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In Need of a Hero

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“I’d like to go on record and remind you that this is, without a doubt, your dumbest stunt yet.” Sam's voice came through the earpiece jammed in Dean’s right ear as if his moose of a brother was standing right next to him in all his bitchy glory.

It wasn’t like this was a new conversation. Dean had been subjected to it countless times before after all. The first was when he had brought up the idea of fighting crime. When he had been trying to figure out an outfit and secret identity--that one had come with an endless supply of mocking. When he had settled on the name Nighthunter and made his super suit out of black spandex and leather. All because on his twenty-third birthday he'd woken up with a tail and the inability to get through a door without bumping into thin air. Once he'd stopped freaking out and come to terms with the fact that he, Dean Winchester, was a bona fide superhero, it was smooth sailing. Except for Sam's bitching and nagging every step of the way, but that was nothing new. It wasn't Dean's fault his brother was a seventeen year old prodigy and the natural choice for his own personal Overwatch. He even had long hair.

"Are you sure that you want to do this? Just because there’s been chatter online about hitting up the Midtown Central Bank doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen. It’s probably a bunch of basement-dwelling mouth breathers who want to pretend they’re actually cool and can do something daring. You’re going to look like a moron going in there. And even if they do try to rob the bank, you’re not Superman Dean, you could get hurt,” came the second half of Sam’s same tired nag.

Dean rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to look like a moron,” he said. “I’m wearing leather. I’ll look like the Fonz with a tail.”

Sam’s sigh crackled through the earpiece as he ran a hand over his face, ending with his forefinger and thumb digging into the corners of his eyes. Either he was going to end up taking care of a whiny Dean, or it would all succeed and Dean wouldn’t be able to fit his head, or his ego, into the Impala. “Look Dean, all I’m saying is that this is the kind of thing we should bring to the professionals. The cops, hell even Apis… you know, the guy who takes care of the bad guys in this city beside the cops and actually knows what the hell he’s doing?”

The silence that followed made Sam’s heart sink into his stomach. Damn, now Dean was definitely going to do this.

Dean’s mouth fell open. “I know what I’m doing! I’m the superhero in this duo, remember? Stop nagging, Felicity.”

Sam let out another long suffering sigh. “Fine,” he muttered into the phone. “What do you see happening there? I’m trying to get the traffic cams.”

“Quiet so far,” Dean said from his position on the roof across the street from the bank. “Wait a minute, there’s a van pulling up around the corner.” He squinted through the falling light of dusk. “Someone’s getting out. Make that three people. Guys, in black. Oh my God, they’re actually wearing ski masks. This is definitely going down.”

“Be careful, Dean,” Sam pleaded as he strained to listen, worry eating at his stomach.

“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Nighthunter when we’re working?”

 ~*~*~

Castiel added new flowering plants with a specific sweet nectar to his garden. His eyes traced the flight patterns of two large bumblebees that flew around the daylilies near the fence. He was lost in the easy task of mindless labor that came with tending a large flowering garden. It was satisfying to find and transplant new species of flowers to supply his six unique hives. The bees loved the dopamine-spiking treats they got from the various flowers and plants that he had been adding to his large acreage.

Many found his fascination and appreciation for bees to be odd and eccentric. Castiel never minded the polite but vacant stares when he tried to explain the reason behind his passion. Instead, he took each opportunity to educate others on the importance of bees and how their survival was paramount to the survival of humans. It was often lost on those with lesser appreciation for the flying insects.

The setting sun warmed his back, beaming down over his bared arms. The tension melted out of the muscles in his neck and shoulders as he relaxed into the mundane task. His hands dug into the cool, fragrant dirt as he ensured a stronger root system for the transplanted flowers.

He felt a slight shift in the atmosphere of the garden and forced back a sigh at being disturbed. “Hello, Charlie,” he said, gravelly voice muted so as not to startle his friend as she approached from the house.

She tended not to disturb him when he was working with his bees, but when she did he knew it was usually important. Still, his eyes followed the flight pattern of the closest bee. He waited until Charlie was only a few feet away before tearing his gaze away from the bumblebee to focus piercing blue eyes on her face.

“What brings you out in the garden?” he asked her, his tone even and quiet despite the hint of curiosity in his eyes. The anticipation made his wings shift just beneath his skin. The translucent feathers gave a subtle ruffle that only the bees seemed to notice, flying a little faster in sympathy. “Shouldn’t you be home already? It’s after six.” His eyes caressed the soft lines of the garden in the fading light. Summertime was always his favorite because the sun was out long enough for him to garden when he was done with paperwork for the lab. Still it was well after time for her to be off work, so that limited the choices of why she was out to see him.

Charlie tapped and swiped at the tablet in her hand. “I know, but I picked up something. Someone tripped the alarm at the Midtown Central Bank. Thought you might like to know. Since the bank has been closed for over an hour, it sounds like a break-in.”

Castiel sighed and he felt his wings twitch and flutter a little harder, attempting to escape. He willed them to settle as he brushed the dirt from his hands and then stood, his shoulders settling back into the their usual tense position. Cas always felt uncomfortable in his own skin. The problem made worse by his usual clothing which swamped him despite his rather impressive physique.

He nodded to her and sighed as he made his way into the house, letting her follow after him. “Do you have any more details?” he asked, striding towards his study and slipping into the side room where he kept his Apis outfits. He was an expedient dresser and slipped into the form-fitting suit easily. It emphasized the broadness of his shoulders, the strength in his thighs and the lean, corded muscle that covered his body. He was hardly a bodybuilder but he was quick and agile with strength his body couldn’t account for.

Castiel listened with half an ear as Charlie filled him in on the rest of his information. He knew there were five robbers wearing masks breaking into Midtown Central. He had approximately ten minutes to get there to have the best chance to catch them in the act of theft.

He pulled the suit up and around his body, the soft material catching and molding to his body like a second skin. He had felt ridiculous the first time that he put on the suit, worried it looked like he was wearing nothing at all. It felt obscene and he had battled the feeling of being completely exposed and vulnerable for weeks after picking it out. It hadn’t been his first choice, but Charlie convinced him that any good superhero would wear a suit. It had to be something out of character for his normal public appearances for it to hide his identity. And the black and yellow skin tight spandex was hardly in character for the mild-mannered botanist.

That was a main part of being a superhero after all, keeping his identity a secret. Superhero was synonymous with vigilante after all. It wouldn’t do for Castiel Novak, the youngest and most illustrious of his brothers to be arrested for vigilantism, especially when he was known as the responsible scientist on the national stage.

He donned the mask, glad his hair was short and arranged so that it didn’t fall into his eyes. He glanced at the mirror and then finally relaxed that part of him that he always gripped in tight control. Letting his wings escape from his skin and expand out behind him, they stretched to their fullest after their long confinement.

His wings had been the biggest surprise of the transformation, the part of his changes that had been the hardest to get used to. When he was thirty, he had been working with a specific african bee that was experiencing hardships surviving unassisted. He had been studying them and their food sources to find a way to preserve the wild hives and keep them from becoming endangered or extinct. They were beautiful bees, but rather aggressive and he had been swarmed twice while working with them.

He had been finishing up an article about the feeding habits of the bees after a long night in the lab, well after everyone else had left. Unbeknownst to him, a single bee hadn’t returned to the hive. He barely paid attention to the flights of bees at that time and didn’t notice when it got closer to him. Then he’d been stung. It had come as a huge shock to Castiel as he hadn’t been anywhere near the bee or acting in an aggressive manner towards it. The sting had been excruciating and he used a histamine gel to counteract the swelling and pain. He didn't give it a second thought as he shut down his computer and left for the evening.

That night… something inside of him changed. He was up all night, delusional, feverish, and anxious as his body reacted to the sting and began to mutate itself. He couldn’t remember all the details, but he had woken up the next morning to concerned knocking at his bedroom door. He found wings coming out of his back and the inability to control his own strength.

The memory of the hopelessness and fear sent a shiver down his spine and out through his wings, causing him to glance in the mirror again. His blue eyes crackled with intense pleasure as he spread his wings out again in a glorious stretch. The dimming light from the sunset caught his feathers and let them sparkle like iridescent shards of glass as they ruffled and settled in place. It made no sense to him that his wings were feathered, even if they were iridescent like those of a bee. Still, he loved his wings. He was grateful for the suit and anonymity of being Apis which allowed him to stretch them out and stop hiding from the world.

A soft knock on the door, followed by Charlie's voice. “Castiel, are you going? You're running out of time.”

Castiel roused himself from his pensive inner-reflections and shook his head and wings to get himself refocused on the task at hand. “I’m going,” he agreed and strode out past Charlie. He opened the french doors that led to his study’s balcony and launched himself into the air toward the robbery in progress. He had bad guys to catch. Then he could brood about his bodily changes and perhaps even the acute loneliness he’d been feeling recently.

Flight was still a glorious rush that left him lightheaded and always a touch skinstarved. The ruffling of the wind through his feathers and hair, the speed that clenched his stomach, and the dips from thermal fluctuations were better than masturbation and as heady. So much so, that when he landed it took a few deep breaths to be able to compose himself enough to slip inside the bank.

The sight that greeted him was so surprising, it felt like he was still flying through the lower atmosphere.

Four of the would-be robbers were still present, sprawled unconscious across the marble floor of the old bank, their masks discarded. They were young, as might be expected, innocent-looking while unconscious. Two were particularly baby-faced. Castiel hesitated as he took another step inside, the unmistakable sound of a fist hitting flesh catching his attention to the right. His wings fluttered under the wave of confusion coursing through him.

The vibration of his wings must have distracted one of them. The last remaining robber--clad in grey sweatpants and a black hoodie with a ski mask--landed a devastating right hook to the other man's face. The sickening thud echoed in the vast, empty building as the other man turned towards Castiel in response to his ruffled feathers. He recovered nicely after the punch, and brought around an uppercut that laid the last robber out on the ground, unconscious.

Castiel stared at the other man, his mind blanking at what to say for several long moments. His eyes traveled across the other man’s body, searching for clues. The man before him was tall, an inch or so taller than Castiel was. A combination of spandex and leather left little to the imagination and many questions burning in the back of Castiel’s traitorous mind. The man was bow-legged, his thighs thick and muscled where they were encased in skin-tight spandex that disappeared into tall leather boots. The man’s torso was powerful and wide, accentuating the narrowing of his hips from the his powerful shoulders and the near perfect symmetry of his jaw.

Castiel felt somehow powerless as his eyes drifted up from the hairless jaw to thick, somewhat chapped pink lips. He hadn’t expected that, or that those same lips he was inadvertently staring at were spreading into a smirk. Freckle-flecked dimples popped into existence with the motion. Castiel's cheeks heated and his wings shuddered, sending the setting sun flashing over his nearly invisible feathers. He forced his eyes to look further up, noting deep green eyes surrounded by a black half-mask, like his own.

“Who the hell are you?” He demanded once he found his voice, embarrassed he’d been caught staring at this younger, smirking man who was no less attractive for the blooming bruise over his left cheek.

The young man in black smiled and licked his lips. “Nighthunter,” he said proudly. “I'm your new help.” His tail shivered, the light brown fur standing on end.

~*~*~

Sam hated the feeling of helplessness and the burning need to be there with Dean as soon as he heard the fighting start. Worry continued to eat away at his gut as his “overpriced” vanilla latte went cold beside him and he listened to the fight winding down. He heard the suckerpunch crack over the earpeice and he felt his spine tighten as Dean’s grunt before it went quiet. “Dean? What’s going on?” He asked before he heard Dean’s “flirty” voice come through “ Nighthunter, I’m your new help.” Jesus.

~*~*~

Castiel floundered for a moment and blinked as he tried to figure out what that meant. “I don’t need help,” he said, his deep voice void of emotion as he tried to figure out a better response. Was there a better response? His wings seemed to think the man was much more appealing than his brain did as they fluttered lowly, the vibration tightening the fur on the newcomer’s tail.

The scientist in Castiel felt a stab of fascination at the visible reaction to the vibration of his wings, and he wondered if it would happen again. On their own volition, his interest set his wings vibrating again in a different pattern and he his eyes were drawn down once more, watching as Nighthunter’s tail flexed and twitched in response, fur pattern twisting and settling.

Dean looked around at the bad guys on the floor. “Of course not. But I have to do something on a Saturday night.”

“I hear most people enjoy going to the cinema,” Castiel offered as an alternative to coming in here and fighting with random degenerates and law breakers. Even if this new, obviously younger, man did look attractive in his costume and had effectively taken down the bank robbers, it wasn’t his job to fight crime.

Nighthunter flashed a winning smirk as sirens approached from the distance. “You asking me to go to the movies with you, Apis?”

Castiel felt a stir in his stomach, something about that easy, boyish grin woke his body, much to his discomfort. “I… That was not the intention of my suggestion.” He shifted and reluctantly drew his wings into his back as he heard the police cars pull up outside. “It is best you leave now, the authorities will not be pleased to find someone here they are not acquainted with.”

“Maybe next time then,” Dean said with a wink and slipped out the door and around the corner before the police could stop him, his tail aloft behind him.

~*~*~

Dean didn't stop until he was six blocks away and the sound of sirens had faded into the distance. He leaned back against a brick wall, chest heaving with the exertion of the fight and his run. “Sam,” he breathed. “He's hot.”

“Oh my god Dean.” Sam’s frustrated tone came through, though it was softened with the hint of relief and fondness. “You’re such a fucking idiot,” he muttered. “I’ll see you at home,” he said dryly before severing the connection.

~*~*~

Apis brusquely dealt with the police officers, detailing that the men had been caught in an attempt to rob the bank. He slipped away when one came up swinging, and flew back home to his gardens. He had a million questions running through his mind, whipping through as fast as the wind was through his hair and feathers.

The most important one, of course, was: who is he?