NOVEMBER 2, 110 A.L. - SUPERBIA
Castiel picked the booth in the very back of the quiet diner. The man who owned it, Ernie, had poor eyesight, and was a little hard of hearing, both of which were qualities Castiel very much appreciated in his current situation. It helped that although the required propaganda was posted on the walls, it was out of date and none of the regulars said their thanks to the Lightbringer before tucking into their meals. It was as close to apolitical as anywhere was, these days. The perfect place to hide.
Castiel’s hands were steady as he nursed his coffee. To a casual onlooker he might look relaxed, but his back was to the wall and he had mapped the quickest route to the exit. He had also ranked every other patron of the diner by how likely they were to be a threat. One girl in the corner was small and blonde had an attitude that practically screamed resistance, which was worrying but not enough for Castiel to leave before he’d satisfied his caffeine addiction. Everyone else just looked tired. Tired was good. Tired people didn’t notice strange men sitting in corners drinking coffee.
At least most of the time.
The boy who walked in was sixteen years old, and had a patch on his jacket that identified him as a soldier in training. Castiel had put his money on the table within a second of seeing him and was about to wait until the boy was distracted before slipping out quietly, but it was too late. Too young eyes focused in on him, and Castiel reacted by pulling out his gun and pointing it at the boy.
“Hey now,” said Ernie, immediately aware of the change in atmosphere. He was attuned to tension despite lacking in his other senses. “We don’t want trouble here.”
“I was just leaving,” Castiel said calmly, gun still trained on the boy, who looked like a deer stuck in headlights. Castiel slowly started to move towards the door, and the boy seemed to realize he needed to act quickly or Castiel would get away. He reached for his phone and pressed the emergency button too quickly for Castiel to try to stop him by letting off a warning shot. He swore and turned to run when he noticed the resistance girl sneaking up behind the soldier in training with a knife. He knew he should leave it alone, but before Castiel could talk himself out of it he had readjusted the gun so it was pointing at her. She noticed.
“Don’t help,” he said to her quietly. She backed away before the boy could turn around and see who Castiel was talking to, and by the time the boy had turned around, Castiel had run out of the exit and down the street. He took the first right he could and then took a circuitous route as far away from the diner as he could manage, running in a manner meant to look urgent but not terrified. He relaxed when he was about a mile away and slowed his running to a slow walk. It looked as though he had gotten away in one piece.
Lady Luck certainly was fickle this morning.
“Ephraim,” Castiel said, tonelessly to a man he knew to be a medic. The kind of medic that was sent to dispatch soldiers wounded beyond being healed by even the most advanced of methods. Castiel wasn’t stupid. He knew he was surrounded, and that at this point there was nothing he could do to escape death. The only question that mattered to him at the moment was whether or not he had the energy to make it difficult for them. “I assume you aren’t alone.”
“You aren’t scraping your way out of this one,” Ephraim confirmed, eyes trained on Castiel. “If you come quietly, we’ll-“
“Beat me just as badly as if I fight,” Castiel said. “When capturing one of our own, show no mercy. That is still protocol, is it not?”
Castiel didn’t miss the smirk on Ephraim’s face before he felt something hit his back and pierce his skin. He was on the ground within seconds convulsing, as the electricity ran through his body, and it was long seconds before it stopped. Ephraim walked up to him and roughly nudged him onto his back so he could see Ephraim standing above him. He pulls out a shot, and shows it to Castiel before bending down next to him.
“We don’t want to make an example of you Castiel,” said Ephraim. “You have a higher purpose.”
“What does that mean?” asked Castiel, eyes focused on the needle. “I’m not coming back.”
“We’ll see,” said Ephraim. He stabbed the needle into Castiel’s arm and within seconds the world went dark.
Everything was green.
Castiel stared upwards at the sunlight filtering through leaves, and it took him a moment to realize he was lying on the ground. He reached a hand up, as though to touch the interweaving branches that stretched above him. Instead his hand reached another and he was pulled to his feet.
“Anna,” he said. “You’re dead.”
“Shh,” she said, putting a finger to her lips. She was dressed in white, but Castiel could already see the bright red of her wound leaking through her clothing. “What do you think?”
“Of what?” Castiel asked, looking around him. His surroundings were vibrant, flowers of every hue growing among the trees. “It’s beautiful, Anna.”
“Wrong answer,” she sighed. She took his hands and pressed them against her stomach where the blood was still leaking through. “It hurts, Cas.”
“I know,” he said softly, doing his best to catch her as she collapsed. “But it’s okay. You’ll be okay, Anael. It’s just like going to sleep.”
“You always said you hoped heaven was a garden,” Anna said weakly. Castiel nodded, sinking to his knees as he slowly lowered her body to the floor. Castiel pressed his hands harder into her wound, desperately trying to hold her life in and he’d done this before. He did this every time. Anna smiled up at him. “You need to keep fighting Cas. It’s time for me to rest.”
“Yes. Go to sleep. I’m right here.”
NOVEMBER 2, 110 A.L. - SUPERBIA
Castiel had been sat up in a chair before he regained consciousness. He was, of course, restrained, but otherwise unharmed which was unusual. In front of him a woman, watching him thoughtfully, obviously waiting for him to wake up. Castiel sat up straight and stared at a point above her left shoulder. She took that as her cue to speak.
“You’ve given us quite the chase.”
“My apologies,” Castiel said tonelessly. He tested the strength of the chair he was handcuffed to and was unsurprised to find it was metal. And bolted to the floor. “I didn’t mean to be an inconvenience.”
She frowned at him, taking down some notes before addressing him again. This time she had a practiced gentle smile lightening her severe features, and if Castiel were an idiot he might even believe she genuinely wanted to make him feel more comfortable. Luckily he had the bite of metal into his wrists to remind him through any lingering grogginess that he was currently in grave danger.
“Well, Castiel, the good news is you have the opportunity to make it up to us,” she said. “We found you last week and have been keeping an eye on you since.”
“Why?” Castiel asked. The woman seemed to take this as a sign of progress, because her smile widened and she leaned forward slightly. Her teeth were gleaming white. “Surely a bullet to the head would have been more efficient? No one would have protested.”
“No, but we have other uses for those who defect for personal reasons,” said the woman, causing Castiel to grit his teeth and look down. He’d given himself away, but he didn’t care. The anger at what he knew the woman was about to address was still fresh and bubbling inside him, his nightmare only adding fuel to the horror. “I understand you lost the Commander of your garrison on a mission. That must have been difficult for you.”
“I was ordered to shoot her,” Castiel said flatly, letting his glare speak for itself.
“It’s my understanding that you didn’t. Field reports indicate you… attempted to shoot yourself instead,” said the woman. Her eyes were appraising as she continued to stare him down. “Do you want to know what that tells me Castiel?”
“It tells me you still believe in the cause. In the country. You chose death over defying an order. We didn’t take that lightly,” said the woman, steepling her hands. “You were close with your Commander. We should have taken that under consideration. But Anael was defying orders and we can’t let that sort of precedent stand. You do understand that, don’t you Castiel?”
“Intellectually,” said Castiel, shortly. He didn’t want to be in this room, speaking in a civilized manner to a pencil pusher who knew nothing of the closeness being part of a garrison meant. He’d rather be sitting across from an executioner than a bureaucrat.
“Castiel,” the woman sighed in annoyance. “You’re going to want to cooperate with us.”
“Protocol states a disobedient soldier is a dead one,” said Castiel. “I disobeyed.”
“The good of the state is above all,” said the woman. “And you can still contribute to the good of the state. In fact, you are in a unique position to do something no one else can at the moment. We are willing to be forgiving for that, Castiel. If you do as you’re told, you can be reassigned to your garrison. See your fellow soldiers again.”
Castiel stared her down a moment, trying to determine the veracity of her claim. She didn’t blink or otherwise betray herself.
“What do you want me to do?
NOVEMBER 11, 110 A.L. - SUPPERBIA
Castiel didn’t like the spaces the resistance tended to favor. Gritty establishments that served poorly home-brewed drinks and food as likely to empty your stomach as fill it, given an almost cheerful insistence on violating health codes. He also had the tendency to stand out like a sore thumb, which meant he couldn’t even begin to relax. There was no one there that didn’t know he was a soldier just from seeing him, and people avoided him like he was the food on their plates.
On the one hand, Castiel was frustrated with his instructions and their seeming futility. On the other, Naomi might soon realize he was entirely the wrong man for the job she had given him and kill him, so there was that to look forward to.
It was as he was entertaining this line of thought that someone sat in front of him. Castiel tensed in surprise and had to force himself not to flee his seat. He was still fighting the instincts that had kept him from being caught for almost two months.
“Hey, easy man,” the blonde woman said, holding up her hands. “I just want to talk.”
She was the woman from the diner. She called out to the woman behind the bar, Kali, to bring the two of them drinks.
“I don’t need-“
“I’m paying,” the woman said, as though that settled that. “Name’s Jo.”
She reached out a hand that Castiel stared at, and held it in front of him past the point of courtesy and right into the territory of insistence. Castiel relented and shook her hand, which seemed to satisfy her. Castiel didn’t smile. It wouldn’t look genuine.
“Are you going to tell me your name?”
“Is that your real name?”
“No,” said Castiel. “But it still works.”
“Okay then, Jimmy, I’ve got a proposition for you,” said Jo. “I can’t help but notice you seem to be at odds with the state.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Castiel confirmed. “I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t.”
There was no one in Light’s Out Bar that wasn’t at some level involved in rebelling against the state, excepting Castiel himself. Even the name itself was a slight against their founder. They were living in the Age of Light. To suggest otherwise was, of course, treasonous.
“We’re recruiting,” said Jo, putting a card on the table between them. “Show up, show us what you’ve got.”
“Why should I?” asked Castiel, knowing that Naomi would kill him if she could hear him right now. This was just what she wanted, and it was the only time he’d been approached by anyone even remotely related to resistance. He should accept it without question. “You were going to kill that boy.”
“He was trying to get you caught.”
“He was sixteen,” said Castiel. “And in training. I doubt he was even armed. And if you hadn’t tried to interfere I might’ve had time to…”
Castiel trailed off, realizing he’d already fumbled this mission behind repair. Jo was sharp enough to pick up on the hesitation, and her eyes fell to the rubbed raw circles on his wrists before he could withdraw and hide his arms.
“You didn’t get away,” Jo realized, narrowing her eyes at him. “But they let you go.”
“Do I even have to tell you how bad this looks for you?” asked Jo. “You want to know what we do to spies around here?”
“Nothing pleasant, I’d assume,” said Castiel, not missing for a second that Jo had pulled out her knife. “Just make it quick.”
That made her pause. She put her knife away and crossed her arms while looking him up and down. Whatever she saw seemed to make up her mind. When Kali shoved down two drinks on their table, Jo handed over her money without another word and then drained her glass quickly. Castiel hesitantly copied her.
“Let’s start this over,” said Jo. “So you’re thinking about which side you’re on. Give me a few minutes to win you over.”
“You can’t trust me,” Castiel pointed out.
“No, but we need someone on the inside of the state’s operations,” Jo said. “And I think you might just be the guy. So how about we start with this. Why were you on the run?”
Anna’s lifeless face floated before him. He cleared his throat, and knew the truth was the only way he could have any hope of winning this girl’s trust. He wasn’t a spy, nor was he a particularly good liar. So he began to tell the story of the worst day of his life.
“We were on a mission…”
NOVEMBER 30, 110 A.L. - SUPERBIA
“What is this shit, Jo?”
Castiel stood at attention, not moving a muscle or even acknowledging that he was being spoken about two feet away. It was very tempting to point out that he could hear them, but he figured that insolence wouldn’t win him any favors, and Naomi would probably put him through an hour long meeting if she found out he jeopardized his chances at infiltrating what he had been led to understand was a fairly high level of resistance hierarchy (as much as they actually had).
“You and Sam said we need someone on the inside,” Jo pointed out. “And Charlie looked into him. He has a file about an inch thick for being…”
Jo paused and seemed to remember that Castiel was still standing there.
“Finding loopholes in orders,” Jo said, knowing from a series of conversations with Castiel that he didn’t react well to implications that he didn’t perform well as a soldier. It was one of the things that had made Jo wait so long before finally bringing him with her to a neutral space so he could be appraised for usefulness and trustworthiness. Apparently she hadn’t shared with her superior before dragging Castiel here exactly who he was.
“Jo, he wouldn’t even tell you his name. Charlie had to image search through the city’s database to find out who he was. I told you to drop this.”
“Billie thought it was worth looking into,” said Jo viciously. “And she still outranks you.”
The man scowled to hear this.
“Why didn’t she-“
“She didn’t want to hear you bitching. Now, are you going to interview him or what?”
The man sighed, and spared a glance at Castiel who was still standing at attention and pretending to ignore the two of them.
“Fine. Castiel, why are you here?”
“Jo asked me to be.”
Dean looked at Jo, who shrugged. Castiel noticed a smile hidden under her nonchalance though, and suspected she found it funny that he was annoying her superior. It was quite an unprofessional attitude to have, though he suspected it wasn’t uncommon among them.
“Let me rephrase that. Why shouldn’t I kill you for spying on us?”
“You should. Go ahead,” said Castiel. “That is unless of course you see merit in gaining information about the state. The statistics when it comes to defectors would indicate that the chances of finding someone else with the wealth of information I have that wants to share it and isn’t dead are infinitesimal.”
“So you want to help us out of the goodness of your heart, huh?” said the man, leaning over Castiel slightly in an obvious attempt to be intimidating. Castiel kept his expression carefully bored. “How do we know you’re on our side?”
“Tell him,” Jo encouraged at Castiel’s silence and blank expression.
“A friend of mine died under their orders,” Castiel said emotionlessly. The man snorted and Castiel kept his anger under check with effort. “Avenging her death would be… appreciated.”
“C’mon Jo,” he said skeptically. “This guy’s a robot. Just look at him. Doesn’t really strike me as the vengeance type. Or the friend type.”
“I felt her blood surge up between my fingers and watched the light fade from her eyes. We fought side by side for ten years, and she never led me or my fellow soldiers astray. Not once,” Castiel said. “Doubt my intentions if you must. But don’t doubt my pain.”
“What did she do to get shot?” the man asked, after pausing to consider this for a moment.
“We were told to fire on children. She refused. I was told to shoot her.”
“Why?” he asked. “Aren’t you guys all about following orders? Pulling the trigger, it’s pretty easy really. Especially if you’re-“
The man’s nose broke with a satisfying crunch. Castiel didn’t move when Jo pulled a gun on him, and the man swore loudly before pinching his nose to stop the bleeding. After Castiel made no more aggressive moves, Jo slowly started to lower her gun.
“Don’t ask stupid questions,” Castiel said quietly. Jo and the man exchanged glances, and when the man looked back at him this time, there was a little less suspicion in his eyes.
“Dean,” he said at last holding one hand out to shake while the other was still holding his nose. “You pull something like that again, I’ll shoot you. Until you get yourself killed you’re under Charlie’s supervision. Jo, show him around and keep him away from the sharp things.”
“I don’t need a weapon to be dangerous.”
“You’re a real ray of sunshine, anyone ever tell you that?” asked Dean. “Jo, ya mind taking our new recruit away before I hit him?”
“Yes, sir,” Jo said, as though she hadn’t spent the past half hour treating her superior as disrespectfully as she could manage. She strolled out of the alley they had been speaking in and towards a jeep that would likely take Castiel out of the city and towards the untamed areas the resistance liked to hide in. Castiel sat in the passenger seat, and did his best not to be apprehensive. Everything had gone fine so far. Naomi knew that he had changed the plan slightly so that he was posing himself as a double agent, which meant he had an excuse to check in frequently that Jo and Dean would assume was Castiel feeding Naomi false information and returning to them with correct information the resistance could use. They didn’t know that the opposite was true, and Castiel didn’t tell them.
DECEMBER 5, 110 A.L. - CAMP JEFFERSON STARSHIP
Charlie took to him too quickly.
She spoke twice as fast as anyone Castiel had ever met, and asked for his opinion on topics he knew nothing about. She sent him out for tasks and kept a running commentary on everyone in the camp so he “wouldn’t feel left out”. It was through her he learned some of the unspoken rules that governed the particular outpost he had been let into.
Billie was in charge. If she said something could or couldn’t happen, that was the final word on the subject. Because of this, no one ever went to her with any questions. Dean was the one who handled the day to day running of everything from food to weapons to the chances of a surprise attack. Sam was who you went to if you had an idea you knew Dean wouldn’t like and Billie would laugh in your face if you brought up. Sarah, Kevin, and Frank were who you went to if you wanted an obscure piece of information found quickly, and for apparently obvious reasons you went to them specifically in that order. Benny, Rufus, Gordon, Risa, Tamara, and Linda were each in charge of a section of the camp. Everyone had to be proficient with a weapon, but it seemed not everyone was involved with the attacks on state resources that Castiel remembered having to defend against when he was still working with his garrison.
He felt a pang of pain at this and his bad mood was met with a loud meow, and suddenly a soft creature was inhabiting his lap.
He’d forgotten about the cat. The sole reason Charlie had decided to trust him so quickly was that “Crookshanks knows when people are bad news”. It was a power Charlie seemed to truly believe cats possessed. Castiel looked down at the grey ball of fur that seemed almost obnoxiously determined to like him and sighed.
“If you’re supposed to sniff out trouble, you are horribly defective,” he said to the cat. She only blinked at him and then went back to curling up in his lap. He sighed and began to gently pet the creature while he waited for Charlie to wake up and begin their day of activity. This was his last day until he returned to Naomi and shared what he had learned and found out the pre-approved useful information he was going to be allowed to share with Dean so they could plot their next attempt to destabilize the state. Which meant he had to have a meeting with Dean, Billie, Sam, and Charlie before he left.
He wasn’t looking forward to it.
Sam did not like him. Castiel supposed he could understand why, considering he had broken his brother’s nose, which Jo and Charlie had both snickered at but Sam had taken very seriously. Castiel personally thought Sam’s reaction made more sense. Castiel was a highly trained soldier that with a slightly different angle could have killed Dean by sending the cartilage in his nose into his brain. He hadn’t, but he could have. Dean didn’t dislike him, so much as didn’t trust him, and was always poking at him to try to get him to mess up. Charlie, as mentioned before, liked and trusted him entirely too much and he hadn’t met Billie yet. All in all, he didn’t expect it to be a fun experience.
“Cas?” yawned Charlie from her room. She had the door closed behind her, which meant likely she’d had company the previous night. Castiel didn’t pay much attention to it and Charlie had fortunately not broached the subject. He didn’t see it as any of his business. “You’re up early.”
“I don’t need much sleep,” Castiel said, honestly. “I was going to go for a run, but…”
“Then a lump of fur sat in your lap,” Charlie said, smiling wide. “Your tough guy persona is dying a horrible death as we speak.”
“I’ve been told the Egyptians worshipped cats,” Castiel said evenly. “I can see why. They don’t really take no for an answer.”
“Makes you wonder who’s the owner and who’s the pet, huh?” she said, picking up a squirming Crookshanks from Cas’ lap. He nodded at her gratefully.
“I don’t understand why they let you have pets,” Castiel confessed, as he’d been confused since he first met Charlie the week before why they would allow her an extra mouth to feed when they already had limited resources. They depended on deliveries of food from areas outside the State that were helping them in their rebellion. “They’re an unnecessary drain on resources, and they have no contributions that would be economically viable. That’s why-“
“-the State outlawed them,” Charlie finished for them.
“Cats are useful in rural areas for killing vermin,” Castiel mused. “Is that where you found her?”
“Uh, yeah,” Charlie said, for a moment sounding a little guarded. Castiel picked up on it, but made sure he gave no outward sign that he’d hit on something they weren’t yet prepared to share with him.
“So you travel,” he continued. “No one group is assigned to one city. I’m assuming that makes it harder for people trying to catch-“
“Hey Cas,” said Jo, having appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Charlie breathed a sigh of relief at the interruption and Castiel had a very strong feeling she had been a lot more careful around him than perhaps he’d first guessed. “You ready for the meeting of death?”
“If only it were,” Castiel said darkly. Jo and Charlie exchanged an uncomfortable glance at that, neither seeming to know quite what to say. Castiel pressed forward, not wanting half-hearted comfort from people who didn’t know him. “I’m prepared.”
“Al-Alright,” Charlie stuttered, looking at him as though he’d just announced he intended to skin her cat in front of her. She really did look horrified, to Castiel’s surprise, and Jo was frowning at him as well.
“Let’s go then,” Jo said at last, reaching out a hand to help Castiel stand up despite the fact he was perfectly capable of lifting himself. He took it and was surprised when she squeezed his hand for a moment, before stomping off ahead of both him and Charlie.
“Jo, you can’t come to the meeting,” Charlie called after her.
“Whatever you say, Red,” said Jo, not altering course for a second. Charlie sighed after her.
“She’s supposed to be doing inventory this morning. I bet she paid off Dr. Newman to do it,” Charlie said. “He needs more tenth coins so he can play tooth fairy.”
Castiel stopped in his tracks.
“There are children here?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Charlie said. “Oh shit, sorry. Dean didn’t want you to uh…”
“Shoot them?” Castiel asked, remembering telling Dean and Jo the events that surrounded Anna’s death. “The faith you have in me is inspiring.”
“We’ve known you a week,” Charlie reminded him. “And well… the double agent thing. Naomi thinks you’re working for her. We think you’re working for us. Only you really know where your priorities are at. You can’t blame us for…”
“I can blame you for placing children in danger,” said Castiel. “I have to give them accurate information that isn’t harmful. I assume you’ve been keeping them in areas I’m not allowed in. I’ve made assumptions about each of these areas and might advise on whether or not to raid them. Your safety precautions could get you killed.”
It wasn’t quite deception. He had no plans to put innocents in danger during his time as a double agent, and even though he was working for Naomi, he wasn’t going to give her anything that could harm those that couldn’t decide for themselves the situation they’d been born into.
“Yeah, well, better we risk it than we tell you where they are and they definitely get killed,” Charlie said, for a moment dropping her friendly demeanor and looking at Castiel with a very serious expression. “I want to think the best of you. I even do most of the time. But there’s no such thing as too much caution, and for the time being it’s best that you don’t know too much about us.”
“Let it be clear that I have enough experience with taking orders to know when someone’s words are repeated and when they are their own,” Castiel said, not buying for an instant the Charlie that had been so open with him would have an instinct for hiding information with being directed to do so. He knew he had Charlie’s trust. He slept in a spare room in her cabin, and although he knew she was armed or within reach of a weapon at all times, as well as highly skilled at combat, she wouldn’t put herself at a disadvantage around him if she had any doubt. No, it was clear that what was keeping him from getting information currently was Dean. He was the only one that had any hope of controlling Charlie, who was outside of any hierarchy the resistance seemed to be trying to enforce and was very much her own master. Not even Billie held much sway with her, as far as Castiel could tell. All of which had reinforced the idea that Charlie was incredibly necessary and valuable to them, since they let her bend rules as she pleased.
There was a reason Charlie was the only person in camp besides Sam with a pet. They might be technically allowed among resistance members, but it was definitely more of a luxury than a right. There were, of course, guard dogs, but Castiel hardly counted those. Even if Gordon did seem overly fond of his, and liked to train him to growl at people he didn’t like.
Castiel frequently avoided Gordon. Oddly, Sam did too, another thing he had taken note of.
“Alright, I hear you,” Charlie said, interrupting Castiel’s thoughts. “But that doesn’t change things. Dean usually knows what he’s talking about and if he wants you out of the loop, that’s what’s going to happen.”
“I didn’t expect otherwise,” said Castiel. Charlie raised an eyebrow at him, but Castiel kept a straight face. She ended up sighing and walking away, muttering about ‘it would help if you weren’t doing your best to be all suspicious’. Castiel followed her after a few seconds and didn’t mention that he could quite literally hear every word she was saying. He suspected it was on purpose.
Dean had his headquarters at the center of camp, and it was the only nonpermanent structure that Castiel had seen. That it was meant to be easily taken apart and moved made sense, especially with Castiel now suspecting they moved frequently. He had observed enough and knew enough from his time in the garrison to know that although a majority of people that helped the resistance were still technically members of the state and did so in secret, there was a large minority that lived exclusively outside anything that had to do with the state. Castiel had just always assumed that these people were only adults that had chosen to leave. It had never occurred to him that people raised children in such a hostile environment.
After they had walked up to the tent, Charlie held open the entrance while Castiel passed through. Three sets of eyes were immediately drawn to him and Castiel nodded his head slightly in acknowledgment before standing at attention in front of them. Old habits died hard he supposed. Charlie nudged him to relax as she passed by him to sit next to Dean. Castiel rolled his shoulders back and then slowly took a seat at the opposite of the table as the other four. He didn’t flinch when a second later, Jo had taken the chair beside him.
“Really, Jo?” Dean asked. She crossed her arms and looked at him in challenge. “You don’t have rank for this conversation.”
“I brought him in,” she pointed out, smile sickly sweet. “My find. I should be here.”
“Let her stay,” came the calm voice of Billie, soothing through the tension in the room. Castiel’s attention was instantly won by her. He could recognize the sound of a voice that held power. That everyone around her went silent when she spoke was superfluous to already ample evidence that she was in charge here. Dean grit his teeth, but let it pass.
“Fine,” Dean said at last. “Let’s get this started then. First thing’s first: what are you planning on sharing with your boss over on the other side?”
Castiel considered Dean, weighing him up. He was charismatic, and although Billie held the most clout, he was the one with loyalty behind him. Whether this was earned or not was not something Castiel had not yet determined. Beside that, he was brash and emotional arguments appealed to him over rational ones. Despite this, Castiel was certain he wasn’t lacking in analytical skills and it was likely Dean was weighing up Castiel in return. Castiel kept silent a while longer, trying to see what other information he could glean and was interested to see Dean impatiently tapping his fingers on the table. He wasn’t someone who liked to wait for results. Castiel took all of this into consideration before settling on being blunt. It was what Dean would most appreciate and it would give him little to pick apart later.
“I don’t know what I can say,” Castiel said. “As it’s apparent I’m being fed misinformation. For all I know, I’ll be killed for that before I can be of any use to you.”
“Charlie,” Dean said quietly, eyes never leaving Cas. “What happened to being able to handle it?”
“What? He’s smart,” Charlie said, not even attempting to defend herself. “He was going to find out you were keeping things from him eventually.”
“He is sitting here and can hear all of you,” Castiel broke in quietly. He catalogued the different reactions to this statement. Charlie’s half smile of apology, Dean’s sharp shift of attention, Sam’s steady and calculating gaze, and Jo’s half snort. Billie’s expression was unreadable, and Castiel found her gaze the most unsettling. “I understand you don’t trust me. I also understand that that’s the worst thing you can do in this situation. If you think I’m here to harm you, you should get rid of me. If you don’t, I need access to everything. I can’t make informed decisions otherwise, and someone is going to get hurt because of it.”
“And if we choose wrong?” Billie asked, staring him down. Castiel met her gaze without flinching.
“Don’t choose wrong then.”
That seemed to cause a negative reaction from everyone. Even Jo couldn’t quite look at him after that. Castiel didn’t take it back. He wasn’t going to try to convince them to trust him. They either would or they wouldn’t. Simple as that.
“What do you think, Sam?” Dean asked at last, breaking through the silence. “You’ve been quiet.”
Castiel’s eyes shifted to Dean’s second in command. He was much more difficult to parse than his brother, and the exact role he held in the group dynamics was not as immediately obvious as Dean’s or Billie’s or even Charlie’s. This meant of course he was not to be underestimated. It’s a rare man who can so thoroughly hide their true nature at will.
“I think we keep him around,” Sam said, at last. “For now, at least. His file and his story add up. But one wrong move, Castiel, and you’re a dead man.”
“Understood,” Castiel said. “Though I have to say the more everyone threatens to kill me and doesn’t go through with it, the less effective it is.”
Once again everyone was staring at him. Castiel felt Jo elbow him in the side and took that as a cue to stop talking. Castiel did and waited for the meeting to go on. Dean pulled out a file and handed it to Castiel.
“You can share anything in here,” he said shortly. “All of it is accurate and Charlie figures it’s on level with information you may currently have while still excluding anything that might be harmful to us in the long run. Anything on a report you give to those sons of bitches better be from this list.”
Castiel nodded and took the file. He was certain it would be an interesting read and wondered what information hey considered non-essential.
“Jo’s going to drive you back. You come back to where she drops you off alone in a week’s time. Make sure you aren’t followed when you come back. That’s all we’ve got for now.”
“That’s all?” Castiel asked, astounded at the brevity of the meeting. He regretted letting his surprise show when Dean responded to it with a smug smile. He was meant to be caught off guard and to feel as though they knew things he didn’t. It was likely part of their evaluation of his honesty. “So I can leave now?”
“Sure. One week,” Dean said, and then pulled out a set of files that he passed out to Charlie, Sam, and Billie. It was as though Castiel suddenly didn’t exist. Castiel glanced at Charlie and caught a small wave before she got back to work. Jo, on the other hand, was quick to stand up and start pulling Castiel towards the exit. It was a long drive back and it was likely that Jo wanted to get started since she would have to make it both ways.
“That went about as well as I was expecting,” she said after they’d gotten out. “I think Dean might be coming around on you. Maybe. Sam’s going to take a while. Billie trusts no one, so… good luck there.”
“It’s natural to have misgivings,” Castiel said blandly.
“I do,” Jo admitted, turning to look at him as they reached her car. “But I know one thing. You’re not lying about your friend. And that means I’m almost a hundred percent sure you’re fighting for us. Maybe you don’t want to, and that’s dangerous. But you don’t see something like you saw and come out the same person. I guess what I’m saying is I believe in you even if I don’t trust you quite yet.”
“And if I work out, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the promotion you’re likely to get,” Castiel said, not wanting to face the sincerity of her words. Jo just shrugged.
“That would just be an upside,” she said. Then she started the car and they were off.
“No, Cas!” Anna yelled before the shot rang out. The wrong shot. It seemed to happen in slow motion, Anna falling as Cas dropped his gun and ran to catch her before she hit the ground. His hands moved to press into the wound, trying to staunch the flow of blood. Anna, already fair skinned, was just getting paler and paler.
Castiel’s garrison was ordered to move out. He didn’t move from Anna’s side.
“You’ll be fine,” Castiel lied. Anna laughed in his face, before pain shot through her expression again.
“It hurts,” she said through gritted teeth. “Oh god, it hurts.”
“I know,” Cas said, offering his hand and letting her crush it in hers. “But you’re going to be fine. Just hold on-“
“You’re a terrible liar, Cas.”
Her words were harsh, but her eyes were terrified. Thoughts of death had never really haunted Castiel. Mortality was an inevitability and one he’d never thought to dwell on. He’d lost fellow soldiers before, and long known he himself might die in the line of duty. It was an acceptable sacrifice for the preservation of the state. He wasn’t frightened of death, but he could see suddenly Anna was. The woman that had been so fearless of everything else they had had to fight was terrified to die.
“You’ll be okay, Anael,” he told her softly. Offering the only thing he had left to give. “It’s just like going to sleep.”
Anna laughed softly at him, but something in her seemed to relax.
“No deathbed conversions for me,” she gritted out, trying to keep the smile one her face. “You always said you hoped heaven was a garden. Almost made me wish it were real.”
“You’d be an angel,” Castiel said, trying to make Anna laugh again. Trying not to panic as the light started fading from her eyes. “Anna?”
She hitched forward and looked up at him, for one moment her fierce determination resurfacing as she took in the expression on his face.
“You need to keep fighting,” she said, eyes narrowed on him. “Promise me. You keep fighting. It’s time for me to rest, but it’s sure as hell not time for you. That’s an order, soldier, do you understand me?”
“Yes,” Castiel said, watching as Anna relaxed again, her strength leaving her. Her hand loosening in his. “Go to sleep. I’m right here.”
DECEMBER 6, 110 A.L. - SUPERBIA
Castiel awoke with a start. He looked at the clock to see it was two in the morning and Jo had finished the long drive back to Superbia. She had stopped driving on the outskirts of the city, which Castiel understood. Although there were many that were part of the resistance or sympathetic to their cause that lived in the city (enough that Jo had felt comfortable eating at Ernie’s on the day Castiel had first seen her) didn’t mean it was safe. Especially since Castiel would most certainly be monitored from the moment he stepped foot inside it.
“I’m fine,” Castiel said instantly. Jo didn’t look convinced, but she nodded at him and reached across him to open the door. Feeling that it was a dismissal, Castiel exited and shut the door behind him. He was surprised when Jo rolled the window down and called after him, when he walked away.
“Castiel,” she said. “Make sure you get back to us in one piece, got it? Don’t die.”
She drove off before he could answer her. Castiel looked up to where he imagined Anna was probably watching him from. He wondered what she would think of him, attempting this charade. That he was out of his depth, probably. Then again, if she was looking down, it was likely only to make sure he kept his promise to try to stay alive.
Castiel supposed he could take comfort in the fact that he hadn’t promised her to try very hard.
DECEMBER 7, 110 A.L. - SUPERBIA
Everyone stared at Castiel when he walked the hallways to Naomi’s office.
He did his best to ignore the disdainful looks from some and the curious whispers from others. It wasn’t as though he weren’t expecting to be looked at differently after he had abandoned his position for two months before being forcibly brought back into the fold. Then again, he had always figured that if he got caught he would be dead soon after and he wouldn’t have to see the looks of betrayal on the faces of those he was supposed to serve.
At the very least, Ambriel tended to be nice to him. For the most part. She was Naomi’s assistant and had taken one look at Castiel the day before and sent him to a room that had been set aside for him to use on one of the lower floors. He had been ashamed that his utter exhaustion was so evident, but also grateful that he had a day to collect his thoughts before reporting to Naomi. After resting, he even requested a notebook and a pen so he could begin writing down everything he wanted to address.
He was carrying this notebook now as he sat in a chair a little ways off Ambriel’s desk. She looked up briefly to nod at him before going back to her computer. Castiel settled down to wait and tried not to fidget as the minutes passed by. He tried to ignore the constant presence of eyes examining him. It grew more and more difficult, and after fifteen minutes he approached Ambriel’s desk to see how much longer it would be.
“Sorry,” Ambriel said, eyes glued to her computer. “There’s an issue in Libidine that she needs to be on top of right now. She will be with you within an hour. If you want, I can call you back if you’re… uncomfortable.”
“I’m not the one who’s uncomfortable,” Castiel said quietly, nodding his head back slightly to indicate everyone who was closely watching the exchange. “I don’t think they much appreciate being in the presence of someone who deserted their post.”
“Castiel, honey, that’s the nicest thing they say about you,” Ambriel said, her intense focus on her work preventing any sort of filter or tact. Or perhaps she was always like this. Castiel wasn’t sure. “You know how it is. Rumors only grow. They haven’t read your case file for the facts like I have, and I can’t tell them what it says.”
“Idle chatter is not in keeping with the ideals of the state,” Castiel muttered. Ambriel shrugged.
“Go get some more sleep. I’ll call you up when she’s ready,” she said, telegraphing her desire to be free of his company now as blatantly as possible. Castiel obliged.
It was almost four hours before Ambriel did call him up. Castiel found his mind wandering to just what might be happening in Libidine that had occupied Naomi’s time for so long. It was the city farthest from Superbia, and one Castiel had been stationed in often. The people were more unruly there than they were here, and constant police force was necessary in order to prevent crime and fight against organized attacks by resistance groups.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise, then, to walk in and see a look of complete exhaustion on Naomi’s face. She tapped her pen against the desk as she considered her papers, glasses perched at the bottom of her nose as her eyes skimmed across what were likely reports from Libidine. Castiel sat, and decided not to feel slighted that she was ignoring him. It wasn’t as though he took pride in the work he were doing.
Naomi finally deigned to acknowledge his presence after he had sat. She looked up and stared at him pensively, for a good five minutes not saying a word. Castiel stared back impassively, determined not to be the first to crack. At last, Naomi sighed, took out a glass and a bottle of some sort of hard liquor. She poured a small amount and drank it before putting both items away and visibly preparing herself for the conversation.
“Out of curiosity, Castiel,” she began. “How much history do they teach soldiers?”
“Very little,” Castiel said truthfully. “Only what is publicly mandated knowledge for every citizen of the state. The rise of the Lightbringer and our entrance into the Age of Light, as well as key figures in-“
“Understood,” said Naomi, cutting him off. She sat quietly for another moment, and Castiel suspected she was searching her mind for some way to begin what she was going to tell him. “History is important, Castiel. What we were in the past, we can’t repeat that. That’s not just an opinion to repeat… it’s true. Do you know what this city used to be?”
“No, ma’am,” Castiel said.
“Dying. Superbia, our greatest city, used to be rotting from the inside out with dedicated residents desperately attempting to keep its heart beating. There were more abandoned houses than those lived in. That was, of course, before the Age of Light when this city was still called by a different name. You have to understand-“
“What was its name?” Castiel interrupted, finding himself curious. He could tell from the look on Naomi’s face that she didn’t appreciate his question, but she answered it anyway.
“I believe it was Detroit,” she said, lips pursed. “But my point is that through the power of the state, we saved this city. We saved this country. We can’t let it be reclaimed by rogue elements that will drive it into the ground.”
She sounded positively livid now and Castiel was now very curious about what exactly was in the reports she had been given.
“What happened?” he asked, attempting to cut through the bullshit. He watched as papers were shuffled in front of his superior’s hands and wondered if she would actually bother to answer him. He was surprised when he realized she was planning to, as sharing confidential information with him could be potentially dangerous.
“Libidine has been overrun by resistance forces,” said Naomi. “They took advantage of the changing of hands of the Lightbringer-“
“The last one died?” Castiel asked, surprised that no one had heard of it. Naomi nodded.
“He was assassinated. His replacement is still being debated, and those of us who are deciding thought it best the public didn’t know of his death before a replacement was found. Unfortunately, resistance forces were made aware of the vacuum of power and the resulting focus taken away from Libidine’s defenses in order to shore up Superbia, and they proceeded to take advantage of this to capture the city. Once news spreads…”
“It will be chaos,” Castiel said in a kind of stunned horror. Libidine had never even been close to falling out of the state’s control before now. But with the resistance making gains in that city, how long until they began attempting to outright take over the others? It was clear Naomi was thinking along these same lines, considering she poured herself another drink.
“I know you think of this as an exercise to be endured until you can rejoin your garrison,” Naomi said to him after grimacing from the burn of the alcohol. “But we need intelligence from higher ranks. We need to know what their plans are, who they’ll attack next. The state needs you to perform your part in keeping us unified.”
“Yes ma’am,” said Castiel. “My duty to the state is most important. I know that.”
Then why didn’t you shoot Anna when they commanded you to, an unhelpful voice whispered in the back of his mind. It would have been easy.
It was almost as though Naomi could read those thoughts. At the very least she also thought of Anna, and Castiel’s willingness to do what she had said, even in the face of clear evidence she was disobeying orders. Her death was a moment that Castiel didn’t like to dwell on for existential reasons. Of course, he still found he could do little else.
“Castiel,” Naomi said seriously. “I have… debated whether or not to tell you this. But I think it will help you in the long run. It’s something about Anna and the mission you were on the day she died.”
“I’d prefer not to-“
“The facility you were clearing was part of resistance attempts to create genetically modified children, as you know. These children were judged to be a danger to society and it came to light that not even those that created them could properly control them,” Naomi continued. “Still, it is not unheard of to have someone flinch at shooting what seems to be a civilian. Anna would have been reprimanded only if that was the extent of her crimes. The real reason we ordered she be killed is more complicated.”
“What?” Castiel asked flatly.
“The day you raided the facility was the same day as the assassination of our previous Lightbringer,” Naomi explained. “We discovered that she was complicit in the plot. By holding your garrison back, she was causing a distraction severe enough to interfere with security surrounding the Lightbringer. Since then, we’ve launched a full investigation and come to the conclusion that she was a member of a plot to overthrow the state government that we were luckily able to stop in its infancy by killing the parties responsible.”
Castiel tried to ignore the feeling of tethers within him snapping as he tried to think of Anna as a traitor to the state. Anna wouldn’t…
“That’s not possible.”
“She lied to you, Castiel. She lied to everyone in your garrison. I know this is difficult to hear, but it’s important for you to understand. Anael was a subversive,” Naomi paused to let this sink in. “Did she ever… approach you in any way about this plot? Ask you for help in secret?”
“No,” said Castiel quietly, an entire part of his life silently crumbling as Naomi spoke. The idea that Anna kept secrets from him, and that she used her position to go against the good of the state was… “No, I would have reported her if she had. She wouldn’t have trusted me not to.”
This seemed to satisfy Naomi. For the first time since the conversation had started, she seemed to relax slightly. Castiel had the feeling he had passed some sort of test.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Naomi said to him. “Alright, let’s begin with a verbal report. I’ll look over your written one this afternoon and share with you what information we want the resistance to be given tomorrow. After that, you’ll have one more meeting with me, and then you are free to do as you wish until it is time for you to return to their camp.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Castiel said. He looked down at the file in his hands and passed it to her before trying to determine where to start. He supposed it was best to begin with the key players he had met in camp. “They operate with dual leadership. Billie Barnes is the one who is actually in charge and holds the most power, while a man named Dean Winchester seems to hold more influence over the men and women who are at the camp. His second in command is his brother, Sam, and he also has an expert in technology Charlie Bradbury as his primary adviser. She is, in my opinion, one of the more formidable assets they have. Below these key players are six captains, each of which is directly responsible for a section of the camp. These six are Benny LaFitte, Rufus Turner, Linda Tran, Tamara Winchester, Risa Jones and Gordon Walker. Of these six, Benny and Tamara have most influence. Benny is a close friend of Dean Winchester while Tamara has been married to Sam Winchester for three years. That being said, none of the other four are to be underestimated and all appear well trained in combat and strategy. Every one in camp seems to have some degree of training, though their respective positions were not explained to me. During my time-”
“And how are they taking to you?” Naomi interrupted. Castiel paused.
“They don’t trust me,” he admitted. “I live with Charlie, and don’t interact very much with the other members of camp. I… I spent a morning with Sarah helping with paperwork, but they don’t use the state standard dating system and I kept forgetting the year they were using so she hinted she wanted me to leave and I obliged. Charlie has a cat.”
You’re the worst spy ever.
Castiel wondered when his internal critic had decided to sound like Dean Winchester and if there was some method he could make use of to purge this unwelcome addition to his mental landscape. Then again considering he still had near daily nightmares about Anna’s death, he suspected the answer was no.
“I see,” Naomi said, rubbing her forehead for a moment. “Do you have anything we can use against the two Winchesters then? Attacking Barnes directly would be… complicated.”
“Some people like to play both sides,” said Naomi. “And the man she works for is fond of her. I’d rather not disrupt current agreements we have with him. Our affairs are fragile at the moment, and we can’t afford to lose Guttur in addition to Libidine.”
“Guttur is one of the most stable of the seven cities,” Castiel said, already confused. “Are you saying it’s not directly under state control.”
“I’m saying politics are complicated, Castiel,” said Naomi. “Now, do you have any information we can use against the Winchesters?”
“Not yet,” Castiel said. “As I said, they don’t trust me. I’m kept at arm’s length, and Charlie is careful not to share any details she thinks I could use against them.”
The more Castiel thought of it, the more he realized how utterly he had failed at his basic assignment. He listened to what he was told and made guesses about the purposes of various camp activities, but he hadn’t done any major investigating for himself. Then again, he was trained as a soldier, not a spy. It wasn’t in his programming to ask questions.
Naomi’s look of intense disappointment did nothing for Castiel’s current feelings of self worth.
“Castiel, I need to know that you understand what I’m asking you to do,” said Naomi. “You can’t keep these people at a distance. You need to make friends. You say they don’t trust you. Convince them to.”
Castiel felt himself bristle, almost against his will at her implication that he was somehow underperforming on purpose. As though he didn’t want to assist her in any way he could and be sent back to his garrison.
“It isn’t that simple,” Castiel said, disliking the insolent irritation he couldn’t keep in. “I’m not… what’s the phrase? Ah yes, I’m not a people person. Ask anyone.”
“We have. You are almost universally beloved by your garrison,” said Naomi. She paused to add weight to what she said next. “Even after deserting.”
Castiel felt a lump build up in the back of his throat at this news, and he looked down at his lap in misery.
“That took ten years,” Castiel pointed out. Naomi raised an eyebrow in challenge and Castiel sighed. “I think… perhaps I could make more frequent attempts to make more friends among those of lower rank. It might set them at ease if I seem to have an emotional stake in their wellbeing. And… gossip can be useful source of information.”
“Yes, I would think so,” Naomi agreed instantly. “Just make sure you remember that the state always comes first. You need to be close to these people to do this job. Don’t let it blind you to what must be done. Is that understood, Castiel?”
“Yes. I understand.”
DECEMBER 12, 110 A.L. - SUPERBIA
Castiel stood at the corner Jo had left him at for half an hour before he noticed her car slowly glide its way towards him. He felt a degree of relief that he wouldn’t be forced to wait any longer. Every face he saw in this part of town was unfriendly to him, despite the fact he didn’t wear the insignia of a soldier anymore. Perhaps it was the way he held himself that made it so obvious who he was. Or perhaps survival required being able to recognize soldiers on sight. Either way, Castiel had a feeling he was one wrong move away from a stranger attacking him, and he was glad to not have to be on constant alert when he got into Jo’s car. When he walked up, he was surprised to see Charlie had accompanied her.
Neither spoke to him after he got in, and instead they drove about three miles outside town before pulling over to the side of the road. Castiel cleared his throat, wondering exactly what was happening.
“We’ve moved camps,” Jo said. “Dean doesn’t want you to know where it is. He asks that we ensure you don’t.”
Castiel looked between the two of them. Neither could meet his eyes.
“What does that mean?” he asked carefully. He had an awful feeling he knew what it meant, but didn’t want to acknowledge the obvious. They wouldn't ask him to-
“It’s a sedative,” Charlie said, taking out two pills and holding her palm out to him. Castiel’s eyes locked on them and then he began to laugh in disbelief.
“You can’t expect me to take those,” Castiel said immediately. Death he could handle. Waking up and finding himself imprisoned, or restrained again was not something he would take well. The only thing that had prevented him from panicking the first time it had happened under Naomi’s orders was the fact he thought he would be dead soon. Having to live a life under lock and key filled him with dread. “I won’t do it.”
“We can’t take you with if you don’t,” said Jo. “Sorry Cas.”
“It’s just like going to sleep,” Charlie tried and grimaced when Cas flinched away from her. She couldn’t know she had echoed his words to Anna, but she could tell he had reacted to the way she had phrased it. “Cas, look at me. I won’t let you get hurt. That’s why I came with Jo to pick you up. You trust me, don’t you?”
“I-“ Castiel started, cutting himself off with a deep breath. Charlie continued to look at him insistently and Castiel knew the correct answer even if it wasn’t the honest one. “Yes. I trust you.”
Charlie took his hand and pressed the two pills into them. Now resting on Castiel’s palm were two small invitations to complete loss of agency. Loss of control and surrender to the enemy. He let them rest a minute on his palm, gathering his courage before swallowing the both of them.
The world was green again. Anna was dressed in white.
“You don’t look happy to see me,” said Anna, crossing her arms as she looked down at him. “Why’s that?”
Castiel tried to sit up, and found himself chained to the ground. Anna made a soft tsking sound at his predicament and then lay down beside him. She wasn’t bleeding yet. In his dreams she always bled.
“You betrayed us. You lied to me,” Castiel said, forcing himself not to look at her. “How could you lie to me?”
“Wrong answer,” Anna said to him seriously. “And wrong question.”
The world here was too bright. The colors unnatural where before in his dreams this place had been a welcome relief from the too vivid nightmares in which he saw Anna’s death as it had occurred, no detail spared. In the garden, Anna died among flowers and when she closed her eyes she looked at peace. When Castiel dreamed of what had really happened, he was forced to contemplate the glassy stare he had been left with as his last image of her.
Of course why dwell on this when everything was different now?
“Why did you lie to me?” Castiel said again, angry and worse still, unable to do anything about it. Chained to the ground in his own dream and helpless to truly confront Anna. Instead he had to lay there, passively while she was free to leave him helpless in this too bright garden with no answers.
“You would have turned me in,” Anna pointed out, sitting up so she loomed over him. “But you do remember I wasn’t always so careful. I did ask you Castiel. If you had doubts. Concerns. If you ever thought the rules were unjust.”
“And I confided in you,” Castiel said through gritted teeth. “Everything.”
“I know,” she said gently. Her expression turned playful as she looked back up above them. “Sunlight through leaves. I told you that was my favorite color.”
“Anna…” Castiel forced out. “Don’t.”
“You always listened to me very closely Castiel,” Anna said, voice serious now. “You know what you have to do. You just don’t want to.”
“And what’s that?” Castiel asked, not without resentment. Anna sat up and looked down at him. With a touch, the chains keeping him still disappeared and Castiel was free to stand. Anna was bleeding again. Castiel hated himself as he caught her when she began to fall. Lowered her down gently, despite knowing how she had betrayed him. Not him, the state. Betrayed the state. Personal feelings had no place in this.
“Fuck you,” said Castiel. It felt near blasphemous to say so, but if nothing else it made Castiel feel slightly better.