The street was calm when the patrol car pulled up outside of Castiel’s apartment building. Castiel had tried again to call Dean’s phone but had been once more redirected to his voicemail. Worry clenched around Castiel’s chest like a vice until he felt nauseous.
Rachel left one of the men in the car and made it very clear to Castiel that he needed to wait until she came back for him. Then, taking the other officer, the two of them went into the building cautiously. Castiel watched as they disappeared from view. He glanced up to their apartment windows. Rolling down the window, Castiel let the breeze pull at his hair. The sky overhead was grey, and the scent of rain was in the air. There was a storm coming.
Minutes ticked by in silence while Castiel waited with one of Boston’s police officers. He could tell that the man was on alert, the car’s radio transceiver was turned down to a quiet level, the voices a constant, low chatter. The longer he sat in silence, the more apprehensive Castiel became, expecting the worst. He knew as well as Rachel what no answer from Dean or the security detail meant.
When fifteen minutes went by with no sign from Rachel, Castiel snapped. He pushed open the door before the officer could stop him and ran to the building, buzzing himself in. He could hear the officer shouting behind him, following up the stairs and to the door of his apartment. They both stopped at the entrance, the door open wide. The officer pulled out his holstered gun while Castiel steeled himself against the growing nausea.
Not three feet into the room, Inias lay dead on the floor. Castiel turned his eyes away from the sight, unable to wipe away the image from his mind. Being careful to step around the pooling blood, Castiel stepped farther into his apartment. Every time he entered the apartment previously, it had felt like home, but suddenly it felt like a place Castiel couldn’t recognize. The apartment was a dark place with more horrors awaiting him.
Only a few steps into the apartment, Castiel could see another puddle of blood waiting in the living room. He didn’t dare let the thought cross his mind that it was Dean in there. Rachel stepped in front of him from the hallway, lowering her gun when she acknowledged him. She took him by the shoulders and turned him around, back toward the door where the other officer was, horror etched on his face.
“You don’t need to see any of this,” Rachel told him, leading him forcefully toward the door.
“Where’s Dean?” Castiel asked quietly surprised that his voice didn’t crack, not that he wasn’t grateful. Louder he repeated, “Where’s Dean?” He turned around until he was facing Rachel again. “Did you find him? Where is he?” The only thing Castiel felt was that gnawing worry. It overrode everything else he was feeling from the panic to the horror.
“It’s not safe here, Castiel. We need to find you somewhere safe.”
“Where’s Dean?” Castiel demanded.
“I don’t know,” Rachel admitted after a moment of silence. Her voice was quiet and resigned, ashamed. In Castiel’s moment of shock, she turned him back around and pulled him to the door where the Boston officer was snapped out of his own shock as he began to herd Castiel back toward the street. Rachel stayed behind, rapidly speaking into the transceiver on her belt.
Pushing out of the officer’s grip, Castiel went back to her side. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
Rachel sighed. “Go with him, Castiel. We’ll tell you everything once the scene and you are safe.”
“No,” Castiel growled. “I want to know what’s happening now.” Last time he’d tried asking questions he’d been shut down constantly. He wasn’t going to let that happen this time. He didn’t even know if Dean was alive yet.
Standing in the doorway with Rachel, Castiel noticed the whiteboard for the first time. His head tilted to the side in confusion. The whiteboard was hung on a string, nailed to the wall, on the left side of the entranceway into the kitchen. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about it with the exception of the fact that it was there. It hadn’t been there when Castiel had left for class that morning.
Rachel was still talking about how Castiel needed to go with the officer back to the car, but Castiel wasn’t paying attention anymore. Instead his attentions were drawn to that simple whiteboard. He stepped past Rachel and the body of Inias to stand before the board.
He was reminded of coming home from school in Kansas with a short note from Anna on the whiteboard in their kitchen. Sometimes instructions appeared about chores for the day, other times they were recipes for new meals or desserts, and on occasion nothing but a small morning greeting. It was the way that he’d usually communicated with his siblings when they weren’t home.
The ink on the board was green, the color Uriel would always use.
I came by for a visit, but Dean was the only one here. We went home and will be waiting for you there.
Castiel stared at Uriel’s block handwriting for several seconds before Rachel stepped beside him. She studied the writing as well before turning Castiel right around, taking him by the arm so that he couldn’t break free.
“We’re going now.” Castiel wasn’t sure when the other Boston officer had joined them, but he was beside his partner now as they went back to the street.
The quiet street from before was gone, replaced by a street buzzing with activity. Three Boston police cars had come to join the one that Castiel had arrived in. Officers were out on the sidewalk, many with hands on their holsters while other were starting to enter the building and evacuate the residents while the investigation over the murders of the marshals in Castiel’s apartment started.
Rachel led a willing Castiel into the patrol car they had come in. The other two officers were checking in with a superior officer while Rachel relayed the information she had to the same man once they had finished. After a few minutes the three of them climbed into the car and drove to the nearest station.
Castiel allowed Rachel to guide him around silently. She led him into one of the station’s interrogation rooms and left. He sat quietly until Rachel eventually returned, but Castiel didn’t look up at her, hardly even acknowledged her presence. He merely stared straight forward, gaze fixed at a spot just above the door. Rachel sat at the table across from him, hands folded neatly in front of her.
“Castiel, what did Uriel mean when he said he was going to meet you at home?” Rachel asked. Her voice was soft, and she spoke as if Castiel was a scared animal. Although that’s probably what he must have looked like to everyone else, staring across the room at a blank wall.
Finally he turned his gaze to her. “I don’t know,” he answered, voice monotone. That was a lie though. He knew exactly where Uriel was, or, at least, where he was headed. Kansas. He was headed for their old family home there. Castiel didn’t even know if it was still standing. Last he knew the house had been abandoned when no one had wanted to buy it after years sitting for sale. The story floating around was that it was haunted. Castiel had never stepped foot in the house since the day John had led him out.
Something held Castiel from saying any of that to Rachel. He leveled his gaze on hers, but couldn’t force the words out.
Instead, he said, “I want to call my family.”
For a long moment Rachel was quiet. In the end, she nodded an acknowledgement and took Castiel to another room, a red phone hooked up to the wall. “I understand why you need to call them,” Rachel said, “but time is the most important thing right now to save Dean.”
Castiel nodded in understanding and waited for her to leave before pulling the phone from the cradle and dialing Gabriel’s number. The phone’s ring filled the silence of the room, and Castiel thought it was going to send him to the answering machine. “My time’s more important than your time; talk fast.” For the first time since finding the message board in the apartment, Castiel felt an overwhelming rush of emotion, of relief.
“Cas!” Gabriel’s voice was just short of exuberant. “Have you been ignoring my calls? It feels like we haven’t talked in centuries!” Castiel wanted to smile. He could just feel the beginnings of one tugging at the corners of his lips, but then he thought of Dean, of Uriel, and the feeling was immediately squashed. When Castiel didn’t answer, Gabriel’s tone sobered up. “You okay?”
“What? Don’t you want to talk to me?” Gabriel’s voice feigned hurt, as he added, “I’m cooler than he is.” Castiel didn’t reply right away for a second time, and Gabriel sighed in mock irritation. “He’s in the kitchen. Want me to get him?”
Another calming wave of relief washed over Castiel. “No. I was just checking.”
Voice serious for the first time during the conversation, Gabriel asked, “Cas, is everything okay? Seriously?”
“Uriel’s escaped from prison. He took Dean with him back to Kansas after he broke into our apartment.”
After long moments of silence, Gabriel asked, “When are you leaving?”
“What?” Because of everything he expected Gabriel to say, that wasn’t it.
“When are you leaving for Kansas? C’mon, Cas, you can’t tell me you’re just going to let the police swarm up there without you. You’re the one Uriel’s going to want to talk too. He might not even talk to any of the police when they get there.”
“You’re right.” And he was. Castiel knew what he needed to do. “Thank you, Gabriel.”
“No problem, kiddo. Just be careful.”
Castiel hung the tacky red phone back up. He glanced around the bare room, the coldness of the building creeping in on him. Talking with Gabriel always seemed to be an enlightening experience, and this time it had proven no different. Gabriel had been right when he said that Uriel probably wouldn’t deal with any police that swarmed the house. He might even kill Dean in anger. Anything was possible really. But Castiel he would talk to, might even reason with, and if not, well, Castiel had stopped him once.
It was really much too easy to sneak out of the police station. It probably should have worried him how simple it was to slip out a side door, but it actually proved useful in the situation. Besides, everyone was too busy worrying about the murder of the marshals to pay any attention to Castiel. He didn’t even bother to avoid the main streets of Boston, even though when he was found missing the police would immediately be on the search. While he’d been in the station, night had fallen, and it helped cloak him.
An hour passed while Castiel walked back to the apartment. He never once heard sirens or saw flashing lights until he came a few streets away from the crime scene. Thankfully, that’s not where he was headed for directly. A block away he stopped by the parked Impala. He went around to the trunk and pulled out the spare coat he kept there.
He was eternally grateful that he always carried his set of keys in his pocket. He pulled away from the curb and drove out of town, headed for Kansas. Dean’s favorite Metallica tape was in the player, and Castiel didn’t have the heart to turn if off or even turn the volume down. Instead he let the sound comfort him during the drive.
Just on the outskirts of Cleveland, he forced himself to stop, having driven all night. He’d been awake for nearly twenty-four hours, and if he drove straight to Kansas without any sleep, he knew he wouldn’t be of any use to Dean. Castiel found a cheap hotel and paid for the room before settling down to sleep. It was a rather restless sleep, deterred by the some of the first nightmares Castiel had had in years. It was no longer the nightmares filled with thunder, but filled with endless scenarios of what was happening to Dean.
Blessedly, he did manage a few hours of sleep before setting off toward Kansas again. It was afternoon, but he knew he could reach town before the next day started, as long as he didn’t run into too much traffic or other unforeseen problems. The Impala’s engine rumbled under him, picking up speed once he’d stopped to refill the gas tank. Other than the trip to Georgia, no one had driven the Impala any great distances. The car mostly coasted around the streets of Boston, but out here on the highway, Castiel could tell this was the terrain the Impala preferred. The ride was easy and the Metallica tape somewhat calming, and Castiel could almost forget why he was pushing the car so hard. Almost.
When the sun set, Castiel turned on the headlights. The farther he drove, the more surroundings became recognizable. It was only when he’d begun to pull into his hometown that he really thought about his situation. He had no idea how he was going to outmatch Uriel. It wasn’t that he was weak, but Uriel had more brute strength than he did, and Uriel had had years in prison to bulk himself up even more.
Instead of driving straight for the house where he knew Uriel would be waiting, he took a detour away. A sick feeling grew in his stomach when he turned in the opposite direction. He knew Uriel was holding Dean captive, and the longer he delayed arriving, the greater chance of Dean being hurt, but he needed a plan first. He couldn’t just charge in blindly and hope to send Uriel off balance. Though, right now, that seemed like his best option.
It was eleven when he turned off the Impala’s engine on the dark pathway in the cemetery. He was thankful for the few lights that lit the main path. Castiel walked through the rows of stones until he came to the ones he wanted. The large Novak family stone stood in the center with his parents’ names engraved underneath the family name. Hester’s stone stood to the left of the family stone, while Anna’s stood to the right. Castiel knelt before her stone. It was the first time he’d come since the funeral. He had never actually seen their stones placed. Lightly he reached out and ran his fingers over one of the wings of an angel statue that someone had left beside her stone.
“I am unsure of what to do, Anna,” he told the stone quietly. He felt suddenly like he should have brought flowers with him. That’s what people normally did when they visited graves, right? “You always were the decision maker. You’d know what to do.”
Turning around, he leaned with his back against the headstone, facing the main thoroughfare where the Impala was parked. The area was silent. The birds were quiet for the night, and a few moths fluttered up high near the lights. The street outside of the cemetery was quiet.
He sat in the silence for long minutes. “Dad used to keep a toolbox in the shed in the backyard,” Castiel finally, said sitting up a little straighter. “There might be something in there I can use.” Standing up, he turned back around to face Anna’s grave. “Thank you,” he said softly before hurrying back over to the Impala. He tore out of the cemetery as quickly as the sharp turns would allow and headed back toward the main street.
Three minutes later he was parked a block away from his old home. The streets were quiet, street lights illuminating the pavement. All the houses were dark, a few with lights of their own to brighten their lawns in the hopes of staving away intruders. Castiel turned off the Impala and took a few deep breaths to make sure he was calm before pushing open the door and stealing down the street toward his destination.
A cat hissed somewhere in the distance while crickets chirped away into the darkness. They stilled when he grew near before starting up their callings again. Castiel slipped into the back lot without any trouble. He was surprised to find the house lit up like a beacon in the night. It looked like Uriel had turned on every light, but Castiel couldn’t see any shadows moving behind the curtains.
The lawn in the back was mowed to a manageable level, and Castiel silently thanked whichever neighbor had been kind enough to care for it. He’d have to remember to find out and pay them for the care later. If there was a later, that was. It made it easier to walk over to the shed in the back.
The white paint had begun to flake from lack of care. It had needed to be painted before Castiel had left, but no one had ever come around to actually doing it. Now it looked as abandoned as the house was. Castiel had to pull at the rusty latch until it finally turned. The shed door opened without a sound, but the interior was like a black hole. Castiel could only see in the first few inches from the light shining out from the house. Everything else was darkness. Cautiously Castiel entered. The interior smelled like mowed grass, and he wondered if the neighbors had been using the lawn mower in here. He hoped that no one had stolen anything. Without anyone living in the house, everything had probably been open for the picking from any sort of thievery.
Groping around in the darkness, Castiel held back a curse when he ran into something large. The mower, he realised upon closer inspection with his hands. He knew the small tool stand his father had bought was just on the other side of the mower. He reached across the riding mower to feel for the tool stand. The wood was smooth under his touch when he finally found the top. His hands skimmed over the surface until they collided with the metal tool box sitting on top. Grasping the handle, he pulled it toward himself and took it with him into the lighted backyard.
Staying as far into the darkness of the shed as he could while still being able to see, Castiel began to sort through the contents. There was a box of nails and an identical box full of bolts and nuts. There were a few different sized wrenches as well as some screwdrivers. He took one of the small screwdrivers and stuffed it down into his pocket. He was surprised - although relieved - to find a knife hidden down at the bottom.
The knife wasn’t large and was only really designed for small jobs. It was only a bit larger than a box cutter. Castiel pushed the knife into his other pocket before leaving the rest of the useless items in the toolbox. He looked up toward the house with an overwhelming feeling of grim determination. He knew that not all of them were going to make it out of the house alive once he entered. It was either going to be himself and Dean or Uriel.
Castiel opted to enter through the front door. There were only two real options to begin with, the front or the back, and Castiel felt it would be too obvious to go through the back. The front wasn’t a much better plan, but it seemed less predictable. The door was unlocked just as Castiel had assumed. The hallway was just as Castiel remembered it. The hardwood floor was covered in a layer of dust.
All the curtains in the house were closed, and Castiel was surprised that everything was still where it had been left the last time he’d been in the house. The television sat on the polished wooden stand and an empty vase of flowers stood on the coffee table. The only thing missing from the living room was the couch where Hester had died.
Making sure to keep quiet, Castiel continued down the hall toward the kitchen. He paused after entering, feeling his chest clench horribly at the sight. The white linoleum floor used to be washed once a week just like the rest of the house. Every Sunday after church Anna always made sure everyone helped until the house was spotless. Now, like the rest of the house, it hadn’t been cleaned in years. Dust coated everything in a thick layer and without anyone living there, dark bloodstains had remained on the floor for years. The red marks looked like a grotesque painting on the floor, smeared across the white linoleum.
Forcing his gaze away from the stains, he caught sight of Dean tied up at the far end of the table. He’d been gagged and ropes secured his arms and legs so moving was near impossible. His head was slumped to the side, but Castiel could tell from the rise and fall of his chest that he was still breathing. There was a nasty bruise forming on Dean’s right cheek, and a cut over his left eye was caked with dried blood.
“Dean, hey, Dean.” Castiel spoke quietly, urgently, patting Dean’s unbruised cheek with his free hand while he did so. He pulled out the knife to cut through the ropes holding Dean down. With his hands unbound, Dean fell forward against Castiel, head falling against Castiel’s shoulder. “Wake up, Dean.”
Setting to work on Dean’s legs, Castiel glanced carefully at the door. There had been no sign of Uriel yet, and that was beginning to worry him. There had been no sound, no movement.
“Cas?” Dean mumbled against his shoulder, and a wave of relief washed over Castiel. The worry that had been clenching in his gut relaxed. Dean’s head rolled against his shoulder until he managed to straighten himself up.
“Damn,” Dean grumbled clutching at his head. “What did that son of a bitch give me?” Castiel finished sawing through the ropes around Dean’s ankles. “Cas, why’re you here? Where’re all the police?”
“I, uh, might have come alone.”
“You came alone?” Dean hissed quietly. “What were you thinking?” Dean reached down and rolled up his right pant leg. “Damnit. He took my gun. Cas, you need to leave; let me handle this.”
“Dean, he has a gun. I’m not just going to leave you here.”
“I’m a trained officer, Cas. You need to leave, so I know you’re safe.”
“I’m not leaving, Dean. This is between Uriel and myself.”
“You’re right about that, Castiel. You’ll notice that I removed the knives this time. I didn’t want to take any chances.” Castiel turned to the sound of Uriel’s voice in the doorway. The two of them hadn’t been this close together since the day they met in one of the interrogation rooms in Lawrence. “I’m feeling rather generous today, Castiel. My original plan was just kill you. You are the one who put me in prison, after all, but I’m going to give you one more chance.”
“One more chance for what?” Castiel asked.
Uriel came farther into the room, and he made a point of showing them the gun held tight in his right hand. There was a light touch to Castiel’s shoulder while Dean’s other hand reached down to pull the small knife from Castiel’s hand. “To join me, of course.” Uriel stopped moving when he reached the opposite side of the table from them. He laid his hands down against the wood, the gun clinking against the surface. “We could do very well together. See, the rest of our family was weak, but the two of us, we’re the strong ones, Castiel. My friends, they’d be very happy to meet you.”
“See, I think he’ll pass.” Dean stood abruptly, grabbing the edge of the table with both hands and pushing it forward, sending Uriel jolting back into the island behind him. Uriel was caught off balance, gun sent out of his grip and across the floor. Castiel bolted forward, catching it just as Dean pushed him through the doorway and back into the hall.
Uriel let out an outraged howl at being overtaken. Castiel could hear the table sliding across the floor as Uriel pushed it away. Scrambling to his feet, he reached for Dean’s hand. Their fingers connected just before they were wrenched apart again. Dean cried out in surprise, falling back down to the floor with a crack. Uriel’s fingers were closed around Dean’s ankle as he yanked him back into the kitchen.
Castiel climbed to his knees and leveled his gun at Uriel, glad that he’d let Dean teach him to shoot during one of his visits. Only, Castiel found a gun leveled against Dean as well. Uriel had a grip locked around Dean’s neck. Dean was sputtering and gasping as he tried to catch a lungful of air, while Uriel held a gun up against the side of his head.
“I brought insurance this time,” Uriel said with a smirk. “Lower your gun, Castiel.”
“Don’t do it, Cas!” Dean gasped between breaths of air. “Don’t!”
Uriel’s arm tightened around Dean’s windpipe until he began to choke. “Let him go, Uriel!” He could feel his strength of will wavering. He couldn’t let Dean die! He saw the way Dean’s eyes widened in anxiety when he saw Castiel lower the gun to the ground.
“Now push it over here.” Castiel slid the gun across the floor until he reached Uriel’s leg, well out of Castiel’s reach. Uriel let out an annoyed growl when Dean used his last bit of strength and energy to kick the gun out of Uriel’s reach as well. “I should kill you for that,” he snarled, and Castiel saw the way the gun pressed harder against the side of Dean’s head.
“Uriel!” Castiel called. “I let go of the gun; now you let Dean go!”
“The deal’s changed.” Uriel turned his gaze back toward Castiel. “See how much he’s holding you back, Castiel? You could have easily gotten away from me if he wasn’t here. I used him as leverage against you. He makes you weak. Now I’m going to kill him for you.”
Uriel’s finger tightened around the gun’s trigger.
Dean’s eyes darkened in grim acceptance.
Castiel felt like he was dying.
A gunshot echoed in the quiet of the abandoned house.
Castiel let out a cry of despair and lurched toward Dean.
Uriel’s body slumped forward.
The gun smacked the floor as it fell from Uriel’s slack grip.
Dean’s arms came up around Castiel when he buried his head against Dean’s chest. “What just happened?” Castiel’s fingers tangled in Dean’s shirt when he saw the blood begin to pool around the both of them. In horror, Castiel glanced at Uriel’s fallen body. His eyes stared sightlessly to the side, neck twisted at an odd angle, blood seeping through a gunshot straight through his neck. The wound was great and blood was pooling quickly, soaking into both of their pants.
Castiel felt Dean’s chest rising and falling rapidly as he rested against him. He was regaining his breath from the short supply that Uriel had been giving him. “I’m not sure,” Dean rasped. His voice sounded scratchy as if he had been coughing. Arms tightening around Castiel, he twisted to look around the kitchen. Castiel followed his gaze behind them to the glass sliding door in the back of the house. The glass was spiderwebbed with cracks making it impossible to see into the black night of the backyard. The cracks all originated from a single hole toward the right side of the glass.
A bullet hole.
Less than a minute later uniformed officers were flooding into the house from both the front and the back doors. Castiel could have cried from relief at the sight. He tangled his fingers into Dean’s hair and buried his head into his shoulder, breathing in the comforting scent, knowing that the nightmare finally was over.