“Last mission, Mr. Winchester?” Warrant Officer 4 Bobby Singer asked him, putting one of his large hands on Dean’s shoulder.
“Yes sir,” Warrant Officer 3 Captain Dean Winchester agreed.
“I heard that you got recruited by the FBI,” Bobby smiled. “What are you gonna do with the FBI?”
“Prob’ly the same thing my daddy did with the CIA, only in the homeland,” Dean said, kicking his boots up onto the desk where they had been planning the raid to extradite a few hostages back to the US.
Singer laughed a little, trying to keep his sense of humor. “They’re putting home base in some place in Massachusettes…”
“And I’ve got a few months before I have to report to Washington. You want me to go back with you? I don’t know what I would do around all those Harvard folk…”
“Well, one of the hostages is a professor from MIT,” Singer said. “You might as well get chummy with him, maybe make him one of your friends…”
“You say that like I got a ton of friends, Bobby,” Dean said, cleaning his gun a little.
“I think you should still make friends outside of your brother, Dean,” Bobby chided him a little bit.
“Well,” Dean said, standing up. “That’s an opinion.” He said it like everyone had a right to their own opinion, but he wasn’t going to agree with a single one of them.
“Let’s go over the hostages, okay?” Bobby dropped the subject, and Dean was grateful for that.
“We got three high school teachers who were offered safe passage in order to strengthen the ties between countries,” Bobby pointed to the pictures of the three young women on the left of the bulletin board. “They’re very young and idealistic, so you need to worry about that a little bit. If they’ve been convinced that being held hostage is going to be good for the country…”
“I’ll just knock their asses out,” Dean shrugged.
“There’s the MIT professor I told you about before. Couldn’t get a picture of him, but the State Department is really worried about this one. Apparently, he can make numbers dance or some shit. He’s been working on those supercomputers, you know? Those machines take up whole rooms, I can’t see anything useful coming out of those experiments…”
“There’s always Pong,” Dean shrugged. “That’s an awesome game, Bobby.”
“Pong,” Bobby scoffed. “I’ve seen you boys play that game. What a stupid waste of time. I promise you, nothing will come of that invention…”
“We’ll see, Bobby,” Dean shrugged, smiling. He knew that he could always get Bobby off topic with that. Bobby hated change.
“Anyway, this hostage, Professor Misha Collins…”
“What kind of a name is Misha?” Dean looked at Bobby.
“I don’t know. He seems to have been an orphan, sponsored by the Senator from Massachusetts…”
“Senator Crowley?” Dean asked, suddenly alert and looking at the paperwork in front of him.
“Yes, that one. This kid… he’s younger than you Dean, apparently he’s the original target of the unnamed assailants. They seem to think that he’s special, and they’re offering to let the young women go if the United States government swears off all claim on this Professor Collins.”
Dean felt his heart speeding up. There was no way that this was Castiel, but he hadn’t heard a word from him in ten years. He had stopped looking when he graduated college, but he kept his ear out. It didn’t matter; there was no sign of him ever. Uriel had said that he thought that he had called once, seven years ago, and asked for Dean but when he was informed that Dean wasn’t there he had hung up.
Dean made himself not hope. He had been making himself not hope for years, but the least little thing could spark it off. It was like he could never get Castiel off of his mind, could never get past the two perfect months that they had spent side by side as children.
Dean sighed, ran a hand through his military short hair. He doubted that Castiel would have waited for him anyway, but it would be nice to reconnect with him. After all, Dean hadn’t waited for Castiel, had he? He had followed his father’s expectations and had gotten married out of college, fathered a son and a daughter of his own, and then lost the third child and his wife at the same time. His kids were now staying with their Uncle Sam, the irony of Dean’s service not lost on them. They stayed with Uncle Sam, Dean served Uncle Sam, and everything was just perfect. Only totally and completely not.
Sam and Raphael were busy relocating them up to Massachusetts, where Sam could also study at Harvard Law School. The 10th Special Forces Group’s decision to make Fort Devens its home base was a welcome change from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. At least there would be no goddam sand fleas, Dean reasoned.
His son Ben was in the first grade, and his daughter Lissa was starting Kindergarten. Dean brushed a hand over his heart, where he had sewn their pictures into his uniform. They were enough reason to live, he told himself. He would miss Castiel until the cows came home, but his children gave him a reason to exist. He desperately needed that, although he didn’t want to analyze too closely why that was.
Regardless, this Professor Collins would distract him for the next week, at least. Getting him out of Soviet hands alive was going to be a challenge.
“The KGB is watching the hostages closely, of course,” Singer was explaining. “They have Spetsnaz watching Professor Collins closely.”
“How did he get into Soviet hands?” Dean asked. He wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the top-secret Spetsnaz, a force so secretive that most Russians didn’t even know of their existence. They were trained similarly to the American Army Rangers though, and although Dean was a Green Beret he still wouldn’t mess with a Ranger unless there were exceptionally good reasons, even if they were a new group in the United States military.
“He wanted to sponsor one of the teachers exchanges tours, and he speaks fluent Russian. Our government would not have endorsed this decision, but for some reason Professor Collins didn’t tell anyone about his special circumstances…”
“What are those circumstances?” Dean asked, feeling his heart sinking.
“I have not been informed of them,” Singer shrugged it off, “They just told me that there were special circumstances that would not have allowed him to go on this trip. Of course, it became clear that he was a special case when he was taken hostage.”
Dean nodded. He almost but not quite knew who this person was. Castiel would have questions that could only be answered in the Soviet Union. On top of that, no matter how many times he had looked for Castiel Novak, the man had disappeared completely. It would make sense for him to have had his name changed for security purposes, although ‘Misha’ was a piss poor excuse for someone trying to pretend that they weren’t Russian. Dean wondered how much input he would have had on the name change. He felt his heart flutter a little bit when he thought about it. ‘Misha’ was a Russian form of ‘Michael,’ which just happened to be Dean’s middle name. Would Castiel have changed his name on that suggestion? Was it that simple and Dean had simply not figured out the code?
Dean ran an agitated hand through his hair. He wanted to run into the lab where this Professor Collins was being held captive, but that way lie suicide. He wanted to ask if it was really Castiel, and he wondered briefly at his own sanity.
“So what’s the plan?” Dean asked. He debated telling Singer that he might be compromised in this operation.
“The offer was to let two military personnel come in and take the three teachers out. Professor Collins may or may not be held with these teachers. Your job is to scope the building the best you can, and to determine if Collins is in it. You will be assigned one member of the United States Army to go in with you. We have tried to choose the most incompetent man that we could find, and you need to act like you’re not much better than him. Get the teachers and your lackey out of there without incident, if at all possible. If you can make contact with Collins, you can promise him that you’ll be back for him in front of the Russian military. They will then try and move him to a more secure location, and it will be easier to rescue him during a transport mission.”
Dean nodded. “When is this op going down?”
“In about two hours. Don’t try and be a hero, Dean, follow the plan as close as you can, understand?”
Dean nodded his head again. “If I can return with Collins…”
“He has to be alive,” Singer said. “If you can’t guarantee that, don’t do anything that would put his life in jeopardy. He is the main goal here, not the teachers, not you. The government likes you Dean, but the entire 10th Division would be sacrificed in their eyes before Collins.”
Dean nodded. His heart was telling him that Collins was Castiel, and he had learned to trust his heart above all other things in the last ten years. If the government had any idea about Dean’s past, they wouldn’t have to even bother with the order about Collins’s safety.
His Army ally was a smallish man named Chuck Shurley. Chuck kept talking the entire time they drove the van to the compound where the exchange was to take place, but Dean didn’t respond or even listen to a single thing that Chuck was saying.
Would Castiel remember him, if this Misha was Castiel? Would he be safe if he recognized Dean? It might be better for him not to be his Castiel, it might keep them safer. And if he was, how would he respond to the fact that Dean had moved on, had gotten married, had kept living? It had felt like such a betrayal, every single time that he did something and Castiel wasn’t there to see it or to put his input in. Dean wouldn’t trade his kids for the world, but their very existence proved that Dean had not stopped living like he wanted to when Castiel was gone.
The compound was out in the middle of East Berlin. There weren’t a lot of cars around the building, but as soon as Dean and Chuck got out of the Hummer they were surrounded by Spetsnaz brandishing their AK47s. Dean and Chuck immediately put their hands up in the air to show that they weren’t holding any weapons, and they were ushered into the building quickly.
“I think we’re gonna die,” Chuck was saying next to Dean, and he wasn’t whispering quite as softly as he thought he was.
“Shut up, Chuck,” Dean hissed when one of the soldiers looked back at them with a smirk on his face.
“No, I think this was a set-up. I think that they just wanted to kill some Americans and they thought this was a good way to get us in. They’re going to make an example of us, I just know it.”
“Seriously Chuck, shut up,” Dean said.
“Okay, but when they kill us in slow and creative ways, don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Chuck whimpered.
“I’m going to let them kill you,” Dean said. “I might even have five bucks in my pocket so that I can pay them to kill you. I’ll tell your mama that you died like a little girl.”
One of the other soldiers laughed at that, and Dean knew at least they could speak English and had a sense of humor, which may or may not be good for their situation.
“That’s just mean, I had heard you were mean…”
“God damn it Chuck, shut the fuck up,” Dean tried to kick the soldier.
The room with the teachers was barely furnished. They were all sitting on a couch, and it looked like they had been unharmed. They were nervous, but they were holding it together better than Chuck was, so Dean supposed that was a bonus.
“You have the teachers now,” one of the soldiers said in thickly accented English. “You can go.”
“I need to see that Professor Collins is safe,” Dean said.
The soldier narrowed his eyes at Dean.
“Hey man, it’s not like I want to be here. I just have orders, and I need to see that Professor Collins is safe and then I can report back to my CO that you kept your part of the bargain.”
The soldier looked at the teachers and Chuck. Dean sighed. “Look, he bothers me too. Why don’t you let Chuck take the teachers back to the Humvee, and then I’ll go by myself to see Professor Collins.”
The soldier nodded. “This is better.” He said a lot of words in very fast Russian, and Dean wished not for the first time in his life that he could speak the language. The other soldiers marched Chuck and the teachers out, and the first soldier motioned for Dean to follow him.
“You watch American baseball?” the soldier asked Dean.
“Yeah man, you gotta team?” Dean asked, making conversation.
“I like these Yankees,” the soldier said with a smile. “They are the best.”
“I don’t know about that man,” Dean remarked. “I got a thing for the Twins.”
“It is unfortunate that you do not have good taste in baseball,” the soldier said with a smirk.
“Yeah well, everyone’s got an opinion,” Dean finished the conversation up as soon as they got to a door in the back of the warehouse.
“Professor Collins was most uncooperative when we first got here. He’s being better now, but the worst part is over for him,” the soldier said, a little worried.
Dean leveled a gaze at the soldier. “Let me see him,” he said.
The soldier looked nervous, Dean knew that he suspected that Dean wasn’t what he appeared to be, but he opened the door anyway.
There were three more soldiers standing in the room, and one man tied up in a chair in the corner. Dean wouldn’t let himself look at the man, too scared that it wasn’t Castiel, and even more scared of what he would do if it was and how he would react if he saw him hurt. He tried convincing himself that he hadn’t seen the man for ten years and he had nothing more than fond memories of him, but Dean’s heart told him something else. There would be Hell to pay if all the blood on the floor belonged to his Castiel.
“Oh shit,” one of the soldiers said in English. His accent wasn’t as thick as the others, so Dean looked at him.
“Balthazar,” Dean growled.
“Dean Winchester,” Balthazar greeted him. There were a few gasps in the room once he had been identified. Well, Dean thought, at least his reputation had gotten around a little. “I should have known you would come.”
“Well, I’m just here to check on Professor Collins,” Dean shrugged. “No reason that you should have thought I was coming.”
“You don’t know then?” Balthazar asked.
“Know what?” Dean said, forcing him to keep his eyes on Balthazar’s face. He knew already.
“Shit,” Balthazar repeated himself. He ran an agitated hand through his hair, and glanced at the man in the corner. “You might as well take him, we’ll get him back in the future.”
“What?” one of the Spetsnazs asked. “He’s one man, we can take on one man…”
“Not this one,” Balthazar said. “You’ve been trained for this; he was born for this. There is a very large difference in your abilities. If we fight him, we’ll lose more men than we can afford.”
“We can’t let him go…” the Spetsnaz protested.
“We can’t afford to keep him. You know what it’s like fighting against a man defending his home,” Balthazar said, looking pissed as Hell. “You want him because our government wants him. This man wants him because he is his home. We ain’t tangling with that.”
“Fucking Americans,” the Spetsnaz cursed. He said some more things in Russian, but Dean had lost his self-control at that point.
Castiel was in the corner, completely unconscious. His face was a bruise, his lip split, his head tilted at an angle. Despite all this, Dean still recognized him. He walked over to him, pulled a hidden knife out of his pants leg, and cut the bindings keeping Castiel in his chair.
“C’mon Cas,” Dean whispered. “Let’s go home.”
Balthazar glared at Dean, who picked Castiel up with a raised eyebrow.
“We done here then?” Dean asked.
Balthazar spoke some words in Russian, and the special operations units of Russia stepped aside. Dean walked back down the long hallway, ignoring the shocked stares of the other soldiers. He carried Castiel out of the building and sat with him in the front of the Hummer, as Chuck stared in disbelief.
“How’d you get him out?” Chuck asked.
“I asked nice and polite,” Dean said, pulling his green bandana out of his pocket in order to wipe some of the blood off of Castiel’s face. “Let’s go before they change their mind.”
The teachers in the back seat held each other as Chuck drove off. They stared in confusion as Dean couldn’t take his eyes off of who they knew as Professor Collins.
“Maybe that’s why he wouldn’t give us a second look,” Dean heard one of them whisper, and his conscience tugged at him.
“We’re going home, Cas,” Dean whispered. “You don’t ever have to leave me again.”
“Dean,” Castiel let Dean hear his voice again, but Dean wasn’t entirely sure he was conscious. “I knew you’d come for me.”