His father died suddenly.
The shock of it sent Castiel reeling. He’d been away at Cambridge when it happened. His father’s heart had failed him one morning when he was having breakfast. The only people with him when he died where Michael, his eldest son, and Anna, his cherubic little girl. The rest of the family was scattered to the four winds. They all returned for the funeral.
Castiel lingered. Eventually his place at university could not be held open for him no longer. He drifted through life, a ghost in his father’s house as it slowly became Michael’s. The days became weeks then months, and still Castiel drifted. Doctors came, cures were prescribed and melancholia was diagnosed. The cures offered were many and varied – seaside visits, bed rest, and a spell of care in a sanatorium. There were tonics and salts, balms and lotions. All sorts of little pills filled with vile things. Castiel took them as directed and still drifted.
A friend from Cambridge, a Balthazar Milton, visited and for a little while the dark cloud over Castiel lifted. They walked at length together in the garden, arm-in-arm, and stayed up late in the library, laughing and talking. For a little while things were better. The family embraced Balthazar, none more so than little Anna. It came as no surprise to anyone but Castiel when an engagement was announced.
He sunk again; his mood blacker than before and his family quite despaired of ever finding a cure.
The breakfast was laid out as if for forty people rather than four. There were kidneys, scrambled eggs, toast and marmalade, kedgeree and a freshly brewed pot of tea. There was cream, milk and sugar. A plate of cold ham and tongue was set in the middle of the table. A small caddy of bitter black coffee was left available on the sideboard but mostly ignored, apart from Michael who took a cup with his toast. The others drank tea. Michael ate a hearty breakfast of kidneys and scrambled egg, followed by a plate of toast with some of the cold ham. Anna ate kedgeree. Balthazar Milton had tea and toast with a little of the scrambled egg and Castiel picked at a slice of tongue, rather than face the faddish diet advised to him of oats and bran. The last specialist called had diagnosed Castiel’s ailments as being caused by all manner of digestive problems. He had laid out a strict diet, forswearing red meat and wine, instead prescribing the most dry and dull collection of cereals.
Once his digestive system was in order, the specialist had assured him that Castiel’s mind would be sure to follow. Castiel stabbed angrily at the cold tongue with his knife and fork, then nibbled on the piece he’d cut for himself.
Anna looked up sharply, a frown marring her beautiful face.
“You’re supposed to avoid red meat, aren’t you?” she asked, but her tone conveyed that she knew perfectly well what Castiel was and wasn’t allowed.
Castiel continued to eat, ignoring his sister’s comments.
Anna sighed softly. “Well, don’t eat the kidneys. They’re spiced.”
“Try the eggs,” Balthazar suggested. “They’re cooked in butter.”
“No, it will be too rich for him.”
Castiel ignored them. He hadn’t been planning to eat either the kidneys or the scrambled eggs. He’d wanted some of the spiced rice dish but once Anna had selected it he’d moved along the table and chosen something else. He reached for the toast rack, helping himself to one of the cooler pieces of toast and the butter dish which was next to it. He buttered the toast generously and took a bite.
The door to the dining room opened, Michael’s valet – a golden haired youth called Adam – entered, carrying in the post on a little tray. He set it down by Michael’s arm, murmuring something softly that Castiel didn’t catch. Michael nodded and the boy left the room without further ado. As well as the post the tray contained the morning papers, a few periodicals and circular which Anna subscribed to. Michael distributed the letters. There was one for Anna, a handful for Balthazar and nothing for Castiel but Michael passed him one of the periodicals, Punch, to amuse himself with. The rest of the letters were for Michael and he kept the papers for his own enjoyment.
Adam, ever thoughtful, had included a letter opener on the tray. Michael opened his letters between bites of his toast and marmalade. Castiel flicked through Punch, smiling a little at the caricatures. Michael picked up one of the letters, his free hand reaching out, searching the table for his coffee cup. Castiel pushed it the last few inches and Michael’s fingers grasped it, lifting the cup to drink. Michael sipped at it then grimaced. He set his cup down quickly.
“Coffee’s gone cold,” he said, glancing at Castiel. “Pour me another cup, Castiel? And add a little milk this time.”
Castiel got up and busied himself. The warmth of the metal coffee pot when he touched it meant that the liquid inside would probably still be as Michael liked it. Not as hot as when it was first prepared but not lukewarm either. Castiel poured a new cup and added a dash of milk. He passed it to Michael who took it gratefully.
“I’m going to the prison today, Castiel,” he said, blowing on his cup before he took a sip. “I think it might do you good to do some work outside the house. Prison Reform is something I think you should take an interest in.”
It was a simple as that. Castiel knew that now he would take an interest in Prison Reform. Michael seemed to think that if Castiel could have something to nourish his soul, some social cause to which he could attach himself then he would forget his dark moods. Michael seemed to think that it was overindulgence that meant Castiel was unhappy. People were supposed to live simple, God fearing lives and there was too much opulence and gayety in Castiel’s life. That had to be why he shunned social engagements and parties, not because he found people tiring but because he was suffering from a lack of spiritual succour.
Simply going to church wasn’t enough for Michael. He had his charities and his social causes, and he wanted his little brother and sister to be involved as well. Castiel realised, with a weariness that went down into his bones, that he would now be wheeled out to take part in Michael’s pet project until it all became too much for him, he was forced to take bed rest and another specialist was called for. Already that had happened when Michael attempted to involve him with his political commitments.
There was very little point in arguing. Michael always thought he knew what was best. He had slipped into the role of a father, donning the mantel of head of the household so quickly that Castiel had never had time to argue that he was a grown man now. In many ways he did not feel grown but like a child. The food he craved was the nursery food of his childhood – soft, bland and a reminder of the soft warmth of his mother. He craved the safety and security of his bed, huddled beneath the covers, cocooned in the warmth and safe from the pains of everyday life. Considering that, it made sense that Michael babied him. Castiel seemed to need his guidance now. He still would rather have taken it from his father than from Michael.
“You could become a gentleman visitor, Castiel. Provide those poor men with an example to aspire to,” Michael continued.
What sort of an example? Castiel wondered. He might not be a prisoner in the strictness sense but he was still trapped; only his prison was one of the mind. The men he went to visit might be criminals but they would as likely not wish to trade places with Castiel if they knew what his life was really like. They might aspire to the money and society that Castiel had but he himself was very unworthy of being placed on a pedestal.
“I suppose I should need my coat then,” he said absentmindedly, moving back to his seat. He didn’t feel hungry any longer. His appetite had dimmed to almost nothing.
Michael smiled. “That’s all arranged then. My appointment is for mid-afternoon. More than enough time for you to wash and dress.”
He went back to his letters, reading them with a growing irritation and Castiel wondered if they were personal correspondence or letters from the companies in which Michael had investments. It was impossible to tell from where he sat and Michael kept the letters themselves close to his chest. Whatever they were, they were things he considered private.
Castiel turned his study to his sister and Balthazar instead. Anna’s letter appeared to be from a friend. Castiel guessed by the sweeping, flourished writing that it was most likely one of the young women Anna counted as a close acquaintance – Rachel or Becky– not someone who she counted in a confidence because she read the letter openly at the breakfast table. He passed his attention on to Balthazar and, after a few moments consideration, concluded that his letters had all been bills. Balthazar had opened them quickly, glanced through them, his affable expression faltering slightly and then he’d tossed them aside. Castiel knew all too well that Balthazar preferred to hide his head in the sand where money was concerned.
Ellen came in then to collect the breakfast things, sighing a little when she noted the half-untouched meal on Castiel’s plate. He knew he should be affronted that she thought she could act in such a familiar way with him but Ellen had been a member of the household for almost as long as Castiel could remember. She was their house keeper and Jo, her daughter, one of the upstairs maids. Clearing the table shouldn’t have been Ellen’s job but after their father’s passing a number of the house staff had given notice on account of a strange presence in the upstairs rooms and a deep feeling of melancholy that affected the house. It was all nonsense and superstition but it had still left them short staffed and Ellen had taken on the extra work. Castiel couldn’t begrudge her or her worry for him. He smiled a little ashamedly and she took the plate, leaving him to wish he had tried to eat a little more, if only to please Ellen.
Anna pushed her chair back from the table, tossing her bright red hair back over her shoulder as she did. “I think I shall go out today as well,” she said. “The new fashions are in and Rachel has a periwinkle blue dress.”
Castiel reached for his tea cup, if only to hide his smile. Now he knew who the letter had been from and what it had been about. He wished, not for the first time, that he didn’t privately resent his sister because Anna could be charming and amusing without knowing it. It was so easy to like her and Castiel had to force himself not to sometimes. It wasn’t her fault, he knew that, but he still couldn’t help feeling cold towards her and waiting to remain that way. When he thawed, he knew he would have accepted the situation and he was nowhere near ready for that yet.
Michael collected his letters together and the papers he had been brought, tucking them under his arm. “Castiel, I want to leave at one. Try to be ready for then,” he ordered, obviously feeling that Anna’s exit signified the end of breakfast absolute. He left too, most likely to go to his study and compose a return to his correspondence.
Ellen finished clearing the plates, waved away by Balthazar who was still eating. She returned to the kitchens, leaving just Castiel and Balthazar. The silence that settled between them was an uneasy one. Castiel found himself staring at Balthazar unconsciously as the man finished his plate. Finally he shook his head, waking himself from his thoughts and got up, feeling the urge for something stronger than tea, something bitter.
As he began to pour himself a cup of coffee he heard the scrape of a chair on the floor, then footsteps and a moment later Balthazar’s arms were around his waist.
“My, Cassie, you’re such a good little maid,” Balthazar whispered in his ear, his breath hot and smelling slightly of the tea he had just drunk.
“Stop it,” Castiel said, but he could hear how futile his resistance sounded, a token really. “Ellen will come back soon.”
“I’m certain Ellen has seen and ignored worse,” Balthazar’s voice sparkled with good humour.
“She could not ignore this,” Castiel said, his mouth gone suddenly dry. He no longer desired coffee but something else, a something else he was certain he would not get. He turned in Balthazar’s arms, torn for a moment by the desire to kiss his wicked mouth but then he placed his hands against the man’s chest and forced him away. “You’re marrying my sister, remember? You should save your kisses for her.”
Balthazar sighed, shaking his head as if this was some joke that Castiel didn’t get. “Castiel,” he started but the door opened and Ellen came in. She glanced between the two young men, her expression enquiring as to if she had interrupted something and Castiel gratefully took advantage of the intrusion.
“Ellen, we’re all done with breakfast now,” he advised. “I think we shall have a late lunch, maybe around three? Miss Anna will be out this afternoon and my brother and I have an appointment.”
“Very well, sir,” Ellen said. “I shall inform Cook.”
“Thank you, Ellen,” Castiel said.
He turned, not wanting to be called back by Balthazar, and went out into the hallway, rushing up the stairs to his room. He shut and locked his door behind him, his heart hammering in his chest. He could still feel Balthazar’s arms around him, could still feel his breath on his cheek. They had been too careless. Ellen could have come in at any moment and Castiel knew she wouldn’t have simply turned a blind eye to it the way Balthazar assumed she would. Ellen wasn’t one of the maids at Cambridge, finding two youths entwined together on a bed. She couldn’t be bought off or have it explained to her that that was just the way of young men away from home.
She would tell Michael. Michael would tell Anna. The engagement would be called off and everyone would be tarnished by it. Castiel wanted the engagement ended, wanted it finished and done with, but not in a way that would result in Balthazar being sent away.
It was intolerable, Castiel thought sadly, to know the cure to his melancholy and be unable to take it.
He had been getting better with Balthazar at his side. It had been like the giddy days in Cambridge. There had been poetry and stolen kisses, the promise of more. Then it had all come crashing down and Castiel was still so uncertain as to how it had happened. His little sister had been artful and sweet with womanly charm. She had offered Balthazar something that Castiel couldn’t offer him. He didn’t blame Balthazar. He blamed Anna but he could never tell her that. He could only resent her and try his hardest to distance himself from her in all and every way.
With that in mind perhaps this trip to the prison would be a good thing. Anna confined her social obligations to music recitals and the like. She was an accomplished piano player and she often went to play for friends. She would never be likely to set foot in a prison, even if Castiel knew that she probably would have enjoyed the air of danger associated with it. If Castiel took well to reforming then it would draw a very definite line between himself and his sister.
Maybe if he were happy again, the way Anna was happy, then Balthazar would reconsider. It was only an engagement. Engagements were broken every day. Anna was young and beautiful. She came from a family with money and a name. She could go on, meet someone else. She didn’t need to have the man Castiel loved. He and Balthazar could be together, the way they had planned when they were at university.
Once Castiel was right again, Balthazar would remember the fun they had had. He would realise he wanted that more than married life with Anna.
That, Castiel tried to convince himself, was what was needed.
He didn’t need the pressure of these secrets suffocating him. He was tired of having no one to tell. All his secrets, all his pains and reactions and fears, bubbled just below his skin where one sharp slice of a knife could bring them all rushing to the surface. He had tried once to free them, to cut them out of his skin but that had led to doctors and specialists and Castiel was not eager to hurry back down that bleak path.
He needed to be the person he had been before his father’s death, before the sadness came and refused to lift. Maybe this time Michael’s plan would work and Castiel would find something that stoked that fire within him. There might be something in reforming. Castiel did care, even if he had never attempted to put his caring into action the way that Michael had.
He would go to the prison that afternoon and he would try his hardest while he was there. This time, he hoped, he would find a spark of something in the good works that was missing in his own life.
Then he could begin to heal.
Castiel met Michael in the parlour at half-one.
Michael had already called for a hansom cab and the driver was waiting for them. His horse was fine and black, pawing at the ground and tossing its head, not enjoying the wait for the society gentlemen to be ready. They climbed into the cab and were soon being driven through the late afternoon traffic.
It seemed far too nice a day to be headed in the direction they were. There were clouds in the sky but no threat of rain. The leaves had only just begun to turn and the sun that provided enough warmth to make it a pleasant afternoon. It seemed somehow perverse to use this pleasant day to visit somewhere like Newgate Prison when there were all sorts of early autumn delights that would have been better suited. Castiel knew a day like this would have meant something very different back in Cambridge. Dinner out, maybe a show at one of the cleverer play houses – something witty and quick, maybe a satire, then back to his rooms to discuss it and curl around each other with their winter coats thrown aside.
There were four different words for love in Ancient Greek. Castiel had learnt that in his first year at Cambridge and almost as soon as he had met Balthazar he knew that what he felt for him was agápe – true love in its truest sense. It was his mind he was attracted to first, his quick sardonic wit and his mischievous smile. He was very different from Castiel who had always been a quiet, studious type of boy. Castiel had thought he would have been perfectly happy to adore Balthazar from afar. He had been an older boy, in his third year and there should have been no real reason for their paths to cross but they had. They had been both favourites of their Classics Professor, invited to his rooms for what he had laughingly called symposiums and thrown together by their love of mythology and knowledge of Greek history.
Theirs had been the very antithesis of Greek male love – chaste, beautiful, an older lover who was there to teach and mentor the young and in return bask in his youth and basic innocence. Theirs had been an acknowledged secret. All the boys who shared in the symposiums had shared their tastes. Their Classics Professor had encouraged them. It had been wonderful, the stolen kisses and the furtive touch of their hands entwined. Never had there been the need for more and Castiel was so contented. Then his father had died and everything had broken down around him.
Castiel tried to force himself not to think of that. He was certain his inability to dwell on anything but his own unhappiness was the root cause of his melancholy, whatever was said about digestion or other improbable causes. He turned his head, gazing out to the window of the hansom cab at the activity on the street.
There were a few other cabs but the roads were not as busy as they would have been in the morning with deliveries being made and the roads filled with men and woman tramping their way to work. There were still a fair amount of people about but not enough to slow the progression of the horse. They crossed London quickly, moving from the safety and security of their upper-class streets to the repugnant streets that housed Newgate Prison.
The horse slowed its trot, obviously unwillingly if its whinny of protest was anything to go by and the cab rolled slowly to a stop. There was a brief pause as the driver jumped down and then the door of the hansom cab was opened.
The prison loomed before them, made of cold grey stone and as uninviting a building as Castiel had ever seen. Looking up at the walls of the prison, Castiel reformed his opinion on changing places with one of its convicts. He wondered if Michael had meant to frighten him by bringing him to the prison. He wasn’t so foolish as to believe his predilections would have been tolerated anywhere outside of the university walls. Men who took Castiel’s road in life, who were not careful or lucky, ended up here or places like them.
He shot his brother a glance, but Michael was not looking at him. If his bother knew of his tendencies, Castiel reasoned to himself, Michael would not have kept quiet on the matter. That was not his way. He would not have arranged for this subtle punishment to remind Castiel of his proper place in the world. He would have been angry, incandescent with rage but not contained like this, detached. This was only one of Michael’s duties and Castiel was here with him only because Michael thought it would improve him, not because Michael had discovered the true nature of the friendship Castiel and Balthazar shared.
Michael had been to university but Castiel hardly thought he had had the same sort of education. He would not understand the very necessity of it or indeed the innocence. He would see only the sin.
Michael seemed completely unaware of Castiel’s inner-fears, striding off after tipping the driver and Castiel had to hurry to catch up to him.
They were greeted at the prison gate by Governor Zachariah Addler.
Castiel didn’t like the governor. He was a bald man in his fifties with dark circles under his eyes. Although he dressed well there was something oily about him and he reminded Castiel of a snake. His smile had a cruel, mocking look. He never seemed happy but he took joy in other people’s misery. Castiel was certain he would have been at home anywhere where people were suffering. He would have done well as the foreman of a workhouse or the warden of an asylum. He was the sort of man who enjoyed the small amount of power he had.
He oozed over Michael, far too eager to admit him.
Castiel doubted very much the situation would be the same if there wasn’t money involved. For the moment though he was glad that his brother was there. Castiel didn’t think he could have withstood Governor Addler’s attentions if they had been turned full force upon himself but he found them amusing when he was an observer. Addler fussed and talked a great deal about the special relationship he and Michael shared, their passion for reform which Castiel was certain they shared only for the length of Michael’s visit. It seemed clear to him that Addler was attempting to cultivate an acquaintance that wasn’t there. He probably spoke at length about his great friendship with Michael Novak and dined out on the suggestion that he was climbing in society.
He treated Castiel with deference but hardly spoke to him, attracted to Michael like a moth to a flame. Castiel could not keep the smile from his mouth as he saw his brother grow more annoyed at the man’s fawning. Addler would never rise by his association with the Novak family. He was a scraping, obsequious popinjay. Michael tolerated him but he didn’t like him.
“I’m eager to begin, Governor Addler,” Michael said irritably, cutting across whatever it was Addler had been about to say. “My brother Castiel is joining us today. He has never visited a prison before. This will be an experience for him.”
“Quite,” Governor Addler agreed, glancing at Castiel from the corner of his eye.
“Where are the men now?” Michael asked. “Castiel is delicate. I don’t want him subjected to the worst class of your criminals. He neither requires the tour of the prison or the option to meet those offenders.”
Castiel was used to this sort of treatment now, being spoken of as if he wasn’t there. It still rankled him that Michael assumed he could not deal with life. Castiel would never have wanted to visit the inmates truly immune to betterment, the criminal classes or the repeat offenders but he felt an instant desire to rebel against his brother’s decision. He pushed it away as quickly as it reared its head. Castiel was not foolish. He hardly needed to find himself hurting for another’s pain when he could not handle his own. The poor wretches damned by drink or habitually inclined towards cruelty could do nothing but drag Castiel down with them and he wanted this endeavour of Michael’s to be successful.
“The men are in the yard. Daily exercise is very important as I’m sure you know,” Governor Addler said, beckoning them to follow him inside the prison.
There were so many gates and so many warders. None of them had particularly kindly faces. Castiel was grateful to be entering as a guest and not a prisoner. The smell in the prison was abominable and Castiel covered his mouth with a hand, pressing the sleeve of his coat to his nose to try and breathe through it and somehow escape the smell that seemed to permeate the walls. Michael caught sight of him and nodded in understanding.
“I know. It’s overpowering at first but soon you’ll grow used to it,” he said. Castiel doubted if the smell remained so hideous he would return. They followed Addler through the prison, climbing steadily to the rooms at the top reserved for Addler and his trusted staff.
There, from the window of Addler’s office, they had a view over the whole prison yard. Castiel pressed himself to the window, almost unable to believe the sight in front of him. When Addler had mentioned daily exercise Castiel had imagined something very different to the sorry sight that greeted him now. Men of all ages, shapes and sizes, of skin colours, round and round in the circle of the yard. There were so many of them they hardly had the room and smaller and smaller circles of men marched one inside the other. They each wore the same, horrid mud brown uniform, the same standard issue boots and their hair was cut short, not neatly trimmed but done by a pair of blunt scissors held by an inexpert hand. It was heart rending.
In that moment Castiel realised why his brother was so engrossed in reform. He still did not know if it was something he could do but he understood his brother’s passion now. It was a more than worthy cause.
“There are so many of them,” he said, the disbelief plainly written in his voice.
“Yes,” Michael said, “How many currently, Mr Addler?”
“Not counting debtors, I would say it was about three hundred.”
“As you can imagine, Castiel, it is a breeding ground for diseases, so many people so close together but things have improved. Individual cells have been constructed,” Michael continued in much the same way, detailing how the prison had been changed and the ways in which he hoped it would be changed in the future but Castiel’s attention had wandered. He found himself watching the men, their hypnotic stomping in the small, painfully small, circles, trapped inside the prison walls.
As he watched one of the men turned his head, looking up at the window as he passed on below and their eyes met. Castiel’s breath caught in his throat. Even in the prison uniform, with his hair a mess and a general unkempt look showing in the stubble shadowed on his jaw, the man was still beautiful. He could have stepped out of a painting. His eyes were the most brilliant green Castiel had ever seen. As he watched, stunned, the man smiled at him. It was a bright smile, dazzling in its unexpectedness. It was a sudden flash of vibrancy in the humdrum of the prison grey and Castiel raised his hand, fingers pressing against the glass, itching to touch. Then, just as quickly as the smile had appeared it was gone again, the man turning his face away and returning to his march.
“Who is that?” Castiel breathed, speaking before he had quiet caught up with himself. His felt his cheeks warming. Governor Addler looked at the crowd of shuffling men as if he couldn’t see the stranger’s beauty, the things about him that had marked him out so abruptly to Castiel.
“Who?” he asked, squinting as he tried to make out the faces.
“That man there,” Castiel said softly, raising his hand to point to the man who by now was almost just another face in the crowd, disappearing into the march of men around the prison yard.
“Him?” Governor Addler’s voice hardened, his lips twisting into a sneer. “That man is Dean Winchester. Twelve months for fraud. He forged cheques from his employer.”
“You don’t seem to like him very much,” Castiel said. He didn’t understand why. Forgery was a crime but it was not a terrible one. There were no doubt much worse men housed in the prison, men whose crimes had caused someone ruination and pain. The money forged could not have been very much or Winchester would have been looking at deportation, or there had been some other mitigating circumstances that had led to twelve month sentence. Castiel looked at Governor Addler, waiting for the man to expand on the scant background he had given him.
Addler sighed angrily. “The man’s a con-artist of the highest order. He should have had a longer sentence but his employer, the very man he stole the money from, testified on his behalf at his trial as a character witness. He had the man so bewitched he would have said black was white if Winchester told him too. He even cried when the sentence was read out.”
The look on Zachariah’s face told Castiel exactly what he thought about the man who had made such a valiant plea on Dean Winchester’s behalf. Castiel tried to imagine the man. He conjured the image of a perfumed buffoon, the sort of man who would have his head turned by a handsome young man and become some completely enthralled by him that, even when all the evidence pointed to his wrong doing, the man would still plead on his behalf. Castiel wrinkled his nose a little at the image in his mind. A man who’s love would always be Eros – the physical love rather than the spiritual or intellectual. His desire to possess the young man’s body would have led him down any path.
“Does he get many visitors?” Castiel asked softly, rubbing his fingers across the window pane.
“A few. Winchester is popular,” Zachariah said, frowning as he looked down on the men. “I wouldn’t suggest you visit him. There are others who’d be more fitting to you. Some of our inmates are almost gentleman.”
“I’m sure if someone was willing to plead on his behalf then this Mr Winchester must have hidden depths. Maybe there is something there I could uncover? A light hidden under a bushel?” Castiel suggested. He turned his face away from the widow, having completely lost Dean Winchester in the crowd of other inmates now. He looked imploringly at Michael, certain that Addler would turn down his request without the weight of his brother’s agreement. He seemed about to, his frown deepening to make his already ugly features even uglier. Castiel tried to imagine Addler smiling but decided the image was too unnerving a concept.
Michael’s own face was drawn in thought, weighing the pros and cons and as Castiel watched, he saw in his brother’s eyes that his internal scale had tipped in favour of the idea. Finally Michael nodded.
“I think it’s a capitol idea. After all, if this man proves unworthy or troublesome, Castiel doesn’t have to continue visiting him. I think it would be wrong to refuse his first request and perhaps scare him off visiting again. I would hope that you would treat a member of my family as you would treat me, Mr Addler and would accord them the same allowances that you accord me.”
Addler’s eyes bulged unpleasantly. “Yes, sir, of course,” he said quickly. “I’ll have one of the wardens escort your brother when the prisoners are returned to their cells.”
“I’m glad to see I can trust you, Governor Addler. As for myself I’ll continue my visits to Mr Morningstar.”
“He’s in solitary, sir. He smashed up his cell again,” Addler said, his eyes darting away from Michael’s and Castiel was struck by the notion that there was something guilty in his posture.
Michael sighed softly and it was obvious this was not the first time he’d visited to find that to be the case. “I shall see him anyway. I hope this time he’s managed to avoid giving himself any of those unsightly bruises.”
Addler dug his fingers into his collar, tugging it away from his neck as if it was suddenly too tight for him to stand. “He hit his head, sir, when we went in to restrain him.”
Michael shook his head. “He’s so accident prone.”
“Yes, sir,” Addler agreed quickly. He gulped down a mouthful of air then reached for the keys on his belt. “Shall I take you down to him, sir?”
“I think that would be best,” Michael agreed. He paused for a moment then put his hand on Castiel’s shoulder, ignoring Addler now. “Castiel, if you feel frightened or threatened in any way, you can call for one of the warders and they will help you. If this is too much, then ask them to bring you back here and I will come for you. Promise me you will take care of yourself.”
Castiel nodded, torn between being grateful that Michael cared so much about his safety and embarrassed that his brother felt the need to do this. He wished certainly that Michael had chosen a time when Addler was not hovering nearby, no doubt forming an opinion that Castiel was feeble minded.
“I’ll be fine, Michael,” he told his brother firmly, brushing Michael’s hand from his shoulder. “But if I am worried, I will call for the guard.”
Michael stared at him for an uncomfortably long moment and for a second Castiel was convinced his brother would recede his approval, that he would suddenly decide Castiel was too frail for all of this but then finally Michael dragged his eyes away from his face. He slapped his hands together and began to move towards the door.
“Shall we go then?” he asked Addler who nodded hurriedly, opening his office door to allow Michael out.
“I’ll send someone up to fetch your brother,” the man said and the door was pulled shut behind them. Castiel was left alone in the office.
Alone, he began to wonder if he should have been so resolute in his determination to see Mr Winchester. Maybe he should have stayed with Michael and accompanied him on his visit. Solitary did not sound like a very nice place to be, especially not how Michael and Governor Addler had spoken of it, all thinly veiled words that sounded like one thing but Castiel was certain meant another. He had no idea who the man Michael was visiting was and his brother might not have wanted Castiel to intrude up his own time. This was something Michael chose to do, something he seemed to feel some affinity with and he might not have relished the thought of doing it with his baby brother underfoot.
He had brought Castiel here because he wanted Castiel to find something that inspired him, something that made him make sense of life again. Castiel had to forge that for himself, not hang on to Michael’s coattails. Michael had given him a kindness in trusting Castiel’s own judgment and Castiel could be brave for him. It was the unknown that made him anxious, the waiting in Governor Addler’s office. Castiel did not like waiting. Anticipation only heightened the anguish for him.
He was startled by a knock on the door and a second later a young man opened it, peering around the door to look at Castiel. They were not very many years apart in age if Castiel judged them correctly. The boy was dark haired with fair skin and still a little soft in feature, as if he had not completely grown out of his youth yet. He was agreeable to look at but there was nothing very much about him which marked him out in anyway. Certainly no flashing green eyes or dazzling smile.
“Mr Novak, sir?” the boy enquired and Castiel nodded. A look of relief swept the boy’s face. “I’m Inias. Mr Addler instructed me to take you down to the cells now that the prisoners have come in from their exercise.”
“Does Mr Winchester know he has a visitor?” Castiel asked, grateful to be leaving the office. He was growing tired of long absences alone in his own thoughts. They were always dark, no matter how hard he tried to drag them into the light. He joined Inias in the corridor and the two walked together, Inias swinging his set of keys around his fingers. If he had been alone, Castiel had no doubt he would also have been whistling. Even in the joyless prison walls, this young man found something to be happy about. Castiel wondered enviously how he managed it. If it was something that could be bottled and sold then the boy would make a fortune.
“Oh yes,” Inias said brightly as they descended the stairs back into the depths of the prison. “I told him. He seemed very pleased. He said he’d noticed the new boy at the window.”
Castiel was glad that Inias seemed contented to chatter on to an unresponsive audience because his mouth had suddenly gone dry. He had hoped that the man in the prison yard had been smiling at him, he had let himself believe that he was but he hadn’t realised that he had indeed been noticed. That smile – beautiful, unforced – had been all for him.
Deeper and deeper they went, through winding corridors that seemed to be leading them through a maze. Castiel was glad of his guide because he would never have managed to find his way without him and he was still more pleased that Inias would be waiting to escort him back. Castiel hoped he would not later have nightmares relating to being lost in this horrible labyrinth. Finally they reached the block of cells, one of which housed Dean Winchester.
Castiel made to move on but Inias hung back. Castiel stopped, looking at his with a raised eyebrow.
“Be careful with your possessions and with yourself, sir, some of the men are clever thieves,” Inias said, his cheeks quite pink.
His words took Castiel by surprise. “Do you mean I should be careful with Mr Winchester?” he asked.
Inias squirmed on the spot, and Castiel was reminded again of his youth. “Not just him, but all of them. They’ll take what they can get, sir, and they’re good at wheedling out more than you meant to give. I just wanted you to be aware of that, sir.”
“I….I will remember that,” Castiel stammered. All at once the fear rushed back to him. Behind one of the doors in this hall was a man who could do him such harm that one of his jailors attempted to warn him off. He might have warned Castiel off visiting any of the men but Castiel couldn’t know that for certain. His body was alight with nervous energy, screaming at him to run. It was the most basic of instincts, the flight or fight response of prey animals and Castiel’s response was always flight. He forced himself to calm, taking a deep breath of the putrid air.
Inias seemed satisfied and they continued until they came to a cell door, a chalk board beside it marked with the name ‘Dean Winchester’, the length of the man’s sentence and what he had been convicted of.
“How long has he been here?” Castiel asked quietly. He did not know if the man could hear him through the thick metal door but still he kept his voice down.
“Five months,” Inias said, reaching forward to unbolt the door. He opened it and Castiel was flooded with the same warmth he had felt when looking out the window. Dean Winchester was even more handsome up close. He was seated on his bed but he rose when the door was opened, bending at the waist in a slightly mocking bow.
“Sir,” he said, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “It’s a pleasure.”
“This is Mr Novak, Winchester, he’s the new gentleman visitor. He’s been very gracious, asking to visit you so be good,” Inias warned the man. The smile that had been threatening to break out on Dean’s face since the door opened split wide at that.
“I know how to be good now. Your correction is working wonders,” he said and Castiel wondered how he didn’t end up reported for his cheek.
It seemed to fluster Inias. He turned to Castiel, ignoring the inmate now. “I’ll leave you alone, sir, and shut the door but if you want me just call for me. I’ll be outside.”
“Thank you,” Castiel said, his heart dropping a little as Inias departed, shutting the heavy door on them. Now he had a little taste of what it would be like to be locked up in the room day in, day out. The room was small but functional for all it was. There was a bed, a very plain affair with one thin blanket and a very thin mattress. A little table and chair were against one wall, some books scattered over the table top. Castiel could not see their names from where he was but he doubted they would be anything too interesting.
Dean followed his line of sight and laughed. “Only the Bible and other improving books, I’m afraid.”
“Oh,” Castiel said, slightly ashamed of himself for having thought of the Bible as disinteresting. He studied the brick work of the cell, wondering how long it had been since the cell had been constructed.
“Why are you here?” Dean asked. He moved lazily past Castiel to take a seat on his bed. He watched Castiel with appraising eyes and Castiel felt that he should at least try to make his reasoning good.
“My brother thought I could provide you with something to aspire to,” he said, a little more primly than he intended.
Dean laughed, leaning back. His eyes swept the length of Castiel’s body and his tongue snaked out to lick at his lips.
“Oh, I could aspire to you,” he murmured, affording himself another longer, lingering glance and Castiel’s face flamed bright. He knew that men in prison became as bad as animals but he hadn’t expected it to be like this – so blatant.
“I should report you,” he said crisply.
Dean nodded. “Of course. Inias is just outside waiting for you to cry out.”
Castiel crossed quickly to the door, ready to make a noise, to bang on it and call for help but as he raised his hand his conviction left him. Slowly, he lowered his hand back down and turned to face Dean. The man continued his thoughtful appraisal of Castiel and Castiel felt as hot and naked as if Dean had come to him and removed every layer of his clothes. It was as if Dean’s eyes could see past those things, right into Castiel’s soul. It was unnerving to be pinned under such a gaze but Castiel didn’t struggle. He waited for Dean to say something, to make a decision either for or against.
Finally Dean made a soft, pleased noise.
“Will you come again?” he asked.
Castiel nodded dumbly.
Inias chattered happily as he walked Castiel back to Governor Addler’s office. Castiel let his soft voice wash over him, becoming background noise to his own tempestuous thoughts. He was still not sure why he had agreed to return. Dean Winchester had charm, a near fatal charm in truth and Castiel could see why someone would still defend him even after discovering his duplicity. Castiel wondered if he could put it down to Dean’s physical beauty but he imagined if it had simply been that then his desire to return would have waned the moment he was away from Dean. As he drew closer to Governor Addler’s office his desire to return only grew stronger.
Michael met him in the corridor, snapping angrily at Inias to escort them down to their waiting carriage. Addler was nowhere to been seen and Castiel suspected he was hidden away inside his office. Michael seemed to relax with every step towards the freedom outside of the prison gates. Once they were in the hansom cab that had been called for them, being driven back towards home, he even managed to make small talk with Castiel.
“How was it, Castiel? You weren’t over-taxed, were you?” he asked anxiously.
Castiel shook his head. “No. I found it very interesting, Michael. I think I will visit again.”
Michael’s trouble expression deserted him for a moment as the man smiled.
“I’m glad to hear that,” he said.
They travelled a little way further in a tense silence until Castiel plucked up the courage to ask Michael about his own visit.
“Who was the prisoner you were visiting, Michael?”
“Mr Lucifer Morningstar,” Michael said, shaking his head. “An unfortunate name for an unfortunate soul.”
“What was his crime?” Castiel asked.
“Sodomy,” Michael’s voice was tight, constrained as he said the words. “He spends much of his time in solitary. Neither the prisoners nor the guards have much compassion for him. When I saw him today he was covered in bruises. His sentence is three years but I doubt if he will make it.”
Castiel nodded, too uncertain now to speak and he drew himself away from Michael, curling in to his own corner of the carriage. Why his brother would choose to visit someone accused of that type of crime, Castiel did not know and he did not want to press Michael further on the subject. He thought again of Dean Winchester – sparkling, dazzling in the cold and dirty brick walls of Newgate prison, of the hints that Governor Addler had made about Dean’s relationship with his victim. Did Dean suffer in the same way? Was Dean always a little in danger? Castiel hoped not. He hoped Governor Addler kept his suspicions and feelings to himself but he doubted it of the man. Dean had seemed fine, enough indeed to tease Castiel but now Castiel found himself worrying about Dean’s daily treatment and his eventual fate.
From his side of the carriage Michael sighed.
“Sometimes,” he said softly. “I can’t help thinking that the punishment is too harsh for the crime.”
The rest of their carriage ride home continued in silence.
Castiel found himself back at the prison the next day. The smell still overwhelmed him and for a second as the door in the gate was opened to him he staggered back, almost wanting to run but then he remembered that the poor men imprisoned inside of Newgate faced it every day and that helped him to step over the threshold and into the prison itself.
Inias came to greet him, looking at him sympathetically as Castiel forced himself to take a gulp of air.
“It’s worse in the summer months,” he said with understanding. “The traders won’t even keep stalls outside here then. They say the smell turns fruit and no one wants to buy food when all they can smell is….well, that….” he trailed off, attempting to find a delicate ending for a sentence where there was none.
Castiel nodded quickly. It wasn’t a subject he wanted to dwell upon.
“I’m here to see Mr Winchester again,” he said.
Inias’s face fell slightly but he didn’t say anything. He led Castiel through the labyrinth of corridors till they reached the right cell block and the right cell door. Inias knocked and called out “A visitor for you, Winchester,” before he unbolted the door.
Dean was sprawled out on his bed, not bothered it seemed about rising to the occasion. He turned his head as the door opened fully, a lazy smile winding slowly across his lips as he saw Castiel.
“Stand up,” Inias said quickly. “Be polite.”
“No, it’s fine,” Castiel assured him. “I’m not offended.”
For a moment Inias seemed torn, but eventually he deferred to his social better. “As you say sir,” he murmured, “Call for me if you need me.” With that he withdrew from the room, shutting the door behind him.
Dean swung his legs off the side of the bed and stood up, rewarding Castiel with another beatific smile. “I knew you’d come back.”
Castiel stared past him, trying not to look to closely at Dean because he knew he could spend the rest of his visit staring at the men, becoming lost counting the freckles splattered across his nose. He licked his lips, mouth suddenly dry. “I wanted to ask you about your conviction.”
“Oh,” Dean sounded disappointed. He shrugged. “I’m sure Governor Addler has already told you his version of the story. He makes it sound like I took the money for services rendered, but it wasn’t like that.”
“What was it like?” Castiel asked, his throat feeling suddenly painfully tight.
“I needed the money. I have a little brother, he was in trouble. He needed money and I needed to get my hands on it fast,” Dean said. He wasn’t attempting to justify his actions, only to explain them, Castiel realised. He didn’t ask what trouble the brother had been in. Simply because Dean was a prisoner didn’t mean he didn’t deserve the right to keep some secrets to himself. Castiel knew that almost all privacy and individuality were stripped from those convicted. The little respect he could allow Dean, Castiel would give him willingly.
In the end, Castiel knew that he didn’t really care why Dean had become a thief and a forger. His reasons could have been purely selfish and Castiel still wouldn’t have cared. It was what happened at Dean’s trial that he was interested in.
“Even though you admitted your guilt, your employer stood by you,” he said but Dean cut across him before Castiel could ask him why.
“He wasn’t my lover,” Dean said angrily. “I’m not some Nancy. He never laid a finger on me.”
“I didn’t mean to suggest….I’m sorry,” Castiel gasped, frightened by the sudden change in Dean’s demeanour. He was no longer the affable, attractive man he had been a moment before – relaxed and unruffled by his situation. He was suddenly terrifying and Castiel realised that Dean could do a great deal of damage if he put his mind to it. Inias was only outside the door but in the time it would take him to get the door open Dean could have struck.
“I know what Addler says,” Dean hissed. “It was nothing like that. The man owed me his life. Do you believe in the supernatural, Mr Novak?”
The question took Castiel by surprise. He had been edging towards the door, ready to bang on it and bring the guards but Dean’s question threw him off course.
“I believe in the Bible,” he said after a moment. “I believe that there are forces beyond our control and things we can’t quite understand. I believe in miracles and I believe in the devil.”
Dean nodded slowly.
“Do you believe in spiritualism? Do you believe the souls of the dead can come back to earth?”
“No,” Castiel said flatly. “I believe the dead are dead. I think if I was dead I would have better things to do than try to contact my family. I believe in Heaven, in the land of milk and honey. If I was dead, I think that would be all that I would want.”
Dean laughed softly. “What if you had unfinished business? A love not confessed? A wrong not put right?”
“Are you trying to tell me that you speak to the dead, Mr Winchester?” Castiel asked lightly, waiting for the joke to be revealed.
“No, I’m trying to tell you that ghosts exist, Mr Novak,” Dean mimicked his tone. His voice grew grave as he continued. “And they don’t come back happy, like spiritualists would have you believe. They don’t bring glad tidings. They come filled with revenge or love twisted into hate. I put those dearly departed to rest.”
“And that’s what you did for this man?” Castiel couldn’t help but sound incredulous.
“His wife was haunting him, telling him to commit suicide and I’m certain you know suicide is a mortal sin. He would have been damned eternally. I saved him,” Dean said.
There was no way Dean could have known what Castiel had tried to do to himself, no way he could have known of his attempt to take his own life but those words still felt targeted and Castiel bristled.
He shook his head angrily. “I don’t know why you felt the need to make up this story. If you didn’t want to tell me, you needn’t have lied to me.”
Castiel would have understood if Dean was unwilling to talk about these things but he didn’t need to man to spin some fantastic tale instead. The story he told was impossible.
“I’m telling you the truth!”
“You are being ridiculous!” Castiel turned and banged loudly on the door. He would not stay and be treated like this, be lied to and have his intelligence insulted. “Inias! Inias, I want to leave!”
“I can prove it to you, I can prove that the supernatural is real!” Dean shouted.
“How?” Castiel asked, turning away from the door to look at Dean again. He watched him warily, aware that Dean was like a caged animal – dangerous and unpredictable.
“I will send you a sign, a gift that could only be from me. When you see that, you’ll believe me.” His eyes were alight with the righteous fever of a zealot. Castiel found himself repulsed by it. The door swung open then and Inias stood there, panting. It was clear he had had to run, that he had been distracted by something else and forgotten his charge.
Castiel wondered if he shouldn’t report Inias, real harm could have come to him because the boy had been so lax, but he knew that thought was his wounded pride talking. Dean Winchester had taken him for a fool and Castiel was angry at himself for ever being caught by the man, even for a moment. He saw now what Governor Addler meant when he called Dean a con-man. He had seen the look on Dean’s face, the conviction of his words. Either the confinement had driven Dean insane or he had become so good at his lies that he could look a man in the eye and promise him nothing but sincerity.
“I would like to leave now,” Castiel said briskly.
Inias looked between the two of them and nodded slowly. He stepped aside to let Castiel pass him. Castiel didn’t wait for him to lock the door. He walked to the end of the line of cells, waiting at the barred door for Inias to join him. They walked back to the gates at a brisk pace and this time Inias didn’t try to talk to him.
Once outside the prison gates Castiel walked hurriedly away. He hadn’t bothered with a hansom cab for himself. The walk he found, the air and the exercise, did him much better than any frightful tonic. Now as he walked he had time to think over his strange meeting with Dean Winchester and to decide, eventually, to put Dean far from his mind. He wouldn’t visit him again.
Castiel hurried into the house, half carried on a gust of autumnal wind that swept in a great deal of leaves after him. Ellen came to relieve him of his coat and to look with great displeasure on the leaves that had collected on the floor around him. Castiel didn’t apologise but took the stairs quickly up to his room. His body was filled with nervous, chaotic energy, his mind still running through the strangeness of his visit. He sat down at his writing desk then stood up almost immediately afterwards. He paced back and forth across the floor and the finally composed himself enough to sit down again.
For some long moments he stared into the space in front of him, re-running the meeting and imagining different outcomes, different words spoken. He thought of himself being scornful, of telling Dean that he knew perfectly well what sort of trickery he was attempting and finally shaming the man into coming clean. He thought of version where Dean’s anger bubbled over and he struck Castiel down before Inias could reach them or raise the alarm.
Then again he found himself imaging if that anger had turned to something else, something more potent and Dean had pressed him back against the cold metal of his cell door and pressed his hot mouth against Castiel’s. He could have silenced all of Castiel’s cries that way.
Castiel blinked, slightly unnerved by the path his thoughts had taken.
He realised then that he had been staring unseeingly at his writing desk for some time and slowly he took stock of the paper and the ink well, his pens and the books he kept to hand, envelopes for letters he wished to send. Everything was neat and in its place except for one thing. In the pen pot, surrounded by the metal tipped nibs of his pens, there was a solitary violet flower.
Castiel stared hard at it, almost unable to believe his eyes. Violets, he knew, bloomed in April and May. They were a spring perennial. It was autumn currently. There was no conceivable reason that that flower should have been in his room.
Castiel felt something like a shock run through him. He snatched up the flower, unwilling to believe in portents and signs.
“Jo! Ellen! Adam!” he called, marching out onto the landing. Jo appeared from one of the upstairs bedrooms, her maids hat set slightly askew on her head and a feather duster in hand. Ellen and Adam congregated in the hall, beneath the staircase, waiting for some sort of instruction. Castiel trust out his hand in which he held the violet triumphantly.
“Who put this in my room?” he asked.
Ellen and Adam exchanged glances, both their expression unreadable.
“Is this what you interrupted me for? I nearly fell and broke my neck when you called!” Jo exclaimed indignantly.
“Joanna-Beth!” her mother’s admission was quick and to the point. Jo blushed scarlet and quickly shook her head.
“It wasn’t me, sir, I mean. I didn’t mean to talk out of turn then.”
Ellen shook her head too. “You know I only keep to the downstairs rooms. I didn’t put it there.”
“And I’ve been with your brother all morning, sir,” Adam said.
“One of you must have done it,” Castiel insisted.
At that moment Anna came out onto the landing, alerted by all the noise. She sighed at the sight before her.
“What is it you’re accusing the help of, Castiel?” she asked.
“This was in my room, this flower. One of them must have put it there!”
“And you’ve asked and they’ve denied, Castiel, I could hear it from my room,” she said, more than a little annoyance creeping into her voice.
“But, Anna, how else did it get there?” Castiel asked her. Anna came to him, unfolding his clenched fingers from around the violet stem. She took the flower gently in her hands.
“I have no idea, but be careful with it. You’ll crush it if you carry on like that,” she said softly.
“I don’t want to keep it!” Castiel said although now that Anna had it he couldn’t help but want the flower for his own. It had been left for him, not for her. It was his. Anna already had so many of the things that should be rightfully his own. He didn’t want her to have another.
“Ellen, will you fetch a vase and some water?” Anna instructed, ignoring Castiel’s show of protest.
Castiel caught Balthazar’s arm on the way into dinner that night, holding him back as the others went into the dining room ahead of them. Balthazar beamed, taking Castiel’s hand in his own and holding it tightly.
“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure? You’ve not been so eager to speak to me alone for some time,” he said.
“Did you leave me a flower in my room?” Castiel asked. It was the only other explanation that he could think of for how the violet appeared. He could only think it was some sort of love gift from Balthazar although that sort of thing was not in his usual style.
Balthazar looked at him oddly for a moment and shook his head. “No, Castiel. Why would I do a thing like that?”
“I simply thought you might have,” Castiel said quietly. He withdrew his hand from Balthazar’s and continued into the dining room but nothing now felt real to him.
He ate his dinner in silence and then retired to his room. He lay in bed, staring at the flower. Anna had put it on his bedside table; given it water to nourish it and Castiel stared at it, unable to comprehend how it had come to him.
He knew one thing for certain however. No matter what he had told himself earlier, he would have to visit Dean Winchester again. He had to find out if this was truly some proof of spiritual forces at work.
The moment the door shut on them Dean crowded in on him, too close for personal space or comfort.
“Did you get my gift?” he asked Castiel.
Castiel looked at him, still unwilling to believe him. “Tell me what you sent?” he said, wanting to test him.
Dean’s smug smile caught him off-guard. He hadn’t expected that.
“A flower, a violet to be exact. I told you that it was true. Do you believe me now?”
Castiel nodded slowly, rendered speechless by Dean’s correct answer. He was still having difficulty believing that what Dean had told him could be true but since he couldn’t construct any other logical reasons that the flower had turned up in his room. The servants all swore that they were telling the truth. He couldn’t see how Dean could know what had been left in his room unless he had had some handing in putting it there and since he could hardly have walked out of the prison to do so Castiel had to accept that there was something else at work here.
He sat down on heavily on Dean’s bed, feeling how thin the mattress beneath it was. Dean was almost lying on the hard wooden bench that doubled as his bed frame. He suppressed a shuddered as he imagined lying down here night after night, in the dark with only a blanket to keep him warm. Castiel didn’t know how Dean could stand it.
“You’d better tell me everything then,” he said finally.
Dean settled down beside him and reached for Castiel’s hand. He held it between his own and Castiel felt a warm blossom within his chest.
“I know this is hard to understand. It’s been my life every day since I was four and it’s still hard for me to understand,” he said slowly. “When I was a boy my mother died. She was burned up by some creature, a demon. My father took my brother and me and we travelled, searching for the demon to kill it. Along the way we discovered that there were other things, other evils.”
Castiel sucked in a deep breath. Rationally he didn’t want to believe in demons. Rationally he saw a man driven mad by grief who’d dragged his sons down into his madness with him, but rationality had to be thrown out the widow and Castiel tried to listen with an open mind.
“It became my profession to hunt down and kill those monsters. The stuff of nightmares, the stories told to frighten little children, they were all real,” Dean said, his voice lowering as he went on. “My brother, he got himself a good job in a bank. He did well for himself. I’ve never been able to keep to one place for too long. This is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere for a good long time and it’s not by choice.”
“And are there ghosts here?” Castiel asked, edging closer to him. “Are they with us now?”
Dean smiled at him, amused.
“I’m not a medium. I don’t sense them. Believe me, any lost souls that were still here, I helped lay them to rest. There were a lot of unhappy ghosts here, Castiel. Have you seen the gallows? Too many people have swung from those for crimes no worse or less than mine.”
Castiel shivered. Even with Dean’s assurance that there were no ghosts left he felt the temperature of the room drop. He wiggled a little closer and Dean pressed against him, warm where everything else was chill.
“Who hurt you, Cas?” he asked softly.
Castiel drew away quickly. He was too shocked to even make too much not of the informality, the nickname that was so much like the one Balthazar used on him but so different coming from Dean’s lips.
“What makes you think someone hurt me?”
“I know these things,” Dean turned till he was facing Castiel. He raised Castiel’s hand to his lips, making sure Castiel was watching and he kissed each finger in turn. “I’m good at reading people, but it’s deeper than that with you, Castiel. I felt it the moment our eyes met. It’s profound what we have. I knew I could trust you.”
Castiel bit his lip, certain that if he made a noise, Inias would hear him. He didn’t care that there were walls in the way, that there was the door between them. His heart hammered painfully in his chest. He wanted to moan, wanted to melt down against Dean and let him continue, let himself be seduced by Dean’s honeyed words and his talented mouth.
“Did you feel it too, Cas?” Dean continued, turning Castiel’s hand over to kiss his palm. “We are tied together.”
“I felt it,” Castiel breathed. “I did.”
Dean smiled up at him. He drew Castiel’s index finger into his mouth and sucked, hard. Castiel’s knees went weak; he shut his eyes and lost himself in the sensation.
When Inias came to collect him, Castiel felt as if he was walking on air. For a moment at least he was at perfect peace with himself and with the world. His fingers tingled from Dean’s touch, his whole body thrummed with it.
He paused for a moment with Inias at the gates, one last flash of doubt crossing his mind.
“Are the prisoners allowed flowers, Inias?” he asked. The young man shook his head.
“No, sir. They’re banned, sir. I wouldn’t go trying to bring any in if that’s what you were thinking,” Inias warned him quickly.
“Of course not,” Castiel agreed.
The last of his doubts had been laid to rest. Dean could have had no physical hand in delivering those flowers to him. He could hardly have slipped out of his cell to buy them out of season, deliver them to Castiel’s room with no one seeing him and then return to the prison. There could be no earthly explanation for the flowers, only the spiritual one that Dean had given him. Castiel had always despised mediums and their ilk. He thought they prayed on the grief and pain of those left behind and lined their pockets with money from sorrow. He doubted highly if any of them even could speak with the dead, so often their conversations with the departed were filled with loving sentiment that had been missing in the deceased life.
Dean was the real thing however, a man who didn’t talk to the dead but who sent them away, a man who talked of the dangers of spirits and tampering with the line between the living and the dead. He had proved himself to Castiel. Every single one of Castiel’s fears and doubts had been laid to rest. He could see no possible way Dean could fake the delivery of the flowers and no real reason he would want to.
“Thank you, Inias,” Castiel said. He left the prison, his legs feeling unsteady under him. Dean’s interest in him was entirely as he had confessed it to be – a deep, sudden attraction that had struck them both and would now not let go.
Castiel took is time to reach home, filled with a bouncy, exuberant joy he hadn’t felt in months. At dinner he talked animatedly and at length on the subject of prisons, reforming and Dean in particular. Michael engaged him with good humour, suggesting other prisoners he could visit or meetings of Michael’s reform society that he could attend. Anna praised the colour in his cheeks, the vibrancy with which he spoke and the light in his eyes. Only Balthazar remained mute and unsmiling but Castiel hardly took any notice of him.
His thoughts consisted of Dean and Dean alone.
Anna often had her friends to tea. There had been a time, before his illness, when Anna had been matchmaking. She had paraded the most beautiful, the wittiest and sweetest of her friends in front of him, watching him always to see if Castiel was interested but after a few weeks of this she grew bored. Castiel never showed any particular attraction to any of them and Anna wasn’t one to run an idea into the ground when she saw it wasn’t working. Castiel was still invited to tea with Anna and her friends but no longer with any ulterior motives.
Balthazar was invited as well, although he attended less often than Castiel. He seemed to enjoy basking in the attention of Anna’s friends, in their good wishes for Anna and their envy because she was engaged to an attractive young man and most of them had yet to be asked. He liked them cooing over the ring he had given her, a family heirloom, a beautiful garnet ring in a gold setting. He liked when they described him as handsome and flirted hopelessly with him. He didn’t, however, like the way Castiel glared at him. It made Castiel feel victorious to know that Balthazar felt guilty.
Today the conversation was not about marriage or engagements or anything of that distressing sort. Instead the conversation revolved around a séance that Miss Rebecca Rosen, otherwise known as Becky, had attended.
“It was the most intense experience of my life,” she said, pressing her hand to her breast as she spoke, her eyes half-closed in ecstasy. “The medium, her name was Ruby, she was very beautiful with dark hair and dark eyes and she wore the most lovely gown, dark red and black.”
“All the usual stock and trade,” Balthazar said under his breath. Rachel snorted and Becky opened her eyes wide, glaring at them.
“She had a sense of presence,” she said haughtily before continuing her story. “Well, she was seated in the middle of the room a blindfold over her eyes so she couldn’t see any of us and we weren’t allowed to speak in case we disturbed the bond with her spirit guide. There were only candles lit and yes, you might sniff and claim it was dramatic but you weren’t there. The sense of atmosphere was terrific. When she spoke her voice wasn’t her own. It was distorted and low, like a man’s and she knew things about us all that she couldn’t have guessed.”
Balthazar rolled his eyes but Castiel shuffled forward in his chair.
“I believe you,” he said softly.
Becky beamed at him. “You should come to a séance, Castiel. I think it would be good for you.”
“Oh, I’m not so sure about that,” Anna said quickly.
Becky ignored Anna and her concern, her attention trained on Castiel instead. “Are you very sensitive, Castiel? Maybe you have some mediumistic qualities?”
“Don’t you have to be born with them?” Rachel interjected. Castiel couldn’t help but smile. For all her attempts to appear above the idea of spiritualism she was nevertheless enthralled by it and obviously had her own ideas about what made an authentic medium. She flushed a little when she realised that all eyes were upon her and hurried to explain herself. “I read that somewhere, that mediums were born with the gift.”
“No. Ruby says everyone has the ability, but that most will never develop it,” Becky said, her smile smug. “She’s promised to help me develop my abilities and she could do the same for Castiel. It would be good for him. I’m certain of it. Maybe all these terrible black moods are because you’re experiencing contact with spirits but you don’t know it?”
“Becky,” Anna hissed.
Castiel swallowed, looking away from the rest of the party. Becky had spoken out of turn but he would like to believe her. It would be so wonderful to know that the problems he had weren’t caused by something wrong with him, but by something he had no control over. He believed now in the dead, believed that they could torment the living but he couldn’t quite believe that that could be the answer to his deep melancholy. If it was he was certain that Dean would have sensed it. He would have known.
“Oh do come with me to a séance, Castiel. It would do you the world of good,” Becky pleaded.
“No, I think playing with the dead wouldn’t do Castiel any good,” Anna said. “It’s unnatural.”
“I don’t need to go to a séance,” Castiel said softly. “I already know someone who’s in touch with the spirit world.”
Anna looked surprised. “Who?”
“Dean Winchester, although he was at pains to say he is not a medium, but I believe him when he says that there are spirits and that he can communicate with them.” There were the flowers upstairs in Castiel’s room, living proof that Dean had commanded forces that couldn’t be seen or explained. Castiel did not rush to tell them of this. They were his secret, his and Dean’s, a love token and Castiel had no desire to reveal such a precious thing to anyone.
Balthazar frowned. “I don’t think you can trust a convict to give you spiritual guidance.”
“A convict?” Becky fanned herself with her hand. “Oh, how exciting!”
“How very unusual,” Rachel said, raising an eyebrow. Evidently she was the type of person who enjoyed anything with a hint of scandal or intrigue attached to it.
“Dean’s conviction was utterly unfair,” Castiel said.
“But Castiel, he admitted his crime,” Anna said softly.
“Yes and it should have counted for him. Even his employer testified on his behalf. Dean’s not a criminal. He’s a good man who made a mistake for a good reason.”
“For a woman?” Becky asked breathlessly.
Castiel shook his head. “For his brother. He’s a family man really.”
“Honestly, Castiel, you’d believe anything anyone told you if they said it with enough conviction,” Balthazar said.
Castiel turned to look at him, narrowing his eyes. “Yes, I suppose I would,” he said after a moment. He had believed Balthazar loved him. He had believed every honeyed word from his lips. He had believed there was something between them but he had been proved wrong and it stung badly. Balthazar held his gaze for a moment and then looked away, his cheeks red.
Feeling victorious, Castiel continued. “I have been credulous in the past, but I can assure you that is not the case here. Mr Winchester has a gift and I believe in it and in him.”
Anna sighed loudly. “Castiel, I’m sure this wasn’t what Michael had planned when he suggested you become a visitor to those poor men.”
“That I shouldn’t come to care about them? To want to show them some form of charity? I think that was exactly what Michael intended. He desired for me to feel better and I do feel better.”
“Yes, the distraction has been good for you but I don’t think you should become too attached to one prisoner especially.” Anna brushed distractedly at her skirts. Castiel could see her fighting to keep herself composed, to keep her tone light and her conversation respectable between friends. She could only warn and cajole him in front of guests, not criticise him and Castiel found it liberating. He could say what he wanted and Anna would have to bite her tongue.
“In fact,” he said. “I think I may become Mr Winchester’s patron and sponsor his way in society once he is released. I think he would be a most rewarding project.”
“Oh, it’s just like a novel!” Becky gasped.
“Yes,” Balthazar agreed. “Just like a novel, written by a silly amateur with lots of romantic sentiment but no real understanding of the world!” His voice rose at the end, turning into a snarl and Anna grabbed hold of his hand, clutching it tightly in her own.
“Balthazar,” she murmured. “Really, this isn’t the place.” She cast Castiel a disapproving look but Castiel was too pleased with himself to let it puncture the warm glow that had settled over him. For once he was the one being fawned over, both Becky and Rachel leaning in, eager to hear more about Dean and Dean was a subject upon which Castiel could talk for hours. Balthazar was embarrassing himself and Anna, not Castiel. He was making himself look the hysterical one, not Castiel. Castiel settled back in his chair, smiling to himself, smiling over his secret. He felt like a contented cat.
Suddenly, everything in his life had changed and changed for the better. He felt a reason for living and that reason was Dean. Nothing anyone said could destroy that happiness now. He would never be able to repay to Michael the great kindness he had done in insisting Castiel visit the prison. Michael would never know that he had been the driving force behind bringing Dean and this new passion they shared into Castiel’s life.
Somehow Castiel doubted it would be something Michael would be pleased to know, but he was grateful to his brother all the same.
Castiel waited a little while before his next visit. He saw his physician who announced Castiel to be in fine form. He reduced the dosage of Castiel’s tonic and lauded himself for one or other of his foul cures. Castiel endured it, cheeks pleasantly flushed as he remembered what had actually caused his good spirits. His dreams were filled with the memory of Dean’s wicked mouth.
He woke more often than not to stickiness between his thighs, a reminder of the vivid images that filled his subconscious. He dreamed of Dean’s mouth exploring other parts of his body. He dreamed of them somewhere else but Dean’s cold prison cell. He dreamt of them both stripped out of their clothes, naked and unashamed, their bodies aligned perfectly as they moved against each other. In his dreams Dean whispered sweet nothings, promises and words of love. He didn’t leave Castiel, he didn’t forget about him when something pretty caught his eyes.
In his dreams, Dean was his as he was Dean’s and no one ever came between them.
Finally, when the thrill of anticipation became too much, Castiel went back to the prison. It was hardly a love nest but Castiel still felt his pulse quicken as he was shown inside. Inias met him again but this time he was frowning.
“The prisoners aren’t to be seen today,” he said, “There was an incident last night.”
“An incident? Dean….” Castiel couldn’t keep the fear out of his voice. Inias’s eyes widened and he shook his head quickly.
“No, he’s fine. He wasn’t involved but Governor Addler has chosen to punish everyone for the infraction.”
“Oh,” Castiel said, beginning to turn away. “I’ll come back tomorrow then.”
“No, wait. Governor Addler said he wanted to see you when you came back. He told me to bring you to him.”
“Oh,” Castiel said, a strange feeling of dread settling over him. Nothing good could come from an order like that. He tried fruitlessly to recall if someone could have seen him and Dean together, could have seen the way Dean touched him. It had been all they had done but it would be enough. They needn’t have been naked for it to be a sin. Castiel knew Dean would never have been so foolish as to let slip what Castiel had allowed him to do. They were still men, it was illegal. They might end up dragged into court both of them although no proof of sodomy could be produced. Castiel was still a virgin and while he had very little understanding of how these types of cases were tested, he knew that there was no evidence of sodomy on his body.
He climbed the stairs to Governor Addler’s office, his mind racing. They reached the office door too fast for Castiel’s liking and Inias’s knock sounded too loud. Castiel was beset again by that flight response he’d had the first time he came to the prison, the desire to run and never look back. Had that response been a warning? A premonition of what was to come?
He swallowed hard and tried to force down his anxieties. He knew nothing of why Governor Addler had requested this meeting. He couldn’t show himself to be guilty before any suspicion had been laid at his feet.
Inias opened the door and ushered Castiel in before him.
“Mr Novak, sir,” he said. Addler looked up from the notes he was writing.
“Ah, yes,” he said vaguely, “You may go now, Inias.” He waved his hand, dismissing the young man out of turn. Inias quietly took his leave and Castiel was left alone with Zachariah Addler. The man reached for his blotter, laying it carefully over the words he’d just written, in no obvious hurry to greet Castiel now he had arrived.
Castiel moved nervously, shifting from foot to foot, waiting to be acknowledged.
Finally Addler put his notes aside and looked up.
“I had a feeling you’d be back to visit us sooner or later,” he said, nothing polite in his tone. “I wanted to discuss your progress with us.”
“My progress?” Castiel asked, confused. “I wasn’t aware I was being watched.”
“We watch everyone who comes here very carefully. We have to ensure that our visitors won’t have a detrimental effect on our prisoners.”
“Are you suggesting I’ve been a bad influence?” Castiel asked, surprised by the direction the conversation had taken. He hadn’t expected anything like this. The language was caged, careful. Castiel suspected what was being hinted at but it seemed that Addler wasn’t about to accuse him out right.
Zachariah Addler pushed himself up and out of his seat. He rounded his desk and came to stand in front of Castiel. Up close he was every bit as odious as Castiel had always felt he was. Addler stared at him, sizing him up. Castiel kept his face carefully neutral. After a moment Addler coughed and looked away from him.
“I just think you should be careful, Mr Novak,” he said. “These men are dangerous. It would be wrong to give them ideas above their station.”
Castiel nodded, attempting to force his features into a thoughtful expression, as if he was ruminating on what Addler had to say. Privately he had already dismissed it all.
“If one of the men asks you to carry a message for him, don’t,” Zachariah said suddenly. “He’ll want you to give it to a pal.”
“Are friendships discouraged between the inmates?”
“A pal is much more than a friend, Mr Novak. It’s hardly a polite subject, certainly not one I would want to bring up but these things do happen in prisons. It’s the loneliness. The men have only each other to turn to.”
“Oh,” Castiel said, cheeks turning red.
“As I said, it’s a disturbing subject and one better not dwelt on,” Addler said. “You should take care of yourself around them, sir. One of them might attempt to make a pal of you. As I said, there are dangerous men here who have lost their grip on civility. They no longer remember the natural way of things. They are perverse.”
“I think I’d like to go home,” Castiel whispered. He felt sick, his stomach churning.
“Soon. I would like to show you something first,” Addler said.
“Of course,” Castiel agreed quickly. He couldn’t see how he could remove himself from the situation without raising Addler’s suspicions further.
Addler nodded. “Follow me. I think you’ll find this illuminating.”
Castiel bit his tongue, words failing him. It seemed indefinitely better to keep quiet and simply allow Addler to talk himself out. He wouldn’t be the first person who Castiel had pretended to listen to. Addler placed a hand on the small of Castiel’s back, the gesture too familiar and Castiel stiffened but Addler didn’t remove his hand. He pushed gently, guiding Castiel in front of him. They went down the stairs, but turned in the opposite direction to path Castiel usually took when he visited. Castiel’s heart sank as he realised that they were going down another flight of stairs, deep into the bowels of the prison.
“I don’t think you’ve been in this part of the prison before,” Addler murmured.
“No,” Castiel agreed faintly.
The corridors were lit by oil lamps. There were no windows here, no natural light. They were below street level now. It was colder too. Castiel hadn’t thought that any part of the prison could be worse than what he had already seen but now he realised that it was like the circles of Hell. Every level was worse than the one before.
The room that Mr Addler led him into was the worst room Castiel had ever seen. It was the sort of place that existed in Penny Dreadfuls and in Castiel’s worst nightmares. There were shackles on one of the wall, spots of dried blood left behind. Another wall had an iron door set into it, likely leading to another room filled with more wickedness. On another wall, carefully lined up, were canes and whips of various sizes that had probably spilt the blood Castiel had seen splatters of.
Castiel suppressed a shudder. He had been caned once by a tutor when he was a boy and it had left a deep impression on him. The pain and the marks had faded, but the memory of his infraction and the punishment for it had never truly gone away. He had learned from it to keep his opinions to himself, to play his cards close to his chest and to always try to be what was wanted of him. That was the swiftest, easiest way to avoid another reprimanding.
“This is the correction room,” Addler said, sounding almost bored and Castiel wondered how a man could grow used to this sort of cruelty but apparently Governor Addler could. “Some of the men have it written into their sentence that they need correction, others cause a fuss when they’re here and have to be taught a lesson.”
“Is this what you wanted to show me?” Castiel asked hopelessly. If Addler had meant to frighten him away, then he had succeeded. Castiel felt like a small boy again, completely at the mercy of someone who saw the smallest misstep. The injustice of it rankled him.
On a purely philosophical level he knew that some of the prisoners, those from the poorer classes, would be no better than dogs. They would only react to a short, sharp shock like the targeted pain of a whipping. He knew that but the thought of anyone being chained up here made his blood run cold. “I think I’ve seen enough,” he amended quickly, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the cold, nightmarish room as possible.
“Not just yet,” Addler said. He crossed the room to the big iron door that Castiel had hardly taken any attention to before. There was a small hatch built into it and Addler unlatched it, letting it fall open. He beckoned Castiel to join him. “These are our solitary quarters. It’s where we put prisoners who’ve caused trouble. A little time alone in the dark allows them to reflect on what they’ve done.”
Castiel dragged his feet across the floor. They felt like dead weights. He would rather do anything else than be a party to any of this. He felt as if tacitly he was an accomplice to the deeds that took place in this room. Before Michel had insisted on him visiting, Castiel had never thought about the plight of prisoners. He had simply counted them as wrong-doers and accepted their fate would be unpleasant one. His eyes had been opened now to the true extent of the misery that awaited anyone convicted of committing a crime. Eventually he reached Addler’s side and peered in through the hatch at the tiny, dark room.
He drew back with a gasp. There was a man in the room.
“Ah. Perhaps I should have warned you that the cell was occupied,” Addler said without a trace of real regret in his voice. Castiel already knew he had done it on purpose. He had planned this. He thought Mr Addler was enjoying his alarm.
“Yes, perhaps you should,” Castiel said crossly.
“This is Mr Morningstar, the man your brother has taken such an interest in,” Addler continued. “He caused a most distressing outbreak of violence today in the dining hall.”
“I didn’t do anything,” the man said. His voice was strong, filled with anger. Castiel pressed himself to the door, peering inside and met the stare of a pair of brilliant, ice cold blue eyes. He took the time now to study the man and was struck by his beauty. Even the dark cold little cell couldn’t rob that from him. He glittered like a diamond found amongst a pile of coal. He was like a diamond all over, pale with high cheekbones, his lips tinged blue, his skin, Castiel was sure, if touched, would be like ice. Castiel couldn’t stop himself from staring. “I didn’t do anything,” the man repeated again sullenly.
“You always do something, Morningstar,” Addler sneered. “The men can’t keep their hands off you.”
“Then why aren’t they in here, instead of me?”
“Because we all know it’s your fault. All the men know what you are; you flaunt yourself in front of them. You shouldn’t be surprised when they expect something more from you,” Addler said, pushing Castiel aside so he could lean in closer.
Mr Morningstar retaliated by spitting in his face.
Addler made a disgusted noise, dug a hand in his pocket and wiped his face with the handkerchief he pulled out.
“You’ll be in here for another night now, Morningstar,” he hissed. “And maybe that will teach you some manners.”
Mr Morningstar tossed his head defiantly but Castiel thought he saw a flicker of fear in his ice blue eyes before the hatch was latched back up again. For all his defiance he was scared and Castiel couldn’t blame him. Alone in the dark with nowhere to go, no one to talk to and a sadistic man in charge of it all who would dearly love to keep you there. Castiel could see why Mr Morningstar was afraid. Castiel was afraid too and yet eventually he’d be allowed to leave. Mr Morningstar would stay until his sentence was finished.
“I’m going now,” he told Addler, not willing to wait around and be shown anything more. It had been an eye opening experience but not perhaps with the outcome Addler had been hoping for. Castiel was even more committed than ever to his visits. He wouldn’t leave Dean to face this horrible place alone.
He swept out of the room, forcing Addler to run to keep up with him.
“I’d advise you to slow down, Mr Novak, you wouldn’t want to get lost in these corridors? We might never find you again,” Addler panted out. Castiel paused, aware that that was true. Already he left he had taken a wrong turn at some point. The corridors all looked the same, the walls too close together.
“Yes,” he said finally, defeated. “Very well, show me the way out.”
They walked the rest of the way in silence. When they reached the prison gate, Addler put his hand out to hold Castiel back while the gate was unlocked.
“I hope your visit today had been illuminating, Mr Novak,” he whispered. “Morningstar used to be a gentleman, just like yourself. You see what can happen to a gentleman in a place like this.”
“I think you’re being improper, Governor Addler,” Castiel said swiftly. He was tired of Addler’s veiled comments and warnings. He was tired of the man. “I shall inform my brother about today’s visit and the exact words you used to Mr Morningstar. I’m sure my brother will be greatly interested to hear what I have to say on the matter.”
The slackened, horrified expression on Zachariah Addler’s face was very nearly worth it.
That night when dinner was served Castiel could eat very little of it. His thoughts were occupied by the memory of the defiant face of Lucifer Morningstar before the hatch was closed on him and he was plunged into darkness. The unfairness of it all left Castiel filled with anger on the man’s behalf. He had puzzled over Governor Addler’s words, tried to give them any other meaning than the one which came most obviously to mind and could find no other possibility than the obvious. Mr Morningstar had been attacked, assaulted and Governor Addler blamed him for it. Castiel had no doubts that his blame was based solely upon what Mr Morningstar had been convicted of. It seemed in Governor Addler’s world, a man who would go wrong once should go wrong every time the opportunity was presented to him – damn his consent or his feelings in the matter.
He had mentioned to Michael what had occurred on his visit, omitting Governor Addler’s exact words because he could not force himself to say the words, they felt heavy on his tongue and by committing them aloud again Castiel felt he was condoning them. Michael had seemed thoughtful and Castiel had found him writing a letter to the Governor later that evening. Now Michael seemed to be in the same low spirits as himself, unable to eat and merely pushing his food around his plate.
Not for the first time Castiel wondered why Michael had taken an interest in Mr Morningstar in particular. Was it simple Christian charity or something more? Castiel nudged a mushroom to the side of his plate and reflected that mostly likely Michael did not wish to see the man suffer any more than he already had. No matter what the man’s crime had been, he was ruined now forever. His stay in prison, the fact that the papers would no doubt have reported his arrest and subsequent guilty verdict on the count of sodomy, Mr Morningstar’s life in England was over. He would have to go abroad once his sentence was over. He would have to start afresh. Knowing that, Michael no doubt pitied the poor wretch. He would have a hard enough time in the future; it did not need to be made harder by a bullying prison Governor.
It warmed Castiel’s heart a little to think of his brother being so kind, but it did nothing to improve his appetite. He finished a little over half of his dinner and had only three bites of the rice pudding brought out for desert even though it was the cook’s specialty and something of a favourite for Castiel on any other day.
He excused himself and went to bed early. He was half way through his night-time routine, readying himself for bed, when there was a knock on his door. Castiel opened it and stepped back from the door when he saw it was Balthazar standing there. He said nothing but Balthazar still took the invitation to come into the room. He shut the door behind him and grasped Castiel tightly, drawing him into an embrace.
“Castiel,” he whispered, burying his nose in Castiel’s hair and inhaling deeply. “I’ve missed you so much, Castiel. You’re out so often now. It does you no good. I can see it, Anna can see it. She tells me often how worried she is about you.”
Castiel wiggled out of Balthazar’s grip, frowning.
“You talk about me with my sister?” he asked, unable to keep the disdain from his voice. “You could talk to me, Balthazar, I am not gone all that often, or are you simply happier sharing your thoughts with Anna now instead of me.”
“Don’t be like that, Castiel,” Balthazar said, grabbing for his hand and holding it tight. “I know why you spend so much time at the prison. I know what you want from that man you visit, Castiel, but it can never be.”
Castiel felt instantly hot all over. The hand Balthazar had grabbed for had been the same one Dean had taken so gently, kissed all over and brought Castiel to the brink, and over, of something that had been wonderful and earth-shattering. He snatched his hand away, glaring.
“You do not know what you’re talking about,” he informed Balthazar hotly.
“Cassie, please. If you mean to make me jealous, then you have done it.” Balthazar pressed forward once more, but again Castiel pushed him away.
“Please, just leave me alone,” he said softly. “You have already made a choice. You chose Anna. I am coming to term with that, let me do that on my own and don’t attempt to confuse me any further Balthazar.”
Balthazar hesitated a second and then reached out, stroking Castiel’s cheek gently. “Very well, but think about what I have said, Castiel.” His hand lingered a moment longer, long enough for Castiel to lean in to the touch, to remember how very warm Balthazar had always been and how happy he had been in the man’s arms before he pulled away and slipped out of the door, leaving Castiel quite alone again.
He finished undressing and slipped between the bed sheets, blowing out the candle as he did.
For a long time he lay awake, staring at the vase on the bedside table and the single violet flower Dean had sent him. Was he simply attempting to make Balthazar jealous? Was he replacing Balthazar in his affections with Dean because he could not stand the pain he associated with Balthazar any longer? Dean was so forthright, so commanding. If Castiel’s heart was a battle ground, then Dean had laid siege to the walls Balthazar had built around it and Castiel knew he was very likely to tumble before too long.
He hoped that Dean would make a better conqueror than Balthazar had.
The next morning found Castiel at the prison gates, eager and enthused to see Dean again. The enforced absence of the day before had only made him think of Dean more fondly and he wished to see the man, to speak with him and hear his voice. It felt like an eternity since he had seen Dean. An hour spent together some days ago was not enough for Castiel. He would never have believed that his heart would have opened for another man after Balthazar’s betrayal.
He had been grieving, unwilling to think that he would ever be lucky enough to meet another man who shared his predilections. It had felt like fate when he met Balthazar and now it was fate that he had met Dean. He never would have thought that somewhere as grim as the prison could house someone as special as Dean. Castiel had become so enthralled by Dean that even the rotten smell of the prison no longer bothered him.
He was met by Inias and immediately from the boy’s face he could see something was wrong. Inias wouldn’t meet his eye.
“What’s wrong? Am I not allowed to visit today? Did something happen?” Castiel asked hurried, the words tripping over themselves as he tried to get them out.
Inias shook his head.
“No,” he said quickly. “It’s that…Mr Winchester already has a visitor.”
“Another visitor?” Castiel asked. He was aware that he wasn’t the only person who visited Dean. Inias had told him that much on his first visit to the prison but so far he had managed to avoid crossing paths with any of them. He had been able to imagine that Dean was his alone. He floundered now, uncertain what he should do.
“You can wait if you’d like?” Inias offered. “We warders have a room where we take our meals. You’d be welcome to sit in there until Winchester’s other visitor has left.”
Castiel nodded. He doubted it would be as nicely furnished as Governor Addler’s office but he had always found that place to uncomfortable, despite its fashionable chairs and warm fire. There was too much of a reminder that Addler lived in opulence while the prisoners were ill-treated. Of course they did not deserve the nice things that Governor Addler had, they were criminals, but all the same Castiel felt it was unbecoming for the man to furnish his office in such a lavish style.
“Yes, that would be very nice,” he agreed.
Inias beamed at him.
“It’s just this way,” he said, leading Castiel to in a new direction. They went through a wooden door and into a room that was lined with shelves, filled with boxes that were all neatly tucked away. Castiel looked at them, fascinated. Inias glanced over his shoulder, catching sight of Castiel’s expression and he stopped.
“These are our boxes, sir. Our things. We’ve all got to wear a uniform here but we keep it in our box when we’re not working. All the uniforms are the same.” He lifted the lid of the nearest box to let Castiel look inside. “We store our normal clothes here when we’re working.”
Castiel nodded, slightly disappointed by the mundane answer to his curiosity. Inias pushed the box back into place and continued on, pushing open another door that led to a small room. There was a fire in the grate, burning warmly, and two long wooden benches sat in front of it. A table covered in unwashed plates and cups was pushed into the corner. The room was Spartan and austere. Castiel felt sorry for the poor men who had to work in the prison. Their rooms were almost as bad as the prisoners.
Inias must have known what he was thinking because he hurriedly said “It’s not as bad as it looks, sir, its warm here and you can put your feet up.”
“I see,” Castiel said slowly. He had never asked Inias about the hours he worked but the boy seemed to almost constantly be here. Castiel had never visited and seen another guard. He reached into his pocket and drew out his leather purse. He opened it and took out a half-crown which he pressed into Inias’s hand. “Please, take it; you’ve been so gracious to me.”
Inias took the coin, stared at it, murmured his thanks and shoved the coin into his pocket.
“I’ll see if Winchester’s visitor is finished, sir,” he said quickly, rushing out of the room with a renewed vigour. Castiel looked after him, smiling faintly. He settled down on the bench nearest the fire and waited.
The room was small but it was well insulated and Castiel found himself growing drowsy in the warmth. His head nodded and he thought dreamy thoughts about Dean. They’d be together soon enough. He let him mind wonder to what would happen after Dean’s prison sentence was served. He could take Dean under his wing; attempt to reform him in the eyes of society. He could find him a job, a respectable one and Dean would come up in the world. He was a charming man and so many people enjoyed a reformed rogue. Castiel would find his own apartments and they could move in together, two bachelors living in utmost respectability but in private they would be each other’s and each other’s only. It had been the life he had hoped he could have for himself and Balthazar but that dream had been dashed.
He found he preferred the dream with Dean in it.
So many young men took rooms together, lived together and palled around together and never married. No one ever questioned the nature of their relationship to each other. It was just considered normal. Castiel wanted that, the ability to hide in plain sight. He would never face the possibility of public shame, of having to go abroad or lose his family. It was the very best that he could hope for and Castiel enjoyed the imagery he created in his head.
There would be two bedrooms but only one bed shared.
Castiel’s mind had strayed to the bed, to the things that Dean might show him, that he had begun to show him alone in his prison cell when the door to the warders room burst open. Castiel started, rudely awoken from his daydream.
A tall man was standing in the doorway. He was quite the tallest man that Castiel had ever seen. He was almost too tall for the doorframe and he would have been frightening but the way he held himself was all wrong for that. He seemed ashamed of his height, he hunched his shoulders and held himself as if he was all too aware that he was a giant in the world of averaged sized. Castiel had no doubts there would be some scientists in Scotland who would love to study him, alive or dead, and discover the cause of his growth. He was also a peculiarly handsome man. His hair was long but tied back behind his head in a style that had been popular well-over a century ago and yet seemed timeless on him. His eyes were light green, his complexion clear and bright, his jaw line handsome.
There was a faint familiarity about his features but Castiel could not place it.
He blinked sleepily and then stood up in a hurry. “I was told to wait here,” he said, wondering if this man was a warder.
“Yes, Inias told me you were here. I had him wait outside, I wanted to speak to you,” the man said, an anxious tone in his voice which aroused Castiel’s curiosity.
“Why would you wish to speak to me?” he asked, a little confused.
“I know you’re visiting Dean as well, he told me so himself and I beg of you to stop it,” the man stepped forward but his manner was not threatening but pleading. “The way he speaks of you worries me. You cannot know how badly this attachment will end. You are not the first young man that he has bewitched in this way and he has had young ladies too under his spell. You must understand it when I say to you that he will bring you only grief,” the man paused, licked his lips and shook his head sadly. “He has brought me only grief and I have stood by him always.”
Castiel stared at the man with wide eyes, unable to believe the way he had simply launched himself into his confession. He was gladdened, at least, that the man had had Inias wait outside because there was nothing in his statement he would have wanted the boy to hear. He wondered just what Dean had said about him to force this man to make such a heartfelt plea and just what the man’s relationship to Dean could be.
Almost instantly his mind filled in the blanks for him. This man must be the employer who had vouched on Dean’s behalf. He was nothing like the elderly, effeminate fop that Castiel had imagined. He was, Castiel guessed, around his own age. His legs suddenly refused to support him and Castiel slumped back on to the bench, unable to believe what he was hearing. Dean was completely what he had been warned against. As much as Castiel wanted not to believe it, here was another man telling him of Dean’s criminality, his corruptive nature and Castiel could not ignore all those voices repeating the same statements. Worse still, here was a man who had a claim to Dean’s heart from long before Castiel had even known he existed.
He felt as if he might scream, rage and despair bubbling up inside of him in equal measures.
Dean had played with his heart, had seduced him and made love to him, had wrapped Castiel thoroughly around his little finger and Castiel could not understand how his heart had led him wrong for a second time. Hadn’t he learnt?
It was all too horrible. Only a few moments ago he had been contemplating a life with Dean and now all of that was ruined. Castiel almost longed to go back to a few minutes ago, to before he was enlightened because part of him would rather live in ignorance and be happy than face the awful pain that beset him now.
The man was watching him worriedly and Castiel did not want him to see his pain. He begrudged the man but he wouldn’t compete with him. He would not stay, visit Dean and let them be played off each other by a man who clearly took joy in his seductions. No doubt he had seen from the start that Castiel was an easy mark.
He swallowed hard and the forced himself to stand. “Thank you for illuminating this matter for me,” he said, forcing the words out. “I’ll go now. I won’t visit Dean again, you have nothing to worry about from me.”
He walked past the man, his head held high and allowed Inias to escort him away. He could not face Dean, not even to tell him that he had discovered his duplicity. He had the feeling that Dean would find some way to twist things, to enchant Castiel again with his charm and his wicked mouth, and Castiel did not want to be enchanted. He wanted to protect his heart from the scoundrels that seemed drawn to it.
Castiel ran all the way home, his disappointment turning to anger and then to disgust. He was angry with himself for being romanced so easily. He knew now why people called an attraction between two men a perversion. His desires had brought Castiel nothing but heartache. Both Balthazar and Dean had toyed with him and then thrown him aside, yet Castiel blamed himself because he was the one who hadn’t resisted them like an honest Christian man should resist their temptation, he had been willing each time. His sin was more than the inability to resist temptation. There was something fatally flawed in his make-up.
No more, Castiel swore to himself as he opened the front door. No more would he allow himself to fall mercy to that unholy side of his nature. He would devote himself to celibacy if he couldn’t devote himself to a woman and a normal life. He would find some charitable work that kept him far away from other young men and the lure they had for him.
He stood in the hallways, consumed with his thoughts, waiting for one of the servants to arrive and take his coat but no one came. Finally Castiel took off his coat and threw it down in a fit of pique. He stormed through the house, determined to find Michael and tell him that he wouldn’t be going back to the prison, that it had been a terrible idea and Michael had only made him suffer more. It was an unkindness but he didn’t want to be alone in his misery, he wanted his brother to share in it. If it was for Michael then he never would have met Dean, he never would have had his heart ripped out and been made a fool of.
It was the afternoon so Castiel was certain his brother would be at work in his study. He came to the solid oak door, raised his hand to knock although he planned only to knock once and then enter but he stopped. There was an odd sound coming from inside. It was faint; probably someone passing quickly past the door wouldn’t hear anything but Castiel wasn’t just passing. He found himself staring at the door, trying to place the sound. It was almost like sobbing but not quite.
Slowly, uncertain of what he’d find, he twisted the door handle, making sure to make no sound and eased the door opened enough to be able to see inside.
For a moment Castiel didn’t really know what he was seeing. His mind refused to make sense of it. He tried to think up some other reason for what was in front of him. Maybe Michael was simply heavy handed with the servants, preferring to take an active part in punishing their transgression and the slap of skin on skin that he heard was the steady smack of Michael’s hand and not something else.
He couldn’t ignore the truth of what was in front of his own eyes for very long however.
Michael had Adam bent across his writing desk, the boy trapped underneath him as Michael pinned him down, holding him there as he thrust. It was wrong to watch, Castiel knew, and yet he found it riveting. He shouldn’t watch. Michael was his brother, what he was doing was wrong and yet Castiel had never seen this and he couldn’t look away. He watched his brother’s hips draw back in fascination, watched as Michael’s cock slid from the stretched and reddened hole and then pushed back inside, obscuring the view. It had to hurt. It had to be painful. Nothing should fit in there. Castiel was certain of it. The boy beneath Michael groaned, his eyes closed and his cheeks flushed and Castiel was certain that the expression he caught on the boy’s face was pain.
He only stood there for a few seconds but it seemed like an eternity to Castiel. He was certain in a moment that the boy would open his eyes or Michael would turn round and see him and Castiel didn’t want to be caught but he also didn’t want to look away. He was fascinated and confused, horrified and aroused. He could feel his cock stirring and that was what forced him into action. He pulled away from the door, shutting it as softly as he could, locking it again behind him.
He willed his blood to stop pumping, willed his heart to stop beating because what he had just witnessed was a sin and it shouldn’t make him hard. He tried to focus on the boy, the youth that Michael was corrupting, hurting even. It made him feel worse. He was burning up, feverish and delirious because all he could imagine was how it would feel to be filled in the way that boy had been filled.
The boy had been in pain, Castiel forced himself to remember. Michael was abusing his position in the household, abusing his position as a master and simply because Castiel was weak he saw something else when he looked. He had always believed Michael was a good man but now he knew that couldn’t be true, not if Michael could do something like that.
Castiel wandered away from his brother’s study in a daze. He felt hot, feverish even. No matter how hard he tried he could not rid himself of the noises he had heard – the slap of skin on skin, Adam’s half-groaned noises. He found himself in the library with no memory of how he had reached it.
Balthazar was seated in one of the large, high-backed chairs, a book in hand, helping himself to Michael’s best brandy from the drinks tray at his elbow. Normally Castiel would have chastised him for that indulgence, Michael kept that brandy for important guests and special occasions, but anything associated with Michael was tainted now and Castiel didn’t care if he would be upset later.
“Balthazar,” he said softly.
Balthazar looked up quickly, snapping the book shut and Castiel found himself closing the last few steps to stand in front of Balthazar’s chair, swaying slightly where he stood.
“You look unwell, Castiel. Maybe a little brandy will revive you?” Balthazar suggested. He didn’t wait for Castiel to answer but uncorked the decanter and poured out a measure into a brandy glass. He handed it to Castiel who took the glass gratefully and downed it with one gulp. The liquid burned his throat as he swallowed but it brought him back to himself. The brandy settled in his stomach, warm and heavy, warming him from the inside out and Castiel was able to think clearly for the first time since he had seen his brother and Adam together.
Balthazar looked at him with some concern but Castiel set the brandy glass back down on the drinks tray and offered him the smallest nod of appreciation. His mind was still racing but Balthazar, at least, was someone whom he could talk to about what he had seen. Balthazar could understand.
“I saw something,” he said delicately.
Balthazar quirked an eyebrow, obviously waiting for him to continue.
Castiel licked his lips, tasting the residue of the brandy upon them. “I saw Michael and his valet together.”
For a moment Balthazar didn’t seem to comprehend what Castiel was trying to say but then realisation blossomed on his face. He smiled, pushing himself up out of his chair and stood in front of Castiel, only an inch or so of space between them.
“Poor Castiel, that must have been a shock for you,” he said but Castiel didn’t feel that the words were kind even if they sounded so. Balthazar’s raised his hand, pressing it against Castiel’s forehead and for a moment Castiel’s wondered if he was trying to check his temperature but then that paternal gesture turned into something else as Balthazar’s hand moved to his cheeks, caressing the skin there. “What where they doing?”
“Michael was….he had Adam beneath him and he…..” Castiel struggled to find the words to describe what he had seen. “It was indecent, Balthazar. He was sodomising him.”
“And did you enjoy watching them, Castiel?” Balthazar asked, his eyes glinting wickedly. He rubbed Castiel’s cheek almost forcefully, stepping so close now that there was no space left between them. Their bodies were pressed together and Castiel could feel the hardness of Balthazar’s cock pressing against his hip. “Did you think about being Michael? About driving yourself inside some tight boy’s body or did you imagine yourself in Adam’s place? Pinned down and taken?”
“Do you know how long I’ve waited for this, Cassie? How tired I’ve grown of stolen kisses? I’ve wanted so much more from you, Castiel. You don’t have to be frightened,” Balthazar said, forcing his mouth on Castiel’s after the words were out, his fingers fumbling with the front of Castiel’s waistcoat. “I should have had you in Cambridge. I should have had you when you were still the first bloom of your youth, but I can have you now, Castiel.”
Castiel’s mind reeled, replaying the carefree days of his university life with Balthazar. He had always thought that they both understood that their passion could not be consummated, that it should not be sullied by anything as imperfect as physical love. That sort of messy, base function was for wives and the production of children. They had always put themselves above those things, hadn’t they? Their love had always been pure. He had been indecent with Dean but with Balthazar he had always been pure. Now every touch of Balthazar’s hand on his thigh, every kiss and glance was tainted with the knowledge that all Balthazar had ever wanted had been the vulgar passions he supposedly despised.
“But you said….” he managed to gasp out as Balthazar succeeded in unbuttoning his waistcoat and untucking his shirt. “The philosophers you admired….”
“Plato? Socrates? They might have written a nice line or two on the subject of loving boys purely but do you think when it came to the rub that they didn’t indulge themselves? The most powerful man in all of Greece, Alexander the Great, could be brought low by a boy’s thighs. I’m just like they were, Castiel. I want to feel between you, inside you.” As Balthazar spoke his deft fingers loosened the buttons on Castiel’s trousers, slipping them from him and leaving Castiel in only his shirt and under things. His fingers stroked the flesh of Castiel’s legs and Castiel felt goose-pimples rise up as if his body had only then realised his near nudity.
“Stop this,” he whispered, “You have Anna to think of, stop this. We cannot have what you want. It wouldn’t be right, she’s my sister.” He could believe in the righteousness of loving a boy but keeping a wife when it applied to some long dead society, but not when it applied to his sister. He would not share Balthazar with her and he wouldn’t let Balthazar shame her this way.
“You think this isn’t done, Castiel? Don’t be so naive,” Balthazar laughed. “It happens all the time on the continent.”
“But we’re not on the continent!” Castiel protested. “I mean it, stop it! I don’t want this, Balthazar!”
“Have your tastes changed so much, Cassie? Is it the physical you do not want or is it just me? Do you think I’m a fool? I’ve seen your eyes light up when you talk about your convict and you talk of little else currently. Has he stolen your heart? I bet you would spread your legs eagerly enough for him.”
The words were like a slap in the face.
“No!” Castiel gasped but even as he tried to deny what Balthazar had said he knew there was more than a grain of truth in it, nothing as vulgar as Balthazar was suggesting but Castiel had been distracted by Dean. He had been drawn to Dean since they moment he’d met him and every subsequent meeting had only made him more enthralled. He had allowed Dean to romance him. He had allowed Dean to touch him, to make him come undone.
Something of the truth must have shown on his face because Balthazar grasped him by his shoulders suddenly, shaking him. “I won’t give you to him, Cassie. I won’t! He’s a criminal.”
“No, he’s not like that. You don’t understand.”
“I know that you were mine first, and now you taunt me with that man! You draw me aside to brag about the gifts he has sent to you! Flowers, Castiel? Did you think I would not know what you were doing? You have driven me mad with jealously. I am yours and you are mine, Castiel!” Balthazar’s grip tightened, hard enough to leave bruises. “Maybe I should remind you of that.”
“No! No!” Castiel shouted in earnest now, struggling in Balthazar’s grip. He didn’t understand how a man he had admired, had told himself he loved, could turn cold and violent like this. Everything he’d ever believed was crumbling down around him. His brother was the sort of man who took advantage of the servants, Dean had betrayed him and Balthazar thought of Castiel as his property because he had seen him first. He didn’t even see that he was a hypocrite, asserting his rights to Castiel even though he’d already proven that he required no such fidelity in himself. Indeed, he thought he should have Castiel and his sister. Castiel smacked out at him, punching his fists against Balthazar’s chest but the man didn’t even seem to feel it.
It dawned on Castiel that even despite his protests, Balthazar might not stop. He truly seemed to think he was in the right, that Castiel’s body was something owed to him for the time he had lavished on Castiel. He truly as well seemed to think that Castiel wanted him, that he had been using his trips to the prison as some coquettish tease to rouse Balthazar’s passions. Tears welled up in his eyes, rolling down his cheeks. The misinterpretation of his actions stung but the shock of Balthazar’s true nature was worse and Castiel couldn’t stop his tears.
The door to the library clicked open and Castiel caught a glimpse of Ellen standing there, prim and proper in her maids uniform, her face expressionless. Balthazar turned irritably to look at her.
“Leave us alone,” he snapped.
Castiel felt a panic sink into his bones. If Ellen shut the door, if she walked away then there would be nothing to stop Balthazar. He could keep struggling, he would keep struggling, but he had no faith that his distress and tears would stop Balthazar.
Ellen remained in the door way, her face impassive.
“I think you should let him go, sir,” she said finally and Castiel felt his hear swell with gratitude.
“I told you to leave.”
“Can’t you tell when someone doesn’t want you, sir?” Ellen asked, her eyes narrowing slightly although nothing else about her changed. Her tone could not even be called improper. She could as easily have been informing them that dinner was to be late as she was bargaining for Castiel’s safety.
Balthazar turned to look back at Castiel and for the first time he seemed to see him as he truly was – frightened, crying, afraid and unwilling. He let go of Castiel, stumbling away from him and then he shoved past Ellen. Castiel held himself up for as long as he could but when he heard the front door slam he collapsed, gathering his clothes around him. Ellen hurried across the room to his side, helping him to dress himself and wiping away his tears.
“Thank you, thank you,” Castiel murmured.
“I don’t think he’ll be back, Master Castiel,” Ellen said softly.
Castiel looked up at her with wide, fearful eyes. He hadn’t even thought about what would happen after the immediate. He hadn’t thought of what the aftermath might be. He had simply wanted Balthazar to stop, that had been the absolute and the only thing in his mind.
“But what about Anna?” His sister’s voice was a shock to him and Castiel looked up to see her in the doorway, mimicking exactly where Ellen had stood only a few moments before. Anna’s cheeks were bright red and there were tears in her eyes but she was better at keeping herself controlled than Castiel was. She followed Ellen’s path into the room and knelt carefully at his side. “Do you think I would still want him after this, Castiel?”
“I’m so sorry,” Castiel sobbed. “I’m so sorry. I never meant him to hurt you, Anna. I never meant for him to come here and lie to you.”
“I know, I know,” Anna soothed, her fingers stroking through his dark hair. “Ellen,” she directed, “Fetch some of Castiel’s tonic. I’ll take him up to bed now.” Anna wrapped her arms around her brother and slowly she and Ellen got him to his feet. Ellen left them then and Anna supported him up the stairs.
She settled Castiel in his bed and then fetched a cloth to wash his face.
“Your eyes are all red,” she murmured, tipping his chin up. She moved the cloth carefully across his eyelids, the cool feel of it doing something to stop the itchy tightness left behind by so many tears.
“I always knew there was something different about you, Castiel. I was always so frightened of what would happen to you when you went away to school, when you were a boy. You hear such horror stories about fagging and the masters at those places,” Anna’s words came out in a hurry and Castiel pushed the cloth away, opening his eyes to look at his sister. She was pale, her lips trembling as she spoke and Castiel wondered how she could know these things.
They weren’t discussed in polite company. Michael had never held forth on the subject of boys’ boarding schools and the shameful activity that happened there and neither had their father, newspapers hinted at scandal but never covered details. Castiel realised that there were depths to his sister he had never guessed. Anna was in fact almost a mystery to him or maybe he had only begun to view her that way when he saw her as a rival and not his sister. He had vilified all her traits and he was so ashamed of that now.
“You were such a quiet boy,” Anna continued. “I felt for sure that someone there would abuse that but then you came home and you’d flourished academically. You were so smart and when you went to Cambridge you were a young man. I thought you’d be safer there. I didn’t realise that there would be someone there waiting to take advantage of you.”
“You have always known about my nature, Anna? How can you?” Castiel asked. He did not want to think that Anna had always marked him for a victim. He could hear the care in her words but they still stung. He wanted to know how his sister could know the type of man he was and still stand by him. He wanted to ask her if she knew about Michael too but he couldn’t. He shut his mouth tightly, biting his tongue as he waited for Anna’s answer.
Anna looked at him, a slight smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “You used to watch the gardener. You were rather enraptured with him.”
“Anna, that’s hardly….”
“And ladies talk, Castiel. You never ask my friends to dance, you never try to steal kisses from Jo even though she’s very pretty and other men who visit aren’t so reserved, you never express any interest in marriage. When I ask you, you say you want to be a bachelor. You must think me daft if you think I can’t work out what that means.”
“I…I hadn’t realised I was that obvious,” Castiel whispered. He had always thought of himself as carefully.
“Only to me, only because I love you and I know you,” Anna said, reaching out to take hold of his hand. Her fingers felt delicate but there was strength in her grip and Castiel knew instantly that he could break, he could fall apart and Anna would be strong enough to put him together again. She had always been there, his sister, and he had forgotten that she was his strongest ally, not his enemy. He found himself trembling and Anna’s fingers tightened around his own, a silent reminder that he was not alone.
Castiel was still shaking when Ellen arrived with the tonic. She held it to his lips and helped him to drink until the last drop was swallowed down. She bobbed a curtsey to them, removed the glass and went back downstairs.
Anna stayed beside him, holding his hand in hers and, as the numbing effect of the tonic took over and Castiel sunk back into the pillows, she talked to him – softly, kindly, remembrances of family outings or days spent as children before the rest of the world snuck in – until finally he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer.
The sleep he attained was blissfully dreamless, made so by the knowledge that his sister was at his bedside, watching over him like some avenging guardian angel.
Castiel stayed in bed for the next few days, unable to face anyone but Anna or Ellen. He refused to see Michael on grounds of principle, he would have been unable to face his brother without revealing what he saw and flying into a rage at him, so for the time being it was better that Michael stayed outside his bedroom door and did not try to venture to Castiel’s bedside. He could not face Adam either. Knowing what was going on in the house, what had happened to him, made Castiel sick and he did not feel he could face the young man till he had some idea of what he could do to help him. Jo’s tasks fell to Ellen as Castiel trusted her and so the young maid had no business to attend to that would bring her to Castiel’s rooms.
Just as Ellen had said, Balthazar didn’t return to the house. He sent for his things and they were duly packed and sent away. Castiel had heard Anna and Michael arguing in the hallway outside his room about her broken engagement. Michael had wanted to know what had caused Anna to throw away such a promising match and if it had anything to do with Castiel’s sudden ill-health. Anna had retorted that Balthazar had proved himself to be less than a gentleman, that she feared he gambled and had high debts and that her beauty and the family money would ensure another proposal would come her way again.
Castiel, from his place propped up in bed, marvelled at how Anna spoke. Eventually Michael backed down and left her be, left them both be, and Castiel was able to sleep soundly knowing that he was not going to be interrupted or asked questions he did not want to answer about the day Balthazar left.
Then, one morning, he woke to a single violet laying on the pillow beside him, a note written on a page torn from the back of a book tucked beneath it. Castiel’s breath caught in his chest. He picked up the note, uncertain if he even wanted to know what it had to say but unable to destroy it without reading it first.
Cas, the note began in blotchy, hastily scrawled ink. In some places the writing had smudge and Castiel realised that it must have been written in a hurry. He also knew it was from Dean. He had known the moment he saw the violet. Dean and his spirits and his dead that could not be laid to rest. Castiel shivered at the thought of it all. He should throw the note away, should ignore Dean and any entreaties he sent to him but Castiel found himself reading on.
I missed you. You stopped visiting me and I couldn’t think what I did to upset you. I thought you felt our affinity too. You had been eager before. I thought I had misread you and then I found out the truth of it all. That man you met, the one who told you not to come see me, is my brother Sam. He thinks I’m a bad influence on you and maybe I am but it’s not for him to decide.
I am waiting for you, Cas.
Castiel set the letter down. His heart was racing and he tried to force his thoughts back to the last time he had visited the prison, to the exact words the tall, handsome stranger had said to him. With Dean’s letter in mind they took on a distinctly different interpretation. The grief Dean had caused him was the grief of being associated with a criminal, the same grief any family would bear when one of their own went wrong. His desire to see Castiel away came not from any romantic attachment to Dean, but from the disgust any right thinking man might have at such a deepening of acquaintanceship between two men. In fact everything he had said could be explained as the words of a man who was worried about his brother and indeed the choices that brother might make if faced with temptation.
Dean then had not betrayed him.
Castiel leapt out of bed. Suddenly the world was no longer bleak. There was some spark of light in it.
“Oh, my poor Dean,” Castiel said out loud. His heart ached at the thought of Dean alone in the prison, waiting for a visit which never came, unable to understand what he had done wrong. “I have to go to him.”
He called for Ellen who arranged for a bath full of warm water to be drawn, jugs of water brought up from the kitchen and poured into the big bath tub. A fire was lit in the room to keep the water warm and Castiel hurriedly bathed then shaved himself. He had looked a state and he did not want Dean to see him that way. New clothes were laid out on his bed, ready for him. Castiel dressed as quickly as he could, his fingers trembling as he came to the buttons. To think of all the time he had wasted believing that Dean had been untrue to him.
It did nothing to dull the sting of Balthazar’s cruelty but Castiel tried to push Balthazar as much from his mind as possible. Dean was another man, a different man, a man who had not played with his heart as he had so thought.
Ellen was waiting for him by the front door, holding his coat and a pair of gloves.
“For the chill,” she said, helping him on with his coat.
On impulse, Castiel caught her up and kissed her cheek. “Remind me to tell Michael that you need a raise! He doesn’t pay you enough, Ellen!”
Ellen looked flustered for a moment and then she smiled and tapped him on the arm.
“Honestly,” she huffed in good natured pleasure, her cheeks glowing.
Castiel smiled back and let himself out of the house. He ran down the path to the road, and then ran through the throng of the London crowds until he came to the prison. He was panting and out of breath as he hammered on the gate door. No one could open it fast enough for him and he did not wait for a guide once inside. He knew the way now.
Inias was at his post, guarding the corridor wing that housed amongst its occupants Dean Winchester and he seemed quiet alarmed when Castiel came barrelling into him.
“Mr Novak?” he asked, surprised and reaching to hold Castiel at arms length. “You haven’t been here for a long time, sir. I thought you’d taken ill or stopped coming.”
“I was ill, yes,” Castiel answered quickly between attempts to draw breath. “But I’m much better now, thank you.”
“Winchester will be pleased. He’s been asking me why you haven’t come to see him and I’ve had nothing to say,” Inias murmured. Castiel pulled himself up at the mention of Dean, his heart constricting painfully as he heard Dean had been asking after him. He pulled off his gloves and pushed them deep into the pocket of his coat, his fingers tingling in remembrance of Dean’s warm mouth encircling them. Castiel felt his cheeks growing pink but he strove to keep himself looking composed.
“We shouldn’t keep him waiting any longer then,” he said. Inias nodded, hurrying in front of Castiel to unbolt the door to Dean’s cell. Castiel forced himself to remain controlled as he stepped through. Dean looked much the same as he remembered him although now he seemed not quite to believe his eyes. Castiel waited until the door was shut and then he threw himself into Dean’s arms.
“I am sorry! I’m so sorry!” he gasped, peppering Dean’s face with kisses. “I thought….It doesn’t matter what I thought. I believed wrong and I would have continued to believe wrong if your clever ghosts hadn’t sent me your note. Dean, please, forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. I should never have told Sam about you!” Dean gasped. He held Castiel’s head in place and kissed him firmly on the mouth. The passion in his kiss made Castiel week-kneed and he sagged against Dean, wanting to be drawn into his arms and held there always. Dean broke the kiss and, in one deft move, he had swept Castiel up and onto his prison bed. It was as hard and uncomfortable as Castiel remembered but he didn’t care. He reached for Dean and pulled the other man down on top of him, eager to return to kissing as soon as they could.
Dean shifted them together, moving them till Castiel’s legs were spread wide around him. He moved their hips together, rubbing distractedly as he kissed Castiel with an unabated hunger. Castiel could feel his cock, hard and unconcealed by the thin fabric of his prison pants, rubbing up against his own. It was glorious, unbridled, forbidden passion and Castiel couldn’t bring himself to remember that they were in Dean’s prison cell and their privacy was hardly guaranteed. All he could think was how he wanted Dean to possess him, to own him so completely that no other man could ever hope to put his mark on Castiel’s heart. He felt his own cock growing heavy as Dean pressed against him and he pushed back up, forcing a startled, delighted noise from Dean’s mouth.
Dean broke their kiss, staring down at him. His eyes were a darker green then Castiel had ever seen them, his lips swollen and red. He looked every inch a scoundrel and Castiel surged forward again for another kiss only to have Dean avid him, laughing softly.
“You ever done this before, Cas?” he asked, a roll of his hips punctuating just what he meant by ‘this’.
Castiel tensed. There had been moment like this with Balthazar, where they had almost moved together like this but always at the end they had drawn back. Castiel dearly wished to keep all thoughts of Balthazar from his mind if he could help it. Dean had obviously noticed something was wrong because he had stilled, staring down at Castiel in concern.
“What happened?” he asked.
“A man, someone I trusted, he hurt me, but he’s gone now,” Castiel said softly. He so dearly did not wish to talk about it. He had only just returned to Dean’s arms. He did not want the moment spoiled by someone who now would never touch him again.
Dean seemed hesitant so Castiel took matters into his own hands. He pressed a chaste kiss to Dean’s mouth then drew back, his fingers finding their way in-between them to trace along the outline of Dean’s hard cock. Dean groaned, his eyelids fluttering as he fought not to give in to Castiel’s innocent touches and Castiel grew a little more adventurous as he realised the power he held over Dean. He cupped the man’s cock and rubbed, fast as he dared until Dean was bucking into his hand and biting his lip to hold back his sounds.
Dean grabbed his hand then, catching Castiel off guard. He looked up, worried he had gone something wrong but Dean was grinning at him.
“Wicked minx,” he said fondly, drawing Castiel’s hand to his mouth to kiss his fingers. “Cas, the things I want to do to you, they’re not fit for me even to tell you.”
Castiel squirmed. Dean’s words made him feel pleasantly warm and despite what Dean said, he wanted to hear every filthy, depraved thing Dean wanted to do to him. Dean stared at him, studying him for a few seconds and then, without any warning, he flipped Castiel over on to his stomach.
“I think we should get rid of this coat,” he muttered, pulling at it and Castiel lifted his arms to help as Dean slid it off him. He balled it up and shoved it down the end of his little bed, away from them and moved so he was over Castiel. It brought immediately to his mind the image of Adam and Michael together and Castiel found himself tensing again. He did not want that. He adored Dean but sodomy was not something he could do.
Dean seemed to understand him for a second later he pressed a kiss to Castiel’s neck and whispered, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to do anything we weren’t doing before. Do you know what this is, Cas? It’s called frottage, fancy stupid French name for it but it feels good, doesn’t it?” He ground his hips down into the swell of Castiel’s backside, pressing Castiel down further into the thin mattress.
It did feel good, Castiel had to admit that although he couldn’t say it, could only nod his head enthusiastically. If he pushed forward then he could rub himself against the prison issue mattress and the feel of the friction of it pushing him towards that complete coming undone that Dean had already drawn in to once before. If he pushed back, then he felt Dean’s hard cock move between his cheeks, a sensation that felt better than Castiel thought it had any right to, and he heard Dean moan. Castiel loved the sounds that Dean made. They were broken, feral noises and they excited him.
The bed creaked as they moved together, the force of both their weight almost too much for the old, badly made thing. Every squeak from the bed made Dean move faster, made his thrusts more demanding. Castiel was carried along, lost on the sensation, drunk on the physical manifestation of love. Why he had denied this for so long, why he had thought it was something he didn’t need, he couldn’t name any longer. He would crave Dean’s touch for every second they were parted. A new need had been awakened in him and nothing but Dean’s kisses and Dean’s affection would soothe it.
He ground himself down, searching and searching for the point where the fire he felt inside him would be too much and he would have to come apart. Even though he was waiting for it, hoping for it, the exact moment came as a surprise and he gasped as he came, spilling inside the confines of his well-tailored trousers.
“Eager,” Dean said warmly, nipping at Castiel’s ear. Castiel huffed in reply; aftershocks running through him, making him feel sated and drowsy. He was content to lie with his head pillowed on his arms and let Dean rut against him. Dean dug his fingers into Castiel’s hips, moving him just a little till he was in the position Dean wanted and then began to grind again. Castiel wished that they could both be naked, that he could feel the slide of Dean’s cock on his bare skin, that he could feel the moment when Dean came – wet and hot – on him. They would never be able to do that while Dean was under the lock and key of the prison service. This was as close as they could get and it wasn’t close enough.
Castiel closed his eyes, trying to imagine away the layers between them, imagine away the cold prison walls and the hard prison bed, and instead transport them to a soft bed with a raging fire lit in the grate. They could both strip down to nothing and embrace, grapple and wrestle together on the bed, fighting for dominance but Castiel would always let Dean win eventually. He would fall back laughing, unashamed and hungry for Dean. Dean’s eyes would be dark, his mouth quirked in a wicked smile as he slid between Castiel’s legs and took him in hand. Castiel tried to imagine what Dean’s cock would look like, hard and jutting between his legs. He thought Dean would be a little heavier than him, just a slight bit shorter, his skin would be darker where it stretched over his erect cock and the hair at the base of his cock would be thick and wiry.
Castiel licked his lips. He wondered what Dean’s cock would taste like. He wondered if Dean would spill in his mouth or if that wasn’t the done thing. Dean knew these things, Dean was experienced. Even so Castiel found himself wanting to swallow it, at least once, just to know what it was like.
“I think…no, I know, I would like to have you in my mouth,” he said quietly but distinctly. He wouldn’t be ashamed of it. He wouldn’t be ashamed of anything with Dean. Dean’s hips juddered against him and then Dean stilled, moaning low He stayed that way for a few seconds, trembling until he pulled off. Castiel pushed himself over, watching Dean uncertainly. Dean caught his eye and laughed.
“Oh God, Cas, warn a man before you say something like that….” he leant over and kissed Castiel soundly before pulling off to smile at him. “You’re not quite the innocent, I thought.”
“I’ve never done it,” Castiel defended himself, blushing. He realised now just what effect his words had had on Dean. There was a wet stain on the front of Dean’s thin prison trousers and Castiel reached out without thinking, wanting to feel it. He ran his fingers across the darkening stain, feeling Dean’s softening cock beneath him. He pressed his palm down with determination, trying to feel if his imagined picture of Dean’s cock had any basis in reality.
Dean bit his lip and grabbed Castiel’s wrist, pulling his hand away.
“Damn it, Cas. You’re insatiable. Don’t touch; I haven’t come since I was sent to this place. I can’t take it if you touch me again, it’s too much,” he gasped.
Castiel had never imagined he could have such a power over a man. He had never felt as desirable as he did now with Dean. Maybe he was insatiable but he felt as if he had only now been awakened and he needed everything, wanted everything. He said nothing but kissed Dean again, determined that when he left he would taste Dean’s kisses for the rest of the evening. Otherwise he thought he might do something reckless like attempt to have himself arrested or petition parliament to have Dean’s sentence revoked. Anything so he did not have to leave Dean’s side.
Inias had looked far too knowing for Castiel’s peace of mind. He knew that neither he or Dean could have made an innocent picture when Inias opened the cell door. Dean had had his blanket thrown over his lap and Castiel had had his coat buttoned right to the top. Both their mouths were swollen and red. Castiel’s cheeks were flushed. Dean’s eyes were bright. Indeed, it had been Inias who had come to knock loudly on the cell door after an hour and a half had elapsed. Castiel had outstayed his welcome. In truth they had not been at all careful but even still Castiel begrudged Inias for the looks he sent him, all from the corner of his eye, glancing at Castiel as they walked towards the prison gate.
For a second at the gate he had thought Inias was going to say something on the matter but the youth only thanked him for his visit and wished him a pleasant journey home.
Castiel did not go directly home, although part of him wanted to and wanted a jug of warm water and a cloth to wash himself with. Instead he went to his bank. There was still the subject of Adam to deal with. Castiel could not in good consciousness allow the boy to stay under their roof if Michael was going to take advantage of him. Castiel had been left a legacy, a large one which he had not touched before this day. There had been nothing he had been interested in. He took out twenty pounds, more than enough ready money for Adam to do with as he saw fit. Indeed, it was nearly a year’s wage in one instalment. It was handed to him in crisp, white notes and Castiel carefully slipped them away.
Jo took his coat when he reached home. She hung it up carefully, brushing it out and muttering that it looked as if it had been thrown on the floor; it had so many creases on it. Castiel hid his smile. Jo could be very much like her mother but he knew she hated to have it pointed out to her. She had the habit of forgetting to air out rooms, bringing tepid water or leaving lump pillows on the beds if she was upset and Castiel did not want to be the one on her bad side.
“Where’s Adam?” he asked.
Jo looked puzzled for a moment and then answered. “He’s in the kitchen, cleaning the master’s shoes.” Castiel could almost hear the unasked question in her voice.
“Good,” he said, not about to let Jo in on his plans. She would have to remain in the dark on the reasons he wanted to see Adam. No doubt when Adam left, Michael would want to know everything about why the boy had taken off without leaving a months’ notice or giving a reason and Castiel did not want Jo to have any reason to remember this conversation. He never wanted Michael to realise that Castiel had had a hand in this.
Castiel went through the dining room, pushing open the servant’s door through which the food was brought in to table and down the tight flight of stairs that led to the kitchen. The kitchen was on the ground floor of the house, what might be called the basement but there was a tradesman’s entrance up a flight of small flagstone steps. There were two large ranges burning steadily, upon which the cook prepared both the families’ food and the rather less impressive meals that the servants ate. There was a wooden table where the savants took their meal and wooden countertops for the cook to prepare the meals on. One of the countertops was half-hallowed and filled with a big enamel skin for washing up. There was even cold water on tap for the use.
Adam was settled upon one of the flag stone steps, a little tin of boot black at his feet. He held a brush in one hand and one of Michael’s boots in the other and he was laboriously buffing the shoe, trying to get the polish to shine.
Castiel coughed softly to alert Adam to his presence.
The boy looked up, eyes wide in surprise, and quickly put aside his things. He stood up, wiping his hands on his trousers. “Are you hungry? I’m afraid the cook has just stepped out. The coalman’s come with some inferior coal and she won’t have it in the kitchen,” he said and indeed when Castiel listening he could hear faintly the sound of raised voices. “I could set out some things for afternoon tea, if you’d like?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Castiel said quickly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his leather purse. He shoved the bag towards Adam. “Take it, please, it’s money. You don’t have to stay here; you don’t have to let Michael do those things to you. I saw you together in his study; I saw the things he does to you. You shouldn’t have to suffer that. This should be enough to get you anywhere you want to go, even a ticket on a ship.”
Adam’s fingers clutched around the purse and slowly, he opened it, eyes widening as he took in the notes inside. The he began to laugh, shoulders shaking and for a moment Castiel thought he was laughing because of the shock but then he realised that Adam really did sound amused. Finally Adam stopped laughing, pushing the bag back into Castiel’s hands.
Castiel looked at him questioningly, unable to understand why Adam would turn down the offer of money to make a new life for himself. Why wouldn’t he want to get away? Why wouldn’t he be delighted that someone was offering him a way out? Unless Adam thoughts there were strings attached to this offer.
“I don’t want anything from you,” he tried again, worried Adam thought he was the same as Michael, that Castiel wanted his body in exchange for the freedom he was offering. “Please, I really do only want to help you.”
Adam stiffened a little, pulling himself up and Castiel saw a rather twisted smile appear on his face. It wasn’t a nice smile, he knew that for certain.
“And what if I like it? The things your brother does to me?” Adam asked.
“You couldn’t,” Castiel said, stunned by the very suggestion. It was unnatural what he had seen Michael doing to the boy. There could be no way that Adam could feel pleasure from it. It was not a thought Castiel had allowed himself to dwell on for very long but he was almost certain that nothing he had seen could have felt good from the receiving end of things.
Adam laughed again, shaking his head slightly. “You really don’t know, do you? I thought for sure that you and Mister Balthazar…”
Castiel felt hot blood rush to his cheeks at the mention of Balthazar and the idea that Adam had entertained some sort of notion that they had been involved in that way. He was right but the wounds Balthazar had left on his heart were decidedly raw and Castiel had no desire for Adam to probe them further, all the while chastising him for the lack of care Castiel had taken to hide himself.
“Do not talk about Balthazar,” he hissed and Adam laughed again.
“I knew you were like me,” he said and Castiel wondered if being bedded by Michael was making Adam forget his place. He was talking out of turn, accusing Castiel of things that he had no right to. It didn’t matter that only a few hours before he had been in Dean’s arms. Adam still had no right to speak to Castiel this way.
Adam smiled, a little more gently then he had before and put his hand out, touching Castiel’s arm so softly that Castiel felt bad when he jerked away. Adam’s eyes widened and then he shook his head. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, sir. I know what people think, but it isn’t. You don’t have to lie to me.”
“Of course it’s something to be ashamed of,” Castiel muttered, his cheeks flaming red.
“Love? How is love something to be ashamed of?” Adam asked.
It was Castiel who felt like laughing now, feeling it bubble in his throat till it burst out of his mouth in a bitter peel, “Love? What my brother was doing to you is love, is it?”
“Yes,” Adam said firmly, with such a conviction that it stopped Castiel short. “I love Michael and he loves me. We love each other like a husband and wife would love one and other. What you saw, it was lovemaking and I enjoyed every moment of it. He treats me with so much care, so much love. You might not see it, but it’s there, Mister Castiel.”
“How could you have liked it?” Castiel blurted out and then covered his mouth with his hand, ashamed of himself for wanting to know such base details. Adam looked at him with a fondness that Castiel did not understand, but he wondered if Adam saw something of himself in Castiel’s desire for knowledge. At some time Adam must have been innocent of such acts too. Had Michael been the one to teach Adam or had another man taken his hand and led him down the path to debauchery? Did Dean know about this sort of thing? Would he want to be the one to teach Castiel?
“There I thought all of you just talked about purity and virginity and did the opposite, I hadn’t realised you were quite so innocent.”
Castiel blushed again but didn’t say anything. There was nothing he could say. His brother had proved himself to be a hypocrite of the highest order and Adam was utterly correct when he guessed that Castiel had wanted more than a friendly attachment to Balthazar. It was as if Adam could see inside his mind, could see the most base and awful of the thoughts Castiel had. He wondered if Adam could also somehow have guessed about Dean, could know about the charming convict and the way even his most blameless of touches enflamed in Castiel a passion he had long though himself incapable of.
Adam though seemed to misunderstand the reason for his hesitation. “Everyone has to learn at some point, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. My first man was long before I met your bother, but that wasn’t love. It wasn’t nothing more than fumbling in the dark. Your brother is a learned man, he knows all about the Greeks and what they did to their boys,” Adam’s face was flushed with exhilaration, a strange joy in his face that Castiel found captivating. “I thought like you did, that it would hurt and I thought I knew all the ways to please a man but he showed me these things I’d never imagined. It took oil, and his fingers and he went so very slow with me. I won’t say that it didn’t hurt at first, but I’m used to it now. He makes me tremble when he touches me; he knows this spot inside of me. God put it there, you know, and when he touches inside me I know that God put it there to make me feel good. I know he wanted me to be Michael’s.”
Castiel closed his eyes, trying not to focus on the knowledge that Adam was describing his brother but instead tried to focus on some faceless, nameless man who would touch him in the way Adam talked about, who could make him come apart with his fingers inside of Castiel, making him feel something new and earth-shattering. As he imagined it though, the man refused to stay faceless. His features hardened around the jaw and soften around the mouth, freckles dusted across the nose and the eyes became luminous and green. Despite his best attempts the man Castiel envisioned when he closed his eyes was Dean.
He opened his eyes again hurriedly and caught Adam watching him with a knowing expression.
Suddenly Castiel couldn’t stand to think that Adam, a mere servant in his household, could know him so well. It wasn’t right for Adam to have such a powerful knowledge. Every second that Castiel stood there, agreeing with him, gave Adam the very ammunition to destroy him. Castiel had never wanted himself to be weak. He had always been so very careful to try and hide his desires but first Dean and now Adam had seen right through him. He found himself struggling to try to gain some semblance of control again. He had always prided himself on his control before.
“I suppose you think you’ve done very well for yourself,” he said, tone clipped. “Whoring yourself out to my brother. Was it money that attracted you?” After all, Adam had turned down the money Castiel had offered him, hadn’t he? He wouldn’t need it if Michael gave him an allowance in return for bedding him. If money exchanged hands then Adam was no better than a common rent boy and Castiel didn’t have to feel as if Adam had any power of him.
Adam’s eyes darkened, his cheeks colouring but he looked angry rather than shamed. He reminded Castiel, unwillingly, of Dean.
“I am lucky, sir, to have found your bother, I won’t lie about that but his money doesn’t interest me. All the gifts and trinkets he might give me don’t stop me being his servant in everyone else’s eyes.” Adam swallowed; his breathing rapid now. “And your bother is lucky to have found me. I can go everywhere with him, tend to him, be his shadow and no one will look at us badly. If Michael hadn’t found me, where do you think he’d look? He’d be out on the streets with rent boys and soldiers, paying them pennies to have their mouths on him. I can keep him safe; I can keep us both safe. “
Castiel wanted to tell him it was all lies. After all, Castiel had found them together but that was a chance encounter. He couldn’t shake what Adam said. He might wish himself to believe that Michael, without the temptation of young willing flesh, would chose celibacy rather than sin but now he knew that his brother could keep a lover under their very roof to indulge himself, Castiel found it very easy to imagine he would trowel the streets looking for a man to appease his lusts.
He wondered now about Michael’s interest in the fallen prisoner Lucifer Morningstar but stopped himself. His brother had a willing bed partner. He would not need to seek out others. Still, Castiel was not blind to the world. He knew now that often men fell fowl of undercover policemen or were caught in raids. Lucifer was not the only man imprisoned for sodomy. He could imagine how, without Adam there to temper him, Michael might become one of those names in the paper. He might be a man pulled from a Molly house, charged with sodomy or solicitation and then none of the family would ever again be able to hold their heads up in public. They would have to go abroad or Michael would have to go away, to cut himself off from them or marry in haste to calm the waters of disapproval.
Although it shocked him to realise it, Michael had done very well for himself. He had circumvented the possibility of social downfall by installing Adam with them. He had found himself a boy who seemed truly to be in love with him and not his wealth, and someone who would protect him, maybe even fall on his own sword if it meant saving Michael from shame and ruination. It made Castiel’s heart beat painfully to think of any man being so well-loved. It was something Castiel found himself aching for suddenly, but also something he knew he could not have, not in the way Michael had it. He would have confined himself to life-long bachelorhood with Balthazar if he had ever had the chance, but that dream had to end and Castiel had to stop remembering it.
Another, traitorous part whispered to him that he had to stop hoping for something from Dean also. Dean would never choose a sedate life with Castiel, pretending to be a servant. He would never want to be trapped like that. When Castiel thought of a life together after Dean’s sentence was served he had always imagined them living as equals, he could never imagine giving Dean orders. He knew he should be comfortable with the idea of Dean waiting on him, but he wasn’t and he didn’t think Dean would see the offer of a job in service as anything but an insult to him. Dean lived outside of society with his unquiet dead and spirits. Castiel couldn’t imagine he would ever want to become part of it, especially not if it meant subjugating himself to anyone.
Adam watched him knowingly. “It’s hard,” he said softly. “It’s hard to love someone when everyone says you shouldn’t.”
Castiel stiffened. This was too much. Adam and he might be more alike than he had imagined but they were not the same. He didn’t want to give his confidences to Adam, especially not if Adam was so enamoured of Michael. There were a great many things Castiel did not want his brother knowing, especially about his blossoming romance with Dean.
“I think we should have afternoon tea,” he said briskly. “I’ll take it in my rooms and bring up a jug of hot water as well.”
“As you wish, sir,” Adam said, falling back into the practical, efficient façade of service. It was hard to imagine that only a few moments ago he had been telling Castiel of the joys of sodomy and indeed of Castiel’s own brother’s expertise in the manner. The whole satiation left Castiel light-headed and uncomfortable as he headed back up the stairs to the first floor of the house. Although he was pleased Adam was not being hurt, there were certain things he had never wanted to hear and the details of Michael’s prowess as a lover had ranked highly on that list.
Castiel took afternoon tea with both Anna and Michael. He avoided his bother’s eye throughout the whole affair but if Michael noticed he didn’t say anything. He seemed pleased enough that Castiel had allowed him to visit him. He produced Castiel to be in improved health and spoke at length upon the tedious subject of stocks and investments.
The tea consisted of sweet cones with cream and jam, a pot of tea, delicate sponge cake and a little plate of sandwiches made with cuts of cold beef. Adam had put it together very nicely. He brought the tray up, set everything for them and if his eyes linger on Michael for a little longer than they should, if Michael’s smile became brighter in his presence, then Castiel pretended not to notice. He ate a little of everything and felt most grateful for how things were turning out.
Everything seemed to have settled and Castiel could honestly say he was happy.
“I’m going to leave here,” Dean said.
Castiel stared at him blankly, for a moment not understanding what he meant. Then he frowned. “How? You still have part of your sentence to serve.”
It was a bitterly cold morning and Castiel had come to visit Dean with the intention of cosily sharing his warmth with him. He had worn his thickest coat, his warmest gloves and when he had entered the cell Dean had unbuttoned him, pulled Castiel tight against him and basked in the heat of his body. They had kissed until Dean’s lips were pink and hot. Castiel had wanted nothing more than to spend their visit so entwined but Dean had other matters on his mind.
“Do you think these walls can keep me, Cas?” Dean laughed. It was slightly unpleasant. “I told you already. Things aren’t always what they appear. Besides, I have sat here too long, I’m needed elsewhere.”
“Elsewhere?” Castiel repeated. “Does that mean you’ll be leaving me?”
Dean looked suddenly uncomfortable. “No, not if you don’t want it to mean that. If I leave, if I escape, then I’ll be a wanted man. The police will be searching for me. I couldn’t stay in England but I could go abroad. There are still demons abroad and ghosts. I would be needed there too and you could come with me.”
“I could come with you? Dean, I hardly think you’ve thought this out.”
Dean clasped his hands, his expression ardent. “I want you to come with me, Cas. We could go to France or Italy, maybe even America. We could go somewhere no one knows either of us or our pasts.”
“You’re being foolish now,” Castiel said. In truth he didn’t want to think about what Dean was suggesting. He didn’t believe Dean could leave the prison in the first place but even if he did escape then the life he was suggesting wasn’t one Castiel had ever hoped for. To have the type of life Dean described he would have to leave his family. It was painful to think about, so painful that Castiel would rather ridicule Dean’s plans then think about it.
“You think I’m lying, don’t you, Castiel?” Dean said. He leant in close, his breath ghosting over Castiel’s cheek as he whispered. “I will leave here, Cas. Believe that and believe in me.”
He hadn’t believed in Dean before and Dean had proved to him that he had powers that existed outside of things that could be explained by science. He had shown Castiel that there was more to life than he had ever imagined there could be. If he could send flowers and letters through the cold stone bricks of the prison, then why couldn’t he likewise free himself?
Dean would need to run then. He wouldn’t be safe, even if he went to ground there would be men hunting him. The only way to truly free himself would be to escape across the waters and find himself a home somewhere new. If he went then he would be lost to Castiel forever. He’d never be able to find him again if he went as far away as America and Dean would never be able to return to him. He’d still be a wanted man. He couldn’t stand the thought of Dean being somewhere where he couldn’t be with him. It had been bad enough being parted by the prison but even then they had been able to snatch these few hours together. Too never see Dean again was a fate too awful to contemplate.
It was not worse than leaving Anna and Michael, but the pain would be different. Castiel knew his heart would be destroyed if he was parted from Dean indefinitely. He needed Dean. He would waste away without Dean and all the pleasure he took in his family would be tainted forever because of the stain Dean left on his heart.
It was a cruel choice to make but Castiel knew that in his heart he had already made the decision.
“I will come with you,” he said, looking at Dean’s face, unable to believe what he was saying, what he was tying himself to. He would become a fugitive just like Dean. He would have aided him in his flight, would be seen as an accomplice. He could never return home either if he took this chance with Dean. “Tell me what to do.”
Dean kissed him determinedly, driving all of Castiel’s doubts away for one moment. It would be enough to go somewhere warm with Dean, somewhere they were both unknown, somewhere they could simply be together without the intrusions of society and the law.
Dean broke the kiss and Castiel sighed at the loss. Soon, he reminded himself, soon. He had to listen to Dean’s plan first.
“You have money don’t you?” Dean asked, pausing to allow Castiel time to nod before he continued. “Good. Take it all out. We’ll need it. Pack yourself a truck full of your clothes and the things you want to take and then wait for me. Tell no one what we’ve planned. Light a candle, keep it in your window and wait for me, Cas. I’ll come for you by midnight and then we’ll be away.”
“When?” Castiel asked.
“Tonight,” Dean said. “I have to leave tonight.”
“That’s so soon,” Castiel whispered. He had hoped at least a little time to make his goodbyes to his siblings, even covert ones, to spend a few days in their company and lavish them with his affection so they would know he had loved them after he disappeared. He would have no time for that if Dean’s plan was a success. The rest of his day would be taken up in preparing for his arrival and their escape together.
“I know,” Dean murmured, kissing him again. “I know but it has to be tonight, Cas. Just promise me you’ll wait for me and I’ll come to you.”
“I promise,” Castiel said softly, swept up in Dean’s kisses. He didn’t care why it had to be so soon, he only cared that he was with Dean. He let himself be kissed again and then once more before he pulled away. “I should hurry, I have so many things to do, to prepare for.”
He stood up, collecting his gloves and fussing with his coat. Dean watched him and for a moment Castiel thought the smile on his lips was sad but it was only a flicker, no more, before Dean was up and helping him with the buttons.
“There,” he said, smoothing his hands down the front of Castiel’s coat. “Now you look smart.”
“I love you,” Castiel said. He felt giddy, reckless. The love he felt for Dean bubbled up inside him, threatened to spill over. Dean kissed him quickly again, swallowing down all of Castiel’s confessions of love and desire. The kiss was long, passionate, the sort of kiss two people who were afraid of losing each other might have. Dean’s arms around him where tender, all his touches were tender. It was as if he suddenly saw Castiel as something fragile. Castiel wanted to tell him no, he was the strongest he had ever been and Dean’s love had made him feel that way, had made him feel glorious but Dean was still kissing him.
Finally, slowly, as if he couldn’t bare it, Dean pulled away.
“You should go,” he said again, pushing Castiel towards the door. “I will see you tonight, Cas. Believe in me.”
Castiel nodded. He forced himself not to look back at Dean but to look forward, first to the cell door and then to the bank to empty the funds left aside for him then to home to pack and wait. By midnight Dean would have come to him and after that Castiel had their future together to look forward to. He could not look back now.
“Why do you have your box out, sir?” Jo asked. “Are you going away?”
She had barged in without knocking, carrying in her hands a stack of freshly laundered and folded shirts. Castiel supposed he should not be angry with her. He wasn’t normally home at this time and Jo had the rights to the room to do her work but he had hoped no one would find him. He stood up from where he had been packing away his things – his clothes mostly, a pocket miniature of Anna, a few books Michael had given him, his treasures as they would become, his link and tie to the family he had to leave behind.
Jo’s interruption was an almost welcome one. It saved him from the tide of sentimentality that had been threatening to overwhelm him and she had also brought with her clean shirts. They were a practical necessity.
“I am going somewhere, Jo, yes,” he said, taking the shirts from her and laying them carefully in his box.
She studied him for a moment. “For your health?” she asked eventually.
“Yes, I think my health will be much improved. I plan to go to a warmer climate,” Castiel said lightly.
“This is all very sudden, sir,” Jo said unhappily. “Miss Anna hasn’t said anything about you going.”
“I decided it today. Anna doesn’t know,” Castiel said, feeling irritable at all the questions. Jo had always been far too eager to know about things which did not concern her. In many ways it made her a disagreeable servant. “Michael doesn’t know either and I would like you not to tell them, Jo. I have made these plans myself, I don’t need approval for them.”
Jo looked even more unhappy about being asked to keep a secret and Castiel found himself sorry for having to ask it of her. It wasn’t in her nature.
“Jo,” he said softly, “I promise you, I’m not making any drastic plans. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll be quite safe and much better.”
“If you say so, sir,” Jo mumbled.
Castiel came to stand in front of her and wondered what he could say to make her sullen, worried expression change. He couldn’t ask her to watch out for Anna and Michael. That would only make her suspicions deepen. He dearly wanted someone to watch out for them, to take care of them while he was gone. He knew it was a silly thought because both of them had always been much better at protecting themselves and surviving life than he had ever been. They had been the ones taking care of him, not the other way round, but still he felt an instinctive desire to keep them from harm and a he couldn’t do that when he was gone.
Castiel swallowed back the lump in his throat as he thought about the things he would miss. Anna might marry some day and he would miss that. He would miss Michael taking a possible seat in parliament. He would miss the nieces and nephews that might one day have been born. He would miss the little things more though, the camaraderie and the companionship.
The words he wanted wouldn’t come, so instead Castiel said, “Will you fetch me a candle, Jo? A new one?”
That caused a puzzled look to pass over Jo’s face but she didn’t seem quite as disturbed as before. Candles were a different matter than sudden trips. By the time she had returned Castiel had packed up his trunk and set it aside. Jo still looked at him quizzically as she passed over the candle but she said nothing. Castiel lit the candle and carefully placed it in a candleholder. He set that down on the window sill and looked out, into the street. It was beginning to get dark, people where hurrying home. Soon it would be nightfall proper and then Dean would come to him.
He settled down in a chair by the fire to wait. Castiel didn’t bother to undress. He wanted to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. He took the violet flower Dean had sent him and raised it to his mouth, kissing the petals and inhaling deep its glorious scent. He sat up through the goodnights of the household, through Anna going to bed and then later Michael and the footsteps on the stairs when the rest of the household where abed that must have signified Adam coming up to join him. Outside the streetlamps were lit, inside the house was quiet and peaceful. Everyone was asleep.
Eventually, despite his well-laid plans, Castiel fell asleep as well.
Castiel awoke with a start. Thin rays of sun snuck through the window, sliding round the candle which had long since burnt out, and down stairs the great big clock in the hall struck eight. It was morning. Castiel had slept right through and Dean had not come for him.
Castiel sat up, fully awake in an instant.
Dean had not come. Dean must still be in that prison cell, frustrated and angry, hating the world because whatever he had planned hadn’t worked. The new dawn would be worse for him than it as for Castiel. Castiel was disappointed but Dean would be shattered.
Castiel had to see him, had to reassure him that there would be another chance, that they could wait and leave together once Dean’s sentence was served. It was only a few months. It might seem like a long time when Dean was confined to the cell but not that long in the scheme of Dean’s life. They could be together without the threat of Dean’s arrest if they ever came back to England.
He could convince Dean and commiserate with him but he had to be by his side. He couldn’t allow Dean to be alone now.
Castiel pushed himself out of his chair, not caring how early it was, rushing down the stairs and grabbing his coat. He let himself out of the house and ran down the street, dragging on his coat as he ran. The streets were almost empty. There were a few people about, carts making deliveries before shops were open to the public, but for the most part everything was eerily quiet.
The prison loomed in front of him, never looking more forbidding than it did this morning. For a second Castiel was beset by the same fear he had experienced the first time he saw prison, the sensation that he should turn and run but he couldn’t. He couldn’t leave Dean to suffer alone.
He banged on the door set in the prison gate, hammering until his hands hurt before it was opened. Castiel stepped inside. The guard at the door was not Inias. In fact it was someone Castiel had never seen before. He wondered if he had come before the shift change or if Inias was sick.
“I need to see Dean Winchester,” he told the man.
The man stared blankly at him and Castiel found himself growing angry at his slack-jawed expression. Every second apart from Dean was a second Dean spent needlessly hurting without Castiel there to comfort him.
“I need to see him!” he said again, almost ready to grab the set of keys at the man’s waist and let himself into Dean’s cell.
“Then you don’t know?” the man asked.
“Know what?” Castiel snapped.
There was a noise then, the heavy thud of footsteps on the stairs. Governor Addler stormed down to them, glaring at Castiel. His face was red, his eyes bulging even more than usual. He caught hold of Castiel’s arm, his grip biting and hard.
“Winchester has gone. He disappeared in the night. Broke out. He was there when the guards called for lights out and gone this morning when they went to wake him up,” the man hissed, his face twisting in an ugly way. “Were you a part to this? Did you help him?”
“Dean’s gone?” Castiel shook his head, unable to believe what the man was saying. Dean couldn’t have escaped. He would have come to him, Castiel was sure of that. He knew Dean loved him, Dean couldn’t have disappeared from his cell and not come to him. Castiel wouldn’t believe it. Dean had been the one who’d begged him to come away with him. Dean wouldn’t have abandoned him.
“Yes,” Governor Addler snarled. “And if I find out that you helped him in any way then I’ll have you. You’ll serve out your sentence under me and I’ll make you regret your crime every second you’re here.”
Castiel twisted out of the man’s grip. His mind was reeling, his heart racing. He turned on his heal and ran back in the direction of his home, Addler’s threats ringing in his ears. Dean was gone. As he ran he felt the beat of his heat heavy in his chest and hoped that it had been a mistake, that they had missed each other and Dean would be waiting for him when he arrived home, anxious and eager to get away.
He burst through the door, almost convinced he would run into Dean’s arms, and bounded up the stairs. He threw open the door to his bedroom, eager and ready to scold Dean for putting him through such a strain.
His bedroom was empty.
Castiel stood still in the doorway, swaying slightly. Dean was gone. That had been confirmed to him. Everything in Dean’s plan had worked apart from the last part. Something had gone wrong but Castiel didn’t know what to do about it. He had waited for Dean. He’d played his part. Where was Dean?
Downstairs there was a little commotion. A knock on the door, Ellen’s quick steps, the door being opened and then a moment later Ellen called up to him.
“Master Castiel, you have a visitor.”
Castiel tore down the stairs, hope rising in his heart only to be dashed when he saw that the man waiting patiently for him at the bottom of the stairs was Inias. Ellen had disappeared back to whatever work she had been interrupted from by Inias’s knock and the two were left alone in the hallway. Inias looked tired, his face drawn and his eyes darted nervously from side to side. He looked to Castiel like a trapped, frightened little mouse, searching for a way out but seeing no escape.
“Inias?” he asked, confused.
“I thought Dean might be with you,” Inias said wistfully, glancing round the hallway again. “But he isn’t, is he?”
“No,” Castiel said quietly. “No, he isn’t.”
“Can we talk somewhere privately?” Inias asked. Castiel nodded and showed him into the drawing room. The hallway was too public. Anyone – the servants, a member of his family – might chance upon them there or overhear their conversation. Castiel shut and locked the drawing room door behind them. That at least meant they would have privacy. He didn’t sit down, but he gestured for Inias to do so.
“Why did you think Dean would be here?” he asked as soon as Inias was seated.
“He’s sweet on you and you on him. Everyone talks about it, all the guards. I thought he might have done it for you,” Inias said quietly. “He wouldn’t tell me if you were helping him but I thought you might.”
Castiel tried his hardest not to imagine the guards gossiping about his relationship with Dean. He had no doubt what the gossip would have consisted of. He hated to think of himself as being the subject of ridicule and mockery but that was not the most pressing matter. No, there were other things Inias had said that were much more important.
“You talked to him about his escape?” he asked.
Inias nodded guilty. “I did more than that, sir. I’ve been stupid really. I’ll lose my position and I’ll be lucky if I don’t end up in prison myself. I was the one who helped him. I showed you our uniforms, they’re all the same. I stole one of them for Dean and walked out of the prison with him. Sometimes we wear our uniforms home, it’s not unusual if they need cleaning and some of men don’t have that many changes of clothes. No one asked anything. I reported that he was in his cell at lights out and then left with him.”
“And where did you part? Where did he go?”
“We parted almost immediately we were out of sight of the prison. He told me he had business he had to attend to. I thought he meant you.”
“But why did you help him? Was there some tie between you two?” Castiel felt as if he was growing hysterical.
“He helped me, sir,” Inias trembled softly as he spoke. “He laid my sister, Hester’s, spirit to rest. I was so grateful to him, sir. To think of her in Heaven instead of miserable chained Earth was the greatest comfort to me. I would have done anything he asked of me, sir.”
Castiel felt stunned. He had no reason to believe that Inias was lying to him, in fact everything he had said was completely believable. It was Dean he didn’t understand. Why had Dean let him believe that his escape would be something supernatural when it was going to be mundane? Had it been to spare Castiel any true knowledge of his plot and in that way keep him safe or was it that Dean was so deeply invested in the world of spirits he had conjured for himself that he told the lies because they suited him and what he wanted to believe? In the end it did not matter what reasoning Dean might have had. He had not come like he promised. He had toyed with Castiel, made him believe like a good con-artist would and now Castiel had no idea what was up or down.
This time he did not feel any anger, any terrible rage. Instead he felt a deep, inky blackness surge up and take hold of him. More than anything Castiel wanted things to stop. He wanted his heart to stop beating, he wanted his confusion over Dean to be over and done with. He wanted peace and in the living world there was no peace. He had felt like this when his father died, that there was a broken, sad part of him that would not go away but now the sadness was stronger. It numbed all other emotions, all other thoughts.
“Thank you,” he murmured softly.
“My position,” Inias said miserably.
Castiel looked at him. Inias had always been kind to him, much kinder than anyone else. The least Castiel could do was assure for his future. It was in no way Inias’s fault that things had gone as wrong as they had inside Castiel’s head.
“If you go down to the kitchens, you’ll find a maid there. Her name is Ellen. Tell her I sent you and that I asked for you to be employed as footman. The work may be a little different than what you’re used to, but I know you’re a hard worker and I should think it may be even a little nicer than your job in the prison was,” he said.
Inias’s face lit up. He stood up quickly and moved to shake Castiel’s hand.
“Thank you! I knew you were a true gentleman, sir, but I never expected such kindness. It would be an honour to work for you and your family.”
Castiel said nothing. He let his hand fall from Inias’s grip and unlocked the parlour door. While Inias went one way, deeper into the house and down the stairs to the kitchens, Castiel walked to the front door. He didn’t bother with his coat now. He left it hanging up and carried on, out of the door and into the cold street. He hardly felt the chill in the air. He hardly felt anything. At least he had done a good dead in providing Inias with employment. That hardly wiped his slate clean of all the bad he had done but it was something and Castiel hoped that his soul would be looked on kindly.
He walked with a purpose. His footsteps this time took him away from the prison and towards the banks of the Themes.
Would Dean feel it when his heart stopped beating, he wondered. Would Castiel come back from his watery grave and become one of Dean’s unquiet dead? Would he follow him, haunt him till Dean was forced to destroy the last echoes of his soul?
He quickened his pace as he neared one of the many bridges that crisscrossed the river. It was surprisingly easy to climb over the stone barriers and totter at the edge. Castiel stared down into the dark, chopping water beneath him and wondered if it would be a quick death. He had heard cold water plunged the body into a state of shock. He would probably be dead within a few minutes of hitting the water.
He pitched forward but hands caught him and hauled him back. Castiel didn’t thrash, he didn’t kick, he lay still as a stone as the arms dragged him back to safety. Finally he lifted his head and looked up into his brother’s eyes. Michael was panting hard, his brow beaded with sweat, his face flushed from exertion. Castiel had never seen his brother in such disarray. Michael was always so carefully put together.
“Why did you stop me?” he asked softly.
“Adam saw you from one of the upstairs windows, he guessed what you’d planned,” Michael said angrily, wrestling Castiel to his feet. “You were getting better. Why would you?”
“I have nothing to live for,” Castiel said simply.
Michael’s eyes flashed darkly. People where stopping now, gathering around them and whispering. He took off his own coat and hung it around Castiel’s shoulders. Castiel wondered if someone would call a constable. Suicide was more than a sin, it was a crime. Someone might be hurrying now to arrest him, to put him in the cell that Dean had only recently vacated. Castiel supposed he deserved that.
“Let’s get you home,” Michael growled low, ushering Castiel through the crowd. Castiel dragged his brother’s coat together about him. The walk home seemed to take a lot longer and with every step Castiel felt the weight of Michael’s disappointment heavily on his shoulders. It made him want to break free and run back to the bridge and simply leap from the edge so no one could catch him. Michael’s grip on him was too strong though for Castiel to pull away so he meekly allowed himself to be led back to the house.
Anna as in the hallway. Ellen was there also and Jo, Inias and Adam. They all wore the same sort of expression, a sympathetic kindness but with a hint of fear in their eyes, as if Castiel was a bomb which might explode if they got to close to him. Michael bundled him past them and upstairs, back into Castiel’s bedroom.
“You never do something as stupid as that again,” he hissed. “I’ll have the doctor fetched for this instant. What has brought on this foolishness, Castiel? You were getting better.”
Castiel didn’t know what to say. He hung his head, unable to look Michael in the eye.
Michael sighed in frustration. Then his arms were around Castiel and he hugged him tightly.
“Nothing you’ve done is worth losing your life over. I would protect you from anything if I could.”
“I fell in love with one of the men at the prison,” Castiel said plainly. He felt Michael’s fingers tighten on him and then relax. “He escaped last night. I was going to run away with him but he never came for me.”
“Castiel…..” Michael shook his head then pressed a kiss to Castiel’s forehead. “Go to bed. I won’t send for the doctor, I think we’re more than capable of handling this within the family.”
“You’re not angry with me?” Castiel asked. He blinked a few times, tears welling in the corners of his eyes.
“I’m angry with myself. I knew you were vulnerable and I still took you to the prison. I thought it had done you some good but now I see I was wrong. I am worried for you, Castiel, but not angry,” Michael said softly, stroking his thumb across Castiel’s cheek, catching the tears as they feel and brushing them away. “I know better than most how hard the life you live must be.”
“I know about Adam,” Castiel blurted out.
Michael swallowed hard and nodded slowly.
“I see,” he said shakily. “I suppose you must think badly of me, keeping Adam here.”
“No, I think I understand it,” Castiel said softly. “I think I’m jealous of you.”
“Don’t think like that,” Michael said fiercely. “Adam is a gift, before him I had many reckless love affairs. I even considered getting married and making myself and some poor woman unhappy for the rest of our lives. You shouldn’t be jealous of me.”
Castiel sniffed softly. He had never asked his brother about what his life had been like and yet Michael was right there under the same roof. Michael could have guided him through, warned him off the dangerous mistakes he was making but Castiel had never thought to ask him. Michael had always seemed so cold, so unapproachable and Castiel had been willing to believe the worst of him so easily. Castiel couldn’t bring himself to speak. He had no idea what to say to his brother. He wanted to apologise but Michael wouldn’t know for what. Instead he hugged him hurriedly. Michael stiffened in his arms then returned the hug, patting him on the back.
“You should rest, Castiel. Tomorrow everything will look brighter,” he whispered and Castiel nodded.
Michael had been in this sort of situation before. He might never have fallen in love with a prisoner, might never have made plans to run away, but he had had his heartbroken. Castiel could take a little comfort in the knowledge that eventually he had found someone who brought him happiness. Maybe one day, when Castiel was stronger, when he was wiser, he would make a smart match like Michael had made with Adam.
“I’m sorry for the trouble I caused,” he said in a small, soft voice, pulling away from Michael.
“Bed,” Michael said and although his voice was firm, there was a fondness underlying it. He stayed until Castiel had stripped down to his under things and crawled into the bed then he left. Castiel knew, because he heard the click of the key, that Michael had shut and locked the door. He supposed that it was only to be expected. They had no guarantee that Castiel wouldn’t sneak down stairs and try to end his life again. Castiel had no idea if he would want to do it again. For the moment he didn’t, but if the blackness came again he didn’t know if he would resist it or if he would follow it blindly as he’d done before.
For a moment he lay in bed, looking around his room idly, hardly seeing it until eventually he focused on the flower, the violet, that must have slipped from his hand the night before. It was still laying on the carpet besides his chair before the fire. Castiel glared at it. He pushed himself up, out of the bed and snatched up the wretched little flower.
Had everything been a lie? How had these flowers and Dean’s note come into his possession? Why had Dean toyed with him? Had he simply enjoyed having Castiel devoted to him? Was he the sort of perverse man who took pleasure in toying with someone’s mind, making them doubt the things they’d even seen? He threw the flower into the fire place. It caught in the flames, setting alight and shrivelled and turned black.
The sight of it did nothing to make Castiel feel better or to bring him any answers to his questions. He went back to bed and dragged the covers over his head. Sleep was a long time in coming. Castiel’s thoughts were agitated, alive with questions and conjunctions and too few answers.
When he finally did sleep he dreamt of drowning, swallowed whole by the inky dark waters of the Themes.
Castiel awoke to the sound of a tray being set down on his bedside table. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted through the air and he sat up, blinking a few times before he really understood where he was. His eyes stung from crying. His throat felt sore. He reached up to rub his eyes, to force away the last remnants of sleep and then finally focused on the other person in the room with him.
Adam stood at his bedside, his hands neatly folded in front of him, a nervous expression on his face. Castiel looked from him to the breakfast tray on his bedside table. There was a covered plate on it, a pot of tea, a tea cup, a vase of flowers containing one singular violet and a folded piece of paper propped against the vase. Castiel recoiled.
“What is the meaning of this?” he asked. “Take it away! I don’t want to see violets ever again! No, take it away, Adam!”
“Please don’t be distressed,” Adam begged. “There’s something I need to tell you. I was the one who brought you those flowers, the one who smuggled in the note for you. Dean’s my brother.”
Castiel stared at him and then shook his head. “You’re a Milligan, not a Winchester.”
Adam smiled a rueful smile. “Dean and I share the same father, but not the same mother, sir.”
“And you say helped him to deceive me? Why would you do that? Have you enjoyed playing me for a fool?” Castiel spat.
“No!” Adam said. He sat down beside Castiel on the bed and caught hold of Castiel’s arms, forcing him to still. “Listen to me, please. I know things went wrong, I know he hurt you but it was never the intention.”
“Then what was the intention?” Castiel hissed.
Adam pulled away from him, his face pale and he swallowed a few times before he seemed to find his voice. “That man that Michael visits in prison, that Lucifer Morningstar. Your brother and he were once intimately acquainted,” he paused for a moment to let the words sink in. “He made all sorts of threats when he was arrested, promised to bring down the men he had been with and sir, your brother, I couldn’t allow that man to ruin him. I knew his sort. I knew money could silence him but your brother would never have stood for paying hush money and I had no money of my own. Dean stole for me, forged bad cheques and took the money for me.”
Castiel nodded slowly. Dean had told him that he committed his crime to help his brother but Castiel had assumed that bother was Sam after meeting him. He had never dreamed Dean might have another, nor that that brother would be in service under Castiel’s own roof. That must have made things much easier for Dean.
“I paid off Mr Morningstar and he kept his secret. Your bother visits him, worries after him and has no idea how close that man came to ruining him,” Adam continued angrily. “And Dean was the one who suffered in all of it. He protected me and he protected Michael and I am always in his debt.”
“I never thought that any of this would happen. Please believe me. I had no idea Dean would meet you or fall in love with you.”
“You call this love?” Castiel asked bitterly.
“I know he loves you. He told me so. He wouldn’t let me go till I promised I would bring you this note.”
“Then you’ve seen him?” Castiel asked, his heart twisting painfully. His heart was traitorous. It still wanted to see Dean, still wanted to know what Dean had written to him even though he knew the smartest way to deal with the matter would to be to have nothing to do with it any longer.
“Yes, I saw him yesterday evening. I told him what he’d done to you, what he’d nearly forced you to do to yourself. I was so angry with him,” Adam’s eyes blazed as he remembered, the righteous anger he had felt on Castiel’s behalf written all over his face.
“Why didn’t he come to me? If he loves me so much why didn’t he come?” Castiel whispered.
Adam took the note from the tray and handed it to him. “Things were confused. Sam wouldn’t let him come. Sam said you’d be in danger and likely to be arrested once word got out about Dean’s escape. I think he was right and he told Dean with the best of intentions. He meant for you to be kept out of things for as long as possible. Sam didn’t realise that you were fragile.”
Castiel found himself laughing, a horrible bitter laugh. “And if I wasn’t fragile, then all of these lies and disappointments would be fine, would they?”
“No, that isn’t what I meant,” Adam said. “I know that Dean did a terrible thing but he did it with the best of intentions. I think you should read what he wrote to you.”
Castiel stared down at the note in his hand. “How long have I been asleep?” he asked softly.
“Nearly two days,” Adam said. He got to his feet and cast one last look back at Castiel. “I do want you to know I am truly sorry for my part in this deception and I hope you can forgive me.” He began to walk towards the door but Castiel called out to him.
“Adam! Wait! Tell me, do ghosts exist? Did Dean lie about that?” he asked, his heart hammering in his chest.
Adam turned, wearing a sad smile on his face. “Yes, sir, they exist. I owe Dean a great deal more than my happiness. I owe him my life, both he and Sam,” he carefully untucked his shirt and lifted it to show Castiel a deep, silvery scar running across his side. “I have never told your brother the truth of where this scar came from. I know he’d think I was mad if I did, but there are more things than ghosts and you should be prepared for that.”
“What did that to you?” Castiel asked, his eyes wide.
“A ghoul,” Adam answered. “They feed on the dead mostly, but this one came to eat me while I was still alive. As I said, I owe my life to Sam and Dean.”
Castiel shuddered. Adam carefully tucked his shirt back in, hiding the scar from sight. He let himself out of the room and Castiel opened the note hurriedly.
I don’t know how to ask you to forgive me and I don’t know how to start telling you all the ways I’m sorry. Adam told me what you tried to do. I knew I should have come to you. I should always have come to you. There are no excuses. Sam told me I was putting you in danger but I put you in danger by not coming to you. I can understand if you never want to see me again, Cas. I can understand if you tore up this note and threw it in the fire before you read it because I think that’s what I’d do if I was in your place.
If that’s the case and this note is burning away, I do want to put it down on paper that I love you, Cas. I did from the moment you looked at me. I had to have you and I’ve been stupid because of it. I put you in harm’s way, I’ve fought with Sam over this, I’ve risked my freedom for you. I’ve made Adam an accomplice and I know how much he resents me. I don’t claim to be a good man, Cas. I know for a fact I am not a good man.
Sam thinks I should let you go. Our life is a hard one and I’ve not prepared you for it. I’ve been selfish because I’ve wanted you so badly, Cas. Sam may be right and you may be happier staying in your fine house. You might find a fine man who could share your life with you but I know that my heart is yours and you can keep it even if you can’t be with me. I will never stop wanting you, Cas. I will never stop loving you.
If you can forgive me, although Heaven knows I’ve no right to expect that or even hope for it, then know I’ve put off my passage out of England. I’ll wait as long as I can. If you can join me, I will be there waiting for you. If you can’t then either send word through Adam and let me go, or make me wait till the end. Sam points out you may hate me now and may send the police after us but I trust you, Cas. If you hate me that much, I deserve it and I deserve the punishment that comes with it but if you do still love me, I will be at the docks until tomorrow. We’re going to America.
I wish I could write better. I wish I could be a better man for you, Cas. I wish I could write something to touch your heart and let you know I am sincere. I know I have asked so much of you. I have asked you to believe in me and I have dashed your faith in me to bits so many times. I cannot ask you to believe in me again and I cannot make you promises because I don’t think you would believe in them, but I am yours, Cas.
I will be waiting for you,
“He’s not coming, Dean!” Sam called from the boat.
Dean paced up and down on the quay side. He stopped when Sam called to him and turned to face his brother. “I told him that I would wait until the last moment. I’m keeping that promise, Sam. I broke so many others that I can at least keep this one.”
“The sun is coming up, Bobby isn’t going to be able to wait for us any longer and if you stay strolling around in broad daylight, someone will recognise you!”
“Maybe you should yell louder, Sam. I don’t think everyone heard you,” Dean muttered. “And Bobby’s cargo will keep. He can tell his crew to sit tight a few more hours.”
“Dean, please,” Sam said, a plaintive note in his voice.
Dean turned away from his brother and stared out into the darkness of the docks. It was nearly morning although you would never know it by looking. It was still black as midnight, save for the street-lamps, which cast little pools of light here and there. It was bitterly cold with fog rolling in from the Themes, obscuring the streets just that little more. Dean felt his heart sink. He knew now that waiting for Castiel was a hopeless cause. If Castiel had been going to come to him, it would have been before now. At first he’d hoped Castiel had been simply considering his options, then that he was making Dean wait out of justified spite. He had scanned every face, willing it to be Castiel’s and if it was not, then to be Adam’s with some news. Even if Adam brought a definite, no, then at least Dean would know where he stood. Now he felt like a fool, clinging to an impossible dream.
Some things could not be forgiven.
“Dean!” Sam called again.
“Yes, Sammy, I know,” he shouted back, beginning to turn back to his brother and the boat. He should get on, cut his losses and leave his heart behind him. He should have known better than to try to entangle his life with Castiel’s. It had been so easy when they were together and at every moment they were not it seemed as if fate had conspired to keep them apart. Fate and Dean’s own bad planning. He had played with his cards too close to his chest, had been too good at bluffing and it had cost him Castiel. He should never have changed his plans. He should always have kept his promise.
If only he had gone to Castiel like he said he would, they would be away together, somewhere out in the ocean on the voyage to America. The vision of what might have been, what should have been, haunted Dean as he stepped down of the quayside and on to the boat.
“I suppose you should tell Bobby we’re ready to leave,” he said without much conviction.
Sam gave him a sympathetic look but Dean knew his brother did not truly understand what Dean had had with Castiel. Sam had seen Castiel as another danger, another crime Dean was entangling himself with. All his actions had been taken as a concerned brother and Dean could see the logic in them plainly but he had no way to make Sam see that the heart wants what the heart wants and his heart had wanted Castiel.
“I’ll let Bobby know,” Sam said, clapping him on the shoulder. Dean shrugged off his hand and Sam lingered for a moment, about to say something but Dean shook his head. He didn’t want to hear any more of Sam’s attempts to cheer him up. Sam turned away from him and disappeared below deck. Dean found himself a place to lean against the rail of the boat and sighed.
For a moment Dean refused to believe that the voice calling for him was anything but the echo of a memory, brought to life by the sheer force of willing it to exist. Then it called his name again and Dean realised the man who was calling him was flesh and blood.
“Cas!” he shouted back into the darkness, not caring who might hear him, not caring that he was risk his very freedom by doing so. “Cas!”
The silence the follow was eerily quiet and then Dean caught sight of Castiel under one of the street lamps. He was running and Dean watched him, waiting for him to stop, to slow down as he came to the edge of the dock but he didn’t and suddenly Dean realised that he wasn’t going to stop. He put out his arms to catch him and Castiel jumped from the quayside into them, knocking them both over.
Dean landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him but he had no time to catch his breath again before Castiel was kissing him – madly, ardently, pressing himself as close to Dean as he could get. Dean wrapped his arms about him and rolled them so Castiel was beneath him. He broke the kiss, panting as he caught his breath and stared down into Castiel’s open, pale face.
“You came,” he whispered. Even with the solid weight of Castiel beneath him, he still couldn’t quite believe that Castiel was there.
“Yes. I had to make Michael understand first. Anna was all for it, she said I should go but Michel thought you were a scoundrel and a criminal and I’d come to no good but I love you,” Castiel said in one breath, his eyes wide as he recounted his story.
“You told your family?” Dean asked, dazed.
“Yes. I thought I owed it to them to let them know why I was about to disappeared.”
“And they agreed?”
“Eventually Michael realised I would not be argued with,” Castiel said, a little smile playing on his lips.
Dean leaned down to kiss him. Castiel was the strangest man he had ever met. He had appealed to Dean the first time he had seen him – looking so pale and frightened with his bright blue eyes. The moment Dean had seen him he had wanted to kiss him; he had wanted to protect him. He hadn’t proved to be a very good protector so far but he planned for that to change in the future. He nuzzled against Castiel, about to kiss him again when someone coughed politely from above them. Dean hastily got to his feet, dragging Castiel after him. Sam stood before them, an unimpressed expression on his face.
“You’re lucky it’s the middle of the night and none of Bobby’s crew is about. They wouldn’t stand for this,” he said, looking between the two of them. Dean laughed. He knew that Sam was right and he and Castiel would have to be more mindful in the future and reserve their intimacy till they were alone but for the moment he was so happy he couldn’t bring himself to heed Sam’s warning too seriously.
“Castiel, this is my brother Sam! Sam, this is Castiel!” he introduced them.
Castiel shook Sam’s hand warmly, Sam still seemed reserved but Dean was certain that Sam would warm to Castiel eventually. They would be together on this boat for the next month.
“Come on, Cas, let me show you your bunk,” he said, slinging his arm around Castiel’s shoulder.
“Dean!” Sam said again and Dean laughed.
Castiel leaned into him, warm body brushing against his and Dean’s heart swelled.
He had no idea why fortune had smiled on him but he was forever grateful that it had. He had his freedom, he had a new life to look forward to in America with Sam and most importantly he had Castiel by his side. The providence that had provided Castiel with such a forgiving heart was indeed a blessed one. Dean could imagine no greater future than the life laid out before him. It would be hard, he had no doubts about that, but it would be a life with the people he loved the most, a chance to start over. If he believed in God, Dean would have thanked him for bringing him an angel, because truly, that must be what Castiel was. An angel put on earth for Dean to love.
Only an angel could have been as forgiving and as loving as Castiel had proved to be, and Dean would spend the rest of his life proving to Castiel that he was a man whom Castiel could believe in.
He would be worthy of Castiel’s faith.