the cheek with a blow that should have broken his nose on contact but didn’t. Not to be deterred however, he grabbed a handful of Castiel’s wild black hair and forced him forward, slamming his knee up into his stomach.

Castiel coughed and Nick threw him onto the ground, kicking repeatedly about the ribs. “What the fuck is your problem, huh! You think you can get the jump on me?” He grabbed Castiel’s chin. “Don’t you know who I am?”

Laughing, Castiel nodded. “You’re the man who raped and murdered my sister.”

Nick chortled and let his boot fly into Castiel’s face, disorienting him a bit. “I’ve had a lot of pretty girls so you’ll have to be more specific. I get bored easily you see, so I want to be excited over and over again.”

Angered by the flip way he was talking about his victims, Castiel latched onto his ankle and tugged hard, making Nick crash to the ground. He stomped him in the chest and then in the face, knocking out several teeth at doing so. Nick rolled to the side and spit out a mouthful of blood, his hand inching down towards his belt and the gun holstered at the side.

Castiel noticed and grasped his fingers, bending them back until they broke with a sick snapping sound. Nick screamed, tried to crawl away but found himself pinned to the cold cement of the sidewalk. “The others. Who are they?”

“Fuck! What? Wh—what others? Who the fuck are you?” Nick grunted in pain.

“I am Death, now confess your sins.” Castiel wrapped a hand around his neck. “Six months ago you and your buddies killed two people in an apartment not far from here. I want their names.”

Realization dawned on the other man’s face and he cowered in fear. “Yo—you’re dead! I—I saw you hang!”

“I got better.” He tightened his hand. “Names.”

Struggling to swallow, Nick blinked rapidly. “Gordon Walker. Me—Meg Masters and her sick ass adopted father, he just goes by the name Azazel.”

“You weren’t working on your own…”

“We—Azazel got his orders from the big man. Alastair. He—he calls the shots in this city.”

“Alastair. I knew it was a mob hit. Did Azazel tell you why I had to die?”

“No just that you—you stuck your nose where it didn’t belong.”

Snorting, Castiel released him. He gazed down at the broken and bloodied man before him and shook his head. A car backfiring diverted his attention for a second and when he turned, two bullets caught him in the chest. Apparently Nick had reached his gun.

Castiel staggered back, fingered the crimson holes and watched them heal. An almost hysterical laugh bubbled out of his lips. “You ruined my shirt.” Hauling a stunned Nick to his feet, he spun him around and sent him flying head first through the window of the store.

Nick gave a garbled shriek, his feet scuffling on the ground as splinters of sharp glass cut into his throat and chest. A particularly jagged piece nicked the artery in his neck, sending blood flowing. He twitched as if he were having a seizure, his legs kicking out and his mouth moving without sound. It only lasted a moment and he’d bled out almost completely.

Castiel licked his dry lips and one by one the television monitors flickered to the symbol of a black crow. He exhaled, turned and simply walked away.

~*~

It was 10:15am when Dean made his way into the Lawrence, Kansas Police Department with two paper cups of coffee in his hand. He jogged up the stairs to the Homicide division and walked inside, stopping at the front desk to chat with the attractive older black woman sitting behind it. “Well if it isn’t the prettiest girl in the precinct.”

Missouri Mosley smirked at him. “Dean Winchester you call me a girl again and I’m gonna go upside your head.”

He flashed a big grin. “But every time I see you, you just get younger and younger. When are you going to stop saying no to going on a date with me?”

Laughing, she shook her head. “Stop fluttering those pretty green eyes at me and tend to your business. He’s already here—been here since eight.”

Winking, Dean continued on his way and into a corner office, closing the door behind him. Sitting on the edge of his desk, neck craned to read the file open on it was a handsome black man. He looked up and took the coffee offered to him, arching a brow. “Is this the good stuff or that shit from down the street?”

“The good stuff,” Dean replied smiling. “At least mine is anyway.”

Victor Henriksen was a decorated Detective that dedicated his life to protecting and serving. He was smart, brave and good looking but humble. Usually. He was also the only cop willing to give Dean the time of day about case related matters, even though most knew him because of his father. They just felt he was more civilian and thereby shouldn’t be privy to such information. Victor was different however; he used Dean’s way of finding out information as he would any other contact.

And Dean got to be integrated in official police business.

“So that asshole in my building has been ranting about George Jones and some hooker named Tawny lately. Not sure but I think I remember seeing a wanted poster for old Georgie boy. It’s not much but if my hearing is correct, he’s always picking Tawny up at eleven on the corner of Briar. She’s a drug mule so he says,” Dean explained lightly. “I figured you’d wanna know, just in case.”

“Thanks.” Victor sipped his coffee. “I’ll get one of the newbies to check it out. Let them get their hands dirty for a change.”

Dean sat down and peered at the photographs. “What the hell happened to this guy?”

“Someone put him through the window of Milligan’s Electronics.” He tilted his head to the side. “Well they put his head anyway. We found a .45 on him and there was gun residue on his hands so I’m having my people check the local hospitals for any gunshot wounds that might have come in last night.”

“Robbery?”

“No. Wallet was there and his jewelry. My guess is rival gang hit.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because this son of a bitch was Nick “Pretty Boy” Monroe.”

Dean frowned; he knew that name. “Why does that sound familiar?”

The other man grinned but it lacked humor. “Monroe had a rap sheet a mile long, mostly for sexual battery or attempted rape. Charges never stuck ‘cause the victims always backed out before testifying or the DNA evidence managed to go missing.”

Shrugging, Dean stretched his legs out, crossing his ankles. “Any leads?”

Victor shook his head. “No. Funny thing though, all of the tvs in the shop were switched to some black bird. We think it could be the other gangs’ calling card. They’re new though because I’ve never seen it before. Hope we’re not about to have a turf war on our hands.”

Dean chewed on his full bottom lip, the wheels in his head turning. “Want me to look into it?”

“No. The last thing I need is you getting shot in the ass messing with gang stuff,” His friend teased. “Though if you want something to do, you could check out this warehouse down near the docks for me. I keep trying to get a warrant to scope the place out—pretty sure there are drugs inside—but no judge wants to play ball. If it’s not too much I’d love some pictures of said drugs. Might help me get my warrant a little faster if I say an anonymous tip sent them to me.”

Excited about the prospect of doing something other than sitting in his car and waiting, Dean nodded quickly. “Sounds like a job even I can’t screw up.”

Henriksen snickered and wrote the address down on a slip of paper. “Yeah, just don’t get caught though. And not because it’ll be traced back to me and I could lose my job but because you could get arrested for trespassing or worse.”

“Ooh the threat of danger or a cavity search. I like it even more.” He drained the rest of his coffee, tossing the cup into the trash. “Don’t worry I’ll be careful. Not like you can afford to lose anymore hair worrying about me.”

“Always with the snappy comebacks.” Victor swirled around and sat down behind his desk. “No wonder you’re still single. Who would put up with you?”

Laughing, he rested his elbows on his jean clad knees. “Speaking of people too good for other people, how are you and Nancy?”

The Detective’s smile was brilliant. “We’re good. She’s still trying to get me to go to church on Sundays and I’m still trying to get her to stop eating cookies in bed. It works.”

“That’s good.” Dean glanced down, his mind flashing back to his last happy moment with Lisa before she left. It’d been a normal afternoon in one of their routines that consisted of making dinner, a salad to start with and setting the table; of which he usually did the latter. She had giggled at some random joke he’d made and slapped his knuckles for trying to snatch a cucumber.

The next night he was alone, eating take out in front of the television while Jon Bonham lay across his feet.

Noticing the change in mood, Victor cleared his throat. “So, how’s the family?”

Dean seemed thankful for the switch. “Mom and dad are good—they’re having a cookout soon and you’re invited. Sammy is—he’s great. Trying to make a name for himself as a big shot lawyer and still engaged to a girl way out of his league. I’m proud of him though never tell him I said that. He’d go all chick on me.”

Victor smirked. “Can’t have that, can we?”

Scratching at the back of his head, Dean plucked up the crime scene photo and examined it. “Man, I’ve seen some fucked up shit in my life but this… Whoever did it left him so the glass pieces would finish the job. Rough way to go.”

“Hm. Can’t say that I feel too bad for him though. He was a piece of garbage that got away with countless crimes. It would be so frustrating watching his smug ass strut outta court, knowing some poor woman was being denied her closure.” Pause. “I’d like him behind jail but…”

Dean arched a brow. “Yeah I get cha. Hey, maybe the killer was someone getting revenge.”

“I hope not. I’d hate to have to lock up one of his past victims.” Victor rubbed his chin. He stared at Dean knowingly. “I’m serious, Dean. This isn’t your fight. We’ll find out who killed this guy.”

“Okay.” Though he didn’t sound too convincing. “Well I should get to work before Jo burns the office down. Call me if you figure out something else exciting for me to do.”

“You could mow my lawn this weekend if you want to. Oh and my hedges need trimming.”

“You’re so funny. Every time we talk you get funnier and funnier…” He continued muttering to himself as he left the room. “…looking.”

~*~

With his camera ready and the cover of darkness to hide him, Dean parked a block away from the warehouse he was checking out and then ran, staying in the shadows as much as he could. The night was quiet and cloudy with respectable people long since gone to bed while tucked safely in their houses. Not to say that he wasn’t respectable but encroaching on private property wasn’t something regular people did. Still it was for the greater good so one couldn’t really argue. Right?

Shaking off those types of thoughts, he made his way over to a window and looked for a latch to break but found none. He sneaked around to the side and was confronted by a heavy padlock that looked nearly brand new. Smirking, he pulled out a bobby pin and started the easy task of picking it, something he’d taught himself when he was a teenager. After several hard shifts and useless clicks, it popped open and he smiled widely.

Jackpot!

Tossing it aside for later, he wrenched open the wooden door as quietly as he could and slipped inside. The building was dimly lit and musty with specks of dust floating in the air. Crate after crate lined the walls, stacked on top of each other and pushed into corners. On the sides were written things like penicillin or digoxin, but he found it strange to have that type of medication just wasting away in some moldy depot.

“I should have brought a crowbar,” He said to himself.

He looked around for a few and found an iron pipe propped against the wall. It took some wiggling but eventually he was able to pry open the lid of a crate. Inside under dry straw were tiny vials of liquid that claimed to be meds but he had his suspicions. He pocketed one for later and moved onto another box. After searching three he was about to give up, however was glad he didn’t when the forth contained enough cocaine to put down an elephant.

“Well what do we have here?” Grinning, he snapped several pictures. “Who doesn’t like a little coke with their aspirin?”

“What the fuck are you doing here?” A voice demanded behind him.

Dean jerked around quickly, his brow furrowing at the sight of the little brunette in leather, glaring at him with her hands on her hips. “Ruby.”

She smiled. “Hey Dean. Long time no see. How’s Sam?”

He snorted. “Better now that he doesn’t have your crazy ass stalking him.”

She shrugged. “I wasn’t stalking him. I just happened to show up at places he went to.”

“Yeah. Trying to get him to leave Jessica.”

“No. I wanted a hot three-way with the both of them.”

Dean groaned in disgust. Every single time he met Ruby she managed to anger him and squick him out at the same time. He’d only known her for a couple of years; she was a thief by trade and he’d accidentally caught her on film once. She had bribed him not to turn her in and although he hated her, he hadn’t. She wasn’t a bad person really; she didn’t kill people or steal from working class joes. Besides getting on his last nerve she was alright.

“Didn’t know you were a druggie,” She mused.

“I could say the same to you,” He countered. “What are you doing in here?”

“Looking for something to fence for a profit. I saw a limo here last week and thought I’d get lucky with jewels or something.”

“And?”

“I found a suitcase of cash in the safe but other than that, just drugs.”

“You know that money is probably marked, right?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Either way I would be stupid to just leave it behind. Why are you here?”

“Work…”

Ruby arched a brow. “Well Sparky, how about you do your thing and I’ll do mine?”

“Fine with me.” He continued taking pictures. “Who owns this place anyway?”

She shrugged her slender shoulders. “No idea but I’m guessing some big wig gangster. Surprised there wasn’t some kinda security.”

Good point. “Guess whoever figured there was no need. Only an idiot would break in and try to steal something.”

Her big brown eyes narrowed slowly. “Or take pictures. It’s like a trail of bread crumbs to your stupid ass.”

Dean sighed deeply as his irritation grew. “Aren’t you done stealing yet? Your voice is getting on my last damn nerve, so why don’t you get on your broom stick and fly outta here?”

“You know Dean; you’re no joy to be around either. I’m kinda glad Sam didn’t go for me ‘cause there is no way I could put up with your dumb jokes or self loathing at not being a real cop.” She taunted. “But you wanna play with the big boys and act like MacGyver? Fine I’ll help.”

Dean attempted to ask what the hell she was yapping about, but pain bloomed at the base of his skull and next there was darkness.

~*~

When Dean’s eyes fluttered open, he realized two things. One, his head hurt like a mother-fucker and two, he was trussed up like a plucked chicken by his wrists with coarse rope to a sturdy pipe. How in the fuck had Ruby managed to get him up like this? Ruby. He’d never hit a female in his entire life, but next time he saw her ass he was going to put his foot in it.

“Fuck!” He cursed and rocked on his heels, yanking hard on the bindings. Dust drifted from the metal beam and he closed his eyes quickly so that he wasn’t blinded.

Glancing around, he noticed his camera on the floor and thanked God for small miracles. However if whoever owned this place caught him, an expensive piece of equipment would be the least of his worries. Basically he was screwed until someone found him and possibly dead if they did.

Tugging at his restraints until his wrists scraped red, he then began to try a see-saw motion in the hopes that something would pop loose. It didn’t.

He was in the process of ranting in his head when he heard it, the soft click clack of shoes on cement growing closer and closer. Well this is it he thought to himself. You were wrong Sammy, it wasn’t a heart attack from too many burgers.

A shape materialized out of the darkness, stepping under the soft yellow glow of one of the hanging lights and Dean blinked slowly, almost wondering if he were hallucinating the man standing in front of him. That seemed to be a better option than killer clowns actually being real. Why else would this dude have a painted face when it wasn’t Halloween?

The stranger tilted his head to the side curiously and moved closer, his hands in the pockets of his trench coat. “Hm. Are you my virgin sacrifice?”

Dean gaped and he wasn’t sure if it was because of the craziness of that question or the fact that this guy had a voice like he’d spent the night chugging the good whiskey. It was deep and rough, totally out of place with his slight frame yet nonetheless intimidating. “Um, what?”

“Well you’re tethered here all alone like some kind of offering to a God. Much like the sacrificial lamb.” He appeared amused.

“Are you a God?” Dean snapped. “Cause you look like a clown that escaped from the circus.”

“I am neither God nor clown, but still apparently your savoir.” He smiled lightly. “Unless you don’t want me to get you down.”

“Dude, seriously, what’s with the face?”

“It’s part of a game. Now you answer me this. What are you doing here?”

Dean sighed. “I—I’m working, kinda. I’m a Private Investigator on a job. This horrible little troll knocked me out and tied me up.”

“So you’re a damsel in distress?”

“Are you gonna get me down or not?”

“What is your name?”

“Dean. Winchester. What do they call you? Skippy? Bobo?”

“Hello Dean. My name is Castiel.”

Dean stared at him; for a scary joker he had amazing blue eyes. Wide and bright and sincere. “Nice. So look there is a Swiss Army knife in my front pocket. Cut me loose and I’ll be out of your hair.”

Castiel wet his lips slowly and invaded Dean’s space, standing so close that their knees touched. He was an inch or two shorter than Dean but formidable in his own way, with an odd current of power about him. Dean swallowed hard as one of his pale hands brushed his belt loop before trekking downwards, his elegant fingers dipping into the pocket of his denim jeans. He didn’t want to keep staring into Castiel’s eyes but he couldn’t help himself. Against the white of the makeup they were all but shimmering, not to mention dancing with amusement at Dean’s predicament. They were gorgeous.

Dean felt heat creep into his neck at the feel of Castiel’s fingers searching for the knife, brushing his car keys and the solid space where thigh met hip. Just a little more to the left and he’d strike gold.

“Usually I make people buy me dinner first before they get to second,” Dean replied, his stomach muscles twitching. Was there something wrong with him? The bizarre guy in the ill fitting coat wearing lipstick was kinda turning him on a little. Yeah there was totally something wrong with him.

Castiel snorted and pulled out the knife, flicking it open. “What do they have to do before they get to third?” Not waiting for a reply, he leaned in, lifted onto his toe tips and started cutting.

His scruff brushed against Dean’s cheek and he had to admit it wasn’t a horrible feeling. It was the opposite really and it did weird things to his knees. “Heh so uh, you never said what you’re doing here…”

Castiel’s breath was warm against Dean’s ear; it made him shiver. “Besides saving handsome virgins?” Pause. “I wanted to see what was inside the crates. I’ve known about this place for a while. I…got a feeling nothing good was happening here. The cocaine will be sold on the streets and the medication will be sold to the needy for outlandish prices.”

Dean grunted as he was finally released and rubbed his sore wrists. “Yeah well, that’s what happens. Best you can hope for is the cops raiding this place.”

“Lately I’ve been handling things my own way,” Castiel remarked. He picked up the camera and handed it along with the knife to Dean. “You should go.”

“Why?” Dean wanted to kick himself for asking. “I mean…”

The other man smiled softly. “I’m going to set the building on fire.”

It took Dean a moment to realize that he wasn’t kidding. His expression was resolute as if what he planned to do was the only possible solution. It didn’t make sense but then again nothing about this guy made sense. Confused but not willing to be burned to a crisp, Dean nodded and hurried out the way he came. He jogged over into the open expanse of the parking lot and waited, and then cursed himself for waiting. But this guy was—well he was interesting. He was weird and he smelled all earthy. Dean couldn’t help it; he wanted to find out what his deal was.

Call it his investigator Achilles’ heel.

Groaning at the rawness of his wrists, he checked the cam memory and was happy to see the few photos he’d snapped had survived. He’d take them to Victor tomorrow and—

Suddenly Dean found himself in midair before slamming painfully onto the ground on his shoulder as the entire warehouse exploded into a bright ball of yellow flame, the sound heard blocks away. He felt pieces of half melted glass hitting him about the face, the smaller ones getting stuck in his hair. The heat was beyond intense, and so was the pain rattling up Dean’s spine.

“Fuck!” He yelled through gritted teeth. He looked around, his eyes watering and burning as charred wooden boards rained from the sky. Where the hell was crazy guy? “Castiel? Castiel? Cas!”

“I thought I told you to leave?” Castiel kneeled beside him, and Dean didn’t have time to wonder how he managed to get behind him.

“Dude, you blew up the building. You—you blew up the building.”

Castiel blinked slowly. “Yes. I told you I was going to burn it down.” A beat. “You’re hurt.”

Oh, right. “Yeah I…” Shifting, he sat up. He could tell the vial in his pocket was crushed from the wetness seeping through the fabric of his coat. “You John McClane-ing your way out of there dislocated my shoulder.”

“My apologizes.” Castiel gripped his right bicep with one hand and braced him with the other, jerking up hard in one swift motion.

Dean yelped but the pain lessened. “Thanks. I think. Why did you blow this place up anyway if you don’t mind me asking? To stop the coke from reaching the people?”

Chuckling, Castiel pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and offered him one before lighting up himself. “Yes. And to send a message to the dealers that this sort of thing will not be tolerated any longer. You should really go now. The police have been notified and are on their way.”

He waved away the cigarette and stood on shaky legs. “Yeah. Ya know those things will kill ya.”

Castiel nodded somberly. “I think I will be alright. It was nice meeting you, Dean.”

Dean snickered; what the hell? “You too, Cas. Try not to explode anymore warehouses.”

~*~

“Hello? Dean? What’s wrong?”

Dean sat against his headboard, the remote forgotten next to his thigh as he scratched his fingers behind his cat’s ear. “Hey Sammy. I—sorry for calling so late. Nothing’s wrong I just um, can’t sleep.”

“Dude, it’s four in the morning.” Sam grumbled deeply. “I have to prep for a case tomorrow.”

He immediately felt guilty for waking his little brother up but he didn’t know what else to do. After showering, eating a frozen pizza and then trying to doze off, he found himself staring at the ceiling. His mind working overtime with thoughts of Castiel and his bad ass move of destroying all those drugs. Like some kinda wild west renegade or something.

Of course he told Victor none of that when he checked in, wanting to know what the hell went down and if he were in still alive. He’d made up some story about faulty wiring and managing to get out before the place went up like a roman candle. Naturally Victor didn’t seem that convinced and said that he would be checking into things.

“I know and I’m sorry but I—tonight was weird.” That was a nice way of putting it.

Sam yawned. “Weird huh? You slept with Jo?”

“What? God no. I said it was weird, not my last night on Earth,” He replied with an eye roll. “I met this guy while on a job and he was like, crazy. Full on, naked on the corner quacking like a duck crazy. He even had a crazy name.”

“Uh-huh,” His brother said lazily. “When are you going out with him?”

Dean’s face went blank. “Why would I go out with him? Did you hear what I said? Crazy.”

“No I heard you.” Sam chuckled. “And what did he look like?”

“Why does that matter?”

“Well you thought he was worth telling me about this early in the morning, and if I know you which I do, he has to have something you found interesting about him.”

“He’d painted his face like a sad clown.”

“You always were a little kinky.”

“Bitch.”

“Jerk. Oh I know did he have nice eyes? Were they round and soulful, and did they look right through you?”

Stupid Sam. “I don’t know. They were…big and blue—and odd shade of blue. He’s probably a serial killer or something. I was probably a few minutes away from ending up in his freezer or as a coat.”

Sam yawned again. “Okay. Still if you plan to bring him to the cook out you should let mom know so that they have enough food. Call me back tomorrow night and finish telling me how amazing he is. Night Dean.”

A dial tone sounded in his ear and Dean frowned as he dropped the receiver back onto its cradle. He wasn’t mad however; in fact the whole situation was sorta funny. Sam knew him and yeah, he’d only call this early about some random guy if the guy wasn’t so random after all. But could you really blame him? Some dude in a suit shows up with wild bed hair and a voice that could only be described as audio sex to help him outta a tough situation; who wouldn’t still be on that hours later?

Not to mention the face stuff. It made Dean wonder what he looked like normal.

And if he would ever see him again.

“Am I crazy to sort of want to?” He asked his cat. His reply was a soft purr. “What do you know? You eat grass.” Turning off his bedside lamp, he snuggled under the covers and closed his eyes.

+

Balancing the small tray of coffee in one hand and a box of breakfast donuts in the other, Dean hummed as he ascended the steps to his office. His shoulder was still sore as hell with a horrible looking bruise but he was working through the small pain. He’d managed to dress himself without bursting into tears so he decided that was a feat worth talking about. Besides it could have been so much worse. He could have burnt to a crispy potato or been eaten by the rats. He was lucky that crazy guy looked before he torched.

Frowning, he shook his head and rounded a corner, the sound of his boots loud as they thwacked against the tiles. He’d promised himself when he work up after dreaming about Castiel that he was not going to think about Castiel or what his motives were for doing what he’d done. Or the fact that he probably talked to chickens and was married to a goat. No. He was going to do his job and forget that he ever met someone so… fascinating.

A tiny grin split his lips but quickly disappeared when he realized the loud shouting he’d heard all the way downstairs was coming from his office. He quickened his steps and burst through the half closed door, arching a brow at the two strangers—male and female— taking up space, flanking either side of Jo. The man was tall and dark skinned, and looked as friendly as a pit bull, his eyes dark and watery. The girl however was his polar opposite; pale with blood red lips and springy brown curls.

She noticed him first. “Well, aren’t you a pretty one. You must be Dean.”

He shoved the stuff in his hands onto the desk. “Yeah I’m Dean. Can I help you?”

She sidled up to him, swaying into his space. “You sure can, baby.” Her big eyes rolled over him slowly. “Your freckles look like sprinkles. They’re makin’ me hungry.”

Dean blinked and took a step back, suddenly feeling like he needed a remove the bad touch shower. “Uh look lady I don’t know what you’re selling but trust me, I don’t want any.”

She smirked, licking her lips. “Mm are you this pretty when you’re fucking? I’d love to watch you ride the golden princess over there, cowboy. Bet you get even wetter than she does.”

“Meg.” The black guy warned. “You have to excuse her; she can be a bit tightly wound.” He turned his attention to Dean. “Your associate here saw something she wasn’t supposed to, and now she’s lying about it.”

Dean glanced to Jo. “What is he talking about?”

“Beats me.” She folded her arms over her chest. “I’ve never seen these two in my life.”

“I didn’t say you saw us.” He glared at her. “Now you can tell us what you were doing sticking your nose were it didn’t belong or things will get ugly.”

“From where I’m standin’ seems like they already have,” Dean replied, annoyed. “I think it’s time for you and your girlfriend to leave.”

Meg grinned and smoothed her hands down his chest. “Gordon ain’t my boyfriend. I’m a free agent, Dean-o. We should let these two talk and you and I can go in the other room. I’ve lost something and I need you to find it.”

Grabbing her wrist before her hand went any further, he swirled her around and shoved her out the door. “Let’s not and say we did. Your turn, Chuckles.”

Gordon squared his shoulders, stalking over and getting right in Dean’s face. “And if I don’t? What are you gonna do about it?”

“I guess I’m gonna have to throw you out then,” Dean said not backing down. This was his place and he’d be damned if he was pushed around in it.

Gordon stared at him for a few moments and then snickered. “This isn’t over, Dean.” He brushed past him, intentionally hitting him in the shoulder.

Dean held in his wince.

Meg on the other hand grabbed a handful of his ass, blew him a kiss and then followed her friend. Dean’s frown deepened and he slammed the door shut after them. “What the fuck was that?”

Jo ran a hand through her long hair and sat down, chewing on the inside of her cheek. She was obviously shaken. “I don’t know.”

“Jo, what did you see?”

“Nothing.”

“C’mon don’t lie to me. Scum like that doesn’t come a callin’ unless they think you have something they want.”

“I—all I did was take some pictures.”

It’s too early in the morning for this shit. “Lemme see them.”

Scratching her neck, she pulled her shoulder bag from under his desk and yanked out a brown envelope. “To be honest they’re not scandalous or anything so I don’t know why they were getting so bent out of shape.”

He took the envelope and removed the photos, thumbing through them carefully. She was right; they were pretty harmless. Just a svelte blonde woman talking to a deathly ill looking bearded man. They weren’t touching and didn’t seem romantically linked in any way. “Do you even know who they are?”

“I know the woman is Lilith Adler.” She shrugged her tiny shoulders. “She’s married to that dude who’s always on tv talking about medical breakthroughs. Zachariah I think his name is.”

He nodded slowly. “Well if she’s cheating on him, not like she’d want her husband to know.”

Jo agreed. “Yeah but look at them. There is no sexual tension between them at all. I only snapped them because it was nearly dark and in a part of town Mrs. Adler wouldn’t usually be caught dead in.”

Dean eyed her suspiciously. “Were you going to blackmail her or something?” At her aggravated expression, he continued. “Then why snap ‘em at all?”

“Curiosity I guess,” She admitted. “Obviously I’ve been working with you too long. If I’d known Pissy and Pervy were gonna come in and try to shake me down, I would have left well enough alone.”

I’ll bet, he thought to himself. “Look next time just mind your own business though. And maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for you to go to your mom’s for a while.”

“What?” She jumped up with a frown. “Dean I’m not a child. I don’t need to hide behind my mother’s coattails when trouble pops up. I can take care of myself.”

“I never said you couldn’t. But I would feel a lot better if you just hanged out there for a while. C’mon, humor me.”

Growling low in her throat, she kicked him lightly in the shin but relented. “Fine. But only for a couple of days. What am I supposed to tell her when she asks why I’m suddenly interested in helping out at the bar?”

He hunched his shoulders nonchalantly. “Tell her I’m not payin’ you enough and you want some extra in tips. You’re her daughter, Jo. I doubt she’ll be that tore up to see you.”

The blonde licked her lips and folded her arms over her chest. “What are you gonna do?”

His face was blank. “What do you mean?”

Jo snorted. “Oh don’t gimme that innocent look. I’m sure it works on the people you trick into sleeping with you, but it won’t work on me. I actually know you. You’re gonna do something stupid, aren’t you? Dig deeper into this shit until you end up smelling like it.”

Dean smiled a little; she certainty could turn a phrase. “If you must know I’m gonna give the pictures to Henriksen and see what he has to say about them. That’s all.”

“We’ll see.” The phone on his desk started to ring and she turned to answer it, effectively ending their conversation.

Dean glanced back to the pictures a second time before slipping them back into their envelope. He moved out into the hallway and fished his cell phone out of his pocket, dialing Henriksen’s number and waiting.

“Henriksen.” Came the smooth voice on the other side of the line.

“Hey, it’s Dean,” Dean replied as he propped himself up against the wall. “You busy?”

“Not particularly. What’s up?” He inquired. “Remembered something from the warehouse fire the other night?”

Dean smirked as Cas’ face flashed in his mind. “Nope. Just got a question for you…”

“Uh-huh.” His friend naturally didn’t believe him. Their history to blame. “What do you need now?”

Dean tapped his heel against the floor. “What can you tell me about Lilith Adler?”

Henriksen exhaled—the minute amount of silence telling. “Why do you wanna know about Zachariah Adler’s wife?”

“No reason. I just…came into possession of some pictures of her with some guy. Wondered who the guy is, is all.”

“What does he look like?”

“Tall, skinny like a strong breeze would knock him over. Smug.”

“Beard?”

“Yeah, you know him? Who is he?”

“Names Alastair.”

Arching a brow, Dean chuckled. “Am I supposed to be impressed?”

“You honestly don’t know who Alastair is? Are you sure you’re an investigator?” When Dean didn’t reply, he continued. “Let’s just say he and his friends don’t do the crime fight any favors. We’ve never been able to prove it but Alastair has his hands in everything. He’s our very own Corleone wannabe and doing a damn good job of it.”

Dean sighed. “How come I’ve never heard of this guy?”

“Publicity in the wrong forms would be bad for business,” His friend responded. “He gets his lackies to do his dirty work for him. Man, I’ve wanted to bust his ass so many times but either he really is that smart, or he’s got a mole in the system.”

Craning his neck to peep into his office, Dean bit into his bottom lip. “Why would he be meeting with Lilith Adler?”

Henriksen shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. However—and I know it’s hard—Dean leave this alone. For all we know she was buying cheap, stolen jewelry from him. Or maybe she has a nasty coke habit. Either way it’s a little above your pay grade. These guys don’t play around.”

Suddenly he remembered Meg and the black guy from earlier; they must work for this Alastair dude. “I think two of Alastair’s crones came to see me. A brunette and a mean looking black guy—the girl was called Meg and the guy um—shit—Gordon. Yeah, Gordon. Should I be worried?”

“Not exactly. You keep your nose outta their business and they’ll lose interest eventually. Think you can do that, Dean?”

“Sure. I’m saluting you right now in case you were curious.”

Laughter followed and then Henriksen was speaking again, “Call me if you get into trouble.”

Dean smiled despite himself. “Yeah. Later.” Flipping his phone shut, he huffed and strolled back into the office. “Who was on the phone?”

Jo tucked strands of hair behind her ear. “Winston. He’s ready to pay.”

“This day just got a lot better.”

~*~

Soft classical music drifted from the small radio in the corner of the candle lit room, and Castiel hummed along absentmindedly as his black smudged fingers continue to drag the charcoal on the white sheet of paper. There were several finished sketches scattered around him all brandishing the same face, some in profile, others staring out as if aware. He’d taken great detail to get everything right; the memory of the young man—of Dean—so clear in his mind that it shocked him. People were rather faceless now unless he had direct business with them.

But not this one. Not Dean with his chiseled jaw and pouty lips and bright green eyes framed by long lashes. Perhaps it was because their meeting had been less than conventional, especially considering Castiel was dead and thereby shouldn’t be meeting anyone at all. But coming upon him tied up in a warehouse would have been weird had he been alive. He’s just thankful he decided to check inside before destroying it.

“You like him.”

The bed dipped slightly and a hand touched his shoulder. Though not really. It was just a dream—a delightful hallucination and reminder of why he was doing what he was doing. However he went along with it because it made sense to the person he was now. The thing he was now. “What makes you say that?”

Anna smiled as she peered over him. “Besides the fact that you’re drawing countless pictures of him? I know you Castiel. You’re fixated.”

He hummed in acquiescence. “He was very pretty.”

She laughed lightly. “Are you going to see him again?”

“No.” His voice was soft. “I’m not here to rescue beautiful young men. You know that.”

Shifting to the side, she touched his cheek. “True. But I don’t see the harm in talking to him. It’s just a shame you didn’t meet him before...”

He scoffed, rolling his bright blue eyes. “I was too centered on work to think about a relationship. Too driven to be the best…and look where it got me. Got us.” Pressing his lips into a hard line, he shaded in Dean’s hair. “I wish I could go back in time and change it. Refocus on things more important.”

“But you can’t. You have to do this now,” She said reaching down to pick up a drawing. “What’s his name?”

“Dean,” He whispered. “His name is Dean.”

“Did you know that Dean means ‘valley’? In Hebrew it means ‘law’.” She touched the lips of the sketch but they didn’t smear. “He looks like a kind person.” Pause. “Castiel, why Dean?”

In truth he’d asked himself the same question after returning to his apartment to sit in the dark and think about what he’d done. To think about the smell of the burning debris and the heat from Dean’s skin, felt clearly through his jacket when he’d jammed his shoulder back into place. Every time he closed his eyes he could see brilliant—if confused—green ones gazing back at him in awe and bewilderment. Before when he would close his eyes he would see Nick on the ground begging for his life, and it had filled him with a virtuous indignation that had made him want to seek out whoever was next on his list.

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going until the very last offender took their very last breath.

Those few moments with Dean while strange took away some of the rage inside of him. He could still see their faces and feel their hands, but Dean served as a nice distraction to the insanity. And not just on the outside but inside.

“He was so warm. He put me at peace,” He said after a while. “I don’t exactly understand it though. I’m not supposed to be at peace. If I were I would not be here.”

Anna gazed at him serenely. “There are no more rules, brother. Not for you and certainly not for me. If Dean gave you a minute’s respite then I say enjoy it. Miles to go before you can come home.”

Castiel’s fingers paused in their work. “How can this be right, Anna? What I’m doing—how can it be what God wants? Murder is a sin.”

She nodded. “It is, but this isn’t about murder. This is about justice. You’re not supposed to dwell on the bad in paradise and yet you did. Besides, I don’t think God was in charge when it came to your resurrection. You won’t be damned for finishing it.”

For the first time since she appeared, he looked at her. She was the same as always, long red hair and wide childlike eyes. Such a contrast to him that people often wondered how they were related at all. “Perhaps. I doubt I could stop now even if I wanted to. The relief I felt when that bastard took his last breath—there are no words to describe the exhilaration that shot through me. I was vindicated.”

“How do you feel now?” She inquired; though he had a feeling she already knew the answer.

“Unfinished,” He admitted. “He was just the beginning after all.”

“You don’t know how right you are, Castiel.” Biting her bottom lip, she kissed his cheek and stood. “Look deeper. Find your briefcase.”

And just like that she was gone and he was alone again, trapped in a place where happy memories now mingled with the bad. He exhaled and wet his lips, his lashes fluttering as the crow’s vision blended with his own to show off a dimly lit nightclub without a name, just a symbol above the door. Loud music filled his ears, drowning out the soft piano with thick, molasses beats that dropped and throbbed uncontrollably. He could make out bodies grinding and gyrating with one another, clad in leather, lace or not much at all.

A small brunette in tight jeans and a leather halter top was puffing on a cigarette, her hand stroking the crotch of a man in a gimp mask before putting the cigarette out on his already scarred forearm. She grinned at his jerk of pain, all red lips and hooded eyes.

Soundlessly the drawing slipped from Castiel’s fingers and he stood, retrieving his jacket from the floor before hurrying out of the door. Once on the street, the crow returned to him to guide him to his destination, landing on the roof as he slipped inside. It was smoky and reeked of sex, yet still managed to have a man with pink spikes tending bar. People were fucking on stained couches; snorting cocaine up their noses and whipping willing participants near a back wall.

Even with his face painted Castiel somehow fit in. No one was really paying him any attention and those who did obviously found the makeup intriguing. They brushed his back as he walked past, a few whispering filthy things into his ear about wanting to suck him dry. He ignored them and made his way through the dancing crowd over to a steel staircase. His shoes clanked as he ascended to the second level, the flashing overhead light hitting him in the face before seeking out someone else. Anyone else. And then he saw her with her plaything.

When Meg Masters had pushed her way into his home that fateful night, the first thing she’d done was look around and comment on his choice of décor. While Gordon beat him up and Nick forced Anna onto her back on the carpet, she’d touched his things and bounced around like a child in a candy store. Once he was strung up and Anna was crying, she had skipped over to him and slid her hand down his pants. Squeezed, stroked, massaged his testicles and pushed her fingers between the cheeks of his buttocks. All while laughing and telling Nick to “ride her harder”.

She’d found his pleas to be almost endearing; had begged her father to cut him down so she could screw him. In retrospect Castiel was happy that Azazel had not listened to her. The thought of her touching him in that way churned his stomach.

He wanted nothing more than to stalk up to her and break her neck, but that was too good for her. No she needed to suffer like he had suffered. She likes pain. Give it to her.

Walking over to just off to the side where she was, he lit up a cigarette and released a plumb of smoke into the air. Meg caught the motion in her peripheral and turned surprise evident on her face. “Well look at you. Painted up all pretty.”

Castiel took another drag, blowing the smoke right in her face. “You think so?” He noted the shiver she gave at the sound of his voice. “Why not come play with me then? I know you want to.” Without waiting for a reply, he walked off up another set of stairs to a balcony that overlooked the dance floor.

Meg followed of course and paced before him practically vibrating. “So…why are you all dressed up? Not that I don’t like a little kink. In fact I love it but I’m just curious.”

“I’m someone else tonight,” He quipped. “Someone far away from the person I used to be.”

“Who did you used to be?” She took a step closer.

“Weak. Motivated by the desire to be renowned above all else.” Pausing, he dropped his cigarette to the floor and stomped it out.

She hummed and swayed into his space, pressing against him intimately, tilting her head back to grin up at him. “God you have pretty eyes. Makes me wanna cut them out of your head and put them in my pocket.” She scraped her nails down his chest, giving his belt buckle a yank. “Want you to bend me over this railing and fuck me hard. Think you can do that?”

Castiel grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled roughly, listening to her hum of pleasure. “I could, but it’s not what I have in mind for you, Meg. Do you know who you remind me of? Juliette from Histoire de Juliette ou les Prospérités du vice. It’s a novel by the Marquis de Sade about a young girl who chooses to give into her primal urges without a care for who she might hurt in the process.”

Meg giggled, her tongue flicking across his chin. “Sounds like my kinda girl. I’m all for fucking up someone else for kicks.”

His eye twitched and his hand tightened to the point of pain. “I know. I was one of your kicks.”

“No baby. I would have remembered having you before.”

“Six months ago in an apartment. You told me I tasted like angel cake.”

Meg frowned and tried to back away but he wouldn’t let her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He chuckled. “Of course you do. I have a feeling you don’t forget those you debase because that makes it much more fun. Surely you remember me, Meg? You said horrible degrading things to me. You watched as your father wrapped a noose around my neck and your friend Gordon choked me to death.”

Recognition bloomed in her eyes as she began to struggle, pushing against his chest with her small hands. “You’re wrong. We—they killed you. I watched you die. You can’t be him.”

She is halfway right, he thought to himself. “No. I’m the thing you created when you murdered me. When you laughed, and told your friend to slap my sister while she begged for mercy. While he made shallow cuts because you said they hurt worse. While we both begged you to stop. I died with your hands on me—around me. Touching me when you had no right.”

“Ah!” She winced as his blunt nails dug into her scalp. “How the fuck are you here if you died? You’re lying! He—he had a twin or something!”

Castiel released her hair long enough to wrap both hands around her neck. He squeezed hard, watching as her face started to turn red from lack of air. “There is no afterlife, so your conduct does not matter Sade once wrote. But he was wrong. There is a Heaven and there is most certainty a Hell, and I think it’s waiting for you.”

“Pl—pl—please…” She gasped, coughing, yanking at his wrists. “N—no…”

“You should join your friends now.” Kissing her forehead, he gave her a hard shove and she tumbled over the railing with a terrified shriek, falling through a thin black tarp to the cement below. Her head bounced off a protruding steel pipe and people screamed as her blood leaked out of the jagged gash in her porcelain skin.

A few onlookers gathered around her twitching body; one brave soul checked for a pulse and related she had none. As they looked up to see what had happened, they noticed the bird shaped hole in the canvas—wings spread wide.

Castiel stood in the shadows surveying the screen with a sense of flowing fulfillment before ducking out a back door. Sirens wailed and he hurried away from the scene, taking a few back alleys until he was blocks away. He stalked over to a phone booth and yanked it open, flipped through the thick phone book until he found what he was looking for and then continued on his way.

~*~

Dean’s apartment had not been hard to find since his home phone number was in the white pages and Castiel discovered he had no qualms about climbing through his open window. He found the gesture to be careless however; it’s something he would scold the man for if they were on those types of terms. Yet he’d been behind a locked door and still met an unfortunate fate. Dean looked like someone who could take care of himself though out running a bullet was probably a feat even he couldn’t perform.

The interior was lived in and moderately spacious; the living room what you would expect from a bachelor albeit cleaner. Dean was stretched out on his sofa, looking serene as his eyes moved restlessly behind their eyelids. Castiel smiled and moved over to the mantle where several picture frames sat. An older couple embraced smiling in one while a tall young man pointed happily to some type of degree in the other. There was a blonde girl scowling and a black man drinking a beer with a wide grin while Dean plucked a burnt piece of food off a grill.

So many happy faces. So many good memories. So many loved ones.

Purring sounded and he glanced down to see a fat black cat rubbing itself around his legs. He smirked and scratched behind its’ ears, amused because Dean did not come off as a cat person. Lazily he let himself imagine what it would have been like to visit Dean if things were normal. Helping him make dinner in his kitchen and then curling up to watch tv while the cat demanded attention. When he’d been alive Castiel assumed he had all the time in the world to find someone to share his life with.

It hurt how wrong he was. Hurt even more that he found Dean to be intriguing, knowing that alive he would have been even more infatuated with the young man.

He didn’t exactly have a type besides kindhearted and intelligent, but it was quite evident that Dean possessed these qualities and more. Not to mention he was gorgeous which never hurt when it came to attraction.

Suddenly his thoughts were cut short as a hand grabbed his wrist and jerked, attempting to pin his right arm behind his back. He reacted on instinct, pushing back to have more room before flipping his assailant to the floor with a loud thud. Surprised grassy green eyes stared up at him and he snorted in amusement.

“Do you always attack visitors?”

Dean’s shock quickly turned to annoyance. “Only the ones who break into my house at odd hours of the night. Damn it Cas, what the hell are you doing here?”

“I…” Moving back, he helped Dean stand. “I wanted to see you.”

“So you break in? Ever heard of calling?” He was still frowning. “How did you know where I lived anyway?”

“Your window was open. And you’re not the only one who can find things out.” Castiel wet his lips slowly. “If I have upset you I will leave. I just—I thought seeing you would help calm my racing mind…”

Sighing, he turned on a lamp and shook his head. “No it’s fine I guess. Weird as hell and kinda stalkerish but…you don’t really strike me as the normal type anyway. Man, why am I not more concerned by the fact that you broke into my apartment? Anyone else would be in a world of hurt by now.”

Castiel smiled a little. “Because it’s quirky and cute?”

“Heh yeah until you kill me and bury me in your backyard.” Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m uh—glad you’re okay though. I mean after the explosion I figured you’d ran back to crazy clown country or something.”

“No. I have business in the city,” He replied offhandedly. “And I’m not a clown.” Tilting his head to the side, much like an inquisitive puppy, he moved over to the coffee table and picked up the photos resting there. “Working on another case?”

Dean itched at his bicep, dragging his fingers over the now throbbing bruises. “Not really. My friend took these because apparently I’m a bad influence and she couldn’t help herself. I don’t—it doesn’t seem to be anything fishy going on though. Why? Do you know them?”

“I know her,” He answered vaguely. “And I know of Alastair.”

Leaning to get a good look at his expression, Dean motioned to the photographs. “Any idea why they would be meeting up?”

Castiel had a few ideas but none that he felt should be shared. They would only lead to trouble. “No. Drugs maybe?”

Dean pulled a face. “That’s a theory. I don’t care it’s just that, I think Alastair sent two of his assholes after my friend to put the fear of God in her or whatever. I don’t want them coming after her.” He sat down on the couch and gestured for Castiel to join him. “They looked like they were itching for trouble. Especially the chick; Meg something. She was way too handsy.”

Her name caused Castiel’s lips to twitch in schadenfreude. “I wouldn’t worry about her…”

Dean stared at him but let the comment go. “Can I ask you something?”

A nod. “Of course.”

“Why the painted face?”

“I’m hiding from someone.”

“Who?”

“Myself.”

“You’re kinda nutty, aren’t you?” He inquired, though he was smiling. “Or you’re trying to be some kinda vigilante. Like Batman.”

Castiel glanced down to his hands; he could still feel Meg trying to swallow as he squeezed tighter and tighter. He didn’t know much about comic book characters and he wondered if Batman was the type to seek revenge in the manner that he was currently carrying out. Would he also consider himself justified? Would he also take pleasure in watching the light drain from their eyes? “I think I am only doing what is necessary for the time being.”

The other man hummed in response. “Ya know there is this little voice in my head telling me that I should be more on guard around you. I mean what sane man dresses like he works at a bank and wears makeup? But I don’t know. For some reason that doesn’t make a lick of sense, I get the feeling you’re not gonna smother me to death with your tie. You could have left me in that warehouse to die but you didn’t.”

“I do not wish you harm, Dean.” He exhaled deeply, tiredly. “You’re the first person I’ve met in a long time that makes me think about something other than…my current responsibilities. It’s unconventional but I’ve learned that some things cannot be categorized.”

Dean bumped his shoulder lightly. “And my cat didn’t immediately scratch your eyes out so I think that’s a sign.”

“Ah, yes. That is so important.” Castiel smirked, and then turned his body towards Dean. He plastered his long fingers to his arm and slid them up in a soft caress, trailing underneath the short sleeve of his t-shirt to curve around the top of his shoulder. “Are you still in pain?”

Dean swallowed noticeably. “A little but nothing I can’t handle. Would be worse if it weren’t for you.”

His skin is so warm and he smells like ink and fresh soap. “That is debatable considering I was the one who caused the explosion that dislocated your shoulder in the first place. It was only right that I be the one to fix it.”

“Thanks again for that.” Dean’s eyes were on his lips. “So, you’re not a serial killer?”

Laughing softly, Castiel shook his head. “No. I—I’m a reporter. Why?”

“Okay so this might sound stupid. No it is stupid but I’ve often went that route so why stop now? I mean you’re really hot so…” He flashed a charming grin. “Do you—would you wanna get some coffee sometime? Like in daylight in a booth in a place that hopefully serves pie?”

Castiel didn’t know why the question came as a shock to him, but it did. He dropped his hand from Dean’s shoulder and frowned, a million thoughts running through his mind at once. Yes he wanted to get coffee with Dean but he wasn’t sure he was allowed. He wasn’t sure any of this was allowed besides his prior commitment. Even though he could hear Anna’s voice in the back of his head telling him to say yes he had to think about the big picture. About what would happen when his quest was complete…

Where would that leave him and Dean then? And how would he explain any of this before he left?

Taking his silence as rejection, Dean immediately began to backtrack. “Hey it—it was just an idea. Never mind, don’t worry about it.”

“No, Dean. No. I’d love to get a cup of coffee with you.” He reached out and took his hand, liking the slightly roughened feel against his much smoother skin. “I just—I have certain obligations that I must attend to first. But coffee sounds like fun.”

Confused, Dean shrugged it off and snorted. “Cool. But um, you’ll lose the whore paint first though, right?”

“Yes Dean,” Castiel replied with a hint of amusement. “By then I won’t need it anymore.”

+

“So you have a date with him?”

Castiel watched as Anna drifted over to the window, her long white dress brushing the tops of her pale feet. She looked almost carefree and if he closed his eyes, and pretended really hard, he could act like she’d simply come to visit and would be returning home before dark. A part of him wanted that so badly. Wanted the life he’d basically squandered away by always being too busy. Even though he had spent a lot of time with his sister it didn’t seem like enough now.

“I suppose I do however the exact terms were not explored. I am not certain that coffee is considered a date,” He replied lightly. “I thought about rejecting his offer but he got this look in his eyes and I found myself hating it. Hating being the reason it was there. I simply couldn’t say no to him. He is going to be very disappointed when I vanish.”

Anna waved a hand. “Maybe you should just tell him the truth about who you are.”

He laughed but it lacked humor. “He already thinks I’m insane and to a certain degree he is right. I’m sitting in my destroyed apartment wearing face paint, talking to an illusion. Not exactly a portrait of mental health.”

She smirked and leaned against the wall. “At least you’re not out on the corner screaming at cats wearing a cardboard sign.” His smile made her smile. “I think you need me to be here as much as I wish I could be here. Perhaps as a reminder…”

His eyes dropped to the floor. “I couldn’t forget any of this even if I wanted to. I suspect my brain dreamed you up as a way to cope with the lulls I allow myself. I don’t even know why I rest when the faster they are all dead, the faster I’ll be able to go home.”

Biting her bottom lip, she sunk down onto the carpet in front of him. “And the faster you’ll leave Dean. I don’t think there is anything wrong with liking him. We don’t know if what’s happened to you has happened before. Maybe it has. And maybe that person was in your situation as well. Or maybe you met him for a reason.”

“I did save his life. Surely if whoever owned that warehouse had found him they would have beaten him or perhaps even killed him.”

See? We both know that while you’re here you’re not going to stay away from him. I say tell him the truth so that when the time comes, he’ll be prepared. Otherwise he’s just going to search for you and find out the truth for himself. He may not be able to handle it without an explanation.”

“I hate this. I hate that I had to die to find something worth living for besides being the best at my profession.”

Life can be a bitch, little brother. But look on the bright side. If Dean goes to Heaven when he dies you guys will have eternity to get to know each other properly.”

Castiel frowned but she was gone, disappearing to whatever part of his mind that had conjured her up in the first place. It was amusing in a way because he was quite sure the real Anna would have said much of the same things. Well no that wasn’t entirely true because the situation would have been so vastly different. Had he came to her and told her that he met a cute guy; she would’ve pushed him towards said guy. Teasing him until he agreed to at least talk to him.

He couldn’t help but be curious as to how he might have met Dean. The most likely scenario being that he hired him for some job where they would stake out someone in Dean’s car and flirt while eating donuts.

“Damn it.” Getting up, he stepped carefully over the drawings spread out on the floor and moved into the living room where he peeped under the moldy, ruined couch. He had to find his briefcase. He knew precisely who he was going to give it to when all of this was said and done.

~*~

Sitting in the break room of the police station with a tiny straw hanging from the side of his mouth with narrowed brows, Dean stared at the scrolling articles on his laptop. With the wifi at the library being down and all of the computers taken up by kids playing something called Farmville, he’d really had no choice but to seek out the next available outlet. It worked though because once he was done he planned to pick Henriksen’s brain.

So Alastair was somewhat famous when it came to the media circuit. If his name wasn’t popping up in conjunction to police raids or possible gambling schemes then it was being mentioned under a video of him leaving court looking like a smug asshole while declaring that he was “innocent all along”. Innocent of the charges of drug trafficking or prostitution or illegal gambling—you name it and apparently he hadn’t done it. Either he really was that smooth or the district attorney in this town sucked ass.

Maybe he’s on the take. Would explain a lot.

Scratching at his cheek, he rolled his shoulders and scanned over an article that mentioned Nick Monroe but it was the picture of a petite brunette that truly caught his attention. “Meg Masters…” He read aloud, “is a known associate of Alastair but he maintains that she is simply the daughter of one of his oldest friends. However Miss. Masters has a rap sheet of her own usually dealing with public indecency.”

“Figures,” He mused as he tossed the straw into the trash. “Surprised skanky whore isn’t on the list too.”

“Who are you callin’ a skanky whore, you dirty tramp…”

Dean chuckled as he looked to the doorway to find Pamela Barnes leaning against it in a pair of jeans so tight he was surprised she could move at all. She was the department psychic—not that he believed in that shit—but she had a good track record especially with cold cases. However when he thought of a psychic he’d always pictured someone more like Missouri whereas Pam wore leather jackets and flirted with shamelessly with everyone. Including Missouri.

“Hey,” He said as she strolled into the room and sat down at his table. “What are you doing here? Using the Ouija board to find out where Al Capone is buried?”

She grinned. “No just working a case for Detective Singer. They found a skeleton when they ripped up the foundation to some house and he asked my help in tracking down who the bones might belong to. And who might have killed the poor bastard.”

“Of course he did.” Pause. “Well you look good. Life must be treating you well.”

She nodded. “It usually does. Though it could be a lot better if you stopped playing hard to get. You know I love bow-legged men.”

Dean snorted and turned off his computer. “Why? So you can eat me alive like you did Ed and Harry?”

Pam laughed and said, “Hey they were begging for it. I just gave them what they wanted.”

“Scratches that took weeks to heal?”

“Some people like it rough.”

He snickered. “Well thanks for the offer but I’m gonna have to decline. I like my skin on my back.”

“Your loss.” Tilting her head to the side, she smiled at him. “Or is it? You’ve met someone.”

Dean blinked, wetting his lips slowly. “What makes you say that?”

She wiggled her fingers at him. “Your aura is all glowy and warm. So either you’re getting laid or you will be very soon.”

He ducked his head but couldn’t stop the damn grin from breaking out onto his face. What was he? A twelve year old girl with a crush suddenly? “Okay so maybe I met someone. Is that such a surprise?”

Pamela shook her head, her dark curls whipping around her pretty face. “Of course not. You’re an awesome dude, Dean. Everyone around here thinks so. Naturally it was only a matter of time before someone scooped you up.” She leaned closer and put her elbows on the table. “Tell me about her. Or him.”

“He…” How do I even begin to explain Cas? “He’s…odd. I don’t know much about him; he could be a total head case but he helped me out of a tight situation. Got these really powerful blue eyes and phone sex operator voice, and he’s intense. But in that way that just makes you want to know more about the person.”

“Shit, I’m jealous. The last guy I went out with worked real estate and was very squeamish. A girl breaks out one pair of handcuffs and suddenly things are moving too fast.” She pouted at the memory. “I was goin’ to let him loose eventually.”

Dean laughed. “Right. Anyway I don’t know what it is about this guy but it’s like he’s so odd that it works. Maybe it’s the mystery.”

Watching him with her big blue eyes, she reached over and grasped his hand. Her lashes fluttered and she gasped, drawing back slowly. “Well cowboy, stick with it and the mystery will be revealed soon. Just…be careful okay. And try to have an open mind when he tells you who he really is.”

Before he could ask what she was talking about, she winked and stood just as Victor entered the room. Without saying anything more she patted him on the shoulder and left.

“Why are you here?” Victor inquired as he poured himself a cup of no doubt cold coffee. “This isn’t a rec center you know.”

Dean shook off Pam’s words and sighed. “Yeah well the library was full and I was closer here than to my office. Just wanted to look up some stuff on Alastair.”

His friend quirked a brow. “Did I or did I not tell you to leave whatever it is alone?”

“Hey I can Google him if I want to. Doesn’t mean I’m going to go sit outside his house in the bushes,” Dean replied huffily. “I just wanted to get a little info on his background. See if I should be worried about that Meg chick and her angry friend.”

Victor ripped open a tiny packet of sugar and emptied it into his cup. “I wouldn’t be worried about Meg.”

“Why not?”

“Well someone killed her last night. Pushed her off a balcony at some club.”

“Shit. Any leads?”

“Not really. But we think it was the same person who killed Nick Monroe. Same bird symbol was left behind.”

“And the one thing they had in common was Alastair, right? Have you checked him out? He could be cleaning house.”

“I had thought of that, yes. He was questioned but honestly he seemed just as out of the loop as everyone else. Of course he could just be putting on a show.”

“I’m not one to wish anyone bad luck but, pretty sure she had it coming. Maybe she groped the wrong person.”

Victor shrugged. “Maybe. Either way she won’t be bothering you and Jo anymore.”

Guess that just leaves Gordon. “Yeah. Um, okay guess I’ll be going then. I do actually have work to do.”

“Could have fooled me,” Victor taunted good-naturedly. “See ya around, Dean.”

Dean resisted the urge to flip him off and instead gathered up his things, grunting when his cell phone rung from its place in his jeans’ pocket. He fished it out and frowned at the number he didn’t recognize but answered it anyway. It could be someone asking for his services. “Hello?”

“Hello Dean.”

“Cas.” He grinned and left the room, walking slowly down the hall. “Didn’t think you’d ever really call when I gave you my number.”

“Well I have some time to kill,” Castiel replied. “How are you today?”

“Good,” Dean said lightly. “Just trying to get some work done, ya know? Cheating husbands won’t turn themselves in to their wives.”

“I think you do very noble work, Dean,” Castiel murmured. “It is so much more than cheating husbands. You help people.”

Dean tried not to blush at the compliment. “Yeah well, I could help more people if I was a cop or a doctor but what’re gonna do? It’s a paycheck.”

“You’re being modest.”

“I hear people like that.”

“Yes. But it is also alright to take pride in your work.”

“Do you take pride in your work, Cas?”

“I—yes. However while it does fill me with a sense of accomplishment, lately I’ve gotten more enjoyment being around you.”

“Aren’t you a sweet talker? Keep that up and you’re gonna make me blush.”

“We wouldn’t want that, would we?”

Dean laughed. “So what are you doing when you’re not—I don’t know—fighting crime or whatever?”

He heard a shuffling of papers before Castiel answered, “I like to draw.”

“You any good?” Pause. “Sorry that was a stupid thing to ask.”

“It’s alright. My…sister has always taken pleasure in my work.” He sighed deeply. “She especially loves my latest drawings.”

Dean stopped moving once he was outside of the station; standing on the cement steps and watching the traffic go by. “Maybe I’ll get to see them some day…”

He could hear the smile in Castiel’s voice as he said, “I’d like that.”

~*~

The Roadhouse was owned by one Ellen Harvelle and as far as Dean was concerned, it was the best bar in town. It was old school with a jukebox instead of some flashy sound system and those old arcade games like Pac Man and Asteroid. It was the sort of place where you could get good food with people that you knew and who probably knew your family as well.

Climbing up on a leather bar stool, Dean flashed his pearly whites to the older yet beautiful woman behind the counter. “Hey Ellen. How’s business?”

Ellen slung her towel over her shoulder and reached down, pulling up a bottled beer. She popped off the cap and sat it down in front of him. “Can’t complain. Shouldn’t you be at work this time of night?”

He checked his watch. He did usually work way later. “Hey it’s just eight o’clock. I could just be taking a break you know.”

She did not appear convinced. “Uh-huh. You wouldn’t happen to be here to check up on Jo, wouldja? I don’t know what happened between you two, but I know something did. She wouldn’t come here to wait tables otherwise.”

Dean took a long sip of his beer before speaking. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

“Uh-huh,” She repeated. “Boy if you don’t start being straight with me we’re gonna have a problem.”

Now Dean wasn’t scared of Ellen. He was more like terrified of her to be honest. It wasn’t hard to understand why however once you actually met her. “Look it—it’s nothing, alright? Some people were just trying to scare her because of me—because they thought I saw something that I didn’t see. But it’s all been taken care of. I promise.”

“Okay.” She backed off but he doubted she was truly placated. “I trust you to keep her safe when she’s with you.”

The door to the kitchen swung open and Jo walked out carrying a tray of food. She delivered it to a family of four and then sidled up beside him. “Can I come back to work, yet? I’m going crazy here.”

He lowered his voice as he spoke. “Yeah I think that would be okay. But look, that Meg chick from the other day? Someone killed her.”

The pretty blonde gasped. “Whoa! I—you said you were going to take care of it but I never thought…”

“Ha ha.” He rolled his eyes. “Henriksen thinks it could be gang related of whatever. I’m hoping that her friends are too busy with this and that they forget all about those pictures.”

She nodded slowly. “Sounds plausible.” She hunched her shoulders and disappeared back into the kitchen.

Dean slouched and picked at the label on his bottle, his mind drifting to the barbeque that was coming up. Sam would be there with Jessica and Victor would be there with Nancy and whenever his mother saw other couples she would start looking at him with this look that said Dean you need to find a nice girl or boy. I don’t like the thought of you alone. Also, I want grandkids.. And yeah he’d mourned his failed relationship with Lisa long enough but it wasn’t like he really had anyone to introduce to his family.

Except.

Except maybe Cas. But it just seemed too soon to be thinking about that when they hadn’t even had coffee together. When he hadn’t even seen Cas’ real face. Still he had a feeling if he asked the nerdy little trench coat wearing dude would say yes.

I’m an idiot, he thought to himself.

Though Sam did say that the moment he saw Jessica he knew he wanted to be with her. He also knew nothing about her other than she was smoking hot. So maybe being an idiot was genetic, and it’s not like things were going bad for his little brother. He had a job that he loved and was going to be married to the chick of his dreams soon. If being an idiot got you everything you wanted well he was totally okay with being one.

Dean was deep in thought and idly nursing his beer when a body plopped down onto the stool beside him. He glanced without paying much attention, doing a double take when he realized who it was. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Gordon smirked. “I was under the impression that this is a public bar. It’s been a rough couple of days and I need something to drink.”

“Can’t you drink at a table?”

“I like the bar.”

“Fine. I’ll leave.” Dean stood and reached into his pocket for a few dollars.

“You know, a friend of mine was killed recently. You met her.” Gordon looked at him. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Why would I know about it?” Dean asked in annoyance. “You might wanna talk to the cops.”

“It’s just…we come pay you a visit and then she ends up dead? Sounds kinda odd to me is all.” He ordered a small pitcher of beer when Ellen migrated back over.

Dean folded his arms over his chest. “You expect me to believe that she didn’t have enemies? Maybe you should talk to some of the pimps around town. I’m sure they could help you better than I can.”

A slight flicker of emotion passed across Gordon’s face but it was gone a second later, replaced by the calm detachedness that he had down so well. “Meg wasn’t a whore. She just liked to have fun. Now we didn’t always agree but she was somewhat of a friend. There are people who miss her.”

He nodded. “Well I’m sorry but I can’t help you.”

Lifting his frosty mug to his lips, Gordon gulped down the bitter brownish liquid before speaking again. “Maybe you should ask your little blonde friend. Maybe she knows something about it.”

Dean’s answer was swift. “No. Look I don’t know what fucked up ideas you’ve got into your head but I suggest you get them out. Now. And leave me and my friends alone.”

The black man chuckled lowly. “Or what, Dean? Gonna call your big shot lawyer brother or maybe your cop friend?” His grin grew as Dean’s expression darkened. “Oh yeah I know all about them. Little Sammy and that pretty little thing he lives with. You’re not the only one who can find out information, Dean. My employer likes to make it his business to know who he is dealing with. And when I mentioned your friend Jo and those pictures, he had me scope you out.”

“You listen to me you son of a bitch, you come near my family and I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” Gordon stood up abruptly. “Take care of me like you did Meg? Maybe even like you did Nick.”

“I didn’t touch your friends you stupid sadistic bastard,” Dean growled. “But it seems to me like all of the assholes had it coming.”

Dean was staggering back next as a fist connected hard with his face, the sound loud above the low hum of music coming from the juke box. He reacted without thinking and lashed out with a punch of his own, slamming his knuckles into Gordon’s nose. He heard someone yell out oh my God but it didn’t matter because Gordon was on him like an animal seconds later, swinging wild punches that he ducked and weaved.

He grabbed Gordon’s wrist and hit him in the stomach, sending him stumbling back into a table and knocking over a few chairs. Gordon cracked his neck and lunged, his elbow striking Dean in the eye and temple before Dean could knee his side. Gordon lost his footing at the jab to his kidney but as he crashed to the floor he pulled Dean down with him. He attempted to get his large hands around Dean’s neck but Dean was quicker, thrusting his fingers into his throat and causing him to gag and choke.

Dean swung out again and caught him in the cheek, and then shoved him off of his legs towards the door. Gordon recovered swiftly, his hand reaching behind him when a loud bang sounded and dusty debris rained down from the ceiling. Everyone froze and slowly glanced to the bar where Ellen stood behind it, a double barrel shotgun perched against her shoulder.

She narrowed her eyes at Gordon. “The only thing you need to be reachin’ for is the doorknob.”

He sniffed and tongued at the slit in his lip. “You won’t shoot me.”

She cocked the gun and caressed the trigger. “You really wanna take bets on that?”

Cutting his eyes to Dean and then everyone else, he slowly lifted both hands in surrender before easing out of the door, letting it shut with a loud thump behind him.

“Hey Ash.” Ellen tossed him the gun and motioned outside. “Make sure he leaves, will ya?”

The man dubbed Ash dropped his pool stick and nodded. “Will do.”

“Dean? What the hell was that?” Ellen asked him. “Since when do you get into bar fights?”

“He started it!” Dean rubbed his sore chin as he caught Jo’s gaze. “He was just some nut job.”

Ellen clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “Jo? Did you know that guy?”

Her daughter shook her head. “No I—I’d never seen him before.”

“Joanna Beth don’t you lie to me.”

“Look he was like the client of some chick who wanted to know if he was cheating on her. So we tailed him for a few days, took a few pictures and told her what we’d found.”

“And what was that?”

“That he’s a lying, psychotic sack of shit not fit to be around anyone.”

Dean smiled to himself; when Jo wanted to she could come up with some pretty good cover stories. “It’s the luck of the job, ya know? Some people go down easy and others blame me for ruining their marriages. I’m sorry and I promise not to bring trouble in here again.”

“You better not.” Ellen sighed and poured him something stronger.

When she meandered to the other end of the bar to top off the two truckers, Jo popped up beside him. “Are you okay?”

He shrugged. “Still have all my teeth so I suppose so.”

“I’m sorry. I wish I’d never taken those stupid ass pictures.” She frowned deeply. “I never thought they’d cause any trouble let alone this much.”

He shrugged again. “It’s okay you didn’t know there was any harm in it. And I seem to be on his radar more than you. I’ll deal with it.”

She rubbed his shoulder. “Be careful Dean. I might not say it much but I’d be really upset if something happened to you.”

“Yeah yeah.” He smiled a little. “Don’t go all chick on me.”

“You’re an ass.” She scowled but it was lighthearted.

+

Dean liked booths instead of regular tables because they gave him more room to stretch out and he didn’t have to worry about the people that passed accidentally knocking something over or tripping over his boots. Plus he could have two plates of pie and still have room for the main course. Sitting in said booth, he yawned and checked his phone for messages when the bell over the door chimed and he looked up to see his beanstalk of a brother making his way inside of the diner.

He could remember when he was so short, barely reaching his shoulder. All gangly arms and legs spouting random facts about historical figures and other crap Dean didn’t care about. And now he was gigantic and in need of a haircut. He’d always been smart though so no one was surprised when he said he wanted to be a lawyer. Well lawyer or history teacher—back then he hadn’t decided.

“Dean, hey.” His grin quickly vanished as he took in the state of his brother. “Dude what happened to your face?”

Dean rolled his eyes. The bruise on his cheek was blotchy and yellow; his bottom lip brandishing a noticeable red cut. “Nice to see you too, Sammy. And it’s nothing I just got into a little fight.”

“With who?” He inquired curiously. “One of your clients or something?”

“No. It—it’s complicated. I don’t want to get you involved,” Dean replied honestly. “It’s nothing.”

Sam frowned at him. “Are you in trouble?”

He considered the question for a moment. Gordon was a (known) mob enforcer who was convinced that he knew more than he was letting on, and apparently he’d told his weird ass bosses all about him. “That’s complicated too.”

His brother’s frown deepened and his lips set into a straight line. “Dean.”

“Jesus Sammy stop bitch-facing at me.” Dean glanced around slowly. “Okay look here is the deal. Jo took some pictures that she thought were harmless but it seems that she was wrong.”

“What kinda pictures?”

“Do you know Lilith Adler?”

“I know of her. Her husband is Zachariah Adler—he’s always in the news because of his company and their medical breakthroughs or whatever. There is a good chance that you’ve taken one of the drugs his company has manufactured. Why?”

“Jo got pictures of her and some mob boss having a meeting. We assumed they were maybe cheating, not that we were gonna do anything with them. Hell she was just being nosy. Anyway now this dude named Gordon Walker thinks we know something we don’t about his boss. He showed up at the Roadhouse last night and picked a fight.”

“Dude, Gordon Walker has been in court more times than I have. Usually for battery or assault with a deadly weapon. How could you get mixed up with him?”

“It’s not like I called his mama a whore or whatever. He came after me. Look I can handle it though. Eventually he’ll get tired or when the pictures never surface he’ll move on.”

“Yeah well, just be careful Dean. Private Investigating is supposed to be the safe job.”

Dean smirked and they both ordered when the waitress bounced over. Sam waited until their coffee was poured and he’d added sugar to his to speak again. “So…how’s the mystery guy? Seen him again?”

“Maybe,” Dean said noncommittally. “He…might have shown up at my apartment.”

Sam’s brows jumped up towards his hairline. “Oh? But I thought he was some crazy wacko that wanted to make a scrapbook out of your hair…”

“He’s definitely weird but I’m kinda digging it,” He admitted with a smile. “We’re gonna have coffee when he’s…finished whatever in the hell it is he’s working on. I’m telling ya Sam, this guy isn’t like anyone I’ve ever met before. He talks like an encyclopedia and wears makeup—and not like a drag queen.”

“But you seem okay with that.” Sam waved a hand. “And you’re usually a good judge of character. And maybe after Lisa you’re looking for something a little less apple pie.”

That makes sense. “I guess. I mean I think it’s strange how we relate to each other but then I remember how you used to fawn all over Jess before you two officially hooked up. At least I’m not sending him flowers with a card signed from your secret admirer.”

“Oh shut up.” His brother snorted. “If you were the flowers type you’d probably be doing the same thing. Anyway are you gonna bring him to the get together?”

Dean slouched. “I don’t know. First off I have no clue where he’ll be by then and second, isn’t it a little too soon to be introducing him to the family? I don’t even know his last name.”

Sam snickered loudly. “And it never occurred to you to ask?”

Now it was his turn to say shut up. Sam just laughed again and continued. “Look you made a connection with someone when you weren’t expecting it, and with someone you weren’t expecting. It’s not typical but it does happen. It’s like locking eyes with someone across a crowded room or noticing the same person at the same place every day and never knowing how much you have in common until you actually speak.”

“Always the helpless romantic, huh Samantha?” Dean teased but his expression was soft. “I just feel like I should be warier about the situation. Here’s this dude who wears face paint and breaks into my apartment and I’m swooning over him like a sixteen year old at a Twilight convention. If his name was Edward I’d be really concerned for my mental health.”

“Yeah, your knowledge of Twilight really disturbs me.”

“I have a tv asshole. And this coming from the guy who nearly peed himself when the last Harry Potter book came out.”

Sam cleared his throat. “Moving on…if you like this guy then just focus on that. At the very least you’ll have an interesting story to tell your many adopted children about how their two daddies met.”

Dean kicked him underneath the table but he couldn’t deny how the thought amused him. Well kids you see your dad saved me from a fiery death and then kinda stalked me for a while. But I was totally okay with it because he was super hot.

He rubbed the back of his neck with a light exhale and looked out of the window at the parking lot. A black van almost jumped the curb as it roared into the area, cutting off several rows of traffic on the three lane highway. The tinted passenger window rolled down and Dean barely had time to scream duck before bullets began to riddle the small building, shattering the windows and the glasses on the tables.

He was leaning over the table top and shoving Sam to the floor before he even really realized what he was doing. People were screaming and scrambling for cover as things exploded around them, raining food and pieces of Formica onto the glossy tiles. It only lasted a few minutes and then the van was screeching out of the parking lot with squealing tires leaving angry blowing horns in its wake.

Dean leapt up and stared out of the damaged window but he was too late. The vehicle was long gone and out of range to get a license plate number. Cursing, he turned and surveyed the destruction with angry eyes; stared at the sobbing patrons and confused employees. “Sam? Sammy!” Helping his brother sit up, he balked at the blood dripping down his large bicep.

“It’s not bad.” Sam grunted as Dean ripped his sleeve to get a better look. “I think it’s just a flesh wound.”

“Fuck.” He grabbed a handful of napkins and pressed them to the bleeding area. “Are you sure you’re okay? Not hit anywhere else?”

Sam nodded slowly. “Yeah I’m okay. Thanks for pushing me outta the way or this could have been worse.”

Dean didn’t want to think about that. “No problem.”

Ten minutes later and the police were arriving, along with the paramedics and fire department even though they weren’t needed. Unfortunately a few people had been shot but nothing life threatening thankfully. Dean was standing by a back ambulance door with Sam as he was patched up when he noticed Henriksen walking over in official ‘Detective’ mode.

“You two okay?” He asked genuinely concerned.

“It’s just a flesh wound,” Sam said. “Any idea who did this?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “C’mon Sam. It had to be that son of a bitch, Gordon.” A beat. “I hope you’ve put out a warrant for his arrest or something.”

Henriksen folded his arms over his chest. “You know it doesn’t work like that, Dean. But yeah he’s a person of interest considering what you’ve told me about him. And how he seems to have some kinda infatuation with you. If he did this we’ll get him. Don’t worry.”

As far as Dean was concerned there were no ifs or buts about it. He knew that Gordon was guilty and he was going to prove it. He was officially tired of that asshole fucking with his life.

“Whatever you’re thinking, stop.” Henriksen put a hand on his shoulder. “Let me handle this.”

“Let me help you.”

“No.”

“Henriksen c’mon! This dick went after my family! Who knows what else he is gonna do!”

“Look I’ll put a protection detail on your family, okay? But now you gotta calm down and think rationally. If he did this he’s gonna be expecting you to retaliate. Hell that’s probably exactly what he wants. You gotta just lay low and be on the lookout. Stay out of trouble and away from Gordon Walker.”

Sam poked his side. “I agree, Dean. Don’t do anything to make this jerk lash out even more. I’m fine.”

Dean clenched his jaw so hard that it started to ache and of course the bruises didn’t help. He reluctantly agreed to chill and let the cops do their job but he got the feeling that neither Sam nor Henriksen believed him. Not that he could blame them. He had a history of saying one thing and then doing another, especially if he felt like someone was screwing with him.

So yeah he’d let Henriksen conduct his investigation through all of the correct channels but like hell was he going to sit around and twiddle his damn thumbs. It was one thing to come after him but no one messed with his family.

No one.

~*~

It was after two when Dean finally pulled up before his office building and cut the engine. Sam had basically forced him to go do something constructive instead of following him around his home and asking him over and over again if he was okay. He’d also promised not to tell their parents about actually being at the diner during the shooting but that was another matter altogether. They’d probably find out either way and then he’d have a lot of explaining to do. He was not looking forward to that.

Smoothing a hand over his face and frowning at the headache he could feel coming on, he slowly climbed out of his car and answered his phone when it started ringing. “Hello?”

It was Jo. “Dean! Oh my God are you okay? I heard about what happened.”

He shook his head. “How did you find out I was involved?”

She sighed. “Victor told us what was up when he explained why a police car was stalking our parking lot. It was that bastard Gordon, wasn’t it?”

“I think it was, yeah,” He admitted. “So be careful ‘cause I’m pretty sure someone is trying to kill me.”

“This is all my fault,” She grumbled. “I should have just minded my own damn business. You shouldn’t be taking the heat for me. I can handle myself.”

“I know. But I’m a little tougher than you.”

“Come here and say that.”

“Heh you know what I mean. I’d rather it were my ass on the line instead of someone I care about.”

“Where are you now? What are you doing?”

“Gonna hit the office for a few hours.”

“Alone?”

“No I might invite over a hooker. Of course alone. And don’t even think about showing up here.”

“Dean, why is it always okay for you to take care of everyone but we never get to repay the favor?”

“Because I’m awesome. Stay with your mom.”

Hanging up, he caught sight of the cop car that had been assigned to him and scratched at the side of his neck. It was going to be a long day. With a low groan he made his way inside and up to his floor, unlocking the door to his office and slipping inside. He fell into his comfortable chair and flipped through some of the files on his desk but he really had no energy to do any work. On days like today he really felt like nothing he did mattered anyway. He basically helped destroy marriages.

Where was the honor in that?

Thirty minutes later shuffling out in the hallway caught his attention and next the door was opening, and his father was wheeling his way into the room. John Winchester—even in a wheelchair—was still a force to be reckoned with and Dean could tell by his expression that he was in no mood for any bullshit.

“Dad, what are you doing here?”

John parked himself directly in front of the desk and clasped his hands together. “I talked to Ellen earlier.”

Shit. “Sam’s fine.”

John nodded slowly. “I know. I talked to him too. So, you wanna tell me what’s going on or do I have to look into things myself?”

Dean sighed. “It—it’s nothing, okay? Just a misunderstanding.”

His father arched a brow. “A misunderstanding with bullets is pretty damn dangerous. Is this the same misunderstanding that did that to your face?”

Dean grunted. “Okay look, Jo took some pictures of some bad people doing bad things and things are kinda heated right now. I’m taking most of the blame so that they’ll leave her alone. Ellen doesn’t know about it and I’d like to keep it that way.” Pause. “The diner thing was just some asshole showing me he means business. I’m sorry Sam got caught up in my drama.”

“Why not go to the cops?”

“Henriksen knows. ‘Sides not much they can do without proof.”

“Only you could find trouble in a job this safe. When your mother finds out she’ll want you to become a meter maid.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah and I probably would just to set her mind at ease.”

John watched him silently. He reached back and closed the door and then rested his elbows on Dean’s desk. “We need to have a talk. I know it’s gonna be hell for both of us but it’s time. You know, I never wanted you to give up your dream.”

“I know,” He said softly. “But it’s obvious mom blamed the job for your accident. She got it into her head that what happened to you would happen to me. Or worse. I didn’t want her to worry.”

His father smiled a little. “And that’s very noble of you as a son but we’re not going to be here forever and you need to do what makes you happy. I know you’d never admit it but obviously this isn’t what you had in mind for a career. When that asshole shot me in the back he not only took my legs but your future as well.”

Dean shook his head. “I make a decent living at what I do.”

John sighed. “I didn’t say you didn’t. But it’s what you fell back on and you’ve never exactly been happy doing it.” Pause. “I just don’t want cha resentin’ me ‘cause you’re not a cop.”

Wetting his lips, Dean cringed at the nature of the conversation but realized he had to follow through. “I don’t resent you, dad. I could never resent you. I hate the dick that put you in that chair and I—I think sometimes that if I were a cop I could have caught him. I could have put him in jail so that he’d never hurt anyone else again. He just got away with it and that’s not right. People who screw with other peoples’ lives deserve to be punished.”

“He’ll get his…maybe he already has. Karma’s a bitch.”

“I just feel like I let you down ‘cause I didn’t try to catch him.”

John frowned. “What are you talking about? I’m proud of both you and Sammy. So what if you’re not a cop? It was never on you to find that bastard even if you were. Look you’re a strong, kind young man and as far as I am concerned your mother and I raised you right. What you do for a living means nothing to me as long as you are happy.” He exhaled and leaned back in his chair. “Are you happy? Or do you miss Lisa?”

Dean hadn’t exactly told his parents the particulars of his break up with Lisa, just that they weren’t together anymore and it was her decision they see other people. “Honestly? I did for a while. I’d gotten used to her being around and shit. I loved her but I guess she wasn’t in it for the long haul.”

“And now?” John inquired.

“Time heals all wounds.” Dean tried to keep his expression blank. “Can’t spend the rest of my life moping about some chick. Got better things to do.”

John arched a brow. “Remember when you were six and you tried to hide that dog in your room? And he got out and got into Sam’s closet and then Sam peed the bed because he thought it was a monster?” At Dean’s nod he continued. “Yeah you’re making that face right now. The I didn’t do anything face. You used to make it a lot when you were younger. You seein’ someone?”

“Kinda…” He answered with a noncommittal scowl. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

His father chuckled. “Fair enough. Anyway I want you to be careful, Dean. You think you’re invincible but you’re not. If shit gets too intense don’t be stupid. As for help.”

“Yes sir,” Dean replied.

They didn’t have many serious talks because they both tended to avoid anything dealing with their feelings unless it was serious or Mary forced them. Dean had an inkling that his mother had badgered her husband into talking to him after hearing the news about the diner shooting. He was slightly surprised she wasn’t begging him to come home for a few weeks. Now however he definitely had to go to their cookout.

It was true though that he’d always wanted to find the jackass that put his dad in a wheelchair. When he first became an Investigator he’d looked into the case and canvassed the neighborhood for anyone matching the son of a bitch’s description. To this day he wasn’t sure what he would have done had he actually caught him but he liked to think after roughing him up he would have turned him in.

Not being able to find that drug addict and not being a real cop bothered him more than anything else. But he would never say it out loud. Most days he didn’t even allow himself to think it anymore.

~*~

With the coffee table moved over to the side, Dean sat against the bottom of his couch surrounded by printed out news articles, notes and his laptop. Curled up on a pillow absently purring was his cat that would open his eyes and stare at him whenever he cursed or lost his pen under a few sheets of paper. It was almost one in the morning but Dean felt too wired to sleep.

Hence putting on some music and finding out everything he could about Lilith Adler—for starters. Alastair was next on the list.

In truth she was a pretty boring woman. Attractive in a sharp sort of way if that made any sense. Obviously too young for her husband but he was loaded and he totally understood that. Dealt with on a day to day basis. Anyway there were tons of pictures of them on news sites from charity events mostly or gala openings. The Alders were figureheads around town—pretty powerful couple really without being obtrusive. They appeared to have their hands clean which made even less sense for her to be meeting with Alastair unless she was in fact, screwing him.

However Dean had a feeling it went much deeper than that. If Adler found out his wife was cheating no doubt he’d divorce her, pay her alimony every month and have a newer model before you could blink. So the connection was probably between Adler himself with the wife as just a decoy. He wouldn’t be the first clean on paper guy to have skeletons in his closet.

Nodding his head along to the soulful song droning from his speakers, he lifted a brow as someone rapped softly on his front door. He slicked his tongue across his bottom lip and padded over to it, checking the peephole, expecting the cop from down below. Biting the inside of his cheek, he smoothed down his faded green t-shirt and slowly opened the door.

“Sure you don’t want to come in the window again?”

Castiel smiled. Just a little. “I was going to until I saw your light on then I decided it would defeat the purpose. Besides, I figured knocking would be more endearing considering what you know about me.”

Dean chuckled and motioned for him to come inside, which he did. “Well gotta say Cas, you are full of surprises.” He shut the door. “What brings you by at this hour?”

“Do I need a reason to want to see you?” Castiel glanced around and crouched down to pet the cat when it trotted over.

“No…” Dean flicked on the overhead light. “Of course not. You can stop by whenever you want.”

“Thank you. I…” He trailed off as he stood and caught sight of Dean’s bruised face. “What happened to you?” He reached out and cupped his cheeks, smoothing his thumbs over the marked skin around Dean’s eye and over his cheek bone.

Dean’s voice was subdued as he replied, “Got into a bar fight earlier.” He cracked a smirking grin. “You should see the other guy.”

Castiel stepped closer. “I am sure it was justified, the beating you gave him. You do not strike me as the type to simply get drunk and pick fights.”

Without really meaning to—maybe Gordon hit him harder than he thought—Dean swayed into Castiel’s space until their chests were nearly touching. He could smell the cool night air on his skin and he found himself with the sudden urge to bury his fingers in his wildly adorable dark hair just to feel the softness he knew was there. “No it—he deserved it trust me.”

Wide blue eyes gazed up at him serenely. “Good. Although I wish it hadn’t come to violence…” His forehead crinkled but whatever thought he had that disturbed him, he pushed it away. “I do not like seeing you hurt.”

Dean forced his hands to remain limp at his sides. Pushed down the urge to touch or just do something involving the other man. Anything. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re got really nice eyes?”

“A few times,” Castiel mused, dropping his hands to Dean’s neck. “I suppose the face paint really brings them out?”

“Yeah. Man, you gotta show me what you look like without that stuff.”

“I will. I promise. When I don’t need it anymore.”

“Why do you need it now? I mean, do you walk around during the day like this?”

“No. This is something for after dark. I—it helps with my work if certain people don’t see my face.”

“Hm. Okay so why this? Why not warrior markings or whatever?”

“This was the image in my head when I decided to do it.”

Exhaling, Dean licked his lips and traced his fingers over the black line that stemmed from the corner of Castiel’s mouth. “I still think you’re a superhero or something. Shit, I guess that makes me your Lois Lane.”

“There are worse things to be.” He laughed, his lashes fluttering at the touch. “I’m glad it doesn’t frighten you.”

“Nah. My brother is the one who’s scared of clowns. Ya know if he lived closer we could go over to his house and you could press against the window. He’d scream like a girl.” Dean wiggled his brows. “Actually a trip across town for that would be so worth it.”

Castiel snorted. He reluctantly moved away from Dean and sat down on the sofa. “Ah yes. Sam. The lawyer. Let’s hope he never has to try a case about the circus.”

So in the only time they’d talked on the phone, Dean had spent most of it talking about himself and his family while Cas listened with an odd sort of fascination. He hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with his own information but Dean learned that he had a sister that designed wedding cakes. He’d made a mental note to tell Sam later just in case Jessica wanted to check her out.

Dean shuffled his mess out of the way so that he could sit down. “Do you plan to tell me more about you when I see your real face?”

“Yes. I’ll tell you whatever you wish to know.” He studied his hands. “I like this song; I’ve never heard it before. Who is it?”

“Only one of the best bands in the world. Zeppelin of course; Since I’ve Been Loving You,” Dean said. “Looks like I’m gonna have to teach you about them.”

“It is aurally pleasing. I would like to hear more of their work sometime.” Tilting his head to the side, Castiel reached and plucked up the Colt 1911 that was resting on a handkerchief on the end of the coffee table. He smoothed his fingers over the white handle, drawing attention to his hands and Dean couldn’t help but stare. They were really nice hands. “Planning on needing this?”

“Hoping not but you never know where an asshole is concerned.”

“Who is bothering you, Dean?”

“This guy named Gordon Walker. He’s a dick. Thinks I know something I don’t.”

Castiel bristled, returning the gun to its place. “Gordon did this to you?”

That’s interesting. “You know him?”

His new friend’s face went stony and he was on his feet a second later heading to the door. “I have to go.”

“Cas? Cas, wait.” Dean caught his wrist just before he entered the hallway. “What’s going on? Where are you going?”

“It’s okay, Dean. I’m just…late. I have work to do,” He replied seamlessly. “Rooftops to prowl.”

“Am I going to see you again?” Dean inquired, leaning against the threshold. He found himself hoping the answer was yes even if he didn’t exactly understand the reasons why. “I’d like to.”

“I…” Castiel stared at him; his eyes soft and gentle. “Yes, Dean. You will.”

As he stalked towards the stairwell, Dean scowled and hurried back inside to jump into his boots and grab his jacket. He pulled his door closed with a noisy slam and followed Castiel; he could hear his shiny shoes as they sounded like they took the stairs two at a time. Dean was quite aware that he should probably just go back to his home and continue working, but it was as if some force was driving him onward. Perhaps his burning curiosity to figure out the man who kept turning up and shaking up his otherwise mundane life.

Exiting the building and looking around, he waved off the cop as he caught a flash of tan out of the corner of his eye and followed it down the block. “Cas? Either you can stop or I can just follow you all night.”

He was heading by an alley when a deep voice said, “You’re only following me now because I am allowing it.”

Dean skidded to a stop and peered into the murky space between the two buildings. “Then why are you letting me?”

Castiel pulled out his cigarettes. “Because you want to. I understand that I am not being entirely fair. That there are things we should be talking about—things I should be more forthcoming in offering up. However I find that I am nervous to tell you the truth about me because I do not wish for you to look at me differently. I do not wish for you to forbid me from visiting you.”

Leaning against the wall and mirroring the other man’s stance, Dean sighed. “Dude, you’re running around in the shadows like some kinda caped crusader saving lives or whatever. Ever since I was little I wanted to be Batman. But you know dating him doesn’t sound so bad either.” Pause. “It’s just, I was talking to my brother today and he was asking about you and it’s like, you’re a total stranger to me. I don’t know your last name for one, and I feel like I should care about that. And I do…but not enough to make me stop wanting to see you. Everyone has secrets.”

“Even you?”

“Especially me.”

“Tell me one of your secrets and I will tell you one of mine.”

“Um… When I was sixteen I stole my dad’s car and drove to Texas to see this girl that I was kinda in love with. She’d moved a few months before but I was still so into her. The only reason my dad never found out is because I lied and said I was spending the night with a friend.”

“That sounds romantic.”

“Romantic. Stupid. All the same when you’re sixteen.”

“I once had an affair with one of my professors while I was attending college.”

“Did you get all As?”

“Actually I think he graded me even harder to throw off suspicion.”

Dean laughed. “So can I ask you something personal?”

Castiel nodded. “If you wish.”

“When did you know you liked guys?” He asked softly. “I’m just curious.”

“I’ve always known.” Castiel glanced up to the night sky. “I came out when I was sixteen and my father was not thrilled at all. I think he even considered sending me to one of those pray out the gay camps but my mother talked him out of it. Our relationship was rocky for a few years before he finally accepted me. What about you?”

“I’ve always liked girls too so I never really focused on it until I was seventeen and I met this guy.” He grinned a little. “He was older and working part time at this bar while he put himself through medical school. We used to sneak around and shit. I was terrified of telling my dad that I liked boys as well as girls. He’s a former cop and I was sure he was going to shoot me. I can tell he’s not overjoyed by the idea but he takes it all in stride. Like your dad he’s scared of my mom.”

Castiel chuckled and stared at his cigarettes before tossing the box into a dumpster. “You have no idea how long I’ve been meaning to quit.”

Dean bumped their shoulders together and blinked as a man stumbled into their area wearing dirty clothes with pale skin and wide eyes that kept darting all around. He’d encountered enough drug addicts to know one when he was looking at one, and this guy definitely fit the bill. It could be the asshole who shot my dad—I always think that when I encounter an addict. Wonder could I bash his head in with something before he realized what was going on? Better not, don’t wanna put Cas in the crosshairs.

Making no sudden moves, he took Cas’ hand and gave it a firm tug. “Let’s go,” He whispered. “Slowly.”

Funny thing about crack heads though, the ones with nothing to lose always seemed to have perfect hearing. He quickly blocked the mouth of the alley and pulled a gun out of his tattered pocket. It was also obviously a great feat to hold it steady. “Gimme your wallets. Now!” He demanded, rubbing at his nose.

“I do not have a wallet.” Castiel tilted his head to the side like an inquisitive bird; Dean was becoming fond of the action. “And I am almost certain that my friend left his upstairs.”

“Fuck,” Dean cursed patting at the back of his jeans. He had done just that. “Look man he’s right. We don’t have any money on us so why don’t you just turn around and—”

The gun went off so suddenly that Dean almost figured it to be a car back firing or something. It wasn’t until the addict screeched in shock and ran off that he realized his shaky trigger finger had gotten the best of him. He took a second to feel if he were in any pain and then immediately turned to Cas when the answer was no.

Castiel was slumped against the brick nearly glaring at the small hole and bloodstain marring his white shirt. Dean made a noise low in his throat like he was being strangled and lurched towards him, his mind screaming at him to call 911 because it couldn’t end this way. It just couldn’t. There was no way in hell he was letting Castiel end up like his dad or worse. He grabbed the other man’s shirt and yanked the two sides apart, sending buttons flying into the air.

“Oh God, Cas!” He swallowed thickly, expecting to find a gruesome wound pouring blood. Instead he found…nothing. No wound. No blood. Just smooth warm skin. “What…” He wet his lips in confusion and splayed his fingers on Cas’ stomach, the muscles twitching under his touch. “Cas?”

“Novak.” Castiel caressed his cheek which forced his head up. “My last name is Novak.”

“But you were shot. I—where’s the bullet hole? There was blood. I—I saw—where’s the blood?” He blinked owlishly. “What does your last name have to do with anything?”

Pulling away from him slowly, Castiel watched him solemnly. “I’m sorry that this is the way you had to find out, Dean. I should have told you sooner but I was enjoying the fact that you saw me as at least somewhat normal. You’ll have questions and I will answer them. Just come find me.” Pause. “Castiel Novak.”

“Find you? I—how? C’mon man, tell me what’s going on!”

“Look for Castiel Novak and you’ll know where I am. Goodbye Dean.”

+

After leaving Dean bewildered in the alley but certain that he would learn the truth for himself, Castiel set out to find Gordon. He climbed up the fire escape of a brick building until he reached the roof, staring out at the city with keen eyes. The thought of Gordon hurting Dean—especially after what he’d done to him and Anna—made him so livid that he was nearly trembling with it. Had he been an animal he was sure that he would be foaming at the mouth. He had taken pleasure in killing Meg and Nick but he had a feeling that Gordon would be his true masterpiece because he didn’t kill for fun or sport; he did it because he considered it a job.

A means to an end.

A way to earn quick cash while doing something he considered easy.

Gordon Walker was a psychopath—the very definition of the word. Castiel could remember turning his head as he gasped for air and looking into the other man’s eyes but seeing nothing. Just a hollow blankness as he tightened the rope like he was doing the most mundane thing possible and not robbing someone of their life.

They’ve already taken everything from me and yet they want more.

He balled his hands into fists so hard that his blunt nails dug into his skin, making tiny crescent shaped wounds that healed too quickly to bleed. He didn’t care what he had to do; there was no way they were getting Dean. Dean. Smart mouthed Dean with his laughing eyes and boyish charm. Dean, who’d looked upon him as he was now and yet not flinched, not wavered. He wasn’t going to let Gordon do to Dean what he’d done to him. He’d burn the world down before he let that happen.

As if it always knew the right time to make itself known, the black crow swooped out of the sky and perched on Castiel’s shoulder. He pecked at the collar of his coat and then took flight, soaring over the city with amber eyes, letting Castiel see what it saw. The only people that were out this late were law enforcement, late shift workers, club kids and men up to no good. And Castiel could see them all through his guide’s steely gaze as they worked and played and terrorized.

It found Gordon in a rusted mobile home out near the city dump, surrounded by old toilets and discarded furniture. A giant transformer was to the right and within walking distance, shielded behind a silver fence. He was sitting in a broken down recliner with the television playing Cops of all things cleaning one of the several guns he had laid out on the table in front of him.

Castiel wasted no time getting to his location. He ran, moved across the rooftops like a shadow until the only way he could keep going was to take to the streets. The crow cawed at him loudly from above, goading him on, showing him the proper location over and over again until he was standing just a few inches away.

He sighed deeply as sprinkles of rain began to fall and walked up to a window, peering in through the dirty glass. A memory flashed behind his eyes so vividly that it nearly dropped him to his knees, and he jerked to the side trying to force it away. But a tiny voice in his head said let it come, let it come because it would give him strength.

Gordon does most of the hitting, most of the punching and he’s very clinical about it. Face, chest, stomach, and ribs. His blows are strong enough to cause instant bruises but not break bones. He kicks Castiel when he’s down on the floor, watches him writhe in pain and then stomps on his back, leaves a dirty footprint in his crisp white shirt.

His friends are laughing and destroying Castiel’s things but all of Gordon’s focus is on him. And the entire time he doesn’t smile or show one ounce of emotion. He just hits. Hits until his knuckles are stained with Castiel’s blood and the man with the yellow sunglasses says it’s time for the main event. So Gordon yanks a thick rope out of his bag and wraps it around Castiel’s neck, tightens it so that the coarse material digs into his soft skin. Hauls him up, ties his hands behind his back and even lets Castiel lean on him a little while the others continue to taunt him.

In the end when Anna’s screams have stopped, Gordon’s breath in his ear is the last thing he ever hears.

Cracking his neck loudly, Castiel tapped on his window three times and waited. Gordon was up and leaning out of the door seconds later, gun clasped tightly in his hand. “Who are you? What are you doing outside of my home?”

Castiel watched him. “Gordon Walker. I haven’t decided what I wish to say to you yet. Usually I’m poetic in these moments but you instill so much rage inside of me that I am nearly at a loss for words.”

Gordon cocked a brow and stepped out onto the muddy ground. “Do I know you?”

He nodded slowly. “Yes. And you know a friend of mine, Dean Winchester.”

Gordon chuckled and replied, “Did Dean send you to do his dirty work? Give me a message or something? Well you tell Dean that all he had to do was give the pictures back and swear to be a good boy. He’s the one being a stubborn son of a bitch. It’s his fault if things are…going badly for him.”

“He doesn’t know I’m here. In truth I would have made my way here sooner or later however after I saw what you did to Dean, I had ample cause to make it sooner. And we both know even if he had returned the photos, your employer would have never believed he didn’t know more than he was actually saying.”

“Mm. Breaking his face a little was just a warning. Next time it’ll be his neck.”

“I’m afraid there won’t be a next time for you.”

“Am I supposed to be scared because you’re jacked up and crazy looking? Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not.”

“Nick Monroe was. Meg Masters was.”

Gordon’s face twitched. “Are you the one who killed them?”

Castiel smirked; finally a little emotion. “Yes but between you and me, they were already dead. It just took Death a while to cross their names off his list.”

Lifting his gun, Gordon aimed it at Castiel’s heart. “Who do you work for?”

“That is an interesting question. I’ve been contemplating the reasons for my resurrection and who could have possibly sanctioned it, but I still do not know the answer,” Castiel said shoving his hands into his pockets. “Worse case scenario? Lucifer. Perhaps he has sent me collect the wicked.”

Who are you?” Gordon asked his patience thinning.

Castiel sighed. “My name is Castiel Novak, and six months ago you murdered me.”

Gordon frowned at him, the wheels in his head turning. He tilted his head to the side and licked his dry lips. “Novak. The reporter? Well, I’ll be damned. Never would have expected someone like you to be working some type of black magic.” He laughed lowly. “You’ve wasted it though. The dead don’t scare me, never have.”

His blasé attitude made a spike of anger split Castiel’s insides and for a moment he felt like he was back in his apartment begging for his life. At least the others had pleaded and apologized with empty words but obviously this man didn’t care one way or another. He would rip a path of destruction on whomever he was sent after.

And so he deserves it most of all.

“I will indulge my sorrows, and give way to all the pangs and fury of despair,” Castiel quoted softly. “Joseph Addison.”

Gordon, sensing that the conversation was over, took a step back and fired. The bullet hit Castiel directly in his heart and he staggered but didn’t go down. So Gordon shot again. And again and again until his pistol was clicking empty and Castiel was laughing as the bullet holes mended. He lunged at Gordon without warning and slammed him against the metal of his mobile home, making his skull hit it with a sick crack. Castiel then drove his knee up into Gordon’s stomach with enough force to double the man over and send him into a coughing fit.

However Gordon wasn’t a pretty boy or a sex crazed young woman and he had no problems fighting back, pushing himself beyond his limits. He grabbed the lapels of Castiel’s coat and head butted him before punching him in the face and shoving him towards an old bathtub someone had thrown away. Castiel tripped over a loose root and fell across it, grunting when Gordon kicked him in the face so that he was sprawled on the ground.

Gordon straddled his legs next and hit him repeatedly, and even though there was a minute amount of pain Castiel started laughing again. A low throaty sound that vibrated throughout his body.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Gordon asked panting.

“I am but the monster you made me.” Without warning his hand latched around Gordon’s neck and squeezed, choking off his air. Grunting, he tossed the other man off of him violently into the chain link fence.

By now the rain was coming down steadily drenching them both. Gordon shook off the fuzziness in his head and reached behind him, pulling out a knife with a jagged blade. He glared at Castiel and tried to circle him, slashing at him when he got to close. Elbowing Castiel against his temple and ducking a blow to his nose, he drove the knife in deep into his chest and twisted.

Castiel huffed and delivered a swift uppercut to Gordon’s chin, knocking him off balance and over a tree stump. He slowly tugged out the knife and tossed it to the ground, ignoring the twinge to grip the back of Gordon’s shirt and drag him closer to the transformer. Hefting him up, he stared into his dead eyes. “We could do this all night,” He said grinning.

Gordon grunted at him. “This won’t bring your sister back. In fact, I’m sure I’ll see you in hell later.”

“Maybe.” Pause. “Where is my briefcase? I was told you took it from my apartment after disposing of me. Who has it?”

“Alastair. Good luck getting to it and him.”

“Thank you. I’d love to hurt you repeatedly—pay you back for what you did to me. To Anna. To Dean and the countless others. But your time has come. You don’t deserve one more breath.”

Kicking open the protective gate, Castiel shoved Gordon with all of his might into the mass of electrical wires and tubes. He hit them with a harsh thud and immediately started to shudder fiercely as massive volt after massive volt traveled through his body, burning the flesh from his bones and searing out his eyes, turning him into a bloody burning mess.

The smell was horrific—like burning tires—but Castiel continued to watch him fry with a rather blank expression. And yet inside he was happy or at least…sated. Another one down.

Exhaling, he turned his face up to the sky and let the rain wash away his sins. Gordon’s smoking body dropped to the ground and he tilted his head at the symbol charred into the grass. The crow landed on his shoulder and flapped its’ wings, apparently pleased at another one of its greeting cards being left.

Stroking its’ soft feathers, Castiel decided it was time to go.

~*~

At the current rate that he was going, Dean knew he wouldn’t be getting a lick of sleep tonight. It was already ticking towards three-thirty and he was on his second cup of coffee. He was actually just sitting in front of his open laptop with the Google logo showing, trying to push down the anxious tension in his stomach so that he could type in two words; Castiel Novak. A part of him was terrified of what he would find out but the other part wanted to know so badly. Not to mention as a P.I. it was sort of his job to get to the truth of matters.

Sighing deeply, he cracked his knuckles and typed in Cas’ full name, hitting enter quickly before he lost his nerve. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected to pop up first; escaped mental patient roams the city or also known as the superhero Clown Man. He definitely wasn’t anticipating a bold headline with the words brutally murdered in the title.

Aspiring Reporter Brutally Murdered

“What the fuck?” He said aloud and clicked on the link. “Castiel Novak along with his sister Anna were found murdered early Tuesday morning in Novak’s quaint fourth story apartment building. It appeared to be a robbery gone wrong in which the assailants proceeded to beat and torture Novak and his sister before…fuck.” He was forced to stop for a moment or risk vomiting on the carpet. “…before killing both. Reports confirm that Mr. Novak was found hanging from the ceiling while his sister’s apparent cause of death was strangulation. The police do not have any leads but are looking at several people of interest. This tragedy comes as a shock to the Novaks’ Uncle—CEO of Alder Pharmaceuticals—Zachariah Adler.”

Dean slouched back to the couch and slid a hand over his eyes, his breath coming out shaky and shallow. There was no way this was true. It had to be some kinda fucked up prank or something because if not then Cas was pretty damn alive for a dead person. And yet…

“He got shot and there was no wound, and he just walked off.” Groaning, he turned back to his computer and exited the page for another which brandished a picture. Of course he recognized the big blue eyes of the dark haired man; he would know those eyes anywhere.

Dean stared at the photo, at what Castiel looked like when he wasn’t all made up. He was gorgeous for lack of a better word. Studious. Intense. The kinda guy Dean would probably annoy until he agreed to go out with him and then take much pleasure in eventually getting to defile him. To muss him up until everyone knew he belonged to Dean.

Why someone would wanna hide a face like that he had no idea, but he was damn sure going to find out. He had his phone out and calling Henriksen seconds later.

A groggy voice answered a few rings after. “Henriksen.”

“Hey man, it’s Dean.” He nibbled on his bottom lip. “I know it’s early and that I probably woke you and Nancy up, but this is important. I need some information on Castiel Novak.”

Henriksen cleared his throat. “Dean, it’s almost three in the morning. What the hell are you talking about?”

“C’mon dude, Castiel Novak. Name ring a bell?”

“Yeah. Castiel Novak is dead. He was killed about six months ago with his older sister. Why?”

“Did you work the case?”

“Not exactly. The whole department had a hand in questioning people and running mug shots when Novak’s Uncle put in a call to the mayor, but it wasn’t my case. Why?”

“And you didn’t get any leads? Were any other apartments in the area hit?”

“Several. An elderly woman was beaten and they killed her cat. Why, Dean?”

“I—nothing I just ran across the name and wanted to know more is all.”

“Uh-huh. Excuse me if I don’t believe that for a minute seeing as how you woke me saying it was all important.”

“Hey at least I’m not asking about Walker. That’s something right?”

“I suppose so. Though knowing what I know about you, it’s not much. I’m sure you’re working some type of angle.”

“Just one last question and I’ll let you go back to sleep. What apartment did this happen in?”

“Dean…”

“Humor me okay? Please.”

Maybe it was the please that did it but Henriksen caved and gave Dean an address after telling him to try to stay out of trouble. However it was something that he always said—like a running mantra that threaded itself through their friendship. Dean appreciated it just the same.

Half an hour later Dean was sitting outside the address given to him, staring up at the half burned building surrounded by yellow caution tape and orange barriers. While the fourth floor had the most damage and the city offered to fix up the apartments of the other tenants, everyone eventually moved out as fast as they could which made perfect sense to him. Apparently the place was going to be condemned as soon as someone got around to it but it wasn’t a top priority. Not like fixing pot holes or building another Starbucks.

What am I doing here? This is so fucken stupid. What the hell am I expecting to find anyway? Dean thought to himself with a deep scowl. He felt like an idiot but a nagging in the back of his brain wouldn’t let him start the engine and go home. It was pushing him forward and he soon found himself getting out of the car and slowly walking up to the front glass doors now covered in dust and spray paint.

His tongue poked out the corner of his mouth as he picked the lock and straightened once it clicked back, turning on his flashlight. “Here goes nothing.”

The inside of the lobby was probably nice back in the day but now the paint was yellowing and peeling with graffiti scribbles proclaiming Brady ♥ Crowley on the walls. He snorted and moved over to the address panel; his fingertips brushing through the grime until he could make out a few of the faded names. His heart was thudding so hard against his rib cage when he spied Castiel’s name that he was sure he was about to have a heart attack. He felt like he’d stepped into another dimension or some stuck point in time, like an old photograph come to life.

He didn’t even realize he was moving until the lobby turned to stairwell and stairwell turned to hallway. The fourth floor wasn’t destroyed but it was damn near close. The smell of wet ashes and moldy wood made his nose burn but he slowly trekked forward, stepping over charred tables and left behind shredded clothes. It wasn’t until he saw the one eyed teddy bear sitting in the corner glaring at him that he felt a chill roll down his spine.

He glanced around and told himself the creaks were nothing but the foundation settling and that he most certainty did not hear a meow from a ghost cat.

“Shit,” He said. “I can do this.”

Dean surveyed the numbers on the doors; his throat closing over when found the one he was looking for. He was struck by the violent urge to cough but pushed it down and turned the knob, finding it unlocked. He could turn around. He could hurry back to his car and pretend all of this was a bad dream. Let Sam set him up with some guy or girl from his office, marry them and buy a house down the street from his parents. He didn’t need the truth.

Who am I kidding? I’ll think about this until I’m ninety if I don’t get to the bottom of everything.

Taking a deep breath, Dean pushed the door open with his fingertips and stepped inside. The living room was smashed up and scorched but there were remnants of furniture that hadn’t been burned. It was odd and really made no sense; the path the fire seemed to have taken that is. Why were some parts completely destroyed and others only dirty?

He frowned and crept down the hall towards the bedroom where a soft golden glow was spilling out of the doorway. He turned off his flashlight and wedged it into the pocket of his jacket, his eyes glued to the pale figure sitting on the edge of the bed. “Ca—Cas?”

Castiel did not turn around. “I knew you would find me. I wasn’t sure you would come but I knew you would discover the truth.”

Dean sighed and licked his lips. “The truth? I have no idea what the fuck the truth is, man. What the hell is going on?”

“I think you already know the answer to that, Dean,” He said grimly. “Surely you read all about me before coming here otherwise you wouldn’t have known where to come.”

“I Googled you.” Dean moved closer, his eyes taking in all of the drawings on the floor and tacked to the walls. He saw his face several times; laughing, in profile, sleeping—creepy—and normal as well as a few of a pretty girl with wide innocent eyes. “You’ve gotta level with me here, dude. That article said you were dead but c’mon. I mean you’re here. Is it some kinda witness protection thing?”

“No. Six months ago my sister and I were murdered,” He replied softly. “And then one night I woke up in my coffin.”

“Please tell me you’re not a zombie.” Dean narrowed his brows. “Just so you know I have my gun on me and I’ll shoot you between the eyes if you try to take a bite.”

Castiel laughed and faced him. “While you do look absolutely delicious, I can promise you that I am not a zombie. I am not certain what I am to be honest. I just know that I have a job to do…”

Dean hazarded a step closer and closer until he was sitting beside the other man. He watched him quietly for a moment; his trench coat and suit jacket were discarded on a chair but he still looked as rumpled as ever if somewhat smaller. “So you really died?”

He nodded. “I did.” Pause. “Are you frightened?”

“I…” Dean dragged a hand over his dark blonde hair. “I’m confused mostly. How did you get back? Was it—was it God?”

“I don’t know though I doubt it.” He motioned to the open window where a crow sat pecking at the frame. “He is my guide however. He led me here and helped me remember what happened to me. And now he finds those that deserved to be punished so that I can take my revenge.”

“Jesus, Cas.” Dean was dumbfounded. Things like this didn’t happen in real life or if they did they didn’t happen to him. “Figures the first time I’m irrationally into a guy he’s—he’s not even exactly human.”

“I’m human, Dean.” Castiel turned his hands palm up. “I feel. Until I met you it was rage and anger and sorrow for what I had lost. You make me feel warm.”

The side of his mouth twitched as if to smile. “Fuck you’re sappy. Okay so…a bird brought you back to life so that you could beat the shit out of the people who killed you.” A light bulb clicked on in his head. “Dude, did you kill that guy Nick and Meg?”

Castiel nodded. “Nick Monroe was one of the people who helped kill me. He raped and strangled my sister while I was forced to watch. And Meg took great pleasure in tormenting me the entire time. I have no regrets and they deserved no mercy.”

Dean rubbed a hand over his chin as he tried to digest the information. “I’m sorry for what they did to you. I—fuck—I don’t know if killing them was the right way to go but hell, you came back from the dead so you can do whatever you want.”

“They were horrible people. I was not their first victim and I doubt I was their last. You don’t know how it feels to watch everything you hold dear crumble to dust before your eyes. To watch someone you love be beaten and taken against their will, and not be able to do anything. I died with such wrath in my soul because they threw us away like we were trash.” His voice was low, almost faraway. “It kept creeping inside while I was in paradise. Perhaps that is why I was sent back. Unfinished business.”

“You were in Heaven?”

“Yes.”

“What’s that like?”

“Calm. Beautiful. With a soul as lovely as yours I have no doubt that you will be there someday.”

“Hopefully not too soon. Alright I have a few questions if that is okay?”

“Of course.” Castiel stared at him. “You may ask me anything.”

Dean gazed around at the candles under the pretense of gathering his thoughts. In truth he was just telling himself over and over to stay calm. “They uh, they said it was a robbery gone wrong. Is that true?”

The other man lowered his sad blue eyes. “No. At the time I thought it could have been but now I know it wasn’t. It was a hit.”

Dean frowned. “From who? Who else was involved?”

Castiel loosened his tie. “Nick Monroe. Meg Masters. A man named Azazel and…Gordon Walker.”

A roaring filled Dean’s ears and he could sense a headache coming on. “And the one thing they all have in common is that son of a bitch Alastair. Shit, so I didn’t tell you this when you came to my apartment but someone shot at Sam and me earlier today. I know it was Walker. Should I getting ready for a real fight?”

“Gordon will not be bothering anyone ever again.” Castiel’s expression was blank but Dean cottoned on quickly.

He nibbled at his bottom lip. “I know it’s bad but can’t say I’m too broken up over that. Cas, why would Alastair want you dead?”

“I suspect it had something to do with the last article I was working on. It was going to make my career and destroy quite a few careers in the process. I’d discovered forged documents concerning the disposal of toxic waste and chemicals from the largest laboratory in the city. There were signatures from the head of the removal center that didn’t always match. They were heavily buried but I’ve always been very dedicated to finding out the truth,” Castiel explained slowly. “After more digging I discovered waste that said it had been destroyed had in fact hadn’t and was being buried all over. The city dump, a few fields on the outskirts of town, even that old playground that was shut down because it was unsafe.”

Dean grinned at him. “You’re sexy when you talk like that. What put you onto this anyway?”

Smiling, he blushed. “People started getting sick from the toxins seeping into the ground. I began to look into it and started connecting the many, many dots I found.”

“But why would Alastair care about toxic dumping? Doesn’t seem to be his area.”

“I’ve wondered that but I suppose a man with his talents would have no trouble—if paid accordingly—say getting rid of the evidence. Perhaps even intimidating a lowly employee to falsify records.”

“So he found out and he had his goons kill you. That sucks.”

“Indeed. Though only three people knew the truth. Alastair and myself were two of them.”

“Who was the third? Your sister?”

“No. I’d never told her what I was working on, just that it would win me a Pulitzer.”

“Okay so who was the third person?”

“Zachariah Adler.”

Dean blinked in confusion. “But he’s your Uncle. I mean that’s what I’ve heard.”

Castiel snorted. “He is. He is my mother’s step-brother. Her father died when she was very young and so a few years later, her mother married Zachariah’s father. He is a very power hungry man. He likes to be the center of attention. All of the hazardous material came from his lab and I am sure he got wind of me sticking my nose in his business.”

The other man exhaled shakily. “You think Zach paid Alastair to kill you? Fuck, talk about a dysfunctional family. Is that why you lied when I asked if you knew Lilith or why she was talking to Alastair?”

He fiddled with an unraveling thread on his shirt and said, “Yes. I did not want you to investigate their dealings because I knew what Alastair was capable of. I didn’t want anything to happen to you.”

Touched, Dean gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Thanks. So what happens now?”

Castiel shrugged. “I finish what I started. Azazel and Alastair will die and I will release my notes and article to the public once I get my briefcase back. I—I would be honored if you could see to that for me.”

“Of course, Cas. Whatever you need.” Dean suddenly felt very tired. “What happens after you’ve taken care of those two bastards? Celebrate with a few beers and wash your face?”

Biting down onto his bottom lip, he cleared his throat. “I go back.”

Dean knew what that meant though he wanted to pretend otherwise. He wanted to look dumb and ask for an explanation, but instead he just stood and walked over to the window. It wasn’t like this situation could end in any other way besides the two of them not together. Cas was—well he was dead and Dean wasn’t and nothing made sense. Yet he still felt a sense of betrayal. “I take it you’ve always known you’d skip back to fairy land when you were done killin’ the dragons? You never had any intention of sticking around for that coffee, did you?”

“Yes, Dean, I did. I do,” He said adamantly. “You don’t know how many times I have wished that I could have met you before. Maybe it would have saved my life. Or maybe it would have been you here that night instead of Anna, and I’d cutting a path of destruction a mile wide to avenge you. I know it’s only been a short time but you’ve helped give me a sort of peace I couldn’t find even in death.”

“Fuck,” Dean cursed. “Man that’s some heavy shit to lay on someone. Especially since you’re gonna be ridin’ off into the sunset and I’m gonna be here thinkin’ about what could have been.”

Staring at him, Castiel stepped forward and pressed their foreheads together. It was a simple gesture but Dean’s eyes closed in repose and he sighed; he could feel the other man’s cool breath against his cheek. “I don’t want to go. I want to stay with you. I want to discover what we could possibly be to each other.”

Going with the urge he felt, Dean slipped his arm around Castiel’s waist and pulled him closer. He liked the way the other man melted against him, his fingers curling into the material of Dean’s t-shirt. Dean pretty much considered himself the King of bad ideas and some of the things he’d done in his past were a testament to that. Though as he tipped up Castiel’s face and brushed their lips together, he decided that for once he was actually doing something good albeit selfish. What else could it really be but selfish?

Castiel didn’t hesitate however to return the kiss. He slanted his mouth over Dean’s and swept his tongue into his mouth tasting apples and whiskey. Dean sighed softly and buried his hand in Castiel’s soft hair; sucked on his bottom lip before biting into it and soothing it with a gentle lick. Their tongues caressed slickly over and over, and in seconds it was heated and they were both panting but reluctant to come up for air. Reluctant to stop touching, reluctant to squash the roaring desire that had been building from day one.

Dean broke first but kept his lips on Castiel’s skin, choosing to nibble at the flesh under his jaw. The other man shivered and he smirked, licking a soft line over rough stubble. He jerked them around and pushed Castiel against the wall, sliding his right hand down, letting his knuckles brush gently against the seam in his pants. “If we had sex would it be considered necrophilia?”

Castiel laughed and squirmed, his hips moving instinctively towards Dean’s touch. “If I let you take me to bed right now I’ll never want to finish why I’m here.”

That sounded okay to Dean. “Mm and then you wouldn’t ever leave,” He murmured, attempting to suck a red mark into pale skin.

“True. But I—I…” Castiel shuddered as Dean lapped at his pulse point. “That is very distracting.”

“That’s the point.” Smiling, Dean leaned back and smoothed his thumb over Castiel’s kiss red bottom lip. He wanted to see him without the paint. He wanted to see him bare; laughing and smiling and wrapped up in his arms until he forgot all about his fucked up mission but unfortunately that wasn’t doable. “It’s okay Cas, I get it. You gotta do what you gotta do.” He kissed him again lightly and then stepped away. “I um, I gotta go. Come see me before you leave.”

“Yes.” Castiel watched him sadly. “I’m sorry Dean. I wish things could have gone differently.”

Dean stared at him for several moments as his thoughts crashed together in his mind like violent waves. He was having trouble comprehending—slicing together—all of the ragged puzzle pieces of information that he’d received but he got the gist of it. He got that Castiel would finish fucking up the people who’d hurt him and then leave. He decided it shouldn’t squeeze his heart as hard as it was but he didn’t know how to make it stop. For some reason never seeing Castiel again just didn’t seem right.

But then nothing about this jacked up situation was right.

Exhaling deeply, Dean turned and left the apartment quickly before he said fuck it all, stripped Castiel naked and gave him several reasons to stay. A part of him still figured he was going to wake up any minute now in that warehouse with a giant lump on his head and Ruby standing over him laughing like the bitch she was. In a way it was all her fault—if she hadn’t left him tied up he would have never met Castiel in the first place. Would have never had to feel the pain of losing him before he even really had him.

Fuck, he thought to himself absently as the early morning air tickled his cheeks once he was outside. I sound like a fuckin’ girl.

He was about to look up towards Castiel’s window when his cell phone ringing pulled his attention elsewhere. Fishing it out of his pocket, he read Sam’s name on the caller id and flipped it open. “You’re callin’ me mighty early man. You and Jess have a fight or something?”

“Hello Dean-o.”

That was definitely not Sam’s voice. “Who is this? And what are you doing with my brother’s phone?”

“Oh you know me, Dean. Well not personally but we’re about to change all that. Names Azazel,” The unfamiliar voice on the other end crooned. “Now I can imagine you’re a bit confused and maybe even getting a little upset about the nature of this call, so I’ll cut right to the case. You and I…we need to have a talk…man to man.”

“I got nothing to say to you.” Dean’s jaw clenched tightly.

Azazel chuckled. “I don’t think that’s true. You see I’ve got little Sammy here with me and his safety kinda depends on you willing to talk. So this is what’s gonna happen. By now a black car should be pulling up to your location and if not, just wait a few minutes. When it’s there I want you to get in the back and just enjoy the ride.”

“You hurt my brother and I’ll kill you, you stupid son of a bitch!” Dean growled. “Do you hear me?”

“Just get in the car, Dean.” The other man sighed as if bored. “Sammy’s wellbeing is in your hands. Call the cops and I put a bullet between his puppy dog eyes.”

The line went dead and Dean barely resisted the urge to toss his phone into the street. He was so furious that he was shaking, near chewing a hole through his bottom lip. However just as Azazel said, a black car rounded the corner and slowed before him, the windows tinted and the plates unmarked. The back door opened soundlessly and he peeped inside, frowning at the burly looking man behind the driver side chair.

No one said anything though or attempted to force him into the vehicle and he huffed as he crawled inside. “Took you guys long enough. Gonna make me late for my own prom? Now which one of you has my corsage?”

His answer was a swift blow to the back of his head.

+

Dean nearly tripped over his own feet as he was shoved unceremoniously through the door of a dingy warehouse with hanging light fixtures and odd stains on the cement floors by the two burly men who’d picked him up. Of course it would be some ominous warehouse, it was always an ominous warehouse with rats and creaky sounds and weird shadows on the wall. In the brightest area between large crates and a rusted conveyer belt stood the man Dean assumed was Azazel because he was wearing his yellow sunglasses. He was older than Dean figured he would be but that just meant he had more years of being a douche under his belt.

Anyway more importantly there was Sam; his gigantic body folded into a chair that looked way to small for him, his hands tied tightly behind his back. There was a bruise blooming across his left temple but he looked otherwise unharmed if completely confused as to what in the hell was going on. The fact that he’d been dragged into this bullshit made Dean see red and he sauntered closer, stopping only when he was jerked back roughly by brawny asshole number one.

“Dean Winchester.” Azazel grinned at him, sizing him up. “Owner of Winchester Investigations. Son of Mary and John Winchester—who I’ve actually met. Your daddy was a damn fine police officer in his day. Shame what happened to him…”

Dean frowned, his hands balling into fists. The back of his head was sporting a small lump and he had a headache from being knocked out. “Well you seem to know a lot about me,” He growled out. “And all I know about you is that you’re a dick.”

Azazel laughed. “Seein’ as how this ain’t exactly a friendly meeting, I thought we could skip the getting to know you portion.”

“Look whatever this is, it doesn’t concern my brother. So why not just let him go?” Dean motioned to Sam who pulled one of his trademark bitch faces. “I’m here. I’m the one you want.”

The older man folded his arms over his chest. “Is that an admission of guilt? ‘Cause you see we know your pretty little associate took pictures of a meeting she wasn’t privy to and then refused to give them back. Why is that by the way?”

Dean wet his lips slowly. “She gave them to me and I just never got around to buying a book of stamps.”

Azazel smirked. “Hm is that right? Well the pictures I can let slide seein’ as how it was just two people having a conversation. No harm done. However…” He took a step closer until he was standing right in front of Dean. “What I can’t let go is you hurting my baby girl.”

Dean blinked at him. “What? What the hell are you talking about? I haven’t hurt anyone.”

“Oh? I sent Meg and Gordon to have a little chat with you and that night she ends up dead. Wanna tell me why?”

“Well no offense dude but she was a handsy little slut so she probably grabbed the wrong guy’s junk and his girlfriend beat her ass.”

Azazel’s mouth twitched and Dean had no warning before a fist socked him hard in the stomach, doubling him over. “Watch your mouth. That’s my baby girl you’re talking about.”

He groaned and coughed. “I hope you two weren’t really related. Otherwise that’s just sick.”

He received another rough punch for his trouble.

“You’ve got quite a mouth on you, boy.” Azazel tsked him and walked over to a table covered with a dirty sheet. He ripped it off to reveal a series of sharp instruments. “Maybe I’ll cut if off and then we’ll see how smart you talk.”

“I didn’t kill Meg,” Dean replied hoarsely. “Why would I? Over some stupid ass pictures? I didn’t even know what I was looking at with them.”

“If you didn’t kill her, then who did?” Azazel inquired with his back to the room. “Cause I’m thinkin’ you know. Hell maybe you gave her up to the cops and one of them decided to take the law into their own hands. I know you’re tight with that Henriksen fella. He has a mighty pretty wife.”

“I told you whatever this is; it’s between us,” Dean grunted and pointed a finger at him. “You don’t have to involve anyone else.”

“Maybe not. Still it seems you don’t go all in until you have something to lose.” He picked up a simple looking knife with a small handle and strolled back over to where Sam sat. “So Dean, how much you puttin’ on the table to keep me from cuttin’ your brother’s throat?”

Dean swallowed thickly. “Okay, okay. I—I saw Meg that morning. She was being her…charming self I guess you could say. She asked a few questions, I answered them and then she left.” Pause. “Did it ever occur to you that Gordon was probably the last person to see her alive? Guy doesn’t exactly strike me as stable. Maybe he killed her.”

Azazel pushed his sunglasses back up onto his eyes when they started to slip. “I doubt it. Gordon kills who I tell him to kill. He’d never touch my baby girl.”

Can’t say that I blame him. “Why not call him up and ask him?”

“I would but he’s not answerin’ his phone.” Brushing his thumb along the knife’s blade, he placed it under Sam’s chin. “Try again!”

“I didn’t kill Meg!” Dean shouted. He started for them when Azazel’s henchmen latched onto his arms and held him back. “I swear, man. I’ve never killed anybody in my life.”

“A virgin then? How…interesting,” Came a new scratchy voice from the shadows.

Dean arched a brow and squinted to see who it was but could only make out a tall figure. Why does everyone think I’m a virgin all of a sudden? “Whatever, it’s the truth. Even if I wanted Meg and Gordon off my case I wouldn’t have killed them. I’d have helped arrest them or something.”

“Huh. Who said Gordon was dead? I didn’t,” Azazel said and sliced a small cut into Sam’s skin, enough to send a trickle of blood down towards his t-shirt. “Seems like you know more than you’re letting on, boy.”

Sam winced and yanked on his wrists as Dean cursed and struggled against the men holding him. “Sammy!”

“Tie him up,” Azazel instructed. “I’m feeling creative.”

Another chair was scraped across the floor and brought into the area, and Dean was forced down into it. He was tied up much like his brother, the ropes pulling so tight that he could feel the muscles in his shoulders straining to accommodate the pressure.

“Dean,” Sam whispered. “What the hell is going on? What are you mixed up in?”

“Don’t worry, Sammy. I’m gonna get us out of this.” Of course he had no idea how he was going to pull that off.

“Aw how sweet,” Azazel cooed at him. He stepped into Dean’s line of vision and bent down. “But I think we both know the only way you’re leavin’ is in pieces. You know what we do—can’t let cha leave now.”

“How about if I promise to keep all of this a secret?”

“Aren’t you cute? Tell me something Dean, how come your little brother is a successful lawyer and you’re just a low life P.I. working for old men who married women they need a little blue pill to satisfy? Why not become a cop like your daddy? Couldn’t hack it?”

Dean glared at him with as much hatred as he could muster. “The uniforms made my butt look big.”

The other man snickered. “Or maybe you knew you weren’t smart enough. You make a real mockery of the Winchester name, kid. Meaningless job and you’re a fucken queer? I bet your daddy is ashamed to even call you his son.”

He’s just trying to get to you. Don’t give him the satisfaction. “Nah he’s cool with it. Not like I’m out sluttin’ it up…” Azazel back handed him so fast that it took him a moment to realize why his face was stinging, why he could taste blood from having bit his tongue. “Ooh did I hit a nerve?”

This time he was punched solidly enough that his bottom lip split open, the momentum almost knocking him sideways out of his chair. He would have crashed to the floor had one of the soundless cronies not stopped him.

Azazel shook his head in disappointment. “Nick and Meg might not have been the best people in the world, but they were our people and we look after our own. You know what that’s like.” Grinning, he dragged the knife across his cheek without enough pressure to leave a mark. “What do you think, boss?”

The figure in the shadows slowly walked over to where they were standing and Dean recognized him immediately as Alastair—the man himself. He was dressed in a simple blue button down shirt and black slacks. “Hello Dean. I’ve heard…such good things about you.”

Dean wet his lips slowly as the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up as if to say prepared to be skeeved out. Not to mention this guy had the most irritating voice. “Um, well sorry but I haven’t heard much about you.”

Alastair grinned and clasped his fingers together, resting his hands on his stomach. “Come now, Dean, you at least know who I am. A P.I. with your detecting skills would no doubt check into me after my friends paid you a visit. Mrs. Adler and I were finalizing a business deal if you were curious. She was paying me my monthly stipend.”

“Oh,” Dean said dumbly. What else was he supposed to say?

“Don’t you wanna know what she was paying me for?” Alastair inquired as he took the knife from Azazel, examined it and then shook his head. “I’ll bet you do. You’re a nosy little kitten aren’t you?”

“Actually I think I’ve had my fill of information for tonight.” Dean’s eyes tracked Azazel to the table of sharp instruments and watched as he plucked up a dagger with a jagged blade before bringing it back to his boss.

Alastair shrugged in a suit yourself type of way and stared at him critically. “You’re in a real pickle but you know that already, don’t you? However I’m a man who’s always willing to make a good investment and I think you’d be a good investment, Dean. So here is what I’m willing to do…” He stepped behind him and put his hand on the back of Dean’s neck, massaging lightly. “I’ll let your brother go free and clear if you come and work for me.”

Dean flinched at his touch. “Work for you doing what?”

The other man hummed and leaned down to whisper in his ear, “Odds and ends. You’d be my…personal assistant.”

Dean resisted the impulse to hurl but he couldn’t stop the reflex of jerking away when Alastair’s lips brushed his ear. “Heh yeah I don’t think so. My whoring days are over.”

Alastair chuckled and his reedy fingers crawled up into Dean’s hair, gripping the longer strands on top roughly. “Sure about that? You wouldn’t open up shop again to keep Sammy safe? Otherwise I might be inclined to dig his eyes out and wear them around my neck like a necklace.” He nodded to Azazel who sliced into Sam again this time on the flash of skin above his v-neck t-shirt.

Gulping down air, Dean grit his teeth. “What would I have to do?”

“Dean,” Sam warned. “Don’t.”

“For starters? I wanna see you kill someone.” Alastair craned his head back until his neck began to ache. “I wanna see you cut into some stupid bitch until she’s bleeding and screaming.”

“Why?”

“Call it a hobby. We all have our pleasures.”

“I—why can’t it be something else? Anything else? I’ll steal and I’ll beat the crap out of people for you.”

“Yes, you’d probably be doing that too. But there is just something beautiful about watching a man take his first kill. And I’d pick you a pretty one Dean. I already have a tasty little thing in mind.”

Dean knew there was no way he’d be able to kill someone in cold blood, not even to save his brother’s life. Though unsurprisingly there was a voice in the back of his head saying he should try because this was Sammy and he’d sworn to always keep him safe. “I…”

“Hey, hey!” Sam exclaimed to get his attention. “Don’t you dare do this, you son of a bitch! You think I could forgive myself if you turned into some kinda monster just to keep me safe? Hell no. You’re not that guy, Dean. You’re good.”

Alastair smirked. “For now. You get used to it; the screaming. Even come to like it after a while.” Pause. “So, what’s it going to be? Do you accept my deal?”

Sam was giving him serious puppy dog eyes and Dean sighed deeply before replying, “You let Sam go and we’ll talk.”

“Fuck that!” Sam shouted. “The moment I get free, I’m going straight to the cops and telling them everything. I won’t rest until I bring you down.”

“Dude, shut up!” His brother frowned.

“Well this is…a dilemma.” Alastair rubbed his chin and then snapped his fingers. “New idea. Sam dies and you work for me to keep me from chopping up the rest of your family. Azazel would you do the honors?”

Dean lurched in his chair, kicking out with his strong legs. “No! Hey, I’ll do it! I’ll do it, okay?” His foot connected with Azazel’s knee and the older man grunted.

Alastair brought his knife down swiftly into Dean’s thigh and Dean screamed as pain flared into his stomach and up his spine. He could already feel wetness seeping into his jeans.

“Well,” Alastair said, leaving the knife where it was. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

~*~

Blowing the excess charcoal from the picture, Castiel smiled and absently thought on how Dean would probably like this one more than the others. It was a self portrait after all. Dean. He sighed and placed the paper to the side, rubbing his blackened fingertips into the dusty sheets. Meeting Dean had been a blessing and a curse and he wasn’t sure which was better but he had a feeling it wasn’t the latter. No, even though leaving Dean would hurt he’d never regret getting to know him. How could he? How could he look ill upon the one bright spot in all of the madness?

He hoped that when he returned to Heaven he would have the memories of Dean with him. That he would be able to fantasize about what their life could have been like had things been different. Introducing Dean to Anna and then listening to her tease him mercilessly afterwards on how far gone he already was. Marriage—or at least a civil union—and maybe children and another cat. Meeting Dean’s parents. Lazy Sunday mornings in each others’ arms and Friday nights spent with Dean’s brother and his fiancé playing games or going out to dinner.

He could finally be happy in paradise if he could dream up a life with Dean.

Tilting his head to the side, he glanced to the open window as his eyes fluttered closed. The crow was flying, soaring above the city and searching. It passed over motionless cars and a train trudging steadily along its track before flying to a large dark building and into a broken window. The bird hopped along the rafters and down onto a thick crate, its wings flapping slowly as its eyes took in the scene before it.

The vision hit Castiel so brutally that he gasped aloud. Had he been standing he probably would have slumped into the first chair he came to. There was Dean—his Dean—bound to a chair and panting as Alastair and Azazel taunted him.

Castiel was running next, running as fast as his legs would carry him.

~*~

“Such a pretty face,” Alastair mused as he grasped Dean’s cheek. “Almost seems a shame to fuck it up. Maybe I’ll just carve my initials into your forehead so everyone knows who you belong to. Gonna make it hard to have an open casket but I heard makeup does wonders for some people these days.”

He snatched the knife out of Dean’s thigh and pressed the bloody tip of into Dean’s skin with a sadistic smile when the caw of a crow interrupted him. He grinned at the creature resting on a box, staring at him passively. “I do love an audience.”

Glass breaking harshly drew all of their eyes up just in time to see a body crash through the skylight panes and send shards raining down as a man fell only to land in an effortless ethereal crouch.

Castiel stood slowly and brushed off his jacket, winking at Dean. “Am I late?”

“Who the fuck are you?” Azazel demanded.

“I’d almost be offended that you don’t remember me if I cared at all,” Castiel said with a grin. “You killed me, and now I’m here to repay the favor.”

Azazel snorted. “Well ghost man or whoever you are, this is a private party and you weren’t invited so…” He whipped his knife at Castiel without warning, aiming for his chest.

Castiel caught it by letting it penetrate his palm all the way through to the other side. He looked at it curiously and then yanked it out, dropping it to the floor. “I think you missed.”

Rattled, Azazel yanked his gun from behind him and opened fired. Pop, pop, pop the bullets hit Castiel but his body absorbed them and he laughed, going so far as to throw his head back in glee. Azazel cursed and shoved his goons at him, moving to stand a little ways behind Alastair. They—along with Dean and Sam—watched as Castiel easily dodged the punches of the large men and put them down, breaking one’s neck and kicking the other so hard that he sent him into a seizure.

“I could use a man like you.” Alastair smiled at him. “You’ve really got that killer instinct.”

“Let the boys go. Now.” His voice was a deep rasp, his eyes hard as steel.

Alastair’s brows lifted. “Why? Because you said so? Who are you to say anything?”

“My name is Castiel Novak,” He murmured. “Also, you have my briefcase I was told. I’d like that back.”

“What?” Azazel growled. “We killed you. What’s dead stays dead.”

“Apparently not.” Castiel shoved his hands into his pockets. “Let. The boys. Go. I won’t say it again.”

Clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth, Alastair hissed and stabbed Dean in the shoulder, grinning when he gasped in pain. “Or what?!”

Castiel saw red and lunged at Alastair, driving him back into the wall. They traded punches and kicks while Azazel came up behind Castiel and attempted to grab his arms and restrain him so that his boss could beat him down. Dean and Sam watched the whole thing like startled deer before Dean snapped back to attention and rocked in his chair, crashing to the floor. He flailed around like a fish out of water, grunting in pain until he was in front of Sam’s massive boots.

“The knife, get it out!” He commanded. “C’mon man, hurry up! I gotta help Cas!”

Sam stretched out his long legs and caught the handle between his heels after three tries and slowly drew back, trying to make the extraction as painless as possible. “Dude, is he your mystery boyfriend? What the hell do you get up to when you’re not at work anyway?”

Dean winced and pushed with his legs, leaving a trail of blood as he maneuvered himself so that his wrists were facing his brother. “I’ll explain if we live. C’mon.” He caught the knife when Sam dropped it and started sawing through the ropes, his eyes glued to the sight of Castiel taking on two cruel bastards.

When he was finally free, he forced himself up and released Sam as well, pushing him towards a side door. “Go.”

“I’m not leaving you.” Sam frowned. “You know that.”

Dean didn’t have time to argue. He turned and hobbled over to the chair where he’d been tied down, picking it up and tossing it into Azazel’s back. The older man yelped and glared at him; charged him like an angry bull with sharp horns.

With Dean and Sam against Azazel, Castiel found himself one on one with Alastair and decided that was how he wanted it. After all the order to kill him and Anna had come from Alastair. He was the real monster. And so he held nothing back. He punched and he kicked and he felt bones break underneath the force of his hands. Saw red pour from his many abrasions. But Alastair wouldn’t go down easy of course. He somehow managed to get to his weapons table and maybe in desperation, started hurling them at Castiel, creating gashes across his cheeks and chest that healed within minutes.

And then a small silver ninja star went wide and slashed at the crow’s wing, making the bird cry out in pain. It tumbled off the crate where it was perched, wobbling to hide from the light. Castiel thought nothing of it until a crudely made shiv jabbed him in the stomach and crimson began to flow from the wound. He stumbled back in shock and pain, staring at the tinge on red on his fingertips.

Alastair was quick to notice the change and struck him brutally across the face, sending him to his knees. He kicked him in the jaw and stomped on the shiv, shoving it deeper into Castiel’s gut. “What happened to your magic? Did you really come back all this way just to die again? Huh?” Another punch, another kick and red oozed from the cut above Castiel’s eye and his nose. “Well who am I to deny you…”

He grabbed Castiel by the collar of his coat and flung him into the nearest rusty beam. Picked up what looked like a tiny sword and stalked over to him where he landed. “Oh and your briefcase? It’s in my personal safety deposit box, and it’s got all your nifty information in it. It’s my insurance policy against your dear Uncle. It’ll only be released if I die but unfortunately you won’t be here to see it.”

“Cas!” Dean yelled as he delivered the final blow to Azazel; a hit with a crow bar right to the face that shattered his skull and the sunglasses he loved so dearly. Somehow Sam had been knocked unconscious during their tussle.

Dean was fast but with his hurt leg Alastair was faster and he stabbed Castiel in the back as severely as he could. Castiel cried out and slumped forward onto his hands and knees, sweating and panting in agony, muscles trembling. Dean reached him seconds later but Alastair spun him around roughly and struck, the blade sliding into Dean’s side to the hilt.

Castiel coughed; spit out blood. “Dean!”

Alastair wheezed with laughter and held his chest as Dean sunk to the floor, struggling to stay awake. “Such a waste. I could have taught him so many things. Something tells me he would have been my star pupil.”

“Cas,” Dean whispered as his head lolled to the side. “Cas…”

Castiel was confused. This wasn’t the way things were supposed go. Where was his justice or his vengeance if he died again? If Dean died with him? If Alastair was allowed to keep hurting innocent people for kicks and naturally he would. He might as well be a demon for all of the evil inside of him.

No.

No, he couldn’t let it end this way. He couldn’t let his beautiful Dean die on a cold damp floor all alone. Just the thought—just the thought made a white hot rage swell up inside of him so intensely that he fought off the dizziness and made himself stand. He shoved Alastair as hard as he could and the other man lurched into the conveyer belt with a clang-y thud.

Castiel ran up behind him and bashed his head on the metal, pushed him onto the rolling spools as he was out of it. “James Baldwin once said ‘I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.’ I suppose that is true because my hate has only fueled me to do what I had to do. Pain would have ended up crippling me.” Spying the controls over on the wall, he pressed the orange On button and listened as the machines whirled to life. “But I don’t need my hate anymore.”

The chick, chick of the belt filled the air as it rolled towards the big grinding saws formally used to cut large animal carcasses in half for process. He watched as Alastair groaned and slowly came around, sat up just in time for the saw to come down on his head. He screamed and blood and flesh squirted like a geyser as he was hacked straight down the middle, the two halves falling to the floor with a sickening splat.

Exhaling deeply, Castiel stumbled over to where Dean laid and pulled out the sword. He cradled him close and applied pressure to his wound. “Dean? Dean!” He was already pale from blood loss and barely breathing.

A groan from the corner sounded as Sam opened his eyes, rubbing at the bump on his head. “What…” He took one look at his brother and scrambled over to him. “Is he…”

“No,” Castiel said softly. “He’s still alive but we have to get him to the hospital.”

“What about you?” Sam inquired, gesturing to his injuries.

The crow picked that moment to show itself and Castiel smiled. “I’ll be fine.”

Sam nodded. “So you’re him. I mean the guy with the crazy face stuff; the one Dean couldn’t stop talking about.”

“Yes. I apologize for my appearance. I hear anything resembling a clown upsets you.” He smoothed a hand across Dean’s cheek. “Now we must hurry. As much as I want Dean with me, I know this isn’t the way.”

Sam stared at him for a minute and stood. “I—they took my phone but I’m sure they have a car outside. C’mon, I’ll help you get him inside.”

~*~

“Dean? Dean? Sweetheart can you hear me?”

The voice was familiar and soft, and bit by bit it pulled Dean from under deep dreary waters and back to the surface. He opened his eyes with great difficultly but managed, blinking at the hazy glob leaning over him until it turned into his beautiful blonde mother. She smiled at the sight of him and rubbed his jaw; there were tears in her eyes.

“Oh, Dean,” She breathed out in relief. “Are you okay? If you weren’t in that bed right now I would kick your butt. You scared the hell out of us!”

“Sorry,” He said, his voice completely wrecked. “Wh—what happened? Where’s Sam?”

“He’s fine, sweetie. He went to get us some coffee,” She replied. “You’d been unconscious for a while now.”

“Hey buddy.” John Winchester joined in. He reached out and squeezed his son’s hand. “You okay?”

Dean nodded. “Drugged up to all hell I think but, yeah. Anythin’ broken?”

His father shook his head. “No. The doctors said you came close to losing a lung but they were able to fix it. You’re a lucky s.o.b. and a hero if what Sam says is true. That you saved his life from some mobster mad at him over a trial gone wrong.”

“I—maybe.” He frowned, his head fuzzy. “Where’s Cas?”

Mary Winchester cocked her head. “Who’s Cas, sweetie??”

Dean wet his lips and decided to let that conversation die. Castiel was probably already back in Heaven now that his job was done. Well good for him; he deserved it after all that he’d been through. I hope he’s happy. His eyes drifted up to the television mounted to the wall and he chuckled. “Henriksen is on tv.”

Mary turned up the volume so that they could hear what was going on as the Detective in question was shown leading a bald man out of an expensive house while cameras flashed.

“Zachariah Adler has been arrested on several serious counts of fraud and embezzlement, but perhaps the most sickening part of this story is the fact that he has been dumping illegal toxic waste all around the city,” The reporter explained. “Sources say that several articles of proof were sent to the police and the District Attorney who then decided to press immediate charges against the Pharmaceutical mogul. If convicted Adler could spend the rest of his life in prison.”

“And here everyone thought he was such a good man.” Mary shrugged. “I hope the families of those he made sick sue him too.”

Dean could hear his parents talking but whatever drugs the doctors had him on made it hard to really listen. He could feel himself dozing off though he tried to fight it, but with his mother gently rubbing his chest like she used to do when he was little and sick, it was a losing battle.

When he woke up again he was alone in his room and the lights were dim but a pretty nurse was checking his vitals. She informed that his family was down in the cafeteria getting breakfast before they planned to go home, shower and return to the hospital. He thanked her and she exited the room with a kind smile.

He was so sore, probably bruised as well but he was alive so that mattered for something. Still he hoped they gave him amazing pain killers later on.

Yawning, he fiddled with the bed until the back raised and he was laying more at an angle. He closed his eyes for a brief second and when he opened them, he jerked in surprise at the person sitting on the edge of his bed. “Jesus, Cas. I—I thought you were gone.”

Castiel smiled a little and traced his cheekbone. “Not yet. I couldn’t leave without saying good-bye. Are you alright?”

“Could be better,” Dean admitted. “But hey, Alastair’s dead and the streets are safer. And you’re…you’ve got justice. Do you feel any different?”

“In a way. There was a weight on my shoulders knowing that Alastair and his people were allowed to roam free after what they did to me and Anna. Now that they are gone and Zachariah shall pay for his crimes, the anger has gone as well.” Castiel turned his gaze to the ceiling. “I am sorry however that you were dragged into my war. I would have never forgiven myself if something horrible happened to you.”

“No worries. I’m actually glad I could help—the little I did. Kinda makes me feel good.” Dean sighed gazing at him. “Cas I—fuck. Meeting you has been the most insane experience of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. You’re odd and you wear makeup, but I dig it. I dig it all. I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone else like you and frankly I don’t want to.”

Castiel carded his fingers through Dean’s hair, the gesture strangely personal. “Probably not. It has been an honor to know you, Dean Winchester. I wish fate had seemed fit to give us more time together.”

Dean could feel tears prick the corners of his eyes but he held them back. “Yeah well, fate’s never been on my side,” He said roughly. “But I wish that too.”

“You’ll be fine, Dean. You’ll live a long life and have many happy years. And one day we shall meet again.” Castiel leaned over and kissed his forehead, his lips lingering. “I’ll wait for you.”

Fuck. Dean released a shuddering breath and a few traitorous tears escaped, cascading down towards his chin. “See ya later, Cas. Say hi to God for me.”

Castiel grinned, kissed his mouth and then brushed his lips to his ear as he whispered, “Close your eyes.”

Dean did. When he opened them again, Castiel was gone.

+

Zachariah Adler had his own family plot in the local cemetery and that is where Castiel and his sister were buried. Their graves were a few yards away from a large tree with thick branches, their headstones made of the finest marble. Castiel wished that he could dig them both up and move them somewhere else, anywhere else. After what his so-called Uncle had done the last thing he wanted was to be near him when he finally died. Not to mention the funerals were probably more for show than anything else.

The area was quiet and there were flowers placed neatly by each of their names. Idly he entertained the idea of Dean visiting his grave when he was released from the hospital and bringing fresh flowers for him. He didn’t want Dean to dwell on his “death” but he also didn’t want to be forgotten.

It was odd however because he’d expected to feel some type of release once they were all dead. He did but it wasn’t all encompassing. After all he and Anna were still dead; their lives still stolen away from them but at least the anger was gone. They only conciliations were that Alastair and his horrible gang were probably burning in hell right now and unable to hurt anyone else. And that his dear Uncle would pay for his outrageous crimes. Yet he didn’t think Zachariah expressly asked for him to be murdered. He was a bastard but he wasn’t psychotic.

Mostly likely he wanted him too terrified to print anything but Azazel and his people took matters into their own hands. His blood and his sister’s blood were on Zachariah’s hands either way though. He could only hope that his Uncle felt some type of remorse when he learned of their deaths. But if he didn’t he was punished just the same. Perhaps not with a grisly death but jail could be a hideous sort of hell for a man who once had everything.

Dropping to his knees in front of his tombstone and tracing the etched letters of his name, he grunted at the pain in his back and slouched, his head hanging low.

And then he waited.

He could see Dean’s face as clear as day in his mind. In the end he’d done exactly what he had tried so hard to avoid. He’d put that sullen look in Dean’s eyes and broke his heart. He would give anything to change it.

Castiel was certain fifteen minutes passed of him just sitting on the cold dirt before a hand touched his shoulder and he found himself looking up into sparkling blue eyes. “Anna.”

“Hello Castiel,” She said smiling. “I have been sent to bring you home.”

He nodded slowly. “Yes. Right.”

“You don’t seem too happy about that.” She dropped to her knees beside him. “Why? What could possibly be more important than returning to paradise?”

Oddly enough he felt that she already knew the answer to her question. “Having paradise on Earth?”

She hummed in response. “Dean. You know you could have let him die. Then he would have been with you forever.”

“Yes but I could never do that to him. He deserves a wonderful life just like we did,” He replied softly. “Besides if there is truly such a thing as fate and I believe there is, we will meet again.”

Anna picked up a flower and started pulling the petals off. “Perhaps. Though by then he’ll probably be looking for the person he spent his life with.” She paused and looked at him. “You saved his life. You made a selfless decision to give up the one you…” She smiled again. “…hold dear even though you knew it would cause you further pain. You would have given yourself in my place that night if it had spared me wouldn’t you?”

He swallowed hard. “Of course.”

She fluffed out her dress. “If you could have anything little brother, anything in the world, what would you want? And be honest because I’ll know otherwise.”

Castiel pressed a hand to his stomach where he was stabbed, blinking when the crow landed on his shoulder. “I should want you to be alive and I do. I do. You’re my sister and I love you very dearly. One of my biggest regrets is that you died with me because you were innocent. I was murdered but they just stole your life away. It’s not fair.”

She chuckled lightly. “Life isn’t fair. But you didn’t answer my question.”

His tongue slicked along his bottom lip. “I just want Dean. Does that make me a horrible person?”

“No. I completely understand and I know had I had someone in my life like Dean I’d have done anything to keep them. Anyone would.”

“I suppose. However choosing him over my own family seems wrong.”

“You just want a chance to create a new family. An extended family. Besides if you can’t give up Heaven for love, what’s the point of falling in it in the first place?”

“I didn’t say I was in love.”

“True but why would you want to stay on Earth otherwise? Down here there is pain and heartache and violence. In Heaven there is nothing but love and light. It wasn’t enough for you before and it won’t be enough for you now.”

“Am I going to Hell then?”

Anna laughed and kissed his cheek. “Every since we were children it was obvious that you were destined for great things. And that is true now more than ever before. Just do me a favor Castiel. Name your first daughter Anna or at least a variation of it.”

He frowned and began to ask what she meant but she pressed two fingers to his forehead and the world spun; lit up white behind his eyes so bright that he was sure he was having a seizure.

He didn’t remember blacking out but obviously he had because he was opening his eyes next to someone shaking him gently. “Ugh…”

It was a black man in an expensive suit. “Are you okay?”

“I…” Castiel sat up slowly; Anna was gone. “Um yeah I think so. Who are you?”

“Victor Henriksen,” The man said. “I’m a Detective. Do you need police assistance? Have you been robbed or something?”

“No. No I was just visiting my sister.” He motioned to her grave and noticed that his own had disappeared.

“You’re Castiel Novak—I thought you looked familiar.” Henriksen offered his hand and helped him stand. “Sorry to hear about your sister, and your Uncle. But since you wrote the article that brought him down I guess you didn’t expect to be seein’ him for Thanksgiving either way.”

Castiel stared at him. “Right…”

Henriksen nodded. “Well if you’re okay I have to be going. Try not to fall asleep in anymore cemeteries.”

As he walked away, Castiel scowled and patted himself down. No wounds and no pain. He bit his lip hard as he suddenly realized he was warm. He had a heartbeat. “What? I don’t understand.”

This is your second chance so don’t waste it. Be happy, Castiel.

~*~

“You’re mighty quiet.”

Dean glanced up from poking at his jell-o and shrugged. “I was stabbed multiple times by a crazy person. Not really in the mood to be a chatty Kathy.”

Sam shifted in the chair and clicked off Dr. Sexy M.D. “I’m here though if you wanna talk about him. He seemed pretty awesome. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious…”

Dean pushed his tray away, making a face at the so-called lunch they’d brought him. “You wouldn’t believe me even if I told.”

His brother faced him. “Try me.”

“He was like…a superhero. He just wanted justice. Alastair and his assholes had done something terrible to him and he wanted revenge,” Dean explained. “He got it and now he’s gone.”

Sam gazed at him thoughtfully. “I’m sorry. I know you really liked him.”

“Yeah well…whatever. The good thing is that Alastair is dead and Adler is in jail. And you’re okay.”

“Yeah all of those are good things. But it just sucks that you didn’t get to keep your good thing too. I know you hadn’t known him long but he was obviously someone special to you. Maybe he’ll come back.”

“I highly doubt it. He didn’t belong here anymore.”

“Dean—”

“Drop it, Sammy. I’m too drugged up for this conversation anyway.”

“Okay okay, but we’re gonna talk about this. Um, how about I go get you a cheeseburger or something? I noticed you didn’t touch your bowl of goo.”

“And pie?”

“Sure. One apple pie coming right up.”

Dean grinned and watched him leave, then smoothed a hand across his face. If it weren’t for his wounds and the fact that he was in a hospital, he would have sworn that he dreamed the last couple of days. In truth he still wasn’t too sold on what he should believe. People coming back from the dead to get revenge on those who killed them—it just didn’t make any sense. And if it could happen, why didn’t it happen all of the time? What made Castiel so special?

Everything.

He attempted to wave that thought away but it stuck in his brain like glue, hardened right behind his eyes. Castiel was totally otherworldly but there had been something about him that he’d liked. Hell maybe everything was an accurate term. And God those eyes…those big blue eyes that stared right through you and collected all of your secrets whether you wanted them to or not. Though honestly he felt worse about what he’d never know about Castiel rather than what he did.

And they’d never gotten that coffee either.

But this was just more proof that Dean was terrible in relationships, or at least picking people to have a relationship with. Cassie had been beautiful and feisty, and she found his whole bisexuality thing quite sexy. It would really rile her up when he commented on other guys for some reason. In the end however what she felt for him wasn’t enough to make her stay and she’d taken some job as Editor of some magazine in New York.

Like Cassie, Jake had been handsome and strong. And intensely loyal. Not to mention he also looked good in his army fatigues. But just like before he had left; something about wanting an apple pie sort of life and figuring Dean couldn’t really give him that.

Of course the Lisa shit spoke for itself. Yet they all had the same thing in common where Dean ended up being the one left behind. What he was just wasn’t enough. He couldn’t compete with a dream job or a white picket fence or some old flame. And he damn sure couldn’t compete with freaken Heaven. Maybe he was just destined to be alone.

Considering the way things were going earlier, he shouldn’t be moping but he couldn’t help it. For one brief second he’d let himself believe he had something more than his job and his fat cat. But Sam was fine and a dick was no longer alive to hurt people. A series of dicks actually. He’d make it enough.

Even as he thought the words he knew they were bullshit. He had been through a traumatic experience and helping people catch their cheating spouses just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. He wanted—he wanted to make a true difference not just in the world but in peoples’ lives. He wanted to save them and put them at ease, but he couldn’t do that behind a desk or behind a camera.

He was going to become a cop. He was going to re-enroll in the Police Academy and then work his up to Detective no matter what it took. His mother wouldn’t like it but like his father said, he had to do what was best for him because it was his life and he just needed more. He had Castiel to thank for that actually.

Underneath the makeup and cool abilities was still a man that was murdered in cold blood. A man that for six months had no voice and no one to stand for him…or his sister. Not everyone got to come back to life and seek revenge on those that did them wrong. Dean wanted to be a voice for those people. For the innocent victims crushed under the boot of men like Alastair and Azazel. For the men like his father who were just doing their job.

He would be their crow and he would help them get the closure they deserved.

The door to his room opened and a petite brunette breezed in with a little tray of gauze and needles. He recognized her as one of the day nurses, Becky. “Hey Dean! How are you feeling?”

“Okay.” He gazed at her as she tossed his covers back and inched up his white gown.

Carefully she peeled the bandage off his thigh and tossed it into the trash. “Hm not bad. They gave you stitches instead of staples. Stitches take longer to heal though so I doubt you’ll be rock climbing or anything anytime soon.” She giggled and went to work. “Where’s your brother?”

Dean smirked; she obviously had a thing for Sam. She’d looked at him like he was made out of chocolate earlier. “He went to get me some real food but you should stop back in and say hey when he gets back.”

Her grin was luminous. “I think I will!”

She chattered a bit more as she spread some type of cream on his wounds and redressed them, admitting that she was a budding writer and wanted to turn his story into a book where the hero saved the day. Dean mused to himself that he wouldn’t be surprised the hero’s name turned out to be Sam in the end.

After she was done, he was left alone with his thoughts once again about his career change. Until…

Becky poked her head into the room and exclaimed, “Dean! There is a reporter here who wants to interview you!”

He made a face. “I’m not really in the mood for an interview.”

She pouted. “But it could make you famous! Your picture could be in the paper and then you could mention my future book!” She paused and turned behind her, then nodded. “He says to tell you his name is Novak.”

Dean flinched visibly, his throat suddenly dry. “Um, okay. Let…him in.”

She stepped to the side and pushed the door open so that his visitor could walk in. And he did in a dark blue sweater vest over a dressy shirt and denim jeans. But it was his face that caught most of Dean’s attention; his smooth natural skin that was free of the makeup he’d become so accustomed to. Dean just stared at him with his mouth hanging open like he was meeting a famous celebrity for the first time. Or possibly seeing a ghost.

Becky squee’d and gave him two thumbs up before shutting the door to presumably continue with her work.

This can’t be Castiel. Castiel went back to Heaven. This must be his twin though he never mentioned having a twin… “Um…”

“Hello Dean.” Castiel smiled and perched on the side of his bed.

God, that voice.

“You—you…” Dean was at a loss for words. “What?”

“Ah, yes. You’re confused and I don’t blame you. I was confused too. I had every intention of leaving and returning to Heaven but apparently someone had other plans for me. My sister said this was my second chance.” He explained, his hand rubbing soothing circles on Dean’s chest. “Dean, it’s nothing short of miraculous.”

“What do you mean?” Dean asked, still in shock. “I thought you left.” Cas was back.

Taking Dean’s hand, he placed it over his heart, smiling more when Dean blinked at the feel of his heart beating. “I’m…alive. I woke up in the cemetery alive. I decided to do some research before coming to see you and I discovered that things are written differently. My sister is said to have died in an apartment fire—clearly arson—yet I survived. My article from the information Alastair had somehow landed Zachariah in prison; an article which of course I never wrote but it exists. For all intents and purposes Castiel Novak has been alive and well since the fire that claimed his sister’s life.”

Dean swallowed thickly. “But what happened with Alastair, did that still happen? I mean I’m still laid up and stabbed so… And what about what you did to Meg and ‘em?”

Castiel glanced to his injured side with a furrowed brow. “I suppose the only things that were changed were things that would otherwise contradict my newfound resurrection. Everything that happened last night did in fact happen. I suspect you remember the truth because you were directly involved with the situation. You’re still a hero.”

Dean snorted softly. “So you’re back now? For good?”

“It would appear so, yes,” He said. He shifted on the bed and kicked off his shoes, stretching out beside Dean. “I think this is the part where our romance stalls now that I don’t have to say goodbye.”

“Are you kidding me? If I weren’t stuck in this bed I’d show you just how damn happy I am that you’re back.” Dean grunted as he turned a little, nuzzling Castiel’s cheek with his nose. “I’m willin’ to risk opening up my stitches if you’re up for it.”

Castiel laughed. “No. We’ll take your healing time to get to know each other more. I’m going to need a place to live as well.”

Dean’s reply was immediate. “Come home with me.”

“Dean—”

“Seriously, Cas. I know we both probably have some weird kinks and that we might get on each others’ nerves sometimes but I want you to stay with me. You saved my life man…c’mon.”

“I suppose we could try it. Though you only have one bedroom.”

“I have a pull out couch but we both know you’re not gonna use it.”

Castiel was amused. “You are quite sure that we will enter into a sexual relationship at some point, aren’t you?”

Dean tilted his head back so that he could see his face and most importantly, his eyes. Even though it caused his shoulder to give an aggravated twinge, he lifted his hand and smoothed his thumb over Castiel’s lips before tangling his fingers in his messy hair and pulling him closer for a kiss. He didn’t care that the angle wasn’t perfect or that his muscles protested; he just had to make sure this was real.

And as his tongue swept into Castiel’s mouth and the familiar taste of him blocked out all of Dean’s other senses, he knew that it was. The revelation made him almost greedy for touch and sensation, and he wished that he wasn’t so battered and bruised. That he could do more than pull on Castiel’s hair to hear him make a soft noise in his throat, that he could let his hands wander and actually be able to back up whatever they started. But until he felt better all he could do was kiss so he did.

He kissed Castiel like he would never see him again. Like this one had to last him for the rest of his life. Thankfully Castiel gave as good as he got; sucking and nibbling and biting until his lips were red and slightly swollen.

He broke away panting, his cheeks pink and his eyes dark with pleasure. His cock gave a small twitch and he couldn’t help but feel a tiny sense of pride especially considering the amount of pain killers they had him on. However Castiel all flushed, warm and looking incredibly sexy was incentive enough to get even a dead man going.

“Fuck. After that I really hope we do but it’s more than that, ya know?” He sighed, focusing on the threaded pattern of Castiel’s sweater as his fingers trailed down towards his belt. “I didn’t say anything when you left because I didn’t want to guilt trip you or whatever, but I didn’t want you to go. And not just ‘cause I want to get laid but cause it felt like if you left, this whole future I could have had would just fade away. And I’d be alone again. How selfish is that though, huh? I didn’t want you to go to Heaven.”

Castiel remained silent so Dean continued. “I wanted to ask you to stay but how could I? I’ve never asked anyone to give up anything for me but fuck; I wanted to scream it at you. Just stay. But like you said we don’t know each other that well…”

“Yes. And yet here I am.” Castiel said gazing at him. “For what it’s worth, I wanted to stay. Perhaps that is why I now can. Perhaps someone knows more than we do and what we will be to each other is worth putting Heaven on hold for. I am quite inclined to agree with them.”

Dean yawned and frowned as he felt himself getting drowsy. Stupid meds. “Not sure I’m worth giving up Heaven for though.”

“I disagree. Besides I’m not giving it up, I’m simply choosing to stay and make a different sort of paradise with you.” Rolling onto his back, Castiel placed a soft kiss into Dean’s hair. “Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up. I promise.”

Dean grumbled in complaint but threw his arm across Castiel’s waist and rested his forehead to his shoulder. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that he was telling the truth and it made closing his eyes this time much easier. “Hey Cas? I’m glad you decided to ditch the makeup. You’re way hotter without it.”

Castiel smirked and rubbed his wrist absently. “I don’t need it now. Alastair is dead and there is no one else to scare. I don’t need to hide who I am anymore. I have you and for the first time in a long time, I’m happy.”

Dean smiled sleepily; that was the best news he’d heard all day.

~Fin~