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Footpaths to Hell

Chapter Text

Castiel stares down the man sitting cuffed to the table. The interrogation room is far too well monitored for him to interrogate the accused as the growing itch under his skin not so politely requests, there are rules to be followed and in order to ensure this man spends the rest of his life in prison. 

The justice offered by the legal system no longer satisfies his desire to help people. For those who have already been hurt and traumatized, locking someone away in prison isn’t enough to pay for lives stolen and innocence lost

Putting the bad guys behind bars so that the good people of the city can lead their lives in peace was enough in the beginning, but Castiel has seen the shortfalls of his profession. Failed too many times. The clawing desperation to do better demands recognition, but he’s done all he can with the limits placed upon him.

He paces, hard soled shoes clacking on the concrete floor as he flips through the thick case file he has spent weeks building. All the evidence he and his colleagues have collected, all the victims’ families that Castiel has spoken to. The countless hours spent studying crime scene after crime scene, of swallowing down the feelings doubt and hopelessness that stand chanting in the back of his mind, telling him that he’ll never find the killer, that every new victim is his fault because he’s failed at his job yet again. 

The contents of the file weigh heavily in his hand as he waits for the suspect to squirm. The grey painted cinderblock walls and gleam of the one-way glass under the harsh fluorescents of the room only serve to add to his feeling of urgency. He needs to wrap this up, soon, or else he may go mad. 

He uses the time to quell his churning thoughts, to reign in his temper and takes a deep breath to calm himself. The man, Azazel is his name, remains unperturbed and still despite Castiel pacing like a caged tiger. 

He wants to grit his teeth and growl like a tiger too. 

He doesn’t think he has it in him to be as feral as he fantasizes.

Castiel is certain this is the murderer they’ve taken to calling the Library Stalker. The names of over a dozen victims are tucked into the thick file held tightly in Castiel’s grasp. As the moniker suggests, the Library Stalker has been using the public libraries scattered across the city as his hunting ground. Stalking young men, barely out of high school, amongst children barely old enough to read and little old ladies reading flimsy paperback romance novels. 

Azazel finally looks up, brown eyes so pale they’re nearly yellow, staring at Castiel as if passing his own judgment.  

Impatience consumes Castiel and he can’t bring himself to prolong this wait any longer. The antiseptic room grates on his nerves as much as the design is intended to unnerve those lucky enough to be cuffed to the table.

He carefully lifts a dozen crime scene photographs from the folder and spreads them over the table in front of Azazel. “Look familiar?” Castiel grumbles, arching a brow at the yellow-eyed man when he fails to look down at the photographs. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Detective.” Azazel looks up at Castiel, meeting his eyes with feigned innocence. 

“You mean to say that the man who was found bound and gagged in your truck was just an odd coincidence?” Castiel arches a brow. “We already have you on one count of kidnapping. The evidence is irrefutable.” Castiel pauses and gives Azazel a knowing smirk. “Now, tell me what you know about these.” He gestures to the photographs spread across the table and Azazel finally glances at them with a frown. 

“Detective, we both know what's going to happen here.” Azazel cocks his head, his voice is soft and calm enough to send a shiver up Castiel’s spine.  

“Daniel James.” Castiel pokes a finger at one photograph and slides it front and center. Azazel glances down and fingers the edge of the glossy paper. The young man in the photograph still has his hands bound behind his back and his knees and ankles duct taped together. His porcelain complexion speaks of the blood loss that was ruled to be the cause of the death. Exsanguination, the autopsy report declares. As if there was any doubt. 

The same as the near dozen other bodies found in the last six months.  

“He was one of the first,” Azazel murmurs fondly with a frown, cocking his head at the next photograph. "Not much of a fighter.” He pushes the photo of Daniel aside and draws another one closer. “This one though” He taps the second photo with a single finger. “This one was fun” 

“So, you admit to committing the murders of Daniel James and Alexander Simpson?” Castiel arches a brow, needing his suspect to confirm the admission of guilt. The names of every victim are etched indelibly into his memory. 

Azazel smirks. “Were you not listening, Detective? Or would you like me to give you a play by play? Do you want to know about how they cried and begged? Or how it felt to slowly drag my knife across the delicate flesh of their throats?” Azazel grins. “Or maybe, how I had to bind them upside down so the blood would flow freely? Do you want to hear about that?” 

Castiel swallows hard, wanting to slam his hand on the table and shout ENOUGH. But he can’t. Not if wants to lock this monster away. The more he talks, the more he confesses, the better chance a jury will never allow him to see the light of day again. 

Azazel flashes a grin at Castiel. “Let's cut to the chase, Detective Novak,” He spits Castiel’s name as if tasting the words on his tongue and finding them acrid. “I want a deal” 

Castiel arches a disbelieving brow at that. Azazel practically confessed! He did confess to two of the murders. “What do you think you have that we would want?” He scoffs. This murderer doesn’t have a leg to stand on, not when he’s already admitted to at least two of the murders and he was caught red-handed kidnapping another young man. 

A not so small part of Castiel twitches with anxiety. Why is Azazel making this so easy? What game is he playing? Even serial killers who want nothing more than to become famous resist a little longer before making their confessions. Azazel hasn’t even requested an attorney. Something is wrong here. But what? The question yawns like a pit in the depth of Castiel’s gut, demanding to be answered. 

“Do you know I have a brother?” Azazel questions, his voice slithering up Castiel’s spine like a bad chill. 

“I’m sure your family is very proud.” Castiel rolls his eyes, shoving down the growing sense of dread as he reaches just close enough to gather up his photographs. 

“Well,” Azazel reaches for a photo with a knowing smirk. A murder that is only slightly different than the rest. “In order to find out, you’ll have to make me a deal.” He drops the photo on the table with an air of pointed drama. 

“We’ll see about that.” Castiel frowns but pushes the buzzer signaling for his Captain anyway. Better to cut right to the chase and find out if there might be any information here worth dealing for. 

Several hours and a lengthy argument with the district attorney pass and, against Castiel’s recommendation, Azazel is given a deal. 

“Now talk,” Castiel barks before the ink is even dry on the paperwork guaranteeing the avoidance of the death penalty when it comes time for sentencing. The DA refused to budge on demanding a lifetime prison sentence for being charged with no less than ten murders. This was the best Azazel could get, and more than Castiel feels he deserves. 

Azazel refused to admit to one of the murders. The photo he had tugged aside when he made mention of having a brother. “Patience, detective.” He drums his fingers on the table. “These things must not be rushed” He turns his head up to the light with a sickening smile that Castiel would love to punch right off his smug face. Despite his inner irritation and desire to wipe this stain from the earth, outwardly he remains cool and aloof. Always the professional. Yet, somehow the feeling that Azazel can see right through him niggles in the back of his mind. As if this monster recognizes something inside of Castiel. 

“I don’t have all day.” Castiel rolls his eyes and huffs a breath. Since they had gotten the call from the arresting officer over six hours ago, Cas has not taken a moment’s rest from this case. Since this vile, disgusting excuse for a human being was waltzed through the front doors of the police station, Castiel has not let Azazel out of his sight. Five- and one-half hours is far too long to spend in the company of someone like Azazel. 

“Oh, but I think you do.” Azazel settles forward, eyeing Cas with interest. “You see Detective,” He flashes a smile. “My brother and I have quite a lot in common. Except, Alistair prefers to play with his toys. He likes to draw it out, really make them scream,” He continues, tapping the edge of the only photo left on the table. “Now, I can see how you could fail to notice...a drug dealer goes missing.” He taps the photo once more “Turns up dean and bloodied, you just assume his work caught up with him.” He flicks the photo across the table where it nearly slides off the edge. “An understandable mistake.” He smiles and Castiel’s hackles raise.  

“Why should I believe that you want to turn on your own brother?” Cas arches a brow, trying to ignore the goading from his prisoner as he mentally races through the cold cases piled up in department archives regarding several grisly murders of people no one was saddened to see shuffled off this mortal coil. There are quite a few. At least twenty that Castiel knows of. If they’re all the work of the same man, another serial killer...they do have a lot of catching up to do. How could they have missed such a prolific killer? 

“You have some homework to do, Detective,” Azazel smirks. He’s right. 

Plain and simple. 

They missed the clues because they didn’t care about the victims. Pimps, drug dealers, even the occasional pedophile. Why would they waste department resources looking into the deaths of the worst scum in the city? 

“I see your wheels turning, Detective. You’re wondering why you should bother stopping my brother if he’s taking out the people you fail to catch?” Azazel croons with that terrible grin still plastered on his face. 

“I’m wondering why I should believe you” Castiel crosses his arms over his chest and tilts his chin down, fixing his prisoner with the most displeased look he can muster. 

Azazel takes a deep breath and returns Castiel’s glare, somehow adding an air of disappointment to the mix of condescending smugness. “Because, Detective Novak, my brother has ulterior motives for his work and so far, he has failed to gain the attention he desires.” He leans back in his chair as much as his chains will allow. “I don’t care personally, Al and I have been at odds since we were boys, but I’m not above giving you a head start if doing so will work to my advantage.” 

Cas nods and discreetly lets out a deep breath. He refuses to admit to anyone beyond himself that Azazel has given them useful information. He can almost sense his Captain champing at the bit behind the one-way glass as she observes Castiel’s interrogation. This could turn out to be huge, and they’re putting a killer behind bars.  

These two things should fill Castiel with excitement and satisfaction, but all he can think about is the simple fact that they had shoved so many murders aside without a second thought. So many that, according to Azazel, they entirely missed the signs of a prolific serial killer operating right under their noses.  

Castiel feels like a failure. 

“Don’t look so glum, Detective.” Azazel grins. “The fun is only just beginning.” 

Cas has to leave at that. Azazel has confessed. As far as Castiel is concerned, his job is done until Azazel’s arraignment and sentencing. He turns over the responsibility to escorting Azazel to the jail and flops down at his desk, a mountain of paperwork staring back at him like a taunting schoolyard bully. He sighs his frustration and buries his head in his hands. “I just want to get out of here,” He whines to himself, careful to keep his voice too low for anyone else to hear. 

The paperwork surrounding Azazel’s arrest and subsequent charges needs to be completed first, so he reaches for the newest stack to appear on his desk.  

“I hear you did good today, Clarence.” a sultry feminine voice comes from his right and Castiel looks up just in time to see Meg Masters lean her hip on his desk. She stares down at him with her soft brown eyes that have never fooled him for a minute. Meg is tough as nails with the claws to prove it, no matter what her loose dark curls and a gentle smile might trick someone into believing. 

She wields her beauty like a weapon. 

“Not now, Masters,” Castiel frowns at the roughness in his voice and shakes his head to clear his thoughts.  

“Aww, come on.” She reaches to playfully shove his shoulder with her hand and Cas arches his brows at her, challenging her to continue. “We should celebrate.” She grins. 

“Celebrate what?” Cas shakes his head, genuinely lost. He drums his pen absently on his desk as his eyes linger over the pile of papers in front of him. He’s hoping that Meg gets the hint and goes away. 

“Your big arrest!” Meg exclaims cheerfully. “I know how hard you’ve worked to bring that perp in. Let me take you out for drinks,” She urges and Castiel can tell that she’s summoning the entirety of her patience in the face of Castiel’s intentional obtuseness. 

Castiel glances up, meeting her gentle brown eyes with a frown. “No, thank you, Meg.” He turns her down yet again. “I have far too much paperwork to complete.” He shuffles the papers, making more noise than probably necessary, but he wants to drive his point home. 

Meg sighs dejectedly, shaking her head. “You need to get out more, Clarence. I’m just trying to be a friend.” 

Cas huffs, not entirely believing her. If she only wanted friendship, she wouldn’t be inserting herself into his work every chance she gets. “Forgive me for not believing you,” His tone is harder than he intended, and Meg pulls back slightly before pinching an irritated frown. 

“You know what, Castiel? You’re never going to make any friends here if you keep pushing everybody away.” She crosses her arms over her chest and pushes herself off the edge of his desk. “If you won’t come out with me, at least go with the group headed to O’Malley’s tonight. Socialize a bit.” Her tone is cold yet pleading and Cas can’t quite bring himself to say no despite that being his answer. 

“I’ll think about it,” He mutters. “I really do have a lot of paperwork to catch up on.” 

Meg seems to take that as a success because she saunters away. Castiel watches her go before turning back to his paperwork. Her tenacity is exhausting and Castiel really could do without her constant badgering. 

He had moved to Austin to start over. Detroit...well, things hadn’t gone well in Detroit and he needed something different. Luckily for him, his brother, Rafael, has connections in Texas and was able to finagle a transfer for him. Captain Mills was all too happy to welcome someone with his decorations in her department. She’s the type of woman who can make a guy feel like her son one moment and then kick his ass the next. She’s smart, strong and everything Castiel had imagined a Police captain to be when he had first dreamed of joining the force.  

He has no doubt she’ll make Commissioner soon. 

He’s proud to serve under her. 

Really, he is. 

“Novak.” Speak of the devil, Castiel thinks when he hears Captain Mills’ voice call to him from across the bullpen. “What are you still doing here?” She approaches steadily with raised brows and her arms folded over her chest.  

“Paperwork?” Castiel questions, glancing around and suddenly noticing his colleagues have disappeared and the sky outside the broad window to the side has gone dark. When did that happen? “I, uh, it seems time has gotten away from me.” He clears his throat, somewhat embarrassed that someone with his occupation failed to even notice the department clearing out. 

“Today was a big day,” Captain Mills arches a brow as if daring him to disagree. “Why don’t you save the rest for tomorrow, huh? Don’t think I haven’t noticed all the hours you’ve been logging since you transferred here.” She leans against his desk much like Meg had earlier, except, unlike earlier, Castiel has no desire to chase Captain Mills away. “Your solve rate is fantastic, but I don’t want you burning out on me.” 

She brings with her a sense of calm that Castiel wants to wrap himself in and hide from the world with. He envies how she can manage to exude such quiet confidence when surely, she is as affected by the crimes they see as much as he is. He lets out a deep breath and shakes his head before her frown forces his motion to turn into a nod.  

“Right,” He mutters, tilting his chin upward to meet her soft brown eyes. “I probably should head out.” He flinches a smile. Maybe it would do him some good to get out of here early tonight. Find something on Netflix to watch. Something happy. 

“You did good today, Novak.” Her voice is full of approval and her easy smile is soothing. “I figured you’d fit right in here. Thanks for proving me right” She reaches out to playfully push his shoulder. The action is much like Meg had done earlier but Jody Mills’ touch feels completely different. 

Her touch feels friendly in all the right ways and doesn’t leave his skin trying to crawl away from him. 

“Thank you, Captain.” Castiel’s smile is genuine, pleased with the praise from his superior. He shuffles his paperwork into a neater pile and decides that he’s going to take her advice and clear out. “I think I’m going to head out.” He nods, and her smile grows. 

“Good.” She claps him on the shoulder and gives a gentle squeeze. “I’m about to head out myself. I’ll walk with you.” She pushes off the edge of his desk and strides towards her office, presumably to grab her things. 

Cas takes another moment to tidy his desk and set his completed files in the organizer at the corner of his desk, so he is certain to remember to turn them in tomorrow. 

“You ready, Novak?” Captain Mills stares him down, challenging him to try and accomplish more work before she drags him out of the building. He has no doubt she would drag him by his ear too. 

“Yes Ma’am.” He swallows hard. “Let me walk you to your car,” He offers, signaling with an outstretched arm for her to lead the way. He swings his messenger bag over his shoulder and double checks his gun and badge are in order.  

“I noticed Masters has her eye on you,” Jody offers conversationally as they wait for the elevator and Castiel groans. 

“She’s persistent,” Castiel grumbles. “Please don’t try and convince me to take her up on her multiple offers for drinks.” Cas turns pleading eyes on Jody. He hates to use his wide blue eyes to his advantage, but he unleashes them to full effect now. He’s been told he has the most convincing kicked puppy expression anyone has ever seen, and he likes to think he’s perfected the art even further. 

Jody laughs, the sound clear and bright as her nose crinkles. “Don’t worry Novak. I was going to recommend just the opposite actually.”

 Castiel had to give full disclosure when he transferred, and for once, he’s glad Jody knows the reasons he wanted out of Detroit. “She’s an excellent detective, and one worth getting to know,” She says, fixing him a stern look. “But don’t let her pressure you.” 

The elevator dings and opens, ready to whisk them downstairs. The ride down is spent in silence, Castiel struggling to keep his thoughts on simply getting home and avoiding any of the many bars lining the streets on the way there. He hasn’t had a drink since he made the move to Texas six months ago, the longest he’s been sober in two years, and he wants to keep it that way. Meg has no idea what she’s asking him with her persistent demands to take him out for a drink, and he doesn’t have the nerve to tell her. Or anyone else for that matter. 

“Take care, Detective.” Jody smiles as she climbs behind the wheel of her car. Cas gives her a courteous nod and polite wave, wishing her well with his expression before turning towards his old Continental.  

The car is a boat and looks like something he might have gotten from the impound lot in his early years when he was too broke to afford something newer. If that’s the true story, well...no one needs to know about that now. But he’s never found a roomier car or one more comfortable. The hills around Austin give her some trouble. Only in Texas would these inclines be called hills, but when in Rome. Right? He shrugs at the thought and turns the key. 

He swore to himself he would avoid the bar. He really did. But Azazel’s confession and bartered information weighs on him like a plague. How could they have missed something so obvious? Their job is to protect the people of the city. Even the less savory ones and he failed.  

So what if he’s only been in the city for six months? These murders go back years, and no one noticed. No one cared. He’s never felt more like a failure in his life. 

He parks his boat of a car in his assigned space and stares up at his apartment building with a yawning pit forming in his stomach. Maybe just one drink wouldn’t hurt? He turns his gaze down the street where the neon light of a neighborhood bar called The Roadhouse beckons.  

One drink. 

One. 

Only one. 

He repeats the mantra in his head as his feet carry him. His apartment is only two short blocks, so there was no need to drive. He doesn’t need to worry about that. 

One drink. 

He steps through the door into the blast of cool air. The scent of beer sends his senses tingling and deep down he knows this isn’t a good idea, but he approaches the bar regardless. 

He deserves a little bit of celebration.

Chapter Text

“What can I get for ya?” A perky young woman babbles as soon as he slides onto the stool. “Name’s Jo” She grins, sticking out a hand for him to shake and completely ignoring the arched brow he gives her. 

“Cas” He mutters, flinching a smile back at her. “I’d like a double of whatever local whiskey you’d recommend” He refuses to delve into his drink of choice. No Jack for him tonight. NO.  

“Have you had Daydreamer from Still Austin? It’s one of our most popular” Jo asks him, leaning over the bar with her shoulders pulled back enough to show off her chest. She looks half Castiel’s age and not nearly old enough to be going for sex appeal to increase her tips. 

“I’ll give it a try” He nods, pointedly not looking at her chest. She isn’t his type anyway. The soft curves of women just don't do much for him, but that isn’t her fault. 

“Excellent” She chirps, and Cas slides a ten across the bar. 

“Oh, Jo?” Castiel clears his throat, shame flushing his cheeks for what he’s about to say. “Don’t sell me more than just this one, ok? No matter if I ask for another. Don’t give it to me” He stares down at the bar top, so she can’t see how reddened he knows his cheeks are. 

She nods. “You got it Cas. Early day tomorrow then?” She asks, not missing a beat and Castiel silently thanks her for her discretion. Surely, she can guess why he would request for her to cut him off after one pathetic drink. He feels like there must be a blinking red neon sign flashing over his head, pointing to the fact that he struggles with being responsible. 

Jo’s smile is disarming, however, and Cas swallows down his shame. “Yeah” He mutters with a nod and gives her a soft smile that borders on genuine. 

“Mind if I sit?” A deep and whiskey smooth voice rumbles beside him and Cas can’t help but turn and look up, falling victim to the most captivating green eyes he’s ever seen. They’re perfectly almond shaped and vivid, boyish, yet fierce. If Castiel were a poetic man, he could write odes to the perfection of that particular shade of green. “Cas?” He’s drawn out of his reverie by that voice again and he swallows thickly and nods, remembering there was a question in there somewhere. 

His gaze drops from those mesmerizing eyes when a small huff of a laugh passed the man’s lips. Lips that Castiel notices are soft and plush, the most perfect shade of rosy pink and beautifully bow shaped. “Sorry” Cas clears his throat and pointedly turns away, drawing a full laugh from the other man. 

“No problem. I suppose that answers my question though” The green-eyed man leans closer, letting his warm breath ghost over Castiel’s ear as Jo slides his drink in front of him. 

“Leave him alone, Michael” Jo rolls her eyes at the man next to Castiel and he chuckles again.  

The sound has Castiel’s cock twitching in his pants and he focuses intently on the drink in front of him. He did not mean to get caught staring at a perfect stranger like that. Perfect. Ha! A complete stranger, he means. Complete stranger. No matter not perfect those eyes and lips might be. 

“So Cas” Michael turns towards him, knee brushing the outer edge of Castiel’s thigh ever so gently. “Sorry, I heard you tell Jo your name. Do you mind?”  

Cas risks a glance at the man’s arched brow and questioning look. His expression is open and yet somehow guarded, almost as if he’s wearing a veil that only lets what he wishes for others to see be visible. “That’s fine” Cas shrugs, trying to not slam his drink and hightail it out of here.  

Michael nods and holds out a hand. “I’m Michael” He smiles, his voice low and rough with an undercurrent of command that has Cas reaching for the offered hand without a thought. “I haven’t seen you around here before” He observes and Cas nods. 

“Just moved to town not long ago” Cas offers, fingering the edge of his glass. He’s careful not to look too closely at the man next to him even as he wonders why Michael is talking to him. He allows himself a small mouthful of his whiskey, letting it roll over his tongue and down his throat with the delicious burn only hard liquor can manage.  

When he sets his glass down, he rests his hand on the bar. If he keeps his glass out of his hand, he’ll drink slower and he can’t deny the spark of curiosity Michael has lit inside him. 

Michael’s warm fingertips settle on the back of Castiel’s hand and Cas snaps his wide-eyed gaze to meet Michael’s. “That would explain why I haven’t seen you before. I’d remember eyes like yours” Michael winks and flashes a half smile before draining the remainder of his glass and signaling Jo for another. 

Cas huffs a strained laugh, he can’t help it, this entire situation is too ridiculous. The first bar in Austin he sets foot in and he gets hit on in the first five minutes? He’s beginning to feel like he’s dropped into a bad porno. He wouldn’t have expected this in Detroit, let alone Texas of all places. “I would have come here sooner if I had known there was such a nice view” What the hell, he thinks. Two can play this game, and if he’s being honest with himself, a little flirting sounds kind of nice right now.  

Cas lets his gaze travel over Michael’s features once more, taking in the myriad of faint freckles scattered over his lightly tanned skin and his obviously toned arms and broad chest. Michael may not be a gym junkie, but it’s clear he takes good care of himself. 

Michael flashes a grin and Cas feels a shiver run up his spine. “I’m glad you like what you see” His fingertips drop to Castiel’s thigh, slowly trailing towards his crotch. 

Cas glances down, pupils dilating at Michael’s brazen flirtations and he swallows another mouthful of liquid courage. Castiel’s dick is certainly on board with these proceedings, but a little twitch in the back of his mind forces him to wonder what Michael’s angle is. There is no way a man who looks like that comes on so strongly to an obviously exhausted wreck in a wrinkled suit.

 “Are you a prostitute?” Cas narrows his eyes and cocks his head, the questioning accusation tumbling from his lips before he bothers to devise a more tactful way to ask. Speaking first and thinking second has always been one of his strong suits.

Michael had his glass tipped to his lips and the entire bar seems to go silent as he sprays his mouthful of whiskey across the gleaming bar top in his surprise.  He sputters slightly, gaping at Cas for a second before Jo’s yelling breaks their shocked stare down.

“What the hell!” Jo barks, snapping her towel at Michael as Cas stares with wide and terrified eyes.  

That had come out so wrong, and now Michael is gaping at him like a fish and Cas just want to slink out of the bar on his belly and never return. “I’m sorry, that came out all wrong” Cas hastens to apologize, pushing the remainder of his drink away as he stands, fishing a twenty from his wallet to slide across the bar. “I…I should go” He fumbles, heart racing in embarrassment. He can’t bring himself to look anywhere but his feet as he turns away from Michael. 

“Sit down, Cas” Michael grips his elbow as he breaks into a hearty laugh. His eyes crinkle at the corners, and even as Cas wants to die of shame from accusing his beautiful man of being a hooker, he can’t help but be enthralled. Laughter is a good look on Michael.  

Michael forces his laughter to stop but when he looks to Cas, mirth still sparkles in his bright green eyes. “I swear to you, I am not a prostitute” He holds a hand over his heart and presses his mouth into a flat line that twitches at the corners.  

Castiel is confused that Michael is treating his misstep as anything but humiliating and he continues to stare wide-eyed at the other man. His heart hammers in his chest, certain this entire situation is some sort of cosmic joke. 

Suddenly, Dean’s eyes narrow and he turns his head to looks at Cas sideways. “You’re not a prostitute, are you?” He arches a brow and pinches his lips, trying to force his smile down. 

Something about this entire situation causes a dam to break within Castiel and he suddenly bursts into barely controlled giggles. He reaches a hand to cover his mouth, trying his hardest to stop but when Michael’s laughter joins in, he just can’t. He shakes his head, tears forming at the corners of his eyes. “I’m not….” He tries to breathe, still shaking his head. “No” 

Michael claps him on the shoulder, still vibrating with laughter. “Good. Glad we established that” 

“I’m such an idiot” Castiel’s laughter slows, shaking his head. 

“A gorgeous idiot maybe” Michael’s fingers creep from Castiel’s shoulder to touch lightly along his jawline and Cas swallows hard, heartbeat slowing to a near stop. 

Cas feels a heated blush creep over his cheeks and his breath hitches as he allows himself to stare into those mesmerizing emerald eyes. Cas’ entire being burns with the heat of Michael’s gaze and he feels his tongue dart to lick his lips without his permission. Michael’s eyes dilate at the sight, fixated on that flash of pink as it disappears back into Castiel’s mouth. Michael’s fingers tighten on Castiel’s jaw and Cas swears the other man is fighting the urge to close the distance between them. He wishes he would. 

“Wanna get out of here, Cas?” Michael’s tone grows husky and his gaze doesn’t leave Castiel’s slightly parted lips. 

“I live just two blocks north” Cas manages to whisper, heart hammering in his chest. Is he really doing this? He asks himself and his cock answers with a resounding YES.  

Michael flashes a confident grin. “Lead the way then” 

Cas makes himself stand, pulling away from Michael’s touch while every fiber of his being is demanding he lean into it instead. He notices Michael give a small cluster of men at another table a quick wave with two fingers, but he doesn’t put much thought into the gesture even though a large part of him knows that he should. His cop instincts should be tingling like mad at this entire situation but there’s just something about Michael that sets him at ease and leaves him wanting in ways he hasn’t felt in months. 

“Don’t worry about it” Michael lays his hand over Castiel’s wallet as he fishes inside for the second time. “Jo, put it on my tab” He sends the young woman a wink and places a hand against Castiel’s lower back to guide him outside. 

“I can pay for my own….” Cas begins his protest, still not folding his wallet to place back into his pocket. He frowns and shakes his head when Michael places a single finger to his lips. 

“Let me” Michael whispers, green eyes darkened with what Castiel can only assume to be lust. 

Castiel’s mouth turns dry as he studies Michael’s hungry expression. “But…” Cas begins to protest once more but Michael silences him with a gentle press of his lips on Castiel’s. The kiss is soft, meant only to quiet and not incite. It holds none of the heat reflected in the man’s gaze but Cas forgets why he was trying so hard to not let Michael buy his drink in the first place. 

Michael hums as he pulls away with a small smile on his face. “Shall we?” He holds an arm out in a gesture for Cas to lead the way, his other hand still firmly placed at the dip of Castiel’s spine. 

Cas nods and turns towards the door, letting the heat of Dean’s hand soaking through his coat guide him out the door. He turns toward his apartment, thankful for possibly the first time ever that he is nearly obsessive about keeping his space clean and tidy. Even his sheets have only been slept in once before, he figures that is acceptably clean for picking a stranger up at the bar. 

Before they manage a dozen steps, Michael is turning him and gripping the lapels of his coat and dragging Castiel into a heated kiss. Their mouths work together, both letting out matching groans when their tongues first touch. Cas reaches to bury a hand in the short strands of hair at the back of Michael’s head to hold the other man in place and Michael drops his hands to Castiel’s belt loops, tugging him closer until their hips are flush together. 

Cas gasps at the first feel of hard line of Michael’s cock pressing through their too many layers of clothing. “My place” Cas manages to pull away long enough to croak, trying to guide Michael in the general direction. 

Michael hums and nods. “Hurry” He mutters, brushing his nose down the column of Castiel’s throat. 

Cas lets his hand slide down to tangle his fingers with Michael’s, hoping this level of intimacy is acceptable. Assuming Castiel is reading the situation correctly, one of them is about to be fucked with the other doing the fucking, so what’s a little hand holding? Right? 

He half guides, half drags, Michael towards his apartment and they manage to make the entire two blocks with only one more impromptu make-out session in the middle of the sidewalk. 

Michael is already working on Castiel’s belt buckle as he fumbles with his keys, trying his best to unlock the door quickly. He succeeds at the same moment Michael is snaking a hand into the unzipped fly of Cas’ pants and wrapping his fingers around his erection through his boxer briefs.  

Michael hums as he presses open-mouthed kisses along the back of Castiel’s neck, pressing himself against Castiel’s back, letting the thick line of his erection do the talking for him.  

Cas spins in his arms, walking backward toward his bedroom as his lips collide with Michael’s. “Bedroom?” Cas breaks way long enough to mutter even as his fingers work to open the fly of Michael’s well-worn jeans. The button on the soft denim goes easily and Cas drags the zipper down quickly to let himself inside.  

He rubs his hand along Michael’s erection, moaning with pleasure at the size of it against his fingertips. “Touch me” Michael mutters, bucking his hips slightly into Castiel’s grasp. 

Cas doesn’t need to be told twice. He snakes his hand into Michael’s close-fitting boxer briefs and wraps his long fingers around his cock with a gentle squeeze.  

“I want to fuck you” Michael groans against the shell of Castiel’s ear and Cas swallows hard as he nods furiously. 

“Yes” Cas manages to croak, his normally rough voice made deeper and rougher by his arousal. His cock strains for attention as Michael walks him backward. 

Once they cross the threshold of Castiel’s room, Michael gives him a gentle push back and his hands immediately reach to push the coat from Castiel’s shoulders. Cas helps him along, quickly undoing the buttons of his dress shirt and letting the thin material fall open as he reaches to push Michael’s light flannel off. Their arms tangle for a moment, in too much of a hurry to undress each other, but they quickly sort themselves out and their shirts and shoes are thrown haphazardly onto the floor.  

Michael reaches for Castiel’s slacks next, with the button and belt undone and his fly still down, it takes very little effort to slide both pants and underwear to the floor, leaving Castiel bare to Michael’s gaze.  

Cas pants and moans as Michael slides to his knees between Castiel’s legs and runs a smooth palm over his erection. “You’re incredible, Cas” Dean moans as he noses at Cas’ thick cock, bobbing heavily in front of him. 

“Fuck, Michael” Cas whimpers as the other man’s tongue darts out to lick at his tip before kneading his balls with one hand. Michael spends a moment licking at Cas’ dick, running his tongue along the thick vein on the underside and probing his tip, seeking a bead of pre-come before wrapping his lips around the crown of Castiel’s cock and sucking harshly. 

Cas keeps at the sudden suction, knees nearly buckling as Michael’s grips his ass cheeks and pull his hips forward. Cas’ hands tangle in Michael’s light brown hair, tightening and tugging with each swipe of Michael’s tongue around his cock. 

Michael groans and slurps as his head bobs along Castiel’s length and barely any time passes before Cas is whimpering and begging him to pull off. “Stop” Cas pleads, “gonna come” He whimpers at the loss when Michael pulls away with a pop and looks up to him with a grin. “Come here” Cas growls, pulling Michael to his feet and pushing him towards the bed. 

Michael falls onto the soft surface with a happy little laugh, watching Cas hungrily as he climbs over him.  

Cas leans in for a messy kiss, bracketing Michael’s shoulders with his arms, before mouthing his way down the firm planes of Michael’s body. He makes mental note of the thick, ropey scars littering Michael’s chest but he knows he is in no position to ask about them. His heart pangs with the thought of this beautiful man being hurt enough to result in scars this thick and twisted. If Cas didn’t know better, he would guess these were knife wounds, but he writes off the thought as an occupational hazard of being a detective.  

He’s seen far too much of human cruelty to ever assume a more innocent explanation. 

Michael gasps and writhes when Cas takes one dusky nipple between his teeth and sucks lightly, laving his tongue over the firm nub. “Cas” Michael whines, hips bucking under Castiel’s weight as Cas leaves the reddened nipple behind and continues his journey down Dean’s body. 

His fingers hook into the belt loops of Michael’s jeans and tugs, pulling them past his knees in one go. He reaches up to gather his underwear and Michael lifts hips to help. Soon enough, Michael lays bare to Castiel’s gaze and Cas wastes no time returning to his task of tracing the firm lines of Michael’s body with his lips.  

Castiel’s heart hammers in his chest as he eyes the flushed and leaking cock laying against the flat of Dean’s belly. He hasn’t taken someone home from the bar like this since college, but he’d be lying to himself if he tried to say Michael wasn’t the most beautiful man he’s ever laid eyes on. 

“You just gonna stare at it?” Michael lifts his head and cocks a brow. The soft smile playing at his lips makes it clear he’s more amused than demanding and Cas grins at him. 

“Well, it is awfully pretty” Castiel sasses, finding the confidence in the easy way Michael smiles at him and he’s rewarded with a bark of laughter that turns into a hiss of pleasure when Cas swallows him down without further ado. 

Cas sucks and bobs his head mercilessly, taking full advantage of his lack of a gag reflex and takes Michael deep in his throat. He hums and groans his pleasure around the thick length as Michael fists the sheets at his sides. 

That will never do Cas thinks as he buries his nose in the closely trimmed curls at the base of Michael’s cock and he reaches one hand at a time to move Michael’s to tangle his fingers in his hair.  

“Fuck, Cas” Michael pants, back arching off the bed. “You gotta stop, man” His tone is light and breathy, almost a high-pitched whine. “Gonna come” 

Cas pulls off with a grin and climbs up Michael’s body to capture his lips in a messy kiss. “Wouldn’t want that” He mutters between light nips. Michael grips his hips and rolls them both, now holding himself over Castiel. 

“Damn right we don’t” Michael uses his knees to separate Castiel’s legs. “Lube?” He questions, staring down into Castiel’s lust blown eyes. “If you still want to …” For a moment, Michael looks uncertain and nervous as he tugs his lower lips between his teeth. 

Cas nods, warmth blooming in his chest at Michael’s hesitation. He wasn’t certain what he was expecting, but the brief glimpse of vulnerability in the other man gives him a boost of confidence that yes, he really wants this. “Fuck, yes” Cas rolls his hips in demonstration, brushing their erections together. 

He reaches a blind hand to his nightstand, easily retrieving the purple tube of Astroglide that he keeps there, and his fingers touch the edge of a foil packet he recognizes as a condom. He thanks his paranoid self for even having condoms on hand when he had no plans of using them. He pulls both items out and places the lube into Michael’s outstretched hand. 

“Gonna make you feel so good” Dean purrs as he slicks up a finger and reaches to circle Castiel’s rim.  

Cas hisses and twitches at the touch of cold lube to his hole but soon moans wantonly as Michael slips his fingertip inside. The tight furl of muscle opens with slight protest around the small intrusion but soon gives in, relaxing enough to allow Michael to slide the rest of his finger inside. 

“So tight, Cas” Michael voices, wonder coloring his tone as Castiel’s body relaxes and Cas cants his hips towards him, silently pleading for more.  

“Been a while” Cas admits, stomach clenching in anticipation as he pushes towards Michael’s hand, urging the man deeper. 

Michael hums as if the thought pleases him, slowly pumping his single finger in Cas as he drags the fingers of his other hand over the slight ridges of Castiel’s ribs and stomach.  

Cas drops his head back in pleasure when Michael adds a second finger, scissoring and stretching to loosen Cas enough to take his thick cock. “Fuck” He groans, hands fisting in the sheets as his cock twitches with excitement. 

Michael grins down at him, all too pleased with himself when he crooks his fingers against Castiel’s prostate and Cas nearly come flying off the bed with a cry of pleasure. 

Cas’ eyes squeeze shut when Michael adds a third finger, whimpering and writhing in pleasure as he rubs at his prostate without mercy. “Please” Cas whines, arching his back and clenching his trembling thighs around Michael’s knees. 

“You ready, baby?” Michael murmurs, twisting his fingers for good measure and grinning at the way Castiel tilts his head back into his pillow. “How do you want me?” He questions as he reaches for the foil packet Cas had discarded on his nightstand. 

Cas moans in protest when Dean’s fingers slip free but he quickly comes to a decision. “Wanna ride you” He grips Michael’s shoulder and pulls him down beside him. 

Michael goes willingly, shifting so that he’s leaning back against the headboard with a pillow propped to support his lower back. “Fuck, you’re perfect” Michael mutters as Cas straddles his hips. His fingers trail over Castiel’s ribs before settling in a loose grip around his hips. 

Cas opens the condom packet with his teeth and slides it quickly over Michael’s length, adding another dollop of lube for good measure, before scooting forward and lining himself up without preamble. 

Michael moans and Castiel hisses as he slowly lowers himself, letting Michael’s thick cock spread him open and fill him up inch by delicious inch. “Fuck, feels so good” Cas mutters even as his thighs tremble. The stretch is just this side of too much but one look at Michael’s open-mouthed and closed-eyed expression has him sinking down faster until he sits flush with Michael’s hips. 

Michael’s grip tightens on Castiel’s hips, nearly hard enough to bruise, as he holds him in place. Castiel pants through the burn of being split open by possibly the largest cock he’s taken but he leans forward to capture Michael’s lips in a sloppy kiss as he gives an experimental roll of his hips. 

Michael moans into the kiss, thrusting up ever so slightly into Castiel’s tight heat. “Move?” He pleads, his tone cracked and pleading. 

Cas hums against Michael’s lips and braces his hands on the firm lines of the other man’s chest. Cas lifts himself up slightly and drops down, tipping his head back in pleasure with the feeling of the thick cock dragging inside him.  

He sets a steady pace, lifting up and dropping back down until the only sounds to be heard are their grunts and skin slapping on skin. “So good, Cas” Michael grits, thrusting up to meet Castiel’s movements. 

Cas’ movements become erratic as his thighs burn from the exertion, but he can’t quite find the right angle to hit his prostate and appease his leaking cock. “I need…” He whimpers in frustration, digging his fingertips into Michael’s firm chest. 

Michael seems to know exactly what he needs because less than a breath later he’s rolling them and hitching Cas’ knees over his elbows. He slips back inside before Cas has a chance to protest and sets a punishing pace, angling his hips just so to batter his cock against Cas’ prostate with each thrust. 

Cas drops his head back to the pillow, his open-mouthed pants letting the small moans being punched out of him flow freely. His hands scrabble for purchase on Michael’s back, barely noticing the raised lines that can only be more scars marring what should be perfectly unblemished skin.  

Cas lifts his hips, urging Michael on as the other man’s hips begin to stutter. “So close” Michael pants, snaking a hand between them to wrap his fingers around Castiel’s cock. “Come for me”  

A few short pumps of his tight fist over Castiel’s dick has him obeying flawlessly with a shout. Thick ropes of come paint his stomach as Michael keeps pumping him through his orgasm. 

Michael slams into Cas one last time, Castiel’s ass clenching around his ass finally tipping him over the edge as he circles his hips and fills the condom deep inside Castiel. Michael’s mouth hangs open as he continues to shift his hips through his aftershocks, still milking Cas’ cock for every last drop of come. 

Cas whimpers with oversensitivity, batting Michael’s hand away as he pulls him down into another messy kiss. Their mouths move together, tongues tangling as they whimper and hum with satisfaction.  

Michael slips free, tugging of the condom and tying it off before looking around for somewhere to discard it.  

“Bathroom” Cas nods towards the open door behind them and Michael climbs off the bed with a grin.  

Cas hears the water running as he waits his turn, but to his surprise, Michael comes back with a damp washcloth and wipes the come off Castiel’s stomach and chest before tossing the cloth back towards the bathroom. 

Cas hums with happiness as Michael settles next to him and pulls him into his arms.  

“I can’t stay long, but is this ok? For now?” Michael mutters, trailing light kisses up the side of Castiel’s throat. 

“Not about to throw you out” Castiel mutters sleepily and Michael barks a laugh as he trails fingers absently up and down Castiel’s spine. 

“Good” Michael presses a kiss into his hair and Cas fights not to squirm with how strange this should be but isn’t.  

They’re complete strangers, well…maybe not complete anymore, but still. They’re strangers. This kind of intimacy has always made Cas itch to pull away, even with his last boyfriend. And they were together for two years. But something about Michael has him melting into the contact, wanting to soak up the affection like a cat basking in a ray of sunshine. 

“Let me take you out sometime” Michael whispers, voice low and hesitant as he squeezes Cas tighter. “I don’t…I don’t normally do this, going home with strangers, but you…fuck, you’re gorgeous Cas and I’d really like to get to know you” 

Cas hums, shifting in Michael’s arms so their eyes can meet. He smiles softly and snuggles closer. “I think I would like that” 

The grin that spreads over Michael’s face lights Cas up from the inside and he knows without a doubt that yes, he’d like to get to know Michael too.  

Michael glances over to Castiel’s alarm clock and groans at the glaring red numbers announcing that the hour is approaching midnight. “I really gotta get going” His tone is so apologetic that Cas can’t possibly fault him. 

“That’s ok. I gotta be up at six anyway” Cas cringes at the thought. One thing he hates about Austin is how long his morning commute is with all the traffic. He only has eight miles to travel, but it takes him almost an hour if he waits until after seven to leave. If he’s out the door by 6:30, he can make it in fifteen minutes. 

“Another early bird” Michael agrees, releasing Cas from his hold and rolling out of bed. He finds his clothes quickly in the dim light of the room and Cas takes the opportunity to study the network of scars littering the other man’s back.  

Cas has no business asking. At least not yet, but he can’t help the burning desire to know what happened to mark this gorgeous man so severely. His early thought about knife wounds remains, the pattern of the scars looks like someone cut and sliced their way across his body and the thought causes a tight knot to form in Castiel’s stomach.  

If he’s right, if someone hurt Michael like that, he would love nothing more than to toss them into a prison cell and throw away the key. 

He averts his gaze before Michael can catch him staring but the knot of dread remains in his stomach regardless.  

Michael smiles easily as if oblivious to Castiel’s notice of his scars and he crosses the room quickly. He pulls Cas into another quick kiss before pulling out his phone and handing it over after pressing a few buttons. “Add your number? I’ll text you with mine” 

Cas smiles and quickly types in his name and phone number and hands the phone back. 

“Cas…tiel?” Michael arches a brow as he sounds out the name and Cas blushes. “You were named after an Angel?” Michael cocks his head with a smirk spreading over his features. 

Cas can’t help his disbelieving laugh. “You know your Angels?” 

Michael huffs a laugh and shakes his head before gesturing to himself. “Michael?”  

“Yeah, but Michael is a common name” Cas protests, smile still playing at his lips as he slips back into his slacks, just to walk Michael to the door. 

“Tell that to my parents” Michael huffs fondly as he sends Castiel’s number a quick text. A phone chimes somewhere in the room and Cas makes a note to find it later. 

He walks Michael to his door, but the man stops suddenly, staring wide-eyed at a picture hanging on the wall to the left of the doorframe. He leans closer, eyes narrowed in scrutiny at the two young men in police uniform. The photo was taken on the steps of Castiel’s first precinct with his first partner, right after they graduated from the academy. 

 “You’re a cop?” Something about his tone sends a bolt of nervousness through Castiel, he sounds harder and warier than Cas has heard him tonight and he doesn’t like it one bit. 

“De…detective, actually” Cas blushes as Michael spins to face him. 

“Huh. Never would have guessed” New tension shows in the set of Michael’s shoulders as he glances towards the door. “You said you’re new in town?” 

Cas nods. “Yeah. I hope my occupation isn’t a problem” He says, probably a little too tersely, but Michael’s reaction is strange. Cas only hopes he isn’t one of those anti-police types. 

“You working any big cases?” Michael takes a step away from the door and towards Castiel. Something about his tone has Cas' instincts itching at the back of his mind but he shoves the feeling down.

Cas shrugs. “Just closed one actually. I was out celebrating” He flinches a smile but something in his gut screams wrong. 

Michael hums, stroking a finger down Castiel’s cheek. “Then congratulations are in order” Michael smiles and leans in for another kiss that quickly becomes heated against Cas’ better judgment. 

Cas quickly forgets his misgivings when Michael’s fingers splay across his lower back and pull him closer. 

“I’m glad I was able to help you celebrate” Michael whispers against the shell of Castiel’s ear, his tone low and sultry. “I’m looking forward to seeing you again” 

Cas smiles and nods his agreement. “Call me?” Cas requests and Michael smiles warmly, leaning in for one more quick peck before flipping the lock on the door and pulling it open. 

“Looking forward to it” Michael tips an imaginary hat, causing Cas to bark a small laugh before he turns and strides down the hall. 

Castiel quickly closes the door and locks it once more, grinning like a fool despite the seed of tension threatening to root in his chest.  

Even if Michael doesn’t call, that was one hell of a night. 

Chapter Text

Castiel spends the entirety of the next morning combing through paperwork and catching up on all the files he’s been neglecting. 

No one told him he would spend this much time doing paperwork when he first entered the academy. 

“Someone’s in a good mood” Meg appears, tone laced with her usual sarcasm as she sashays her way to the edge of Castiel’s desk. 

Cas does his best to suppress his groan, but he clearly doesn’t do well enough. 

“Aww, come on Clarence” Meg pouts, leaning against her usual spot on his desk. 

“What, Masters?” Cas forces himself to ask and he hates how much his tone sounds like a whine. His voice is a little more hoarse than normal from last night’s activities and he winces when Meg’s eyes light up. 

“Oh nothing” She twirls a lock of hair around a finger and she stares down at Castiel. “Sounds like you had a good night?” Her tone is hopeful and Cas wonders if maybe she hasn’t really been trying to get into his pants. Maybe she really does think he just needs a life outside of work. “I’m happy for you” She punches his shoulder playfully with a wide grin. 

Cas can’t help the flinch of a smile that crosses his features. He has to agree with her. He did have a good night and he’s hoping for more in his future.  

“Now dish. Who is she? Someone hot I’m sure, eyes like yours and your crazy sex hair…you could have any girl you wanted” Meg adopts a dreamy expression, her husky voice hiding her excitement behind a veil of sarcasm and Castiel’s blood runs cold. 

He takes a deep breath, debating whether he wants to open that can of worms and correct her assumptions. “There’s no girl, Masters” Cas frowns, eyes narrowing at her in hopes of her dropping the subject. 

Meg shrugs. “Or guy then. Doesn’t matter to me” 

Castiel’s jaw drops at her easy way with making it clear she won’t judge, and he can’t quite believe her.  

A smile crawls over his features as she takes in Castiel’s shocked expression. “So, there is a guy!” She punches his shoulder happily as she pushes off the edge of his desk. 

Cas reaches to rub the soreness from her slightly too hard punch. “Keep it down” He hisses, fixing her with a stern glare. 

“Don’t worry, Clarence. Your secrets safe with me” She grins, and Cas does not trust her. “Come have lunch with me. I promise I won’t bite” 

Cas takes a deep breath and his shoulders deflate when he lets it out. He is getting hungry, he’s been pecking at his paperwork for hours now and he really could do with a break. “Fine” He grumbles, and Meg nearly jumps with glee. 

He makes a show of stacking his finished pile neatly and pushes back from his desk, noting that a good number of the desks in the large room are currently vacant. A clear sign of lunch hour. It seems that everyone other than Meg is content to leave him to his own devices. He can’t decide whether he’s glad or not as he eyes all the empty desks with a vague sense of being neglected.

True, he’s made no effort to get to know his fellow detectives; but they haven’t tried to get to know him either. In the face of Meg’s persistent friendliness, the thought leaves a slightly sour feeling in his stomach.

 He circles around his desk, deciding to forgo his coat since the midday Texas heat is too brutal for such a thing. He reserves his favorite old trench coat for early mornings and late nights when the sun isn’t busy baking the city to a crisp. 

“There’s this great little deli just around the corner. You’re going to love it” Meg assures him as she almost bodily drags him from the building. “I’m so glad you’re finally starting to settle in. Where did you meet your handsome beau? Please tell me you finally checked out some of the Austin nightlife. There is no much out there to discover!” 

“Meg, please” Cas groans, her chatter proving to be pushing the edges of his tolerance. 

“Oh, don’t worry, Clarence. I won’t tell anyone about your big, gay, secret. Wait...are you gay? Or bi?” 

“Meg” Castiel asserts, stopping in his tracks with the feeling of being in college all over again. He didn’t have this experience in high school. No, he would have been thrown out on his ass years sooner than he was if he had dared to admit to being attracted to men back then.  

She stares at him with wide brown eyes, doe-like despite the hellfire behind them. Meg is not someone Castiel wishes to cross and he cannot understand why she insists on inserting herself into his life.  He isn’t that interesting. Really!

She arches a brow, demanding an answer to her question with hands braced firmly on her hips as she stares him down. Cas lets out a heavy breath as his will breaks and he shakes his head. “I’m gay” He whispers, it would be a hiss if not for the air of defeat in his tone. 

She grins. “You’ve gotta meet Charlie!” She grabs for Castiel’s hand to drag him along. 

“Please don’t try to set me up with anyone” Castiel groans. 

“Charlie’s a girl and gayer than a rainbow. Seriously, have you not met anyone outside the detective unit? Charlie’s the best. Should be working for the NSA or some shit but she chooses to work with the Austin PD. God knows why” Meg rolls her eyes. “Anyway, I just know you’re gonna love her. Everyone does. Even me”  

“Fine. I’ll meet this Charlie” Castiel concedes, thinking that maybe meeting more people won’t kill him. Probably. 

Meg’s grin grows and somehow become less predatory as she turns him towards the glass door of a deli. The most delicious combination of aromas seem to seep through the window glass and Cas decides to be a gentleman and pull the hefty door open to usher Meg inside. 

“Why, thank you, Clarence” She smiles, her voice low and sultry, almost the same as when Cas had assumed she was trying to flirt with him. 

He dips his chin in a nod, still not entirely convinced she doesn’t have an ulterior motive in dragging him out here. They approach the counter and place their orders before settling at a table in the corner with an excellent view of the door and street beyond.  

“Why do you keep calling me Clarence?” Cas fixes her with a stare, turning his gaze upward as he lowers his chin to sip through his straw. 

Meg grins, cocking her head to the side. “You’re adorable” She croons, clasping her hands on the table in front of her before reaching across the table to pinch his cheek with a wide grin. “Just a right little tree topper” 

Cas rears his head back slightly and narrows his eyes, studying her carefully as he processes her explanation. “Because I’m named for an Angel?” He finally concludes, wondering how this is the second time in less than twenty-four hours someone has recognized his namesake. 

Meg claps twice, slow and steady. “A righteous little Angel, Castiel” She grins. “You’re different than most. There’s a fire burning deep within you that I can see you struggling to contain. Someone like you is either going to be great or go down in flames. I want a front row seat” She scoops her soda off the table and takes a long pull through her straw, eyeing Cas with far too much innocence.  

Castiel shifts uncomfortably, taking another sip of his Coke to bide his time. He swallows hard, nearly choking as his soda threatens to go down his windpipe. “What’s that supposed to mean?” His voice nearly squeaks, and he blames it on the carbonation burning his throat rather than his now racing heart. 

Meg rolls her eyes and is saved from explaining by the delivery of their sandwiches. She tucks in heartily, eyeing Castiel with her smoky gaze. “It means, we need to be friends” She finally responds, lazily swiveling her finger on her wrist to point at Castiel with a dangerous gleam in her eye. 

He swallows hard, meager appetite disappearing completely as he stares across the table. 

“Oh, don’t look so glum! You’re incredibly talented, hard-working” Meg shrugs. “I think you’re going to do great things” She mumbles around another mouthful as she nudges Castiel’s shin with her toe. 

Cas stares down at his sandwich, at a loss for what to say as his mind spins circles. He can’t help but feel an undercurrent of tension deep in his gut at the easy way Meg seems to call him out on the inkling of darkness that has him clenching his teeth with each case that comes across his desk. 

He just wishes he was in a position to do more for those who fall victim to the worst of society. That’s all. Completely normal.  

He swallows hard and nods, carefully picking up his sandwich and taking a nibble. The bread is perfect, warm, and fresh and the meats are some of the most flavorful he’s ever tasted. They don’t make food like this in Detroit and he can’t help the moan of satisfaction that passes his lips as his eyes slide closed. 

“Would you like to be alone for a minute?” Meg smirks, popping a chip into her mouth. 

Cas swallows hard and shakes his head, pushing his mostly uneaten sandwich away. He doesn’t think he can bring himself to eat more right now, but he’ll be taking his leftovers with him. 

“So” Meg folds her arms in front of her, elbows resting on the table. “Tell me about him” 

Cas arches a brow. “Who?” 

Meg rolls her whole head on her shoulders and lets out an exaggerated sigh. “Whoever it was that had you walking funny this morning” 

Cas groans and drops his head into his hands. “Was I really?” He whines, peaking up with one eye to see Meg let loose a giggle. 

“No, but I’m tickled to see that I’m right” She winks. “Seriously though, tell me” She nudges his shin again. 

Cas sighs and shakes his head but ends up shrugging. “He has the most brilliant green eyes and freckles” He offers, trying to keep himself from smiling but fails miserably. 

“Aww, look at you” Meg reaches across the table and covers his hand with hers. “I hope he was generous” She arches a brow, her meaning crystal clear. 

Cas bites at his lower lips and looks down, feeling a heated blush coloring his cheeks. He nods, still staring down and Meg’s bright laugh causes warmth to bloom in his chest. He feels like some sort of blushing virgin and he almost doesn’t care. “He wants to go on an actual date” Cas admits, butterflies fluttering madly.  

He hasn’t let himself examine last night too closely, still not convinced that Michael was sincere. But then, why would he have asked for Castiel’s number? And why would he have texted him back to give him his? 

Meg’s face lights up with a proud grin and Cas can’t help but return her smile. “You dog!” She smacks the table wit ha delighted grin that has Castiel sinking back in his seat and eyeing the other patrons anxiously. “So, you’re turning a hookup into something more? That’s awesome! It’s about time you started meeting people. You’ve been in town, what? Six months?” Meg continues to babble, ignoring Castiel’s obvious unease.

A quick glance around shows no one has bothered to notice their topic of conversation, everyone is busy with their own meals and conversations and completely ignoring Castiel’s plight. He eventually nods, carefully wrapping what’s left of his sandwich in the butcher paper it came with. 

“Well, I’m happy for you” Meg follows his example. “Suppose we should head back, huh?” She takes a drawn-out sip of her Dr. Pepper, slurping the last drops as she stares at Castiel. 

Cas nods his agreement and they make their way back. He’s barely seated back at his desk when Jody whisks by. 

“Novak. Briefing room. Ten minutes” She gestures towards the back of their department with a jerk of her head. 

“Sure thing, Captain” Cas responds readily, already shuffling his papers into order and pushing back from his desk. 

As soon as he enters the room, he spots Meg and two other detectives, ones that he recognizes but hasn’t had a chance to properly meet yet. He chooses a spot next to Meg since she at least looks pleased to see him. 

“Any idea what this is about?” He asks her, jerking his head towards the other two Detectives. He remembers vaguely being told they head up the organized crime division, but he hasn’t been looped in at all in regard to their cases. He’s not even certain he remembers their names. 

“I heard there might be a connection to the supposed Alastair murders and the organized crime division” Meg shrugs, “but they only started looking this morning, so I doubt they’ve found much yet” 

“Huh,” Cas glances over again, debating whether to introduce himself to his colleagues or wait for Captain Mills.  

Thankfully, he’s saved from his debate by the entrance of the woman herself. 

“Thank you for joining us, Detectives. Henriksen, Hanscum, meet Castiel Novak. He’s been on the force with us for about six months now, and just closed the Library stalker case with a successful confession” Jody pauses for a moment to flash Castiel a pleased smile as he dips his head towards the other detectives. “You both know Detective Masters” 

“Wonderful to see you again” Meg smirks with her husky tone as she crosses one leg over the other.  

Henrikson scowls and Hanscum’s expression lights up like a little kid on Christmas morning. “Great to see ya again Meg! And Castiel, so pleased to meet your acquaintance!” She steps towards him, expression glowing as she holds out a hand. “Call me Donna” 

Cas is terrified at first, between her extreme Midwest accent and joyful countenance, Cas doesn’t know what to think. “Uh, Hi” He lets her grip his hand and she shakes vigorously as Meg snickers beside him. 

“Castiel and Meg will be running point on reviewing some cold case murders that have been brought into question. I have reason to believe there may be parallels between your caseload,” She nods toward Donna and Henrikson. “And these cold cases” 

She holds up a box that presumably holds the aforementioned cold case files and sets on the table in front of Castiel and Meg. Donna props the lid first and pulls out a random file. 

“Oh, I remember this one” She mutters, her thick accent pouring through as she lifts her gaze to meet Castiel’s. “Pret-ty gruesome” She hands the file over and Cas takes it from her outstretched hand. 

Geraldo Hernandez. Second in command of a local drug cartel. Body found almost two years ago under the Congress Street Bridge by a bunch of tourists in town to see the bats leave their roost. Castiel shakes his head at the grisly photographs. The man looked like he had been shredded and his reputation had the department putting the case on the back burner. 

The back burner that had been turned off years ago. 

He sighs deeply and hands the file off to Meg who stares wide-eyed at the details of the file. “There was no investigation” She mutters, disbelief coloring her tone as she glances up with a distinct look of disgust to meet Castiel’s gaze. Cas mirrors her expression, both angry and disappointed by the lack of care afforded to these cases. “Why was there no investigation?” She turns to Captain Mills, eyes narrowed in scrutiny. 

“You know as well as I do how tight our budget is. Do you really think the taxpayers would want us to prioritize the murders of murderers?” Jody arches a brow. “I don’t like it either. If we had the resources, we wouldn’t be in this mess” 

“Damn right” Meg mutters under her breath, dropping the file onto the table to reach for another. 

Every file reads the same. Mostly men, and a few women, who appeared to be the dregs of society, were sliced to ribbons and the bodies dumped somewhere surprisingly public. The victims were identified, names released and there was no outcry from the public. Monsters were off the street. No one cared. 

Cas hangs his head and rubs his temples, that familiar feeling of not being good enough beginning to simmer in his stomach yet again.

“Give me that one over there. Toni Bevel” Victor, Castiel has learned is Henriksen’s first name, snaps his fingers in demand and Cas tosses the file towards him with an underdeveloped glare. 

The man scowls as he flips open the file and pulls out a surveillance shot of Ms. Bevel from some months before her murder. “I remember watching her” He hands the photo over to Donna. “Remember her? Wasn’t she working as a go-between for Winchester?” 

Donna pinches a seemingly rare frown and taps the edge of the photo on the table. “Yah, I remember her. Didn’t think much of an arms dealer disappearing” She shrugs. 

“I think we need to check all of these for Winchester connections. That family has their hands in nearly every pie in the city” Victor frowns drumming his fingers on the table. 

Cas narrows his eyes and frowns. “I’m not familiar with the Winchesters” He grumbles, feeling a little bit lost amongst the knowing looks on the other’s faces. 

“I’ll get you their files, hun” Donna pats his shoulder as she walks by and for some reason, coming from her, the endearment is anything but patronizing. 

“The Winchesters are a crime family. Our local version of the mafia” Victor leans forward, closer to Cas. “Currently they’re headed by one Dean Winchester. He inherited the family business about fifteen years ago from his father, John Winchester” 

“The youngest, Sam? He bailed on the family and headed off to college in California. Hasn’t been seen in Austin since, but we’d be fools to think he’s cut ties with his brother” Jody cuts in, settling in next to Victor. 

“Those two practically lived in each other’s pockets until Dean was 16 and disappeared for almost a year” Victor continues, picking up another file from the box. “Next time he surfaced, he was being arrested for petty theft and Daddy Winchester wouldn’t bail him out. Served six weeks in lockup”

Castiel nods at all this new information. “But, what do they do? If they’re mobsters, why aren’t they locked up?” He doesn’t mean his question to sound petulant or judgmental, but his tone certainly comes across that way. 

“They’re careful to keep their noses clean, never directly involved. Never at the scene and they own several seemingly legitimate businesses in town. Their books always check out. The only thing we have on them is the company they keep. The drug runners in the city answer to Winchester, even the Mexican gangs show them an unusual amount of respect” Victor scowls. “We’ve been after Dean for years, but the man is slippery. He’s been marched through our front doors more times than we can count, but nothing ever sticks” He leans back with a huff. 

“Alrighty now” Donna reenters with a small pile of very think files and sets them in front of Castiel. “This is everything we’ve collected on John, Dean and Samuel Winchester” 

Castiel opens the top file, the one on John Winchester. “Says here his wife died in 1983? Was he a suspect?” Cas arches a brow. 

“Nah” Donna answers. “Arson investigator ruled it a run of the mill house fire. A tragic accident, but still an accident. Little Dean carried his brother out of the fire, John barely made it out.” Left those two boys without their mother and John was never quite the same after that” 

“That’s about when he first popped up on our radar” Jody cuts in, reaching over Castiel’s shoulder. “Got really ruthless really quick and lost himself in the bottom of a bottle the rest of the time. Kept goin on about some yellow-eyed demon and hunting him down.”

Donna nods her agreement. “Turned over the family business to Dean when the boy turned eighteen and then disappeared a few years later. No one has heard from him in almost a decade” 

Cas frowns. “So, the head of the family up and disappears. Any idea why?” He looks up, gaze searching Victor’s and Donna’s. Meg simply frowns and leans closer to Castiel to take a closer look at the file. 

“Our best theory is he finally drank one bottle too many and sent himself to an early grave, but a body was never found” Victor shrugs. 

Cas frowns and shakes his head. This all seems so sloppy to him! How could the head of a crime family just vanish? Did the police investigate the disappearance at all or did they just assume he didn’t matter? Just like these other murdered criminals? He drops the file and reaches for the next. 

Dean Winchester. 

Castiel flips open the file with a sigh and his heart stops for a beat when his eyes land on the enclosed photograph. 

 The photo is black and white, but he knows exactly what shade of green those eyes are, and how soft those perfectly plump lips are against his own. His fingers trace the edge of the photo. Michael dressed in a fine suit with a phone pressed to his ear, torso twisted to look over his shoulder and almost directly at the camera. Michael. Dean. 

His thoughts come to a screeching halt as he stares at the photo. That too familiar face that he saw twisted in ecstasy only the night before. He has no doubt that his Michael is actually Dean Winchester. How does something like this even happen to him?  

Is this why Michael tensed when he noticed the photograph of Castiel in uniform? It must be. He must have been gauging if Castiel recognized him, or even if he did, how much he cared that he just took a mob boss home to his bed. 

He skims through the rest of the file. Notes about meetings with high profile criminals, interview transcripts and tax audits. Notes of people disappearing after meeting with him. Police reports of his known acquaintances being charged with assault and battery.  

His panic grows with each suspicion laid out in the file. The clarity with which this file shows that Dean Winchester is involved in something clandestine is convincing but there isn’t enough hard evidence to bring him in and keep him. 

Austin PD has tried over the years, that much is clear. But like Victor had said, nothing sticks.  

               “I…I need some air” Cas slams the file shut and his heart kickstarts once more. His lungs refuse to fill though and what little moisture that was in his mouth has turned to ash. He hurries from the room clutching his stomach, leaving four bewildered cops in his wake. 

               He all but stumbles to the men’s room, leaning over the sink as he struggles to breathe. He smacks at the tap, trying to get the water flowing with a whine, in too much of a hurry to turn the knob properly.  

               Finally, he gets the water on and cups his hands under the icy flow to splash his face, to try to knock some sense into himself. 

               He let a mobster fuck him. He….fuck! Michael is Dean Winchester. Crime lord. Fuck fuck fuck! 

               “You alright, Clarence? Look like you saw a ghost” Megs sultry voice comes from behind him along with the snick of the lock. She sidles up behind him as he pants at his reflection in the mirror. 

              “Lunch just isn’t sitting right” He swallows hard around the lie, but he can’t bring himself to admit what a royal screw up he is. He’s a cop dammit! He should have picked up on something! 

             “Uh huh” Meg crosses her arms over her chest and fixes him with a disbelieving glare.  

             “I…” He knows he should come clean. Share what little information he can. Hell! He even has Dean’s personal number in his phone! 

             “I think I should go home” Are the words that tumble from his lips next instead of his confession. “I’m…I think I’m going to be ill” He feels bile rise in his throat with the words and he pushes past Meg and out of the bathroom. 

             “Castiel!” Meg calls after him and he can hear the frustration in her voice, but he can’t bring himself to care. He needs to get out of here. He needs to be alone with his shame.  

             “Tell Captain Mills I’m taking the rest of the day sick” He manages to mutter as he grabs his bag and rushes out the front door. 

             The twenty minutes he spends getting back to his apartment feel like the longest of his life. 

             He glares at the neon sign of the bar with pure venom before he even leaves his car. Dean Winchester hangs out there. Often enough for the bartender to know him by his alias at least. Dean Winchester knows where he lives.  

             Dean Winchester sucked his cock. 

            He sucked Dean Winchester’s cock. 

            Dean Winchester fucked him, and it was probably the best sex he’s ever had. 

           “Ugh, I am such an idiot!” He scrubs his hands over his face and pulls at his hair before climbing out of his car 

           Castiel’s chest tightens with the pure agony of his situation. This is the biggest screw up in his career, which, at this point is a pretty impressive feat. He needs to come clean, talk to his Captain in the morning and disclose everything. He nods to himself. She’ll take him off the case, but he’s so new in town. How was he to know Dean Winchester on sight? This was all an innocent mistake. 

            He can give them Michael’s phone number. Tell them where he hangs out.  

            Yes. He can do all that. He slams and locks his door behind him and stumbles straight to his bed. This will all look better in the morning. There is no other option. 

--Dean--

            “You what?” Benny cocks his head, tone biting. “Please tell me that you didn’t just say that eye candy you hooked up with last night is a cop?” Benny slams his knife down, turning to glare at his boss with his gloved hands on his hips.

            Dean huffs and shakes his head. “I’m pretty sure he didn’t know who I was” He shrugs, leaning against the counter with his arms crossed.

            “How long do you think that will last? Huh?” Benny arches an accusing brow as he strips his gloves off and unties his apron, discarding it over his cutting board. “We gotta take care of him” Benny’s wide jaw clenches as he stares into Dean’s eyes.

            “No” Dean demands. “He won’t be a problem” Dean won’t admit to his second in command that he’s already falling hard and fast for this detective. The fire burning behind those intense blue eyes, even when he’s unsure of himself, calls to something buried deep in Dean’s chest and he’ll go down in flames before he lets that go.

            “Dean” Benny warns, not liking the look smoothing over his friend’s features. “I know you’re smarter than to think anything good can come of this”

            Dean sighs, fully understanding where Benny is coming from. Benny was there for Dean when he needed him most. He’s cleaned Dean’s sorry ass off the floor more times than either of them can count. Without Benny, Dean would be nothing. Hell, he’d probably be dead by now. “Give me a chance to deal with him on my own. I don’t want to see him hurt”

            Benny stares at Dean with sadness in his eyes. “I can see what you’re thinking, brother, but there is no way this can end without both of you getting hurt, or worse” He lays a heavy hand on Dean’s shoulder in solidarity. “I know you wanna save the world, but our kind and the police just don’t mesh”

            Dean swallows hard and nods. He spent only a handful of hours with Castiel, yet he feels an indelible mark left on his soul. He needs Cas like he needs air. Consequences be damned. “I gotta try.” Dean shakes off the thoughts of Cas, or at least he tries to, and gets back to the entire reason he came down to the Roadhouse this morning anyway. “Any news from downtown?” He crosses his arms over his chest, tilting his chin down slightly to fix Benny with a firm stare.

            Benny nods, scrubbing a hand over the back of his neck. “Yeah” He nods. “Got some of our guys on the trail of a rogue arms dealer who’s been spotted with the leader of The Bloods” Benny wrinkles his nose in disgust.

            Dean tsks and shakes his head. “They know the consequences for going behind our backs. Pull the plug”

            Benny nods with a frown. “One thing boss” He glances to Dean uncomfortably. “He’s going by a different name, but the boys think this arms dealer is Arthur Ketch. Should we loop Mick in? Maybe he could talk some sense into his old friend?”

            Dean frowns and lets out a huff. “No” His head shakes and brows knit with annoyance. “That British bastard knows us and this city. Whatever he’s up to, he knows the consequences. Bring him in”

Chapter Text

“There’s been another murder” Meg is waiting for him at his desk when Castiel strolls in, barely on time. 

“What?” He stumbles over the work, thoughts derailed by Meg presence. His coffee cup remains clenched tightly in his hand as he gapes at her. 

Meg huffs in frustration. “Murder” She crosses her arms and frowns. “As in, another dirtbag was shredded to the point where his kidneys were showing” She fixes him with a stern look that demands he cut whatever crap he’s trying to sell. 

“Oh,” Cas manages to croak, coming to a standstill in front of the woman.  

“Mills wants to see us” Meg rolls her eyes and pushes off her perch at the edge of Castiel’s desk. “Now, if you’re over whatever bullshit that was yesterday, we need to get going” She turns away from him and starts walking, shoulders pulled back and tense. 

Cas stares after her, exhaustion clouds his brain and he struggles to make sense of what she just said.  

He barely slept last night. The neon sign of the bar lit up his vision every time he closed his eyes and his brain latched onto that sight, wondering if Michael, no, Dean, was there. Wondering if Dean would call him. 

Hoping he doesn’t. 

Hoping he does. 

What kind of cop is he? Wanting some mobster to call him to set up a date as he lays in the middle of his bed, shrouded in darkness. He almost devolved into manic giggles at the very thought. What the hell is wrong with him? 

He forced himself out of bed this morning with a singular focus. To go to work, ask to see Captain Mills in private and tell her everything. Hell, he’s even willing to offer up his shield. 

That plan has been blown to smithereens barely five minutes into his shift. He trails after Meg, noticing that Donna and Victor are already waiting for him along with a handful of others. “Sorry I’m late” He mutters, keeping his gaze down to avoid meeting anyone else’s eyes. He’s sure that somehow, simply making eye contact will give away everything. 

“Good to see you again, Castiel” Donna greets, expression full of genuine pleasure. 

Castiel wants to slink under the table and hide. 

“Alright. Now that everyone is here” Captain Mills shoots him a look and he frowns in apology. “As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, another body was found last night. Arthur Ketch. A British national in the US on a work visa” She hits the button on the projector and a photo of a clean-cut man, probably mid to late 30s, pops up onto the wall. Another press of the button changes the photo to one taken from the crime scene. His face is bloodied and shows signs of bruising and his shirtless body shows more cuts than a person could count in one sitting.  

Some are deeper than others, the occasional glint of bone peeks through if Castiel looks close enough, but something about the wounds sets alarm bells ringing in his mind. 

“Did the coroner determine the time of death?” Castiel speaks up, wheels turning in his mind.  

“Judging by the degradation of the tissues and pooling of blood in the extremities, we put the time of death thirty-six to forty-eight hours ago” A young, dark-haired man Castiel does not yet know stands and takes the clicker from Captain Mills. “Ah, I don’t believe we’ve met” The man smiles and extends a hand. “My name is Samandriel, but most everyone calls me Alfie. I’m lead forensics on this case” He smiles, looking far too young to be a forensics expert, and Cas takes his hand in a firm shake. 

“Nice to meet you. I’m Castiel Novak” Cas introduces himself, still marveling at how he’s been here for six months and has managed to meet almost no one. Maybe Meg was right, he needs to get out more. 

Alfie continues his breakdown of what they know, and what they suspect about the murder and how it might relate back to the Winchester gang but Castiel listens with growing doubts. 

There is something about the patterns in the cuts. He’s seen them before, only healed over. Michael. Dean. He reminds himself with a grimace.  

The scars littering his chest, stomach and back bear a striking resemblance to those seen on this victim. He needs to go back through the other files. If the same pattern holds true, maybe Dean was a victim. Maybe Dean has nothing to do with all of this. 

Somehow, seeing Dean as a victim is so much better than imagining him committing these horrible crimes.

He shakes his head to clear that train of thought. Speculating will do him no good when he can’t talk to anyone about this. Except, maybe he can. If Dean contacts him… NO. No. No. No. He can’t be in contact with someone like Dean Winchester. 

Finally, Alfie is done and Castiel has barely been able to listen to a word of his report. Good going Novak He internally berates himself.  

Everyone else files from the room and Castiel hangs back, fully intending to have a word with Jody Mills but his stomach keeps insisting on doing somersaults. 

“Can I help you, Novak?” Jody settles behind her desk and eyes him with a sense of urgency. 

“I, uh, I just wanted to apologize for running out on everyone yesterday. I don’t know what happened, I was fine one minute and then….” He trails off with a shrug, already hating himself just a little bit more for failing in the one task he set for the day. 

“I’ll admit, I was a little surprised. I trust you’re feeling better?” Jody arches a brow and Castiel nods. 

He realizes now that he’ll never be able to bring himself to admit to the mess he’s dug himself into. Dean won’t call. He would be a fool to knowingly be in contact with a detective in the very agency that would like to see him behind bars. Neither of them knew who the other was. They both made an honest mistake and the only way through is forward.  

No one needs to know. 

“Much better” Castiel smiles. “Well, I’d better get to it. Those files aren’t going to review themselves” He slips from her office with another word to track down Meg, she’ll know where the file box got off to. 

Turns out, he doesn’t have to search very hard. Meg is waiting for him at his desk. Instead of leaning on the edge, she’s outright stolen his chair this time with a file propped open in front of her. “You know, Clarence, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it was in here that made you lose your lunch yesterday” She sets the file down with a frown. “Care to share with the class?” She arches a brow that borders on accusatory.  

“Lunch didn’t agree with me” He frowns, voice rough and indignant as he stares down at her. 

“You know you can talk to me, right?” She slouches in his chair, looking up at him with a calculating gaze. 

Cas frowns harder. “Yeah, right” He barely keeps himself from huffing the words as he shakes his head. “I told you, I must have eaten something bad” He rubs his stomach for good measure.  

“Fine, keep your secrets” She pushes to her feet to stare him down. She’s a good half foot shorter than him but her presence is not one to be trifled with. 

Castiel swallows thickly. “Puking my guts out is hardly a secret”  

“Well, while you were home sick, the rest of us were busy sorting through these cold cases. Found eight that have obvious connections to the Winchesters. Enough for there to be a pattern” Meg informs him with only a little bitterness to her tone. “We’re bringing him in” She drops a file onto his desk for emphasis before turning and moving towards her own desk. 

They’re bring Dean in? Castiel’s heart stutters at the thought. He can’t be seen when they do. If Dean sees him. If Dean says something, his career will be ruined. “I need to go talk to Detective Hanscum” He grumbles, turning away from his own desk before Meg can get in another word. He half expects Meg to follow and he’s relieved when she doesn’t fall into step beside him.

His feet carry him down a floor to the organized crime office where he quickly seeks out Donna. “Detective Hanscum” Cas smiles broadly.  

“Castiel” Donna smiles back. “What can I do for you?” 

“Well, Meg told me that you’re bringing Winchester in for questioning?” He starts off, purposefully leaving his question open-ended. 

“Yeah” Donna nods. “Too many connections to the cold cases to ignore” 

“Forgive me, but what kinds of connections are we talking about?” Castiel has to ask. He cut out too early yesterday to have learned anything. 

“Well, eight of the victims were seen meeting with Winchester shortly before disappearing” She nods. 

“And they all showed the same wound pattern?” Castiel cocks his head as he meets Donna’s eyes with a smile. 

“Aye, they did” She nods, “Look to be made with the same set of knives, in roughly the same sequence. Like someone’s been practicing” She has no idea how that statement makes Cas’ stomach clench. 

“What about the other victims?” He knows there are several more with the same types of wounds.

Donna shakes her head. “They're similar but we haven’t found how they’re connected yet”

“Then maybe Winchester has nothing to do with them” He bites his tongue as soon as the words leave his mouth. His desperation to not have Dean in the station is overwhelming his common sense. Never mind his lingering hope that Dean isn’t responsible for this.

Donna arches a brow but keeps her smile firmly in place before giving Cas a shrug. “We still need to talk to him”

He doesn’t doubt Dean is somehow connected to these murders, but he cannot have cut himself like his scars show. Someone did that to him.

Did this someone practice on Dean? His heart aches at the thought before he can tamp it down. Logically, he knows that he shouldn’t be leaping to Dean’s defense. Especially since he cannot begin to explain why he wants so badly for Dean to be innocent.

 Dean is not some innocent victim, he reminds himself. None of these victims were innocent. 

Castiel nods his agreement. He needs to focus on solving these murders and find a way to keep Dean out of his mind. “Thank you, Detective” He smiles as genuinely as he can muster before he turns to head back upstairs. 

“Castiel?” Donna calls for his attention just as he’s about to push through the glass door separating the office from the elevator lobby. He turns to face her and she gives him a friendly wave. “Glad you’re feeling better!” 

Cas huffs a small laugh and a grin crawls across his face. “Thank you” He dips his chin and turns towards the elevator. He can’t help but think she might be just a little too nice, but he isn’t going to ask too many questions. 

He’s just settling back at his desk when his phone lights up with a text. 

Michael: Good Morning Cas! I hope you’re having a good day. 

Michael: I was hoping that maybe you’d be able to have dinner with me sometime this week? 

Cas glares at his phone, knowing he should just delete the messages and number and pretend nothing ever happened. In fact, his finger hovers over the little trash can icon on his phone but he can’t quite bring himself to press down.  

He moans and buries his head in his hands, hating his own weakness.  

He has work to do, cases he needs to focus on and leads to pursue. He’ll deal with his phone problem later. “Masters!” He pushes back from his desk when he sees his assigned partner rising from her desk. “We should head out soon, try to speak with the victims’ families” 

Meg frowns but nods. “Yes. I suppose we should”  

Cas grabs the list of names and addresses their team compiled yesterday. “You wanna drive? I’m still getting used the city” Which is entirely code for ‘I’ll probably just get us lost’. 

Meg smiles tensely. “Sure thing, Clarence” 

They spend the rest of the day speaking with family members and acquaintances of the victims and learning exactly nothing. The trouble with gangs, thieves, and murderers is that no one likes to talk about them. Either the family members are criminals themselves, threatened to keep quiet, or so far estranged from the deceased that they truly know nothing. None of those situations are exactly helpful and Castiel grows more frustrated each time they pile back into Meg’s care to head towards the next address. 

Finally, they pull back up to the precinct and Meg clenches the steering wheel tightly. “I could use a drink” She shakes her head. “What’dya say, Clarence?” She turns her gaze to Castiel who stiffened in the passenger seat the moment the words left her mouth. 

“I, uh, can’t” He mutter, looking down. 

“What, you meeting your pretty little boy toy?” Meg teases and Castiel blushes deeper. 

He shakes his head. “No” He frowns, glancing towards Meg and trying to fight against the admission trying to bubble out of him. There’s no shame in admitting your faults. He tries to remind himself and he finally nods. “I just, I can’t. Drink that is. It’s better for everyone if I don’t” He turns his head to look out the window, anywhere but towards Meg. He has yet to make one single good decision with even a drop of alcohol in his system. 

“Castiel?” Meg questions, tone soft and gentle as she rests a hand on his forearm.  

His fingertips are dug into his thigh to the point of being painful. “I…” He starts before taking a break to swallow down the lump blocking his throat. “I’m an alcoholic” He all but whispers. Maybe she'll finally stop asking if she knows.

“Shit” Meg curses and Castiel jumps. “I’m sorry, Clarence” She shakes her head, hand tightening over his. “I had no idea. God, you must hate me. Trying to drag you out for drinks all the time” She nearly whines, clenching his hand and tapping them both on Cas' knee.

He turns widened eyes to meet hers, denial on the tip of his tongue but her finger over his lips causes his protest to fizzle. 

“I am so sorry” She emphasizes each word staring into his eyes. “I never meant to pressure you or make you uncomfortable” 

“It’s ok, Meg” He shakes his head. 

“You know what, screw the drink. How about we go for a bite to eat instead?” She offers, still not releasing his hand. 

Cas starts to protest, just wanting to go home and hide for a while but Meg has other plans. 

“Just as friends and work partners. Promise. I know this great little hole in the wall Mexican place, you been to Jardin Corona? It’s no Chuys, but it’s a lot quieter” 

Cas lets out a deep breath and nods, sensing Meg isn’t going to take no for an answer and he really does need to eat. 

“Perfect!” Meg grins and starts her car back up. “I’ll drive us down there and bring you back. You live close by, right?” 

“Yeah, just down on Willow Creek” Castiel confirms. 

His phone pings and his heart sinks when he remembers the texts from earlier that he’s been trying to ignore. He fishes the device from his pocket to take a look and he can’t tell whether he’s disappointed or not to see that the text of from his brother. 

Gabriel: Hey baby bro, haven’t heard from u in 4ever. What gives?! 

Castiel sighs and shakes his head before responding. 

Me: Been busy. Just wrapped up one case that led straight into another. 

He knows better than to tuck his phone away but he silences the ringer just in case his crazy brother decided to call him instead of continuing to text. 

Gabriel: Busy is good, right? 

Me: Yes. Busy keeps me out of trouble. 

Castiel texts back, wishing that statement held just a little bit more truth. 

Gabriel: Yes, but all work and no play makes Castiel a dull boy. Trust me. I would know. You’re boring as hell Cassie. 

Castiel. Haha. Very funny. And I’ve found plenty of time to play. 

Again, he wishes there was more truth to that statement. He found time to play exactly once and it’s turned around to bite him the ass. Almost literally. 

“Who’s got you grinning like a fool?” Meg needles, sending Castiel a knowing smirk as she drives. 

“My brother” Castiel answers plainly. 

“You come from a big family?” Meg questions, barely taking her attention of the remnants of rush hour traffic. 

Castiel shrugs. “You could say that” 

“Tell me about them” Meg half demands, half questions as Castiel ignores the next text from Gabriel. 

“I’ve got three older brothers and two younger sisters” He shrugs again, not wanting to talk about his siblings too much. “Gabriel is the only one I really talk to any more” 

“That’s too bad. I’m an only child myself” Meg offers. “Well, here we are” 

Dinner is delicious, and Castiel finds himself enjoying Meg’s company, much to his surprise. Time passes quickly and before he realizes, Meg is dropping him off at the precinct to collect his boat of a Continental. They bid farewell and twenty minutes later. Castiel is pulling up at his apartment building and his phone pings with an incoming text. 

Michael: Hey Cas, haven’t heard back from you. I hope I wasn’t reading things wrong the other night, I really would like to take you out. 

Cas groans when he reads the message. No, Michael wasn’t reading him wrong. Not even a little. But that was before he discovered that Michael doesn’t exist and his real name is Dean Winchester. 

He trudges up to his apartment and is careful to lock his deadbolt and slide the chain into place. Not that the flimsy piece of metal would help him if someone were to try and break in, but it does give him a tiny little bit of comfort. It might at least slow Dean down enough for Castiel to grab his gun. 

Me: I’m afraid I must decline your invitation, Dean 

Castiel holds his breath before pressing send. He should just leave the last bit off, pretend that he doesn’t know that Michael is Dean. If he thinks that Cas is just turning him down, man to man, then he might leave him alone. But, if Castiel presses send, he’s turning Dean down Detective to Mobster, and that is an entirely different kettle of fish. 

He presses send. 

And waits. 

He rushes through his nighttime routine, never letting his phone out of his sight. He should change his number and find a way to get out of his lease and move.  

Michael: I see. Tell me, are you declining because YOU don’t want to see me again or is this coming from a sense of duty? 

Castiel’s phone chimes as he’s stripping the sheets from his bed. He should have done this yesterday, but he couldn’t quite summon the energy. Now, he can’t stand the thought that Dean’s scent might linger on his linens and that feeling only barely outweighs his desire to wrap himself in that scent and forget who they are.  

Me: I can’t do this. 

He’s done. He swears he is. No more texting the murdering mob boss who he is supposed to be finding ways to arrest. Not dreaming about how amazing he made Castiel feel. 

His phone rings and Castiel stares at the screen for a moment. His caller ID flashes MICHAEL in big, bold, letters and his heart lodges in his throat. He can’t possibly answer the call. Michael is probably only calling to threaten him anyway. Maybe he at least has the decency to not send death threats over text. That would be polite of him. 

“Hello?” Castiel answers, already berating himself for his weakness. 

“Cas” Michael, no DEAN, answers. “I’m glad you picked up” His tone is soft and colored with relief. Castiel blinks in confusion. This does not sound like the voice of a man about to threaten him. 

Cas closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to keep his fluttering heart at bay. “Why did you call me?” He forces himself to ask, hoping the answer isn’t ‘keep quiet or else I’ll liberate your spine’ or something else to that effect. 

“You said you didn’t want to see me again” Dean mutters, his voice sounding quiet and somewhat lost. Castiel thaws a little at the uncertain quality in Dean’s voice. Like Dean had actually wanted to take him out or something. “I, well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed” 

“So, you’re just going to ignore the fact that I’m a cop and you’re... you’re a criminal?” Castiel scoffs into the phone and immediately regrets his words. 

“I had been hoping we could look past our differences” Dean offers.  

“How” Castiel demands, pressing his lips into a flat line. He’s already spoken to Dean more than he should. He never should have answered his phone in the first place. In fact, he should hang up. 

“Please don’t hang up” Dean blurts as if reading Castiel’s mind. “I just….” He trails off and Castiel can almost picture him scrubbing a hand over his face, letting it rest over one of his perfectly green eyes. “When I saw you in that bar, I had no idea who you were. I had no idea! And I’m pretty sure you didn’t know who I was” He pauses, waiting for Castiel to confirm or deny. He doesn’t. 

“You’re gorgeous, Cas. I wanted you as soon as I saw you. I still do”Dean's voice is low and vulnerable and Castiel imagines he actually means those words, but he can’t let himself believe them. 

“And we’re just supposed to ignore who we are” Castiel snips, shaking his head.  

“We could try” Dean suggests. “I’m not...I’m not what you think, Cas”  

If Castiel didn’t know better, if he hadn’t seen the contents of Dean’s file or read his history, he might be inclined to give Dean a chance. But he can’t. No matter how much his dick wants him to, he can’t. 

“Goodbye Dean” Castiel forces himself to say just before ending the call, at least giving the man the slight courtesy of not just hanging up on him. He sits for a moment at the edge of his bed, staring intently at the wall as he struggles to get his breathing under control.  

He turns his phone off entirely and decides he’ll get a new number tomorrow. Getting out of his lease might be trickier, but he can’t have connections to a local crime lord. He can’t let himself travel down that road. He’s good a cop. Despite his problems.  

Sure, sometimes his job frustrates him, and he wishes he could take the law into his own hands. But he’s a good cop. 

He forces himself to double check the locks on his front door and finding them secure, he climbs underneath the covers of his freshly made bed, but he can’t bring himself to try to sleep. Hearing Dean’s voice again has memories of the other night flooding back to him. 

Those vivid green eyes, darkened by lust, hover above him and his stomach clenches with the too good pleasure of it all. Every gentle touch, every whispered murmur of praise and grunt of pleasure. His cock twitches with interest at the memories and he snakes his hand into his boxers before he can question his actions. 

He groans lightly as his hand closes around his stiffening cock, jerking slightly and letting his mind get lost in the vision of those perfect green eyes lying next to him, stroking a hand lightly over his chest and abdomen before joining his hand on his cock. 

He pictures those plush lips trailing kisses down his body, nipping at his hipbones before Dean pushes Cas’ hand away from his cock. Cas arches his back as he envisions those sinful lips wrapping around the head of his hard length and sucking, hard, as Dean looks up through his lashes to meet his gaze. 

Castiel trembles, stroking himself faster and harder as his orgasm builds. He tries to shove the imaginings of Dean aside, somewhere in his mind, Michael has been erased and there is only Dean. Dean with his lips wrapped tightly around Castiel’s flushed and heavy cock, Dean pushing Castiel’s legs apart as he settles between them. 

Dean tracing circles around his rim with the pad of his well-lubed finger and gently pushing inside until Castiel is arching off the bed with a shout. “Dean!” He cries, pleasured groans turning into whimpers as his cock twitches and spurts, the spark of pleasure deep in his gut exploding outward as he comes and paints his belly with streaks of sticky white spend. 

He pants, closing his eyes to focus on his breathing. “What the hell am I doing?” He whispers to himself, shaking his head as he quietly lets shame wash over him. Great, now he jerked off to Dean Winchester without even stopping to consider if he should. Dean is beautiful, he can’t deny that, and his memories from their night together paint such an incredible picture. He shouldn’t have done that, but…who’s to tell? It’s not like he discusses his masturbatory practices with anyone. Not even Gabriel wants to hear about that.  

No one needs to know.  

With that thought, he drags himself out of bed to clean up as he tries to put thoughts of Dean out of his head. He’ll allow himself to fantasize just this once. Never again. He huffs a laugh at the thought. He’s old enough to know better than to believe he has that much control over his fantasies while in the heat of the moment. 

He eventually falls into a fitful sleep, visions of green eyes and that soft voice running through his mind like a montage. 

Chapter Text

Castiel oversleeps his alarm and rushes through his morning routine to get himself out the door and into Austin rush hour traffic. 

He stops cold in his tracks when he opens his door and nearly trips over a carefully arranged bundle of crimson red roses. His brows scrunch together at the sight, certain that someone must have left them at the wrong address. He bends down to collect them, fully intending to see who they belong to and deposit them at the appropriate door. 

Until he sees his name scrawled on the card. His lips curl up in a half smile against his better judgment as he opens the card. 

Castiel, please accept these roses as a token of my affection and hope that you might consider giving us a chance. 

Yours, Michael 

He barks a small laugh before he can stop himself and shakes his head with a fond smile that he quickly forces into a scowl. He grips the roses tight in his hand as he hurriedly locks the door before he rushes down the steps. 

The roses are tossed into the complex dumpster, except for the card that he intends to put through the paper shredder once he gets to the precinct. He tucks that into the pocket of his dress slacks, the firm edge of the cardstock paper poking his thigh through the loose material.

The drive to work is slower than normal, between him already running late and then the distraction of the flowers, he pulls his Continental out into traffic at peak rush hour.  

He fumbles to turn his phone on and dismisses the missed call alert and deletes the corresponding voicemail before he can give in and listen to it. He feels better immediately. He is purposefully avoiding contact with Dean as he should. Score one for Novak! He isn’t even going to allow himself to dwell on what the message might have said. 

Instead, he looks up his contact for Meg and hits the dial button.

“Hello?” Meg answers impatiently, a tone Castiel is coming to recognize as simply her normal voice. “Where are you, Clarence?”  

“I’m running a little late, traffic is terrible” Castiel scowls, glaring heavily at the BMW trying to zip in and out of traffic like his impatience will get him somewhere faster than everyone else. 

Spoiler alert: It won’t. He’ll probably just end up causing an accident and slowing himself down even more. Castiel almost wishes he were still a beat cop out on patrol so the schmuck might at least be threatened by his marked car.

“Are there any new developments since last night?” He questions, needing the distraction from the idiot in front of him. 

“Something maybe big. This Alistair person seems to be a ghost, but we think he isn’t the only killer” He can hear the frustration in Meg’s tone and sympathizes. 

“Fantastic” Cas huffs a breath, shaking his head at the squeal of tires from the BMW assbutt. “Hey, how far back do the murders go?” The oldest file he remembered looking at was nearly twelve years old. 

“Well, we had forensics review the wound patterns. There seem to be two slightly differing styles, which is why we’re considering two killers. The primary suspect, the one we think is this Alistair person, goes back almost 20 years. At least from what we’ve found so far” Castiel can feel her shrug through the phone and his teeth clench. Twenty years?! 

“And the other?” This is the first Castiel has heard of a second killer and he curses himself to running late. He should have been there to get this information firsthand. 

“The other seems to have first appeared about 16 years ago” Meg shuffles some papers around, the sound filling Castiel’s ear before her voice returns. “The patterns are different despite the knife wounds seeming to be the same. This second killer started off with patterns much closer to the first. Almost like a copycat. But then something changed. We’re not even certain we’re looking at two killers, but my gut says we are” 

“What changed?” Castiel’s brow creases in puzzlement. Sure, serial killers refine their technique over time, but usually not that much and certainly not suddenly. 

“The cuts became fewer and more to the point. He started going for the killing stroke sooner as if he became bored with it. The bodies also became fewer and farther between. Either he slowed down or started hiding them better” Meg shuffles more papers around and Castiel feels another pang of guilt for being late. 

“Are the victims still all criminals?” Castiel wonders aloud. Serial killers don’t just stop killing. Usually, they escalate. Why would this one slow down?  

“Yeah. The worst of the worst, actually. It seems our second killer puts a little more thought into who he goes after. The most recent was someone we had been watching as a suspect in a human trafficking ring. That was…” more shuffling of papers… “about a year ago” 

“An entire year?” Castiel finds that hard to believe. “Uh, how many murders are we attributing to this supposed second killer?” He swallows hard, almost afraid to know. “What about the most recent victim?”

“Eight so far” Meg responds quickly. “There’s seven more that show signs of both killers but not yesterdays. That murder looks to be the first killer” 

“They worked together?!” Castiel’s brows shoot into his hairline and his heartrate ratchets up a notch. Serial killers working together is rare, so very rare. “Do you think that Alistair might have mentored this second killer?” His thoughts flash to Dean’s scars and his heart aches with the thought of either of these murderers getting their hands on him. 

He could ask Dean. He could ask and hopefully, Dean would give him a useful answer. Castiel quickly shuts that idea down, certain that someone like Dean Winchester would not be interested in turning into a police informant and Cas wouldn’t be able to disclose where he got his information from to begin with. Not without also disclosing his career ruining misstep. He sighs, shaking his head. 

“Maybe, neither of them left anything for us to on. We might as well be chasing ghosts” Meg’s tone carries an air of defeat that doesn’t suit her in the slightest. 

“There’s got to be something” Castiel mutters as he lays on his horn, earning himself a one-fingered salute from the jackass who just cut him off. “Alright, that’s it. I gotta go” He ends the call abruptly and throws the single police light he carries in the car onto his dash and sets it to flash. 

The jackass in the beat-up tan sedan who cut him off pulls slightly over, just enough to only half hang out in traffic and Castiel storms out of his car with his hand resting on his gun. The plate on the car looks to be barely hanging on and one tire is nearly flat. “License and registration” He barks as he flashes his badge to the oddly serene looking motorist. 

“My apologies, officer…?” the man rasps, his tone serpentine and showing no sign of remorse. The man looks far too tall to be crammed into such a small car, his legs folded with his knees bumping the steering wheel on either side. His face is long with a light, graying beard and his eyes are dark and almost dead looking, eerily reminiscent of a shark. His grim yet smug expression immediately sets Castiel on edge as he reaches to take the man’s information.  

“Novak” Castiel bites, staring the man down. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Castiel demands, eyes narrowed. It has been years since he’s pulled a traffic stop and this is the first one he’s made wearing plain clothes, with his own vehicle. These kinds of stops are generally frowned upon but Castiel is ten different kinds of irritated and if he can take it out on this deserving asshole then he’s damn well going to. 

“MMM” The man hums. Christopher Hyderdahl, his license reads. “I presume you’re being opportunistic in taking out your own personal frustrations” The man snivels, tone insolent and knowing.  

Castiel gets a distinct feeling that the man is provoking him. “I’m pulling you over for reckless driving” He states, clearly and allowing no argument. He will not rise to the bait, no matter how correct the guy might be. “Please wait here while I run your information” Cas narrows his eyes, daring the man to disagree and add to his fine. 

“Of course, sir” Heyerdahl gives Cas a smile that makes his skin crawl. His instincts scream that something is wrong with this man, but he can’t do anything about that tingle in the back of his mind that has his instincts on edge. 

Cas stalks back to his car, offering the unhappy line of traffic behind them an apologetic nod as he slides behind the wheel and pulls out his citation materials. He carefully and clearly copies down the information, glancing up often to ensure that Heyerdahl hasn’t fled the scene. Finally, he’s finished and returns to deliver the ticket and return Heyerdahl’s documentation.  

“Be more careful in the future” Castiel grumbles as he hands everything over.  

“Thank you, officer” Heyerdahl delivers the phrase as an insult and quickly rolls his window up and drives away, leaving Castiel standing on the side of the road glaring after the man. 

There is something wholly unsettling about this entire situation, but Cas has no choice but to get back in his car and continue his commute.  

By the time he pulls into the station and drops off the citation information with the traffic division, he’s already wishing he could turn around and just go home. “Hey Meg” He grumbles, throwing his bag at his desk on his way to hers. 

“Nice of you to join us” She gripes but her tone lacks heat as she pushes to her feet. “Mills wants to see us” 

“Great” Castiel grumbles, falling into step at her side. 

--- Dean --- 

“You’re an idiot, you know that, right?” Ellen glares at him from across the table as he downs a second glass of bourbon this early in the morning. 

“He threw them away!” He laments, lifting his glass dramatically. “He hates me” Dean pouts. Anyone who doesn’t know him would never believe that the hard-ass who keeps the city in line would pout, but Ellen has known him through the worst parts of his life. She’s allowed to see him pout. 

“Dean, you’re being ridiculous. Did you forget the part where he’s a DETECTIVE” She smacks him upside the head as she takes his glass behind the bar. She quickly pours and shoves a fresh mug of coffee toward him, fixing him a look at demands compliance with her hands settled on her hips. 

“I know” Dean mutters with a frown, taking the coffee mug in hand and giving the contents a cursory sniff. “You haven’t seen him though, he’s incredible” He leans forward, eyes bright and earnest. 

“Jo told me everything I need to know” Ellen leans forward, covering Dean’s hands with her own. “Now, sweetie, you gotta accept that this kind of puppy love isn’t going to work for someone in your position” She fixes him with another stern expression. She’s watched this boy grow up, helped him through some pretty nasty things and made sure he came out the other side that much stronger. “I won’t see you throw everything away just to chase after some cop” 

“He didn’t even know who I was” Dean sighs, leaning back in his chair. “He wanted me for me” 

“And you want him because he’s a pretty face that you can’t have” Ellen frowns and Dean sighs. 

“It’s more than that” He shakes his head, taking a long drink of coffee with a grimace. 

The bell above the door chimes at it swings open. “Hey boss, we got a problem” Mick saunters in, looking a little too unhappy for this hour of the morning. 

Dean immediately perks up and turns his attention to his employee. Mick has been with him for years, turned against his former colleague quickly when he realized just how cushy Dean could make his life. “What is it?” Dean asks, voice hardened and alert. 

“Ketch is missing” He frowns, clearly troubled by this simple fact. Mick once worked closely with Ketch. They were part of the same organization that worked to smuggle illegal weapons out of the United States, through Mexico and into distant war zones. 

Putting big guns in the hands of children had never set well with Mick, and when Dean had made him an offer to work for him, Mick had jumped at the opportunity. “Do you know what he was working on?” Dean already knows that Ketch is missing, and what he was working on but sometimes playing dumb is the best move. He knows Mick and Ketch keep in touch, their friendship was strained by Mick’s departure, but it wasn’t broken. Mick wouldn’t appreciate Dean going behind his back.

“Some deal involving the gangs and AR-15s" Mick shakes his head. “But already you know that” Mick frowns knowingly at Dean with narrowed eyes.

Dean holds up his hands in mock surrender. “He disappeared before we could touch him. Honest” Dean promises, and Mick’s look goes from mildly accusing to concerned.

“He was pissed about you shutting him down a few months ago, but not pissed enough to give up in Austin” Mick frowns, shaking his head. “I know you don’t tell me everything, but I thought maybe…”

“Hold on” Dean holds up a finger as he pulls out his phone and searches for a very particular number. He has his sources inside the police department and a niggling worry plants itself in the back of his mind. “Hey, Red” Dean speaks quietly, knowing Charlie is at work and being on the phone with him is probably not the best idea for either of them. 

“Hey Michael!” Charlie quips, bright and sunny as always. Her use of his alias is all the confirmation he needs to know that she’s somewhere in the precinct.  

“I was hoping you might be able to give me some information” Dean turns away from Mick as the man settles at the bar and accepts a steaming mug of coffee from Ellen. 

“I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t make promises” Dean can hear her tone waver. He doesn’t make a habit of calling her at work, but this just can’t wait. 

“Can you tell me if anyone by the name of Arthur Ketch has passed through your system in the last few days” Dean chews the inside of his cheek as he waits, the sound of a keyboard clacking under Charlie’s rapid-fire typing. He marvels at how she manages to help him while working with the Austin Police department. The woman is a genius. 

“Ketch...Ketch” Charlie mumbles as she types. “Got him” Dean taps his foot as he waits. “Oohh, maybe bad news. He came through the morgue” 

“Shit” Dean bites. “How’d he die?” The sinking feeling in his gut means he already knows, but he needs to be certain. 

Charlie hums before letting out a heavy sigh. “Cut to ribbons. Just like the others” 

“Fuck!” Dean half yells, slamming his closed fist on the bar top. 

“Oh, Michael?” Charlie asks hesitantly. 

“Yeah, kid?” Dean swallows hard, heart hammering in his chest. 

“Just so you know. A suspect in another case did some name dropping. The police are finally connecting the dots” She speaks clearly and slow enough to read between the lines. 

Dean takes a deep, shuddering breath and nods. “Thanks for the heads up” He hangs up the phone and presses his forehead to the cool wood of the bar top. 

“Ketch is dead. Fucking Alistair!” Dean heaves his phone across the bar and the flimsy plastic shatters as it strikes the wall, raining shards of glass and plastic onto the floor. That bastard has been ruining his life since he was sixteen. 

“What’s goin on?” Benny shoves his way out from the back kitchen at the commotion. The man is big, even for an enforcer, and downright scary when he wants to be. Here in the Roadhouse though, when he’s nothing more than a cook behind the counter, the man is a teddy bear and Dean’s best friend. He throws a greasy rag over his shoulder and approaches the bar. “We got a job, boss?”  

Benny’s blue eyes gleam with hope, he’s been sidelined since the police started looking at him a little too closely and both he and Dean hate it. There are few people Dean would trust more to have his back than Benny Lafitte, being without him feels like having a hand tied behind his back. 

“Not for you Benny” Dean sighs, staring at the broken remnants of his phone. Cas’ number was on there, his personal phone that is never used for business. He has most of the other numbers memorized, but the loss of his blue-eyed Angel’s number sits heavy in his gut. 

He’ll just have to find a way to get it back. He knows where the man lives, and his name. He can't be too hard to track down. He’ll ask Charlie if he needs to.

“Who’s Alistair?” Mick questions. The Brit hasn’t been around Austin long enough to have learned about the slimy bastard who left his mark on Dean so many years ago. 

Dean shakes his head as Benny clasps his hand on Dean’s shoulder. 

“Alistair’s a monster” Benny glowers towards the door. Benny is one of the few who knows the full story of Dean’s history with the sadist. Benny and Ellen are the only members of that club, and Dean would prefer to keep it that way.  

 

“I have to find a way to put him down” Dean grits, locking eyes with Ellen and then Benny. They both nod their agreement. He should have gone after Alistair years ago, but the lingering fear of finding himself back on the monster’s rack as stayed his hand.

“You know I got your back, brother” Benny nods with a soft smile that would be enough to strike fear into the heart of any sane person. But for Dean, that wicked grin holds a promise of loyalty and safety. 

“What do you need from me, boss?” Mick crosses his arms over his chest, eyeing Dean with caution. He doesn’t need to know what has Dean’s teeth on edge, he only needs to know the course of action. 

“We need to go about business as usual, find a way to draw him out. Alistair has some sort of sick fascination with me. I need to send him a message” Dean unbuttons the cuff of his crisp white dress shirt and rolls the sleeves to his elbows. “Benny, you got intel on the underground? Any scum that would be doing the world a favor by disappearing?” 

Benny pinches a frown and nods. “You sure you wanna go that route?” He arches a brow, knowing just how much of a filthy black stain Alistair left to fester within Dean. It’s what makes him so good at keeping the outlaws in line. 

Too bad the police don’t see it that way. 

Deans nods. “Find someone”  

Chapter Text

The days blur together and Castiel can barely remember what day of the week it is, let alone how much time has passed since Dean left him flowers. 

The case drags on, but Alastair leaves the bodies too clean. They may as well be chasing a ghost. There is no record of Azazel having a brother either, so, despite the man’s word, they’re left doubting there is any relation there at all. 

Alastair doesn’t exist on paper and Azazel hadn’t been on any record until 1992.

At least Azazel’s insistence that there is another serial killer in Austin appears to be true. 

Castiel has to be in court for Azazel’s arraignment and he’s been waiting for what feels like hours with his coat draped over one arm, leaning against the wall in the waiting area of the courthouse. 

Azazel is under a maximum-security transport, and naturally, they’re running behind. Transfers from jail never seem to happen on time. 

He checks his watch for what is perhaps the twentieth time and huffs with impatience. Over an hour late. This is bad even for Austin. “What the hell is taking so long?” Castiel grumbles to himself as he pushes off the wall and sets to pacing. 

“Excuse me, Detective Novak?” A voice calls from the end of the corridor and Castiel turns to see a uniformed officer walking towards him with a pinched frown. The young man’s hand rests over his sidearm and Castiel instantly tenses. 

Did they find out about Dean? Is his first thought, but the officer’s widened blue eyes and grim expression look to be more belonging to a bearer of bad news than of someone about to make an arrest. “Is there a problem?” Castiel questions, a little proud of himself when he keeps his tone from wavering. 

“I’m afraid there has been an incident with the prisoner transfer” The Officer, Trenton, his name patch reads. “Would you please come with me?” He asks, jerking his head towards the judge’s chambers. 

“Of course,” Castiel nods, heart fluttering madly. What kind of incident?  

Officer Trenton leads him through the maze of chambers in the belly of the courthouse until they reach the Prosecutor’s office where he’s ushered inside. 

“Detective Novak” Prosecutor Billie Berry strides from her inner office to take Castiel’s hand. “Thank you for being here” 

“My pleasure, Ma’am” Castiel nods, taking in the woman’s exceptional height and solid build. Her jet-black hair hangs in tight curls framing her face and nothing about her suggests that she is someone to be trifled with. 

“Please, have a seat. There was an incident in the jail and it appears Azazel’s arraignment will need to be pushed back indefinitely” She frowns and gestures towards the comfortable looking chairs opposite her desk.  

“What happened?” Castiel frowns, cocking his head and narrowing his eyes. What could possibly have gone wrong? 

“The envoy escorting the prisoner was attacked” Billie begins, shushing Cas with a raised hand when he voices his alarm. “Two of our officers were badly wounded and are presently in surgery. Azazel appears to have been the primary target and is in critical condition” 

Castiel shakes his head in disbelief. How could something like this happen? And more importantly, why? “Do we know who was behind the attack?” Castiel questions, swallowing hard. The only person who stood to lose from Azazel’s deal was Alastair himself, but the department has kept their investigation as quiet as possible.  

No official statements have been made. Assuming Azazel kept his mouth shut, no one outside of the Austin Police Department should know about his deal or the information against Alastair. 

“That is where we have a problem” Prosecutor Berry levels Cas with a stern look. “A bomb exploded as the transport van exited the prison gates. We don’t know much else at this point” 

Something in Castiel’s chest tightens perceptibly. “Please, keep me updated” He eventually nods, not knowing what else to say at this point. Prosecutor Berry only knows the contents of Azazel’s file, even she knows nothing about Alastair outside of Azazel’s deal. 

“We will” Billie nods, as clear a dismissal as Castiel is going to get. 

---

The station is buzzing with frenzied activity when he returns from the courthouse and he’s quickly intercepted by Donna and Victor. 

“We’re bringing you in on the Winchester case. Both you and Meg” Victor crosses his arms over his chest and stares Castiel down. 

“Aye” Donna nods. “We’ve done some more looking into your cases and they blend just too well with ours. We think they’re related” She nods with no touch of her usual good humor. 

“Today’s attack only proves that Winchester is somehow involved with this mess” Victor grumbles. 

“You think D…Winchester is behind the murders?” Castiel clears his throat with a cough to cover his near slip and he eyes both detectives steadily. 

“Nearly every single victim was seen with Winchester within a week before their death. It’s enough of a coincidence to be a correlation. If it isn’t Winchester, it’s someone working for him” Victor frowns and Donna gives him a sideways glance that has Cas pinching his brows in confusion. 

“That’s, that good right? Something to go on?” He mutters, feeling a little lost as Donna and Victor race through a silent conversation. He directs his words towards Donna but keeps his eyes on Victor as well. 

“Why don’t you come with me, Castiel. I’ll get you caught up” Donna flinches a smile and waves him along, leaving him no choice but to follow. 

The day passes slowly as Castiel gets his fill on every detail of Dean Winchester’s life and he finds himself struggling to remember the flash of that boyish smile and gentle mirth contained in the man’s laugh.  

Dean supposedly deals in weapons and has some means of controlling the local flow of illegal drugs. He doesn’t dirty his hands with marijuana, no, his people keep the greater forms of filth in line and often by means that Castiel’s can’t entirely disagree with but just so happen to be illegal.  

Castiel is left feeling both disgusted and impressed. 

By the time Castiel leaves the station, he just wants to sleep for a week. He checks his phone a few times too many, wondering if Dean is going to call him again and half hoping he does. If he could talk to anyone about this dark mood he’s fallen into, surely it would be someone who lives in the darkness. Right? 

He huffs and shakes his head at that. Like that could possibly be a good idea! He may be half crazy, but he isn’t stupid. He hangs his head against his steering wheel, doing his best to force his thoughts into ones more appropriate for a police detective officially on the case to bring down the very man he’s fantasizing about. His groan mimics a whine, cursing his life and situation. 

Moving to Austin was supposed to make things better! Not help him tumble down the same disillusioned trap that had plagued him in Detroit. 

The neon sign of the Roadhouse beckons from down the street and Castiel glares at firmly in the face of the temptation. He is decidedly not wondering if Dean is there right now, sipping on fine whiskey like he had been that night. No. He will not entertain the foolish thought that maybe Dean is waiting for him.  

He pushes himself from his car and turns away from temptation and towards his apartment building. 

Castiel already failed in his duties as an officer of the law to report his contact with the man. He doesn’t need to add to his failures by seeking out his company.  

He stops suddenly when his door comes into view. A small pedestal table, the kind someone would keep just inside their door to throw keys onto, sits just to the left of his doorknob. 

The table itself is strange enough, but on the narrow surface sits a tall, tapered, candle, clearly lit only moments before, and what appears to be a small gift basket. 

Cas swallows hard, staring down the little display and draws his gun, sweeping the hall with his gaze, jaw set tight as he steps forward. He carefully steps past his door, holding his service pistol at the ready as he clears the surrounding area.  

He half considers calling this in and requesting backup, but he dismisses the thought quickly. How would he explain any of this? Oh, I accidentally fucked a crime lord and he might be trying to woo me. Or kill me, I’m not quite sure. But he’s really hot and sure seems friendly! 

Yeah, that would go over well. 

The hallway is decidedly empty save for Castiel and the unnerving little bundle of gifts outside his door, so he holsters his weapon and carefully approaches. 

He frowns down at the little table. The style is simple but elegant, not too posh but not cheap either. He examines it from all angles before daring to touch and he can’t help but notice how easy it would blend in with everything in his apartment. 

He frowns at the gift basket, a bottle of the same whiskey he was drinking at the Roadhouse that night along with some simple snack foods and two beautiful rocks glasses. Crystal by the look of them.

A small pendant hanging around the neck of the whiskey bottle catches his eye and he touches his fingers to the pewter surface before lifting it from the bottle. The small piece is shaped like a police badge with an image of the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon looking beast, likely Lucifer, with the inscription St. Michael, Protect Us around the outside edge. 

Cas drops the charm as if bitten and takes a step back, breathing heavily. What has he gotten himself into?! 

He swallows hard and forces himself to unlock his door and haul everything inside before anyone can see him panicking in the hallway like a lunatic.  

Once behind his locked door, he lets himself calm down enough to examine everything more closely. Underneath the bottle of whiskey, he catches sight of a simple white envelope and decides that might be the best place to start. Yes. He nods. He can do this. 

He opens the envelope with trembling fingers to see the same simple scrawl that was attached to the roses only days before. 

Cas, 

I was saddened to see you threw away the flowers, but I can only imagine that maybe roses aren’t the way to your heart? I beg you accept these simple gifts as a token of my affection and desire to see you again. I understand we come from different worlds, but I can’t get you out of my thoughts.  

Sincerely yours, 

Michael 

Cas crumples the note between his fingers, warring within himself between angry and flattered. A not so small part of him is prepared to haul everything to the dumpster right this moment, but a slightly larger part of him feels the need to be cautious. Dean could be watching. Assuming he delivered these things personally, he must have been there only moments before Cas arrived and he very well might be lurking in the shadows to watch Castiel’s reaction. 

Anger surges in him and before he can stop himself, he’s pulling out his phone and scrolling through his contacts. 

He punches the icon for Michael and presses the phone to his ear, jaw clenched so tightly he can hear his teeth creaking. 

“You can’t keep doing this!” He yells into the phone as soon as he hears someone pick up. 

“Whoa whoa whoa, hold on. Cas?” Dean sputters against Castiel’s anger. Cas can hear the quiet din of the bar in the background and he curses himself for even recognizing the voice of Jo shouting to someone across the room. “Hold on, let me go somewhere quieter. What’s wrong, Cas?” Dean’s voice turns low and urgent once his initial surprise wears off and the sound of a door closing mutes the background noises coming through the phone. 

“You CAN NOT keep leaving things on my doorstep!” Castiel bites, forcing his voice low and serious. Gabriel has told him more than once how dangerous he can sound when he drops his voice into that low and gravelly register. His ‘cop voice’, his brother calls it. 

“Cas, please. I just want you to give me a chance” Dean pleads. “Ok, so maybe I went a little far, but you threw away the roses! I didn’t know what else to do” Deans tone sharpens but holds more notes of disappointed frustration than anger. 

“You could have just left me alone! You ever think of that?!” Castiel holds onto his anger. He needs to make it clear to Dean that none of this is ok. 

“I…” Dean starts before sighing audibly. 

“A Saint Michael Pendant?! Seriously!?” Castiel snaps, refusing to run out of steam. 

“I thought you might like it. He’s the patron saint of law enforcement” Dean sounds almost sheepish as he explains. 

“And your alias. Is this some kind of joke to you?!” Castiel growls, clenching his phone tight. 

Dean sighs. “No, Cas. I swear it isn’t” The sincerity is clear in his tone. “I just want you to be safe” 

“Then why did you give me whiskey!?” Cas growls before he can stop himself. There is no way Dean could know how bad an idea that is, and Cas knows he shouldn’t hold it against the man, but the entire gift was inappropriate, so Cas is going to be angry, dammit! 

“Cas, what…I don’t understand?” Dean’s voice holds an edge of confused worry. “That’s the kind Jo said you had, I thought…I thought you liked it” 

Cas huffs angrily. “That’s exactly the problem! I’m a fucking alcoholic, Dean!”  

“Cas, I didn’t know, I swear! You were drinking, I thought….” Dean stammers. “Fuck! I’m sorry.” 

Cas takes a deep breath at that. Not a single one of his police instincts hears a lie in Dean’s tone and that helps to settle him for some reason. “I can’t keep it, Dean”  

“I understand” Dean mutters firmly, without a note of judgment. “Can you do something for me?” 

Cas shakes his head in disbelief but takes the bait anyway. “What?” 

“Can you pour the whiskey down your kitchen sink?” Dean requests softly. 

“Dump it out?” Cas arches a brow in surprise, anger dissolving into nothing in the face of Dean’s quiet concern. “It’s a brand-new bottle…” 

“I don’t care about that” Dean assures. “If you’d let me come over, I could do it. Or take it away. Whatever you want” He rushes before forcing himself to slow. “I didn’t mean to….” 

“I know” Cas scrubs a hand over his face. “You couldn’t have known” He’s touched by Dean’s obvious concern. “Yeah, I can dump it” He nods. 

“Do it now. While you’re on the phone with me. I need to know you’ll be ok” Dean urges, tone commanding yet gentle. 

Castiel finds himself gripping the bottle and carrying it across his living room before he stops to consider that he’s taking direction from someone he shouldn’t even be talking to. “Ok,” Cas mutters. Despite the source, the advice is sound. Dumping it will be easier with someone else urging him to do so. Someone holding him accountable. “I’m opening it now” And he does. 

He carefully cracks the top and tips the bottle towards his drain. His hands shake slightly as he puts the neck of the bottle vertically into the hole at the bottom of his sink, the urge to lie to Dean and pour himself some of the amber nectar is whispering at the back of his mind and Castiel hates that the thought has even crossed his mind. He turns the water on to wash the booze down as quickly as possible and forces himself to turn away from the temptation.  

“Talk to me, Cas” Dean urges. 

“It’s draining” Cas breathes out, taking a step back from the rapidly diminishing bottle. He watches the amber liquid glug its way out of the upturned bottle with a heavy heart. He knows this is for the best and the way it needs to be, but it’s still such a sad waste. 

“Good” Dean breathes out as if he had been holding his breath. “Good” 

“Why do you care?” Cas can’t help but question. None of this makes sense to him. Why would this man, who is otherwise a ruthless criminal, be pursuing a cop? 

Dean takes the beat of silence to continue. “I can’t explain it Cas” His voice is so soft and quiet that Cas can barely hear him. “I know I should run the other way. We both should. But I…I can’t stop thinking about you” 

“I couldn’t bring myself to tell my Captain about…us” Cas swallows hard around his confession. “I was ready to. I had a speech all planned and even had my badge in hand, ready to hand over. But I couldn’t do it” He pauses for a breath and hears nothing but silence at the other end of the line. “What the hell is wrong with me?!” Cas chokes on his last words, the righteous anger he had been clinging to dissolving into nothing. 

“It sounds like we’re both fucked” Dean mutters, huffing a mirthless laugh into the phone. “Please, let me see you again” Dean pleads and Castiel feels himself wanting to give in. 

“No” Cas forces himself to say. He’s supposed to be collecting evidence against Dean, not fraternizing with the man. He gives the now empty bottle a quick rinse and throws it in his recycle bin. “We can’t do this”  

Dean sighs and that might possibly be one of the saddest sounds Cas ever heard. “That doesn’t change how much I want to” Dean mumbles, a little bit petulant. 

“It doesn’t matter what you want” Castiel frowns and pulls the phone from his ear to end the call before giving Dean a chance to respond. 

He stands in the middle of his living room, staring at the table and pendant before scooping the pendant up and fastening the chain around his neck. 

Fuck it, he thinks. What harm can it do to keep a simple pendant? 

Chapter Text

Dean hears the line go dead and the sadness in his gut churns and froths into anger. He grips his phone tight in his hand, careful not to send it flying against a wall like his last phone. 

He’s glad Castiel called. At least he has the man’s phone number once again. 

After watching him go into full police mode and near panic when he arrived home and saw Dean’s carefully selected presents, he was sure the Detective would make an immediate trip to the dumpster as he had with the roses. 

He’s not angry at Cas. He isn’t. Dean fully understands that a detective would have trouble acknowledging the connection between them. 

He’s angry with himself for giving his Angel a bottle of whiskey. He couldn’t have known, but he feels like he should have. 

He missed the mark again and his heart aches with the thought of what might have happened if Castiel hadn’t called. Would he have resisted the temptation Dean had unwittingly provided? If he had given in, his fall from grace would have been entirely Dean’s fault and he can’t stand the thought of any harm becoming the beautiful man. 

Dean hangs his head in his hands, staring down at the desk in Ellen’s small office. He had hurried to the Roadhouse after watching Cas drag his presents into his apartment, hoping that Cas might call or even come down here.  

If Dean is being honest with himself, he’s been coming to the Roadhouse every night since he first met Castiel in hopes that the blue-eyed man would visit once again. He hasn’t. And now Dean knows why. 

The bigger question, is why was Castiel here to begin with? Was it a moment of weakness? Did Dean inadvertently stop him from drinking himself into a stupor? Maybe Dean had actually helped him that night? 

That’s what Dean is going to go with. 

He has a bigger problem than his rocky fledgling relationship with Castiel though. And it’s sitting in the front of his bar right now. They hadn’t planned on doing this tonight, but his quarry all but dropped into his lap and Dean would be a fool to pass up the gift-wrapped opportunity.

 Dean makes his way back to the front, giving Benny a quick salute as he passes, signaling they’re about to set their plan in motion. Dean opens the back door slowly, so as not to draw attention to himself and his gaze immediately lands on the back of his target’s head. 

The man dared to bring his particular kind of filth into Dean’s city, and that kind of offense cannot stand. 

Dean tips his imaginary hat to Mick who is sitting just a few seats from Zachariah. Jo receives her signal to distract the portly, balding man and leans over the bar; sticking her chest out and putting her cleavage on display. 

Zachariah takes the bait, leering at the young woman Dean considers to be a sister. Dean would like to slam his face into the bar right this second for that offense, but Mick uses the opportunity flawlessly to squirt a few drops of clear, odorless liquid into the man’s glass. 

Dean watches with rapt attention as Jo pretends to laugh at something Zach says, his seedy smile spreading across his face like an oil stain.  

Word has it that good ole Zachariah is posing as a modeling agent, seeking the trust of vulnerable young women, and convincing them that riches await them if only they come to work in Germany. 

Except, the plane they’re tricked into boarding won’t be going anywhere near Germany. 

Mick settles at Dean’s side after dosing the slime ball's drink and he joins Dean in leaning back against the table and watching the show. It’s almost Dean’s turn to play. 

“You sure about this?” Mick whispers. He has yet to see the darker side of Dean, despite knowing full well what his boss is capable of. Dean thinks this will make as good an initiation as any. 

“Are you certain he deserves to die?” Dean whispers quietly, letting Mick feel the full weight of what he’s just done.  

This wouldn’t be the first life Mick has taken, but this is the first time Dean has asked him to seek out someone specifically to murder.

Mick nods. “As sure as I am that water is wet” 

“Then, yes. I’m sure about this” Dean flashes a confident grin, letting his mind shift into a predatory mood. They watch as Zachariah sips his whiskey and yammers at Jo about one thing or another. Dean can hardly wait to get that piece of garbage away from his adopted sister. 

Zach wobbles in his chair and that’s Dean’s cue to move. He pushes to his feet and makes a show of buttoning his vest. He decided to dress up in the off chance of running into Cas on his errand, but the look may just work to his advantage here as well. 

He approaches the other man silently and lays a heavy hand on his shoulder. “We need to talk, Zachariah” Dean purposefully uses the man’s first name, refusing to afford him the respect of calling him Mister.

Zachariah jumps in surprise and spins to glare at Dean. “Do I know you?” He spits, wavering slightly from the delightful cocktail of drugs Mick slipped into his drink. 

“This is my city” Dean fixes the weasel with a stern glare, looking down at the shorter man with disdain. “I hear you’re operating without my permission” 

Zachariah snorts. “Like I need permission from snot-nosed brat barely old enough to wipe his own ass” He grunts at Dean before downing the rest of his glass. “Who the hell do you think you are, anyway?!” He pushes to his feet, standing a couple inches higher than Dean. He would cut an imposing figure if he weren’t already swaying under the effects of both the drugs and alcohol. 

“I’m Dean Winchester” Dean straightens his vest, pushing his shoulders back and holding his chin high. “You’ll find you’ve never met a monster quite like me” 

Benny takes that as his cue to act and sneaks up behind Zachariah before he has a chance to reply to Dean’s blustering. He cracks him in the back of the head with a meat tenderizer, sending Zach crumbling to the floor. 

They had been careful to control who was in the bar after Zachariah had waltzed in, so outside of their people, there are no witnesses to Dean and Benny dragging the other man into the back to load him into a van parked at the back dock.  

“You know Mom is gonna be pissed, right?” Jo joins Dean on the dock with her hands planted firmly on her hips. It’s no secret what Dean is going to do, but he grimaces when Jo address things so directly. Ellen has made no secret of her disapproval when Dean does any work out of her bar, she would have his hide if she found out what he’s about to do. 

“As far as she needs to know, I just got rid of some creepy old man who was hittin on you” Dean flashes her a cocky smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. His knives are packed into the front of the truck already and his mind is already onto the next step. 

“Hey, that call earlier. Was that your lover boy?” Jo elbows him in the ribs playfully, trying to coax a real smile from him. 

Dean nods and sucks in a breath. “Yeah” 

“Uh oh” Jo pulls back at Dean’s tone. “Things not go over well?” She arches a brow. “I told you that furniture was too much” 

“I didn’t want to leave the gifts on the floor” He justifies, gesturing towards the ground. 

“You could have just given them to him yourself instead of hiding in the shadows like some chicken shit teenager” Jo rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. 

There are few people who Dean will tolerate speaking to him in that tone, but Jo and her mother are two of them. “He doesn’t want to see me” He pouts as he turns sad green eyes towards her. 

Jo huffs. “Well, he’s smarter than you, at least” 

Dean huffs but doesn’t respond. He knows she’s right. He doesn’t want to drag Cas down, and he certainly doesn’t want Cas to drag him down. If he lets Cas too close, he’s sure to see something that will land Dean behind bars. 

The truck he’s staring at right now is case and point of that fact. 

“We’re good to go brother” Benny’s soft voice comes from the edge of the dock as he flips the last lock on the back door. The truck is an old delivery truck, refrigerated and the plates belong to someone who passed away years ago. 

Of natural causes of course. 

Dean nods and takes a deep breath. “Let’s get this over with” 

--- 

Castiel can’t sleep. It’s been hours since he hung up with Dean and he still can’t sleep. The pendant hangs around his neck like a lead weight, but that doesn’t stop him from holding it tightly as he lays in the dark. 

He’s always liked Saint Michael. He’d had a medal much like this one back in Detroit, but he gave it away to a little girl his team had just rescued from child traffickers. He’ll never forget those soft blond curls framing haunted green eyes. She had been through more pain in her short life than anyone deserves and the terrified tears she had shed when he had scooped her into his arms and carried her from that place...he’ll never forget how much he wanted to sit down and sob with her. How much he had wanted to beg and plead for her forgiveness even though he knew he had done nothing to hurt her. He still felt responsible.

By the time his division had broken the case wide open, forty-seven children were rescued from sexual slavery and his division was heralded as heroes. But seeing children hurt so badly, dirty and bloodied with no one except their abusers to care for them made Cas feel nothing like a hero.

He lost his faith in the police the day the last pieces of the case fell into place and he frog marched his captain out of the bullpen at the same time his partners raided the homes of two separate district judges. They were corrupt. The backbone of the department was corrupt. That was how the human trafficking ring had grown so large.

Suddenly, his department was no longer the heroes and the media tore them all apart.

Cas had considered turning in his badge, but his father was a cop, his grandfather was a cop, so was his uncle and two of his brothers. There is no other life for him. 

Dean giving him the pendant has dredged up those old nightmares and if he dares to be honest with himself, he’s probably better off not sleeping. 

He’s also grateful to Dean for convincing him to dump the whiskey. 

His will would have broken by now and at least half of that bottle would be in his stomach. Instead, he's lying awake with his memories. He isn’t certain this is better, but it must be. Right? 

He watches his clock move far too slowly as he holds Saint Michael tight to his chest, on the verge of murmuring prayers begging for strength and fortitude to see him through this struggle. This thing with Dean, and he's not going to fool himself into thinking there is nothing, is dangerous and wrong. Forbidden. But, something about the man draws Castiel and holds him captivated. 

Maybe it's because the worst the police have on Dean is the appearance of making bad people disappear. People like his former Captain and those judges who violated the position they were sworn to protect. Maybe the reason Dean hasn't been thrown in jail is that he seeks to control the very chaos that he's accused of causing. 

Maybe Dean would have been a good cop. 

Maybe. 

Probably not. 

Four AM rolls around and Castiel considers just getting out of bed and taking a hot shower. His night is already shot, so why not get started on ruining the day as well. He groans in misery as he lays there, eyelids heavy but kept open by unseen forces who clearly do not have his best interests in mind. 

Between his new department’s failure to even notice two prolific serial killers operating in their city, his old department’s failure to protect innocent children and his own failure in becoming involved with a criminal; his mind is a whirlwind of guilt. 

He’s about to give up and force himself from his bed when his phone destroys the quiet calm of his bedroom with a chorus of “Carry on my Wayward Son”. He flounders and curses in the darkness, smacking his hand along the surface of his bedside table in search of the offending device. 

“Novak” He croaks in the phone without bothering to torture his eyes by looking at the too bright display. 

“We got another body” Meg gripes into the phone, clearly as pleased about being awake as he is. 

“Yeah?” Castiel sits up, already swinging his legs over the bed. A call this early can only mean one thing, a fresh crime scene. “Where?” 

“Fifth and Congress. Want me to pick you up? I’m just a few blocks from your place now” Meg informs and Castiel wonders how it is that she got word so much sooner than he did.  

“I…” Cas stumbles out of bed, searching in the darkness for clothes to wear. “I’ll meet you there” He grumbles, squinting against the glaring brightness of his overhead light. 

“Hurry, Clarence” Meg barks before hanging up, leaving Cas to grumble to himself. Of course, he’ll hurry!  

He makes it to the crime scene in less than twenty minutes. Considering this is Austin and he was in bed wearing nothing but his underwear, he considers this a success. Bright blue and red flashing lights surround the area and serve an announcement that there might be something gruesome to see. He flashes his badge to the officer in charge of controlling the rubbernecking onlookers and sidles past their jealous looks with a firm scowl set in place. 

Those dozens in innocent people, curious and excited to get a glimpse of whatever gore might have drawn this number of police officers and the coroner van, these dozens of people have no idea what they’re wishing for. 

Castiel wishes he could banish each and every one of them from the crime scene perimeter. 

“Donna, Victor” Castiel nods as he approaches, meeting each of their eyes in turn as he continues to scout the area for his partner.  

He barely registers Victor’s greeting when his gaze lands on Meg’s dark curls leaning over a very naked man sprawled in the entryway to the Mexic-Arte Museum. She’s wearing the same clothes as yesterday and Cas can’t help but notice her appearance is slightly disheveled. 

He waves Donna and Victor off as he approaches Meg with narrowed eyes. 

“Not. A. Word” She glares at him when he rakes his gaze over her from head to toe and arches a brow. 

Castiel pinches a frown but wisely chooses not to comment. “What do we have?” He settles on instead. 

“While male, mid-40s” Meg looks down at the victim. “We don’t have an ID yet, as you can see whoever dumped his body didn’t leave us much to go on” She frowns at the sharp reddened lines and split flesh that crisscrosses over the man’s pale flesh. 

He looks as if his skin has been shredded. 

“Alastair?” Castiel mutters, noting that the patterns aren’t quite right. They’re a little too much to the point despite the obvious similarities. 

“We don’t think so” Donna speaks up from behind him, hands perched on her hips as she chews gum open-mouthed. “Pattern don’t line up” 

“So, his apprentice then” Castiel crouches down, eyeing the slightly overweight and obviously balding victim. Something familiar about him niggles in the back of Castiel’s mind. “Anyone got a computer?” Castiel asks, cocking his head to better study the man. 

“Smartphone” Meg snarks and Castiel shoots her a glare as he pushes to his feet. 

He pulls out his own phone and frowns down at the screen. He’s less than excited when he types Detroit sex traffic ring suspects into his google browser. He no longer has access to those case files, but the press had a field day with the debacle and he’s certain the information he wants will be easy to find. 

Sure enough, the Detroit Metro News article he remembers reading in print, right before he gave serious thought to handing in his badge for good, pops up almost at the top of the search results. 

He taps the link and scrolls down, searching for the list of suspects who disappeared before they could be brought in for questioning. Complete with photos. 

“Castiel?” Donna asks, peering over his shoulder. 

Cas lets out a deep breath and clicks the small photo icon he was looking for. “Zachariah Adler” He tips his head towards the victim with a frown and turns his phone for the other three detectives to see the photo and the name attached. 

“Holy shit” Meg gasps, turning wide eyes to Castiel. 

“He...he slipped through my fingers in Detroit” Castiel shakes his head, that old feeling of failure creeping up on him once more.  

“Cas, I knew you came from Detroit but.... you were involved in that bust?” Donna questions and Castiel’s heart sinks. 

He looks towards his feet, sucking his lower lip into his mouth to chew on before turning his gaze skyward. The new Saint Michael pendant sits heavy and warm against his chest and he imagines drawing strength from the icon, bolstering his resolve. “I was one of the lead investigators” He mutters with a frown as he shakes his head. “I’m sure you all know what a clusterfuck that was. I failed. I failed so many people” He feels the weight of their judgment crushing down on him. “And now someone’s cleaned up my mess” He gestures to the body of one Zachariah Adler. 

Child Trafficker. 

“Oh Cas, honey, you can’t think like that!” Donna places a warm hand on his shoulders and Cas wants to pull away with his entire being but her grip is too firm to do so without causing an even bigger scene. 

“Yeah, Clarence” Meg agrees. “It’s not your fault your department was corrupt. I mean, it’s Detroit” She stresses the word to imply that Detroit itself is the problem. "Not exactly a shining example of a city gone right”  

Victor simply huffs, not quite willing to add his agreement. “At least we got a tentative ID” He grumbles before turning away, shouting for Captain Mills who has just arrived on scene. 

“He was one of my prime suspects once the dust started to settle” Castiel mutters, still staring at the intricate pattern of intersecting cuts across the man’s torso and arms. He can only assume the pattern continues around to his back and down his legs as well. “Got an estimated time of death?” Castiel arches a brow at the coroner who has come to begin the process of moving the body to the morgue. 

Kevin Tran frowns, lifting one of Zachariah’s arms with his gloved hands. “The lack of rigor suggests sometime within the last few hours, but his core temperature suggests longer. I’ll know more once we get him back to the lab” He stands, turning towards Castiel and Meg. He glances towards the crowd gathered behind the police tape “I’m going to hazard a guess and say he was discovered fairly quickly” 

Meg smirks. “Yeah, I think that’s likely” She spins on her heel and stalks off towards the cluster of technicians collecting evidence. Half of the items they’ve bagged likely belong to the multitude of homeless in the area or people passing through on their way to party on Sixth Street. 

A slight commotion from the police barrier, bursts of frenzied Spanish accompanied by the raised voice of the officer assigned to crown control draws Castiel’s attention and he turns that direction. 

“There a problem?” Castiel asks the officer and the man who had been nearly yelling at him turns his attention to Castiel. 

“I need to get to work!” The young man stresses in heavily accented English as he gestures towards the center of the crime scene. 

“I’m sorry, but we cannot allow anyone in or out of the area right now” Castiel holds out a hand meant to calm, standing in solidarity with the other officer. He understands how not being able to get to work on time can be scary, especially for migrants who might worry about losing their jobs. 

“You don’t understand! We have a new exhibit opening today and I need to get into the museum to set it up!” The man pleads, throwing his arms in desperation. 

“You work at the Mexic-Arte museum?” Castiel cocks his head. 

“Si, yes” The man nods emphatically. 

“Does the museum have cameras on the outside entrances?” Castiel questions hopefully. There were no cameras visible, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. 

“Si, si” The man nods. “I can show you!” 

Castiel nods and waves him through. “Please, come with me”  

The man comes willingly, clearly nervous but willing to obey if doing so will gain him access to the museum. 

“Can I get your name?” Castiel questions, trying to keep the man’s nerves as quiet as possible.

“Emmanuel” The man mutters swallowing thickly as he glances between Castiel and the cluster of uniformed police they’re approaching.

“Emmanuel, I need you to be patient. We cannot access the building until the scene has been cleared” Castiel stresses, meeting the man’s eyes in earnest.

Emmanuel nods, forcing a shaky breath and Cas narrows his eyes at him.

“Are you alright?” Castiel halts his progress and wants badly to reach out to touch the other man’s shoulder to draw his attention but Castiel refrains.

Emmanuel frowns and forces a jerky nod. “I…Back in Mexico, the policia were corrupt” He glances nervously at the flashing lights before turning his gaze to Castiel.

Castiel nods. “I understand” his low voice rumbles and his chest tightens. He’s heard about certain areas of Mexico and how dangerous they can be. He can only imagine how coming from one of those areas to the United States must be. He wants to promise that Emmanuel can trust him, trust this department, but he knows those promises will sound hollow and mean very little to someone who spent most of their life fearing the police.

“Novak” Victor bites. “Who the hell is this?” He arches a brow towards Emmanuel, clearly unhappy that Castiel allowed a civilian into their crime scene.

Emmanuel tenses but stands tall next to Castiel. “This is Emmanuel” Castiel introduces. “He works at the art museum and has access to the building’s security cameras”

“Very good” Jody Mills nods, extending her hand to Emmanuel. “I’m Captain Jody Mills, you’ve met Detective Novak here. These are Detectives Hanscum and Henricksen” Jody nods to each person in turn and Emmanuel follows along with his eyes.

“Very nice to meet you” Donna smiles warmly despite the somber atmosphere. “I’d like to ask you a few questions before we go inside if that’s alright with you” Her thick midwestern accent seems to be oddly comforting to Emmanuel and his shoulders visibly relax.

“Of course, Senora” He answers, not quite meeting her eyes.

“Excellent. Now, if you’d just come over here where it’s a little bit quieter” Donna gestures towards the small cluster of squad cars gathered in the center of the intersection. The view of the museum entrance is blocked, thankfully, and the gawking crowds are kept back by several more police vehicles and yellow tape.

Emmanuel glances nervously to Castiel and Cas gives him a gentle smile and nods before shooting Victor a displeased glare that silently requests he stay back. “Have you noticed anything strange in the area lately? Anyone suspicious hanging around?” Castiel questions lightly as he and Donna guide Emmanuel away from the museum.

“No” Emmanuel shakes his head. “Nothing”

Donna pulls out her phone and presses a few buttons. “Tell me, have you seen this man before” She turns her phone around to show a blown-up photo of Zachariah Adler, clearly taken from a google search now they have a tentative identification.

“Is he dead?” Emmanuel swallows thickly, brown eyes wide with concern.

“Do you know him?” Castiel urges, purposefully not answering the question.

Emmanuel nods, pinching a frown. “Senor Adler. He was here a few days ago, a modeling talent agent. He was interested in my niece, wanted her to come for an audition”

Castiel inhales sharply and the knot in his stomach tightens. “That son of a bitch” Castiel mutters under his breath and Donna looks at him with wide eyes. He shakes his head.

“He…he’s dead?” Emmanuel asks, concern coloring his tone.

“Would you be willing to identify his body for the record?” Castiel asks, earning himself a glare from Donna. Having an acquaintance ID a body is not protocol, but if the deceased is who Castiel thinks he is, then they’re not going to be able to find a direct relative any time soon.

Emmanuel nods.

“Thank you. We’re going to have more questions for you later about the nature of your interactions with Mr. Adler. We would appreciate if you would come down to the station when we’re done here” Castiel informs, his tone relaying that this is not a request. “Where is your niece now?”

“Ho…home” Emmanuel mutters. “She was to meet with Senor Adler later today” He stares in the direction of the museum, a mix of shock and horror written across his face.

“We would very much like to speak with her” Donna suggests, her tone much friendlier than Castiel’s. “Along with anyone else you know who had contact with Mr. Adler”

An hour later, Castiel and the other detectives are gathered around the small computer screen in the office of the museum as Emmanuel clicks through last night’s footage. “Damn, they must have known about the cameras” Victor grumbles when a blinding light is pointed directly into the camera, ruining the contrast of the picture and destroying the image.

“Charlie should be able to clean it up” Donna offers helpfully, glancing at her partner with a frown.

Castiel squints and leans closer to the screen. “Go back a few seconds” He trains his gaze to the bottom right of the screen where the rear bumper of a large box truck is barely visible against the blinding glare of the spotlight. “Stop” He mutters when he spots of the flash of someone moving. “Back up”

Emmanuel clicks back slowly until Castiel tells him to stop once more.

“There” Castiel points at the corner of the screen where a flash of skin can be seen where the suspect's shirt rides up when he bends away from the camera.

The image is grainy and poorly lit, but two lines can be seen against the man’s skin and Castiel swallows thickly.

Donna leans her face close to his. “Where are those shadows coming from?” She squints at the image and Castiel’s breath catches in his throat.

Those aren’t shadows.

Chapter Text

 Castiel panics internally but he can’t bring himself to say what he knows to be true. 

Dean Winchester murdered Zachariah Adler. He knows he should come forward with this information, but Cas also knows he would then need to explain how he recognized the scars on Dean’s body from the grainy image of a cheap security camera. 

He had been betting on Charlie to identify Dean for him when she cleaned up the video. Castiel shouldn’t have needed to say a word or voice his shame.  

He’s too far down the rabbit hole to come clean now. He had his chance and he blew it. To come forward now would probably only earn him a prison cell of his own. 

He’s turned into one of the crooked cops he helped bring down in Detroit. His chest aches with that realization and he fights back a sob as he sits at his dining room table, a bottle of Jack Daniels sitting in front of him. Unopened. 

Part of him, the part of himself that he hates to his very core, is glad that Zachariah is dead. Dean did countless young girls a favor by putting an end to the man’s life. 

Dean did a better job of protecting them than Castiel ever has. 

“Fuck!” Castiel yells, pushing to his feet and slinging the crystal rocks glass Dean had gifted him against his wall. 

Of course, the damn thing only dents the wall and falls to the floor with a clatter. Of course, the quality of the crystal is too good to give him the satisfying shower of glass shards he so desires. Of course, he can’t even have that. 

Dean Winchester is ruining his life. 

Castiel cracks the seal on the bottle and lifts it to his lips without bothering to retrieve the glass, letting the burning amber liquid slide down his throat to warm his stomach. 

He pulls the bottle away with a choked gasp, nerve endings lighting up with their first taste of the numbing substance. He falls back into his chair and hangs his head in his hands, cursing his very existence. 

Only earlier today he had finally met the infamous Charlie, only for her to deliver the news that the images from the security camera cannot be cleaned up enough to identify the two men shown shrouded in shadow as they lifted the body of Zachariah Adler from the back of the unmarked truck and arranged him at the entrance of the art museum. 

Castiel had gaped in disbelief, he had been absolutely certain that something on those tapes had to be usable. But, apparently, the best tech genius in all of Texas could get nothing from them. 

Castiel had to blink back the black edges of rage from his vision, swallowing down the urge to yell at the young redhead who had sheepishly apologized and hung her head in shame of her failure. 

That was a good act, Castiel thinks. The more he dwells on it, the more he convinces himself that Charlie is working for Dean. 

That thought is absurd though! There is no way Dean could have a plant inside of the police force. 

Except, is it really that far-fetched for a tech to slip under their noses when Castiel’s own boss had slipped by the entire department in Detroit? 

He takes another long swig from the bottle, gut-churning with the desire to down the entire thing. 

His thoughts sink deeper and deeper into darkness until he finds himself shoving up from his table and jamming his feet into the shoes next to his door. He glances at the clock and the darkness outside his window before he flips open his lock and pours himself into the hallway. 

It’s not quite midnight, he already reeks of liquor and he has yet to undress from work. His blue tie hangs askew around his neck, formally crisp white shirt sleeves are rolled nearly to his elbows and his suit jacket and trench coat have been left abandoned in his apartment as he trudges down the street towards the roadhouse.  

The neon sign flickers, taunting him and Castiel finds himself wishing he had taken another swig of Jack before he left. Did he even lock his door? He’s on the verge of turning back when he realizes his wallet is in his pocket and the bar is now closer than his apartment. 

Fuck it he thinks as he hurries along the final block and stumbles into the bar. 

Jo looks up immediately, a frown creasing her features as she rakes her gaze over Castiel as he stumbles towards her. 

“S’Michael here?” Castiel slurs as he drops himself into one of the many empty tall chairs at the bar. 

Jo hesitates, glancing towards a door leading into the back. “Uh…no” She shakes her head and Castiel has never been surer in his life that he’s being lied to. 

“Can you…can you tell him that Castiel wants to see him” Cas leans his elbows on the bar. “An get me a scotch” He mumbles, turning his gaze downward. “Please” he remembers to add as an afterthought. 

“I think you’ve had enough already, brother” A burly looking man with a soft Cajun accent lays his hand on Castiel’s shoulder. 

“I’m fine!” Castiel bites, pulling his shoulder out of the man’s grasp. “I’m not your brother” Castiel grumbles, glaring at Jo as he waits for his drink. 

“Have some water, Cas. I'll call Michael for you” Jo slides a plastic cup of water in front of him with a hesitant smile. Benny continues to stand behind Castiel, making his skin crawl with the feeling of being watched. 

Castiel turns and squints towards Benny, recognition sparking in his alcohol-hazed mind. “You’re Benjamin Lafitte” Castiel accuses. 

“And you’re Castiel Novak” Benny narrows his eyes, the beginning of a threat. 

“D’you know your boss is a murderer” Castiel hiccups, only realizing too late that he probably should be keeping that information to himself.  

Benny narrows his eyes to mere slits and firms his jaw. His glare is severe and Castiel wants to shrink back instinctively but the half bottle of bourbon he chugged before stumbling down the street strengthens his spine. “I think you ought to come with me” Benny grumbles, gripping Castiel’s bicep firm enough to leave a bruise. 

“Not goin anywhere with you” Castiel protests, shoving back as his heart rate spikes in genuine fear. If Dean is a murderer, Benny likely is too. Castiel realizes how foolish he’s being, goading the second in command of a crime syndicate. Dean might not even want to come to his rescue anymore. “Leave me alone” Castiel raises his voice, drawing the attention of the dozen or so other patrons in the establishment.  

“You’ve had too much to drink, Cas” Benny hisses. “He doesn’t know what he’s sayin” Benny turns to address the many eyes focused intently on them. “Just come to the back with me. You came to see Dean, right?” Benny speaks low and calm as if addressing a wild animal that might choose to flee at any moment. “Come wait with me” 

“Don’t trust you” Castiel continues to pull away, nearly tipping out of his chair. He would have, if not to Benny’s tight grip on his arm. 

“That’s fair” Benny nods. “But what if I told you that my boss would have my hide if any harm came to you? You’ve got him wrapped around your finger somehow, detective. I don’t know what game you’re playing, but he’s made it clear you are off limits” Benny explains and Castiel’s eyes widen with surprise. 

“It’s true. He’s been moping around like a lovesick puppy since you turned him down. It’d be cute if he were in high school” Jo chimes in with a smirk. She leans over the bar top, tilting her head conspiratorially towards Castiel.  

Cas’ eyes widen as he stares toward Jo. He doesn’t believe her. Not one little bit. But he’s given up caring if seeing Dean is good or bad anymore.  

“Cas?” The front door opens and closes with the chime of a bell and the deep, husky, voice calls out to him before Castiel can turn to take a good look at the newcomer. 

“Dean?” Cas stammers out, mouth suddenly dry. He pushes to his feet, stumbling when Benny releases the grip on his arm. Dean rushes across the room to his side before Castiel can take a single wobbly step and folds Castiel in his arms. 

“What’s wrong, Cas” Dean pushes him back slightly, cupping Castiel’s jaw in his hands as he searches those brilliant blue eyes for a clue. “Are you hurt?” 

Castiel snorts a bitter laugh. “Hurt?” Castiel parrots, tone mocking as he struggles to pull away from Dean. Those wide green eyes filled with concern contrast too sharply with the monstrous image Castiel has built up in his mind. He can’t bear to look at him. 

“You’re drunk” Dean states with a frown. 

“Been tryin to get him in the back, boss, but he wouldn’t go” Benny shrugs, already stepping towards that ominous back door. 

“Cas, come on. We need to talk. In private.” Dean reaches for Castiel’s arm, the same place Benny had held him only moments before, but Dean’s touch is gentle. Pleading. 

Castiel hangs his head. Ready to give up. If Dean decides to just kill him and be done with everything, what would Cas really be losing? He’s a failure of a cop, a failure of a partner, failure of a son and brother. He’s nothing. He gives Dean a subtle nod. 

Dean lets out a relieved breath and gently pulls Cas along through the now open door. Benny lets the heavy wooden door fall closed behind them once he follows the pair into the dimly lit hallway. 

“We’re fine, Benny” Dean waves him off but Benny looks unconvinced. 

“Yeah, Benny, we’re fine” Cas sasses, rolling his eyes even as he finds himself leaning into Dean’s touch. 

“Boss....” Benny starts to protest but is silenced a lift of Dean’s hand. He frowns, shaking his head. “You know where I’ll be” He gives Cas one more narrow-eyed glare before he turns and disappears back through the door. 

“Come on, Cas” Dean urges quietly, turning Castiel down another short hallway and pushing open yet another door. Once inside, he releases his hold on Castiel in favor of finding the light switch and Castiel turns to grips the sides of Dean’s face and draw the slightly taller man into a messy kiss. 

Their lips clash, movements discordant and Dean is pushing Castiel away after only a moment. “You’re drunk” Dean stares, wide-eyed at the way Castiel is pouting at him. Those perfect blue eyes are reddened and glassy and Dean’s heart aches with sympathy. 

“You did this to me” Castiel whispers, hanging his head and turning away. He covers his face with his hands, lust filled anger giving way to the deep shame he had tried to chase away with the bourbon. “Why” He begs as he spins to face Dean. “Why did you do it?!” Castiel half shouts, eyes clouding with tears. 

“Shhh, Cas. Baby” Dean steps towards him, intent on trying to sooth Castiel’s frazzled nerves but Cas steps away. 

“No” Cas bites, holding up his index finger. “Why, Dean?” He demands. 

“What? Why what?” Dean asks gently, needing clarification. 

“Why did you kill him? I know it was you” Castiel shakes his head. “I know it was you, but I can’t tell anyone because I shouldn’t know!” Cas throws his hands up in the air and turns away, needing a moment to himself. 

“Cas” Dean’s voice trembles, nearly cracking. “Cas, look at me” Dean steps towards him gripping his shoulder and spinning Castiel to face him. 

Cas swallows hard, meeting those hardened green eyes and lifting his chin as proudly as he can muster with the bourbon still burning hot in his stomach. 

“Who do you think I killed?” Dean questions, his tone soft but laced with an undercurrent of danger. “Tell me” 

Castiel takes a breath, then another one before he clenches his jaw tightly closed. 

“Tell me!” Dean gives him a shake, the edges of anger creeping into his stare. 

“Zachariah Adler” Castiel spits the words out, returning Dean’s glare pound for pound. “Tell me the truth, Dean. Did you kill him?” Castiel enunciates each word clearly and with a hard edge. 

Dean hangs his head and lets out a heavy breath. “How did you know?” His words tremble as they leave his lips and Castiel’s gaze snaps to meet his. 

“You admit to killing him?” Castiel asks, voice steadier than it’s been all night. 

“Are you asking as a cop, or as a friend?” Dean pinches a frown. 

“We’re not friends” Cas shakes his head, immediately regretting the way Dean’s expression falls. “But I’m not asking as a cop” He shakes his head. “Zachariah deserved to die” He firms his gaze and stands tall under Dean’s scrutiny. 

Finally, Dean shakes his head. “How’d you know it was me? I made sure nothing usable could come from the cameras” Dean frowns, clearly wondering if anyone other than Cas might figure out his identity. 

And if that isn’t a confession for having Charlie on his payroll, Castiel doesn’t know what is. He’ll deal with that later though. He steps closer to Dean, feeling the man stiffen when Castiel wraps his arms around his waist, crowding close is they were about to dance as he nudges underneath Dean’s shirts to touch the raised lines of scar tissue on his lower back. His bravery is buoyed by his drunkenness and the slight gasp from Dean at Castiel’s touch only serves to entice him to touch more. “Your scars. Your back was to the camera, but I knew it was you when your shirt rode up” 

“Fuck!” Dean exclaims as he pulls away roughly. “Does anyone else know?” He grips Castiel’s biceps, holding him in place as he stares deep into those glassy blue eyes. “Does anyone else know?!” He gives Cas a shake when the man remains silent and Dean’s heart begins to race. 

Cas stares back with a frown before eventually shaking his head. “The department thought they were shadows” He whimpers, hating himself just a little bit more. He wasn’t certain that was possible, but here he is, sinking deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of self-loathing. 

“And you didn’t tell them what you knew” Dean must see something break in Castiel’s eyes because he drags him into a tight hug, wrapping his arms around Castiel’s back and pressing Cas’ nose into the crook of his neck. 

Cas lets out a choked sob as he lets himself be held. How has his life come to this? Seeking comfort in the arms of a man he’s supposed to put behind bars? The leader of a crime syndicate? 

“Shhh, everything’s going to be alright” Dean coos, rubbing circles between Castiel’s shoulder blades. 

“How?” Castiel pulls back and swallows down the tears threatening to escape. “How can anything be alright?” He shakes his head. “Coming here was a mistake” He makes to pull away, but Dean holds him close. 

“No, Cas, come on. You said yourself he deserved to die. Don’t beat yourself up over this” Dean pleads. “None of this is your fault” 

Castiel huffs and twists out of Dean’s hold, turning himself to face the back of the office. Dean still stands between him and the door and Castiel is certain Dean won’t let him leave right now even if he wanted to. For all the soft touches and gentle words, Dean is a dangerous predator. Castiel would do well to remember this. “Why did you do it? I know why I wanted him dead. But why did you?” 

Dean takes a deep breath, nodding. “He was a human trafficker,” Dean says plainly, his deep voice calm and steady. 

“That’s it?” Castiel raises a brow and Dean shrugs. 

“That’s it” Dean parrots back.  

“So, you don’t know about me? About Detroit?” Castiel arches a challenging brow. 

Dean shakes his head with raised brows. “I didn’t dig into your past” 

Castiel snorts derisively, shaking his head. “How noble of you” Cas can’t tell whether he’s relieved or disappointed that Dean didn’t stalk through his past failures, looking for an edge to get under Castiel’s skin permanently. Maybe Dean can sense that he really doesn’t need blackmail material to keep Cas on his hook. He’s stupid enough to fall under Dean’s spell on his own. 

“Cas…” Dean draws out the name, a warning. Cas holds up placating hands before shaking his head and turning to face away from Dean 

“Why did you want Adler dead?” Naturally, Dean didn’t miss Castiel’s admission a few moments before, and now that Cas brought up Detroit, curiosity sparks brighter in Dean’s gaze. 

“Tell me about Detroit” Dean drops his voice into the same register that tends to strike fear into the hearts of those Dean wishes to control. Castiel merely arches a brow at him and Dean’s heart tumbles a little bit more for the detective. 

Cas sighs and shakes his head, stepping further away from Dean. He needs to room to breathe, space to think. He leans his back against the window sill and scrubs his hands over his face while Dean waits with an air of humoring patience. 

“I grew up in Chicago” Castiel begins. “Most of my family was part of the Chicago PD” He gives Dean a wry smile. “I wanted to get out from my father’s shadow, so I moved to Detroit and became a police officer there. Being a cop was the only career I ever wanted” He shakes his head at the memory. He was so young, so angry with his family and on the painful side of a bad breakup. He couldn’t wait to get out of Chicago. “I worked my way up, got my Detective’s shield after only four years”  

Dean’s eyes widen, and Cas gives him a knowing nod. Four years is pretty damn fast. “I thought I was good at my job” 

Dean cocks his head, not willing to agree or disagree with that statement. “What happened?” He questions, urging Cas to continue when he’s quiet a moment too long. 

“I missed a child sex trafficking ring operating right under my nose” Cas shakes his head as he meets Dean’s gaze with a heart-wrenching frown.  

“I remember hearing about that” Dean nods. He remembers being angry as he read the headlines. “The police captain and couple judges were covering it up, right?” Dean can feel the familiar anger bubble upwards. Was his Angel one of those cops who let all those children suffer for so long? He doesn’t want to believe Cas would be a part of such a thing, but his gut begins to tighten into knots with dread. 

“I had to arrest my own Captain” Castiel shakes his head. “Adler was one of the suspects who got away when shit was hitting the fan inside the police department. We had enough evidence to lock him up, but he disappeared like a ghost. My partner and I suspected he fled the country” Castiel pauses, not willing to meet Dean’s eyes. 

“I failed, Dean” Castiel chokes out. This is the first time he’s put a voice to his feelings, and he’s telling the story to a mob boss? “I failed at the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be, and I moved here to try to start over” Castiel huffs, shaking his head with self-disgust. “And I don’t even last six months before I fuck up all over again” He gestures to Dean and the man has the nerve to look affronted.  

“I failed so badly that I’m standing here telling my life story to a serial killer” Castiel shakes his head and finally lifts his gaze to meet Dean’s. He sees sadness reflected in Dean’s eyes and he figures he’s already ruined his life, why not go for one more. “I should be arresting you, and here I am trying not to kiss you again” Cas looks to the ceiling and rubs his eyes. The alcohol he had consumed earlier has worn off considerably amidst the emotional roller coaster that has been the last hour and now all he feels is bone-deep exhaustion and a crushing sense of hopelessness. 

“Cas” Dean chokes out, shaking his head. “I’m not…I’m not the monster you think I am” Dean feels the need to justify himself, try and make Castiel not feel so guilty about wanting him. “Let me prove it to you” He can’t help what Castiel has been through, a part of him even agrees with Cas but knows better than to say as much. He takes a step toward the detective but hesitates to reach out and touch. “Can I kiss you?” Dean hesitates, feeling the need to ask when Castiel looks so dangerously close to shattering right in front of him. 

Cas shakes his head, no, with a choked whine that nearly sounds like a sob. Even his drunken state, he notices Dean’s lack of denial to being a serial killer. He knows he needs to push past Dean and walk out the door, but is feet remain planted to the floor. 

Dean nods with a frown, scrubbing a hand over his face. “At least let me stay with you tonight. You shouldn’t be alone” He finally does reach out and touch, resting a gentle hand on Castiel’s shoulder. He can feel the man’s muscles trembling lightly under his fingertips. 

“No, Dean” Castiel stands straighter, pushing off the window ledge and squaring his shoulders. “I should go” He makes to move past Dean, but he’s stopped by a firm grip on his wrist.  

“I’m walking you home” Dean demands. He has no desire to let Castiel out of his sight, but he isn’t going to force his way into Castiel’s apartment if he isn’t welcome. 

Castiel frowns and his brows pinch. “It’s only a few blocks. I can manage”  

“I know you can, but I want to make sure you’re safe” Dean admits, worry beginning to form in the back of his mind that his becoming involved with Castiel might be painting a target on the detective’s back. He has enough shady associates to warrant concern for Castiel’s safety. 

Castiel huffs at that, shaking his head. “Safe? What, big bad Dean Winchester gonna save me from a mugger?” Cas knows he’s being a dick but that last bit of whiskey in his bloodstream makes the words flow a little too easily. “I think you’re probably the most dangerous person out there” Castiel regrets the words as soon as they leave his mouth. Poking the bear is not a wise move, even if said bear seems to like him for some reason. 

“Not to you” Dean steps into Castiel’s space, gaze darkening. “Never to you” he reaches a hand to brush Castiel’s deep chestnut hair from his brow as he leans in to place a chaste kiss in the center of his forehead. He internally preens when Cas leans into his touch ever so slightly, but he pulls back before Cas can realize he was subconsciously seeking out Dean’s touch. 

“Fine” Castiel concedes, nodding slightly as if to convince himself. He won’t admit that he desperately wants to take Dean up on his offer to stay with him. He can’t let Dean know just how far he’s managed to get under his skin. It’s bad enough he came here tonight to see Dean. He feels like such an idiot for telling Dean that he knows he’s the one who killed Adler. That Castiel is glad the man is dead. 

“Good” Dean states, resting a hand on Castiel’s lower back much like he had that first night as he unlocks the office door and leads Castiel through the back to the loading dock.  

“Everything ok, boss?” Benny arches a brow from his seat on a stack of milk crates.  

Castiel tenses at the sight of the burly man, suddenly convinced Dean’s kindness was only a ploy to get him outside quietly. He turns his gaze to Dean who is in the process of rolling his eyes at Benny. 

“Everything is just fine, Benny” Dean nods to his friend and pulls Cas closer to him. 

“You two work shit out?” Benny eyes Cas suspiciously, hand drifting to his hip. Castiel watches the motion closely, heart racing with the worry that Benny is going to shoot him, point blank, right here and now. 

If Cas is going to die, he would rather have Dean pull the trigger. Have some sort of poetic justice to his demise.  

“Not everything” Dean shoots Benny a hand signal that Castiel barely catches and Benny moves his hand back to his lap. “I’m gonna make sure he gets home safe” Dean explains, drawing Cas in tighter to his side. “Don’t wait up for me” 

Castiel can’t tell if the gesture is possessive or protective, but either way, he draws comfort from the touch. Benny won’t shoot him if he’s plastered to Dean’s side. He’s almost sure of it. 

Benny nods with a frown and Dean presses forward. 

Castiel feels Benny’s gaze burning into the back of his skull and he presses tighter to Dean, using the other man as a shield. Just in case. 

“Don’t worry too much about Benny. He’s just protective of me. He won’t hurt you unless I say so though, and I don’t want to see you hurt” Dean explains in a rambling fashion that does little to quiet Castiel’s discomfort. 

“He looked like he wants to put a bullet in me” Castiel grumbles, low enough for only Dean to hear.  

Dean barks a laugh. “Nah, that just how he looks most of the time” 

Once they’re out onto the sidewalk and away from the Roadhouse, Castiel forces himself to put some distance between them. His heart aches when Dean’s warmth leaves his side and the gentle weight of Dean’s hand on his hip disappears. 

Dean lets out a barely audible moan of protest when Cas pulls away, but he doesn’t try to stop him. 

Castiel still has the distinct feeling of being watched and he narrowly resists looking back to see if Benny is following them. The late-night air sets his teeth on edge, the gentle thrum of alcohol in his blood barely muting the prickling sensation of wrongness emanating from somewhere in the darkness. 

“Dean?” Castiel whispers, wondering if Dean is feeling the same sense of foreboding that he is. 

“Yeah?” Dean responds just as quietly, distracted enough to give Castiel his answer. 

“Benny isn’t following us, is he?” Castiel mutters, his words as much of a statement as they are a question. He can feel Dean tense beside him despite the near foot of distance between them now. 

“No” Dean shakes his head and Castiel can feel the frown in the man’s deep voice. “I’m gonna drop back, you go on ahead. You got your gun?” Dean finally thinks to ask. Despite their near argument earlier, he had never once stopped to consider if Cas were an immediate danger to himself. 

“No” Cas snips. He may be an idiot, but he isn’t stupid enough to carry his service weapon on him when he’s been drinking. His steps still feel uneven, despite the adrenaline of confronting Dean sobering him considerably.  

“Alright. Wait in the hall for me. I’m gonna circle back and make sure your apartment is clear” Dean directs, and Cas finds no real reason to argue. “Wait for me, Cas. Promise” Dean pleads as the entrance to Castiel’s apartment looms closer. 

“Fine” Castiel spits, turning up his sidewalk and doing his absolute best not to glance back to see Dean ambling further down the street. Cas hurriedly lets himself into the building and decides on the stairs instead of the elevator. He’s probably being overly paranoid, no one is out there. Why would they be? Unless someone is after Dean. 

Shit. What if the feeling of being watched was police surveillance? What if they saw him with Dean? An entirely new panic begins to claw into his chest and he very nearly forgets Dean’s order to wait for him. Cas silently tests his doorknob and sure enough, it isn’t locked. 

Did he lock the door before he left? He doesn’t remember. He quickly sweeps his pockets and finds his keys easily. So, he might have locked the door. He just as well might not have. Fuck. 

He uses the extra time to clear the surrounding hall. Nothing appears out of place until the stairwell door begins to slowly creak open. Castiel jumps back, ducking around the corner. 

Footsteps approach and Castiel tenses with each passing moment. 

“Cas!” A low voice hisses and Castiel deflates, pushing himself off the wall and joining Dean in front of his door. 

Castiel’s eyes widen when he takes in the sight Dean’s pistol, drawn and at the ready as Dean scans the hall for any signs of disturbance. “Is that really necessary?” Castiel hisses, feeling a jolt of mixed fear and excitement at the sight Dean’s feral expression.  

Dean arches a brow before nodding his head towards Castiel’s door, a clear request for Cas to let him in. Castiel rolls his eyes and steps forward to turn the knob, letting the door fall inward on its own. 

Dean glares silently, clearly unhappy that Castiel left the door unlocked. Cas shrugs. He’s beginning to think they’re imagining the entire threat. There is nothing more here than his own drunken imagination and Dean…who knows what Dean’s angle might be, Castiel thinks. For all he knows, Dean is just trying to manipulate him. 

Dean steps through the door with one more firm glare aimed at Castiel and he sweeps the living room for intruders. Castiel steps in behind him and flicks on the light, gaze immediately drawn to the still open bottle of Jack sitting on his dining room table.  

Dean notices the bottle as well and his mouth presses into a flat line, but he continues his search of the apartment. Castiel rolls his eyes but decides to humor the serial killer in shining armor and let him double check. Despite Dean’s drawn weapon and lethal expression, Castiel finds himself unafraid. 

If Dean wants to hurt him, he’s had plenty of opportunities to do so.  

Cas reaches for the bourbon and takes another swig. Seems like as good an idea as any. He shrugs, glancing towards his bedroom where Dean has disappeared and takes another gulp. 

“All clear” Dean’s voice calls out and Cas turns to see him tucking his gun into the back of his waistband as he passes from Castiel’s room and into the hall. “What the fuck, Cas!?” Dean snaps, his expression hardening enough for Castiel’s heart to hammer in his chest, the fresh burst of adrenaline forcing his inkling of fear into anger. 

“What, Dean?” He bites as Dean reaches for the bottle. Cas spins and keeps his prize out of Dean’s reach. “You don’t get to judge me” Castiel glares and Dean’s frown hardens. 

“Dammit” Dean reaches for Castiel, making hard contact with his arm and nearly sending the mostly empty bottle of cheap bourbon clattering to the floor. “Cas!” Dean bites as Castiel struggles but his drunken coordination is no match for Dean’s strength. 

Dean wrestles the bottle away from him and hurries to the sink with it. “Dean!” Castiel growls a warning that Dean ignores as he proceeds to pour the rest of the amber liquid down the drain.  

Castiel grips Dean’s arm roughly, pulling him away from the sink and Dean drops the bottle into the metal basin to drain on its own. 

Dean grips Castiel’s wrist tightly and rips his hand from Dean’s arm, spinning Castiel around and pushing him face first against his kitchen wall. A photo frame crashes to the floor, glass shattering against the hard tile but Dean ignores the mess in favor of gathering Castiel’s other wrist and pinning his hands behind his back. 

Castiel struggles, pushing back against Dean and thrusting his head backward in search of Dean’s face. Dean sees the move coming and dodges easily, but his anger still surfaces at the very idea of Cas trying to hurt him. 

“Let me go!” Castiel protests, thrashing in the other man’s grip. 

“Stop it!” Dean growls low and dangerous, pressing his shoulder between Castiel’s shoulder blades to keep him pressed to the wall. “Castiel” Dean bites, tightening his grip on the other man’s wrists.  

Castiel still struggles against Dean’s hold but he isn’t strong enough, not with three quarters of a fifth of Jack Daniels slowing his reflexes and clouding his mind. 

“Stop it!” Dean yells into his ear, slamming Cas against the wall roughly. 

Cas finally goes lax, slumping forward and turning his head to rest his cheek against the wall. “You’re hurting me” He mutters weakly as he struggles to catch his breath. 

 “You don’t get to tell me that you’re an alcoholic and then drink in front of me, Castiel” Dean hisses into Castiel’s ear, draping himself tightly against Castiel’s back. “I won’t watch you hurt yourself” 

“It’s none of your business what I do” Castiel protests, clenching his jaw with determination. 

“You came to me tonight. You made it my business” Dean whispers, hot breath ghosting over the shell of Castiel’s ear. 

“I was doing fine until I met you” Castiel accuses even though he knows that isn’t entirely true. He hasn’t been fine since well before he moved to Texas. 

“Maybe so” Dean admits. “And I am sorry for inserting myself into your life after you told me to get lost.  I should have listened to you. I should have listened to Jo and Benny” Dean leans his forehead just above Castiel’s ear, regret swirling in his chest.  

“But you didn’t” Castiel states coldly. 

“I didn’t. I still don’t want to” Dean confesses. 

Cas lets out a quite breath that nearly sounds like a whimper and he turns his head to face the wall. His body trembles under Dean’s as he processes that information. “Good” He squeaks, voice so pained and full of resignation that tears well in his eyes. “I tried” Cas continues, and Dean remains still behind him. “I tried so hard not to want you” Cas nearly chokes on the words as he rolls his hips back, pressing his ass against Dean’s groin. 

“Cas” Dean doesn’t know what else to say. He releases his bruising grip on Castiel’s wrists and wraps his arms around the other man, pulling him close. 

Cas comes off the wall with a choked sob and he spins carefully in Dean’s arms, tilting his chin upwards as he seeks the comfort of Dean’s lips against his own. 

Their mouths press together slowly, gently as Dean lifts a hand to cup Castiel’s cheek. “We can’t do this Cas. Not right now” Dean hates to pull away, but he can’t help the feeling that Castiel is going to regret all of this in the morning, once his drunken haze dissipates.  

“I want you” Castiel whines, dropping his hands to Dean’s belt. His fingers fumble with the buckle but Dean pushes him away. 

“You’re drunk, Cas. I’m not going to take advantage of you” Dean shakes his head. Castiel has been all over the place tonight, bouncing between self-loathing, hating Dean, and wanting to be with him. 

“I’m saying I want you!” Cas throws his hands in the air, frustration bubbling to the surface as Dean’s rejection washes over him 

“And I want nothing more than to hear that! But I can’t trust that you’re going to feel the same way in the morning” Dean stresses, trying to explain without saying that he learned a long time ago not to trust an alcoholic. Especially a drunk one. “I should go” Dean frowns, glancing towards the door. 

“If you walk away from me right now, you better stay gone” Castiel bites, tone hard and serious. 

Dean hesitates before taking a deep breath and shaking his head. “I don’t think you really mean that” He inches towards the door, regardless. 

“Try me” Castiel glares and stands still as stone when Dean takes a step closer to press a gentle kiss to his cheek. 

“Goodnight, Cas” Dean murmurs against the man’s skin before turning and walking away. 

The door closes softly behind Dean and Castiel wishes he had something in hand to throw. He stomps over and flips the deadbolt and chains the lock before storming to his bedroom and sinking to the floor in a sobbing heap. Despair threatens to overwhelm him. Dean ruined his life and then threw him away like garbage. 

He was so stupid! To think someone like Dean actually wanted him! Hah. Castiel huffs and shakes his head. This was probably Dean’s plan from the very moment he discovered Cas was a cop. To drag Castiel into such disgrace that he couldn’t turn on Dean without landing himself behind bars. 

Well, Dean did a damn good job of it. He had Castiel following along blindly and now Cas has nothing but a job he’s come to hate. Meg was right when she said he would go down in flames. To hell with being great. As if he ever had a chance of that to begin with. 

He picks himself up off the floor with a new sense of determination. 

He knows what he needs to do. 

He’ll beat Dean at his own game. 

He will find a way to put Dean behind bars without compromising himself. 

With that decision made, Castiel calmly pushes through his nighttime routine. Rinsing his mouth twice with his special alcohol-free mouthwash to attempt to minimize his morning bourbon breath and tucking himself into bed. 

Chapter Text

Castiel faces the morning wishing for death. He sleeps past his alarm, and the half a dozen phone calls from his partner, before dragging himself from the cocoon of his sheets and into the shower sometime around noon.

Today is his scheduled day off. He’s allowed to be late, dammit. Meg will just have to be patient.

The hot water coursing over his tired and aching body does little to settle his churning stomach or lessen the sharp pounding behind his eyes.

“I need coffee” Castiel grumbles to himself as he leans his throbbing head against the still cool wall of his shower. His stomach lurches at the thought of food but he knows from experience that it’s a necessary evil.

He quickly towels off, at least as quickly as his trembling hands and unsteady balance allow him and wraps the towel around his waist to stumble to his coffee pot.

He hears his phone shrieking once more from somewhere in his bedroom, the chords of "Carry on My Wayward Son" lancing through his brain like an icepick as he hurries to escape the sound.

It takes him a bit longer than usual, the kitchen still swaying around him and he curses when his bare foot finds shards of broken glass and he leaves a trail of crimson as he hops towards his dining room table on his uninjured foot.

Dean. His mind supplies as he glares at the broken picture frame and the thick red drops of blood he left behind amongst the shattered glass. His coffee pot gurgles, and he wonders how he managed to stumble through preparing the coffee before realizing the floor was covered with broken glass.

Dean could have seriously hurt him last night, Cas realizes, and his chest tightens as his resolve strengthens. Castiel put himself into a foolish position and he’s lucky he’s still breathing. He needs to do better and he’s damn well going to make Dean regret fucking with his life.

A harsh pounding on his door makes Castiel jump, bleeding foot pressing into his carpet before he can stop himself. “What the fuck!” He exclaims to himself, shaking his head.

His stomach lurches as he pushes to his feet, hobbling from the glass still embedded in his foot and his all-consuming hangover. The pounding on his door refuses to cease and Castiel tries to call out that he’s coming but the sound of his voice sends new shockwaves of pain slamming through his head and his stomach threatens to force him to revisit whatever he might have eaten recently.

He looks through his peephole to see an angry female face framed by loose dark curls glaring directly at him despite his knowing there is no way Meg can see him.

“I’m not leaving until you open the door!” Meg shouts, surely disturbing his neighbors as her hammering resumes.

Cas sighs and shakes his head, dread creeping into his gut. Why hell is Meg here? How does she even know where he lives? Her pounding stops immediately when Castiel slides the chain from the lock and undoes the deadbolt.

She wastes no time barging into his apartment and turning to glare at him as soon as the door opens. “What the fuck, Clarence!?” She crosses her arms over her chest, raking her gaze over Castiel’s bare chest and the towel wrapped around his waist. When her eyes land on his bleeding foot she swallows thickly but doesn’t comment.

“What are you doing here, Meg” Castiel sighs, shaking his head and making to hobble to his bedroom to find clothes.

“I was worried about you!” Meg exclaims, eyeing him cautiously. “You didn’t answer your phone”

“Did you ever think that maybe I was asleep?” Castiel grumbles, turning his back to her.

“It’s almost noon” She justifies, quickly stepping to his side and dragging his arm over her shoulders to help him walk. “What happened to your foot?” She finally asks, following the trail of blood to the kitchen, eyes widening when she notices the broken glass.

“I broke a picture” Castiel frowns, not even close to being tempted to admit the entire truth.

“Uh huh” Meg comments, tone not entirely convinced. “And how did you manage that” She helps him down the hall but steers him into the bathroom. Castiel starts to protest, mumbling about getting dressed but Meg shushes him with a saucy wink. “I don’t mind the view” She smirks as he sets him down on the toilet seat lid. She reaches down to pick up the pendant hanging against Castiel’s chest. “Saint Michael” She smiles. “Nice choice” She drops the pendant and pats Castiel’s shoulder, causing him to scowl and curse the fact he didn’t throw the necklace in the trash as he should have. “Where’s your first aid kit” She demands, already rifling through his cupboards.

“Behind the door” Castiel nods, resigned to sitting here wearing nothing but a towel as his partner helps triage his injured and still bleeding foot. Considering his last few weeks, this is hardly his lowest point.

“You know, I was trying to call you to let you know we might have a break in the case” Meg explains as she unlatches the metal box and begins to dig through it. She pulls out tweezers and Cas rolls his eyes.

“I can do this myself, you know” He reaches for the tweezers, but Meg pulls them away with arched brows before settling on the edge of his bathtub. Castiel sighs and shakes his head before tightening his hold on the seam of his towel. The relentless throbbing in his head forces him to lean back against the toilet tank and stare at the ceiling. “What kind of break?” He finally asks once his pounding head calms enough to formulate proper words.

“Someone in an office building across the street had a camera pointed at the street below. It’s an aerial view, but the quality is actually a lot better than the one from the museum” Meg explains as she dabs the blood away from the cut on Castiel’s heel.

Cas lets her work, not caring enough to assert his independence at the moment. “Is it enough to make an ID?” Castiel questions, hope beginning to bloom in his chest. Maybe taking down Dean don’t be as difficult as he thought.

He doesn’t stop to examine the simmering sense of disappointment that thought brings to him. He’s still recovering from his relapse last night. He’s allowed to feel conflicted.

“Hmmm, maybe” Meg hums, urging Cas to turn so that his foot hangs over the edge of his bathtub. “I’m gonna go get a cup from your kitchen to rinse your foot with” Meg releases him and pushes to her feet. “Don’t. Move.” She orders, pointing at his chest with her index finger for good measure.

“Yes, mother” Castiel quips and gives her an exaggerated eye roll.

Meg huffs but saunters away, leaving him with his thoughts for a moment. He wants to shout another question, needing to get down to the station to see this new video for himself, but he needs food and coffee first. And yelling is just asking for too much pain.

“What the hell is this” Meg bites from the open doorway of the bathroom and Cas turns to see her slam the empty Jack Daniel’s bottle onto his bathroom countertop. Her voice is full of pure venom and her glare might be even more murderous than Dean’s.

Castiel swallows hard, looking between the empty bottle and his angry partner.

“IS THIS WHY YOU WEREN’T PICKING UP THE DAMN PHONE?!?!” Meg shouts and Castiel cringes back from the sudden increase in volume.

He clutches his head weakly before burying his face in his hands. “I made a mistake” He mumbles.

“Damn it, Castiel” Meg stomps her way back into the bathroom and wrenches his foot upward before twisting the faucet angrily. “How much did you drink?” She demands.

Castiel hesitates too long, not wanting to tell her he drank at least half, and then more before Dean got angry with him and dumped the rest out. He honestly isn’t sure how much went down the drain at that point. He barely remembers Dean shoving him against the wall and then walking out on him.

“HOW MUCH” She stresses, squeezing his foot tighter.

Cas swallows hard. “Half, maybe” He whispers, shame heating his cheeks. When he finally looks to Meg, she’s glaring daggers at him.

“Why” She bites, dumping slightly too hot water over the cut on his foot.

Castiel hisses and tries to jerk his foot from her grasp but she only digs in harder. “I made a mistake” He admits, more truth to that statement than Meg can possibly know.

“Well, no shit” Meg snaps. “Next time you feel the urge to drink. Fucking call me, Ok?” She demands, pulling his foot back into her lap to check for embedded glass.

Castiel swallows hard and nods. “I...I can do that” She picks at the tiny pieces of glass furiously, dropping them into a bowl she had also brought with her. “Thank you, Meg” Castiel chews on his lower lip.

Meg huffs through her nose, tugging his foot to the steady flow of water from the faucet. “Don’t mention this to anyone” She narrows her eyes threateningly. “I have a reputation to uphold”

Cas barks a laugh that his head immediately recommends against. “Still, I appreciate your help” He meets her gaze steadily as she gently pats his foot dry and bandages the cut.

“All done” She pats his bare knee, reminding Castiel that he’s practically naked in front of someone he barely knows. A blush rises in his cheeks as he attempts to push to his feet. “Whoa, slow down there, cowboy” Meg smirks, placing a steadying hand on his shoulder.

“I gotta get dressed, then we can go down to the station” Castiel frowns when he takes a step and pain lances up his leg. “Perfect. Just one more thing to hurt” He grumbles as he hobbles into his room and closes the door to give himself some privacy.

“Whatever’s eating at you, you know you can talk to me, right?” Meg talks through the door, her voice raised enough for him to hear yet still somehow sounding vulnerable.

Castiel’s heart warms at her words despite churning nausea in his stomach. He still hasn’t even had coffee. Meg’s interruption threw off his entire plan but he’s glad for it. He feels a little less alone, especially since he has finally resolved to do his job and build a case against Dean.

He hurries as best he can, throwing on his last clean pair of underwear and that same slacks he had worn two days before. He tosses his clothes from yesterday into the hamper where they belong. At some point, he had spilled something on his shirt, the white surface marred by a pale stain. Probably bourbon, but he can’t bring himself to give it the sniff test.

Into the hamper it goes.

“Looking sharp, although I was really enjoying the treat of a mostly naked you,” Meg remarks when Cas finally opens his door, her gaze raking over him with approval and Castiel thinks maybe a little bit of interest.

“Meg…” Cas warns tiredly. He knows that she knows he’s gay. She can look all she wants but he’s not interested.

“I know I know” She waves him off. “A girl can dream, can’t she?” She shrugs and leads the way into the hall. “I swept up the glass while you were getting dressed but I didn’t know where you kept your vacuum” She gestures to the now glass free floor.

“Thank you, you didn’t have to do that” Castiel’s tone is sincere if not surprised. The photograph and cracked frame now lay on his kitchen counter. A picture of he and Gabriel as teenagers.

“That your brother?” Meg questions, shoving a steaming mug of coffee into his hands.

Cas nods, fingering the edge of the glossy print with a crooked smile. “Gabriel” He brings the mug to his nose and breathes in the sweet nectar of caffeine before taking a sip. His stomach protests the acidic liquid, but his mind immediately eases and centers with the first taste. He sighs in deep appreciation and takes another, longer, sip. “Gabe is just two years older than me, the only one of us who didn’t join the force” Castiel scoffs, shaking his head at the memory of his brother telling their family that he was going into the film industry.

At the time, he had not admitted to going into the adult film industry.

“Oh?” Meg arches a brow, helping herself to her own cup of coffee despite the noon hour.

“He’s a film director now” Cas gives Meg a half smirk.

“Anything I might have seen?” She asks, predictably and Castiel’s smile grows.

“Depends. Have you seen any of the Casa Erotica films?” Cas waggles his brows playfully.

The surprised look on Meg’s face was entirely worth the admission. “Your brother is porn director!?” She bursts into laughter, the sound causing Castiel’s headache to blur his vision, but he grins regardless as he nods. “Oh, that’s too perfect!” Meg chuckles into her coffee mug and some of the tension bleeds from Castiel’s shoulders with their lighthearted exchange.

Maybe Meg is right. Maybe needs to make some friends.

“I figure we can grab something for lunch, you probably need to get some food in you, and then head to the station” Meg gives him a knowing look and sets her half-empty mug into the sink.

Cas nods as he downs the rest of cup and then fills a travel mug. “You mind driving?” He asks, still feeling a bit wobbly and his foot is beginning the throb from the bandaged cut.

“Let’s go” Meg quips, gesturing towards Castiel’s front door. “Nice table, by the way, I should get one of those” She compliment, nodding towards the tall pedestal table that Dean had given him.

Castiel frowns, thinking he really should throw the thing in the dumpster. “You want it?” Cas offers before he considers how strange that must sound. “I just…it doesn’t really go with anything” He gestures around his living room, frowning when he catches his own lie.

That table matches perfectly. Dean saw to that a little too well.

Meg arches a brow, silently calling him out on his bullshit. “You don’t have to pay me back for being nice, Clarence” She frowns, shaking her head.

“I…it’s not that” Cas scrubs a hand over his face. “You know, never mind. I’m an idiot”

“Uh huh” Meg stares after him as he wrenches open his door and steps into the hall. “You’re not used to people being nice, are you?” She follows him out, pulling the door closed before she steps back to let Cas turn the lock.

“It’s been a while” Cas huffs, cheeks still flushed hot from his embarrassing misstep.

“With those eyes of yours, being mean to you would be like kicking a puppy” Meg scoffs with disbelief coloring her tone. Castiel shrugs as she follows him into the elevator and they ride in silence to the ground floor. “I parked around back” Meg directs and Castiel follows her lead.

“How did you know where I live, anyway?” Cas can’t help but ask. The question has been niggling in the back of his mind since she offered to pick him up on the way to the crime scene a few days ago and her just showing up like this adds another layer to his suspicion.

“I’m a detective, what did you expect?” She arches a brow, giving him a look that blatantly calls him an idiot.

Cas shakes his head, not liking the feeling that creeps up his spine, but he isn’t quite ready to accuse her of stalking him or some other nonsense idea that makes very little logical sense. “Nosy much?” He gives her a flat and unimpressed look, deciding to play down the nudge of worry in his gut that demands he believe she’s keeping secrets. Or at least has a hidden agenda.

Meg snorts as she slides behind the steering wheel of her shiny new Mustang. “You don’t know the half of it,” She remarks, shooting Cas a flirtatious wink that his shaking his head with a chuckle.

The drive to the station is spent exchanging mindless banter that has Cas’ heart swelling with gratitude. He needs the distraction more than Meg could ever know and he almost regrets when she pulls into a parking spot behind the main building. “We should grab lunch first, you’re still looking a little green” Meg comments as she pokes him in the ribs with a wicked twinkle in her eye.

Cas jumps away from her with a laugh that causes his stomach to lurch, confirming her diagnoses. “Ugh, don’t remind me” Cas drops his head back against the headrest, willing his stomach to cooperate. The excessive amount of Tylenol he swallowed earlier has gone to work on his head, dulling the pain to a steady throb instead a jackhammering assault, but the strong black coffee has done his digestive system zero favors.

“Can I ask you a question?” Meg’s quiet and almost sheepish tone causes Cas to roll head against the headrest to face her as he swallows thickly. The stretched angle of his neck and his exposed throat cause the motion to feel almost exaggerated and he can feel Meg’s eyes on him despite her appearing to look past him.

“You just did” Cas responds predictably and shrugs his shoulders, giving her permission to continue.

“How long had you been sober before last night?” Her tone is cautious as if speaking to a wild animal. In a sense she is.

Castiel swallows hard again, straightening his head on his shoulders before scooting his entire torso to face her. His brother’s words come back to him, encouraging him to be open and honest no matter how much he would prefer to hide. He frowns, thinking back but Meg interrupts his thoughts before he can remember the exact day he had decided to stop drinking.

“You don’t have to answer, I just...” She starts, nervous babbling drawing a small frown from Castiel.

“No, it’s ok. It’s just...hard to remember exactly” Cas shushes her rambling with gentle words and an upheld hand. “Eight months, I think, since Gabe pulled my head out of my ass”

Meg snorts. “I hope not literally”

Cas stares at her for a moment, head tilted in confusion when she barks a laugh. Finally, the little lightbulb in his head clicks on and he huffs laugh and shakes his head. “You are not as funny as you think you are”

“Seriously though” Meg sobers, eyeing Castiel steadily. “I’m here anytime you need help”

“I appreciate that” Castiel nods, insides aching with gratitude. He doesn’t want to burden her, but just the knowledge that someone other than Gabriel and Raphael might answer the phone if he calls is touching and bolsters his strength.

“Just don’t tell anyone. I have a reputation to uphold as a cold, heartless, bitch” Meg lifts her chin in mock pride and sniff dramatically.

“Your secret is safe with me” Cas offers conspiratorially. He can’t believe how easy this banter with Meg has become. If she hadn’t been mercilessly flirting with him since he started in Austin, he thinks they could have been great friends by now.

“Hey, have you even been down to see the bats?” Meg asks with a quirked brow as she ushers him towards the sandwich shop they had eaten at last time.

“The bats? No” Cas shakes his head. For all the times he’s been on or around the Congress Avenue bridge, he’s never been down there when the bats were leaving their colony. He knows full well that Austin is home to over a million and a half bats that all live in the cervices under the bridge.

“Want to? I know a guy who does the river cruises and he owes me a couple tickets. Wanna go tomorrow night?” Meg asks with a shrug like she isn’t watching him intently for a sign of rejection.

 Castiel hums and considers. This sounds suspiciously like a date, but he’s made his preferences perfectly clear so he doesn’t think she really means it that way. “If you're asking as one friend to another, I’d love to go see the bats” He turns and flashes her a cautious smile.

“Of course,” Meg steps close enough to bump their shoulders. “I’ll text you the address, we can meet there just before the boat leaves”

“Sounds good” Cas nods as he pulls open the glass door of the restaurant and ushers Meg through. He won’t say as much out loud, but he’s glad to have something to do tonight instead of just staring the four walls of his apartment and try not to think about Dean.

---

*Dean*

Dean had gotten home the night before and raided his liquor cabinet. What kind of game is Cas playing? Dean hadn’t realized just how much Castiel might actually be interested in him until he showed up at the bar, barely able to stand.

Dean thought they had made progress, or at least come to an understanding, back there in Ellen’s office and then Dean had to go and ruin everything.

He groans as he hugs his pillow, replaying the memory of the flash of rage he felt when he came out of Castiel’s bedroom to see the beautiful blue-eyed detective with his head tipped back, swallowing mouthful after mouthful of Jack Daniels.

He lost his temper. Plain and simple. Wrenching the bottle away from Cas and dumping the contents down the drain was the right decision, he’s certain. But slamming Cas against the wall like that? He’s lucky the police don’t come knocking to arrest him for assaulting a police officer.

He huffs at that thought. They would finally have something that would stick if Cas were to come forward.

He’s certain that Castiel won’t say anything though. If he even remembers what had happened. When Cas shouted at him, I want you, Dean thought his heart had stopped. His stomach swooped with excitement and it had taken everything to stop himself from dragging Castiel into a tight embrace and walk him back to his bedroom.

But Castiel was drunk. So very drunk and Dean refuses to take advantage of anyone like that. He might shoot a pedophile square in the face or beat the snot out of some drug dealer trying to deal to kids or do whatever it takes to keep the under the table weapons dealers in line, but he will not sleep with someone too drunk to consent properly.

No matter how much they say they want him.

He finally realizes how badly he’s hurt Cas and he had never meant to do that. He thought a little too much with little Dean and not enough with the brain in his skull. His heart was on board with his dick and his friends had warned him.

He needs to get up, his mouth tastes like ass and not in a good way. He smacks his lips and rolls his tongue around his mouth as he grimaces with disgust. Gross.

He saunters to his bathroom and takes care of his near to bursting bladder before staring himself down in the mirror. His green eyes are reddened still from sleep and drink and the faint creases around them are more pronounced than ever. The stress of both dodging and stalking Alastair is making him feel much older than his thirty odd years.

He shakes his head at himself before he turns away and strips out of the clothes he had slept in, the ones he wore when he finally was able to hold Cas in his arms again before everything fell apart.

Did Castiel mean it when he said he’d better stay gone? Will he even remember?

Dean had felt numb his entire walk back to the bar. Whatever menacing presence that lurked in the darkness hadn’t left, but Dean couldn’t bring himself to care. There could be any number of chicken shit bastards interested in taking a shot at him, he refuses to live his life in fear.

He turns the taps on in his oversized shower, letting the special steam jets heat and warm the entire room as the water warmed to his perfect temperatures. Sammy hadn’t understood when Dean had made these alterations as soon as Dad disappeared. “What do you want steam jets and two waterfall shower heads for?” The kid may be a genius, but he sure is an idiot sometimes.

This shower is awesome.

He stands under the hot spray, water sluicing over his shoulders and down his torso as he hangs his head to let the heat work out some of the tension in his upper back. He does his best not to look at his scars, his souvenirs from time spent under Alastair’s knives. He’s learned over the years that his best approach to people not asking questions is to not be shy about them, no matter how frantically his heart pounds when someone sees them for the first time.

Another reason he doesn’t hook up with strangers often or do relationships.

When Dean had looked up and seen those crystalline blue eyes studying that glass of whiskey, and then the long column of Castiel’s throat tilted back when Cas had taken that first sip...Dean knew he had to have him. He had to at least try.

He never thought he would become addicted after a single taste.

Dean slides his soapy loofah, one of the few good things Sam had convinced him to try, over his chest and down his stomach, carefully avoiding his semi-hard cock.

He hadn’t counted on being so captivated by Cas’ breathy moans and needy sighs. He hadn’t expected the blue-eyed man to be so pliant underneath him, begging for more as if Dean were the only thing keeping him from flying apart at the seams.

His dick swells with the memory of Cas spread out beneath him, their lips gliding together and the faint tang of whiskey on the other man’s breath. He stands under the spray, letting the water rinse the soap from his body as his hand rubs over his cock, pressing firmly and biting his lip at the touch.

He hadn’t expected to become addicted in only a matter of hours.

And he certainly hadn’t expected Castiel to be a cop.

His blood had run cold when he spotted that photograph on his way out, tension immediately setting his heart hammering and his vision seeing red.

When Cas had backed away though, clearly picking up on Dean’s change in mood? Dean had wanted to melt into the floor and beg forgiveness for planting a spark of doubt in those incredible eyes.

He had managed to leave before he had done something stupid and he had gone almost a whole day before he gave in to his stupidity and texted Cas.

He thought Benny was going to kill him when Jo spilled the beans about him crushing on a cop.

Dean wraps his fingers around his demanding erection, not interested in even trying to will it away. His eyes slide closed as he presses his forehead against the cool tile of the wall. His fingers squeeze his cockhead before dragging down his length, forming a tight tunnel for him to fuck into.

“Fuck, Cas” He whines as he jerks his now leaking cock, swiping his thumb over his slit to spread the oozing bead of pre-come over his cock. His hips thrust forward, picturing his fingers tangling in that mess of dark hair and dragging Cas into a demanding kiss.

The imagery lights his blood on fire and he pumps his cock harder, whimpering with bliss as he pictures Cas dropping to his knees in front of him, that pink tongue darting out to taste him before wrapping his lips around the crown of Dean’s dick and turning his gaze upward, watching Dean’s expression with those cerulean eyes.

“Cas!” Dean cries out, dick spurting over his hand with visions of soul-searching blue eyes lingering behind his eyelids. Dean’s knees tremble as he works himself through the aftershocks, only stopping when the touch borders on painful and he watches the steady flow of water wash away his sticky spend from the tile floor.

“I can’t let him go” Dean whines, smacking the butt of his closed fixed against the tile wall.

Dean steps out of the shower and towels off before throwing on some comfortable pajamas and searching for his phone. He needs to talk to Benny.

Chapter Text

Meg has the day off, so Castiel is following up on leads by himself. The new video that was uncovered clearly shows two men pulling a very deceased Zachariah Adler from the back of the refrigerated delivery truck.

Unfortunately, the only one of the three men that shows identifiable features is their murder victim. Even with Castiel knowing one of the two other men is Dean, he has a hard time identifying him beyond the slight bow to his legs that is accentuated by his snug fitting jeans.

Being in possession of bowed legs is, unfortunately, not a crime.

So, Castiel studies the video a dozen times. Each time focusing intently on one of the two men. The way they move, their gestures to each other, height, build...everything that can be observed through a pixelated, black and white video clip.

He leans back with a disappointed sigh, stretching his arms high over his head. He can feel his shirt ride up slightly but doesn’t think much of it. Not with Meg off duty today.

He would feel cheated that Meg had dragged him into the station on what was intended to be his day off, but he needed the distraction. Being home last night, alone, was torture. His body begged him to go to the little liquor store on the corner or even the Roadhouse, but his mind refused to budge in his determination.

He had one slip up. He will not let that rule his future.

Mid-stretch, with his eyed slanted nearly closed as he continues to stare at the monitor, he finally notices something they might be able to use.

The second man, who Cas is fairly certain is Benny at this point, pulls a cell phone from his pocket to check the time. It’s the barest flash of a bright screen underneath the shelter of his hand, but Cas freezes the frame and pushes back from his desk in search of Donna.

His heart catches in his throat, stomach swooping with excitement at his potential break. Benny is under surveillance. The police might already have a trace on his phone. If they do, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Cas to have a hunch that leads them to check.

If he can’t get Dean, getting Benny would be a decent consolation.

“Donna!” Cas calls out as soon as he crosses the threshold of the organized crimes unit.

“Yeah, Cas?” Donna’s blond head pokes out from around the corner and Victor’s follows not far behind.

“I think I got something” Cas nods to them both with a slight grin.

“Oh really?” Donna asks, taking a bite of a large, powdered sugar covered, ring-shaped, heart attack. She doesn’t bother wiping away the thick layer of white powder from her lips as she eyes Cas expectantly.

Victor shakes his head fondly at his partner before selecting a plain donut from the box and offering one to Cas. “Whatcha got, Novak?” Victor grumbles.

“No, thanks” Cas declines a donut, feeling his arteries clog just looking at the fried rings of death. “I was reviewing the second video and noticed one of the suspects pulled out what appears to be a cell phone”

“That would be great if we had a suspect in mind. We could get Charlie to sift through all the cell phone data from that night, but without a target, it would take her months” Victor explains with a frown.

“It’s true. We tried to ask her to do that once and she went into a fifteen-minute lecture on how many cellular signals bounce around Austin every minute” Donna arches her brows and nods before taking another bite.

Castiel swallows thickly and nods to steel his courage. “Right” He agrees, “But, my gut says the guy is Benny Lafitte” He waits for their reactions and he swears the entire department has gone silent enough to hear a pin drop.

Victor cocks his head in thought before nodding. “Not sure where you’re getting that hunch; but we’ve got Lafitte under surveillance. We could run a check”

Castiel notices Donna giving him an odd look, somewhere between confused and curious. “What made you think of Benjamin Lafitte?” Donna swallows her mouthful of donut and stares steadily at Castiel.

In that moment, Cas realizes his mistake. Benny. He called a suspect by a familiar nickname. Shit. “His build and style of clothing” Castiel ignores his slip. Trying to explain it away as if he knew he made a mistake would only look more suspicious than simply shoving through and moving on.

“Uh huh” Donna agrees slowly, nodding along as if Castiel were bordering on lunacy. Maybe he is, but Donna doesn’t need to know that.

“We’ll get Charlie to take a look” Victor nods and Castiel’s heart skips a beat.

No. Charlie will not do. “Um, are there any other techs who could look into it? Charlie’s got a lot on her plate already” Cas pleads, glancing between the two partners. Charlie is compromised, but Castiel needs to be careful in outing her to the department.

“We could ask Inias?” Donna suggests, nodding sagely at Castiel’s request. “Charlie is pretty busy going over those cold case files still” She turns towards Castiel with a shrug. “You should come down with me, I take it you haven’t met Inias yet?”

Cas flinches a smile. “I haven’t had the pleasure”

“Good” Donna grins, stuffing the last bite of donut into her mouth and waving Castiel along.

Cas can’t shake the odd feeling plaguing him as he follows Donna to the forensics lab and he’s nearly ready to pray that Inias McMorran is a more common name than Castiel has been led to believe.

“Inias started with the department not long after me” Donna explains, gesturing with her hands as they walk. “I can’t believe you haven’t met him yet! You really ought to make a point to get to know more of the department, Castiel” Donna fixes him with a knowing look, rolling her eyes lightly as she ushers him along.

In truth, Castiel has been avoiding Inias and the entire tech department since he first saw the man’s name on the wall outside of the lab. He doesn’t care how much of a coward that makes him. “You’re not the first to tell me that”

Donna pushes open the door to the tech department and leads Castiel through a maze of cubicles. “Oh, Inias” She singsongs, knocking on the opening to a cube but blocks Cas’ line of sight.

“Donna!” Castiel’s blood runs cold at the familiar voice and he takes a step back, ready to run and hide from the man he knows is standing just on the other side of the other detective.

Donna spreads her arms and another set wraps around her in a hug. “It’s so good to see….” Inias starts but his words stall on his tongue when he rests his chin on Donna’s shoulder and his blue eyes widen in shock. “Castiel” His voice flattens, and he freezes in Donna’s embrace.

Castiel’s cheeks flush, heart racing as he stares into those soft eyes that he thought he would never see again. “Hello, Inias” Castiel breathes just as his heart begins to ache with the memory of the last time that they saw each other.

Inias draws back from Donna, wide eyes fixated on Castiel as he brushes by her to come face to face with Cas.

Their blue eyes lock on each other and Castiel swallows hard, fighting down the rising panic he feels at the sight of his first love. His high school sweetheart who abandoned him when Cas was forced out of the closet. The main reason he couldn’t bring himself to stay in Chicago. He fled then, and he wants to flee now.

“Castiel, it’s good to see you” Inias smiles but warmth doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Wait, you two know each other?” Donna interjects, stepping between them and breaking their staring match.

Castiel nods, not entirely certain what he should say or if words would even come.

“We grew up together” Inias offers, turning his slightly terrified smile toward Donna.

“I should…go” Cas shakes his head, needing distance. He turns to stride away, ignoring Donna’s annoyed calling of his name and Inias’ pleas. He can’t do this. He can’t deal with everything else and coming face to face with Inias of all people.

He grabs his pile of case files off his desk and heads out the precinct doors before anyone has a chance to stop him. He’ll work out of his car today. He’s got witnesses to speak with and he needs space to clear his mind.

He slides into his old Continental and drops his forehead to the steering wheel in an attempt to get his breathing under control.

Inias is older, sure, but those gentle eyes are still the same and Cas remembers distinctly how soft that lightly feathered hair is underneath his fingertips. “Fuck!” Castiel slams his hands on the wheel before cranking the ignition and slamming the car into reverse.

He catches a glimpse of Inias bowling through the station doors as he turns out of the parking lot, searching frantically until his gaze lands on Castiel’s Continental.

Cas tears his gaze from the rearview mirror, away from what he wants to imagine to be the worried panic on Inias’ face. Inias seemed shocked to see him, and Cas isn’t surprised. He felt like his heart had been ripped out all over again the moment their eyes met over Donna’s shoulder.

He drives until his heart rate slows, turning down one city street to the next until he finds himself outside the Roadhouse. Not his apartment, no. The Roadhouse’s parking lot. He sits, staring at the front door during daylight for the first time and nearly considers going in before being hit with another wave of self-loathing and forcing his car to turn around. He can’t go in there. Not after last time.

Not after he’s suggested they look a little closer at Benny’s cell phone history.

His stomach rumbles though, and he glances to the clock on his dash. The time reads nearly two o’clock, he’s overdue to have lunch and he knows he should find something to eat. Somehow, Meg will know he hasn’t eaten and magically appear to drag his ass somewhere for lunch.

He could just stop home, but he doesn’t have the heart to sift through his probably spoiled leftovers and stare at his own four walls while his case files are spread out in front of him.

Screw it, he decides. He’ll head for one of the hundreds of restaurants in Austin, find somewhere he can camp out for a while.

A half hour later, he finds a small burger joint in a shopping center that doesn’t look too busy. Not with a What-A-Burger just a block over. He still doesn’t understand the appeal of that place, but the locals damn near obsess over the mediocre burgers and their ‘fancy catsup’. Whatever. Cas shakes his head, grabbing his messenger back with a huff and heading inside.

As he had hoped, the restaurant is nearly deserted, and he selects a booth in the far back corner where he has a great view of the entire place, especially the front door.

“Good afternoon! I’m Mandy and I’ll be taking care of you today” A very perky blond girl, who can’t be more than seventeen, bounces up to Cas armed with her notepad and raking her gaze over him expectantly, chewing on her lip. “Can I get you anything to drink?” She bats her eyes at him and Cas narrowly avoids rolling his.

“Just a Coke, please” He gives her a nod and starts to unzip his bag, intending to get started reviewing the case.

“What kind?” Mandy asks, twisting her shoulders and hips to rock back and forth as she lightly chews on the end of her pen.

“Uh…” Cas looks up at her blankly, confusion pulling at his features. “What kind?” He cocks his head, feeling like he’s missing out on yet another cultural reference.

“Oh,” Mandy tilts her head at him, mirroring his position. “You must not be from around here” Her smile holds a little more tension and her eyes a little more judgment.

Cas frowns and nods. “I just moved down” He forces a smile, but the air suddenly feels less welcoming than only a few seconds ago.

“Ah. I see” Mandy smiles. “One Coke, coming right up” She gives him a wink before turning and trouncing off to fill his order behind the counter.

He shakes his head, almost wishing he had just stopped at home instead. He doesn’t think he’ll ever learn how to handle these southern colloquialisms. A stranger in a strange land. That’s how he feels. He takes a quick peek at the menu and decides on a simple cheeseburger and fries. Simple. Easy. Hard to screw up.

Mandy comes back with his Coke and takes his order, promising his food will be out quickly and Cas gets to work.

Time passes with him barely noticing but he hears steps approaching and looks up in time to see someone who is very much not Mandy stepping up to his table.

“Fancy seeing you here, Detective” Dean smiles down at Castiel’s dumbfounded expression as he sets the detective’s plate in front of him and slides into the booth across from the man. “How are you feeling?” He questions cheerfully, nudging the still steaming cheeseburger towards Cas.

“What are you doing here?” Castiel’s tone is hard and unforgiving, eyes narrowed in suspicion as his hand drifts to the gun on his hip. He doesn’t want to shoot Dean, but he can’t let himself fall for those green eyes and boyish smile. He refuses to play that game any longer.

“I own the place” Dean snags a fry off Castiel’s plate and leans back, draping his arm over the back of the booth. Dean is wearing a finely tailored three-piece suit, charcoal grey with a red tie. The sharp cut of the suit brings out the definition of his chiseled jaw and makes his green eyes pop temptingly, but Castiel refuses to act on that fact.

Castiel’s mouth goes dry at the sight of Dean dressed up and dapper. Despite wanting to hate him, knowing he needs to hate him, Castiel can’t. So, he hates himself instead and glares at Dean with a glare to end all glares. “I did not realize that. I should be going” Castiel quickly gathers his things and scoots from the booth but Dean blocks his path.

“No, Cas. Please. Stay and eat. Talk to me” Dean grips Castiel’s arm gently, ushering him back into the booth but Cas resists.

“Dean, let go” Cas jerks his arm back and somehow manages to glare harder.

Dean holds his hands up in surrender, tilting his chin down to look up at Cas through his eyelashes. “Please, sit down and eat” He gestures towards the table, still blocking Castiel’s path.

“Let me leave” Cas squares his stance, hand resting on the holster attached to his belt. Dean’s eyes flick down, clearly noticing that Castiel is armed but he doesn’t make a move to back off.

“You need to eat” Dean gestures to the plate on the table once again, eyes flashing with concern before hardening slightly. “I want to know you’re taking care of yourself” Dean’s tone softens to a near whisper and he reaches a hand out to brush the very edge of Castiel’s fingers light as a feather.

Cas flinches his hand away with a frown. “I can’t be seen with you” He raises his gaze to meet Dean’s, tone slightly less certain. His glare has lessened into a scowl and he softens further when Dean lets out a frustrated breath.

“There is no surveillance. You’re safe here” Dean lifts his hand again, asking little more than for Castiel to give him a chance. “Please, Cas. Sit down”

Cas drops his chin to his chest and sighs as his eyes droop closed in defeat. He is hungry, and he doesn’t want to fight. “Please, leave me alone, Dean” He mutters, shaking his head as he drops himself back into the booth.

Dean doesn’t move, he simply stands with his hands hanging loosely at his sides, watching Cas warily. “I need to know that you’re ok. The other night, Cas, you scared me” Dean says so softly that Cas can barely hear him.

“I scared you?” Cas whispers back angrily, slamming his hands on the table. Mandy drops a glass in surprise at the noise and Cas sends her a sideways glare before turning his attention back to Dean. “You’re the one who slammed me into a wall” He hisses, furious righteousness causing his cheeks to heat and vision to darken at the edges.

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Dean leans forward, ignoring Castiel’s venomous tone as his eyes fill with concern.

Cas flops back in the booth, putting as much distance between him and Dean as possible without trying to leave once again. Hurt him? Hell yes, Dean hurt him. “No” Cas scowls, rubbing his wrist under the table where he has a faint bruise from Dean’s grip. The real hurt though, runs much deeper.

“I’m sorry about that” Dean frowns, looking up at Cas sheepishly. “I just, I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t watch you do that to yourself” Dean leans forward ever further, practically about to climb across the table before he absently pushes Castiel’s plate towards him. “Eat, please. They’re best when they’re still hot”

“It’s none of your business what I do to myself” Castiel scowls petulantly, pushing the plate away and crossing his arms over his chest.

Dean sighs, shaking his head. “Please, Cas” Dean pleads, pushing the plate closer to the other man.

Castiel’s stomach gives an inopportune grumble and he shakes his head with a huff of annoyance, reaching forward to pick a now slightly cold French fry off the plate.

“Good” Dean smiles and Castiel’s stomach flutters as he slowly chews on the piece of potato.

The small amount of food serves to whet his appetite and he shrugs before picking up the burger. Dean’s smile grows, causing crinkles to form at the corners of his eyes. “You’re an asshole” Cas gripes before tucking into the sandwich.

Dean’s smile never falters but his eyes darken when Cas lets out a small moan around his first bite. “Good, am I right?” He wags a brow suggestively as he nods toward Castiel.

Cas rolls his eyes and picks a fry off the plate to throw at Dean. “I hate you”

Dean barks a laugh, shaking his head. “I’ve been told worse” He purses his lips against his smile, eyes alight with pleasure at Cas finally beginning to relax.

“I meant what I said though. That you should stay gone” Cas fixes Dean with a stern look as the man’s smile dies.

“I hoped you wouldn’t remember that” Dean winces, staring down at the table.

“Well, I do. You’ve messed with my head enough, Winchester” Cas points a fry at him before shoving it in his mouth.

“I didn’t want to leave you” Dean mutters, looking up to Cas sadly.

“You shouldn’t have” Cas frowns, meaning his words with all his heart. If Dean hadn’t left, Cas would have given in. He knows he should be glad that Dean walked out the door that night, he should be glad he finally came to his senses about the man, but he simply isn’t and Cas isn’t quite sure what to do with that.

“I couldn’t take advantage of you. The way you were looking at me” Dean pauses, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t have been able to say no to you if I had stayed” Dean hangs his head as if admitting a shameful secret.

Cas huffs and shakes his head, not knowing what to make of this. Dean is a murderer and leader of an organized crime syndicate, and he couldn’t take advantage of him? “Bullshit” Cas snips, setting the remains of his cheeseburger back onto the plate. “You had no problem fucking with my head for the last two weeks” Cas points to his own head irritably. “Why didn’t you just leave me alone.” He knows they’ve had this conversation, and Castiel isn’t really asking.

“Cas, please” Dean reaches for his hands, but Cas pulls away and Dean draws his hands back across the table sheepishly. “Can I tell you something? Something that won’t be in the file I’m sure you’ve read about me” He nods his heads towards Castiel’s computer and the paper files poking out of his open bag. His green eyes soften and his head twitches as if looking over his shoulder to ensure no one is listening to them.

Dean looks nervous enough to make Castiel curious. “Fine” He forces his mouth into a flat line, trying to keep his expression hard and unforgiving.

Dean nods with a frown before tugging his lower lip between his teeth. This is the least confident Castiel has seen him yet and he fights not to comfort the man. “When…” Dean starts before clearing his throat and shaking his head. “I’m sure you’ve read that my mom was murdered when I was young” Dean tries again, looking to Cas for confirmation. Castiel nods, feeling a little bit guilty for knowing such personal details by reading them in a police file. Dean nods, taking a shaky breath. “After she died, my dad lost himself in the bottom of a bottle. We had plenty of money, but I’m sure your little file told you that already” He gives a mirthless laugh. “Dad got brutal, ruthless and built up our name and our reputation”

Cas huffs but holds his silence. He already knows all this. Dean takes another deep breath. “What your file won’t tell you, is how I practically had to raise my little brother around all that bullshit. Dad would disappear for weeks on end, leaving us to the supposed care of his cronies” Dean huffs bitterly, shaking his head. “When he was around, man, he was training us for war”

“So, you didn’t have a pampered childhood?” Cas arches a brow, not entirely sure where Dean was going with this.

“Fuck no” Dean scoffs. “I had to do a lot of things I’m not proud of to make sure Sammy was fed. You see, the assholes who worked for my father didn’t give a shit about the boss’ kids and the man himself was an alcoholic, Cas. An alcoholic. I tried, so hard, to help him but he did nothing but hurt us. Nothing was ever good enough” Dean feels his scars itch at the memories of his worst punishment. The one that finally turned him into the type of monster his father could be proud of. “I can’t go through that again” He looks to Cas, reaching a hand halfway across the table in hopes that Cas will take it.

Cas stares at him, head cocked with consideration. “I…don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, other than it sounds like your dad was a dick” Cas swallows hard.

“I care about you” Dean blurt, reaching his hand far enough to snag Castiel’s from the other side of the table. Cas doesn’t let his arm go easily, but he still allows Dean to hold his hand in the center of the table. “When you told me you were an alcoholic, when I had given you that bottle of whiskey, I panicked. I refuse to be an enabler”

“I’m not your father, Dean. You barely know me” Cas shakes his head, putting the slightest pressure to pull his hand back but his heart isn’t in it. “I’m not your responsibility”. Dean can’t possibly be blaming himself for not knowing about Castiel’s problems, can he? This has to be some kind of act.

“I know” Dean nods. “And I can’t explain it. I’m a glutton for punishment I guess, but I can’t stop myself when it comes to you” He offers a tentative smile, hoping that Cas understands.

“I need you to leave me alone” Castiel is beginning to feel like a parrot as he rolls his eyes at the man sitting across from him. His lunch has long since gone cold, and his appetite is gone despite his food being less than half eaten. “We can’t do this Dean, you’re a criminal!” He’s careful to keep his voice low but Dean’s flinch when he says the word leaves no doubt that he’s been heard.

“Allegedly” Dean mutters.

“I need to do my job, Dean. And right now, that job is putting you behind bars” Cas states, just as much to remind himself as he is Dean.

“Please don’t do this” Dean squeezes Castiel’s hand tighter. “Give me a chance to show you who I am”

“I know who you are, Dean” Cas arches a brow and tugs his hand free from Dean’s grasp. “Now I suggest you let me leave or else I’ll have to arrest you for assaulting a police officer”

Cas digs for his wallet and Dean holds out a hand to stop him. “Don’t. It’s on the house” Dean mutters, not making a move to stop Castiel but his expression says enough.

Castiel frowns. “I can’t accep…” He starts but Dean interrupts.

“This is my establishment and I can give food away if I want to. I don’t care that you’re a cop” Dean looks up to Castiel with pleading eyes and Cas loses the heart to fight him on this. Dean’s words are true, restaurants are allowed to comp food to anyone they choose, and Cas is already far enough down the rabbit hole that accepting said food would be the least of his worries should he end up being reviewed by Internal Affairs.

“Fine. Thank you for the meal, Dean” Cas says stiffly, closing the clasp on his bag and sliding out of the booth. He almost wants Dean to try to stop him, but he doesn’t want to make good on his threat.

Dean doesn’t move a muscle when Cas brushes past him. “Cas, wait” Dean mutters, turning in the booth to watch the other man retreat.

Cas pauses a few feet from Dean but doesn’t turn back.

“I won’t give up on you” Dean mutters quietly.

Cas stiffens but doesn’t respond, he only starts walking, dipping his chin to Mandy as he passes her on the way out the door. He doesn’t give Dean the chance to follow him, he throws his bag in the car and is pulling out the parking lot into heavy Austin traffic within a minute.

He really wants a drink.

Chapter Text

Meg is waiting at his desk when Cas arrives the next morning. He had done well controlling himself last night, despite his inner turmoil. The knowledge that Inias is lurking somewhere in the building weighs heavily on him and a sinking pit of dread threatens to swallow him whole at the thought of their inevitable confrontation. His only consolation is the fact that Inias is probably wanting to avoid Castiel as much as Cas wants to avoid him. Why would he want to see Castiel after so many years? 

“Anything new?” Castiel questions before Meg has a chance to put a voice to whatever words are clearly on the tip of her tongue waiting to be released. He tries to act casual as if nothing in the world was bothering him. Not his woeful sense of inadequacy, his guilt filled desire for the man he shouldn’t have or his absolute terror in the knowledge that his very first boyfriend is sitting in his office only a minute away. Nope. Nothing at all is bothering him. 

Meg folds her arms over her chest and fixes him with a knowing look, brows arched and mouth flat. “As a matter of fact, yes”  

Cas comes to a stop beside her and drops his messenger bag onto his desk, pleased to see no new paperwork decided to magically appear since he bolted yesterday. He swallows hard around the lump in his throat and internally begs his heart to slow. The traitorous organ refuses his polite request, however, choosing instead to hammer wildly against his ribs. “Yeah?” He cocks his head, doing his best to avoid the grand inquisition he can see building behind her put upon scowl. 

“Your hunch about Lafitte panned out. Vic and Donna are bringing him in now” Meg gives Cas a half-cocked smile and pushes off his desk. 

“That’s…very good to hear” Castiel swallows hard, heart still racing while his insides feel like they’ve been doused in ice water. He slowly makes a show of unpacking his bag, purposefully not meeting Meg’s eyes as he searches for his notes. 

“Uh huh” Meg drawls out as if Castiel were an idiot. “One more thing, though” Meg’s pitch rises into a mocking range and Castiel cringes. “Donna is worried about you, thinks maybe you might be ill?” Meg cocks her head as she studies Castiel. 

Cas freezes, willing his breathing to remain steady. “What’d she say?” Dread colors his tone and his heart comes to a skidding halt before quickly resuming its sprint.  

“Oh, just something about taking you down to tech to meet someone and you bolting like your pants were on fire” Meg drawls out her words, twirling a lock of her dark hair around a finger as she watches Castiel carefully. 

Cas bites his lip and nods. “Yeah, I felt ill” 

“And your sudden illness had nothing to do with the handsome tech who came to us from Chicago after a really nasty divorce?” Meg cocks her head with the beginnings of a devious grin. 

Castiel’s head snaps up at that. “Inias is divorced?” His brows shoot up and the words fall from his lips before he can stop them. 

“I knew it!” Meg crows, smacking her hands together. All she needs is a fist pump to make Castiel think that she won a bet. Her wicked grin has turned nearly diabolical and Cas curses himself for not being able to hide his thoughts. “He was married to a woman, so I’m guessing you’re not the ex-wife…unless?” Meg cocks her head as she considers a thought. “No, that wouldn’t make sense. But you know him!” She points accusingly and Castiel lets out a defeated duff. 

He nods with a frown. “I knew him. We went to school together” He’s willing to admit that much. 

“Donna said you both went pale as sheets and you took off like an Angel escaping Hell” Meg accuses, and Cas turns to walk away. Meg follows him, “She also said Inias went running after you, but you hurried out so fast that he couldn’t catch up” She grips his forearm to get him to turn and face her. “Come on, spill. What’s up between you and Inias?” 

“Nothing” Cas pulls his arm away. “I was just surprised to see someone I used to know, ok?” He huffs, feeling only a little bit petulant. 

“Fine. No need to have coronary” Meg scowls, clearly displeased with Castiel’s reticence. “You should talk to him” She manages to bury her disappointment and her too helpful tone comes out unscathed. 

Cas frowns, shaking his head. “Now that we’re done digging through my past personal life,” He states, not brokering any continued discussion on the subject, “Can we please get back to work?”  

Meg rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “Fine, let's go” Meg waves him on and Cas follows with heavy feet. “Inias was working on tracing Winchester’s phone since he and Lafitte are rarely apart. He called just before you got here saying he has news for us” Meg smirks knowingly and Castiel comes up short. 

“I…you can talk to Inias yourself, I’ll just wait here” Cas grumbles, swallowing hard. He does not want to see Inias. He would much prefer living in his little fantasy bubble where his first boyfriend does not exist just two floors down and around the corner. Yep. He’s perfectly good just staying away from tech altogether. 

Meg rolls her eyes and grabs his sleeve. “You’re coming with me whether you like it or not” She challenges and Castiel plants his feet, staring her down. “Really? You want to play this game, Clarence?” She folds her arms over her chest and stands toe to toe with him. 

Their eyes lock in mutual glares and, considering her short stature, Meg gives as good as she gets. So good in fact, that Castiel begins to crumble after only a minute. “I’ll buy lunch if you come without a fight?” Meg arches a brow, straightening her spine and lifting her chin higher.  

Cas begins to feel tension bubbling in his stomach, the simple dread of being forced to talk to Inias after all these years. He’d be happy to never know if the other man still thinks about him from time to time, if he remembers all the fun they had growing up and in school. If Inias hurt even half as much as Castiel had after leaving him the night Castiel had come out to his parents. He really could do without all that, and yet… 

“Fine” Castiel deflates. Austin really is going to be the death of him, one way or another. He shakes his head and gestures for Meg to lead the way. Might as well get this over with. He doesn’t need what little is left of his heart anyway, might as well let his first boyfriend rip it out and stomp it into the dirt all over again. 

“Yes!” Meg crows, pumping a fist in victory. “Jesus Cas, he isn’t going to kill you” She playfully shoves his arm when she notices that Cas’ expression is almost as poorly as if he had a date with the hangman. 

“You don’t know that” Cas mutters and pushes ahead, leaving a slightly stunned partner in his wake. 

“Cas” Meg tugs his sleeve, pulling him back. “You seriously have a problem with him? This isn’t just some ‘oh, I haven’t seen him in a long time and I don’t know what to say’ kind of things, is it?” 

Castiel takes a deep breath that he forces out through his nose when he clenches his jaw. “No, Meg. I haven’t seen him in 15 years and our friendship ended very badly. I doubt he wants to see me any more than I do him” He really doesn’t want to explain all this to Meg. 

“Oh, I…shit. I didn’t realize. Just thought you were being chicken shit” Meg frowns. “You don’t have to go, I can handle it” She offers him an out and Castiel desperately wants to take it. 

He considers his options for a moment before deciding that he might as well rip the band-aid off. At least if this meeting ends badly, it’ll be Meg who stands witness and not an overly cheerful ball of sunshine like Donna. He shakes his head. “I can’t avoid him forever, apparently” He grumbles, brushing past Meg with determination. 

He’s stepping into the elevator by the time Meg catches up. “I might need to take you up on the offer of support after this” Castiel states flatly as soon as the closing elevator door shrouds them in privacy. 

“We’re on for tonight, right?” She stands beside him, shoulder to shoulder, and turns her cheek to meet Castiel’s gaze. 

Cas feels tension bleed from his chest, remembering their ‘date’ to see the bats tonight. At least he won’t be alone if reconnecting with Inias ends in disaster. “Yes” Castiel nods. “I am looking forward to seeing the bats” He forces a smile before facing forward once again. 

Castiel feels some of the tension in his gut begin to unravel as the elevator moves, but the moment that door slides open has him nearly twitching with nervousness. He isn’t certain he can do this. Inias crushed him and set him on the path that led him here. How can Castiel face that? He isn’t strong enough. 

His feet lead him blindly towards the cubical that his subconscious seems to remember from yesterday and he catches sight in Inias before the man spots Castiel. Inias sits facing his computer, typing furiously into a program that Castiel wouldn’t be able to decipher in a hundred years. 

He wears a headset that smashes down his feather soft brown hair that hangs longer than Castiel remembers from their youth. The set of his shoulders is broader, his arms thicker but still lean. Castiel remembers the feel of those arms under his hands, how Inias would tilt his head back as their lips would meet.  

Cas shakes himself out of the reverie as Meg comes to stand beside him, patiently letting him lurk as he studies the man he never quite got over.  

“Inias” Castiel breathes, his voice low and soft as his heart flutters with nervousness.  

Inias stops his typing immediately and spins in his chair as he pushes to his feet. His piercing blue eyes flash with wary excitement and his breath visibly catches in his throat as he carefully lifts his headset from his ears. “Castiel” He mutters, tone measured and hesitant. 

They both swallow hard as they mirror each other’s tense postures. Meg looks between them, arching a brow before letting out a low whistle that has the two men looking to her with annoyance. “Oh, don’t let me interrupt” Meg rolls her eyes, waving a dismissive hand. “Clarence, I’ll be upstairs” She claps him on the front of the shoulder as she turns to give them some privacy. 

“Meg, wait” Cas turns as if to follow her but she stops him with a firm push to his shoulder. 

“No” Meg shakes her head. “I don’t know what this is” She points between the two men. “But how about you be a good boy and talk to the nice man”  

“But…” Cas begins, turning his head as if considering glancing back to Inias before unleashing his terrified gaze on Meg. 

Meg simply smirks and shakes her head. “Not gonna work” She clicks her tongue and arches a brow. “I don’t wanna see you until after you’ve figured out whatever has you so afraid of one of our best tech geeks” 

She turns and saunters away, leaving Cas to deal with Inias on his own. His heart seizes in his chest as he considers the multitude of things he would rather be doing than confronting a ghost from his past. He stiffens his spine and turns, swallowing with determination to not run away and never return. 

“So, Castiel” Inias starts, still staring wide-eyed at Cas. “It’s been what…10 years?” He cocks his head and Castiel knows he intentionally offered the wrong time frame. 

“Fifteen” Castiel states flatly. “You look…good” Cas waves his hand, gesturing to all of Inias. 

The other man blushes and ducks his head. “So do you”  

And hell if Castiel hasn’t missed that boyish smile. 

“I’m so sorry, Castiel” Inias shakes his head as he takes a step forward. “I’ve regretted leaving you since before I broke things off” Inias blurts out and Cas scoffs. “No, seriously. I need you to know that. Cas, if you never want to see me again, I’ll understand. But I need you to know that the biggest regret of my life is how things ended with us” He steps forward, reaching for Castiel’s arm but Cas draws back, shaking his head. 

“Let's not do this here” Cas frowns, glancing around. Back then, Inias wasn’t out and Castiel doesn’t know if he is here or not. Cas isn’t interested in keeping his sexuality a secret, but if Meg was right and Inias is divorced from a woman…he clearly stayed in the closet much longer than Castiel. 

Inias glances around and nods. “Right. Uh, got plans for dinner?” He cocks his head with a hesitant smile. 

Cas takes a step back. “I do, actually” He doesn’t, but he does have plans with Meg and a Bat cruise. 

Inia’s expression falls slightly, that kicked puppy expression stabbing Castiel right in the heart like it always had in their youth. Nice to see some things never change. 

“How about lunch?” Cas offers, his voice rough with wariness. “There’s a deli nearby, we could…?” He trails off when he realizes he’s about to start rambling and he shoves his hands into his pockets. 

Inias nods, chewing on his lower lip as he studies Castiel’s expression. “I would like that” 

“Good” Cas nods. 

“We could go now? Take an early lunch?” Inias offers, glancing around his cubical nervously. 

“I have some things I need to take care of first” Castiel deflects as he checks his watch. 

“Oh. Uh. Later then” Inias nods awkwardly, looking up at Cas through his lashes. “I’ll just, I was just tracing…” He fumbles, patting himself down in search of his headset and looking everywhere but at Castiel. 

“Inias” Cas steps forward, placing his warm hand over Inias' on his chest. Inias stills immediately, swallowing firmly. “How does noon sound?” Even after how badly Inias hurt him, and even after all these years, he still can’t bear to see Inias succumb to his anxiety and fear of rejection. 

“Oh,” Inias nods. “Uh, noon sounds good” He continues nodding. 

Cas smiles softly, feeling that flutter deep in his stomach that he thought was lost forever. He can do this. Make his peace with Inias and finally move on. Maybe he needs this. Maybe they both do. 

Cas turns to go, needing some space but Inias stops him with a hand on his arm. “Wait, I uh…the Winchester trace” Inias mutters, releasing Castiel’s arm in favor of reclaiming his desk chain. He waves Cas closer as he clicks a series of icons and types what Cas assumes is gobbledygook into the computer to arrive at a list of times and coordinates. 

“I had just finished the trace before you and Meg came down” Inias speaks without taking his eyes off the screen. The nervousness in his voice has disappeared, replaced with confident professionalism. “The log goes back several weeks, but something happened to the line about ten days ago. It just stopped” 

Cas cocks his head and stares at the screen. Ten days ago. He frowns. “What happened?” He asks. 

“Hard to say. My best guess is he got a new phone and no one noticed” Inias shrugs. 

Castiel frowns. “Can you pull up a map of the locations?” Staring at the coordinates on the screen gives him nothing. Austin by the numbers is not helpful at all. 

Inias nods and types some more before a blown-up map covers his computer screen. 

“Chicago?” Inias and Castiel both squawk in unison. They lean closer to the screen, studying the map closely. Sure enough, there’s the southern edge of Lake Michigan, right there on the screen. 

Cas shakes his head in disbelief before narrowing his eyes. “Someone must have tampered with the trace” He pulls back, realizing Inia’s cheek was just right there, close enough to touch and that just isn’t acceptable. 

“That’s impossible” Inias shakes his head and Cas hums. “Unless Winchester has someone on the inside, there is no way” 

Cas nods but bites his tongue. He has his suspicions, but he can’t assume Inias is trustworthy just because of their personal history. “Are you certain you got the right number?” Cas arches a brow, not really doubting the man but needing to ask. 

Inias turns to him, lips parted in indignation and eyes narrowed. “I’m sure” His tone is flat and has Cas holding up his hands in surrender. 

Cas nods. “Alright, just had to ask” He excuses with an eye-roll. “Keep looking but keep a low profile. Don’t tell anyone what you’re working on, alright?” Cas purses his lips and waits for Inias’ agreement. 

“Yeah” Inias’ gaze flits back to his computer as an unhappy scowl begins to etch into his features. “I’ll just…I’ll find you for lunch. Upstairs” He glances side to side as if he possesses the x-ray vision necessary to see through the cubicle walls and spy on his counterparts. 

Cas lifts a hand as if to give Inias’ shoulder a squeeze but thinks better of the motion and shoves his hands into his pockets instead. “Alright. I’ll be up on four” Cas turns to leave but pauses, turning his head back. “Thank you for looking into this” He flinches a smile and Inias nods before turning back to his computer. 

Cas heaves a deep breath as he makes his way back to the elevators. He hears Charlie’s vibrant laugh and quickens his steps before she can drag him into a conversation. He would much prefer to avoid her until he can either confirm or dismiss his suspicion that she’s somehow connected with Dean. 

Cas darts into the elevator just as Charlie bounces around the corner, bright red hair standing vibrant against the grey backdrop of the cubicle city behind her. She waves to him and he does his best to pretend not to notice. The last thing he needs is her attention.  

Castiel heads straight for Meg’s desk when the elevator opens on his floor and he’s satisfied to see his partner absorbed in her paperwork, chewing on the end of her pen as she clicks a few keys on her computer before turning back to the open file in front of her. 

“Donna and Vic bring him in yet?” Cas questions as he approaches. The thought that Benny’s phone returned information doesn’t sit well with him for some reason. If Dean’s trace was compromised, and Benny is Dean’s right-hand man; why wasn’t his line protected too? This doesn’t make sense.  

“Yeah, got him in interview six” Meg looks up. “How’d things go downstairs?” She arches a brow.  

“We have a problem” Cas huffs, leaning against Meg’s desk. 

“Oh?” She turns to face him completely, eyes alight with curiosity. 

Castiel doesn’t quite know how to put his suspicions into words that can be backed up with anything more than a guess. He knows he needs to tread carefully. “The trace on Winchester’s line shows he’s been in Chicago for weeks,” Cas says flatly with a frown. 

Meg’s head rears back. “But, that’s not possible” 

“Exactly” Cas nods. “Either he’s got someone in tech on his payroll, or someone plugged the wrong phone” 

“Shit” Meg bites, pushing back from her desk. “How did no one notice!” She nearly growls, tossing her pen down roughly. “We gotta take this to Mills” 

Cas nods his agreement, glad that Meg seems to agree with his conclusion. He knows for a fact that Dean has been in Austin at least most of this time, he’s seen him a few too many times to have any doubts. “Inias also said the chip in his phone went dead about ten days ago. Any idea why that might be?” Cas questions, if only to cover for his own curiosity. 

Meg shakes her head. “No, can’t think of anything” She frowns, cocking her head in thought.  

Cas breathes out through his nose unhappily, mind churning as he digs back to ten days ago. Dean left him the flowers eleven ago. And the table with whiskey seven days ago. What happened in the span of those few days? 

They find Captain Mills in the observation room, studying the camera feed as Benny lounges comfortably in the slightly too small metal chair he’s seated on.  

She nods along as they brief her, one eye always on the monitors. “If someone tampered with the trace on Winchester’s phone, I find it strange they didn’t do the same for Lafitte’s” She taps her chin with her fingers, narrowing her eyes at the screen. 

Benny looks completely unconcerned, arms resting on the table where he’s cuffed as he rolls his head on his shoulders to crack his neck. He’s wearing a tee shirt and loose-fitting grey pants, much like he was the night Cas had met him. 

“Unless it would have been too risky to tamper with both?” Meg suggests, narrowing her eyes at the screen. 

“Or this is just a diversion,” Castiel says flatly, cocking his head at the overly casual way Benny is relaxing in that hard metal chair. He’s watched suspects squirm and he’s watched them pretend to be relaxed. There is always a tell. A shift in their gaze, a nervous tapping of their foot or licking their lips too often. There is always something that gives their unease away. 

Benjamin Lafitte is not uneasy. 

“A diversion for what?” Meg crosses her arms over her chest. “Winchester’s tap was tampered with, but Lafitte’s signal puts him at the scene of the crime. 

“Does it though?” Castiel arches a brow. “What kind of alibi does he have?” He gestures towards the monitor. “Something doesn’t feel right about this” 

Almost as if on cue, Benny stares straight into the camera and winks with a grin. Castiel’s heart sinks and he shakes his head. Benny isn’t stupid, neither is Dean. “Damn it” Castiel grumbles. He knows he’s right about Dean being one of the murderers and he is damn sure the other man was Benny, but he has the distinct feeling Benny will be walking free in just a few hours. 

Donna slips into the room with a heavy frown. “Lafitte’s wife was down on Sixth Street. They both were” She throws a packet down on the table and turns toward Cas with her hands planted firmly on her hips. “His alibi checks out, he was caught on camera three blocks away at the same time the body was dumped” She blows air through pursed lips, ruffling her bangs as she shakes her head. 

“Let me talk to him” Castiel frowns, hands twitching with budding anger. He’s never been more sure of anything in his life, he can’t just stand here and do nothing. “Off camera” Cas frowns towards the screen. 

“Can’t let you go off camera, Novak” Mills arches a knowing brow. 

“Give me five minutes” Cas bites, already striding from the room.  

Meg reaches over and unplugs the monitor. The camera will still record, but the audio is effectively killed by disconnecting the viewing monitor. “Oops,” She shrugs, sending Cas a conspiratorial smirk. 

Cas pushes into the room, full of righteous bluster with his chin held high. “Lafitte” He greets, tone hard and unforgiving. 

Benny leans back in his chair with a satisfied smirk. “I thought you might be back there watching, detective” He drawls with a wink. He looks predatory, despite being the one cuffed to the table. 

Castiel clears his throat and fumbles internally for the line he needs to take here. He saw Meg unplugged the monitor, but there is no guarantee that Mills will allow it to stay unplugged. 

“I was wondering when you’d show up” Benny leans forward, clasping his hands together. “Tell me, Detective, when are you gonna break down and see my boss again? He’s head over heels for you” Benny cocks his head as the taunting words flow over Castiel. 

“Well, your boss is an idiot” Castiel frowns, praying to whatever higher power there might be that his words are contained to this room. 

“Can’t disagree with you there” Benny nods, leaning back to stretch. “Look, Castiel. Do you mind if I call you that?” He waits for Cas’ nod before continuing. “Dean is, well, he’s stubborn. And too stupid to know when he needs help sometimes”. He fixes Castiel with a firm, blue-eyed, stare that reaches deep into Cas’ chest, down to his very soul. 

“What are you talking about?” Cas cocks his head, shifting uncomfortably. 

“Dean has himself a bit of a stalker. They’ve been playing cat and mouse for years, but Dean has always insisted on handling things himself” Benny nods and Cas feels an itch creeping up his spine. “He’s in over his head” 

“What are you trying to say?” Cas narrows his eyes at the man cuffed to the table. 

“Talk to him, detective” Benny nods towards the cameras. 

“Benny, tell me what you know” Castiel demands, pressing his palms flat to the table as he leans toward the other man. Dean has a stalker. Dean might be in danger. “Is it Alastair?” Cas questions swallowing hard at the thought.  

Benny simply smiles as Victor comes charging through the door. “My girl and I were downtown that night, it wasn’t me on your video” Benny raises a brow and opens his palms apologetically. 

“Who, Benny?” Castiel bites back with a frown. Benny is being cryptic for the sake of being cryptic and Castiel is not interested in playing these games. 

“What do you think you’re doing, Novak?” Victor growls, gripping Castiel’s arm and pushing him back. “Why did you turn off the cameras?” He snarls, getting into Castiel’s face as Benny looks in serenely. 

“Cameras? What are you talking about?” Castiel’s forehead wrinkles in confusion. Meg unplugged the monitor, neither of them touched the cameras. 

“Get out” Victor sneers, bodily shoving Castiel towards the door with his shoulders set firmly.  

Cas swallows hard, eyes wide but he goes. Benny shrugs when he meets the man’s eyes and somehow, Cas is certain that Benny had something to do with all of this. He knew the cameras were going to go out.  

Mills is waiting in the hall with her arms crossed over her chest. “My office. Now” She dares him to disagree and Castiel’s heart sinks. 

“You can’t possibly think I had anything to do with the cameras going out” Castiel protests as he falls into step next to her. He catches a glimpse of Meg out of the corner of his vision and she looks every bit as pleased as Mills. 

The Captain gives him a cross look as she holds her office door open for him and shuts it firmly behind her. “What was that in there?” She demands, crossing her arms over her chest like some sort of powerful overlord. 

“I know he’s involved in the Adler murder, I just wanted a chance to speak with him!” Castiel exclaims, arms waving in the face of her stoicism.  

“Oh really” She doubles down on her firm stare that falls just short of being a glare. Castiel feels like a schoolboy about to be scolded and he’s done nothing wrong. “Then why did you turn the cameras off?” And there it is. 

“I did no such thing” Castiel stresses, cheeks beginning to heat with anger. He didn’t touch the cameras. Meg is the one who unplugged the monitor.  

“If I hear you mistreated Lafitte in there, this department will never hear the end of it. We cannot afford these kinds of mistakes, Detective Novak” Her tone is deadly serious and only serves to feed the roiling pit of desperation growing in Castiel’s gut. 

“I didn’t touch him” Castiel growls. “Based on the failed trace on Dean’s phone, it’s obvious there is someone on the inside working for them!” He takes a step toward Mills before thinking better of it. 

“Dean?” She arches an accusing brow, staring him down like a lioness about to launch herself into an attack. 

Castiel scrubs his hands over his face. “Winchester, whatever” He shakes off his mistake with a wave of his hand. “Someone working for the Austin PD is also on Winchester’s payroll. I know I haven’t been here long, but you know me better than to think I would turn off the cameras in the interrogation room” He bites, daring her to disagree. 

Mills nods, considering the case he’s trying to plea. “Say there is someone here working for him...” she draws out, eyeing him skeptically. “Who would you suspect?” She arches a perfectly manicured brow and stares him down.  

Castiel can clearly see that this is more than simply a question. This is a test. “Someone who has access to phone traces and the camera feeds in the interview rooms. My guess is someone in tech” He hesitates, drawing a cleansing breath before voicing his next thought. “I don’t have anything more than circumstantial evidence, but I suspect Charlie Bradbury has been manipulating evidence” 

Jody draws back in surprise, drumming her fingers on her desk before letting out a deep breath. “You’re reaching” 

“Just think about it" Castiel defends, moving to stand in front of Mills, the two only separated by her wide desk. “Bradbury applied the original traces on the phones, at least one of which was faulty. I’m still not convinced Lafitte’s wasn’t tampered with also. She also was responsible for analyzing the video from the crime scene, the one deemed too poor of quality to glean anything useful from. She also would have access to the camera feeds in the entire building.” Cas pauses and straightens when Mills shakes her head. 

“Anyone in the tech department could tamper with the cameras” She mutters, releasing a deep breath with a marked frown. 

 “That is very true” Castiel agrees. “With your permission, I would like to have another one of the department’s technicians review the crime scene footage to see if they draw the same conclusion” Cas offers. “As you said, it could be anyone.” 

Mills nods. “Fine. But this stays between the two of us and the tech you choose” She points at him. “And I will not have anyone digging directly into Bradbury’s work. It’s all of tech or not at all” She says, pointing an accusing finger toward Castiel, who nods his agreement. “Do you have someone in mind?” She cocks her head, knowing full well that Castiel doesn’t know a lot of the people down in the tech department. 

Cas draws in a breath and nods. “Perhaps. What is your opinion of Inias McMorren?” 

“He’s good. Second only to Charlie” Mills nods her agreement. “You know him?” 

Castiel flinches a smile. “We grew up together. I haven’t seen him in over a decade, but unless he’s changed drastically, I would trust him with my life” Castiel nods. Just not with my heart. 

Chapter Text

“Castiel. It is good to see you again” Inias smiles softly as he settles into a chair across from Castiel.

“Likewise” Castiel tries to smile but he’s sure the expression manifests more like a grimace as he holds his tie to his chest and seats himself at the table. The air feels tense around them, so much left unsaid for so many years.

“How have you been?” Inias nods, unfolding his menu and peering at Castiel with his too gentle blue eyes over the shiny laminated paper.

“I have been well” Castiel shrugs, knowing that the truth in this instance would be socially unacceptable. “And you?” He’s reverted to his nervous childhood way of speaking. Full of polite conversation and stiff grammar. Never an unkind or genuine word to be uttered in the quiet halls of the church they grew up in.

There is no coincidence they were both named for Angels.

“I…” Inias begins but pauses for a deep breath and plasters on a tense smile. “I am enjoying living in Austin”

Cas cocks his head slightly at the dishonest truth Inias has given him. “How long have you lived here?”

“Five years” Inias takes a sip of his soda, taking the moment of distraction as an opportunity to gather his thoughts. “I had to leave Chicago after my divorce”

Castiel swallows hard at Inias’ choked tone. He had begged the man to be true to himself, be true to Castiel, but he was too frightened of being cast out Castiel had been. “Oh?” Maybe he had been cast out anyway.

“I should have taken your advice” Inias admits, not quite meeting Castiel’s gaze.

Cas huffs at that, shaking his head. “I haven’t been a shining example of success”

Inias lets out a strained and watery chuckle. “It seems we have both made mistakes” His gentle eyes bore into Castiel, making him feel as if he is the only person in the restaurant and had somehow managed to hang the stars in the sky. “What brought you to Austin?”

Castiel takes a deep breath, preparing himself for the certain rejection he’s about to endure. “Do you remember hearing about the human trafficking bust in Detroit last year?” He takes a sip from his drink to quell the cotton blooming across his tongue.

Inias nods. “I do” He looks up brightly. “I saw your name as one of the lead investigators” The look of pride grows in Inias’ eyes and Castiel’s heart sinks.

“I was” Castiel pushes his menu away. “I couldn’t stay after that. I made so many mistakes. So many people, children, were hurt because I wasn’t good enough at my job”

“Their loss is our gain” Inias comforts, offering a small smile.

Castiel swallows hard, needing to change the subject. “How have you enjoyed living in Austin?” He hasn’t forgotten Inias’ earlier words, thinly veiling his true feelings.

Inias’ expression falls with Castiel’s question and he glances around nervously before muttering his answer. “I have been struggling” Inias ducks his head, lowering his menu to pick at the corner where the lamination is beginning to peel.

The admission catches Castiel off guard and his hand reaches across the table before he can stop himself. Inias flinches slightly under Castiel’s touch but Cas holds firm, seeing how much his old friend needs the contact. His heart clenches when those sad eyes lift to meet his and years of discontent reflect in their gazes. “Tell me” Castiel gives Inias hand a squeeze and quirks a smile.

This, they can do.

They spend the rest of their lunch hour revisiting their childhoods and Castiel is continuously caught off guard by the occasional bat of eyelashes he receives from Inias and the way his old flame chews his lower lip when he looks to Cas has his heart pattering in his chest.

“Would you like to have dinner with me sometime?” Castiel questions as they make their way back to the precinct. He playfully bumps shoulders with Inias and gives him a genuine smile. The warmth blooming in his stomach feels like a cozy blanket in the depth of a Chicago winter.

“I would like that” Inias smiles, gently brushing his fingers against the back of Castiel’s hand.

Castiel holds his breath, wondering if Inias would finally take that step and hold his hand in public. He never would when they younger. Their touches and kisses were always reserved for behind closed and locked doors.

Closet doors.

Inias seems to catch himself and puts a foot of space between them. Castiel’s heart sinks at the familiarity of the motion.

They’re just beginning to reconnect is what he tells himself. Holding hands would be inappropriate. Strange even. They will need time before deciding if they even want that.

Yes. They need time.

But why does Castiel feel his heart fracturing all over again?

---

            The rest of the afternoon passes quickly. Mills brings Inias in to request he do some quiet digging into the department records and sends him back to the land of the techies with a mission. Cas can’t help but smile when the man brushes his fingertips across the edge of Castiel’s desk on his way back toward elevators.

            Inias always did best with a clear mission to follow. Out of everything, Castiel is the least surprised that Inias ended up working with the police. He had half expected him to join the military after they graduated high school, but Inias had said he’s had enough of following his father’s orders growing up.

            “Friends growing up, huh?” Meg strides up with her arms crossed as the elevator door closes behind Inias. “That can’t possibly be all you were” She doesn’t ask. She knows.

            Cas sighs and shakes his head. “That was a long time ago” He dismisses, not bothering to deny her insinuation. She can assume all she wants. Nothing is going to happen between him and Inias. Well, probably.

            Meg hums in consideration. “He broke your heart, didn’t he?” She cocks her head as she watches for Castiel’s reaction.

            Cas peers up at her with narrowed eyes. “You just say whatever crazy bullshit pops into your head, don’t you?”

            Meg leans over his desk, planting her hands firmly on the edge as she draws her face closer to his. “Something tells me that it isn’t bullshit” Her tone is soft, gentle even. “And if he breaks your heart again, I will destroy him” Her smile is so innocent that it sends a chill up Castiel’s spine.

            She isn’t lying.

            “Leave him alone, Meg” Castiel frowns.

            “You’re special, Castiel. I won’t see you hurt” She replies in that low and husky tone of hers that has Castiel shaking his head in disagreement.

            “I can take care of myself” Cas arches his brows and fixes her with an unamused stare. “Can we please focus on the case instead of my personal life?”

            Meg sighs and shakes her head with a slight huff of a laugh. “Sure. Whatever”

            Her lingering smile does nothing to convince Castiel that her intentions are borne purely of friendship, but she’s the closest thing he has to a friend in Austin, so he chooses to let it go.

            His phone chimes with an incoming text and he frowns when he sees the name Michael flash across his screen and turns away from Meg when he opens it.

Michael: How’s ur day going?

            Cas rolls his eyes and makes to set the phone aside without responding but Meg snatches the device from his hands. “Hey!” He barks, reaching for the phone but she spins away.

            “Ooh, who’s Michael?” She asks with an evil little smile.

            “No one” Cas snips, wrenching the phone from her hands with a scowl that could melt icebergs. “Don’t you have work to do?”

            Meg holds her hands up in surrender and backs away. “We’re still on for tonight, right?” She questions, finally recognizing that the few buttons Castiel has left to push are ones that ought to be kept under a protective glass cover.

            He nods his head and grumbles a sarcastic yes before waving her away and staring at his phone. He really needs to delete Dean’s number. Especially now that he knows there is a trace on his line. Or will be, once Inias get to work.

Me: Would be better if you’d lose my number

            He sends the harsh words before he has a chance to chicken out. How many times does he need to tell Dean ‘no’ before the man will take the hint and leave him alone? If he needs to be mean, so be it.

            His phone remains silent for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. By the time he’s climbing out of his car to meet Meg at the riverboat, his stomach is filled with a mix of happiness and dread that maybe Dean finally listened.

            He can’t let himself be honest about the way Dean makes him feel. He’s been starved for affection for so long that even advances from someone he should hate on principle are too hard to turn down. At least, that’s the excuse he tells himself.

            “Clarence!” Meg spots him and waves him over to where she’s standing, chatting with a man dressed in khaki shorts and a polo shirt with a name tag declaring him to be Captain Campbell.

            He plasters on a smile and heads over, shaking the man’s hand with a grin as Meg introduces them.

            “Campbell here is an old friend from high school” Meg grins. “Christian, this Castiel. My new partner downtown”

            “Nice to meet you” Cas offers a smile.

            “Likewise” Christian nods with a polite smile despite obviously sizing Castiel up. “We’ll be pushing off in a few minutes, you two should get settled” He offers a soft smile to Meg and nudges her along with a hand at the dip of her spine.

            Oh.

            Meg's sappy smile warms something in the depths of Castiel’s heart. She likes this boat Captain. Cas can’t help the way his smile grows with his newfound knowledge as he follows Meg onto the large riverboat.

            “So….” Cas waggles his brows and Meg punches his arm.

            “Shuttup” She grumbles, turning to lean against the railing.

            Cas falls into place next to her, staring out over the water. The sun is dipping low in the sky, shrouding the city in shadows as the electric lights spark to life. The skyscrapers of downtown stand in stark relief against the red-tinged sky. It’s beautiful.

            Cas tilts his chin into the slight breeze and lets his eyes slide closed, soaking in the peace and quiet of this little spot in the midst of one of the largest cities in the country.

            “I’m going to get a soda. Want anything?” Meg pulls Cas from his reverie with her sultry voice and the motion of pushing off the railing.

            Castiel looks around, noticing for the first time that several other passengers are holding bottles of beer and other refreshments. Cas swallows hard but nods. “Dr. Pepper, please” He reaches for his wallet and pulls out a ten that Meg tries to refuse. “You got the tickets, let me get the drinks”

            She pinches a frown but shrugs. “Fine” She swipes the money from Castiel’s hand and makes her way into the belly of the riverboat to find the bar.

            Once she disappears into the crowd, Cas turns back to the railing to watch the slowly darkening sky. The boat begins to move, pushing off from the dock so smoothly that Castiel barely notices.

            A throat clears behind him before a familiar voice speaks and sends warm sparks shooting down Castiel’s spine.

            “Castiel” Dean beckons softly, infusing his tone with a gentle heat that Cas turning to face him automatically.

            Cas swallows hard and nibbles his lip. “Hello, Dean” He mutters, voice dropping low and rough. Dean could be holding a gun trained on Castiel and he wouldn’t notice, not with the hungry and desperate way Dean’s vivid green eyes captivate and entrance him.

            “Do you really hate me?” Dean's voice is soft and uncertain.

            Castiel watches Dean’s tongue dart between his lips, just the tip poking out before disappearing once again. Cas swallows hard at the sight, wishing with everything he is that they weren’t trapped on opposite sides of the law. Does Cas hate him? The answer to that is a resounding NO and he’s pretty certain that Dean knows it. He shakes his head minutely. “You can’t keep showing up in my life” He whispers, just loud enough for Dean to hear.

            “I had to see you” Dean breathes out taking a step closer. “I had to be sure”

            Cas shakes his head. “Why? Why me?” He half whines, asking both Dean, himself, and the universe at large.

            “Please, Cas” Dean reaches out to brush his arm but Castiel steps back. The look of hurt that crosses Dean’s features stabs Castiel through the heart but he cannot afford to be seen getting cozy with Dean.

            “We can’t be seen together” Cas hisses, shaking his head. “And you can’t keep texting me”

            “If this is about the trace, don’t worry. The number you have is extremely private” Dean justifies. “No one can track it”

            Cas snorts his disbelief. “Charlie make sure of that?” Castiel feels brave and the words leave his mouth before he can stop them.

            Dean jerks his head back slightly, eyes widening in surprise that Cas would bring that up here and now.

            “How many people in the Austin PD do you have on your payroll” Cas narrows his eyes, determined to get some sort of an answer out of Dean.

“Cas, please. Let's not talk about that” Dean protests, edging closer instead of backing away.

“Then what should we talk about? How you’re shaping up to be some sort of stalker?” Cas arches a brow and takes a half step towards Dean, balling his hands at his sides to resist reaching out. He feels magnetized towards Dean, no matter how his brain tells him to stay away. He can’t. He isn’t strong enough to keep playing this game.

Dean licks his lips and Cas’ eyes darken at the sight. “I don’t think you really want me to leave you alone” Dean mutters, reaching a hand out to close the distance but he’s still a half step too far.

Castiel chews on his lip and ducks his gaze, giving a derisive snort before shaking his head and meeting Dean’s gaze with a shrug. A smile begins to creep over Dean’s features when Cas lowers his defenses. “And if you aren’t wrong?”

“Let me come over later” Dean offers, swallowing hard as he eyes Castiel hungrily. “Let me take you apart until you forget why you think we shouldn’t do this” His whisper comes out in a slight growl as he closes the last step between them.

Cas is on the verge of saying yes. Dean is close enough to kiss and Cas’ memory fuels his imagination with just how wonderful it might be to say yes. He wants to, he really does but the last bit of resistance in him flares to life at the last second and he shakes his head. Dean’s hope visibly falters but doesn’t sputter into nothing. This is a gentle refusal, hesitant even, and both men can see that.

Dean nods and lets his eyes flutter shut, the dying light of the day casting a red glow over his features, making him look soft and boyish in the little bubble he and Castiel have between them.

            “Winchester” A deadly voice spits from behind Dean and he turns, putting himself between Castiel and the threat without a thought.

            Castiel doesn’t miss the protective gesture and he finds the move oddly endearing. Castiel doesn’t exactly need protection, he’s well trained in defending himself and surely Dean realizes this. But the protective stance is born of instinct and Castiel is flattered that Dean seems to genuinely care. He’s beginning to think this is less of a game and more of something real.

 Dean's act of turning his back to Cas and blocking him from view would be a risky move if Dean didn’t trust Castiel. Cas finds himself smiling lightly at the man’s back before he huffs in feigned annoyance and steps to the side in time to see Dean’s eyes narrow in contempt toward Meg.

            “Masters” He wrinkles his nose and stares the woman down.

“Hello, Dean” Meg chimes. “You better not have been harassing my partner, here” She arches a dangerous brow, hand reaching to her side for her gun.

Dean rears his head back in mock offense. “Me?” He draws a dramatic hand to his chest with a gasp. “I would never” His tone is rough and mocking, meant to offend but not quite crossing the line.

“Right” Meg rolls her eyes.

“I simply thought I should introduce myself to Detective Novak. I’m only trying to be polite” Dean smiles with all the charm of an undertaker as he glances to Cas.

“Sure, you are” Castiel rolls his eyes, playing along. He’s grateful to Dean for putting on an act, pretending they’ve just met, but he can’t very well say that in front of Meg.

“I believe that is my cue to leave” Dean points a thoughtful finger skyward in front of his chest as he nods and steps forward, away from Meg. “Oh, I did want to thank you, Meg” His tone suddenly softens, gaining notes of what Castiel has come to recognize as genuine sincerity. “It was a long time ago, but I still really appreciate what you did for Sammy” He flinches a smile and nods as he turns to stride away.

Meg stares after him with narrowed eyes and a puzzled expression, Castiel stares at his partner in confusion. Dean had sounded sincere, no trace of sarcasm or malice. “Meg?” Cas questions, not quite sure how to phrase the thoughts rattling around his brain. "What was he talking about?”

“As he said, it was a long time ago” She huffs, reaching down to collect their sodas and shoving Castiel’s toward him.

Cas arches a brow and stares, letting his puppy dog eyes do the work.

“He wasn’t harassing you, was he? I’m sure we could charge him with something....” Meg frowns, dodging Castiel’s questioning looks.

Cas shakes his head. “He was a perfect gentleman. Now, what did you do for his brother?” Cas is determined to know, he’ll pester Meg until she either breaks and tells him or kicks him to the curb.

She rolls her eyes. “It was nothing”

“Clearly not to the leader of Austin’s biggest crime syndicate” Cas arches a brow and pairs the expression with a head tilt. Gabriel always threw things at him when he inflicted this confused and pitiful look on his brother. Meg, on the other hand, might slap him, but he’ll take his chances.

Meg huffs and leans against the railing. The boat is positioned underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge now, in a prime location for when the bats begin their flight. Their slight chirps fill the air, awake but waiting for just a little more darkness. “The three of us went to the same high school. I was friends with Sam. Convinced him to leave Austin and never look back” She mutters with a frown. “Dean was pissed. Made all sorts of threats. Sam was everything to him, he didn’t want to lose his brother”

“But you knew about their family? Even then?” Castiel questions, wondering just how much Meg knows about the Winchesters that isn’t in any file.

“I didn’t know about the crime aspect. I just knew their father was an abusive alcoholic. Beat the shit out of Dean on the regular, Sam too when Dean was away at school that year. I just wanted my friend to get away” She shrugs. “Wasn’t until I became a cop that I learned just where their money comes from”

Castiel hums his agreement, filing that information away for later. “And the force didn’t hold it against you that you were childhood friends with the Winchesters?” He arches a brow, wondering just how permissive the Austin Police Department really is. Maybe his situation isn’t quite as career ending as he thinks?

            A series of excited gasps draws their attention as the people around them frantically point into the night sky. Castiel turns and lets out his own gasp at the sight of thousands of bats spewing from every crack in the bridge’s foundation.

He ducks with a laugh when the stream of bats flows downward, buzzing past their boat in a winged flurry of activity. They move like a flock of birds, swooping together in unison as they rush to hunt their prey. People standing along the top of the bridge and on the banks of the small lake point and stare excitedly, camera flashes surround them and Castiel grins at the sight.

The flight seems to last for an hour, bats steadily streaming with the occasional hawk swooping into the swarm looking for an easy meal. “Thanks for dragging me out here” Cas nudges Meg’s arm with his elbow, turning to meet her eyes with a wide smile.

This is the closest to peace he’s felt since well before he moved to Austin.

Later, when Cas lets himself into his apartment and flicks on the lights, his phone sits like a brick in his pocket. Temptation embodied in the form of green eyes is only a phone call away. If Castiel had to choose, right now, he tells himself he would choose his job and the life he’s built instead of being with Dean.  But, that choice is becoming harder and harder to make. Every time he stares into those green eyes and hears that husky voice, his willpower trembles just a little bit more.

Every touch and gentle kiss burns through him, igniting and devouring what little grace Castiel has managed to cling to in his life like an unstoppable tornado of wildfire.

He could crash and burn with Dean, and he wouldn’t even care.

He pulls out his phone and stares at the dark screen. He should just plug it into the charger and push himself toward the shower. He needs to get to the station early tomorrow and the taunting thoughts in the back of his mind that push him to look up Dean’s contact are not helping him one little bit.

As if by divine providence, his phone chimes.

He pinches a frown and stares at the device for a moment, conflicted. Feeling the need to resists despite his dwindling care to do so. Finally, he flicks on the screen and reads.

Unknown number: Good evening, Castiel. I apologize for the hour, but I finally gained the courage to text you. I hope you don’t mind that Meg gave me your number. -Inias

Castiel huffs and he isn’t certain whether the feeling churning in his gut is relief or annoyance.

Me: It is good to hear from you, Inias.

Castiel’s fingers hover over the phone, debating whether he should ask Inias to dinner or not. He needs a distraction from his thoughts of Dean. And what better way than to try seeing someone else?

Me: Would you be interested in having dinner with me on Friday?

He hits send before he can chicken out. He isn’t certain whether he means for this to be a date or simply two old friends getting to know each other again. Would Inias want to date him again? He felt like they still had a connection at lunch, he’s certain Inias nearly took his hand on their way back to the precinct but he can’t be certain.

Castiel has changed since they were teenagers, surely Inias has as well. They aren’t the same people anymore. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe Inias will be ready this time.

Inias doesn’t respond right away so Cas meanders to his bathroom, quickly stripping out of his clothes as the water runs, heating up more slowly than he would prefer. Austin may be a beautiful city, but it is expensive. This apartment costs twice his rent in Detroit and is half as nice. Granted, if he knew Austin at all before he packed his belongings and moved, he would have chosen another area of town.

And then he never would have met Dean. At least, not in the way he knows the man now.

He can’t decide how he feels about that little thought.

His phone remains silent as he steps under the heated spray, the fine mist and steam rising around him as the hot water sluices over his shoulders. He tilts his chin upward, facing the steady downpour and relishing the soothing heat seeping into his muscles and soothing his frazzled nerves.

He’ll take Inias on a date, try and move past his reluctant, yet consuming, desire for someone a little more dangerous.

By the time he exits the shower, he’s feeling better about his situation and a reply from Inias is waiting for him.

Inias: I would like that.

Chapter Text

             Castiel groans when the sound of his ringtone splitting through his dreams, pulling him into the waking world as he blinks his eyes open. He fumbles in the darkness for his phone, the flash of the screen piercing through his vision painfully as he squints, trying to find the correct placement for his fingers to answer the damnable thing.

            “Novak” He rasps, voice rough with sleep, as he drops his head back to his pillow and stares toward his ceiling.

            “Cas, I…fuck. I’m sorry. I know it’s early, but I had to hear your voice”

            Cas perks up slightly at the worried yet familiar voice coming through the speaker. “Dean?” He pushes himself into a sitting position. “What’s going on? Are you alright?” He doesn’t like the unsure tone in the other man’s voice. Not one little bit.

            “I…” Dean starts but trails off distractedly. Castiel imagines he’s chewing on his bottom lip as he chooses his words carefully. “Fuck, maybe I should have just called Benny” Dean sounds like he’s about to hang up. “I know you don’t want to be associated with me, but I just…”

            “Dean” Castiel bites firmly into the phone. “Tell me what’s happened” Castiel immediately goes into police mode. “If someone hurt you…” Cas pushes himself off his mattress and fumbles along his wall for a light switch.

            “No, I’m fine. I…” Dean starts before stopping again, the broken pause causing deep unease to settle in Castiel’s gut. “Fuck, Cas. Have you heard of Alastair Locke?” Dean breathes into the phone and Castiel’s heart stutters, nearly missing a beat.

            The blinding overhead light only hurts his eyes for a moment, too distracted is he by seeking out clothes to throw on. “Yea…yes. I’m working a case involving him” Castiel swallows hard into the phone. If he’s ever allowed to ask about Dean’s scars, now might be the time. “What do you know about him?”

            “He’s dumped a body on my doorstep” Dean groans and Castiel nearly falls over as he tries to pull on a pair of slacks one-handed. “I was afraid it was…”

            “What? Why?” Cas stammers into the phone before he can come up with a more professional response.

            Dean breathes heavily into the phone and Cas can hear a dull thud on the other side of the line, as if Dean’s dropped his head against something hard.

            “I’ve been trying to handle him myself, but he’s never been this bold before” Dean’s voice sounds small and hesitant. “You know what, never mind. I’ll handle this” Dean abruptly changes his tone and Cas is sure he’s about to hang up.

            “Dean, wait” Cas pleads as his fingers tighten around his phone. “Talk to me. We can keep this all anonymous if you want, but if Alastair is harassing you…I can help” Cas thinks back to the scars scattered over Dean’s torso and his heart clenches in sympathy. “If he hurt you…” Cas whispers, his heart aching with the thought.

            Cas stands in the middle of his bedroom, pants up but still open around his hips, with his phone clutched to his ear as he listens to Dean breathing through the phone. “Let me help you” Cas mutters, knowing deep in his gut that he’s about to be hung up on.

            Dean sighs and Cas imagines him shaking his head, green eyes sliding closed as he readies himself to say something Cas would rather not hear. “He knows about you” Dean mutters. “Be careful, Cas” the words leave Dean’s lips as a plea before the line goes dead.

            Cas pulls the phone from his ear and stares blankly at the screen. Dean hung up on him. Alastair knows about him? What is that supposed to mean? How can Dean do this!? Call him in the middle of the night, send him into a worried panic and then drop some cryptic bullshit about Alastair knowing about him and that he should be careful?!

            Irritation bubbles deep in Castiel’s gut as he hits the dial icon for Michael but his call goes directly to voicemail. “What do you mean be careful?” Cas hisses into the phone, ready to leave a scathing voicemail as he chooses to show anger over the concern gnawing away at his stomach. “You can’t just call me and say those things, then hang up on me like it’s nothing! Damn it, Dean!” He bites before ending the call, wishing he could slam an old-fashioned phone down onto a receiver to make a point over just how irritated he is.

            He paces in his room for a moment, glaring at his phone, before deciding to give up entirely on going back to sleep. He stomps into his kitchen and sets coffee to brewing. It’s barely five AM, he’s hardly gotten any sleep and now he’s hovering between anger and worry at the situation Dean has put him in.

            He could call it in and send a flurry of squad cars to descend on Dean’s residence, assuming Dean was being literal when he said Alastair dumped a body on his doorstep. He could try and catch Dean with a dead body. That would certainly be helpful in building a case against Dean Winchester. He could do that. But he already knows that he won’t.

            “Fuck, I’m a terrible cop” Cas mutters, dropping his head into his hands as he waits for the coffee to brew.

            Finally, his phone rings and he all but dives over his counter to reach the tiny device. He quickly reads the screen and his stomach sinks when he sees Captain Mills flash over his screen in bold letters.

            “Novak” He answers after he takes a half second to center himself.

            “Castiel?” Mills mutters into the phone, an air of something Cas can’t quite place coloring her tone. His brows knit together in confusion, if he didn’t know better, he would say she sounds surprised, or maybe even relieved, that he answered the phone. “We got another body” Mills grumbles into the phone. Her groggy tone serves to remind Castiel just how early it is and most of the department was likely asleep when the call came in.

            Castiel was probably the only one sitting in his kitchen waiting for this call to come through.

            “Where?” Cas responds, not bothering to hide how awake he is. Three cups of coffee with do that to a person.

            “Veterans Drive under MoPac” Mills recites into the phone.

            Cas rears his head back slightly. “Not downtown?” He cocks his head, wondering if this is the same body Dean had mentioned. He’d assumed Dean taking care of it meant he was going to dump the body somewhere else, meaning downtown again.

            “No” Mills hesitates. “Just get down here”

            “Be there in twenty” Cas agrees and hangs up the phone. He’d taken the time to finish dressing as he waited for the call so all he needs to do now is stuff his phone in his pocket and slip into his shoes before heading out the door.

            The drive is blessedly light on traffic and the multitude of flashing blue lights makes his task of finding the crime scene incredibly easy.

            He doesn’t miss the shifty looks from the uniforms as he approaches and flashes his badge to gain access to the scene. Jody and Donna are both waiting for him wearing grim expressions and Castiel becomes more puzzled the closer he gets.

            A thin cut of panic slices through him. Do they somehow know he’s been talking to Dean? Is he making it obvious that he was waiting for this call?

            “Castiel” Donna nods, a frown etched into her normally jovial expression. Cas’ heart sinks at both her tone and look.

            “What do we have?” Cas forces himself to ask as if he’s managed to not notice that something is more wrong here than just a crime scene.

            “Uh, male victim, appears to be mid-thirties. Placed here post mortem” Jody starts before reaching to grasp Castiel’s arm to keep him from stepping forward.

            “What’s going on?” Cas narrows his eyes, staring down his captain and Donna suspiciously.

            “The victim, Castiel” Donna swallows hard. “Well, you should see for yourself, but I gotta warn you. This might be difficult”

            “We don’t have an ID yet, but….” Jody starts and Castiel fixes her with a glare.

            “What are you trying to say?” Castiel questions nervously, sensing there is more going on here than meets the eyes.

            “We debated even calling you in, but…” Jody starts once again and Castiel cuts her off.

            “Show me” He bites, maybe a little too harshly but the two women are acting strange and are doing nothing to slow the pit of dread growing deep in his gut.

            Donna swallows hard but nods. “Come with me” She flinches a pained smile and takes Castiel by the elbow to guide him towards the center of the taped off area. “This might be hard to see…”

            Ringing in his ears drowns out whatever words Donna might be speaking when he catches a flash of dark hair and a very familiar face tilted towards them. His breath catches in his throat, his coffee threatening to come back up. His feet carry him towards the victim without his own conscious input and he’s soon kneeling at the man’s side.

            The resemblance is striking. The man’s chestnut hair tousled just so, and Cas knows without seeing that man’s eyes are blue. Just like his. “Fuck!” Castiel bites, knowing without seeing any identification that his man is a substitute for him. A message. This is the reason Dean was so worked up. “We don’t have an ID?” Cas turns to Donna, chewing his lip as he tries his best to keep himself calm. He doesn’t know this man even though, based on looks, they could be brothers. Maybe even twins.

            Donna shakes her head. “Not yet”

            “Looks like Alastair?” Cas already knows, as confirmed by Dean, but he needs to ensure the department is steered in the right direction. He’s confident that Dean didn’t do this, or “The Apprentice” as the department is calling him. He may be a fool to trust Dean, but so far, the man has given him no reason not to.

            Donna nods. “Doesn’t explain why he looks like you” She shakes her head before nodding uneasily. “Any thoughts on that?”

            Castiel can’t help but hear an accusation in her tone and his fingers twitch over where his phone rests inside his pocket. Dean might have an explanation, but it’s not as if he can tell anyone else about his connection with the man. He shrugs. “I don’t know. Coincidence?”

            Donna frowns. “Somehow, I doubt that. We’ll have to ID him to know more. What are the chances of someone who could be your twin fitting his usual profile?”

            “None” Victor bites, coming to stand next to his partner and stares at Castiel with narrowed eyes.

            Cas arches a brow, throwing Victor’s unspoken accusation right back at him. “We need to get an ID before we can know more. Has forensics been through yet?” He glances towards Mills, watching her approach with minor trepidation before turning back towards Donna. “You all didn’t think that I was the victim, did you?” He thinks back to Jody’s odd tone on when he had answered her call and the rattled expression both Jody and Donna have been wearing when he arrived on the scene.

            Victor huffs and rolls his eyes. “The thought crossed our minds”

            “Victor!” Donna exclaims, glaring daggers at her partner.

            The man merely shrugs, as if this entire situation bores him, and turns back to Castiel. “Any idea why Alastair would have it out for you?”

            Cas pinches a frown, searching for a plausible excuse. Victor would never accept coincidence as a valid excuse. “If Azazel Lehne was telling the truth and Alastair is his brother, that could be enough reason” Castiel shrugs and Victor hums with a frown before offering a slight nod.

            “I suppose that would be possible,” Victor says, heavily implying that possible does not equate to probable.

            “Castiel!” Meg calls as she hurries towards them. “Sorry I’m late. What have we go…” She stops mid-sentence, staring that the victim much like Castiel had when he first arrived. “What the actual fuck…?”

            “My thoughts exactly” Castiel frowns, stepping to Meg’s side. “No ID yet, but the M.O. matches with Alastair. We’ll know more once forensics get in here” He catches his partner up with what little he knows about the scene. “We’ve done all we can for now” He frowns, still staring toward the man who could easily be his twin.

            The resemblance is uncanny. What are the chances that his physical twin could be living in the same city? And how could Alastair have found him hidden within the million people who live in and around Austin? “If Alastair were trying to send me a message, which I doubt, but if he were…he would have needed a way to find someone who bears such a striking resemblance” Castiel frowns as he voices his thought.

            “Like the DMV?” Meg suggests helpfully and both Castiel and Donna nod.

            “Very possible” Donna agrees.

            “Or Facebook” Victor adds with a very unhelpful huff.

            “He would need some sort of facial recognition software” Castiel counters.

            “Which could be purchased anywhere, by anyone” Victor argues and Castiel lets out a defeated breath.

            “Still, there has to be something here we can use” Castiel frowns, still eyeing the victim carefully. He knows the placement of the body will get them no closer to Alastair then they are now, this isn’t the first place the victim came to rest. He needs to speak with Dean. “I’m going to head back to the station”

            “I’ll meet you there” Meg agrees, already turning to hike back to her car.

            Castiel watches her go with a frown but follows to his own Continental, catching sight of Commissioner MacLeod sauntering toward the spot where Mills and the other Detectives are still gathered. A faint sense of surprise comes over him at the sight of the other man, but Cas isn’t about to stick around and find out why the man in charge deigned to show up to a crime scene.

The creeping feeling of being watched makes his senses tingle and he carefully scans his surroundings, but he sees no one beyond his fellow police officers and technicians. The surrounding darkness of this pre-dawn hour hides everything beyond the ring of artificial lights set up around the scene, but he can’t shake the weight of a predatory gaze hiding somewhere in the shadows.

            He slides behind the wheel of his car with his phone already in hand, ready to press dial over Michael’s contact. Once again, the call goes directly to voicemail, but, this time, the message he leaves is decidedly less angry. “We need to talk” He keeps his voice low and his tone light, not wanting to make Dean think that he’s angry. “Roadhouse, noon. Please be there” Castiel hangs up and shifts into drive, making his way back to the station in near record time given the early hour.

            Time seems to crawl by, even as they gather leads and the initial forensics reports begin to come in. The victim is determined to be one Al Hegelman, Texas native and part owner of a family run golf course in Valhalla. A good man by all accounts and not a single shred of information to tie him to criminal activity.

            This information sits like lead in Castiel’s stomach. The chances of Mr. Hegelman’s murder being a coincidence have plummeted to zero. Alastair purposefully sought this man out.

            But, why would he bother? Why wouldn’t he have gone after Castiel directly?

            Captain Mills delivers the news to the family personally, intentionally keeping Castiel away from the man’s wife and their two young children. He uses the opportunity to duck out of the station unnoticed.

            By the time he’s pushing through the doors to the Roadhouse, his watch reads 11:50. The woman behind the counter is unfamiliar but Cas settles himself at the bar without a thought. He only hopes that Dean shows up.

            “What can I get ya sugar” The dark-haired woman questions, the lines on her face suggest middle age and her eyes are soft and kind.

            “Dr. Pepper and a menu, please” Castiel nods with a smile. “Jo not here today?” He cocks his head in question, his tone light and friendly but the woman immediately adopts a stern expression as she leans towards the bar.

            “Gotta give my daughter a day off every now and then” She arches a brow as if daring Cas to say something lewd about the girl.

            “Oh,” Cas nods, reaching for the menu the woman slammed down in front of him. “I was just curious” He defends, suddenly unsure how wise asking Dean to meet him here is. What if Dean is only friends with Jo? “My name is Castiel” He offers, trying to make peace as the woman continues to watch him suspiciously.

            Her eyes widen at that, before doubling down on her glare. “As in Detective Castiel Novak?” Her well-manicured brow arches and Castiel swallows thickly as he nods, certain that he’s about to be thrown out. “What are you doing here, Detective?” She demands, her tone deceptively calm.

            Cas nods, sucking his teeth lightly before deciding to go for full honesty. “I was hoping that Michael would be meeting me here” He uses Dean’s alias, not certain what proper protocol is here. Would it be too forward to directly as for Dean? He can’t be sure at this point.

            The woman nods, drawing back. “He said to expect you” She frowns as if the words leave a bad taste in her mouth. “I’m Ellen, by the way. Figure it’d only be polite to give my name before I make it clear that if you’re here to hurt that boy; you’ve got another thing coming. I don’t care if you are with the police” Her glare is fierce and Castiel is immediately reminded of the nuns in his elementary school threatening hellfire and brimstone if anyone set a toe out of line.

            “I have no intention of causing him any harm” Cas meets her eyes steadily, not willing to fold under her scrutinizing gaze.

            She stares at him for a moment longer before deeming his words to be truthful. “Lafitte!” She shouts, aiming her voice towards the back door and Cas jumps with the sudden volume.

            He groans slightly. “Did you have to call Benny?” He grumbles, shaking his head as Ellen barks a small laugh. “Pretty sure he hates me”

            “He ain’t the only one” Ellen adds and Castiel can’t quite tell if she’s being serious. Instead of risking an argument, he only sighs in resignation and waits for Benny to come and add his own threat to the mix.

            “Novak” Benny pokes his head through the door, tone clipped and unforgiving.

            Castiel plasters a fake smile on his face. “Nice to see you again, Lafitte”

            Benny scowls and Castiel shrugs. “Boss wants me to take you to him” Benny spits as if disagreeing with his own words.

            “And he couldn’t have told me himself?” Cas rolls his eyes and slides off his stool, only a little disappointed at the prospect of missing lunch. Ellen hasn’t even gotten his soda poured yet, so he forces his feet to move steadily towards Benny.

            Benny ushers him through the back of the restaurant and out the loading dock doors, into the back of black SUV with severely tinted windows. “Buckle up” Benny grumbles as he slides behind the steering wheel.

            “Where are we going?” Castiel questions as he dutifully fastens his seatbelt. He can’t shake the uneasy feeling settling into his stomach at the idea of traveling with Benny, knowing what he knows of the man and of his boss. Surely, he hasn’t done anything to lose Dean’s favor since this morning, right? He doubts Benny will hurt him unless Dean says so, but that does nothing to settle his fraying nerves.

            “Somewhere safe” Benny grumbles, hitting a button to raise the partition and cut Castiel off from asking more questions.

            He watches out the window as the city blurs by, and soon they’re pulling onto a winding road. Benny seems intent on dragging Castiel out into the middle of nowhere and the pit of unease growing deep in Castiel’s gut widens into a yawning cavern. He quickly checks his phone, considering writing a distress message to Meg. Something he can send quickly if he needs to, and he swallows down a strangled groan when he sees that his phone has zero signal. Either they’ve found the single dead spot in all of Austin, or there is a signal jamming device in the car.

            The street sign claims they’re on Bee Cave Road, which is a road Castiel has yet to explore. He has no idea where he is, or where Benny is taking him, and he feels like an utter moron for walking right into this trap.

            Small businesses dot the roadside before giving way to a small town that declares to be named Bee Cave and Benny turns onto Bee Cave Parkway. Cas rolls his eyes at that, clearly creativity was lacking when they named this small little burg just outside of Austin.

            In truth, Castiel is shocked that a town so quaint is this close to a city like Austin. It would be charming really, if Cas weren’t concerned about just how far from safety he is.

            Eventually, and not a moment too soon as far as Cas is concerned, Benny turns them onto yet another road, one with an equally unfamiliar name.

            His stomach nearly climbs into his throat when he takes in the dry brush surrounding the narrow and winding road. No businesses, hardly any houses. Nothing but wide-open space and cattle. He considers pounding on the partition and demanding Benny explain where he’s taking him, but his pride wins out. He doesn’t want to show weakness.

            A half hour has passed since Benny bundled him into the SUV and began driving. His phone still has no signal and looking at their surroundings, that really is no surprise anymore. The road continues, twisting and sparsely populated. Cas is so engrossed in not panicking as the miles tick by that he barely notices when Benny lowers the partition enough to order him to keep his nose away from the windows.

            “Why? I promise I won’t leave prints on the glass” Cas gripes, knowing full well that he’s pressing his luck, but the sass is part of his game to not show fear. What better way to annoy someone than to be insolent?

            “Don’t give a fuck ‘bout the glass. Your departments always got someone watchin this part of the road” Benny explains slowly as if speaking to an idiot. With his light southern drawl, he hits the condescending mark exceptionally well. “I mean, if you want to be seen with me, then that’s your prerogative” Cas can see the man shrug as his light blue eyes glare at him through the rearview mirror.

            Cas sits back without another word, unwilling to mumble his thanks for the warning despite giving Benny an agreeable nod. The corner of Benny’s mouth twitches upward and the partition slides back up. For a split second, Cas almost thinks he sees those hard eyes soften into a friendlier glare, but he can’t be certain. And he will not mention it to the other man.

            Sure enough, a few minutes later, an unmarked car sits at the side of the road and Castiel can see a plainclothes officer watch the dark SUV carefully before lifting a recording device to her mouth. Cas huffs and shakes his head. They couldn’t stick out more if they were sitting in a patrol car with the lights flashing.

            Benny doesn’t slow down as they pass the officer, and Cas keeps his distance from the glass, trusting the heavily tinted windows to obscure him beyond recognition. Perhaps even beyond detection.

            Soon after, the SUV does finally slow and turn off onto a rough gravel side road. They bump along for only a few minutes before turning onto a long drive and eventually, into a large garage attached to a beautiful two-story white house.

            Calling this a house might be an understatement, small mansion seems more appropriate. Castiel immediately recognizes the residence from the file on Dean Winchester at the precinct. This is his family home, the one his father had built after Dean’s mother passed away and where Dean and his brother spent their childhoods.

            “Oh, what the hell” Castiel grumbles when the handle of the car door refuses to release him from the confine of the SUV. He scoots across to the bench seat to try the other door and finds he has the same luck. Not for the first time, Castiel curses his own stupidity for getting into the car to begin with.

            “Alright, Detective” Benny swings open the door but blocks Castiel’s exit. “Dean asked me to bring you here, despite my telling him that this is a bad idea. Are you going to prove me right?” He arches a brow and Cas stares with brows knitting in confusion.

            “I…” Cas swallows hard, cocking his head slightly at the other man. “When I asked Dean to meet with me, I wasn’t asking as a cop” Castiel opts for honesty as the other man’s pale blue gaze bores into him. “I’m assuming you saw the most recent victim?” Cas arches a brow. Surely, Benny is the one Dean had help him move the body. Benny narrows his eyes but gives a jerk of a nod. “Then I’m sure you understand that this, whatever this is, involves me too. I need to know what is going on. I don’t want to see Dean hurt, or get hurt myself”

            Benny scoffs at Castiel’s words. “It’s a little late for that” He shakes his head but steps aside so that Cas can climb out of the SUV and into the overly tidy garage.

Cas glances around, gaze lingering on the great black beast of a car parked next to the SUV. A classic Chevy Impala, if Cas were to guess, he would say late 1960s model, but he’s no car guy. He only knows enough to know that the car in beautiful. He forces his gaze away from the Impala to take in the rest of his surroundings and formulating an escape plan if his worst fears come to fruition. His fingers itch next to his empty holster, cursing the fact that he had come unarmed.

            He hadn’t thought lunch at a bar would require his gun and bringing weapons into such establishments is generally frowned upon. Apparently, he’s a terrible cop, because this entire situation has quickly gone out of his control and he has no one to blame other than himself.

            He lets out a heavy breath, resigning his fate to the hands of some of the most dangerous men in the city. In for a penny, in for a pound, as an old friend of his used to say. He shrugs and falls into step behind Benny, following the man toward a very normal looking garage to house entry door. Plain white, steel with raised decorative paneling. All very mundane really, and the kitchen they pass through beyond the door is nicer than anything Castiel is accustomed to. Granite countertops and clearly custom woodwork and cabinetry with the finest appliances, at least that’s what Castiel assumes.

The realm of kitchens is generally beyond him and cooking may as well be rocket science. He can barely manage microwave popcorn and frozen dinners most of the time. “This is where Dean lives?” Castiel asks quietly, not wanting to disturb the peaceful quiet of this home but needing something beyond the silence of the walls surrounding him. His heart races, bordering on panic, as he’s reminded how isolated he is in Dean’s home.

            Anything could happen to him and no one would ever know.

            He swallows hard when Benny snorts. “Isn’t that obvious?” The man clearly takes a dig at Castiel’s investigative prowess.

            Benny stops in front of a closed door and knocks twice before poking his head in and announcing their arrival.

            “Send him in” Dean’s voice calls from within the room, and Castiel’s heart races for an entirely different reason when he hears that warm and deep voice. Benny pushes the door open and stands aside, gesturing an arm toward the door for Cas to enter.

            Cas gives Benny a nod of thanks, whether that’s for bringing him to Dean or simply for not disposing of his corpse in the middle of nowhere doesn’t really matter.

            Castiel immediately seeks out Dean with his eyes but is surprised to see another man sitting across the desk from Dean. The room appears to be an office slash library and Dean is seated behind a very large mahogany desk, surrounded by papers, and backed by bookshelves.

            Dean stands to greet him, green eyes going soft as a gentle smile plays on his lips. “Cas” He breathes, “thank you for coming” He reaches as if to embrace Castiel but stops at the last second, shooting the third man a furtive glance that borders on shy.

            “You could have at least told me that you would be having Benny meet me instead of you” Castiel gripes, eyeing Dean sternly as he crosses his arms over his chest. Dean’s arms drop sadly, and he casts his gaze to the floor. “I do not appreciate being hauled off…” Cas starts in, determined to vent his frustrations, regardless of their audience.

            “It was safer this way” Dean tries to justify, not putting any distance between them and Castiel steamrolls right over the man’s words.

            “To the middle of nowhere!” Castiel gripes, taking a half step closer to Dean. Dean doesn’t budge like Castiel expected, so now there are mere inches separating them. All it would take is one of them to lean in and they would be touching. Cas lifts a hand and smooths the lapel of the tailored jacket Dean wears. The dark charcoal color suits the man, and the crisp white shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, serves to make his green eyes appear more vivid than Castiel has seen them yet.

            Dean lifts a hand to cover Castiel’s, holding Cas’ hand pressed against his firm chest and the very tips of Dean’s tongue darts out to wet his lips. Cas wants to close the distance and press their lips together, but he isn’t certain where Dean stands on the subject. Not with someone watching them. “Dean” Cas whispers, hoping that his eyes convey that he isn’t angry. He wants to be, he wants to hold his anger close and stoke the flames until they consume him, but Dean simply existing has a way of defusing his anger without his consent and the red-tinged emotion drifts away before Cas can grasp its coattails.

            Dean lifts his free hand to cup Castiel’s cheek, stroking his thumb along Castiel’s jaw and Cas starts to lean forward, swallowing hard around the lump in his throat. He shouldn’t be doing this, he wants to want to resist but he can’t find the fortitude within himself to pull back and deny Dean’s easy affection.

            The sound of a throat clearing behind them startles them apart and Cas steps back, looking toward the floor shyly. Why is it that every single time he’s in Dean’s presence, he turns into a pining schoolgirl? He shakes his head in disgust even as Dean turns towards the other man.

            “What?” Dean says, clearly displeased at having their moment interrupted.

            “I didn’t believe it when Benny told me how head over heels you are for this guy” The other man speaks, the clear British lilt to his voice causing Castiel to lift his gaze to properly study the stranger. “But I gotta say, Boss, I think I’m getting cavities just watching you two”

            “Shut up, Davies” Dean grumbles but even Castiel can hear the fondness in his tone. “Cas, this is Mick. Mick, Cas” Dean introduces, and Mick stands to approach Castiel with a hand outstretched.

            “Nice to finally meet you, mate” Mick smiles as Cas grasps his hand firmly.

            “Likewise,” Cas parrots, not entirely certain who this man is in relation to Dean or if meeting him is a good thing. “I haven’t heard your name before, Mick Davies is it?” Cas questions, head cocked in confusion.

            Mick nods. “Aye, I’ve been working for Dean for a couple years now. Prefer to fly under the radar though, if you know what I mean” He gives Cas a wink as he steps back to straighten his jacket.

            “Mick is my eyes and ears for some of my more…secretive ventures” Dean eyes Cas with a glimmer of doubt and shifts uncomfortably.

            Castiel hates seeing that look on Dean, and he hates that he hates it. He has no business wanting to be supportive of someone like Dean, but here he is. His career is already ruined, it’s only a matter of time until the department finds out about his personal connection with Dean and then he’ll be lucky to stay outside of a prison cell. “I’m not here to bust anyone. As far as I’m concerned, I left my badge at the station” He offers assurance and the fond smile he gets from Dean has Castiel’s heart tripping all over itself.

            He is so screwed.

            Mick claps Cas on the shoulder. “Well, in that case, I think we could all use a drink” He turns towards the small bar along the side of the room before Cas can protest but it turns out, he doesn’t have to.

            “None for me or Cas” Dean requests, his eyes watching Castiel carefully. Cas shrugs and gives Dean a grateful smile.

            “No? You sure Cas?” Mick turns, giving Cas a questioning look.

            “I’m sure. Gotta go back to work after this” He offers what he hopes is a comforting smile and he must succeed because Mick shrugs and turns back to his task.

            “Hmmm, more for me then” Mick hums as he pours a generous amount from a beautiful glass decanter.

            “You wanted an explanation” Dean states, looking to Cas nervously.

            Castiel nods. “I do” He pinches a frown, still unsure of how much he wants to say in front of Mick. Just because he has some level of trust for Dean, doesn’t mean that extends to his people. “Why did Alastair murder someone identical to me?” That’s the big question. If Mick already knew about Castiel, then surely, he knows about Alastair’s latest victim.

            Dean frowns, turning his head. “Have the police identified him yet?”

            Cas hesitates, unsure if he should tell Dean anything about the case but in the end, he gives in to those pleading green eyes. “Yes,” If Dean wants to know, then he’ll have to ask.

            “Can you give me the name? I would like to make sure his family is taken care of” Dean explains and Castiel’s spine straightens. Dean must notice because the next words out of his mouth come a rush to explain. “Alastair sought that man out because of me, I want to make sure his family has nothing to worry about financially”

            Castiel frowns. “What do you mean ‘because of you’?” He cocks his head, staring deep into Dean’s eyes as if all the man’s secrets can be discovered that way.

            “It’s a long story. Just, the name, please. Mick can take things from there” Dean pleads, glancing towards his employee.

            “Aye,” Mick nods, taking a healthy sip of the amber liquid in his glass. “I’m right good at making sure people have what they need”

            Castiel sighs, shaking his head. “You promise you’ll bring no harm to them?” He needs some assurance, but he also knows Hegelman’s name will be released to the public shortly. Dean will find out one way or another.

            “I promise” Dean nods, gaze steady and solemn. “We only want to help them”

            Castiel’s heart melts a little at that, his sense of unease evaporating just enough to take Dean at his word. “Al Hegelman” Cas frowns. “He had a wife and two children here in Austin, the rest of his family owns a golf course in Valhalla”

            “Thank you, Cas” Dean smiles softly and Castiel’s heart flutters.

            “Thank you, mate” Mick clasps him on the shoulder, standing close enough that the fine hairs on the back of Castiel’s neck stand at attention when he smells the faint whiff of Scotch on Mick’s breath. Cas takes a step away, feeling the familiar longing clawing at his insides and hating every second of it. “Well, I’ve got work to do. Pleasure to meet you, Castiel. Here’s to hoping we see each other again on equally good terms” He raises his glass and tilts it to lips, draining the remainder of the liquor and swallowing with a faint grimace.

            Before Castiel can formulate a response, Mick has set his glass on the silver tray on the bar and exited the room, leaving Castiel and Dean alone at last.

            “Mick does good work. The Hegelmans won’t want for anything” Dean tries to reassure but his words are needless. Cas believes him. Dean goes to reach for Cas, but Castiel backs away, raising his hands between them.

            “I appreciate that Dean, but you have more explaining to do” Cas swallows hard, determined to keep them on track and keep his hands off the handsome man in front of him. No matter how much he wants to give in to the budding feeling in his chest and the longing deep in his gut, he can’t. He needs to resist, no matter how much his heart demands he close the distance and trap Dean in a heated kiss. His skin itches to touch Dean, but he wouldn’t hide in the closet for Inias when he was eighteen and hiding his relationship with Dean now wouldn’t be any different. He refuses to hide who he is, and who he’s dating by extension.

            He doesn’t even know if Dean is serious about him or if he’s only seeing something shiny that he can’t have.

            Dean swallows hard and nods. “Will you sit with me?” Dean gestures to an overstuffed leather sofa that faces a large stone hearth. Of course, there is no fire blazing within, fireplaces in somewhere like Austin really are impractical, but the look is welcoming, and Cas goes with barely a nod.

            Dean situates himself on the end opposite Castiel, leaving a fair amount of space between them. “Alastair has been stalking me for years but has been too chicken shit to come at me directly. He knows how I feel about you and he doesn’t like it” Dean meets his eyes earnestly. “I’m afraid he might hurt you”

            “I can take care of myself, Dean” Castiel’s brows knit together in indignant confusion. He may be many things, but a damsel in distress has never been one of them.

            “I know” Dean holds up a placating hand. “I know. I just really need you to be careful”

            “Dean” Cas tilts his head, tone conveying his annoyance, but his words falter when he notices the strained expression clouding Dean’s features.

Dean takes a deep breath, clearly bracing himself for what he’s about to say. “Not many people know what I’m about to tell you” Dean mutters, swallowing thickly and eyeing the decanter across the room longingly. “Not even my brother”

            Castiel nods with understanding, seeing the nervous set of Dean’s shoulders and the way his knee bounces in anticipation. He wants to comfort the man, promise him that he won’t judge him or think less of him for whatever he’s about to say, but he isn’t in a position to make promises like that. “I’m listening,” Castiel says quietly and as gently as he can muster.

            Dean nods with a tense frown. “I…well, I know you’ve noticed my scars” He begins, looking anywhere but at Castiel.

            Cas’ heart stutters and he shifts where he sits. He pulls one knee onto the sofa and turns to face Dean, searching the man’s expression for hints that he’ll continue. “I have” Cas offers when it seems that Dean is waiting for a response.

            Dean nods once again, chewing on his lower lip and tapping his knee with his fingers. “My dad was an alcoholic. You know that. He, uh, he also had a gambling problem” Dean looks a little pale and Castiel leans forward with concern. “He owed Alastair a lot of money. Money he couldn’t pay”

            Castiel’s eyes widen, terrified to see where this might be going.

            “Alastair came to collect on Halloween when I was sixteen. I was getting ready to take Sammy trick or treating and Dad called me into his study” Dean shakes his head and Cas notices the fine tremble in the man’s hands. He fights the urge to close the gap between him, but he can sense that Dean needs to get this out on his own. “He gave me to Alastair. As payment”

            Castiel’s heart all but stops and ice fills his veins. Dean’s father sold him to a monster? “Dean” Castiel’s voice cracks along with his heart. Staring at the man in front of him, no matter his crimes, he doesn’t deserve what his father did to him.

            Dean looks up to meet Castiel’s eyes, his green eyes are watering and Cas’ hands twitch to comfort him. “The first night, Alastair tied me down and started cutting. He cut on me for almost a year, Cas. He, he would always have someone else there, tied like me. He promised that he would stop if only I would pick up the knife” Dean’s voice threatens to crack but he holds his hand up when Cas scoots closer.

            “After he was through with me, he would do the same with whoever else was strapped to his table. Except he would kill them. He always killed them. It took almost a year for me to break” He shakes his head, tears moistening his cheeks. “I picked up the knife, Cas. I turned into the monster he wanted me to be” Dean’s shoulders shake and Castiel refuses to hold back any longer.

            Cas gets to his feet and moves to sit next to Dean, crowding him into the corner as he wraps his arms around the man and holds him tightly. “It’s not your fault, Dean” Cas coos, running his fingers through the short hairs at the back of Dean’s head. Dean has just admitted to being “The Apprentice” and all Castiel wants to do is comfort the man. The irony of that is not lost on him.

            Dean lets out a shuddering breath and pulls back, shaking his head. “He wouldn’t let me go. I…I stole from a gas station, got caught on purpose, just to get arrested. Just to get away from him”

            Castiel nods, chewing on his lip. He had wondered about that. Why Dean would have been so clumsy, why would someone of his means steal pocketsful of candy bars in the first place? Dean doesn’t strike him as a thrill seeker. “They only gave you thirty days” Cas shakes his head, not seeing how that flimsy sentence would have kept Alastair away from him.

            Dean nods and flashes a watery smirk. “And six months’ probation” He reaches for Castiel’s hand, twining their fingers together. “Gave me time to build barriers, keep him away from me and Sammy” Dean nods, jaw firming with determination. “I met Charlie, she helped more than I can ever thank her for, I have no doubt she saved my life” Dean turns to meet Castiel’s gaze once more and Cas frowns.

            “So, she does work for you?” Cas questions, nodding slightly without judgment.

            Dean lets out a gentle huff. “Not sure who works for who at this point”

            Castiel’s head jerks back in surprise at that.

            “Charlie’s a genius, the most brilliant person I’ve ever met. Strongest sense of right and wrong I’ve ever seen. At first, she just helped me cover my tracks and I used my father’s money to pay for her mom’s hospital bills. But, eventually, she started working for the police and kept her distance. I understood, she couldn’t be associated with someone like me” Dean shrugs and Cas gives his hand a squeeze.

            “It took less than a year before Charlie saw that the police just couldn’t do enough” Dean meets Castiel’s eyes.

            “So, she asked you to help?” Cas offers.

            “She did” Dean nods. “I, you won’t tell anyone what I just told you? I don’t want Charlie to get in trouble” Dean mutters, looking more like a lost little boy than the hardened crime lord he’s become.

            Castiel squeezes Dean’s hand and tries to offer a smile. “I’m not here as a cop” He offers reassuringly.

            “Then what are you here as?” Dean questions, hope coloring his gaze as he leans forward slightly. His tongue darts out to moisten his lips and Castiel’s heart freezes.

            “A friend” He offers hurriedly, pulling out of kissing distance. He feels like an ass almost immediately, but he can’t give Dean what he needs right now.

            “A friend” Dean croaks, gaze falling to the floor as he tugs his hand away. He nods and clenches his jaw, straightening his posture. “I imagine you want a description of Alastair?” He asks, voice cold and distant.

            Castiel immediately feels guilty, but this is for the best. Really, it is. “If you’re willing” Cas wants to offer reassurance, but he shouldn’t.

            Dean pushes to his feet. “I can do you one better” his tone is still hard and his posture stiff as he stalks towards his desk. Castiel climbs to his feet and follows Dean, words of apology dying on his lips as Dean reaches his hand into a drawer before holding a single photograph towards Cas.

            Cas reaches out and takes the photo with trepidation. The man staring back at him has a fine spray of red lining his chin and throat, his eyes are cold and his smile snake-like. A flicker of recognition tickles the back of his mind, but he can’t quite place where he’s seen him before. “Thank you” Castiel mutters, tucking the photograph into the inside pocket of his jacket.

            “I’ll call Benny, he’ll drive you back to the roadhouse” Dean refuses to look at him and Castiel feels absolutely horrible. Dean put himself out there and then Cas pushed him away like he was nothing. Like Dean’s trust had been nothing.

            “Dean, I’m sorry” Cas pleads but Dean turns his back to Castiel.

            “No, I get it” Dean nods, staring out the window of his office. “You’ve told me enough times. I was a fool for thinking you might change your mind”

            Castiel hates the hard and bitter tone of Dean’s voice but he doesn’t know how to make this better. He can’t be with Dean, not the way they both seem to want.

            “You ready, detective?” Benny pokes his head into the office, looking a little too cheerful about Dean giving Castiel the cold shoulder.

            “Dean…” Castiel starts but Dean waves him off. Cas stares for another second before his shoulders sag in defeat. “Yeah, guess so” Cas mumbles. “Dean, I’m sorry” He pleads once more, watching the back of the other man’s head for any sign of forgiveness.

            He piles himself back into the SUV with a heavy heart, not bothering to comment when Benny gives him a self-satisfied smirk as the door shuts him inside.

            An empty feeling grows in Castiel’s chest as he watches the house grow smaller in the distance. The hollow feeling in his chest refuses to do anything but expand, threatening to choke the air from his lungs as visions of hurt filled green eyes fill his mind. He chokes back a whine, slamming his fist down onto the leather bench seat. His head drops back, not bothering to watch the scenery flashing by as Benny hauls him back into Austin. He can’t help but wonder...why do the right decisions always feel so wrong?

Chapter Text

            Castiel spends the rest of the day, night and next morning staring at his phone, wanting to reach out to Dean and apologize…or something. He keeps telling himself this is for the best, whatever passed between them had an air of finality and Castiel feels like this might be his chance to become free of Dean’s influence.

            If this is what he wanted all along, why does it feel as if his heart and soul are being squeezed through a strainer?

            His thoughts wander all day, to the point where he barely makes progress on any of his cases. Alastair is still a ghost, the latest victim showing them much of the same nothingness that those who came before were able to share.

            Meg tries and fails to distract him, eventually throwing a chocolate bar at him and demanding he eat something, lest he passes out from hunger on her or some such nonsense. He’ll eat when he feels like it, and right now his stomach refuses to acknowledge a whimsical notion such as hunger. No, his digestive system is far too preoccupied with reminding him how much of a mistake he’s probably made.

            He eventually gives up, staring down the clock until a reasonable hour to leave ticks by. On his way out, a passing thought grabs his attention and he meanders down to tech, hoping to catch Inias before he leaves for the day. He needs a distraction and maybe spending time with his old friend will do him some good.

            Cas turns the corner into Inias’ cubicle at the same time the man is slinging his messenger bag across his shoulder.

            “Castiel” Inias smiles at his sudden appearance and Cas feels a flood of warmth bloom in his chest, nearly overshadowing the lingering coldness that refuses to budge.

            “Inias” Castiel nods. “I was hoping you might be interested in joining me for dinner?” Cas cocks his head as he asks. He had intended to wait until Friday to set up a date with the other man, but this is only a day sooner and Castiel could really use a friend right now.

            “Oh, I…I can’t tonight” A blush colors Inias’ scruff covered cheeks and he glances down.

            “Oh” Cas swallows hard, unsure as to why he’s surprised or disappointed. “I understand. Perhaps tomorrow?” He flinches a hesitant smile.

            “I would like that” Inias’ smile returns.

            “Fantastic” Cas smiles a little easier. “Would seven o’clock work for you? I could pick you up?”

            Inias nods. “It’s a date” He smiles shyly, glancing down once more.

            Cas nods. “I, I’ll let you get going” He steps aside, gesturing for the other man to step forward. He doesn’t remember their interactions feeling so stilted in their youth, but Castiel has changed a lot since then. He only imagines Inias has as well.

            Inias hesitates, glancing towards Castiel and chewing his lip. “Are you busy tonight?” His head tilts slightly to the side and a nervous blush rises in his cheeks.

            Castiel shakes his head. “I don’t have plans yet” His curiosity is piqued. He had asked Inias to come out with him, clearly, he doesn’t have plans, but he hasn’t seen Inias look this shy since the moment before their first kisses so many years ago.

            “I have a show tonight. That’s why I can’t go out for dinner, but if you’d like to come…” Inias pauses and chews on his lip nervously.

            Castiel cocks his head, remembering back to their school days and Inias’ love for music. Oh, how Castiel loved to listen to him sing. “You still perform?” He asks with interest, blue eyes widening and searching Inias’ expression for the confirmation that he’s looking for.

            “I do” Inias nods, glancing up as Castiel shows his interest. “Austin is very welcoming to musicians”

            “I would love to come to see you play” Castiel grins, excitement building in his chest. This is exactly the distraction he needs.

            Inias grins back. “My friend, he goes by Steel Audrey, goes on at eight, I follow him at nine. I use a stage name, Adrian Glynn. We’ll probably play a few tunes together, so if you’re willing to stay the full two hours…” Inias begins to babble and Cas stops him with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

            “I would love to watch you both” Castiel offers softly, already thinking he should invite Meg. “Where are you playing?”

            “The, uh, The Hole in the Wall, on Guadalupe” Inias turns to grab a post-it-note from his desk and hurriedly writes down an address. “I’m friends with the owner, so our guests get free cover. I’ll put you and a plus one on the list so you can bring a friend”

            “Thank you” Cas smiles easily, already looking forward to an evening of listening to Inias sing, just like old times.

            His troubles with Dean are down to a low simmer on the back burner as he texts Meg before driving home, hoping that she might be able to come.

            Her response comes just as he’s pulling into his parking space and he smiles down at his phone when he sees her YES followed by multiple exclamation points. She also adds on that she’s been to see Inias play before and assures Castiel that he’s fantastic, if not a little shy before he really gets going.

            He microwaves something for dinner, he isn’t even quite certain what the mystery brown meat like patty is intended to be, but he chokes it down dutifully in a hurry so he can take a quick shower a find something flattering to wear before Meg stops by to pick him up.

            By the time his friend eventually arrives, Castiel has tried on no less than six different shirts and three pairs of the jeans that he never wears. He has music blasting, trying to psych himself up for a night out and letting his body sway to the rhythm as he discards everything he tries on. He hasn't seen Inias play since high school, so he's going to let himself revert back to the happy teen he once was for just a few minutes. All in the name of distraction.

             Meg, of course, lets herself in and leans against his bedroom doorframe for a good two minutes before she makes herself known.

            “Please tell me you’ve picked out something to wear” Her low and sultry voice causes Cas to jump and spin in place to gape at her, eyes wide with surprise.

            “Meg!” He shouts, scrambling for his phone to turn off the heavily thumping music pouring from his radio. “You couldn’t bother knocking?!” He gets the music turned down and blushes heavily at the sound of Meg’s responding chuckle.

            “I did” She smirks, shoving off the doorframe before she saunters towards him. “You obviously couldn’t hear”

            Cas hastens to close the open front his button up to hide his bare chest. He can’t decide whether he’s more embarrassed to be caught partially dressed or for the way he was shimmying his hips in tune to the music, dancing around his room as he searched for the perfect thing to wear.

            “Oh, don’t worry Clarence, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before” She winks, stepping in front of him to help with his buttons.

            Castiel’s mouth goes dry with her close proximity as he stares down at the loose dark curls framing the delicate features of his face. “Still, I would prefer some warning before you spy on me” He allows her to work on his buttons, frozen like a deer caught in the middle of the road, staring down a set of high beams.

            Meg reaches up to adjust his collar, smoothing down the soft fabric with an understated smile. “I just want to help my favorite partner get the boy” She taps his shoulder and steps away, tossing her hair back as she goes. “Now, are you ready to go?”

            Cas blushes, looking down. “I’m your only partner” He turns his gaze up, eyes narrowed as she laughs.

            “That doesn’t matter, you’re my unicorn” She pinches his chin between her fingers and gives him a playful shove before leaving him gaping in the middle of his bedroom.

            He doesn’t bother trying to hide his confusion. Her unicorn? What is that supposed to mean? “Meeeggg” He whines, rolling his head on his shoulders because a simple eye roll would be entirely insufficient to encompass the amount of confusion she instills in him.

            “Come on, Clarence, you’re going to make us late” She calls from the front of his apartment and he shakes his head before touching his temple in exasperation. This is good though, he needs the distraction.

            Every moment he can focus on anything other than Dean is a good moment. “Just a minute” He calls, checking his reflection once more. His dark wash jeans hug his ass and thighs perfectly, showing off just how muscled he really is, and the pale blue button up draws out the blue of his eyes, making them seem almost brilliant. He looks good, or at least as good as he’s going to. He quickly runs his fingers through his hair, making it spike up in different directions just like Inias used to like and flashes himself a quick smile in the mirror.

            “Looking good” Meg coos at him when he finally emerges. “I almost didn’t think you had it in you”

            “Shuttup” Castiel grumbles blushing slightly at her backhanded compliment. “You look nice as well, Meg”

            “Such a Casanova” She barks through a laugh, shaking her head. “Come on, don’t wanna be late”

            The drive to The Hole in the Wall passes quickly, nervous butterflies alight in Castiel’s stomach causing the time to blur and slip away nearly unnoticed.

            Cas gives his name at the door and the bouncer waves them both through. His eyes seek out at Inias as soon as he spies the stage set up against the front window and the man gives him a wave and a smile. Another man is on stage and Cas assumes he’s the friend Inias had mention. They both have guitars strapped around them and are strumming chords into the microphones. Inias’ hair is wild and unkempt with a thick layer of scruff covering his chin and cheeks. The other man, Steel Audrey, Cas remembers, has much shorter hair, nearly clipped military short. Both men wear skinny jeans and button-down shirts, although Inias wears his closed.

            Something warm and familiar clicks into place deep in Castiel’s chest as he watches his old flame strum his guitar and hum into the microphone. Where Inias is prim and proper in real life, he comes alive on stage. Loose and relaxed, soulful and free in a way they were never allowed to be in the halls of their church growing up.

            He’s missed this. More than he realized.

            He and Meg settle at a table at the front of a raised section, a decent distance from the bar, about the same time Inias heads off stage and Steel begins to play.

            “I’m so glad you came!” Inias exclaims, stepping up to them and putting his arms around their shoulders. Cas leans into the touch, gummy grin on his face.

            “You know I’d never turn down a chance to see you play” Meg grins, glancing between the two men with mischief written in her smile. Cas had been careful not to tell her about their history, but it seems she’s guessed well enough on her own.

            Inias gives her a nervous look and Cas tries to give him a reassuring smile. “Thank you for inviting me”

            “I’m glad you could come” Inias gives Cas a small smile that has butterflies blooming in his stomach as he smiles back. Steel calls for Adrian up on stage and Inias claps Castiel on the shoulder before turning away. “That’s my cue”

             Castiel watches him go, lower lip held firmly between his teeth. He almost feels guilty when his gaze drops from the firm set of Inias’ shoulders to the gentle curve of his ass, framed perfectly by the skinny jeans he wears.

           “Whooo” Meg fans herself, tone high pitched and exaggerated. “He’s a looker, ain’t he Clarence” She turns her sneaky and all too pleased smile on Castiel, who shakes his head in mock annoyance.

           “It’s not like that, Meg. It’s just good to see an old friend” Cas shrugs, downplaying his still lingering feelings for the first, and only, man he’s ever loved. The one who broke his heart so badly that he fled Chicago to seek a life in an entirely different state. That isn’t fair, Cas thinks to himself, his own family had a lot to do with him leaving. But he would have tried to stay if Inias hadn’t pushed him away.

          Meg arches a disbelieving brow but refrains from commenting. “Well, I’m gonna get us a couple cokes” She uses Castiel’s shoulder for leverage as she hops down from the high bar stools they’ve seated themselves on.

          “Dr. Pepper, please” Cas requests, not really wanting Coke but feeling a little bit proud of himself for catching Meg’s casual use of the name Coke as a catch-all for soda.

          “Gonna hit the little girl’s room first, be right back” She saunters away before Cas has a chance to respond so he simply turns his attention back to the stage.

          Inias and the other man are up there, strumming their guitars. Steel talks in the microphone, about silly accents and then demands that Adrian make a voice he calls the "Cow searcher”.

          Inias mumbles into the microphone before pitching his voice low and slow, taking on an air of slick creepiness that nearly makes Castiel’s skin crawl before he lets out a bark of laughter.

          “Where do you keep your cows?” Inias drawls into the microphone in a low, dirty, whisper as his partner on stage tries to stifle laughter. He continues in that made up voice for another moment, prattling on with questions about where the cows are, what are their names. Cas nearly snorts, not having heard Inias use that tone since they would both hide in a church storeroom to avoid their parents. Inias would relax then, and they would laugh together at the silly voices they would come up with to mock their elders.

          Steel begins to strum his guitar and Inias takes a mock bow, Castiel can’t help but clap as they launch into a duet.

          “Heya, mate” A soft, heavily accented voice comes from over Castiel’s shoulder and he startles as he turns to take in Mick’s sudden appearance.

          “What are you doing here?” Castiel narrows his eyes at Mick, before glancing towards the stage. Inias is wrapped up in the music, both men crooning into their microphones. The sound is haunting and beautiful, but the man in front of him now demands his attention.

          “I just wanted to level with you” Mick nods, stepping close to Meg’s seat but not sitting. “You hurt him, you know that, right?” Mick arches a brow, keeping his voice low and urgent.

          Cas sucks in a deep breath and nods. “I know” He shakes his head slightly, turning away just enough to give him a moment to think. “It’s for the best, he has to understand that.”

          Mick holds a hand up in surrender. “Not my place to judge”

         “What do you want?” Cas cuts in, tone rough and demanding.

          “I’m a little selfish, you see. Boss asked me to keep an eye on you, and I’d really rather not get shot” Mick explains, straightening the lapels of his blazer.

          “I’m not going to share anything he told me, he doesn’t need to worry about that” Castiel frowns, somehow hurt by Dean’s lack of trust. He quickly banishes the thought, reminding himself of why it’s better if he and Dean don’t trust each other, or see each other for that matter.

          “He’s not worried about that. None of us are. He trusts you, therefore we trust you” Mick denies Castiel’s assumption and his words leave Cas shaking his head.

          “While that’s very flattering, I don’t see why he would want you to keep an eye on me if he somehow trusts me” Castiel rolls his eyes, fingertips drumming on the bar top.

          “Protection. He’s convinced Alastair is going to come after you” Mick fixes him with a stern look, trying to impress the severity of the situation.

          “I spend most of my time with the police, and I can take care of myself. Why does Dean even care?” Cas crosses his arms over his chest like a petulant child, mirroring Mick’s hardened expression.

          “It isn’t my place to ask why. He asked me to keep an eye on you, and I assumed it wouldn’t take you long to notice someone following you. As I said, I would really prefer for you not to shoot me” Mick crosses his own arms.

          “I don't need protection” Castiel glares

          “I don’t care whether you need or want Dean’s protection. I’m only doing what is asked of me, so suck it up buttercup” Mick glares right back, matching Cas pound for pound.

          Castiel’s shoulders deflate with a rush of air from his lungs. “I’m not going to shoot you” He finally gives in. At worst, he can ignore Mick’s presence entirely until Dean gets bored with this little game.

          “Thank you” Mick dips his chin. “I’ll do my best to make sure you don’t even know I’m around”

          Cas sighs and shakes his head. “Tell Dean this isn’t necessary”

          Mick gives him a sad smile. "You should tell him yourself” He mutters, just loud enough to cut deep into Castiel’s chest, and as quickly as he appeared, he’s lost into the crowd. Cas stares after him for a moment, the sounds from the stage match the somber feeling in his chest as he mulls over what Mick had told him.

          Dean is upset, but he still cares. Why does he still care?! Cas groans in frustration as he turns back to face the stage and he rests his elbows on the table in front of him, burying his face in his hands. He needs to focus on his life. On his job, on Meg, Inias and all the other people from the station who have come to mean something to him over the last several weeks.

          He realizes a little too late that Dean has somehow wormed his way onto that list and Castiel feels a burn begin to grow deep in his chest. Anger, frustration and all the pent-up emotions that he’s done his absolute best to ignore. Maybe he should just go home to Chicago. Join the Chicago PD like so many of his family before him and leave Austin in the dust, never to be considered again.

         “You ok?” Meg bumps his shoulder as she places a glass mug of Dr. Pepper in front of him.

          Cas pulls in a deep breath through his nose and lifts his head out of his hands. He meets her gaze with a tense smile and a nod. “I’m fine. Just a headache” He lies, and the pit that opened in his stomach when he took in that stricken look on Dean’s face seems to grow that much larger.

          He hurts everyone. He should just go home.

         “Hey” Meg covers his hand with hers. “You sure you ok?” She glances around the large room, eyes landing on one beer bottle after another and the tumblers of whiskey strewn about. Her meaning is clear and Cas barks a laugh.

          “For once, that isn’t my problem” He shakes his head in disbelief. “Inias is back on” Castiel nods toward the stage as Inias is slinging his guitar strap over his shoulder and the two men launch into another duet.

          Castiel watches with rapt attention, losing himself in way Inias bumps his head as he strums, his heel tapping to the rhythm. It’s been years since Cas has gone anywhere to see live music and he’s loving every minute of this. At least, the minutes he manages to pry his thoughts away from Dean.

         They finish up a lively number about Jack Frost being the Devil and Manitoba must be Hell before both men hang up their guitars and head off stage. Inias makes a beeline for the bar before snagging his friend by the elbow and dragging him over to Castiel and Meg.

         “You sound very good up there, Inias” Castiel smiles, ducking his chin slightly with the compliment.

          “Thank you, Castiel” Inias blushes and his friend looks between them with a smirk.

          “I’m Meg” Meg leans forward, voice low and husky as she offers her hand to Steel Audrey.

          “Derrick” Steel takes her hand in his own, planting a gentle kiss on the back of her knuckles as he looks at her through his lashes.

          Meg chuckles, a flirtatious smile growing on her lips. “Pleased to meet you” She coos through her growing grin, scanning the man with her eyes.

          Castiel narrows his eyes towards his partner, barely resisting jabbing his elbow into her ribs. “So how do you two know ‘Nias?” Derrick interrupts, thankfully, and Cas turns his attention back to the other two men.

          “Oh, we all work together” Meg smiles.

           “Castiel and I actually go way back, we grew up together” Inias offers and Castiel beams. He wasn’t certain if Inias would want to share any of their histories, but it seems he’s willing to volunteer at least that much.

          “From Chicago?” Derrick looks between Cas and Inias, pleased smile playing on his lips. “Inias almost never talks about his childhood” He glances sideways towards his friend before leaning forward to mock whisper in Castiel’s ear. “We’re gonna have to grab a drink sometime and you can tell me all about this one’s youthful indiscretions” He points playfully towards Inias and Castiel laughs when Inias smacks Derrick on the shoulder with an in indignant protest.

          “No. No way am I letting you two gang up on me” Inias shoves his friend away from Cas before settling between them.

          “Oh, come on, it might be fun” Castiel teases, having no real intention of taking Derrick up on his suggestion but he still looks around Inias to meet the other man’s gaze with a playful grin.

          “Sounds like a plan” Derrick grins back before glancing to Meg once more. “So, you work with the police?”

          “Yes. I’m a detective” Meg smiles, looking down with a hint of coyness that doesn’t come naturally to the woman.

          “Are you two together?” Derricks cocks his head slightly as he asks, glancing between Meg and Cas.

          Meg laughs, the sound rich and full, as she shakes her head side to side slowly. “Not in his wildest dreams” She bats her eyes just as Castiel rolls his and Derrick nods, looking somewhat pleased by the revelation.

          “She's not my type” Cas grumbles, bumping his shoulder with Meg’s before glancing to see the paint blush spreading over Inias’ cheeks.

          “Well, in that case, can I buy you a drink?” Derrick meets Meg’s gaze hungrily as his fingers rub against the tabletop where he’s leaning.

          “I would love a drink” Meg responds, voice slightly husky. “You be alright for a while?” She glances towards Cas and he nods.

          “I’ll keep him company” Inias smiles, blue eyes meeting Castiel’s with a spark of something Castiel hasn’t seen in a very long time.

          Derrick and Meg wander away, chatting amiably and Inias settles into the now empty seat next to Castiel. “So, what do you think? Be honest” He questions, nervousness coloring his tone slightly.

          “You’re both fantastic” Castiel shrugs, the praise rolling easily from his tongue. He feels as if the ground will swallow him whole and destroy this perfect moment if he doesn’t keep talking, so when he opens his mouth again, words tumble from his lips without conscious thought behind them. "I'm glad we have this chance to reconnect” He reaches a hand to cover Inias’, heart hammering in his chest as he does so. The touch feels forbidden and exciting, especially when Inias only leans closer.

          “I too am glad. I’ve missed you, Castiel. More than I ever thought possible” Inias leans closer, all but whispering the words into Castiel’s ear, his warm breath ghosting over Castiel’s cheek and eliciting a shiver.

          “’Nias” Cas nearly whines when the other man’s stubble scrapes against his cheek. Despite the years separated, Castiel feels as if they’re back in high school, relishing the first of many stolen touches under the cover of darkness. He shudders when he feels the faint brush of lips next to his ear and he turns towards Inias with blown pupils.

          “Come with me” Inias stands and tangles his fingers with Castiel’s before he has a chance to protest. Cas swallows thickly and follows without question, letting Inias lead him through the sea of bodies and up a wide flight of stairs. “I have about fifteen minutes until I’m back on stage” Inias offers when Castiel finds himself not daring to shatter this moment of bravery.

          He can’t help but wonder where Inias is leading him, but he isn’t about to ask. Whatever Inias wants from him, he can have. He’ll gladly give himself over if it might help him forget about Dean. Inias would be a much more appropriate option for him, and he can’t deny the lingering affection he holds, even after Inias shattered his heart all those years ago.

          Inias drags him towards a closed door and makes short work of opening said door and nudging Cas inside. The room is barely larger than a closet but appears to be a small office. Cas turns to face Inias with his lip tugged between his teeth.

          Inias stares at the floor, a blush coloring his cheeks and his hair hangs over his eyes. Castiel can’t control his feet when they move his closer. He swallows hard, heart hammering in his chest.

          “Castiel” Inias nearly chokes on the word, making it sound too similar to a sob for Cas to tolerate. Castiel brushes his fingertips down Inias’ arm, lingering over the back of his wrist. Inias seems to debate within himself, nodding towards the floor before seemingly making a decision.

           Inias lifts his chin and surges forward, hand coming up to cup Castiel’s cheek as he pulls him in and presses their lips together. The kiss is messy and uncoordinated, full of teeth, but Castiel doesn’t care. He leans into Inias’ touch, letting the man lick into his mouth and he groans at the sensation.

          Time seems to stop, Castiel’s body working with Inias’ before his mind catches up and reminds him of everything that isn’t right about this. The stubble feels wrong against his chin, Inias is too short and when Cas lifts his hand to the back of the other man’s neck to hold him close, the long and loose hair that slides under his fingertips makes his heart skitter and his stomach twist.

          He pulls back, panting with the strain and excitement, staring into Inias’ eyes with a mixture of nausea and panic rising in his stomach. This should feel right. Perfect even. He’s spent so many years pining over Inias, this should be exactly what he wants.

          “I’m sorry” Inias mutters, shaking his head. “I thought...” His light blue eyes go wide with impending panic and he brings a hand to cover his mouth, fingers lightly playing over his lips as if he cannot believe what he’s just done.

         Cas swallows hard and shakes his head before reaching for the other man, clutching the base of his skull and pulling him into another heated kiss. Inias squeaks in surprise and makes a weak attempt to push Castiel back, but he quickly gives in. Their mouths move together and all it takes a quick swipe of Castiel’s tongue against Inias’ lower lip for the man to let Castiel inside.

          Inias tastes sweet, the beer he had been drinking lending a flavor that spurs Castiel on. This isn’t familiar or comfortable. Inias kisses nothing like he did when they were young, years of experience has changed them both. A twisted feeling of regret bubbles immediately in Castiel’s gut but he shoves it down, determined to push past his feelings for Dean.

          Castiel charges ahead, dropping his hands to Inias’ ass and hauling him closer until their hips are flush. The only sounds in the small office are their gentle moans and the brush of their clothing, trying to get closer to one another as their hands scrabble for purchase.

          Inias pulls back this time, breathless and his lips kiss swollen and red. “I need to go back” He glances towards the old analog clock on the wall with regret and Castiel follows his gaze.

          Cas swallows hard and nods, already feeling dirty for pushing himself into this heated make-out session. He hadn’t known what to expect when Inias look his hand and led him through the bar, but he hadn’t expected him to make a move like this.

          Not so soon.

          Not with their history.

          Castiel forces a deep breath, swallowing down his impending guilt-ridden panic.

          Finally, he nods. “Yeah” He tries to smile but he’s certain it comes out more pained than coy, but he lets Inias tangle their fingers together regardless.

          Inias leads them back through the bar, returning Castiel to the seats he and Meg had occupied only to find Meg and Derrick with their heads tilted together as if they were conspiring.

          “I was wondering where you two disappeared to” Derricks lifts his gaze with a wide grin that falters slightly when he glances between the two men. Their clothes are disheveled, and hair mussed. It would be obvious to anyone what they had been doing.

          Castiel is certain that his lips are every bit as red and swollen as Inias’ and he can’t help but notice the way Inias flushes and looks away as if ashamed.

          It’s that moment that Castiel realizes one thing about Inias that hasn’t changed.

          As far as the people in his life know, he’s completely straight.

         Castiel feels his heart begin to break all over again. He refuses to be someone’s dirty little secret. He made the decision years ago to not hide his sexuality. He wouldn’t hide for Inias then, and he won’t do it now.

        “Um, I...” Inias fumbles before taking a deep breath. Castiel tries to release their clasped hands and pull away as the blossoming hurt in his chest unfurls and threatens to consume him but Inias grips him tighter. “Castiel and I...” Inias’ voice cracks and twin looks of concern flash over both Castiel’s and Derrick’s expressions.

         Derrick reaches out and places a grounding hand on Inias’ shoulder and ducks his chin to meet Inias’ eyes directly. Cas gives his hand a squeeze, reminding Inias that he still hasn’t let him go. “You have history?” Derrick suggests, offering Inias a way to get the words out. His tone is kind and gentle and his words seem to help settle something in Inias.

          Inias manages a nod. “We were boyfriends. The first person I ever fell in love with”

          Castiel’s heart all but stops at those words and he feels the pinpricks of tears in his eyes. Inias looks down shyly when wide grins begin to spread over Derrick and Meg’s faces.

          “I knew it!” Meg crows, pumping her fist lightly in the air.

          “If you would all welcome Adrian Glynn back to the stage!” An announcer calls out and Inias startles violently.

          “Fuck!” He bites, barely under his breath and Cas barks a breathless laugh. He doesn’t think he’s ever heard Inias swear.

          “I can keep ‘em entertained if you need a few minutes” Derrick offers but Inias shakes his head.

          “No...I’m good” A hesitant smile plays at the corners of his mouth as he meets his friend’s eyes.

          “And so are we” Derrick claps his hand down in his shoulder. “You’re one of my best friends and I want you to be happy. Whoever it takes to make you happy, well…I really don’t care what’s between their legs as long as they treat you right” He flashes Castiel a kind smile and Cas feels his heart swell with gratitude for the way Inias’ friend is handling this situation.

          Inias nods, when he looks up his eyes are glassy and Derrick drags him into a crushing hug. “Thank you” Inias mutters against Derrick’s shoulder and Castiel finally manages to disentangle his fingers from Inias’ death grip.

          “Now go knock their socks off” Derrick claps him on the back and gives him a push towards the stage. Inias goes, wearing a sappy grin as he walks and Castiel feels pride swelling in his chest.

          Inias grabs another beer from the bar on his way to the stage and is in the middle of taking a long drink as he hops onto the stage. He greets the crowd, but the blush over his cheeks gives away his nerves.

          His first song is done acapella, hands raised high over his head to clap the rhythm as the words begin to pour from him. “I loosen my tie for the first time tonight, tonight I dust off my smile” He sings, giving the crowd a shy smile as he continues.

          Castiel watches fondly as he claps his way through the song. Inias’ voice rings clear and deep through the bar.

           “For there’ll be sorrow, tomorrow, just like there was today” He claps and stomps his foot, keeping his own time. The emotion he injects into the lyrics stabs Castiel through the heart. Watching his old lover in his element, pouring his heart out into the microphone with his gaze steadily fixed on Castiel.

          Cas wants to sob. All this is wrong.

          “For I swallowed a ring with my fear, and remembered my tears, for the last time tonight”

          The words speak directly into Castiel’s own fears. Tonight, Inias took a huge risk.

          “The cost of a strangers the price of my life” Inias croons in the closing verse and Castiel feels the panic well in his chest.

          He manages to swallow down the sense of impending doom while Inias makes it through two more songs.

          Kissing Inias felt like a betrayal and the tears well in Castiel’s eyes. He can’t do this. He wants to be with Inias, he wants to give them a second a chance, but his heart isn’t in it. His mind knows that being with Inias would be for the best, but his heart isn’t there.

          He stands from his stool, letting the heavy wood and metal piece nearly topple before barely catching it. The acidic burn of bile rising in his throat causes his eyes to water as he covers his mouth with a hand. “I need some air” He manages to choke out as he turns away and starts walking, a quick backward glance reveals Inias watching him with a tilted head and furrowed brow. “Gonna catch a cab home” He mutters, not caring if Meg hears him or not as he flees to the back of the bar.

          She doesn’t follow him, and Castiel sends a quick thanks to whichever higher power might still be looking out for him. He half expects Inias to run off stage and come after him, but only silence follows the harsh slam of the door closing behind him.

         Cas lets out a bitter laugh, shaking his head at his own ridiculous ideas. Inias rushing out to check on him? Hah! Clearly, Cas thinks too much of himself.

          “You alright, Castiel?” Mick’s voice comes from the side of the building a few feet down from Cas. He leans against the bricks, one knee bent with his foot flat against the wall.

          Cas shakes his head and laughs again. “Just fine” He bites, the harsh edge of his tone causing Mick to nod as if he knows Castiel is full of shit. “I’m calling a cab, I assume you’ll be following me home?” Cas questions bitterly as he frowns, staring at the ground.

          “Not leaving with your partner?” Mick questions, clearly ignoring Castiel’s acrid tone. “Ah well” Mick shrugs, pushing off from the wall. “If you’re leaving, might as well give you a ride”

          “What?” Castiel looks up in surprise, taking in the other man’s kind and almost bored expression.

          “A ride. Come on” Mick gestures for Castiel to follow him. “No sense in you paying for a cab when I’ll be right behind you anyway”

          “Unbelievable” Castiel mutters under his breath, already pushing himself off the wall as his head shakes in disbelief. “I must have gone completely insane. That’s the only explanation” He flaps his arms slightly in resignation as he follows Mick into the parking lot, shaking his head as he walks.

          Castiel eyes the gleaming Mini Cooper that lights up when Mick presses a button on his outstretched key fob.

          “Hop on in” Mick gestures to his passenger seat and Castiel shrugs as he reaches for the handle.

          “I can’t believe this is my life now” Castiel mutters under his breath as he drops into the seat like lead. The car shakes under is sudden weight, but it suits his mood.

          “Ah, this isn’t so bad” Mick tries to comfort as he pulls on his seat belt, but his words sound hollow in the confines of the small car.

          Cas doesn’t bother telling Mick where to go, he assumes the man already knows and it turns out Castiel is right. Mick needs no prompting. He can’t quite decide how he feels about that.

          “I have one question for you, Castiel” Mick’s voice cuts through the silence and causes Castiel to jump. He glances over, eyeing Cas seriously.

          Cas swallows hard, nodding. “Ok” Castiel takes a deep, steadying breath, bracing himself for whatever Mick might be thinking.

          “That guy back there” Mick starts and Castiel’s heart sinks.

          “Leave him alone” Castiel snaps before Mick can finish getting the words out.

          Mick raises a hand. “I’m not going to bother him” He glances over to meet Castiel’s eyes briefly. “I just want to know, what is he to you? Boyfriend?”

          Castiel’s heart clenches at the thought but Mick continues. “Because, if he is, if you’re seeing him. You really need to tell Dean clearly that you’re already seeing someone”

          “I…” Castiel starts but Mick holds up a hand.

          “Don’t tell Dean I told you this, and I’m not asking you to lie to him, but Dean respects relationships. If you tell him you’re in one, he’ll back off without question.”

          “I…” Castiel starts again but shakes his head with a sigh. “I’ll think about it”

          “That’s all I ask” Mick nods, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

           He pulls up in front of Castiel’s apartment after only a few more silent moments and Cas quickly releases his seatbelt to climb out. “See you tomorrow?” Castiel can’t help but ask, tone mocking and glib. His heart is racing, and he can feel his hands trembling as his fingers wrap around the door handle. Accepting this ride was a mistake, he should have insisted on waiting for a cab. Or better yet, stayed and watched Inias finish his set and then actually talked to the man. But no, he had to run away. Again.

          “You bet” Mick gives him a salute, ignoring Castiel’s tone and smiling brightly. Castiel scowls as he slams the door and trudges up the walk to his building.

           He groans when his phone chimes with incoming texts, glancing down to see Meg’s name flash across the screen.

          Meg: Where the hell did you go?

          He sighs and shakes his head.

          Meg: You know what? You’re an ass

          His phone chimes again and he can’t help but agree with her.

          Me: Sorry, I was suddenly ill. Took a cab home.

          He silences his phone. If his excuse isn’t good enough for her, that’s just too bad.

          He trudges through his night time routine. The guilt over ditching Inias threatens to swallow him whole, only to be mauled all over again by the guilt over kissing Inias. He just wants to crawl in bed and hide from the world.

          He tosses and turns for what feels like hours before he finally rolls onto his side and reaches for his phone. Meg hasn’t replied but a single text from Inias waits for him, hoping that he feels better soon. Cas is certain he’ll catch an earful from Meg tomorrow and then he’ll have to crawl down to tech and beg for Inias’ forgiveness.

          He opens the message thread with Michael and starts to type.

         Me: I don’t need protection. Tell Mick to back off.

          He sends the message and waits before the lingering guilt over kissing Inias has his fingers typing out another message.

          Me: I’m seeing someone. He deletes that and tries again. I had a date tonight. We kissed. It felt wrong. He sighs and shakes his head. Why would he tell Dean that? Delete delete delete.

          Finally, he settles on something and hits send before he chickens out.

          Me: What have you done to me?

          Cas drops his phone and rolls onto his back with a heavy sigh to wait.

          Dean doesn’t respond.

Chapter Text

            “Stop!” Cas yells, voice hoarse and chest heaving from exertion. His shiny dress shoes were not made for running, but he pushes himself harder, gun held at the ready as he closes in on the suspect. People on the sidewalk yelp and scatter to avoid being plowed over by Castiel and the man he’s chasing. “Police! Stop!” Castiel yells again, voice booming in that low register that demands obedience.

            Cas had decided to drag himself down to Voodoo donuts since he was awake way too early. Bringing a box of some of the best donuts in Austin would surely be a good way to apologize to Meg for disappearing last night and endear himself to his coworkers.

Now, the bright pink box of donuts is lying discarded on the sidewalk somewhere behind him, probably spilled over the pavement in a cacophony of brightly colored sprinkles and an explosion of powdered sugar.

Cas was nearly back to his car, a block away from the twenty-four seven donut shop on Sixth Street when he overheard a commotion coming from an ally that runs behind the multitude of bars still closed for the day. He crept closer, ears pricked as an elderly couple clutching tightly to one another came into view. He saw the gun before he noticed the man who held it, a gruff and rattled voice demanding a purse and a wallet.

Cas dropped his donuts and coffee and pulled his sidearm without a second thought, shouting for the mugger to drop the gun and put his hands in the air.

Of course, the bastard ran instead. Cas hadn’t even had the time to call for back-up. He gruffly ordered the elderly couple to call the police and took off after the assailant.

The tall and lanky man ducks around the next corner, just out of Castiel’s line of sight. “Police! Stop!” Cas yells again, by now knowing that his declaration of intent will get him nowhere as long as the man thinks he has a chance of escape.

Cas stumbles when his smooth soled shoes lose their grip as he rounds the corner, but he recovers quickly. Just in time to see the man grab ahold of someone and spin to face Castiel, gun pressed firmly to the young woman’s temple.

“PUT THE GUN DOWN!” Castiel screams, heart hammering for an entirely different reason. He can’t call for back up, not without lowering his gun and putting that young woman in further danger.

She wears a short skirt and apron, her long blond hair flowing loosely as her back is wrenched against the man’s chest. She looks as if she’s just arriving for her shift at one of the few restaurants open this early on the street made famous for the nightlife.

Castiel glares, trying to catch his breath while keeping his aim steady. “Release her and step away” Castiel bites, tone low and deadly as he waits for a clear shot.

The mugger turned hostage taker pulls her directly in front of himself and woman begins to scream and sob, begging to be released now that her initial shock has worn off. “Put your gun down” The tall, sandy-haired man barks, dark eyes wild and frenzied.

Castiel’s blood runs cold, heart suddenly steadying when he takes in the grey pallor of the man’s complexion and his sunken eyes with blown pupils. There is no way this man is sober. “You first” Castiel bites back, tone lowering into a growl. “Release her and put your hands in the air”

“Back off!” The man screams, face reddening as the woman clutched to his chest sobs and screams.

“You know I can’t do that” Castiel glares, finger tightening on the trigger. He locks eyes with the woman, her blue eyes reddened with tears and her chest heaves. “Everything is going to be ok” He tries to assure her, but her captor’s arm slips higher on her chest, now just grazing her throat as his fingers dig hard into the meat of her shoulder.

“I’ll shoot her!” The man screams, tone becoming more frantic.

“Take a deep breath” Castiel pleads, his tone firm and unforgiving. “Tell me your name” Cas keeps his aim trained on the man, but he can’t get a clear enough shot. He can hear sirens in the distance, but his fellow officers are no help to him now.

“Jake” The man swallows hard.

“I…I’m Sarah” The woman chokes out. “Please don’t shoot me” She begs, tone choked with tears. Her fingers dig into the man’s forearm, trying to pull herself from his grip.

“No one needs to get hurt here” Castiel grips his gun tighter, swallowing hard.

“Put your gun down and I’ll let her go” Jake demands, his eyes growing wider by the moment as he jerks Sarah in his arms.

“I can’t do that” Castiel reminds him, adjusting his aim slightly when Jake jerks Sarah to the side just enough for a clear glimpse of the man’s temple.

“I’ll shoot her!” Jake shouts, nearly vibrating with desperation.

“You don’t want to do that. Jake, we can resolve this peacefully. Just put the gun down” Castiel attempts to reason but he can see he isn’t getting anywhere, and his finger tightens on the trigger.

“Stay away from me!” Jake screams, voice shuddering.

Castiel knows he doesn’t have much time and he lines up his shot, praying to a god he doesn’t quite believe in that Sarah makes it through this unharmed.

Twin shots ring out, echoing off the surrounding buildings and Castiel screams, rushing forward with terror-filled eyes.

Jake falls backward, hitting the pavement hard and his head cracks against the concrete audibly, blood pooling from the clean hole in the center of his forehead. Castiel’s aim was flawless.

But Sarah falls with him. Her long blond hair swaying and dripping as wet crimson soaks her golden strands. Castiel falls to his knees, scrambling to find her pulse point but his gut knows the effort is wasted.

Her head is collapsed, and her glassy blue eyes stare up at him, lifeless and unseeing. Sirens sound in the distance even as Castiel mutters a litany of prayers and protests. “No no no no” He turns what is left of her head, the hollow points from Jake’s gun having done irreparable damage.

She has no pulse and sticky warm blood pools around Castiel, the red blooming across the lapels of his coat when he cradles Sarah’s lifeless body to his chest. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry” He chokes, hot tears pricking behind his eyes and clouding his vision.

“Step away from the girl!” A strong voice demands and Castiel looks.

“I…I’m a cop. Detective Castiel Novak” Cas identifies himself, rubbing his eyes to clear his vision with his bloodied hands before holding one hand up and digging into the lapel of his coat for his shield.

“Hands where I can see them!” the uniformed officer barks, gun trained on Castiel.

“I’m going for my identification” Cas forces his head breathing to steady, knowing he may well find himself shot as well if he isn’t careful. The officer keeps his gun trained on Castiel, but Cas eventually fumbles his shield from his jacket and holds it up to display

“What happened here” The officer demands, lowering his weapon but maintaining his wide-eyed stare as he lifts his handheld transceiver to his mouth and calls for medical attention and backup. He gives the dispatch officer the basics of what he sees, declaring two individuals, dead on arrival.

“I came across the suspect” Castiel points to Jake’s body, “attempting to mug an elderly couple a few blocks from here” Castiel pushes to his feet, knowing that Sarah is beyond his ability to help. “He fled when I identified myself and pulled my firearm” Cas frowns, staring out at the gathering crowd. “I chased him here, where he took a hostage” Castiel breathes heavily, fighting back the overwhelming sense of failure blooming in his chest and threatening to overtake him. “I was unable to talk him down and the situation escalated” He waves a hand towards the two bodies, fighting back renewed tears at the sight of Sarah’s body laying splayed across the concrete in a pool of her own blood, only a few feet from a dumpster.

“I had a clear shot and took it, downing the suspect, but I was too late. He fired the same time I did” Castiel’s voice cracks and his vision clouds. “Fuck!” He bites, leaning against the rough brick wall of a building for support. He had to get the words out as soon as possible, official statement and all that. He knows he’ll have to relive this at least twice more today and then endure suspension pending investigation.

Fuck!

He screams internally as he agrees to the responding officer’s direction to stay put and wait for backup before the other man begins to police the crowd, urging bystanders to stay back and move out of the way as ambulances arrive.

Cas shoots Meg a text, telling her not to expect him today and tucks his phone away before she has a chance to respond. She’ll hear about this soon enough.

“Detective Novak” Captain Mills barks and Castiel opens his eyes to look up at her. He isn’t certain how much time has passed, only that he apparently slid down the brick wall to sit on the pavement, blood drying on his clasped hands as he struggles to simply keep breathing. “Come on, Castiel. Let’s get you cleaned up” Her tone softens enough to shake Cas from the loop of his failures playing nonstop in his mind.

She doesn’t offer her hand, and Cas can’t blame her. He’s covered in the blood of an innocent. He doesn’t deserve her help. He numbly climbs to his feet and follows her toward one of the ambulances, eyeing the medics with suspicion. “Are you injured?” Mills questions, raking her gaze over Castiel, eyeing his shaking hands specifically.

He shakes his head. “No” His mouth pinches into a frown. “This is my fault” He mutters, mostly to himself but he knows Mills hears him when she snorts and shakes her head.

“I doubt that” She offers, likely to offer him comfort but her words sit in his gut like a stone. He sits on the back of the ambulance bus and lets the medics look him over while the crime scene investigators do their work.

He watches them bag his gun, and then the suspect’s. Jake’s. The man Castiel murdered. He’s never taken a life. The thought comes to him a moment of stark clarity.

In his twelve years as an officer of the law, this is the first time he’s had cause to fire his weapon in the line of duty. Twelve years of carrying a gun and a badge and the first life he takes is a strung-out mugger who murdered an innocent girl right in front of him.

“I need an official statement” Mills fixes him with a stern look and Castiel nods.

“Now?” Castiel questions, glancing to the paramedics doting over him.

“The sooner the better” She nods, crossing her arms over her chest.

Castiel nods. “Alright” He swallows hard and Mills signals to him that she’ll return shortly.

When she does, she’s armed with a tape recorder and requests the paramedics leave them for a few moments before shutting both Castiel and herself in the back of the bus.

Castiel is thankful for the privacy as Mills sets the recorder between them.

“Please state your name for the record” Mills directs, eyeing him kindly.

“Detective Castiel Novak” He responds, staring directly at the unassuming black box that serves as the recording device.

“Alright, Detective, tell me what happened here today” Mills urges and Castiel does. He tells her much of the same as he told the first responding officer, sparing no detail.

Afterward, he’s taken to the station with the promise of retrieving his car later. For now, they need his bloodstained clothes for evidence and his badge until internal affairs completes their investigation. All standard procedure. Much like the department psychologist he’s ordered to see within twenty-four hours.

Meg waylays him on his way out of the station in borrowed clothes that fit him so poorly he can barely bend at the waist. Apparently, all the spare uniforms are meant for short men with a runner’s build, and while Cas is lean and fit, he has a little more muscle on his bones than these pants can comfortably accommodate.

“Cas! What the hell happened?” Meg questions, falling into step beside him as he makes for the parking lot. Officer Hannah is assigned to give him a ride to pick up his car but Meg waves her off. “I’ll take him” She assures, lending the other woman a smarmy smile as she hooks her elbow with Castiel’s and drags him in the direction of her car.

“I was planning on bringing donuts for everyone but stumbled across a mugger instead” Cas scrubs a hand over his face, glad for Meg’s familiar company.

“I heard there were two fatalities” Meg prods.

Cas shakes his head. “I’m done talking about it. You can read the report later”

Meg shoves him towards the passenger door and pulls open her own. “Well, I’m here if you decide you want to talk” She reminds, tone uncharacteristically sincere. Castiel is learning to look past Meg’s prickly exterior. She wears her cross attitude like a shield designed to protect her inner softness. “Tell you what” She nods as she shifts her tiny little sedan into gear. “We’ll get your car and I’ll follow you home. You can get changed and I’ll take you out for lunch”

Castiel groans and shakes his head. “That isn’t necessary” He tries to dismiss but Meg’s glare, but she doubles down and Cas gives in. Not being alone right now is probably for the best.

---

Hours later, Castiel still wants to take refuge in the bottom of a bottle. Preferably a large one. He hides his twitching nerves well, replaying this morning’s scene on repeat in his mind as he nods along to whatever Meg is babbling about.

He doesn’t want to relapse. Not again. But he doesn’t know how much more of Meg he can handle. "Meg, I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but I’m exhausted” He lets out a deep breath for effect and rubs at his eyes with the heels of his palms.

Meg arches a brow, staring at him from over the rim of her coffee cup. “You sure you’re good to be alone?” Her tone is hushed and slightly husky as she speaks in that smooth rhythm she’s managed to perfect.

Castiel nods, quirking a smile that he hopes is convincing. “I’ll be fine. I just wanna take another shower and crash” What he doesn’t say, is he still feels Sarah’s blood in his hands, and he needs to keep trying to scrub the sticky red liquid from his skin before he loses what might be left of his mind.

“I’m not gonna stop you, but I’d feel better if you had someone with you” Meg shrugs, pretending she doesn’t care when all Cas can see reflected in her smoky brown gaze is pity. And he hates pity.

“I’ll be fine” He assures, already standing from the padded bench of the coffee shop booth they’ve been occupying for the last hour. Lunch had turned into a movie, which turned into coffee and now he just wants to hide away from the world for a bit. He lays his coat over his arm and drops a ten on the table for his share of their order. “Thank you, Meg. I appreciate you being here for me” He smiles sincerely as he rests a hand on her shoulder on his way to the door.

“Take care of yourself, Clarence” Meg mutters, twisting on the bench and tracking his progress with her eyes.

The drive to his apartment goes quickly. Rush hour is long over, and the only people left on the road are moving along quickly. When he pulls into his assigned spot, he stares at the building forlornly, eyeing his darkened bedroom window with a heaviness in his heart he thought he had moved past years ago.

He sighs as he pushes himself from his car, shaking his head at his own melancholy. He has no business feeling pity for himself. Not when he took a life and failed to save another today.

Once inside, he turns every single light in his apartment on. He knows better than to let himself wallow in darkness no matter how much his eyes desire to rest.

His shower feels hotter than normal and he’s grateful for the skin reddening heat as he scrubs his body furiously. His hands and arms are already nearly raw from how many times he’s washed them, so he does his best to make the rest of his skin match.

When he finally exits the shower and wraps a towel around his waist, his skin is red and steaming. He finally almost feels clean.

He dresses in his softest lounge pants and a ratty old t-shirt that he’s had since his time in the academy and plops himself onto his couch with his feet propped up and the TV remote in his hand.

He skims through Netflix, but the longer he looks for something to watch, the more his discontent grows. His cellphone seems to be mocking him. Daring him to call someone. Meg, Gabriel, or the one person he’s doing his best not to think about.

Although, who else might understand what Castiel is feeling right now? Meg admitted that she’s never had to fire her weapon in the line of duty, she’s never shot anyone or been shot at. She’s never seen someone murdered in front of her. And Gabriel would have no idea how to comfort him beyond inappropriate and rather lewd jokes.

Before he can over think anything too much, he’s scooped his phone off the coffee table and into his hand, pulling up the one contact he promised himself he would delete and never did.

Me: Are you busy?

He hits send before he can stop himself and sets the phone on the cushion next to him, both hoping for and dreading a response. He mindlessly clicks on the first thing he sees on Netflix. Some movie called Outlaw King. He hums in satisfaction when he learns the movie stars Chris Pine, at the very least there will be eye candy to help keep his mind off this morning.

Ten minutes pass, Chris Pine’s character defeats some pompous Prince in a mock drunken duel that took a slightly too serious turn and he’s been forcibly engaged to a woman far too young to be his bride. Cas vaguely remembers learning the story of Robert the Bruce in history during school, and he’s certain this isn’t exactly how events unfolded in real life.

Michael: Never too busy for you, Angel

A text comes in with a gentle ping, quiet enough that the vibration against his leg is what draws the bulk of Castiel’s attention. He doesn’t bother pausing the movie when he opens his phone to read the text with a soft smile.

Me: Angel?

He can’t help the snort of a laugh and amused shake his head the nickname causes him to do. He could use a distraction right now and if Dean wants to be flirty, that will work for him.

Michael: Got something on your mind?

Dean responds, ignoring Castiel’s question, and Cas instantly feels a slight pang of guilt. He has been quite awful to Dean, and the man has been nothing but patient and kind in return. He takes a deep breath, debating whether he wants to flirt or dump the swirling guilt in his stomach onto the other man.

Of all the people he knows, Dean would be best poised to understand what Castiel is feeling right now.

Me: Yeah, actually. I was hoping you could help with something.

Cas chews on his lip and presses send.

Me: I mean, I don’t expect you to or anything.

He adds a second text, nervous butterflies kicking up a storm in his gut. He shouldn’t dump this on Dean. Not only is this inappropriate, but so far, he’s done nothing but try to kick Dean to the curb. He doesn’t deserve the man’s help.

Michael: I would be happy to help if I can.

Cas lets out a heavy breath, staring at his phone and tugging his lower lip between his teeth. He shouldn’t. He knows he shouldn’t. But, right now the urge to talk to Dean is more overpowering than his body’s desire to drown his sorrows in whiskey. That has to count for something, right?

Me: Have you ever had to watch someone die?

Cas writes and erases several times before he finally sends. Debating within himself whether to ask Dean how many people he’s killed, or to admit that he shot someone today, or even simply asking Dean how he deals with the life he leads. For as many times as Castiel has thought he wanted to be able to pull the trigger, this is the first time he actually has and he’s struggling more than he ever thought he would.

Maybe he would feel different if he had been able to save Sarah.

His phone begins to ring, the screen flashing MICHAEL, and Castiel sighs as he answers.

“Hello, Dean” He rumbles into the phone, surprising himself with how deep his voice has gone from the disuse of the last hours.

“What’s with your question, Cas? Are you ok?” Dean sounds concerned but Cas can’t help but assume that the man is simply being cautious. This tentative relationship they have is exactly that. Tentative. For all Dean knows, Castiel could be fishing for information to use against him.

“I was involved in a shooting this morning” Castiel admits, needing Dean to know that he isn’t asking as a cop. “I, I killed a man. But not before he murdered an innocent woman right in front of me”

“Jesus, Cas” Dean breathes into the phone. “I heard about that, reamed Mick a good one for leaving you alone” Dean murmurs into the phone, voice pitched low and tender. “I wanted to call, but after last time…” Dean trails off, tone full of uncertainty.

Cas feels tears prick behind his eyes lids as he clenches them closed, the movie playing on his screen forgotten as he shuts out the light of the room. “Not his fault” He whines, hating himself for his weakness but feeling the need to be open with Dean. He left earlier than normal, Mick couldn’t have expected that. Cas doesn’t need a babysitter anyway. “I couldn’t save her” Cas chokes a little on his words, feeling the tension in his chest coiling tighter. He can barely contain the gut-wrenching hurt he feels and the sticky wet feeling of blood on his hands returns.

“Can I come over?” Dean sounds as if he’s already on the move. Fabric rustles in Castiel’s ear and the firm slam of a door comes through the speaker clearly. Cas nods and covers his mouth with a hand before he remembers that Dean can’t hear his head rattling.

“Yes,” Cas nearly begs, needing some form of comfort before he collapses in on himself. Every part of his being that has been warning him against getting to know Dean falls silent. Hell, those voices have been growing quieter with each time he’s seen or spoken to the man and he’s just so tired of fighting.

“Thank you” Dean pleads, voice low and breathy. “Will you be ok if I hang up to drive? I can be there in a half hour”

Again, Castiel nods before remembering he needs to speak. “Yes. Please don’t get pulled over” He reminds, nearly huffing a laugh at the absurdity of being worried about someone like Dean getting pulled over for being on his cell phone.

“I’ll be careful. I promise” Dean does huff a soft laugh and Cas can hear the gentle shutting of a car door. “I’ll see you soon, Angel”

“Ok” Cas mumbles. He could swear he hears a smile in Dean’s voice when he hangs up and that thought buoys Castiel’s rapidly sinking mood. He doesn’t want to be a mess when Dean arrives, so he strips down for the fourth time today and cranks his shower as hot as it will go.

Dean said a half hour, so that means Cas has time to try and wash the blood away once more before confronting his own fears about giving in to his desire to be with Dean.

Fuck, how did he fall so far so quickly?

He’s still toweling off when a firm knock sounds on his door. Cas quickly throws his sweatpants and t-shirt back on before hurrying to the door in his bare feet. His hair is still tousled and damp, dripping slightly down the back of his neck but Dean isn’t someone he wants to keep waiting outside his door where anyone can see.

He opens the door and Dean’s eyes rake over his body from the top of his head to his bare feet. Cas watches the man swallow hard and his pupils dilate as Cas steps aside to let him in. “I was afraid you were gonna change your mind” Dean mumbles as Castiel shuts the door and flips the lock. As soon as the lock is secure, Dean pulls him into a crushing hug and holds on for what would be too long if Castiel didn’t so desperately need the contact.

“Dean” Castiel breathes, fisting his hands in the loose material of Dean’s shirt and holding him tightly. His heart tightens and releases as he forces himself to give in and let himself have this.

Being this close to Dean is far easier and more comforting than it should be. Even if their situation were different, they barely know each other. So why does Cas feel like the only time he doesn’t want to crawl out of his own skin is when he’s with Dean?

“Thank you for coming” Cas mutters into Dean’s shoulder, still clinging tightly to the other man.

“I’m surprised you wanted me” Dean admits, running a soothing hand up and down between Castiel’s shoulder blades. “But I’m glad”

“I’ve been an assbutt” Cas grumbles before pulling back just enough to meet Dean’s gaze with a wry smile.

Dean huffs a laugh and a closed mouth grin grows over his features. His eyes crinkle at the corners with amusement and Cas can’t help but smile back. “Assbutt?” Dean cocks his head, tone teasing.

“Shut up” Cas playfully pushes Dean’s shoulder, shaking his head at his own silliness. “I’m glad you’re here. I didn’t know who else might understand…” He drops his gaze to the floor, shoulders drooping with the weight of reality crushing down on him.

Dean cups Cas’ chin, nudging his gaze upward as he strokes a gentle thumb along the ridge of Castiel’s cheek. “I’m at your service, detective” Dean smirks but his eyes are open and honest.

“I’m not a detective tonight” Cas mumbles on a whisper, letting himself get lost in the depths of Dean’s mossy green eyes.

Dean hums, considering. “Then what are you?” He whispers, gaze steady but cautious.

Castiel swallows hard, breath catching in his throat as he stares into those endless green eyes. “Yours” He manages to mutter, tone barely a whisper as his heart begins to pound.

Dean smiles softly and leans forward just enough to make his intent clear, but he hesitates, giving Cas the opportunity to either pull away or close the distance.

Cas tips his chin upward and leans toward Dean, pressing their mouths together with calm and gentle intent. Their lips slide together slowly, and Cas’ eyes drift closed with the sense of peace that falls over him.

Dean is the first to pull back, brushing his fingers through the fine hairs at the back of Castiel’s neck as he watches Cas blink his eyes open. “Cas” He nearly whimpers, pulling Cas closer with the promise of more this time. He licks at the seam of Castiel’s mouth, begging for entrance and Cas parts readily so that their tongues brush together as Dean backs him to the couch.

Cas tumbles when the backs of his legs bump into the cushioned material and Dean quickly straddles his lap, planting himself just higher than Castiel as he presses the slightly smaller man into the soft material of the sofa.

Castiel’s hands roam over Dean’s back, pulling and tugging at his shirt to ruck the material up so that he can feel gloriously warm skin, bare, under his fingertips. Dean moans into their kiss, spurring Cas into action. He tugs on Dean’s shirt, urging the other man to lift his arms and let Cas finish pulling off the thin cotton garment.

Dean’s shirt falls to the floor and Cas mouths his way down Dean’s throat to his broad chest. He traces one scar, a thin line that runs just under Dean’s collar bone, with his tongue and leaves a trail of open-mouthed kisses on Dean’s marred flesh.

Dean drops his head back with a groan as Cas travels lower, swirling his tongue around the firm bud of his nipple before pinching the nub between his teeth. “Cas” Dean groans, voice trembling as his hands fumble to reach underneath the hem of Castiel’s well-worn tee. Cas leans forward enough for Dean to pull his shirt over his head and toss it aside. His heart races when Dean tangles his fingers in his hair and wrenches his head back, claiming his mouth in a demanding kiss.

Dean pulls away, eyes and fingers focusing on the pendant hanging from Castiel’s neck. The delicate piece of metal had been hidden by Castiel’s shirt, but now the defined lines of Saint Michael stand in stark relief against his bare skin. “You kept it” Dean whispers, disbelief apparent in his tone as he meets Castiel’s gaze.

Cas swears he sees relief flush over Dean’s features, and he finds himself smiling gently at the other man. “I did” He nods slightly before Dean surges forward to capture his lips in a searing kiss. Cas whimpers as tingles run over every inch of his skin while Dean plunders his mouth with his tongue. Why did he resist this for so long? Nothing has ever felt more right than having Dean on his lap, pressing him into the couch with hands exploring and searching over his bare skin.

Dean grinds downward, both of them moaning at the feel of their erections pressing together through their pants. “Please, Cas” Dean gasps against Castiel’s lips as his fingertips dig into Castiel’s shoulders.

“What, Dean?” Cas breathes between light kisses along the column of Dean’s throat.

“Don’t push me away again” The words leave Dean’s lips as a plea as he pulls himself closer to Castiel, arching his spine to better grind their clothed cocks together.

Cas grips Dean’s hips in response, bucking upward into Dean’s warm weight on top of him as he holds the other man tightly. “Not gonna let you go” Cas mutters, his nerves settling with each word as he knows them to be true.

Dean groans his happiness, drawing back just enough to meet Castiel’s gaze and Cas swears he can see the promise of devotion in those moss green eyes before Dean leans forward to capture his lips in a searing kiss. “Bedroom?” Dean mumbles against Castiel’s cheek as he draws his hands forward, thumbs brushing over Castiel’s nipples before dropping to dip his fingers into the waistband of Castiel’s lounge pants.

Cas groans, not wanting to move from the sofa but knowing they need to if this is to continue beyond grinding and roaming hands. He nods, tapping Dean’s ass with an open palm. Not enough to be considered a smack, but still firm enough to get the other man moving.

Dean lets out a broken groan at the sharp snap of Castiel’s hand over his denim-clad ass. “Fuck, Cas” His breath shudders as he backs himself off Cas’ lap and extends a hand to pull the other man to his feet.

Castiel’s hands go directly for Dean’s belt as he pushes the man toward his bedroom. He knows they need to talk but now isn’t the time. Cas needs this distraction more than words right now and he’s done fighting his desire for Dean.

By the time he’s pushing Dean backward onto his bed, Cas has gotten the other man’s belt undone and fly open with his hand dipping inside to cup the hard line of Dean’s cock through his underwear.

“Fuck” Dean hisses, frantically scrabbling to tug Castiel’s sweats over his hips. “Fuck me, Cas” Dean whines as Cas tugs Dean’s jeans down his hips and off his legs.

Cas freezes at Dean’s words, staring into Dean’s eyes with surprise. “You” He swallows hard. “You want me to…?” He can’t bring himself to finish his sentence. He would love to be inside Dean. And now that Dean’s suggested it, the thought causes nearly unbearable heat to pool deep in his gut and his cock twitches with interest.

“Inside me. Please, Cas” Dean begs and Castiel’s stomach clenches with arousal as those green eyes stare at him in earnest. “I wanna feel you”

Cas swallows hard, nearly ready to squeeze the base of his cock to stave off the impending orgasm caused only by Dean’s words and kisses. Why did he ever want to resist this man? He’s finding the reasons harder and harder to remember when he leans in for another kiss, pressing Dean back into the mattress as Cas climbs over him.

He opens Dean up quickly, fingers slick with lube with Dean arching his hips off the bed each time Castiel’s deft fingers brush over his prostate. “M’ready. Please” Dean begs, voice cracking with desire at he pushes onto Cas’ fingers as they pump in and out of his stretched hole.

Cas groans his appreciation for the man spread out beneath him and he reaches for a condom. “How do you want me?” Cas breathes, unrolling the latex sheath over his dick and rubbing his other hand over Dean’s thigh.

“Like this” Dean pulls his legs back and splays his knees in invitation. “Wanna see you” He reaches for Cas, pulling him down into a messy kiss.

Cas takes the opportunity to slick his cock with more lube before lining himself up with Dean’s stretched and waiting hole. Dean arches his back, urging Cas forward, and Cas is happy to oblige. They both gasp when Cas catches on Dean’s rim and begins to sink in slowly, stretching Dean wider than he was on Castiel’s fingers.

“Dean” Cas whines, the tight heat surrounding his cock sends sparks skittering up his spine and he has to clench his eyes closed and force himself to take a deep breath to keep from snapping his hips and burying himself to the hilt inside of Dean.

He pushes in as slow as he can tolerate, inching forward with his gaze fixated on Dean’s slightly parted lips and tightly closed eyes. Dean’s breathy moans fascinate Cas, especially when he finally bottoms out and tries his best to hold still, giving Dean time to adjust. Dean’s eyes crack open, a slight flash of green appearing before Dean presses his head back into the pillow, arching his neck so that Cas loses sight of those beautiful eyes. He takes advantage of Dean’s position and leans down to place heated kisses along the column of Dean’s throat, focusing on alternating sucks and swipes of his tongue over Dean’s pulse point.

He gives an experimental rock of his hips, gauging Dean’s reaction. Those brilliant green eyes turn towards Cas, fixating on the pendant hanging between them from Castiel’s throat. The way Dean watches the medal swing makes Cas preen internally, thankful for his inability to discard Dean’s gift. “Move” Dean croaks, thrusting up gently to meet the rocking of Castiel’s hips.

Cas leans forward to capture Dean’s lips in another kiss before pushing himself up for leverage. He draws back, nearly pulling out, before snapping his hips forward and burying himself inside that tight channel once again.

Dean gasps as Cas sets a steady rhythm; their moans fill the air as they chase their climax. Cas feels the tension coiling low in his belly and he tightens a hand around Dean’s cock, pumping him in time with his thrusts.

Dean cries out at the contact, bucking his hips upward and urging Castiel to go harder, faster. Cas releases his grip on Dean’s cock to hitch his legs higher, nearly placing Dean in his lap as he pounds into the man.

Dean nearly screams when Cas strikes his prostate, cock leaking a steady stream of pre-come onto his stomach between them. Cas straightens, drawing his shoulders back as he drives into Dean, taking care to press against his prostate with each pass, driving Dean closer and closer to the edge as Cas struggles to hold on.

His hand returns to Dean’s cock, pumping him roughly as Dean’s hands grip Castiel’s hips harshly. “So close” Dean croaks, throwing his head back as Cas pounds into him. “Gonna…” Dean doesn’t finish his sentence before his cock begins to spurt and Castiel’s thrusts lose their rhythm in the face of Dean’s tight clenching around him, pushing him to careen over the cliff he’s been holding back from.

“Fuck, Dean” Castiel cries out when he buries himself into Dean as he reaches his climax, rocking his hips as his lips part in ecstasy as his orgasm washes over him before exploding outward through his cock to fill the condom.

They lay panting, trying to catch their breath as Cas drops his sweaty brow to Dean’s chest. Dean runs light fingers along the ridge of Castiel’s spine and over his shoulder blades, eliciting a shiver from the man before Cas cracks a small huff of laughter.

Dean lifts his head to press a kiss into Castiel’s hair before dropping back with a grin.

Cas’ heart swells at Dean’s sweet gesture and he lifts his chin to flash the man a smile before rolling off him and settling on his back. Dean immediately rolls onto his side to face him and they lay grinning at each other. Castiel’s mind is blessedly quiet, free from the reminders of his day that he knows are lurking underneath the post orgasmic haze clouding his thoughts.

Cas rolls away to quickly dispense of the condom, tying it off and tossing it towards the trash bin he finally got around to placing in the corner of his bedroom. When he returns to face Dean, he finds his hand gathered in Dean’s and pressed close to the man’s chest. Dean’s expression is dreamy and happier than Cas has seen him yet. Cas preens, knowing he’s put that blissed-out look on Dean’s face, and he grins towards the other man.

Reality begins to seep back into the recesses of Castiel’s thoughts, clouding the moment with gloom and uncertainty.

“What’s wrong?” Dean must notice the change in Castiel’s expression because he questions quietly. He releases Castiel’s hand in favor of brushing light fingertips over Castiel’s brow and down his cheek as he leans in to press a chaste kiss to Castiel’s lips.

Cas swallows hard and forces a smile. “Hard day” He mutters, not quite willing to share the internal panic building in his chest. He wants this, he wants to be with Dean and he wants to trust him. The consequences are what he worries about. How can he reconcile dating someone like Dean when he’s a cop? He can’t. He simply can’t. But what other choice does he have?

“Tell me?” Dean tugs Cas closer, brushing fingers through the unruly hair atop Castiel’s head.

“Maybe later” Cas yawns, only half pretending. “Can you stay?” He shouldn’t be asking this, but Dean’s warm presence at his side is soothing in more ways than it is distressing.

“For you, anything” Dean breathes, rolling onto his back and tugging Castiel with him. “But, a shower would be nice” He adds absently.

“That can be arranged” Cas mumbles, feeling the edges of sleep tugging at him despite his rapidly growing interest in perhaps sharing a shower with Dean. The man is beautiful, despite his scars. Maybe even because of them. Dean wears the old wounds more confidence than Cas could ever manifest. He itches to trace each line with his tongue and line them with kisses but he's too tired right now. Maybe in the morning.

Instead, he lets Dean hold him close for another moment before pushing away to dig a clean towel out of the closet for Dean to use. He doesn’t bother covering himself and watching Dean hungrily watch his movements sends a shiver of a thrill through him. “Shower?” He flashes a smile, holding out a hand to beckon the other man out of bed.

Chapter Text

            Cas wakes slowly to a warm weight against his back and the faint glow of sunlight seeping through his curtains. He turns his head on the pillow, looking down to see a strong arm wrapped around his middle and a smile creeps over his face. He snuggles back into Dean, not caring about the half hard cock pressing against the cleft of his ass.

Dean tightens his grip on Castiel with a mumbled demand of mine against Cas’ hair before he burrows his nose into the back of Castiel’s neck.

Cas hums happily at the contact and nestles deeper into the soft bedsheets, knowing this early morning peace can’t last, but he’s determined to enjoy it while he can.

“You’re awake” Dean grumbles against the bare skin of his neck, tickling the fine hairs and drawing a smile out of Castiel.

“You stayed” Cas observes, beyond pleased to still be in Dean’s arms but unsure how to voice that. He reaches for Dean’s hand, the one draped over his side and tangles their fingers together with a smile.

Dean hums, shifting his hips so that his morning wood rubs against the swell of Cas’ ass. “You asked me to” Cas can feel Dean’s smile against his skin, and he shifts his hips back to rub against Dean.

Dean lets out a filthy moan and hitches Cas closer. “Not getting rid of me now. No take backs” He mutters, clearly not entirely awake, but Cas can’t help the faint laugh at the man’s expense. He sounds like a petulant child, not a full grown and very powerful man.

“Well if I had known that…” Cas grumbles back, dropping his pitch to sound put upon, as if he’s about to change his mind now and he can feel Dean tense slightly behind him. He tried for weeks to resist Dean, but the man’s gentle persistence proved him to be irresistible. What’s the point of fighting the inevitable anymore? He tightens his hold on Dean’s hand to reassure the man. “I should have given in sooner”

“Not gonna argue there” Dean squeezes him tighter in a backward hug, placing a chaste kiss at the base of Cas’ neck.

Just then, the ringing of Castiel’s phone cuts through their quiet bubble and both men groan unhappily. Dean holds him tighter as Cas reaches for his phone. “Dean” He whines, pulling harder to get away. Dean relents, loosening his hold just enough for Cas to grasp his phone before reeling him in again. “Shit, it’s Meg” Cas tries to sit up, but Dean refuses to let him move. “Dean, I gotta take this. She isn’t above just showing up unannounced and that can’t happen!” Cas tries to fight down the impending panic at the thought of his partner walking in to find him in bed with Dean.

That would solve his problems very quickly, and not in a good way.

“Then answer” Dean grumbles, still refusing to let go.

Cas huffs a sigh, shaking his head. “Be quiet” He demands, already lifting his phone to find the answer button.

“Silent as a mouse” Dean confirms before pressing another kiss to Cas’ neck.

Cas shakes his head with an amused smile as he hits the button to accept the call and presses the phone to his ear. “Novak” He grumbles, sounding completely unhappy with the interruption. And he is. Very unhappy.

“Wow, you answered on my first try. Color me impressed” Meg snarks into the phone and Cas rolls his eyes.

“What do you want, Meg?” His eye roll seeps into his tone and he can feel Dean huff a laugh against his back.

“Just checking to make sure you’re still alive. I worry, you know,” mock disdain is evident in her tone as if Castiel should already know why she would be calling him.

“Clearly I am” Cas grumbles, feigning annoyance.

“How about I come pick you up for breakfast?” She half asks, half demands.

“No” Castiel bites, eyes widening. “I...uh, I was up late. Still in bed. Not hungry” He stammers, trying to think of every excuse he can that isn’t telling her he has one of their department's most wanted in his bed.

“Up late?” Suspicion colors her tone and Cas can hear her shifting her grip on the phone.

“Yeah” He nods even though he knows she can’t see him before a genuine yawn breaks through. “I promise, I’m ok. Just tired” He mutters, settling back into the pillow.

“You know you’ve got to check in with IA today, right?” Meg moves on but her tone is still skeptical.

“Yes, I know. Internal affairs has me down for three o'clock. Right after I have my head shrunk” He rolls his eyes, reciting the time Jody had set up for him yesterday.

“Don’t miss it” Meg demands, her tone harsh.

“Don’t plan to” Cas yawns again. “I’ll stop by and talk to you after” He mumbles, shimmying back into Dean’s warmth. Dean responds with another kiss to Castiel’s neck and a firm squeeze around his middle.

“Is someone with you?” Meg questions at the same time Cas’ eyes blow wide and he clamps a hand over his mouth. He hummed at Dean’s touch, a heady and pleased sound that one does not make unless someone else is drawing it out of them.

“Ah” Cas stumbles, swallowing hard. “No, just the TV” He makes up the excuse despite having no TV in his bedroom. He hopes that maybe Meg hadn’t noticed when she was there.

“Uh huh” Meg sounds doubtful. “You sure you’re ok?” She asks again, sounding as if seriously entertaining the idea of dropping in to check for herself. Castiel can almost see the little crease between her eyes as her brows scrunch together and the little pout that she’s so good at.

“I’m sure. Nothing to worry about. I promise” He assures her, and half prays that’s his words are enough to dissuade her from coming over.

“Alright” She doesn’t sound pleased, but she sounds resigned enough to leave him alone. “Call me if you need anything”

“I will” Cas rushes to say. “See you later, Meg” He yawns again, hoping that he sounds as tired as he feels.

“Behave yourself, Clarence” Meg demands before Cas hears the click of a dial tone in his ear.

His brows knit together in annoyance at her abrupt end to their call, but he’s decided that must be how she shows she cares.

“Everything ok?” Dean rumbles behind him. Cas can feel the vibrations of the man’s bare chest against his back and he sighs into the touch. Dean’s voice is low and rough from disuse over the night, but he sounds more awake then had before Meg’s call.

“Yeah. Gotta go into the station later” Cas snorts, half a laugh and half out of derision. He sighs as he pushes free from Dean’s grip and sits himself up at the edge of the bed. His hands find their way to his face, scrubbing over his stubble as he blinks at the wall. “What am I going to do?” He shakes his head, the doubts still swirling in his gut from the night before returning full force. How can he be with Dean and be a cop? He won’t be a dirty cop. He simply won’t. But what choice does he have?

“What do you mean?” Dean props himself up on an elbow behind him but doesn’t scoot closer. Cas can hear the tender confusion lacing his tone and he wants to fall back into Dean’s embrace, but he needs the small bit of space right now.

“Us” Cas shakes his head, turning just enough to meet Dean’s gaze. “I can’t...” Cas starts but Dean stops him.

“Please don’t. Cas, you promised” Dean pleads as his eyes harden, but his expression falls just enough for Cas to know that anger isn’t the feeling Dean is battling.

“No, no no no” Cas whispers hurriedly, leaning forward to pepper kisses along Dean’s brow. “I’m not changing my mind. But, I’m a cop, Dean. You have to be able to see how this might make my life difficult. Our lives difficult” He gestures between them. “I don’t want to throw my career away, I’ve never wanted to be anything else” He glances down with a frown. He barely knows Dean, he can’t just walk away from everything he’s ever known for a stranger.

Dean reaches for Cas’ hand, pulling it closer and stroking his thumb over Castiel’s knuckles. “I get it, I do” He places a gentle kiss to the back of Cas’ hand. “You can’t work to arrest me and date me at the same time,” He says aloud but the words sound more like a thought than an actual statement.

“Is that what you want? Us to date?” Cas cocks his head in question, not bothering to pull his hand back. The warmth blooming in his chest causes a smile to grow across his cheeks. He likes the sound of that.

Dean lets his hand go and reaches for the pendant still hanging against Cas’ chest. “Well, yeah. I thought that was obvious” He flashes a cocky grin, but it doesn't meet his eyes.

Cas nods. “I had hoped, but...” He looks away, chewing his lip. “I didn’t know whether you wanted more, or if I was just some conquest. So you could see how badly you can screw over the cop…or something like that”

Dean’s brows furrow and a stone sinks in Castiel’s stomach. “No” Dean shakes his head. “I mean, the thought crossed my mind that first night. I won’t lie about that. But, not anymore. Not since you called me that night, after I left this” He bats at the pendant with a soft smile before turning his gaze to meet Castiel’s.

Cas looks back to that night, remembering how angry he was with Dean. His hands had been trembling as he selected Dean’s number from his phone, the number he should have deleted. “I yelled at you” Cas mutters.

“You did” Dean smiles. “Not many people have the guts to do that” His smile grows. “And you kept my number” Dean reaches out to boop the tip of Castiel’s nose with a playful smile.

Cas chuckles, shaking his head. “I did” He nods, trying to force a frown but failing so he decides to flop back on the bed instead of continuing to stare at Dean. He shakes his head with a groan. “I am such a fuck up” He grumbles into his fingers, scrubbing his hands over his face.

“Hey,” Dean urges, reaching for Castiel’s hands to tug them away from his face. “Look at me,” Dean pulls Cas’ hand into his own, leaning over the other man so that he has no choice but to meet Dean’s gaze. “You are not a fuck up” He leans down to draw Cas into an easy kiss. Their mouths move together slowly and Cas hums into the contact. “We’ll figure something out” Dean promises when he draws away, only leaving an inch between them.

Cas sucks in a deep breath, breathing in the faint sour note of Dean’s morning breath and huffing a bitter laugh as he shakes his head. He wants to believe Dean, but how can they reconcile this? Their occupations are irreconcilable.

“Give me a chance to show you” Dean leans his forehead to Castiel’s as if sensing where Cas’ thoughts are going. “Spend some time with me this weekend”

“And do what?” Cas can’t help but ask, curiosity piqued. The file he had read about Dean made some very bold accusations, but the department hasn’t been able to come up with enough proof to bring Dean to trial.

Dean glances to him nervously before shaking his head with a wry smile. “You sure you’re not the one playing a game? Maybe Austin PD is trying a new angle to get to me?” Dean throws a cocky a grin and his tone is playful, but Cas can see the wariness in his gaze.

Cas hates the lack of trust, but he understands. “Give me a chance to show you” Cas repeats Dean’s words back to him as he surges up to press his lips to Dean’s and grips Dean’s shoulder to pull him down. Dean chuckles into the kiss before drawing back.

“You didn’t answer my question” He narrows his eyes with suspicion but a smile curls at the corners of his mouth.

Cas grins, gummy and bright. “I swear on my life, I am not on a secret assignment to collect evidence against you” He places a hand over his heart as a promise, fingers brushing against the edge of the Saint Michael pendant laying against his bare chest. He resists the urge to add on ‘at least not until you prove to be the monster the department thinks you are’. He can’t imagine that would go over well, but the thought still swirls in the back of his minds like a stubborn fog refusing to lift.

The smile that grows over Dean’s features is genuine if not small. “I suppose that will have to do” He leans forward to kiss the tip of Castiel’s nose. “Breakfast?” Dean suggests hopefully just as Castiel’s stomach rumbles. Dean narrows his eyes and glances towards Cas’ midsection. “Did you eat last night?” He raises an accusing brow and Castiel shakes his head in annoyance.

“Yes, mother” Cas rolls his eyes to match the shaking of his head as he shifts his hips under Dean, pushing up slightly to draw the other man’s attention a little further south. He may be hungry, but the naked man leaning over him in his bed is far more appetizing. His tongue darts out to lick his lips as he imagines getting his mouth on Dean, his hand begins to drift toward Dean’s hip without a second thought as he blinks up at Dean through his lashes, hoping to lure him into staying a little bit longer.

Dean hums, looking down at Cas with a crooked smile that promises trouble. “You don’t get to sass me and still get what you want” He mutters through his smile as he shakes his head sadly.

Cas arches a daring brow, fighting back his own smile at Dean’s teasing tone. “I suppose I can just take care of myself in the shower if you don’t want to help” He shrugs against his pillow, trying his best to force down his smile and adopt an air of indifference.

Dean’s eyes darken as he lowers his shoulder to the mattress, still propped over Cas but low enough now to brush gentle kisses along Castiel’s shoulder as his palm settles over Castiel’s stomach.

Cas breathes in sharply when Dean’s calloused palm slides over his belly, traveling down along his hip and over his thigh. Cas bites his lip and whines when Dean’s hand avoids the spot Castiel wants his touch the most. Dean chuckles at Cas’ unhappy mewl, brushing his fingertips around to the inside of Cas’ thigh, inches from the man’s hardening cock.

“You want my hands on you?” Dean whispers in Cas’ ear, his warm breath tickling the fine hairs of Castiel’s hairline. “You think your own hands in the shower will be enough?”

Cas shivers, a coil of want building deep in his stomach, tugging at his arousal from the inside out and his cock twitches heavily at the Dean’s seductive tone. He shakes his head, admitting he would rather have Dean’s hands on him than his own and his hips buck upwards, pleading for Dean’s touch. “Want you” Cas manages to croak out, blue eyes locking onto Dean’s green ones.

“I think that can be arranged” Dean mutters as he props himself up on his elbow high enough to trap Cas in a deep kiss. Cas surges up to meet him, tongue quickly licking along the seam of Dean’s lips and delving inside the instant Dean opens to him.

Cas hums languidly, angling himself toward Dean just enough to reach for the man’s hip and draw their erections together. Dean’s hand moves out of the way quickly, pulling Cas in by the hip until they’re pressed together from chests to knees.

“Wanna ride you” Dean mutters as he works on turning them, so Cas is lying flat against the mattress once more and Dean’s pushes himself up to straddle Castiel’s hips. Cas bucks up against him and lets out a strangled moan of the best kind of disbelief.

“Anything you want” Cas manages to get out in a rush of breath, scarcely believing Dean can possibly be real. The thought of being inside Dean for a second time has his dick hardening with a near painful twitch, the image of Dean above him like this has his heart hammering in his chest with excitement. If this is what being with Dean is going to make him feel, then he doesn’t think he’ll ever get enough.

Dean bites his lip and glances to the bottle of lube and condoms still laying on Castiel’s nightstand, a look of doubt fluttering across his gaze nearly too quickly for Cas to notice.

But he does notice.

“You don’t have to” Cas immediately offers, running his palms up Dean’s thighs towards his hips. If Dean wants to fuck him instead, Cas would be more than happy to oblige.

Dean cocks his head back and looks at Castiel as if he were insane. “I want to” He leans down to capture Cas’ lips in a heated kiss as he reaches over to grab the lube off the table. “It’s just…we should get tested” He manages to almost complete his thought and Cas cocks his head at him when he draws back. “Hate condoms” Dean mutters, shaking his head sadly at the little foil packet.

Understanding dawns and Cas finds himself nodding. “We can do that” Warmth blooms in his chest at the thought of Dean wanting to feel him bare. The implications of forgoing condoms. “If we’re going to be exclusive, we can definitely do that” Cas smiles hopefully as he continues to stroke Dean’s thighs.

“Good” Dean nods firmly. “Just so we’re clear. I’m a one person at a time kind of guy. Don’t do casual” Dean rolls his hips as he reaches behind himself with a lubed finger.

“You did me” Cas offers playfully, trying to keep his own hips still as he watches Dean prep himself above him.

Dean huffs a laugh, shaking his head. “Not normal for me. Jus something about you” Dean tips his head back in pleasure as he adds another finger. Cas reaches to help but Dean pushes his hand away. “Almost ready” He manages to moan, turning his gaze back to Castiel.

Cas watches with rapt attention as the smooth planes of muscle across Dean’s chest and down his sides shift smoothly under his skin, with the faintest outline of his ribcage to be seen. He can hardly wait to be inside Dean once again, scarcely believing that someone like Dean wants to be filled with his cock like this. “Dean” Cas manages to whine, sliding his hands up and down Dean’s sides before settling on his hips and gripping tightly. He tugs Dean down and lifts his hips to meet him, grinding his hard cock against Dean’s balls.

“Condom” Dean reaches out a hand towards the nightstand as a breath of laughter escapes at Castiel’s impatience.

Cas is quick to reach over and tear the foil wrapper with his teeth before extending the packet toward Dean’s outstretches hand. He would have rolled the condom on himself, but Dean seems too eager to deny.

Dean makes short work of rolling the rubber onto Castiel’s hard cock, giving Cas an easy smirk as he lifts his hips and lines himself up while he holds Cas where he wants him. Cas fights the urge to thrust upward, chewing on his lower lip as he tries to hold back his drawn-out moan when Dean finally begins to sink down.

Castiel’s blue eyes are blown wide as Dean’s tight heat envelopes his cock, his gaze fixated on the column of Dean’s throat, the man’s head dropped back, and eyes closed as he carefully lowers himself.

Dean sinks down steadily, and Cas rocks his hips ever so slightly until he bottoms out against the swell of Dean’s ass. “Fuck, Cas” Dean hisses, rocking his hips in time with Castiel’s tiny thrusts.

Cas bites his lip harder, struggling to stay still until Dean is ready. This is all so much. Dean feels like a vice around his cock and it takes everything Cas has not to thrust into that perfect heat. Cas watches the man above him with rapt attention, carefully cataloging every expression that ghosts over Dean’s face and feeling his heart swell with affection at each one.

Dean is beautiful like this, open and unguarded, relaxed. Those green eyes stare down at Cas with more care than he could have ever hoped for. The tightness in his chest begins to loosen, the churning doubts slow and settle with how right this feels. He strokes his hands up and down Dean’s trembling thighs, up his hips and down to cup his ass and tug him forward just the tiniest amount.

Dean lets himself fall forward with a pleased hum, bracing his hands against Castiel’s chest and leaning down to kiss Cas slowly as he gives his hips an experimental lift. Cas gasps into the kiss at Dean’s slight movement, the gasp turning into a drawn-out moan when Dean drops down and rises again almost immediately.

Dean pulls out of the kiss and Cas throws his head back against the pillow, struggling to hold himself still as Dean begins a steady rhythm of rocking and then bouncing up and down on Cas’ cock. “Dean” Cas whines, hands scrabbling to take hold of Dean’s hips.

Dean grinds down, clenching around Castiel and Cas gives up trying to hold still. Dean lifts up and Cas pushes his hips down as his fingers tighten against the tender skin of Dean’s hips. Cas pulls him down hard as his hips snap up and they both moan their pleasure at his sharp thrust.

Dean moves faster, slamming himself down on Cas’ cock, their gazes locked as he chases his climax. He frowns as sweat beads along his brow and Cas tightens his grip on Dean’s hip, helping him along as much as he can from this position. Dean’s movements steadily become erratic, legs trembling and tiring. “Cas, I can’t…” Dean whines swallowing hard as he tips his head back, hips rocking steadily.

Cas’ breath hitches at the sight of Dean’s throat moving, the light sheen of sweat covering his skin. Cas runs his hands over Dean’s trembling thighs, admiring the view he’s presented with. Three little words come to mind unbidden and Cas swallows them down with annoyance. It is too soon for such declarations, but Cas’ heart is already stumbling down that path and he feels powerless to put on the brakes.

Dean slows to a stop, chest heaving and muscles tight above Cas. “Move” Cas taps Dean’s thigh lightly before sitting up, propping himself on his elbows as he jerks his head towards the bed behind him. “Knees, brace yourself on the headboard”

Dean nods and pulls himself off Cas, hissing when Castiel’s cock slides free from his overused hole. He settles into place, high on his still trembling knees with his hands gripping the top edge of the headboard as Cas settles behind him.

Cas takes the opportunity to slick his cock with more lube, hurriedly wiping the excess off on the sheets he knows will need to be changed. He presses his chest to Dean’s back and wraps his arms around the other man, skating his fingertips over the firm muscle of Dean’s chest before pinching his nipples and giving a sharp twist.

“Cas!” Dean cries out, pushing his hips back against Castiel’s erection with a tortured whine.

Cas shushes him, trailing kisses up Dean’s neck to the shell of his ear. He grips his own cock with one hand and keeps toying with Dean’s chest with the other. Dean whimpers and shifts his ass back against Cas, not quite willing to beg as Cas’ hand slides down over his stomach and grips his cock loosely.

Cas mouths at the back of Dean’s neck as he pushes forward, burying himself quickly inside of Dean’s well-stretched ass once more. Dean moans at the intrusion, pushing back to hurry Cas along. Cas gasps at the sensation, the delicious heat, and tightness as Dean clenches around him. He squeezes the base of Dean’s cock, earning a grunt of protest as Dean’s head drops and hangs from his shoulders.

Cas continues to press open-mouthed kisses over every bit of Dean’s skin that he can reach, tracing the highest scars with his tongue as he draws back and slams forward.

Dean lets out a strangled, garbled, cry; urging Cas to move faster, harder. Cas quickly picks up his pace, slamming into Dean over and over again, angling his hips to strike Dean’s prostate on nearly every thrust.

Dean’s cock twitches in Castiel’s hand but he keeps his fingers firmly circled around the base. Dean whimpers and bucks, pushing his hips back to meet Castiel’s thrusts as Cas’ free hand grips his shoulder tightly.

Cas hauls Dean closer to him, pounds into him harder. “Cas!” Dean whines, lifting a hand off the headboard to reach for his cock.

“No” Cas demands before pressing his teeth into the meat of Dean’s shoulder, hard enough to leave a mark.

Dean gasps and his hand flies back to the headboard, cursing as Cas laves his tongue over the tooth-shaped indents in his skin.

Cas feels his orgasm building low in his gut, balls drawing up and muscles clenching in anticipation. He loosens his grip on Dean’s cock and pumps his hand in time with his thrusts. He can’t help but be mesmerized by the sheen of sweat covering Dean’s body, the slight tremble in his legs as he submits himself to Castiel’s ministrations. “So good, Dean” Cas breathes against Dean’s overheated skin, lips brushing lightly over the shell of his ear.

“Cas” Dean chokes out. “Gonna…”

“Come for me” Cas tightens his grip as he begins to fall over the edge, rhythm stuttering and jaw-dropping open with the explosion of pleasure ripping through him. Dean bucks in his grasp as he follows Cas over that cliff, cock spurting and coating Castiel’s hand as his breathing comes in ragged gasps.

“Fuck” Dean whines, shoulders sagging as Cas pumps them through the aftershocks.

Cas huffs with a fond smile. “You can say that again” He releases his hold on Dean as he pulls back, his softening cock slipping free. He settles back on his heels and wraps his arms around Dean, drawing him closer until he’s nearly sitting on Castiel’s lap.

Dean drops his head back with a hum, settling into Castiel’s arms readily. Castiel’s heart flutters when Dean turns his head to meet Cas’ gaze with a satisfied smile creeping over his lips. “You ok?” Cas questions softly before pressing a gentle kiss to Dean’s brow.

Dean swallows hard and nods. “Keep fucking me like that, and you’ll never get rid of me” He mutters, voice hoarse and sleepy.

Cas can’t help his chuckle and humored shake of his head as he guides Dean to lay down. The butterflies in his stomach give a delighted swoop with Dean’s words and Cas tells himself that he’s only pleased because he satisfied his lover. Not because Dean mentioned never getting rid of him as a possibility. “I’ll hold you to that” Cas leans over Dean and draws him into an easy kiss as he strips off the condom and drops it into the waste bin.

“Let’s run away together,” Dean says as Cas snuggles against his side. “We could leave everything behind, start over”

Cas’ brows arch against the warm skin covering Dean’s ribs. “Where would we go?” He decides to humor Dean for a moment. Running away from their problems is a ridiculous idea but letting himself pretend for a moment feels nice.

“Argentina” Dean answers simply and Cas huffs a laugh as he lifts his chin.

“Argentina?” Cas arches a brow as his eyes meet Dean’s. “Like Butch and Sundance?”

Dean grins and nods, tugging Cas closer. “Just like Butch and Sundance”

Cas rolls his eyes against the warm fondness growing in his chest. “You’re an old western fan, aren’t you?” Cas pretends to judge.

“Come on, don’t tell me you never had a crush on Paul Newman” Dean nudges Cas back so that he can look into the man’s eyes.

Cas shrugs, the motion slightly abortive due to the simple fact that he’s lying on his side, barely propped on his elbow so that he can look at the expression of slight disbelief on Dean’s features. “I’ve always been more of a Robert Redford kind of guy”

Dean cocks his head and stares into Castiel’s eyes as if considering his answer and weighing his response.

For a moment, Cas begins to worry that he has somehow screwed up. The way Dean is looking at him makes Cas’ stomach flip and a false laugh and easy dismissal begin to develop on the tip of his tongue before Dean breaks into a wide smile.

“I can respect that” Dean nods and Cas lets out a breath. “I’ll be Butch, you can be Sundance” He shrugs again. “You know, when I was a kid, I always thought I was gonna grow up to be a hero”

Cas barks a laugh and nods. “Well, it’s too late now”

Dean feigns offense, pulling away from Cas and pressing his growing smile into a flat line. “What’d you have to go and say something like that for?”

Cas laughs, dropping his forehead to Dean’s bare shoulder as his eyes clench closed and his shoulders shake. “We can’t go to Argentina” He shakes his head, looking up to Dean with a sparkle of mirth in his eyes. “Butch and Sundance died running away to Argentina”

Dean gasps and brings a hand to his chest. “I refuse to believe that” He shakes his head. “They were just pretending”

“We can’t go to Argentina” Cas settles back against Dean, letting his head rest on Dean’s chest as he traces lazy circles over Dean’s ribs.

“Somewhere else then” Dean gives him a squeezing hug and holds Cas close. “Somewhere warm enough that you never need to wear clothes”

“Dean” Cas groans, trying to stifle an amused giggle. A slow and pleased smile spreads across his face and he presses a kiss to Dean's chest.

“What, you’re gorgeous. It should be a crime to cover you up so much” Dean says so simply, as if he finds the fact glaringly obvious, that a heated blush crawls over Castiel’s cheeks and he pushes up to draw Dean into a heated kiss just to shut him up.

Dean grins into the kiss and tries to drag Cas down on top of him but Cas swats his hand away. “Shower” Cas mutters against Dean’s plush and kiss-swollen lips just as the shrill ringing of an unfamiliar phone cuts through the quiet of Castiel’s bedroom.

“Shit” Dean sits up quickly, nearly smacking his forehead against Castiel’s. “Shit shit shit” Dean tumbles from the bed, legs trapped in the sheets as he scrambles to find his phone among the discarded clothes scattered about the room.

“Dean?” Cas cocks his head as he watches Dean search his pants pockets for the phone.

“It’s my brother” Dean’s voice is strained and nearly breathless as the ringing continues.

“Sam?” Cas joins Dean in the search, Dean’s sense of urgency bleeding into Castiel’s motions.

“Yeah” Dean nods jerkily just as Cas kneels on the floor beside the bed and reaches for the flashing and ringing phone that somehow ended up underneath.

“Here” Cas passes Dean the phone without looking at the screen, Dean’s wide-eyed look making him wonder if Sam calling is unusual or if Dean has been expecting news.

“Sammy” Dean breathes into the phone as he presses the device to his ear. Cas tosses Dean his robe off the back of the door and digs in his drawer for a pair of clean sweatpants that quickly follow the robe. He pulls a pair on himself, watching Dean settle at the edge of his bed out of the corner of his eye.

Sam must be going on and on because Dean remains mostly silent, only the occasional hum and whispered thanks to Cas when takes the offered clothing. “I’m gonna get coffee going” Cas points towards the bedroom door as he whispers and Dean nods with a pinched frown.

Cas takes a deep breath as he gently closes the door to give Dean some privacy for his phone call. The police officer within Cas wants to listen is so badly that his skin is itching with the need. His hand lingers on the doorknob for a beat too long and he berates himself for his weakness. He promised Dean that he would give the man a chance and not spying on him is part of it.

He shakes his head in annoyance, noting the muffled quality of Dean’s voice through the door. His tone is harsh, clearly displeased with whatever Sam might be saying, and Cas forces himself to walk away.

He frowns to himself as he shuffles down the hall towards his bathroom. He quickly takes care of his morning needs and studies himself in the mirror, frowning at the way his complexion is brighter than he’s seen in weeks. The dark circles under his eyes are faded, a sign of how well he had slept in Dean’s arms.

He feels good and he shouldn’t. He shot someone only a day ago and witnessed that someone murder an innocent. But didn’t he murder that man? What was his name even? Cas shakes his head when he finds he can’t remember.

Some nameless, faceless, criminal who mugged an elderly couple and murdered an innocent girl.

Sarah.

Now her name, Castiel remembers.

He splashes his face with cold water, trying to pull his mind off the subject of yesterday. He committed murder, even if his actions are found to be within the bounds of the law, he still took a life. As if that weren’t bad enough, he called another murderer to comfort him.

He feels guilty for how unrepentant he feels.

He quickly towels off his face and pads out of the bathroom toward his coffee maker. He doesn’t know how Dean takes his, so he pulls out the milk and sugar as the pot brews. Just in case.

The coffee finishes brewing and still no Dean. Cas debates for a moment whether to pour a cup for Dean and poke his head in the room to give it to him but decides against that idea. He doesn’t know if Dean likes sugar or cream or even if Dean is a coffee drinker. He doesn’t want to assume.

So, Cas pours himself a cup and blows on it as he leans against the kitchen counter. Years on the police force has trained him to enjoy his coffee black and he sees no need to change that.

“Coffee?” Dean almost calls as the bedroom door cracks open and Cas pushes off the counter to reach for the mug he set out for the man.

“Everything ok?” Cas asks, head cocked slightly at the sound of Dean approaching behind him. Strong arms wrap around his middle and Dean pulls him into an embrace as Cas attempts to pour the hot coffee. “Careful!” Cas chastises with a laugh as he narrowly avoids splashing his fingers. He leans back against Dean’s bare chest regardless, enjoying the feeling of skin against skin and the simple domesticity of standing in the kitchen around the coffee pot.

Dean nuzzles into the side of his throat with a grumble but otherwise remains quiet.

“How do you take it?” Cas leans back, letting Dean support some of his weight.

Dean hums against the skin of Castiel’s neck, nibbling lightly. “Hard and fast” He mutters, and Cas barks a laugh.

“I’ve noticed, but I’m talking about the coffee” Cas teases.

“In that case, dark and bitter” Dean reaches to take the mug out of Castiel’s hands and takes a step back.

“A man after my own heart” Cas collects his mug and lifts it as a toast. Dean smiles but the gesture doesn’t meet his eyes and Castiel’s heart sinks just a little.

Dean must notice Castiel’s smile fade because his shoulders deflate with a sigh. He shakes his head as if choosing his words carefully. “Wanna meet my brother?” Dean offers with a shy little grin that looks like it belongs on a little boy rather than a grown man.

“Meet the family? This soon?” Cas grins but brings a finger to his lips in exaggerated thought. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that” He plays coy, but Dean’s smile vanishes entirely.

“Yeah, I suppose it is kinda early for that” Dean nods, mouth pressed into a firm line as he watches Cas for signs of betrayal.

“Hey, I’m just kidding” Cas reaches out a hand to rest of Dean’s arm. He knows little about Sam Winchester, only what was written in the slim file the police he’s read. “Is everything ok?”

“Peachy” Dean grins one of the fakest grins to ever be seen and Cas folds his arms over his chest, fixing the man with an unimpressed stare.

“You don’t have to tell me what’s going on” Cas continues to stare deep into Dean’s eyes. One of his unique talents is his soul-searching glare that can make even the strongest person squirm. Even Dean. “I understand that you don’t really trust me yet. Hell, I know I don’t entirely trust you” Cas shrugs, finally looking away as he chews his lip. “But I want to. If we’re going to try this, if we’re going to see where this thing between us goes” Cas steps forward, tone firm and unyielding. “We need to at least not lie to each other” Cas returns his gaze to Dean’s eyes, staring past his soul and into the very fiber of his being.

Dean shifts uncomfortably, glancing down to escape Castiel’s penetrating gaze but Cas doesn’t let him go. He closes the distance between them, denying any hope Dean may have had for escape. “Sam is back in town” Dean mumbles under his breath. “He’s in Austin and he shouldn’t be”

“How long has it been since you’ve seen him?” Cas runs a hand up Dean’s arm, trying his absolute best to not sound like a cop asking questions.

Dean shrugs. “Almost five years. Kid went to Stanford to become a lawyer. You can imagine how he feels about me” Dean’s pitch drops with a self-deprecating snort and shake of his head before turning his gaze back to meet Castiel’s. “Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to see him go. Didn’t want him involved in my shit” He shakes his head again and makes to turn away, but Cas stops him with a firm hold on his wrist.

“But, you miss him” Cas doesn’t ask, he can see the words written across Dean’s features as clearly as if the man had spoken them.

Dean nods. “He’s better off without me”

“Is that what he said? Or what you think?” Cas probes, remembering having this very conversation with Gabriel once upon a time. Granted, Gabriel was only going into the adult entertainment industry, not becoming the leader of an organized crime syndicate.

“He doesn’t need to say it, Cas” Dean rolls his eyes and his pitch rises as he weakly tries to pull his hand away.

Cas reaches to cup the back of Dean’s neck, brushing his fingers through the short hairs at the base of his skull. Dean’s eyes slide closed in pleasure at the easy contact and Cas leans closer, bumping their foreheads together. “Talk to him” Cas whispers and Dean gives a slight nod.

“He’s at the house” Dean mutters, swallowing hard. “Waiting for me”

Cas draws back with a smile. “Then you should go see him” Cas places a gentle kiss on Dean’s lips but draws away before Dean can react. He turns back to his coffee, mind racing with the possibilities of why Sam Winchester might be back in Austin. He wouldn’t have come back after all this time for no reason. Especially not if he’s become a lawyer.

            Cas tries to shove those thoughts down, remembering that he’s trying to be with Dean, not lock him up. He can’t deny his curiosity though. “Go see him and call me later. I have to meet with the department shrink this afternoon anyway” Cas quirks a lopsided smile, trying to hide the sinking feeling in his gut at the thought of having to talk more about what happened yesterday.

            “Oh shit, Cas” Dean’s eyes widen. “You called me for help and I...” Dean trails off, shaking his head.

            “Dean” Cas hushes him with a finger over his lips. “Don’t” He can already see the wheels of guilt spinning behind Dean’s eyes. Cas is all too familiar with that feeling and he refuses to let Dean tumble down that path just because they ended up in bed together rather than talking about why Cas had called in the first place. “You gave me what I needed. Don’t you dare apologize for that”

            Dean nods but his eyes tell Cas that he doesn’t believe him. Cas sighs but forces a smile, noticing that he and Dean are more similar than he first thought. “Rain check on breakfast?” Dean’s voice is small and unsure, as if he’s afraid Cas will disappear on him the first chance he gets.

            “Promise” Cas nods, clasping his coffee mug with both hands.

Chapter Text

Cas sees Dean out the door less than an hour later; showered, dressed, caffeinated and lips freshly kiss-swollen. A glance to the clock tells him the hour is quickly approaching noon and his stomach is outright demanding to be fed.  

He pours himself a bowl of nearly stale cereal and settles on the couch, still wearing his loose sweatpants and robe. Just because Dean had to dress to leave, doesn’t mean that Cas had to as well.   

He sits in silence and eats his cereal, thinking of all the ways he should feel guilty about his present situation. He has knowingly and willingly entered a relationship that will damn his career and he almost doesn’t care.   

Deep down, he knows something must be wrong with him. He’s always been a good cop, playing everything by the numbers and never setting a toe out of line. Now he’s throwing all of that away? The work he’s done his entire life?  

Maybe he does need to talk to someone.  

After his failures in Detroit, and his failure to save Sarah only yesterday, maybe he should give up. Quit. Find a different career.  

One that doesn’t ruin people’s lives when he fails.  

He frowns down at his cereal, chewing slowly as the sound of the crispy rice squares being ground between his teeth threatens to drown out his traitorous thoughts.  

He stares at the half-empty bowl, frozen in his thoughts until the cereal has gone soggy and his phone chimes with an incoming text.  

He’s surprised to see an hour has passed when he picks up the phone, half hoping the message is from Dean.  

It isn’t.  

He swallows hard when he sees Inias’ name at the top of the screen and the all too familiar sinking feeling in his gut returns full force. What is he going to do about Inias?  

He opens the message and his sinking stomach knots into dread when he reads the words on his screen.  

Inias: We need to talk. Have dinner with me tonight?  

We need to talk.  

Four of the worst words in the history of words.  

Inias is right though. They need to talk ,  and Cas need s  to let him down gently. He doesn’t want to hurt the man, and he doesn’t want to lead him on more than he already has.   

Me: We do.  Chuys  at 8?  

Cas swallows hard as he hits send. By the time he finishes with his evaluations, meets with Meg and takes care of a little something that’s been niggling at the back of his mind, he’ll have enough time to come home and change before driving out to meet with Inias.  

Chuys  is large and very public. Safe.   

Inias: Meet you there  

Inias’ response come s  quickly ,  and Cas isn’t entirely certain how to feel. For the Inias he once knew, to agree to anything so quickly would be out of character and cause for concern. Cas debates asking him if something is wrong, but the churning doubt in his gut quickly talks him out of voicing his concern.  

He stares at the wall a while longer, cereal bowl still in his lap as he considers his recent decisions. He’s meeting his ex at an overly busy and public place because the man he’s currently dating  could be very dangerous if he’s the jealous type  

This sounds like a great start to a healthy relationship.  

Mad laughter begins to  bubble s  up in Castiel’s chest, forcing its way out in a fit of giggles that starts slow and soon turns frenzied.  

He’s lost his mind.  

That  has to   be  the only explanation.  

He’s throwing his career away to date a mob boss. Someone he  knows  is a murderer. The worst thing is, Cas is  actually glad  that Dean took Adler off the street.  

In that one illegal action, Dean did  more good  for Zachariah’s victims than Castiel ever could.  

His giggle fit causes him to draw his knees up, curling into a ball and tilting sideways as his eyes clench closed. “Shit” He manages to bark out when something cold and wet seeps through his thin sweatpants.  

Spilled milk and soggy cereal bleeding into his clothes and chilling his skin.  

His laughter turns to stifled sobs as something deep inside him begins to crack, hatching open like some primordial egg. The thin shell holding him back is fractured from the inside out, beyond repair. But he’s known that for a long while now. Since he nearly split his former Captain’s skull open against the interrogation room wall. He remembers that moment with startling clarity, his tight grip on the man’s collar and the righteous fury burning in his heart. It would have been so easy to slam his head back into the wall. To crack his skull against the hard concrete  an d put an end to him . Cas had trembled with the effort of holding back and in the end, his restraint won out. He was a good cop and did his job. No matter how little and late that was for the children sold into human trafficking. He held back.  

He doesn’t think he can hold back anymore.  

Accepting his attraction to Dean means he needs to take a good long look at himself. Everything he is and everything he has wanted to be.  

E verything  he wants  has always been just out of reach. Taunting him with the constant reminder of his failures and shortcomings. Each time he’s been forced to sit across the table from a victim of a horrible crime, he’s wanted to promise them the world, only to later find himself staring face to face with the monster who hurt them, unable to do anything but lock them away so they can be released in a few years and hurt someone else.  

That isn’t good enough.  

But Dean’s form of justice?  

He heaves the cereal bowl across the room, leaving a trail of cereal mush and milk across his carpet, dripping down the wall where the bowl struck the wall and his laughing sobs turn into heavy breaths.  

He’s been on a footpath to hell his entire career and he’s only just now realizing his true potential. For the first time in years, he doesn’t want a drink. He wants something stronger.   Justice.  

He takes a deep breath, settling his shoulders back firmly and forcing himself to calm. He cleans up his mess, changes his clothes and sets out for the precinct with an air of indifference. He’ll do what he needs to do to be cleared for duty. He’ll get to know Dean, see if what he has to offer is  really what  Castiel has been looking for.  

But  first of all , he needs to speak with Charlie.  

The drive to the precinct passes quickly in the mid-afternoon lull. The photograph of  Alastair  that Dean gave him burns in his pocket, torturing him with the knowledge that this man is out there somewhere, waiting to kill again. Possibly stalking Dean.   

He still feels a tingle of recognition when he stares into the cold eyes of the man in the photograph. He bears little resemblance to Azazel, outside of their shared sallow complexions.  Alastair ’s eyes are shark-like, nearly black and giving off a feeling cold and long dead. He swears he’s seen them before ,  but he can’t quite place  where .  

His fingers trace the edge of the glossy paper as he makes his way to the Information and Technology level. He’s an hour early for his appointment and his pulse races. He isn’t supposed to be here. Not while suspended.  

He carefully picks his way through the maze of cubicles, purposefully taking a path that will lead him as far from Inias’ desk as possible on the way to the office at the end of the hall. It seems that most everyone is out to lunch, which works well in Castiel’s favor.  

He finally reaches the solid door of Charlie’s office and knock s  twice before letting himself inside.  

“Can I help you?” Charlie looks up from her lunch, red hair vibrant against her pale skin and the smile on her face would look innocent if not for her narrow- eyed gaze. “I thought you were suspended?” She arches a brow, hitting the mute button on her keyboard to silence the happy and upbeat music pouring from her computer.  

Her lunch sits half eaten in front of her and she exudes friendliness that is clearly directed anywhere other than at Castiel.  

“I was hoping you could help me identify someone” Cas reaches into his jacket for the photograph and holds it out in an offering.  

Charlie pinches a frown but reaches for the photo. “Who is he to you?” She stares down at the photo with a furrowed brow. Either she’s a better actor than Cas thought possible or she’s never seen this photograph.  

“My sources tell me this is  Alastair . The demon we’ve been hunting” Cas explains, voice pitching low and serious. He doesn’t know how much Dean has told her about his past, but he’s certain he wouldn’t tell her about  Alastair  unless he absolutely had to.  

“Where’d you get this?” Her eyes widen and Charlie looks to Cas with a sense of mild wonder. “He’s a ghost!” She shakes her head in disbelief as she taps the corner of the photo on her desk. “I’ll upload this right away, get it running through the database. You gotta tell me where this came from!” Her eyes are bright and excited as she begins tapping keys too quickly for Castiel to follow.  

“Ah, I’m afraid I can’t say” Cas hedges. “Let's just call it an anonymous tip” He gives a half smile, as his hand wanders over the back of the chair in front of him as he waits for an invitation to sit.  

Charlie waves towards the chair and Castiel takes that as permission. “Have you heard from Michael lately?” Charlie asks absently as she taps away on her keyboard. Nothing in her posture gives her away and if Castiel didn’t know better, he wouldn’t think anything of her seemingly innocent question.  

Cas clears his throat and watches her for a moment too long. She stops with her typing and lifts her gaze to meet his, her green eyes boring into his blue ones and he shifts uncomfortably. “Yes, actually” Cas nods, swallowing hard. “We’re, uh...” Cas clamps his mouth shut  and his cheek flush with warmth , uncertain as to how much he should say. Is Dean open about his sexuality? How much does Charlie know? He frowns, shaking his head.   

Charlie arches a knowing brow and must take pity on his stumbling because she flashes a grin lets out  a  high pitched  squeal. “Really?!” She screeches  excitedly  and Cas cringes, staring at her with wide-eyed horror.  “ Oh, please.   I know he’s been pining after you like a little schoolboy. It’s adorable really  

Cas sucks in a breath. So, she does know. Good. “We’re giving each other a chance,” Cas  says, almost as a cautionary warning . “I wasn’t sure how much you knew” He blushes slightly and ducks his chin.  

Charlie shrugs. “He's practically my bestie. Tells me almost everything” She turns and stands to lay the photograph into her scanner. “He’s a good man. One of the best. Just a tad...unconventional”  

“Unconventional” Cas parrots back, rolling his eyes slightly. “That’s a word for it” He huffs, shaking his head.  

Charlie turns back to him with a serious look. “Did you know he used to be my handmaiden? Before he got too wrapped up in the path his father shoved him down?” She places her hands on her hips, staring Castiel down.  

“Handmaiden?” Now Castiel is confused. Dean as a handmaiden? He feels a hiccup of laughter deep in his gut and he clamps down hard around the sensation. The idea is ridiculous.  

“Yes. You’re addressing the Queen of  Moondoor ” She lifts her chin dramatically and Castiel fails to restrain his laughter. “Young Michael was a faithful and noble servant for many years”  

Cas laughs, head tilted back and his eyes crinkle at the corners. “I’d like to see that, your Majesty” He shakes his head and meets Charlie’s gaze. Her eyes are bright and happy, less guarded than he’s seen them yet.  

“I think you could be good for him” Charlie nods before waving him away. “Now get out of here, I have work to do” Her expression feigns grumpiness, but the sparkling light in her eyes gives her away.  

“You’ll let me know if you find anything?” Cas asks as he stands, straightening his tie more out of habit than necessity.   

“Write down your number, I’ll call you” She pushes a pad of paper across her desk and Cas hurriedly writes down his number, chewing on his lip as he debates  whether to ask one more thing of Charlie before he goes. “What is it?” Charlie notices him hesitate and fixes him with a knowing look.  

Cas takes a deep breath. “Could you not tell Michael you’re looking into this for me?” He leans forward with his hands braced against the chair.   

Charlie looks almost affronted, her head rears back and her brows arch skeptically. “I hadn’t thought to tell him, but now I’m curious” She cocks her head on her shoulders. “Why don’t you want him to know?”  

Cas sighs and shakes his head, looking towards the floor. “I’m sure you know how closely I resemble  Alastair ’s most recent victim” He arches a brow. “De...Michael’s already worried about me, I don’t want to make it worse” Technically, he isn’t lying, but he isn’t telling the entire truth either. Surely, Dean knew Cas would  look into  the photo when he gave it to him.   

Charlie hums with a frown. “I’m not going to keep secrets from him. But I won’t tell him unless he asks. That’s the most I can promise you” She crosses her arms over her chest and her steady gaze dares him to argue.  

Cas nods, hoping that’s enough as he turns to go. “Thank you, Charlie” He infuses as much  sincerity  into that statement as he can as he backs through the door, hoping that he can trust her.   

His appointment with the department psychologist is two floors above, with a view overlooking the out er  edges of the downtown skyscrapers. This part of the department feels more like a library than part of the precinct and he’s almost grateful for the peaceful quiet surrounding him as he waits. Live plants line the hallway leading towards the closed door of the individual offices.   

When he was in the academy, he always imagined Internal Affairs to be a cold a desolate place, void of everything good in life. His father had complained and complained about the officers who policed the police and called them bullies more times than Castiel could keep track of.  

Cas huffs to himself at the memories. Of course, his father would hate Internal affairs. He was one of the most bigoted officers on the force, his deeply rooted religious beliefs instilled in him a sense of distrust towards minorities and outright hatred for the gay community.   

It’s a wonder he hadn’t been fired on more than on occasion.  

Castiel hasn’t had cause to meet with IA often. Once or twice he was called upon to share his observations of certain colleagues, but he’s never been on the investigated side of the table.  

He swallows down the lump in his throat as he waits. The psychologist at two, IA at three. And their offices are right next to one another ,  so he doesn’t need to worry about his first appointment running over.  

“Detective Novak?” An unfamiliar yet kind voice calls his name and Castiel’s attention is drawn towards the motion of a door opening and a middle-aged, dark-skinned, woman stepping through. She carries herself with an air of irrefutable confidence that Castiel immediately admires. Her tightly curled raven hair is cut short, barely touching her ears and round face is friendly yet firm and unyielding. He hasn’t seen her before and his eyes narrow slightly in study as he pushes to his feet. He finds himself immediately drawn to her ,  yet fear creeps upward from the bottom of his gut as he adjusts his tie and lifts his chin to meet her gaze.  

“Good afternoon” He dips his chin slightly, as much out of deference as out of a desire to escape, and he extends his hand towards the woman. Her deep chocolate colored eyes look down at his extended hand before returning her gaze to meet his with an arched brow as if disappointed with his meager offering. “Please, call me Castiel” He adds, feeling her disappointment as keenly as he would his own mother’s. Perhaps even more so since his mother has been nothing but disappointed in him since he turned eighteen.  

“It is good to meet you, Castiel” Her faint smile is a little too knowing for Castiel’s comfort and he withdraws his hand as if burned by her gaze. “My name is Missouri Mosely. You may call me Missouri if you’d like” Her smile grows and finally looks genuine as she shows him into her office.  

She appears to be an old school southern woman, soft on the surface but harder than steel underneath. An unmistakable yet quiet strength built from years of careful forging under the most challenging conditions.   

Her office is decorated much like the parlor in his grandmother’s home.   There is a desk, yes, but it’s tucked away in the corner behind a large and spindly fake plant, the leaves masking the official office furniture well enough for it to almost escape notice. In front of an electric fireplace sits two small sofas facing one another, the faded floral  print  an unexpected comfort. The back wall is lined with books of all kinds, from Dr. Seuss to at least one title by Charles Dickens that Castiel can see. “Please, have a seat” Missouri gestures to one of the couches, the one facing the window. “Would you like some coffee? Tea?” She questions, voice slightly husky but entirely kind as she makes her way to the Keurig on a small table next to the bookcase.  

Even that table seems out of place for a police precinct. It stands waist high on a deep mahogany pedestal and is clothed with a pale pink cloth that hangs halfway to the floor. Castiel is once again reminded of his grandmother’s home and he shakes his head with a fond smile. “Coffee, please. Thank you” He nods and tries not to shift in his seat.  

His nose twitches with the smell of fresh baked cookies and he can’t help but feel a tingle of hope rise. Maybe this won’t be as unpleasant as he had feared.  

“Here you are, dear. Just how you like” Missouri gives him a wink as she passes him a small, probably antique, brown mug like the ones to be found in old greasy spoon diners.  

“Thank you” He mutters, accepting the cup graciously. “How did you know I like it black?” He glances down at his mug and then back to Missouri.  

She chuckles lightly and gives him a fond smile. “You’re a Detective dear, you all take your coffee black” She gives him a wink and settles across from him with her own mug in hand. The string of a teabag hangs from the side of hers, and she uses it to agitate the contents of her cup.  

Cas frowns and shakes his head, wanting to argue. He knows for a fact that Meg loads her coffee with cream and sugar, as does Victor. Donna takes her black if there are donuts, and only a small amount of cream and caramel syrup if there aren’t. She even keeps a bottle of syrup at her desk. “But…” The words start but he clamps his mouth closed almost immediately and cocks his head in puzzlement.  

Missouri’s knowing smile only serves to make him feel like a child about to be chastised for arguing with his elders. “Now, I hear you experienced a bit of an incident yesterday” Missouri sets her mug on the table and picks up the file that Castiel is certain contains all the gory details of Sarah’s murder and the man Castiel killed.  

He takes a deep breath and nods. “I stumbled across a mugging and pursued the suspect” He starts, only to be interrupted again.  

“I am aware of what happened, at least  what was in  your official statements and the responding officer’s” She smiles softly. “Are there any details you would like to add? Everything you say will stay in this room dear,  no  need to fret”  

Cas swallows hard and stares, trying to decipher if this is designed to be a trap or if the budding sense of  comfort  he feels in her presence is real. Everything about this room is designed to remove them from the hard lines and dull grays of the police department and into a space that should be relaxing and comfortable. He shakes his head. “No”  

“Ok then” She nods with her entire upper body, the motion slight but noticeable. “How has you r  life outside of work been lately?”  

Castiel huffs a laugh at that.  Crazy? A slow descent in madness?  How else could he describe his relationship with Dean? “Fine” He settles on with a shrug and Missouri narrows her eyes as if detecting his lie easily. “Nothing to write home about” He shrugs again, doubling down. She doesn’t need to know there is very little Castiel would bother writing home for .  

She frowns. “Is that so?” She glances away, gathering up a notebook Castiel had yet to notice on the low table in front of them. He clutches his coffee mug tighter as she makes a note, no doubt something that will keep him from returning to active duty.  

“And how have you felt since firing your service weapon yesterday?” She stills her notebook, tea sitting ignored and surely getting cold. “Don’t mind my tea, I prefer it cool” She adds dismissively and Castiel blushes like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  

He shrugs and swallows hard once again, finding a tiny smudge on the carpeted floor to focus  all of  his attention on. “Shocked, angry” He mutters, forcing himself to try to answer honestly.  

“Angry?” Missouri questions and Cas finds his gaze drawn to her against his will.  

“With myself” He frowns. “I failed” He leans forward to set his mug on the table. An arched brow from Missouri has him wordlessly scrambling to reach for a coaster to place under his coffee before sitting up.  

“You stopped that man from harming  an  elderly couple” Missouri counters. “I wouldn’t call that failure”  

Castiel’s hackles rise. “He might never have harmed them in the first place. Because of me, he murdered Sarah” He bites, probably a little harsher than he should.  

“Maybe so, but do you see any other way yesterday’s events could have unfolded? Did you break protocol or encourage that man to make the decision he did?” She prods, digging right into the meat of Castiel’s ire.  

Castiel frowns. “No” He grumbles, shaking his head. “That doesn’t mean I couldn’t have done better .  

Missouri nods, writing something more in her notebook. “That may be true, but we will never know” She sets the notebook aside and collects her mug. “You cannot hold yourself accountable for other people’s choices. The toxicology report came back this morning on the perpetrator. Would you like to know what they found?” She doesn’t wait for Castiel to respond, she continues as if his answer were a given. “He had quite the drug cocktail in his system. Methamphetamine, heroin and a new hallucinogen we have been receiving reports about. You are not to blame for his actions. Nothing you could have said or done would have gotten through to him with those drugs in his system”  

“But an innocent person was murdered!” Castiel’s bites, jaw clenching. All the drugs in the world wouldn’t excuse him failing to protect an innocent. That’s his job and he failed yet again! He should have shot Jake sooner. Jake, that’s his name. Castiel finally remembers. He should have shot him before he hurt Sarah. Sarah might never have been touched if Castiel had just had the balls to stop Jake sooner.  

“Would you really feel better if you had done that?” Missouri fixes him with a stern look as if he had voiced his little epiphany out loud and Cas deflates with a sigh, shaking his head.  

“No” He grumbles but he knows the word to be a lie the instant it leaves his lips. He could tell Jake was under the influence of something, he was dangerous. Twitching even as he managed to hold his gun steady. Castiel shouldn’t have let him run to begin with.  

They talk a while longer but Castiel tunes out most of what Missouri has to say. He stick s  with the words that he knows will make him appear well adjusted and fit for duty, despite being understandably rattled by being involved in a shooting. He’s certain she knows he’s lying, half the time he feels as if she’s reading his thoughts and he finds himself perched on the edge of his seat before forcing himself to relax back into the cushions.  

Castiel knows that he’s never excelled at being sneaky and he’s certain he’s a terrible liar, but he cannot afford to tell her the truth. His only regret is not pulling the trigger sooner. His heart races in his chest until their time is finally up and he doesn’t bother asking her if she’ll clear him. Either she will, or she won’t.  

His shelf life as a detective is almost up anyways.  

What difference will it make if he’s suspended a few more days?  

His meeting with Internal Affairs is much more formal and to the point. There is no talk of feelings or doubts. Only facts.  

He’s given the official tox screen on Jake and the assurance that his statement matches the forensics and witness reports. According to them, he’s done nothing wrong and, pending Missouri’s report, his badge should be reinstated by Monday.  

The entire affair is very cut and dry. Cas can’t quite swallow down his disappointment that his actions weren’t questioned a little deeper. Why did he wait so long to fire on the suspect? Why isn’t he being held more accountable for Sarah’s innocent life?  

He almost decides to bail on visiting with Meg. He would have, but when the elevator slides open to deposit him into the ground floor  lobby  she’s waiting with her arms crossed over her chest and a well-manicured brow arched in annoyance.  

“You were gonna ditch me?” She snips, not bothering to veil her disappointment behind her usual sarcasm.  

“It’s been a long day” Cas frowns, scrubbing a hand over his face. He feels like he’s been through a meat grinder, and half of his exhaustion is entirely his own doing. His own personal nightmare that he’s scrambling to hold onto.  

“From the sounds of things this morning, you had a long night too” Her glare  hardens  and Cas shakes his head, not looking forward to explaining anything to her right now.  

“Can we do this later? I’m exhausted” He tries to bargain but the firm set of her jaw shows nothing but determination.  

“No, Castiel” She snips and anger bubbles in Cas’ chest.  

“You are not my keeper” He glares right back. “What I do in my own time is my business, not for you to judge” His eyes narrow as he crosses his arms over his chest, throwing his own glare right back at her.  

Meg’s head rears back, affronted, before she schools her expression into a scowl. “What’s gotten into you?” She snips, shaking her head in disbelief. “You were acting all kinds of strange on the phone this morning, and now you’re telling me to mind my own business? I thought we were friends” Her arms uncross from her chest and she settles with hands planted firmly on her hips, blocking Castiel’s path from the station.  

Cas sighs, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Meg” He tries to placate but his heart isn’t in it. All he wants to do is leave. “I’ve got a lot on my mind” he rubs at his temple with one hand and frowns before meeting Meg’s eyes.  

She takes a step closer, nearly close enough to bury her nose in her throat and  scent  him like a dog. Her nostrils flare as if she’s considering the  action  but she resists, settling instead for a hand on his shoulder. “You didn’t relapse, did you?” Her brown eyes study his blue ones, no doubt for signs of a hangover.  

Cas frowns harder, brows furrowed. “No” He shakes his head, tone belaying his disbelief at her question.  

“Then you really weren’t alone this morning” Meg makes the words sound like a betrayal and she shakes her head sadly. “But not with  Nias  

Cas lets out a heavy breath and shakes his head. “I was with Michael, you remember my hookup from a few weeks ago?” He arches a brow, pretending he told her anything about him.  

“The green-eyed hunk?” Her brow arches in interest but she still seems ruffled.  

Cas nods. “Yeah. We worked things out” He looks away, towards the door that Meg is still blocking him from.  

“I know your thing with Inias isn’t my business, but don’t you dare break that boy’s heart” Meg’s gaze hardens with the unspoken threat of fire and brimstone and Cas suddenly finds himself struggling to swallow.  

“I. ..I  can’t be with him, Meg. We’re meeting for dinner tonight, I’m going to make it clear that was a one-time thing” Cas eventually manages to spit out. “For now, I just want to go home and rest”  

Meg nods, chewing on her lip. “It’s a shame, I thought you two would be good together”  

Cas smiles wryly at that. “We were once, but we’ve both changed too much” Cas doesn’t know if that’s entirely true.  He’s  the one who has changed too much. That much he knows. “I think he feels the same way” Cas adds almost absently, thinking back on Inia’s  we need to talk  text from this morning.  

“And this Michael is good to you?” Meg’s hands return to her hips and the threat in her eyes reminds Cas of Gabriel when his brother had met James, Castiel’s last boyfriend. That relationship hadn’t lasted long, but Cas was still flattered that his older brother cared enough to try to intimidate a fireman.  

Coming from Meg though, the threat falls flat and Castiel fights back a laugh.  

Instead, he nods. “Michael has been the perfect gentleman” As long as you look past the minor stalking and obsessive behavior. Oh, and don’t forget his murderous tendencies .  Cas huffs a laugh to himself and holds up his hands in surrender as Meg’s threatening glare turns darker. “He’s been good to me. I promise”  

“He’d better be” Meg mutters. “You sure you’re ok to be alone?” Her tone softens and honest concern fills her eyes. Cas’ heart softens somewhat, touched by her worry and he nods.  

“I’m sure. I’ll call you if I need someone. Promise” He places a hand over his heart and dips his chin. He doesn’t plan on keeping his promise, he’ll be calling Dean if he needs anything, but he can at least let Meg think he’s not on a path to end his career. For a little while at least. “I’ll talk to you later” He flinches a smile and  quickly steps around her before she can move to block his path. “And thank you, for everything” He mutters over his shoulder as he passes and waves back.  

Meg pinches her lips and arches her brows, clearly unimpressed but out of reasons to stop him. Cas doesn’t question her silence, he merely hightails his way to his car and pulls out of the parking lot before she can change her mind.  

Only a block passes before Cas catches sight of Mick in his rearview mirror and he rolls his eyes but isn’t surprised. He narrowly resists waving back during his drive home, but he does stop and wait for Mick to pull up behind him when he arrives.  

Castiel watches Mick watching him approach and rolls his window down readily when Cas leans his forearm against the top of his driver’s side door. “I’m meeting a friend at  Chuys  at eight. Will you be following me there?” Cas cocks his head with curiosity and Mick nods. “Thought so”  

“Dean requested that I not let you out of my sight. Especially now that Sam is back in town” Mick gives the tiniest bit of information and Castiel’s attention perks up.  

“Why because of Sam? Does Dean think I’m a threat to him?” Cas leans closer, studying the light blue of Mick’s eyes for signs of dishonesty.  

Mick huffs a laugh. “I’m not sure what he’s thinking. Not my job to ask”  

Cas pinches a frown. He had hoped for more information and he entertains the idea of inviting Mick inside but dismissed the notion almost as quickly as it had formed. He smacks the roof of the car and pushes off, turning towards his building. “I’ll see you in an hour then” He throws over his shoulder as he puts some distance between himself and Dean’s henchman.   

Mick doesn’t  respond,  and Cas is almost glad. The last thing he needs is attention being drawn to him right now. He shouldn’t even try to contact Dean, let alone see him, until he’s been investigated and reinstated, but his fingers already itch to call the man just to hear his deep and rough voice.   

Castiel can’t help but smile to himself as he changes his clothes to meet with Inias. His memories of Dean from this morning, the vulnerability the man had shown, fill his heart with the kind of warmth he hasn’t felt in years. Something about  being with Dean settles the turmoil inside of him, makes him feel like maybe he isn’t a terrible failure and maybe there is even hope for the future.  

He waves to Mick as he climbs into his Cont i n ent al an hour later, he even manages o flash the man a smile despite the sinking weight in his gut.   

This meeting with Inias weighs heavier the closer it draws. With any luck, Inias won’t be upset with him, but Cas knows that isn’t likely to be the case. Inias opened the door of his closet a crack for Castiel, something he had been entirely unwilling to do when they were young.  

Austin traffic is busy, as always, but Castiel makes the drive to the restaurant easily. He keeps a steady eye on Mick in the rearview, the other man’s presence a slight balm to his growing nerves. He barely pays attention to the myriad of cars zipping by him as he carefully obeys  each and every  traffic law.   

He smirks to himself when Mick falls into place behind him and Cas can see the man’s eye roll and a frustrated wave of his hand in the mirror.   

He makes sure to go extra slow when the light finally changes green and turns his blinker  o n a good block before turning into Chuy’s parking lot.  

He can’t help the sense of satisfaction that washes over him when Mick throws him the middle finger as he pulls into a parking space and Mick beeps his horn behind him.  

He enjoys this playful unspoken banter and he gives Mick a mock salute on his way to the door. The walkway leading to the front of the restaurant is crowded with people and brightly lit. He’s never been here before, but he’s heard they serve some of the best Tex-Mex in Austin.  

Inside, the restaurant is incredibly busy with people lined nearly out the door  and Cas  is  irritated with himself that he hadn’t called ahead for a table. The thought of the restaurant being busy had never crossed his mind .  

He wearily approache s  the brightly smiling host and  requests a table for two, only to have her smile  widen and eyes light.  

“Are you, uh” She glances down at her notepad “Castiel?” Her head cocks ever so slightly in question and her smile refuse s  to dim.  

Castiel shifts awkwardly and nods his assent. “Yes. I’m meeting a friend here” He glances around,  assuming that  Inias arrived early and already has a table.  

The host nods  “Liam,  take our guest to  table 16 please , the rest of his party is already here ” She reaches to lightly touch the bicep of a man gathering menus and  nods towards Castiel when she secures the other man’s attention.  

“Right this way, sir” Liam smiles a nd sets the menus back onto the pile. He gestures for Castiel to follow him as he sets off across the crowded restaurant.  

Cas follows, carefully dodging a half dozen servers and at least twice as many diners. The restaurant is loud but the delicious aromas of fresh tortillas and sizzling meats coming from the kitchen have his mouth watering. The tantalizing smells remind him just how hungry he is. He hasn’t bothered to eat since his underwhelming bowl of cereal this morning and his stomach clenches with the demand for sustenance beyond some soggy and half stale rice  C hex.  

He spots Inias well before the man sees him and he takes the moment to study him. Inias’ slightly too long hair sweeps back off his forehead and barely tucks behind his ears.  

In his solemn features and soft blue eyes,  Castiel  sees little of the boy he once knew.  Inias  has changed,  Castiel  can see it  clearly  now. The lines around his eyes have deepened, the result of time and stress that Castiel surely knows nothing about.  

He doesn’t  know  Inias anymore. He hasn’t bothered to ask what happened after they broke up, about the divorce Meg had alluded to or even what brought him to Texas. His heart pangs with regret, realizing that he had thought they could just fall back into each other like the last fifteen years never happened.   

“Inias” Cas says in greeting wi t h a sad smile before turning to thank Liam for guiding him through the maze of tables. He pulls out his chair, the gentle scrape of the leg against the hard floor seeming loud even amid the din of the restaurant.  

“Castiel” Inias looks up, tender gaze brightening as he smiles. “I’m glad you could come” He greets as if coming to his restaurant had been his idea all along, absolving Castiel of his carelessness to not even book a table.  

“You’re early” Cas observes as he settles across from the other man and he internally winces at how cold his tone feels. Of course, he’s early. Someone needed to be.  

Inias nods thoughtfully, either not noticing or choosing not to  comment  on Castiel’s carelessness. “I have not been here in a long time” He mutters by way of explanation. “I remember the shrimp tacos being very good”  

“I’ve never been here, I’ve only heard the food is good” Cas feels the need to make it clear he hadn’t known how busy they would be, that he didn’t know he should have called ahead.  “I didn’t realize they would be so busy”  

Inias smiles as if he’s just been told a secret, that shy and endearing grin Cas remembers so clearly from their youth. “I assumed as much” He sets his menu down and reaches across the table to lay a hand over Castiel’s.   

Cas looks up, slightly started at the touch. His skin burns and prickles under Inias’ hand, the overwhelming feeling that he’s betraying both Dean and Inias by allowing this innocent gesture gnaws at his stomach and he looks away, drawing his hand back.  

Inias takes a deep breath and nods as if Castiel’s withdraw a l is the answer he had been searching for. “Castiel, I must be honest” He starts and Castiel’s eyes widen with dread. “I was so happy to reconnect with you that I did not stop to consider how many years have passed. How much we have both changed”  

Inias ...” Cas starts, reaching across the table for  Inias ’ hand , his hesitation to touch forgotten  

Inias draws back with a sharp inhale. “Seeing you again has been wonderful”  

“It has” Cas agree readily. “I am so glad we met again” He pulls his hand back into his lap, a heavy  but  hanging in the air between them.  

Inias nods. “We have both changed considerably. You were once so hopeful, so full of determined optimism. You stole my breath away with your zeal and excitement when we were young. What happened to you, Castiel?” Inias questions and Castiel’s heart sinks.  

“A lot has changed” Castiel hedges and Inias levels him a glare demanding he be honest. Cas lets out a deep sigh, focusing on the wall behind Inias’ head.  

“Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?” They are blessedly inter r upted by a server and Cas nearly barks a laugh at the relief.   

“Dr. Pepper, please” Cas requests and Inias orders the same with only a slight look of disappointment.   

“Their Texas Margheritas are  wonderful , I had hoped to treat you to one” Inias explains as the server wanders away and Cas shakes his head before nodding, deciding to give Inias the honesty he’s looking for.  

“I gave up drinking” Cas mutters, swallowing hard and seeking out speck on the wall once again. He presses his mouth in a flat line, keeping Inias’ in his peripheral vision but refusing to make eye contact.  

Inias cocks his head curiously but nods in understanding. “I see”  

Cas leans forward with his elbows on the table and knot tightening in his chest. “After we broke up, and I moved to Michigan, I struggled for a long time. I loved you, very much. Losing you and my family all at once led me to make some poor decisions”  

“Castiel...” Inias interrupts, eyes filling with pity.  

“No, let me explain” Cas holds up a silencing hand, needing to get this bit of his history out in the open. Not even Gabriel has ever heard what happened during the year Castiel took before enrolling in the Police academy. “I took refuge in alcohol. I spent most of that first year drunk out of my mind. I barely managed to keep a job and stay out of trouble. I was so  angry.  With you, with my family, with God” Cas pauses, shaking his head. “I did many things that I came to  regret  and I finally applied to become a police officer as a form of penance for my sins”  

“I married Hester Holmes”  Inias  blurts. “Almost as soon as you left, I asked her to marry me because I couldn’t stand myself for abandoning you”  Inias ’ voice raises enough to draw attention from the next table over and he flashes them an apologetic smile. “I married her and pretended to love her for six years before she realized that I could barely stand to look at her , let alone be with her as a husband should ” He slumps back in his chair and swallows hard.   

Cas’ brows arch in surprise. Hester was their minister’s daughter and she had been sweet on Inias growing up. His gentle and soft-spoken nature has always had a way of making people feel safe and needed. He never thought Inias would be capable of such deception, to marry a girl he didn’t love just to save face.   

“I understand that you were angry, glad for it even. I deserve your anger and disappointment, but please don’t ever think that I was happy with myself. Not even for a minute”  Inias   says with a  frown, shaking his head and Cas reaches across the table for his hand. “I am so sorry for what I did to you”   Inias  adds.  

Inias doesn’t pull back his time and Cas  wraps  his fingers around Inias’, stroking the back of the man’s hand with his thumb. “We both made mistakes” Castiel concedes. “I asked too much of you. It took me years to understand, but you have nothing to be sorry for”  

“But I do, Castiel!” Inias protests, drawing his hand back. “I lied to you, I lied to my family, I lied to Hester” He shakes his head. “I lied to everyone” He scrubs a hand over his face and their server takes that moment to appear with their drinks.   

“Inias” Castiel ignores the  serv er in favor of  tugging Inias’ hand closer across the table.  We were both young  and made mistakes.  You needed to protect yourself. No one can  blame you for that”  

Inias turns his head and mumbles his thanks to the server ,  who has the good sense to give them a few more minutes .  “Still, I caused you pain” Inias turns his  sad  gaze to Castiel. “It seems that is all I am capable of”  Inias looks down, tugging his lip between his teeth  as he draws his hand away.  

Nias ”  Castiel  breathes, swallowing hard as he finally sees where this is going. He huffs a relieved laugh and shakes his head with a fond smile. “We can’t  date  each other. Not again”  

Inias glances up sharply in confused disbelief for a moment, taking in the crinkles around Castiel’s eyes that deepen  as his smile grows. He stares, dumbfounded for a moment before a closed mouth smile begins to creep over his own features. “You…you’re breaking up with me?” H is smile cracks open and blue eyes slowly begin to spark  with mischief  as he takes in Castiel’s relieved expression.  

“It’s for the best, really” Cas  deadpans  and takes a sip of his soda.  

“Would never work out” Inias grins, his words both truthful and relieved .  

“We’ve changed too much” Cas swallows the lump in his throat in favor  of  forcing a laugh. He must  be convincing enough because Inias barks a laugh of agreement.  

Shall we order?” Inias arches a hopeful brow , finally picking up his menu.  

“Lets” Cas smiles back, fighting a lingering sense of sadness  over the firm closing of his unresolved feelings towards the man  sitting across from him. With the melancholy comes relief and a lightness in his chest he  hadn’t realized was missing until now .  

They chat over their meal, finally beginning to catch up on the years of their lives they spent apart.  Heartaches a nd  mistakes,  all explained and laughed over with  brightly animated  gestures and wide smiles.  This feels so  right  that Cas wouldn’t be able to hide his grin even if he wanted to.  

A simple conversation, two friends talking about old times and  reconnecting, feels more  natural than their stolen kisses in the back room of the bar . He doesn’t think about Dean, or his career or his failures . Inias’ bright smile and boyish laughter is the center of his attention. At least for a little while .  

They part with a friendly hug  and Cas claps Inias on the back  with the promise to see each other soon and Cas feels like he’s walking on a cloud as he waves to Mick  before climbing in his oversized car and setting himself toward home.  

Even the Austin traffic doesn’t bother him, or the fact that a  new and rather plasticized Dodge Charger is parked in his spot in front of his apartment building.  He  parks next to the unfamiliar car and climbs from his own, giving the Charger an appraising look as he passes.  One of his neighbors probably has a guest who didn’t realize they have assigned parking. He refuses to let this simple oversight dampen his good mood.  

He hums to himself as he makes his way up the walkway to his building and lets himself inside to check hi s  mailbox before climbing the stairs to his apartment, swinging his key ring around his finger and into his palm as he goes.  

His brows furrow when he slides his key into the lock and finds it already open. He swears he remembered to lock his deadbolt before he  left  and he instinctively reaches for the ever-present gun at his hip.  

He’s certain he’s only being extra cautious, but the tingle in his spine when his door falls open to reveal one of his living room floor lamps brightening the room that should be shrouded in darkness tells him that his caution is well founded.  

His mail  fall s discarded at the door, both hands  occupied by  holding his Glock at the ready, as he kicks the door the rest of the way open and steps inside. “Austin PD, show yourself!” He commands, voice pitching low in threat as he steps over the threshold. His pulse races as he steps further into his apartment, searching for the silent intruder.  

He sweeps the room, side to side before stepping deeper into his living space. Not a single sheet of paper seems out of place and Cas narrows his eyes in scrutiny. He checks each of his few rooms, finding them all clear and free from uninvited guests.   

He lets out a heavy breath, shaking his head as he turns back toward his front door and makes to tuck his gun away.  

A sudden flash of motion, the door swinging shut, catches his attention and his lungs lodge in his throat when the sharp slam echoes through his otherwise quiet apartment.   

He raises his gun, silently approaching his living room once more and he freezes when his gaze lands on a man several inches taller than himself aiming his own gun with a chilling and deadly expression etched into his fine features.  

“Lower your weapon” Cas demands, already assessing the limited space between him and the intruder, who is presently blocking Castiel’s only exit.  

“You first, Detective” The man sneers, flinching a wicked smile that has Castiel’s blood cooling in his veins. He flicks his head, swinging his long hair out of his face without taking his bright, hazel, eyes off Castiel.  

Suddenly, Castiel’s heart stutters as a memory clicks into place deep in the recesses of his mind. He’s seen this man before in a photograph. Two  photographs actually .  

In  both of them , he was much younger. His smile was brighter and less dangerous, alight with dimples and boyish charm. But there is no mistaking the man in front of him for anyone other than the boy in the photograph he saw adorning  the wall next to Dean’s fireplace. Two brothers, arms draped over each other’s shoulders wearing matching grins of laughter.  

Cas cocks his head back and begins to lower his Glock, hammering heart causing a dull roar in his ears as he takes in the man before him. Cas forces himself to take a breath, gun low and not a direct threat despite being ready to act in an instant. He takes another breath, narrowing his gaze and breathes out the man’s name.  

“Sam Winchester"   

Chapter Text

“Sam Winchester”

Castiel feels as if his world is tumbling beneath his feet, collapsing, and disintegrating until he’s standing on nothing but open air. His mind stutters, scarcely believing that Dean’s younger brother is standing in his apartment, gun trained on Castiel with murder in his eyes.

Everything Castiel knows about Sam has led him to believe that he has no part in his brother’s life. That he’s been living safely in California, going to law school and for all intents and purposes, a law abiding and upstanding citizen.

But the Sam Winchester standing in front of him is all hard lines and deadly intent.

“Sam, please put the gun down” Cas draws on all his years of training to keep the waver out of his voice while his heart is busy hammering inside his chest. He forces himself to lower his own gun, hoping he isn’t making a deadly mistake by lowering his only defense. His gut says Sam’s threat is all bluster, but his gut has been wrong many times before.

“Castiel Novak” Sam spits, eyes narrowed in a studious glare. “You have information I need” His low voice rumbles, full of open threats.

“What information?” Cas cocks his head curiously, finger still placed firmly against the trigger of his Glock despite the weapon being pointed towards the floor just in front of Sam.

“You arrested Azazel Lehne” Sam sees fit to remind Castiel, “You got him to confess to a series of murders here in Austin”

Cas removes one hand from his gun and lifts his palm toward Sam, fingers spread in a gesture that begs for calm. “I did. What do you want to know?” Cas nods slightly as he speaks, confirming Sam’s words.

“Do you know he and Alastair are brothers?” Sam states, tone cold and venomous.

Again, Castiel nods. “He told me. Sam, what do you want to know? Does Dean know you’re here?” Cas needs to know. Did Dean set Sam up for this? To try to get more information from him?

“You stay away from my brother!” Sam bites with a sneer. “You think you’ll lure him into some sort of trap? Dean is too smart, he’ll see through your bullshit before you can learn anything about him”

“There is no trap, Sam. My feelings toward your brother are genuine even if they are foolish. I’m not trying to trick him, or you” Castiel pleads, beginning to see what this show of violence is really about. “Put the gun away and I’ll tell you everything I know about Azazel and Alastair. I give you my word” Cas keeps his palm raised as he flicks the safety on his own gun and tucks it back into his holster.

His instincts scream that disarming himself is a huge mistake, but he needs to make a show of trust. Castiel hopes that he means enough to Dean that Sam would hesitate to shoot him in cold blood. Especially if Sam wants information from him.

Sam hesitates, his palm twitching as he lets out a heavy breath in a rush. Castiel can see that he’s getting through to the man by the rapid blink of his eyes. “Sit down” Sam jerks his head towards Castiel’s living room, indicating the sofa and armchair located there.

Castiel nods, swallowing thickly. “Only if you put the gun away” He scoots a step toward his armchair, keeping his eyes closely trained on Sam.

Sam swallows hard and holds his position for a second longer before letting out a harsh groan and dropping his aim. He runs a hand through his hair in frustration and shakes his head as if irritated with himself rather than Castiel.

“Please, have a seat, Sam” Cas offers gently, trying to not let the relief washing through him to show. He needs to get Sam talking and learn why Dean’s younger brother felt the need to break into his apartment and hold him at gunpoint.

Sam glances towards the sofa, taking his eyes off Castiel for the first time since entering his apartment, and gingerly sits. His gun is still held firmly in hand, but his finger is no longer on the trigger and his wrist hangs loose.

Cas takes his own seat, keeping his movements careful and slow. “What would you like to know, Sam?” Cas murmurs, keeping his tone as calm as he possibly can with his heart still hammering wildly in his chest.

“Why hasn’t Azazel been arraigned? He was arrested weeks ago” Sam deadpans, gaze boring into Castiel.

“He’s in a coma. Someone attacked the van transporting him from the jail to the courthouse when his arraignment was scheduled” Castiel explain easily. Technically, this information is classified but he has a distinct feeling that Sam doesn’t care. “We haven’t made an arrest; the suspect fled the scene. We don’t even have a description of the perp” Castiel frowns, shaking his head. His first thought had been Alastair, but car bombs aren’t exactly his style.

“Alastair” Sam swallows hard, nodding toward Cas. “A coma is getting off too easy” He shakes his head and turns his gaze to a spot on the wall just over Castiel’s shoulder.

“I agree. But Sam, what do you know of Azazel?” Castiel needs to ask. Why would Sam come to him demanding answers about someone seemingly unrelated to anything to do with the Winchesters?

Sam lets out a heavy breath and draws his mouth into a frown. “I can’t say” He mutters without meeting Castiel’s gaze.

“Sam” Cas leans forward, settling his forearms over his knees with his hands clasped. “If you know something, anything, please tell me. I want Azazel to go away for as long as possible. He bargained away the death penalty with information about Alastair, but if we can bring new charges....” Cas leaves his thought open-ended. He would love nothing more than to see the man strapped to the injection table.

Sam’s eyes widen and come to focus on Castiel. “You gave him a deal?” Sam snaps, outrage thinly concealed.

I did no such thing. The district attorney went against my recommendations. I want the man dead” Cas states bluntly, steely gaze boring into Sam. “Help me” Cas requests firmly, tone grave.

Sam chews on his lip and shakes his head.

“Let yourself out then, I’m too tired to play games” Cas shakes his head and pushes to his feet, calling Sam’s bluff. If the man wants to talk, he needs to do it soon because Cas is done entertaining psychopaths. His relationship with Dean is the only reason Cas didn’t shoot this boy to begin with. At least, that's what he tells himself.

He pretended not to notice the way Sam’s hands trembled and his gaze flinched when staring down Castiel’s gun. Cas could have called for backup by now, or simply shot Sam and declared self-defense.

“Wait” Sam finally caves, the bravado falling away in the face of Castiel’s dismissal. “Dean can’t know. Promise you won’t tell him”

Cas pauses mid-step, turning back to face the younger man with false skepticism. He’s interested. Very interested. But he looks down his nose at the man still seated on his couch, pretending to have gotten bored with this entire situation. “I’m not making you any promises” Cas arches a brow, hoping that Sam doesn’t call him out.

Sam lets out a heavy breath and hangs his head. “I believe Azazel murdered our mother” He murmurs and Cas has to strain to hear him, scarcely believing his ears.

Cas takes a step closer, gaze steady on the young man in front of him. “Why do you believe he had a hand in your mother’s death? The file doesn’t mention signs of foul play” Cas states as much for himself as for Sam and when those hazel eyes turn up to meet his, Cas can see how deeply Sam believes his suspicion.

“Arson cases in the early 1980s” Sam mutters as he shakes his head and gives Cas a wry smile. “At Stanford, when I was going over case studies, I learned of a series of house fires around the city that occurred between 1980 and 1984. There were too many for them to be a coincidence but nothing was ever proven. The fires always started in a baby’s nursery on the night the baby turned six months old. In all the fires, there was at least one parent in the nursery who died. But the babies always got out somehow”

Castiel’s breath hitches as he stares, opened mouthed towards Sam. “Why do you suspect Azazel?” Cas settles back into his armchair with the entirety of his focus on Sam.

Sam swallows hard and nods. “Dean doesn’t know. I don’t think Dad knew” His foot begins to tap a staccato rhythm on the floor. “Dad always went on about a ‘yellow-eyed demon’ sneaking into my nursery and burning Mom alive. He claimed she was stuck to the ceiling above my crib, stomach slashed open” Sam pauses to shake his head. “His story never changed, no matter how drunk he got. There was always a yellow-eyed demon.”

Cas cocks his head, thinking back and remembering how unsettling he had found Azazel’s eyes that day in the interrogation room. That shade of brown was so pale that they did look yellow when the light would catch his irises just right. “That doesn’t explain why Azazel”

Castiel tenses when Sam shifts to reach into his pocket. “Here” He hands a folded newspaper clipping to Castiel, yellowed by time, and clearly well worn.

Cas reaches out to take Sam’s offering, carefully unfolding the delicate scrap of paper and frowning down at the article in front of him.

The photograph at the top of the clipped-out article shows two young men with their arms over each other’s shoulders. Castiel immediately recognizes Alastair and Azazel, grinning for the camera in front of an elephant that lies dead on the ground in front of them, rifles propped on their shoulders. “What does this have to do with the fires?”

Sam snatches back the clipping before Cas has a chance to read the article. “They were in Africa for a month. A month. And in that time, there were four fires in local villages that match the housefires in Austin”

Cas nods, scrubbing a hand over his face as he considers. That isn’t enough proof and trying to tie those events together in a court of law would be next to impossible.

“The other man in the photograph is Alastair. That’s how Azazel got on my radar to begin with. I was looking for Alastair” Sam continues to explain, nodding emphatically.

Cas narrows his eyes and holds out his hand to take the piece of newspaper again. “I recognize him from a photograph Dean gave me. How do you know who he is?”

Sam passes over the paper and Cas takes a closer look. “Frederic Lehne and Christopher Heyerdahl?” Castiel reads the names at the bottom of the photograph, a slight flicker of recognition sparking at the second name.

“Their birthnames” Sam scoffs. “You haven’t even gotten that far, have you?” Sam’s tone is derisive and mocking as he reaches to take the piece of paper back.

“Christopher Heyerdahl” Castiel repeats, wondering where he’s seen that name before. His breathing quickens as his mind works, connecting the vaguely familiar face with the name he knows he’s seen recently. “Oh my god” Castiel’s eyes widen as he fixates on Sam’s face. “He knows who I am” Castiel already knew that. Al Hegelman’s murder is proof that Alastair knows who he is. “He…shit!” Castiel exclaims, pushing to his feet and tugging at his hair. He pulled Christopher Heyerdahl over and gave him a traffic ticket the morning Dean left him roses.

Alastair knew who he was already. Alastair provoked him into a confrontation. Castiel told him his name. He had walked right into a trap he hadn’t known to look for.

“Detective?” Sam arches a brow, tone edged with concern.

“He was right in front of me” Cas shakes his head in disbelief. “He’s been watching Dean and I since we met” His eyes widen further as he looks to Sam for something. Anything.

“He’s been stalking Dean for years” Sam grumbles. “Dean has no idea that I know, but I’ve known all along” He lets out a heavy breath, tipping his head forward so his long bangs hang in his face. “It’s why I left in the first place. I thought Dean would feel safer with me gone, not having to worry about Alastair coming after me. I was stupid” Sam looks up, his eyes wide and haunted. “I abandoned him when I should have been protecting him”

“There’s nothing you could have done, Sam” Cas resists reaching out to the younger man. His carefully cultivated instincts drive him to attempt to offer comfort but the gun still in Sam’s hand causes him to hold back. He’s never been good at that part of his job anyway.

Sam lifts his chin, directly meeting Castiel’s gaze with a coldness that Cas hadn’t thought this young man capable of. Until now, Sam has given the appearance of a soft young man attempting to look hard, but this stare is completely different. “Dean isn’t the only monster in the family” The words roll off Sam’s tongue as if in a trance, his tone devoid of emotion as he stares deep into Castiel’s eyes.

Cas feels a chill creep up his spine as Sam’s words wash over him. For all he’s heard that Sam is the normal one of the family, the one who isn’t involved, the one who left to lead an apple pie life; Castiel has no trouble believing Sam’s own assessment of himself. “What did you do?” Castiel breathes, wishing he hadn’t holstered his gun as he eyes Sam’s.

Sam shakes his head with a sly grin that turns Castiel’s stomach. “Doesn’t matter. I’m not abandoning Dean again. I’m his brother, it’s my job to protect him” Sam’s jaw clenches as he stares Castiel down, daring him to disagree.

“Go home, Sam” Castiel frowns, shaking his head. He understands Sam’s loyalty. Cas would do just about anything for Gabriel despite the distance between them, it’s only fitting that Sam would do the same for Dean. “I’ll head into the precinct tomorrow and start looking into this. If you’re right, we could get the death penalty back on the table” Cas nods, a tendril of hope beginning to bloom in his chest. He would love nothing more than to put a serial killer down.

Especially if Azazel has brought harm to Dean and his family.

Sam nods, accepting Castiel’s words and pushing to his feet. He tucks his gun into his waistband and reaches a hand forward to Castiel. “Thank you” He mutters, pulling in a deep breath.

Castiel returns Sam’s nod and clasps their hands together in a firm shake. “Next time, please don’t pull a gun on me. That is not necessary” Cas arches a brow, his tone flat and clearly still irritated.

Sam blushes slightly and ducks his head at Castiel’s words. “Sorry, I didn’t know if you would talk to me”

Cas sighs and shakes his head. “I’m kind of dating your brother, Sam. I would have been happy to meet with you” He reminds Sam of his connection to Dean and the younger man bristles at the mention. Cas is out of fucks to give about what Sam thinks on the matter.

“You better not hurt him” Sam forces a glare but the expression falls flat and Cas huffs a laugh.

“I’m not planning on it” Cas promises and he walks Sam to the door, holding it open for the younger man. “I’ll be in touch” Cas flinches a smile as he shuts the door firmly closed behind Sam and flips the deadbolt. He fastens the chain over the lock just for a small amount of added protection since it would appear that Sam can pick locks.

He has no doubt that Sam was in his apartment, snooping around before Castiel got home.

The hour is pushing midnight and Cas stifles a yawn as he works his way through his nightly routine. He considers calling Dean and telling him what Sam did, but he decided against ratting out the younger Winchester. At least for now. There are too many questions that Castiel needs to be answered before he tells Dean anything.

He crawls into bed before he can break his resolve and call, opting instead for a quick text goodnight and expressing his hopes that they can see each other over the weekend.

He turns his phone off before Dean has a chance to respond and Cas stares up at his darkened ceiling, retracing the conversation he had with Sam before falling into a fitful slumber.

---

          The morning comes quickly and Cas piles into his car and drives to the precinct. He’s still suspended, he knows he isn’t supposed to be there, but if he’s lucky he’ll be able to find Meg and ask her to begin looking into Sam’s story before anyone else realizes he’s there.

          He could have called, he probably should have, but he feels this would be best done in person.

          “Novak” A hard voice bites as soon as he steps off the elevator and Castiel swallows hard, turning to see Captain Mills with her hands planted firmly on her hips and a steady glare aimed directly towards him.

           “Captain” Castiel greets, flinching a smile as his eyes scan the bullpen for his partner.

          “What are you doing here?” She arches a brow and crosses her arms over her chest.

          “I was hoping Meg might be here? I wanted to touch base with her” Castiel swallows hard, the half-truth dancing off his tongue a little too easily.

          “She’s not in yet. But I do have something we need to discuss. My office please” Jody turns and gestures with her arm that he should follow. Something about the stiff set of her shoulders and flat tone has Castiel’s heart sinking.

           Something is wrong, he’s certain of it. He follows her reluctantly, noting the curious glances from his colleagues as he makes his way to the back of the office near the wide bank of windows that serve as their main light source during daylight hours.

           He carefully shuts the door behind him, leaning against the cool surface with his hands trapped behind his rear. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t dare too when Mills is looking at him with such disappointment.

            Captain Mills lets out a drawn-out breath and shakes her head sadly. “I had hoped maybe there was just an unfortunate coincidence. What with you living so close to a known hang out for the Winchester operation” She steps around to the business side of her desk and pulls out a drawer. “These showed up my desk a week ago. Now, I’ve been sitting on them since your work so far has been exemplary” She drops an envelope onto her desk top, pushing it towards Castiel. “It has come to my attention that one of our top computer analysists has been looking directly into Ms. Bradbury off the books, at your request”

            Cas meets her eyes warily, reaching for the unassuming manila envelope. He swallows hard and nods. “I asked Inias to look deeper into a hunch I had”. His fingers tremble slightly as he pulls out the contents, already dreading what he might find. “I have come to realize I was mistaken in my belief that Ms. Bradbury had a hand in the camera incident with Mr. Lafitte”

            He tries to take a breath to continue his explanation, but the words catch in his throat as he takes in the fuzzy black and white snapshot that shows him entering the Roadhouse. By the looks of things, he’s guessing this is from the night he went there in search of Dean, the night he had been drunk.

            His stomach clenches with dread when he realizes there are still more photos.

            He pulls the top photo to the back and swallows thickly when the next shows Dean with his hand at the small of Castiel’s back, guiding him around the side of the bar. “I can explain…” He looks up to Captain Mills, wide-eyed and terrified. “I didn’t know who he was at the time” He shakes his head, trying to impress his innocence with the lie.

            “You sure about that? You look awfully cozy with Austin’s biggest crime lord” Mills leans forward over her desk with her fingertips pressing down onto the smooth surface.

            Castiel frowns, bracing himself to look at the next photograph.

            Dean slinking up the steps to just outside his apartment, gaze searching for the source of their mutual sense of being watched. “Fuck” He throws the folder down, not brave enough to endure the final photograph.

            “Based on these photos, give me one good reason to believe that YOU are not working with Winchester? That YOU were not the one who turned off the cameras” She brings her hands to her hips and Castiel swallows hard, struggling to formulate a response.

            Castiel nods faintly. “These were taken nearly two weeks ago. Before I was brought in on the case” He states, lying in hopes that maybe there is no time stamp associated with the photographs. “I admit to…this” He gestures towards the photos. “At the time, I had no idea what Winchester looked like. He approached me at the bar, gave me the name Michael and bought me a drink” He takes a moment to breathe despite the tension straining in his chest.

            Mills frowns and shakes her head. “After the stunt in the interrogation room, I have to take into consideration that you may be compromised. You are officially under investigation and can expect to hear from internal affairs. Consider your temporary suspension extended indefinitely”

            Castiel trembles, his world crashing down on him harder with each word that falls from Captain Mill’s lips. He knew his interlude with Dean could only end in him losing his job, he had only hoped he’d have more time. He reaches for his shield with his eyes clenched tightly shut, trying to hold back tears. He drops the heavy piece of metal onto the desk and carefully unbuckles his service weapon from his hip and unloads it before setting the piece next to his detective’s shield. “I swear, I am not working for Winchester. My loyalties are with the Austin PD” Castiel forces himself to meet Captain Mill’s firm gaze as he straightens his shoulders.

            She pinches a frown as she studies his somber expression. “That may be so, but we cannot afford to take any chances. Officer Hael will walk you out” Her tone is clipped and unforgiving and Castiel has to take a deep breath to keep himself from shattering.

            He nods and turns to go. “I just need to collect my things” He knows his tone is soft and laced with pain, he barely cares. Everything he had ever wanted for himself now lays in a heap on Captain Mills’ desk. From the moment he took Michael home, he’s been doomed. Maybe his damnation began way back in Detroit when he failed so spectacularly to do his job.

            He doesn’t look back as he lets himself out of Mills’ office and makes a beeline for his desk with a disconcerting sense of calm. He deserves this. He's failed too many times, he doesn't deserve to wear that badge and pretend he actually helps people. Maybe Dean coming into his life was a sign from above that his life needs to change course. 

            Meg is waiting for him when he reaches his desk and Officer Hael is making quick strides towards them. Jody must have paged her as he left her office.

            “What’s going on, Clarence?” Meg demands in a hushed tone as she rakes her gaze over him.

            “I’ve been suspended” He answers, flatly. He will not show a glimpse of his inner resignation and let himself appear weaker than he already has.

            “Yeah...” She looks at him sideways, confusion marked across her features.

            “They think I’m working for Winchester and that I messed with the cameras in interrogation” Castiel frowns, shaking his head. They aren’t entirely wrong, but he did not mess with those cameras!

            “What?!” Meg exclaims, sending a fierce glare toward Mills’ closed door. “Level with me, Cas. Are you? Did you tamper with the cameras?” She grabs his arm, demanding attention even as he hurriedly shoves his few personal belongings into his satchel.

            “No. I did not touch the cameras” Cas meets her eyes earnestly. “Can you call me later? Something else is going on here. I’ve made mistakes, big ones, but I had nothing to do with the cameras going out” He whispers furiously as Hael approaches. “I gotta go” He swallows hard, swinging his bag over his shoulder.

            “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid” Meg grips his arm again, drawing his gaze down to meet hers.

            He huffs lightly. “I won’t do anything worse than I’ve already done”

            “Detective, I am to escort you from the building” Officer Hael comes to a stop in front of Castiel and Meg, mouth drawn into a tight line.

            “I’m ready” Castiel nods, having no intention of making her job any more difficult than it already is. He knows the reputation Internal Affairs holds within any department and he has no interest in drawing more attention to himself than Hael’s presence already brings.

            “I’m coming too” Meg states, shooting the other woman a fierce and daring scowl. Hael simply rolls her eyes and gestures to the elevator.

            They walk in near silence towards the gleaming silver doors but Castiel comes up short when they open to reveal Inias.

            “Inias” Cas takes a half step back.

            “Castiel. What…” Inias looks between Hael and Meg. “What is going on?” He cocks his head and Castiel feels shame wash through him once again, burning bright behind his cheeks and burning his insides to a nauseous mess.

             Cas offers a weak smile that still turns down at the corners. “Meg can explain. I really must be going” He brushes past Inias, refusing to meet the man’s gaze. He can’t face this kind of shame. Not right now.

            “Nias, come downstairs with us” Meg waves him back into the elevator and Cas wants to scream. Inias is the last person he wants to see right now but it appears Meg is determined to maximize his humiliation.

            Inias follows the three of them into the elevator but has the good sense to keep quiet until Hael sees Castiel out of the front door.

            Cas strides towards his car, bent on not talking about this but he’s quickly cornered by Meg, pressed back against the door to his old Continental. “What the hell happened?” She folds her arms over her chest and Cas looks around frantically.

            “I don’t understand, Castiel. Have you been suspended?” Inias cocks his head curiously, reading the situation for what it is. Inias always did have the knack for seeing the truth.

            Castiel brings a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose and nods. “Yes. Yes, I’ve been suspended. I’m an epic failure and you both would be better off without me in your lives” His voice raises the more he speaks and Inias takes a step back in surprise at his sudden outburst. Even when they were together, Castiel never raised his voice like this.

            Meg silences Castiel with a firm slap across his cheek. The contact stings and the burn spreads until tears prickle behind his eyes. “You are not a failure” She bites, bringing her hands to her hips and standing tall enough to be intimidating despite her short stature. “Now tell me what the hell is going on!”

            “I should go” Inias makes a move to turn and flee but Meg grabs his arm before he makes it a single step.

            “Oh no you don’t” She tugs him back and holds him in place with a fiery glare. “Is this about the cameras?” Meg arches a brow towards Castiel, demanding answers.

            He shakes his head before nodding. “Partly”

“The cameras you requested I look into?” Inias furrows his brows in thought.

            “I didn’t touch the damn cameras” Castiel’s tone is heated but not quite a yell.

            “Then who did?” Meg demands, clearly wanting to believe Castiel but needing more evidence.      

            “I know who” Cas lets out a drawn-out breath and scrubs a hand over his face. “But, to explain I’m gonna need more time than we have standing here in a parking lot” He might as well come clean; his dirty laundry is going to be aired soon anyway. “I never should have dragged you into this” He shakes his head sadly as he takes in Inias’ concerned expression.     

          "I know somewhere we can talk," Meg says, gesturing to her car. "You and Inias take yours and follow me" She doesn't give the men time to answer, merely rotates her hand in her wrist with a finger pointed skyward, demanding they hurry up, as he stalks toward her car and slides behind the wheel.

         Cas and Inias stare after her before turning to stare at one another. "Nias, you don't have to..." Cas starts but the other man quickly interrupts.

         "We are friends, Castiel. Friends support one another" Inias says with a shy smile as he steps around to the passenger side and climbs in before Cas can object. 

         Cas shrugs his acceptance and joins Inias in the car. His gaze seeks out Mick's inconspicuous mini-Cooper and gives the man a firm nod before firing up his engine and pulling out of the lot. His career is practically over and he hadn't even had the chance to get the information he came for. This is shaping up to be a great day.       

 

Chapter Text

“Boss, your boyfriend has a problem” Mick speaks lowly into the phone. He had been bored watching and waiting, working on a crossword puzzle, but then he had seen Castiel escorted from the building and then slapped by his partner and, Mick had assumed, friend. Mick’s attention immediately shifted to the scene unfolding across the parking lot. Castiel’s ex is there, looking as if he may become ill at any moment and Detective Masters looks as if she ready to bring about someone’s annihilation with a single glare. Something is wrong, and he has no doubt that Dean will want to know.

“Cas?” Dean shifts, cradling the phone close to his ear. “What's wrong?” Dean sits up straighter, eyes darting around his home office in search of his car keys.

“Can’t be sure, but his partner looks pissed, has him cornered against his horrible excuse for a car and it looks as if he was just escorted from the building” He intentionally leaves off the fact that she slapped Dean’s blue-eyed lover boy. Dean would fly off the handle before asking the right questions.

 “Do you think he told them about seeing you?” Mick feels obligated to ask as he pushes his small car into drive, set to follow Castiel. The Ex slides into Castiel’s passenger seat and his partner settles into her own vehicle, pulling out just in front of Castiel.

Dean shakes his head before remembering that Mick can’t hear his head rattle. “No” He has no real reason to trust Castiel beyond what his gut instinct tells him, but he refuses to believe Cas would share information that would hurt him more than it would hurt Dean. “Shit, Adam and Crowley are going to be here shortly with a crew. We got a meeting with the Tango Blast assholes downtown” He checks his watch to be sure. Twenty minutes.

“I’ll follow your lover boy” Mick rolls his eyes and pulls out onto the street a few cars behind the detective. He doesn’t bother waiting for Dean to respond, he simply ends the call and follows his quarry as they weave through the downtown district.

It takes him about fifteen minutes before he begins to suspect he may not be the only one following them. He catches a flash of a tan colored sedan more than once, older model and not in the best condition.

Castiel and his friends pull up behind a small bar right downtown and climb out. Meg unlocks the back door and Cas scans the area with narrowed eyes, settling on Mick before shutting the door firmly behind him. Mick cocks his head curiously at Cas’ apparent desire to make sure he’s still following. Cas’ nod at the police station almost looked grateful for Mick’s presence, but there is no way he can be certain. The detective has been carefully aloof, but Mick has caught glimpses of a friendlier, playful side.

He has no idea what is going on right now, though.

Mick’s only option is to sit here and wait. None of the bars are open at this hour, so Meg must know the owner well enough to have a key.

They went into San Jac. Mick texts Dean. I think someone other than me is stuck to their shoes.

He sets his phone aside and waits, knowing Dean should be busy being escorted to the meeting site and his phone should be stowed for the sake of security. He scans the area and notices that same car again, across the lot and tucked behind a large oak tree. He never would have noticed the other vehicle if he hadn’t been looking for it.

The man behind the steering wheel is shrouded in shadow, not an easy feat considering the midday Texas sun. Mick can’t make out any identifying features other than he’s male and of thin build. He narrows his eyes and tries to look closer, but the effort doesn’t help him. Not even a little.

His phone chimes with an incoming text and the sudden noise causes Mick to jump before fumbling for the device. He sees the message is from Dean, and he’s a little bit surprised. Usually, his boss is too focused on his meetings to even bring his phone.

Keep an eye on them. I want to know everything.

Mick rolls his eyes, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel as he stares at the solid steel door the detectives passed through. How is he supposed to keep an eye on them when they’re inside a building?  He shakes his head as he huffs a laugh. This is ridiculous.

Mick reaches into the back and grabs one of his backpacks. His black one. Each bag contains different materials that might come in handy when Dean sends him on these random errands and this particular bag contains surveillance equipment.

He digs for the tiny microphone he knows is nestled in the bottom of the bag and cautiously opens his car door and slides to the ground. His aim is to stay out of sight of the other watcher as he slinks across the parking lot, keeping himself below the windows of the vehicles between him and the man in the tan sedan.

He reaches Castiel’s Continental quickly and opens the slim case he brought from his pack. He curses himself that he didn’t place a bug in Castiel’s car sooner, he could have saved himself this trouble.

But Dean had asked him to be as unobtrusive and friendly as possible. Which is the only reason he had introduced himself to Castiel in the first place. Bugging the man’s car seemed a tad…much.

At least until now.

He opens Castiel’s door a tiny crack and tucks the microphone into the space between the driver’s seat and the door.

“That will not be necessary” A snide and nasally voice comes from over Mick’s shoulder and his hand quickly goes to the gun on his hip.

Mick spins, drawing his pistol as he goes and pushes himself upward from his crouch at the same time the man behind him swings a tire iron down, cracking Mick’s skull and sending him toppling to the pavement with barely a sound.

Alastair stands over Mick’s prone form with a wide grin as a nausea inspiring chuckle escapes his lips. He looks toward the back door of San Jac, licking his lips.

“The time has come, detective”

---Dean---

          Dean takes a deep breath, trying to calm his rising temper. The men in front of him are arguing in angry Spanish so quickly that Dean can barely keep track.

          This idiocy is exactly why he had Crowley organize this little meeting.

          If anyone can help Dean draw this little spat to a reasonable conclusion, the well dressed and somewhat dodgy Scot will be the one. Dean only hates that Crowley always wears a mask to these proceedings. Crowley claims the demon mask only adds to the dramatics, but they both know the real reason behind the black eyes and horns.

          “Can we please just get to the reason why Javiar’s people killed one of Carlos’ men in a drive-by?” Dean whines, rolling his eyes dramatically as both men snap their attention to him with venom in their gazes. “Seriously, don’t we all have better things to do,” Dean takes a sip of his whiskey while giving each man a pointed look, “ than argue over why the Tango’s can’t seem to keep their side of the treaty you all agreed to” Dean tilts his head while fixing his disappointment filled gaze on Javier.

          “Now Squirrel, let’s not put the cart before the horse, shall we?” Crowley cuts in, rolling his eyes towards Dean before stepping toward Javier and clapping a hand on the heavily tattooed man’s shoulder. “I’m certain there is a very reasonable explanation” He levels Javier with a look that has the man shrinking back.

          Dean huffs in mock annoyance, playing the game he and Crowley have perfected over the years. To the untrained eye, it would appear that Crowley is the one keeping Dean on a leash, but the reality is that the two work together like a well-oiled machine.

          “The Bloods were edging in on our territory” Javier bites, glaring towards Carlos.

          “Hijo de Puta!” Carlos snaps, stepping toward Javier angrily. Crowley holds him back with a flat palm to the center of his chest. “You lie!” He shouts, spittle flying from his mouth and landing on Crowley’s carefully arranged necktie.

          Crowley frowns, arching a brow as he lifts his tie to examine the damage. “Really?” He barks, tone as sharp as it is rasping.

          “My apologies Senor Crowley” Carlos backs away quickly as Crowley’s temper begins to spark.

          “This is the thanks we get for facilitating this meeting? You spit on me?” Crowley takes a step toward the gangster, his finger pointing angrily toward the ground with his voice rising in volume with each word.

          “I…I…apologize sir” Carlos holds his hands up in surrender and the men standing behind him square their shoulders, ready to defend their leader.

          “Fergus” Dean rolls his head on his shoulders, drawing out the word as if he’s bored with Crowley’s little display of anger.

          Crowley lifts his chin and straightens his jacket before turning to Dean with an offended expression. “He started it” Crowley whines with a sly smirk.

          “He also apologized” Dean impresses, not bothering to look towards the relieved expression on Carlos’ face. He gives Crowley a smug smile as he saunters toward Javier. “Now, I’m interested in hearing more of Javier’s little story” Dean continues, his tone patronizing in a way that only he can get away with. He gives the Tango leader a nod, granting permission to speak.

Javier explains to Dean and Crowley the events that led up to three of his runners shooting down two of the middle-level members of the Blood’s gang. Dean hums and nods at the appropriate places, appearing to be invested in the story all while carefully watching Carlo’s expressions for signs of disagreement to Javier’s tale.

Dean sees little emotion flit across Carlo’s face. His mouth remains set in a firm line and his pupils dilate as his hands flex at his sides. Crowley smirks when Dean catches his eye. Both gangs appear to have toes out of the carefully manicured line that Dean and his colleagues fight to maintain.

Innocent people had been put at risk when Javier’s men opened fire from a moving vehicle.

Innocent people had been harmed, their livelihoods more than their physical persons, when Carlos’ men smashed up a convenience store demanding protection money be paid to them despite being in Tango territory.

“Alright, Gentlemen” Crowley ducks his chin, looking up through his lashes with hellfire in his gaze. He steeples his fingers in front of him as he waits for Dean to take his place at Crowley’s side. The two gang leaders look on in trepidation as Dean whispers into Crowley’s ear. “Mr. Winchester and I have come to a consensus” The smirk on Crowley’s face grows wicked and the fearsome gang members shift uneasily.

Not even the gangs under their thumb understand the extent of what Dean and Crowley are capable of. Their fear is enough to keep a hold over them.

Hushed whispers in back alleys tell stories of unimaginable pain and suffering. Don’t make a deal with Crowley they say, you’ll never survive the terms.

People never listen. They meet the man and fall victim to his charms. Crowley can make their dreams come true. Everything they’ve ever wanted can be theirs for one easy to pay price.

What people never consider, however, is just how steep the price is.

Those who refuse Crowley come to Dean, who leads them down exactly the same path. Except, Dean is more forgiving. More lenient. But quicker to anger if his terms aren’t met and he has the resources to bring the world crashing down around them. Crowley has seen to that.

“Please, senor. My men made a mistake, I will see they are dealt with accordingly” Javier breaks first, looking to Dean as if the green-eyed man were a Prince about to declare war.

“Senor Crowley, por favor” Carlos shakes his head, pleading as he takes a step away from the shorter man. “My men who violated your code have already had their lives taken. There can be no more to pay”

Crowley tisks and Dean shakes his head. “If you could keep your men in line, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation” Dean steps forward, hands in his pockets as if out for a Sunday stroll.

“We don’t need to put up with this shit boss!” A heavily tattooed and greasy haired man steps forward, behind Javier, with a switchblade held firmly in his grasp.

Their guns were all taken at the door. Knives were supposed to be surrendered as well. “You’re pulling a knife on me?” Dean arches a brow, tone bordering on offended. “Tell me, what do you plan to do with that?” Dean glances toward the blade with a smirk. There are few things Dean knows better than how to wield a knife. This boy wouldn’t stand a chance against him.

“Hijo, no” Javier snaps, turning to shove the man back and wrench the blade from his hands before dropping the weapon to the floor and kicking it toward Dean. He rounds on the younger man, gripping him by the collar and dragging him on to his tiptoes as he growls something angrily under his breath.

“Hijo?” Dean cocks his head. He had known Javier’s son was highly ranked in the gang and poised to lead if something were to happen to Javier. Dean just hadn’t expected the young man to be brought into these proceedings. Javier had taken great care to keep him off Dean’s radar. Very interesting that he would bring him now.

“Boss!” Adam comes running into the room, eyes wide as he comes to a stop in front of Dean, pistol pointed downward but at the ready regardless. A quick glance to Crowley and firm nod to Dean has all three men in motion before the gang members can catch on to the urgency of the matter.

“Quick, out the back” Adam guides Dean and Crowley through the old iron vault door and slams it shut behind them, engaging the heavy-duty deadbolts designed for this very purpose. They can hear the gang leaders banging on the door, yelling to be let through but the three men don’t look back. Crowley owns this dilapidated former bank under the name of someone he once met on the street, someone that cannot be traced back to Crowley or Dean.

There is nothing to signify that the gang leaders were there for any illegal purpose and they know better than to utter Dean’s or Crowley’s names. They don’t even have weapons on them. Dean knows they’ll probably be arrested but released in a few hours when the owner of the building declines to file charges and no evidence can be found to charge the gangs of any wrongdoing.

They’ll be fine unless they do something stupid, which would be their problem. Not Dean’s.

None of the three men speak as they hurry down a maze of corridors before Dean pulls a rather large painting to the side, a reproduction of the Archangel Michael by Guido Reni, revealing the hidden keypad that will open a door to lead them directly into the belly of the next building.

The reason the police have never been able to directly prove Dean’s involvement is partly due to the extensive remodeling of buildings used for their meetings. Dean always has a planned escape route.

“Who tipped them off?” Dean growls to Adam as they hurry down the hall of the empty office building the hidden tunnel has delivered them into.

“I don’t know” Adam replies, his blue eyes angry and honest. “I’m sorry, Sir”

“Don’t look at me” Crowley barks as he pulls off the mask and shoves in his concealed carry pocket. “You know I wouldn’t call the attack dogs on myself”

Dean holds up a hand to silence the younger man who is stumbling to apologize to Crowley for the mildly accusing glace he had given him. “You have nothing to apologize for. Watching and alerting us is exactly what we pay you for”

“Exactly, mini-squirrel” Crowley chimes in and Dean rolls his eyes at Crowley’s insistence in Adam’s nickname. Just because Adam is Dean’s long lost and recently discovered half-brother, doesn’t make them anything alike. “You’ve done your job splendidly”

“Still” Adam tries to start but Dean fixes him with a look that has him clamping his mouth firmly shut.

Flashing blue and red lights reflect through the windows that the trio passes by on their way to their waiting car at the far end of the building. Dean huffs at the sight of heavily armed S.W.A.T members facing away from them, watching the neighboring building intently.

They have no idea.

“That was…unexpected” Crowley straightens his jackets as Dean slides in beside him in the back of the waiting Tahoe. “And remind me why this is our getaway vehicle” Crowley rolls his eyes as he complains, ignoring the way Adam flinches as he hops into the front passenger seat.

“Go” Dean directs to their driver, a well-seasoned and, more importantly, well paid Army Special Ops veteran. “You know as well as I do that this hunk of junk blends in better than your usual choice of vehicle.

“Or that sleek black beast of yours” Crowley arches a brow, glancing toward Dean with a knowing smirk.

Dean tilts his head slightly and shrugs in agreement. “So, Adam” Dean starts, glancing forward with minor trepidation. “Sam is in town. He’d like to meet you” Dean offers, ignoring the fact that he has yet to tell Sam about their younger half-brother.

Dean had only learned of his existence two years ago when the kid had turned up on his doorstep. His mom had been killed in a car accident and Adam had come searching for the only family he had left. The Winchesters.

Adam breath visibly catches in his throat as he scoots around in his seat to face Dean. His face has gone pale, making his wide blue eyes look almost grey. He swallows hard, staring back at Dean and searching for the words to say. “He…he does?” Eventually tumbles out, work immediately forgotten.

Dean nods and flinches a smile. He’s going to have to talk to Sam about this soon. Adam is a good kid, he deserves to know his family even though Adam’s existence will only add the fuel feeding Sam’s hatred of their father. “Come for dinner tomorrow night?”

Adam nods shakily. Dean doesn’t invite him for brotherly bonding very often, preferring to keep their relationship more professional. “Sure” He accepts with obvious hesitation, turning in his seat to face forward once again.

Dean nods at the back of his half-brother’s head, partially glad the younger man isn’t asking more questions. The kid has always been good about not asking too many questions. Dean wouldn’t have come to trust him if he had.

“So, the Moose is back in town?” Crowley nudges Dean with his elbow, giving the man a look that radiates smug satisfaction.

Dean rolls his eyes and barely holds back a snort of disbelief. “You are going nowhere near him” Dean fixes Crowley with a look that borders on hostile, but Crowley only laughs.

“Don’t worry, Dean. I wouldn’t dream of corrupting little Sammy” Crowley pats Dean on the shoulder, causing the younger man to bristle at the unwelcome contact.

Dean works with Crowley. He doesn’t have to like the man as well.

“I’m serious” Dean raises a demanding brow.

Crowley holds up his hands in mock surrender. “Fine, fine. I have better things to do anyway. Like getting Kevin to figure out how the APD caught wind of our little meeting”

“You better be good to that kid” Dean warns, still not pleased that Crowley has somehow coerced such a bright young man into working for him. Kevin is far too innocent for their world.

“Relax” Crowley dismisses, waving Dean off. “Just the other day he was telling me how my men are much nicer than you”

Dean squares his shoulders in offense. He’s plenty nice to Kevin. Thank you very much. “Just because I wouldn’t go buy him BBQ when there were plenty of leftovers….”

Crowley breaks into a deep laugh and Dean flinches a smile. “We make a good team, eh Squirrel?”

“Don’t remind me”

---

*Mick*

          Mick slowly blinks his eyes open, squinting against the harsh light beating down on him. Something hard digs into his shoulder and he groans as he turns, nearly falling off the narrow seat he’s somehow perched on.

          His head screams and pounds as the dimming light of the sun burns into his retinas. His chest prickles with heat and his bleary eyes sting as sweat beads and drips from his brow. “What the bloody hell” He groans, rotating his body so that his feet touch the floor and he can push himself upright.

          He dazedly rubs at his eyes, temple throbbing as he tries to remember where he is and what happened.

          His fingers wander to the back of his head, seeking the source of the miserable pain consuming the entirety of his being. He hisses when his fingers brush against the offending spot, gently prodding around a large lump and they come away sticky with half-dried blood.

          Mick's vision swims as he tries to focus, nausea rolling in his gut as he fumbles to open the door. He’s in the back of a car, his car from what he can tell.

          The windows are tightly shut, and he’s been baking in the afternoon sun for who knows how long.

          He eventually gets the door open and tumbles onto the pavement, heaving up the meager remains of his breakfast. His mind races as he struggles to get himself under control. The pain in his head coupled with the heat that he can literally see pouring from the now open door of his Mini-Cooper has him coughing and dry heaving on his hands and knees.

          He feels hot, overwhelmingly hot, so he strips off his jacket and white dress shirt, leaving him in only his slacks and his undershirt that he soon finds to be soaked with sweat despite his skin being dry to the touch.

          In the back of his mind, he knows vomiting and not sweating anymore is probably a bad thing, but his focus delves backward as he tries to remember how he got here in the first place.

          He remembers following Dean’s boyfriend to the police station, then watching something…fuck! “What happened to me?!” He slams his closed fist on the pavement, body still trembling too much to do anything but crawl on his hands and knees back to his car.

          He pats his pockets for his car keys but doesn’t find them. “Fuck!” He grunts, clutching his cramping stomach as another wave of nausea hits threatens to consume him.

          He swallows back the pain and hauls himself up enough to grip the driver’s side door handle but the trembling in his legs has him fighting to hard just to keep his balance.

          “Police! Freeze!” A sharp voice calls from behind him and Mick lets himself drop to the pavement, barely having the strength to push onto his back.

          “Please. Help me” He manages to wheeze, feeling his heart beating erratically in his chest. His stomach lurches and his lungs refuse to cooperate. “Mugged” He manages to gasp, knowing that the lump on his head means someone must have struck him. He only wishes he could remember who or why. He has an urgent feeling in his gut, like he needs to be doing something, but he can’t get his body to cooperate enough to figure out what that might be.

          His gaze turns towards the uniformed police officer hurriedly tucking away her taser. “Mister. Hey, stay with me” She drops to her knees by his side, calling in a code to the radio strapped to her shoulder. “An ambulance is on the way; can you tell me what happened?”

          Mick sluggishly tries to keep up with her words, but he barely gets beyond the swing of her light blond ponytail before his vision starts to grey and shrink. “Car. Hot” He manages to mumble, trying to convince his hand to draw her attention to the wound on his head. “Someone hit me” He hears himself mumble.

          Distantly, he hears sirens approaching and the gentle touch of the officer’s fingers on his pulse point, but his mind is still too hazy to remember what had happened.

          One minute he had been trailing Castiel and getting ready to bug his car, then next…”Cas!” Mick gasps, the sudden revelation sparking his consciousness into greater awareness. “Check…check on Detective Castiel Novak. I think he might in trouble” He manages to get out, knowing he can’t contact Dean in his current state.

          “Sir, what are you talking about? How do you know Detective Novak?” She urges him to speak but his tongue thickens around the words he wants to say.

          He blinks up at her, barely able to feel his mouth moving before his entire body tenses and his word suddenly explodes in pain and color. The overwhelming stench of sulfur fills his nose, causing him to choke and gag. His stomach revolts once more but his arms refuse to cooperate and cover his mouth.

          “He’s seizing!” A vaguely familiar voice near to him yells and soon more hands are on him and a sharp sting in his arm draws his attention before his body finally begins to relax.

          “Sir, we’re here to help. Can you tell us your name?” Firm hands feel along his neck, pausing briefly over his pulse before continuing to probe over his shoulders and down his arms.

          Mick swallows hard, eyes slipping closed. “Mick” He manages to mumble, tongue feeling thick and swollen against his teeth. The faint taste of copper and iron pervades his senses.

          “Alright, Mick. Can you tell us what happened?” Another voice rumbles near him and more fingers probe along his skull. Mick hisses and flinches when they find the raised bump in his hair. The offending touch lingers, probing deeper as the other set of hands slips something under his neck and wraps whatever it is around. “Possible concussion paired with heat stroke” The voice gathers all on his own.

          “We’re fitting you with a neck brace, it’s just a precaution until we get you to the hospital” The first voice explains, or is it the second? Mick struggles to keep track and he can’t find it in himself to really care.

          “Need to call…” Mick starts, vaguely remembering he needs to tell Dean something. Warn him. He attempts to roll over, but strong hands hold him in place.

          “We can notify your family, but you need to be still” A patient but firm voice explains. Mick thinks the voice might be coming from the police officer, but his eyes refuse to cooperate.

          “Can’t, Cas… trouble” Mick tries again and even he can hear the slur to his words. He’s sick. He knows he is, but if Alastair did this to him, he might have gotten to Cas.

          “Sir, we need you to hold still” The hands continue holding him down despite his slurred protests.

          “No, don’t under. Stand. Gotta call Dean. Cas…” Mick stumbles over his words as the medics work him over.

          “We can call someone as soon as we get to the hospital, right now we need to focus on getting you taken care of” A hand pats Mick’s shoulder, probably intended to be comforting but all Mick feels is annoyance. “Now, we’re going to roll you onto your side and slide a board under you just in case you have any spinal injuries. We need to keep you still”

          “M’fine” Mick tries to swat the hands away even as his stomach lurches, blinking open his eyes to take in the pinched frowns above him.

          “Sir, we really need you to stay still” A deep voice urges, hands tightening over his shoulders to press him flat to the pavement.

          Mick swallows around his rising nausea, digging deep to find the determination to convince these people the urgency of the situation. “Y’don’t understand. Novaks in danger” He complains, forcing his eyes to open further to seek out the police officer he knows should still be there, somewhere.

          “Hey, Officer” One of the medics call back. “You know anything about a Dean, Cas or a Novak?” Mick’s stomach lodges in his throat, thanking whatever god might be listening that these people are finally listening to him.

          “Castiel Novak is a detective on the force” Her clear as a bell voice sounds from somewhere beyond Mick’s head, he can’t see her but he’s thankful she’s still here.

          “He’s in danger. Please, need to call…” Mick all but pleads before his stomach begins to heave.

          “Shit” One of the medic’s bites before hastily rolling Mick onto his side before he can choke on his own bile. “We gotta get him in the bus”

          “I’ll get in touch with Novak, see if he knows what’s going on” The officer assures at the same time someone pats the area around Mick’s mouth clean.

          Mick is quickly strapped to the backboard and loaded into the waiting ambulance. “This your phone?” One of the paramedics holds up a gleaming piece of plastic and glass as the other ties a tourniquet to Mick’s upper arm.

          “We need to get some fluids in you, going to start an IV, alright?” The other medic questions as he hangs a bag of saline from the arm over Mick’s gurney.

          Mick nods his ascent to the IV before turning to the first medic and giving a second nod. Yes, that is his phone. He thinks. “Please” Mick is willing to beg. He needs to get in touch with Dean, tell him what happened.

          “Do you have someone we should call?” The medic questions, turning the phone in his hand as his partner works to start the IV.

          Mick nods and swallows hard. “D…Dean” He manages to get out. “My…my friend”

          “Alright, if I get Dean on the line, will you calm down and cooperate? We weren’t kidding when we said we needed you to be still. It seems you’re suffering from both a concussion and heat-related illness. You are very sick, despite being lucid right now. That could change at any moment. You could have another seizure. Do you understand?” He explains slowly and patiently as if Mick were a child.

          Mick can feel the red hot anger growing in his gut. He knows he’s sick. His entire body is screaming in pain and his stomach feels as if it’s trying to turn inside out. His vision is spotty and the bright lights inside the ambulance are sending pain of a magnitude he had never imagined shooting through his skull. He nods anyway. Anything to get ahold of Dean to warn him about Alastair.

          The medic, Mick can’t remember his name and he doesn’t really care, opens Mick’s contacts. “Dean W?” He glances to Mick, who nods as best he can with his neck in a brace. He must hit dial because Mick can hear the phone ringing.

          “Hold to my ear, please” Mick pleads but he’s largely ignored.

          “Talk to me” Dean's voice comes over the line, Mick can hear him clearly even from several feet away.

          “Um, Hello. Is this Dean? Mick’s friend?” The medic questions, his tone quickly flattening with professionalism.

          “Who is this?” Dean demands, suddenly deadly serious.

          “My name is Steven Lance, I’m a paramedic with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical. Your friend Mick has been involved in an accident and requested that we contact you” Steven explains as calm as a warm spring day.

          Silence follows. “Is Mick OK? Can I talk to him?” Dean voice is urgent and tinged with concern, but Mick can hear the wheels already turning in his friend’s mind.

          “We can give you two a minute, but Mick need to remain calm and still. We will be taking him to Dell Seton Hospital. Are you familiar with the location?”

          “Yes. Yes. Just put him on the line” Panic has already begun to set in Dean’s tone and Steven obviously takes the change as concern for Mick’s wellbeing. And he might be partially correct, but Mick isn’t likely in the hands of a mad man. Mick may be hurt, but he’s safe.

          “M’sorry, Dean” Mick mutters into the phone as soon as Steven holds the device to his ear.

          “What happened? Are you ok?” Dean half demands, half pleads.

          “Alastair got the jump on me” Mick whispers into the phone. “Knocked me out and left me locked in my car”

          “And Cas?” Dean’s voice trembles, already knowing the answer.

          “I don’t know” Mick tries to shake his head but his neck is immobilized and a new wave of frustration washes over him. “I’m sorry”

          “No no no. I’ll find him. Don’t worry. Are you gonna be ok?” Dean tries to calm Mick through the phone, but the comfort falls flat on the other man.

          “I’ll be fine. Find Cas” Mick glances towards the paramedic still holding the phone for him and jerks his head as much as he can in a nod to hang up the call.

          “Not my place, so I ain’t gonna ask what you’re tangled up in, but it sounds like you should file a report with the police if you know your attacker” Steven arches a brow as he hangs up the phone and powers it down to tuck into a clear plastic bag that he then affixes to the gurney.

          “No” Mick grumbles, letting his body finally relax into the care of the paramedics. The second man, the one who had started the IV, is now up front and backing them out of the parking lot.

          “If you change your mind, just say the word and we’ll have an officer waiting for us at the hospital”

          “No police” The last thing Mick wants is for the police to realize who he works for. It’s bad enough that Steven the paramedic spoke with Dean, but at least he appears to not think anything of a contact in his phone listed as Dean W.

*Castiel*

          Cas groans, trying to shake his arms free but all he gets is the jingle of chains and a stabbing pain behind his eyes. “Where am I?” He tries to demand but his voice is weak even to his own ears.

          The last thing he remembers is getting in his car to drive, his hand on his phone to call Dean. He wasn’t watching the road, and his world was suddenly tumbling and loud, shards of glass showering down around him.

          He jerks his arms again and feels metal digging into his wrists. “Is anyone here?!” Cas half yells, half pleads as he tries to open his eyes. He finds only darkness. His body aches but he can’t decide if the pain comes from his arms being secured over his head, his body supported by the meager toehold he just now managed to maintain or the accident he’s sure he had.

          Silence answers him, and shrouded in darkness as he is, he can’t determine if he’s alone or if he’s being watched.

          Time drags on and the pain in Castiel’s shoulders continues to bloom as the haze of unconsciousness fades, leaving him more aware of the cold concrete beneath his bare toes, the harsh metal digging into his wrists that feels too wide to be handcuffs.

          Hours or minutes may have passed in this darkened hell, Castiel can’t tell. He struggles against his bindings, reaches as far as he can with toes to try and find a way out. He finds that he can relieve the pressure on his wrists if he reaches high to grip the heavy chains holding him aloft, but then toes leave the floor and his shoulders scream in agony at having to hold his entire weight.

          A sound of metal scraping on metal causes Castiel to freeze in his struggles, his heart hammering wildly as he turns his blindfolded eyes toward the source of the noise. “Who’s there?” He demands, trying his best to keep the panic out of his tone.

          Silence is the only response to his words. “Let me go” Castiel bites, tone dropping low and dangerous.

          The sound of footsteps, heavy-soled boots on the hard concrete floor, circle Castiel and his heart rate increases at the same time his lungs refuse to fill. His breath comes in short and labored inhales through his nose as panic begins to set in. “Alastair” Castiel growls, thrashing against his chains.

          A low chuckle sounds inches from Castiel’s ear, and he jerks back, trying to keep at least a little distance between himself and the sadist lurking at his shoulder.

          “Very good detective” Alastair’s nasal voice slithers over Castiel at the same time a slow clap resounds in the room. Cas flinches, the chains above him jangling loudly.

          Warm breath ghosts over the shell of Castiel’s ear and his skin crawls at the proximity. “It’s a shame we’ve had to come to this” A feather-light touch glides across the small of Castiel’s back as Alastair moves behind him. “I warned you both, but you didn’t listen” He clicks his tongue in disappointment, but his tone belies amusement.

          “Dean is going to kill you” Castiel snaps, unsure of where his sudden bravery and confidence in Dean are coming from but he knows that begging a psychopath for release will do him no good.

          Alastair laughs. “Oh, I don’t think so” He strikes Castiel across the cheek with an open palm and Cas gasps at the stinging contact. “Dean and I share a very profound bond. He’s mine.” Alastair growls, fingers gripping tightly in Cas’ hair and wrenching his head backward.

          “I know who you are, Heyerdahl” Cas growls, digging deep to find what little bravery he has left in the face is the panic washing through his every cell.

          “No matter” Alastair chuckles lowly, running a sharp fingernail down Castiel’s bare arm. Somewhere along the way, Castiel’s suit jacket and dress shirt were lost, leaving him in only a short-sleeved undershirt and his skin pebbles under the nauseating touch. “You won’t be able to tell anyone who I am by the time I’m done with you” His nail rakes down Castiel’s arm and across his taut stomach, mimicking the slashing of a knife. “Dean will barely be able to recognize you” Alastair continues to drag his finger around Castiel’s side before pressing firmly into his spine.

          “Dean will find you” Castiel growls, doing his best to pull himself away from Alastair’s touch. “He will end you” Castiel bites, infusing his tone with as much confidence as he can muster in the face of his nearly overwhelming fear. Dean is likely his only hope right now, and there is no way for the man to even know that Castiel has been kidnapped.

          Alastair chuckles and steps close enough for Cas to feel his heat against his back. “At first I thought the only reason Dean paid attention to you was that you could give him something I couldn’t” Alastair rests an open palm at the small of Castiel’s back before dragging light fingertips over the swell of Castiel’s ass.

          Cas screams and thrashes “Don’t you fucking touch me” He snarls, trying to spin in place and land a kick against the other man.

          “I don’t plan to, Detective,” Alastair says as if disgusted by the insinuation. “I’ve never understood that particular proclivity of Dean’s, but I’ve been willing to look past it. I’m not heartless you know, I understand the man has needs that I cannot fulfill” He continues, clapping Cas in the shoulder like there were old friends.

          “But I cannot tolerate his focus being drawn to the likes of you. I taught him to be smarter than this. To be focused. Then you waltz in and ruin everything” Solid footfalls let Cas know that Alastair is walking away from him and his heart lodges in his throat.

          If his captor is walking away, he could be leaving. Cas could have a chance to escape if he can only slip his chains. The slide of metal on metal causes Castiel’s blood to run cold.

          The sound of a knife against a steel, honing the blade into a fine edge. Castiel would know that sound anywhere. His blood runs cold and he fights down a panicked scream. The severity of his situation begging to set in as he pulls against the chains. He can feel something hot and wet dripping down his arms as a result of his struggles and his breaths come in ragged gasps through his nose.

          “Now now, no need for that” Alastair steps close once again and presses something soft and damp to Castiel’s wrists. The cool pressure stings and Castiel bites back a startled gasp at the same time the harsh stench of alcohol floods his nose. “Can’t have you getting an infection” The man’s tone is soft, almost gentle, but Castiel knows better. “Now, hold still” His words come as a hiss and a warning.

          Cas bites down on his lip as his body begins to tremble. The harsh burning sting from rubbing alcohol on his bloodied wrists begins to subside and Alastair doesn’t waste any time tugging Castiel’s undershirt away from his body and piercing the soft fabric with a sharp blade at Castiel’s neckline and drags it down, the sound of tearing fabric filling the space.

          “Please don’t do this” Castiel resorts to begging, all his bravado falling away with his last protective layer of clothing. Cas feels the other man unbuttoning his fly and his pants are quickly tugged down his hips, thankfully leaving his underwear in place.

          “Such a lovely canvas” Alastair admires, dragging the tip of his blade up Castiel’s calf and over his thigh. He doesn’t press hard enough to break the skin, not yet, but Cas feels every centimeter the sharp point touches and he fights back more begging as he trembles.

          A chorus of Dean Dean Dean plays over and over in Castiel’s mind. The easy chant giving him something to hang on to when Alastair grows bored with merely taunting Castiel. The first sudden cut draws a strangled scream from Castiel’s lungs and deep laugh from Alastair.

          Cas feels the skin of his stomach splitting open under the blade as hot blood washes downward, soaking his underwear. He tilts his head back and screams with pain as Alastair places a steadying hand on his shoulder as if trying to offer comfort in addition to the searing cut.

          “There there” He pats Cas’ shoulder “The first few are always the worst” He circles Castiel, contemplating his next move. “Such clean skin, so much space for me to work” He praises as hot tears begin to soak through Castiel’s blindfold.

          Cas clamps his jaw shut, forcing heaving breaths through his nose. He will not scream again. He will not give his monster the satisfaction. He deserves this as penance for his failures. If this is the end, he’ll let the pain cleanse him of his sins before he begs God’s forgiveness.

          Alastair’s next cut comes just above his hip and circles around to his back, following the waistband of his underwear with the tip of the knife, not pressing enough to draw blood. Cas sucks in air hard through this nose, barely succeeding in keeping his mouth clamped tightly closed despite the scream being punched from his lungs.

          “What part of you is Dean’s favorite? Hmmm?” Alastair contemplates. “Is this it?” He taps the tip of the knife at the center of Castiel’s ass over his boxer briefs and Cas fights back a whimper. “Or maybe here?” Alastair steps around him, tapping the knife against Cas’ flaccid dick.

          Cas clamps down on his cry of protest and he struggles against the chains once again. The blood dripping down his legs causes his toes to slip on the concrete and his shoulders strain under the sudden increase in weight. “Dean will find me” Castiel mutters before he can stop himself. “Dean will find me, and he will end you” He doubles down on his hopes.

          Alastair laughs and moves to Castiel’s back. “Did you know I named myself after a demon? Alastor. The Avenger” He drags his blade from Castiel’s spine along the ridge of his shoulder before dipping down along the back of his ribs. The cut is only slightly more than a scratch, enough to sting and bleed, maybe scar but not enough to seriously injure. “Do you know why?”

          Castiel huffs and shakes his head, not willing to play this game. “You’re a psychopath”

          “The name is only fitting. I punish the wicked, avenge the souls they’ve maimed in their pitiful existence. I never thought I’d have an Angel strapped to my rack” He chuckles low in his throat, creating a matching cut along Castiel’s other shoulder. “An Angel should have wings, don’t you think?”

          Alastair cuts Castiel’s shoulders over and over as Cas flails against the attention. Blood drips from his wrists, and the dozen or so cuts littering his body. He loses his battle not to scream when Alastair starts to shallowly carve the shape of feathers down his back, nearly to the small of his lower back.

          His breaths come in labored heaves and bile rises in his throat, burning and choking him through the pain. “Stop. Please stop” He cries, begging as his shoulders sag in his chains. He prays for relief; death or unconsciousness, it doesn’t matter. This slow torture is more than he deserves. More than he can handle.

          “Beautiful” Alastair admires his handiwork, ignoring Castiel’s pleas entirely. “I think that’s enough for now. I wouldn’t want you passing out on me” He claps Cas on the shoulder as if bidding a friend farewell.

          Alastair’s footsteps fade away and a door shuts and locks in the distance. Suddenly, Castiel is alone. His back sings with the sharp pain from Alastair’s knife, almost enough to drown out the pain from the first two cuts and the throbbing ache from the car accident. He still isn’t certain what had happened, he only vaguely remembers the sound of an explosion accompanied by shattering glass before his word went dark.

          Then he woke up here. In hell.

          Now, apparently, he has wings. He lets out a strangled laugh that quickly turns into a desperate sob as shivers wrack his body. I’m going into shock. He thinks. I’m going to be murdered by a psychopath and I’m going into shock.

          Castiel can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. In truth, his body hurts too much for laughter, but the manic sound threatens to bubble forward regardless. Dean isn’t going to find him in time. There’s no way. If he hasn’t come already, he isn’t going to.

Chapter Text

---Dean---

          “Where is he!” Dean screams into the phone, gripping tight enough for the device to creak in protest. “I don’t know isn’t good enough!” He snaps, jaw clenching tight as his eyes slam shut. “Find him” The words leave Dean’s mouth in a growl before he ends the call with an angry jab.

          Dean tosses his phone onto the maps covering his desk and resumes pacing. His office feels more like a cage than home. Alastair has Cas. Of that, Dean has no doubt. If Dean had only taken care of the Alastair problem years ago instead of hiding like a coward, Castiel would be safe right now.

          “Yellin at the help ain’t gonna find your boy, brother” Benny saunters closer, tucking a pistol into the waistband of his jeans before handing another off to Dean.

          Dean draws back the slide with a loud click to ensure the gun is loaded and ready. “That bastard almost killed Mick and now he has Cas!” Dean directs his rage toward Benny, needing to scream and yell or run the risk of exploding into a million tiny pieces.

          “Dean” Sam edges into the office, earning a stern glare from both Benny and his brother.

          “Not now, Sammy” Dean dismisses him with a wave of his hand. He turns back to his desk, studying the maps of the city as he tries to piece together where Alastair might have taken Cas.

          “Dean” Sam tries again, stepping across the threshold only to be stopped by Benny’s hand at the center of his chest. “I can help” He meets Benny’s pale blue eyes with his own fiery gaze. “Dean, I can help” He turns his stare at his brother before pushing Benny’s hand from his chest and striding across the room.

          “This is none of your business” Dean snips, not bothering to look up from where he has both hands resting at the edge of his polished desk. The maps spread across the surface are getting him nowhere and he sweeps them to the floor with a growl of frustration.

          “Dean. I know all about Alastair. He has your Detective, right?” Sam keeps his tone low.

          “What do you know about Alastair?” Benny says quietly as he holds out a hand of caution, almost as if reaching to grip Sam’s arm at the same time Dean spins to face his brother with fury in his eyes.

          “How do you know about Alastair” Dean’s tone drops as his heart races. Sam isn’t supposed to know about any of this. The kid was angry enough when Dean had told him that he was dating a cop, he does not need to know about his relationship with Alastair.

          Sam takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, searching Dean’s expression for some sort of sign. He must not find what he’s looking for because he shakes his head slowly. “I know what he did to you” Sam holds up a hand, asking for silence when Dean tries to cut in. “I know Dad put you in that monster’s hands and he turned you into a killer” Sam continues and Dean’s jaw clenches so hard he can hear his teeth creaking under the pressure.

          “Sam” Dean warns, glaring daggers at his brother.

          “I’ve been studying him, Dean. Searching for him. That’s why I came back” Sam picks up one of the maps from the floor and spreads it over the desk calmly, searching with his finger as Dean gapes at him.

          “What. Do. You. Mean. You’ve been studying him?” Dean’s tone is flat and angry. A lesser man than his brother would shrink to his knees under that tone, but Sam merely throws him a bitch face and continues his search on the map.

          “Castiel is important to you, right?” Sam’s hazel eyes tilt to meet Dean’s gaze as he taps a finger over a spot on the map. Dean nods, still not quite comprehending that Sam knows his biggest secret and apparently has known for quite some time. “Then let me help”

          Dean nods once again, not seeing what other choices he has. “Yeah. Fine” He mutters as he scrubs his hands over his face. “Benny, where did the bomb go off?” He turns to his friend, pleading with his eyes for understanding.

          Benny steps forward, giving Dean a nod that has the man swallowing hard around the lump in his throat. “Mick was attacked here. We know Castiel and his partner and another friend were at San Jac Saloon when Alastair got to Mick” His finger taps Sixth Street at San Jacinto Boulevard. “Mick called in three hours later, about the same time the police were responding to a small explosion on Northwestern near Boggy Creek” Benny traces a path with his finger before tapping on the map.

          “What the hell was he doing way over there?” Sam grumbles. “He lives in the opposite direction”

          “And how do you know that?” Dean arches a brow and Sam turns to him, wide-eyed like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

          “I, uh, I might have paid him a visit” Sam scratches the back of his neck like he’s done since he was a little boy when he’s nervous.

          Dean feels angry heat flash through his veins as he stares his brother down. “You what?” His tone is calmer than he feels and Sam swallows hard, easily recognizing Dean’s barely concealed anger.

          “You’re not the only one who’s protective, Dean” Sam scowls. “And I needed information”

          “So, I’m supposed to believe you went to Cas to protect my honor or some twisted shit like that?” Dean arches a disbelieving brow as he leans over his desk toward Sam.

          “Yes,” Sam says, tone clipped. “And I needed information”

          “About what?!” Dean throws his arms in the air. He can’t believe this is happening. Sam shows up out of nowhere, after so many years with barely a word. Well, maybe not nowhere. Stanford. Sam has been safely ensconced in school, working towards a law degree, and more importantly, away from Austin and all of Dean’s shit!

          “Now’s not the time” Sam frowns and Dean only wants to scream louder.

          “Were you ever going to tell me what you’re up to?” Dean growls, staring his brother down. The younger man stares right back, standing taller than Dean now and meeting his glare pound for pound.

          “Yes. But I needed more. I didn’t want to tell you before I had all the pieces” Sam turns his gaze to Benny, urging him with a simple look to continue.

          “The other man in Castiel’s car was taken to the hospital but Cas was already taken before the police got there,” Benny tells Sam as Dean looks on, fuming.

          “Who’s the other guy and why was he in Castiel’s car?” Sam asks, pointedly ignoring Dean’s icy glare.

          “Dunno. Works for the PD, that’s all we know” Benny shrugs.

          Loud banging causes the three men to jump in surprise before Dean turns toward the door with a growl. “What the hell?” He narrows his eyes into a glare that could burn whoever is knocking to ash if only he had the proper superpowers.

          “I’ll check it out” Benny snaps, already striding quietly from the room with his gun in hand.

          Dean nods and watches Sam stare after Benny’s retreating form. “We are going to talk about this later” He demands of his brother, earning himself an eyeroll that thoroughly declares Dean to be a moron. “I’m serious, Sam”

          “How am I not surprised to see you here” A shrill and clearly irritated voice echoes down the hall from the front door that has both Winchesters freezing in place.

          “Detective, now really is not a good time” Benny can be heard trying to dismiss Meg but the short woman shoves her way in regardless.

          “Dean Winchester!” She shouts, the loud clomp of her boots approaching.

          “Shit” Dean smacks a hand on his desk before turning toward his office door with a plastered-on smile.

          “Meg?” Sam breathes, shifting to stand behind Dean as a flurry of dark curls storms into the room.

          Meg stomps her way directly to Dean and lands a firm smack across his cheek before the man can say a word.

          “Nice to see you too, Detective” Dean grates with false politeness as he rubs the sting from his cheek.

          “How dare you corrupt him. How DARE you play games with…” Meg winds herself up, red-faced and fury evident in her tone.

          “Whoa whoa, hold on a sec” Dean holds up a placating hand. “Who’s corrupting who?” He questions, pretending he doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

          “Don’t you dare play innocent with me, Winchester” She points an accusing finger. “I thought something fishy was going on when you showed up on the bat cruise, but I never thought you’d stoop so low as to trick a detective into your bed!” She all but snarls, puffing her chest out to make herself look taller while surrounded by men over a half foot taller than her.

          “Masters, I did no such thing” Dean defends.

          “He told us everything!” She bites, her forcibly hushed tone harsh as her deep brown eyes blaze with fury.

          Dean nods, licking his lips to buy himself a moment of time. What had Cas told them? That Dean is manipulating him?

          “Meg?” Sam steps forward, saving Dean for a moment by serving as a distraction for the woman’s rage.

          “Sam?” She blinks, eyes widening and softening in the same breath, just now noticing Sam in the room.

          “Hi” Sam gives her a boyish smile and ducks his chin. Dean has never loved his brother more than in this instant.

          “What are you doing here?” Meg asks, tone hesitant as she look between the two brothers. “I thought you were in California?”

          “I just got in yesterday” Sam blushes, flashing Meg a shy smile.

          “You picked a bad time to come back” Meg informs him, and Sam opens his mouth to disagree.

          Dean doesn’t need to hear the words to know what Sam is about to say.

          “Whatever you think about me, Meg, I can assure you I meant Castiel no harm” Dean cuts in before Sam can dig himself into a hole. “No, listen. Please” Dean cuts Meg’s protest off before she can build any bluster behind it. “We met innocently. I swear. I didn’t know who he was, and I believe him when he says that he didn’t know who I was either. I care about him, Meg. I really do. I promise I’m not playing any games here or trying to corrupt your friend. I care about him”

          Meg stares hard for a moment, chewing on her lower lip as she studies his expression for honesty. “Then you know who took him” She apparently decides that Dean is telling the truth. At least enough of the truth that he may be useful.

          “We do” Dean purposefully includes Benny and Sam, refusing to leave them behind if Meg goes off on some crazy scheme.

          “I’ve been researching Alastair for years” Sam interjects.

          Dean glances to Benny, who has taken to leaning on the doorframe and watching the proceedings with caution. He gives the man a slight nod, granting his consent to Benny stepping in.

          “We already know when and where Castiel was taken. What we don’t know is where Alastair took him” Benny pushes off the doorframe and approaches the desk, pointing to the spot on the map where the car bomb went off.

          How Alastair managed to plant the bomb and direct the blast so that Cas wasn’t seriously injured is astounding. At least, they’re clinging to the hope that Castiel wasn’t seriously injured.

          “Inias says he didn’t see anything” Meg frowns, staring down at the innocent looking street on the map.

          “Inias? That the passenger?” Benny questions, silencing Dean’s own questions with a firm look. Dean swallows hard and nods. Now is not the time.

          Meg nods. “Cas was giving him a ride home”

          Dean absorbs the information, but more questions form in his mind. If Meg knows him too, this Inias must just be a friend. Nothing strange about coworkers being friends. He’ll ask Cas when they get him back and for now, Dean will force himself to ignore the jealousy coiling in his gut.

          They will get Cas back.

          Sam busily marks locations in the map while Dean is internally debating the merits of questioning Meg about Inias, and Meg and Benny have a stare down for dominance. “So, get this” Sam mutters, drawing the attention of the other three. “Alastair has dumped bodies in these locations during the last five years” Sam stands back with his hands on his hips and the pen grasped firmly between his fingers.

          Dean stares down at the map, mentally cross-checking his own dumping spots with the little X marks Sam made. “Not these” Dean sighs as he takes the pen from Sam and scribbles out six of the twenty marks. He hangs his head when he’s done, feeling the weighted eyes of both his brother and Meg.

          He glances to Meg and watches her eyes dart across the map, pupils twitching as she thinks. “How do you know those weren’t Alastair?” She finally looks up to him with an arched brow and Dean frowns.

          “No comment” Dean refuses to admit that those were his kills. Well, that and Alastair’s most recent that the monster literally left on Dean’s doorstep. Dean had to move that body. He had no choice.

          “Uh huh” Meg crosses her arms over her chest and narrows her eyes as if she could see to the very depths of his soul.

          “It doesn’t matter right now” Benny cuts in, drawing the attention back to the map and marks Sam drew.

          “Right” Sam nods, refusing to meet Dean’s gaze. “That helps, actually” He keeps nodding and Dean’s stomach clenches.

          Sam can see right through him, Dean has no doubt. If Sam didn’t know how many people Dean has killed, or how, Dean is certain he’s putting the pieces together as they speak. So is Meg.

          “Here. Somewhere in this radius” Sam circles an area on the map, on the west side of Austin in a fairly industrial area. “The dump sites seem to radiate from here”

          Meg’s jaw drops and she shakes her head. “How did we not see this” She mutters, more of a statement than a question.

          Dean snorts. “The police suck, that’s why”

          “And you do so much better?” Meg challenges, hands on her hips as she stares through Dean and into the wall behind him.

“As a matter of fact…” Dean squares his shoulders and meets her gaze head-on, refusing to back down.

“Hey. Cas. Remember?” Sam interrupts their staring contest and Dean immediately berates himself for the distraction.

“I’ll radio for a team” Meg is already turning to go but Dean stops her with a firm hand on her shoulder.

“No” Dean commands. “I need to do this”

“Brother…” Benny steps forward but Dean holds up a silencing hand.

“Alastair wants me. Meg, there is a lot I don’t have time to explain…but Alastair only went after Cas because of me” Dean pinches a frown. “I’ll get him back. I swear it”

“You expect me to trust you?” Meg arches a brow, hands perched on her hips. Dean nods. “He’s my partner, my friend…if you think I’m going to leave his life in the hands of someone like you…”

“He’s my boyfriend and I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be the love of my life” Dean blurts, eyes widening at the words, but he refuses to take them back. They feel right, despite being so new. “You aren’t the only one willing to do anything to get him back”

---*Castiel*---

          Castiel wakes to a blinding light flooding his formally darkened world. He had been left alone for what had felt like a small eternity of him struggling against his chains, trying to lift himself high enough to find where they attach above him to seek escape, but he had gotten nowhere. The cuts Alastair had made barely clotted with all of his acrobatics and in the end, he was a panting mess sagging against his bonds.

          Then, the latch on the door clicked and those hard footsteps reappeared along with a disapproving clucking of a tongue. “You were intended to rest, not injure yourself further. What good are you to me if you’re ruined by your own hand?” Alastair’s nasal tone had managed to hold so much disappointment that Castiel nearly regretted his actions. Nearly.

          A soft piece of fabric had been pressed over Castiel’s nose and mouth with an arm wrapped around his chest to hold him in place as he struggled to resist breathing in the flowery sweet scent that comes with the cloth. Cas tried to buck and thrash, not knowing what was happening but fighting against it nonetheless with muffled cries of protest. He could only hold his breath for so long and the last thing he remembers is his body going lax in Alastair’s hold and his mind going fuzzy before waking up to this horrible light.

          Castiel groans and turns his head on the hard table he’s strapped to. His eyes clamp tightly closed before slowly blinking open, trying to catch a glimpse of his surroundings. His position has changed, instead of being stretched upright by chains around his wrists, he’s now strapped down, his arms stretched out from his sides but blessedly relaxed. His shoulders ache and still scream their protest, but his joints appear to be safe from dislocation at the very least.

          His back though. He shakes his head, trying to clear away the cloud of disorienting pain radiating from his mangled back. The wings Alastair carved into him are now under the weight of his body, surely stemming the steady flow of blood but intensifying the pain.

          His head swims from what he assumes to be blood loss when he tests his new bonds, wide leather straps holding him spread eagle. He can’t lift his chin to see if his modesty is preserved, but he can feel the sticky wetness of his underwear clinging uncomfortably to his legs. Alastair allowed him that much dignity at least.

          The monster in question seems to have left him alone again and Cas lets out a relieved sigh. The longer Alastair takes to kill him, the better chance of someone coming to his rescue. He hopes.

          The room he’s in now is tiny, barely enough space on either side of his table for a person to walk. The walls are smooth and plastic looking and the door appears to be a vault type thing when Cas cranes his neck to look. There is a large fan hanging the ceiling and Cas squints at the device. The lack of fresh air in the space is stifling and the room reeks of mildew and the coppery tang of blood. His blood. Castiel’s stomach churns at the observation.

          Alastair has him locked in an industrial freezer.

          Cas huffs a bitter laugh and shakes his head. At least the freezer isn’t on.

          He lets his thoughts drift since he has nothing else to pass the time. He vaguely remembers the accident, his well-loved Continental hitting a bump in the road that he hadn’t seen before Inias had screamed and...

          Inias.

          Castiel’s eyes fly open, staring directly into the exam light above him without noticing the brightness. Inias. How could he have forgotten that Inias had been there too?

          He glances around the room quickly, searching for signs of his friend, something he may have missed. Did Alastair take him too? Did he survive the crash? Or was it an explosion? How can Castiel hope to remember what happened to Inias when he can’t even remember what happened?

          His breathing starts to grow ragged once more as he considers all the gruesome possibilities that could have befallen Inias. “LET ME OUT OF HERE!” Castiel yells as loud as his lungs can muster and pulls against his restraints. “IF DEAN DOESN’T KILL YOU, I WILL!!” He hollers, his voice cracking with his pained exhaustion but he doesn’t care. “ALASTAIR, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!! YOU’LL PAY FOR EVERYTHING YOU’VE DONE!”

          Castiel screams and yells obscenities until his voice runs hoarse and he can’t scream anymore. Tears leak from his eyes as his lungs heave for air, panic begins to set in as he pulls and pulls, trying to free to wrists.

          He clamps his jaw shut when he feels something wet and sticky slicking his skin underneath the leather strap binding his right wrist. The pain tells him the wetness is his own blood, but his eyes widen with the glimmer of hope. If he can get enough slide, maybe he can free his hand!

          “Ok, calm down. You can do this” He whispers to himself, forcing his breathing under control. He turns his head to watch as he tries to tug wrist free. If he could only dislocate his thumb, he could have a chance at escape.

          He tucks his thumb tightly into his palm, willing for the ligament to pop as he pulls against the cuff. He cries out with the effort before clamping down on his sounds but his hand refuses to budge.

          The sweat beading on his forehead from the intensity of the light above him and the pain his body is swimming in causes his eyes to sting and he blinks away his salty tears. “Fuck” He breathes, chest clenching with his dashed hopes. “Need to try harder” He mutters. Maybe this would be easier if he didn’t watch.

          Cas takes a deep breath, steeling his nerve, and makes a fist with his thumb tucked in. He vaguely remembers something circulating online where stupid kids were dislocating their thumbs by using torque from their closed fists to break the ligament holding their thumb in place. So, he applies as much pressure as he can manage.

          His heart stammers and tears drip from his clenched eyes as he bites back his pained scream as he puts as much as he can into his escape attempt. If not for his restraints, he would be curled into the fetal position with the pain of his efforts.

          A sudden pop and a new flood of white-hot agony has him nearly laughing in relief. “I did it” He mutters with disbelief as he slides his now mangled hand through the leather band that had been holding in place.

          His thumb hurts, worse than the cuts on his back and the tired ache of his shoulders but he rolls to reach his other wrist, pointedly not looking at the way his thumb is sitting all kinds of wrong.

          A giddy and terrified giggle threatens to erupt from his chest as he paws at the clasp holding his other hand. Without the proper use of his thumb, he’s having more difficulty than anticipated freeing himself, but he refuses to give up now.

          The strap comes undone easier once he figures out the best angle and then he’s quickly sitting up to uncuff his feet when the lock on the door clicks and his heart freezes in his chest. “shit, shit, shit” He panics, clawing the straps around his ankles at the heavy door begins to swing open.

          “Oh, Angel” Alastair’s condescending tone barely sounds surprised. He crosses the room too quickly for Cas to make any further progress and Cas wails as he swings his best punch toward Alastair when the man tries to grab hold of him.

          Cas squirms and fights, landing at least one solid punch before Alastair grabs him by the throat and squeezes, robbing him of breath and slamming him back to the table even as Cas continues to thrash against Alastair’s hold.

          “Hmmm...very foolish of you, Detective” Alastair growls, finally showing signs of his careful mask of control slipping. “You really shouldn’t have done that” A sickening grin creeps over his face and his pale grey eyes spark with rage. “Gonna make you scream really pretty now” He manages to get Castiel strapped down once again, ruthlessly adding another strap at the crook of Castiel’s elbows to prevent him from getting loose again.

          “You’ll never survive this” Castiel spits into Alastair’s face when the man leans over him.

          “Oh, I think I will” The monster smirks as he pulls away to drag his table of knives close enough for Castiel to see if he turns his head to the side. “I’m going to enjoy this” He coos, staring down into Castiel’s wide eyes, skinning knife in hand.

---Dean---

          “I’m going in there. Now” Dean fights against the way Benny’s fist is closed into the fabric of his well-fitting black jacket.

          “Dean, we gotta be careful here” Benny’s heart pounds every bit as hard as Dean’s. They can both hear Castiel’s muffled screams and grunts of pain coming from inside the small brick building that has supposedly been vacant for years.

          Thanks to Sam, they know this building has not been as vacant as it would appear.  

          “He’s still alive” Dean’s wide eyes search his friends. “He might not be if we wait any longer” Dean growls the words as he wrenches himself free and stalks toward the back entrance of the building that was likely once some sort of fast food restaurant. Maybe a Hot & Now. Not that that matters, but Dean draws a slight amount of comfort from being able to identify the location.

          Dean can feel Benny trailing him, the click of a round chambering in his AR-15 settles over Dean like a comforting blanket. Benny has his back. Dean is about to face down a monster from his past and rescue his boyfriend. And there is no one Dean would rather have at his side than his best friend.

          He takes a deep breath, running a hand over the butcher knife strapped to his chest for backup while drawing his Dad's old Colt Revolver with his other hand. Normally, this gun stays locked in his safe with the handful of others that are legally registered to his name. But tonight, he needs a weapon that he is intimately familiar with and this one has always been his most trusted.

          He signals silently to Benny, catching Steve’s eyes as well. His normal driver while dealing with the gangs turned out to be willing to pull out his special OP’s training for the right price. Dean didn’t care how much the man had asked, honestly, he could have asked for a lot more than a thousand dollars. Anyone else with his skills would have, but Steve through the number out casually, like he wouldn’t have cared if Dean tried to haggle.

          Dean hadn’t. The deal was sealed with a handshake in a matter of seconds and now the man is mirroring Dean’s actions on the opposite side of the small building, dressed in his all black tactical gear and face paint.

          Benny brings up the rear, AR at the ready as they circle to the back door.

          Steve quickly busts out the only window with a light shining beyond and tosses a tear gas grenade through the halo of shattered glass. The pop and hiss of the painful gas releasing along with an angry curse and anguished cry from within have Dean’s stomach dropping as he kicks the door in. He and Benny hurry through with their masks in place and Dean frantically searches for signs of Castiel.

          Steve covers the other door in hopes that Alastair will try to escape. Dean would much prefer to kill Alastair himself, but he’s too concerned about getting Cas to safety to really care who holds the gun to that monster’s head.

          Dean sweeps the room but finds it empty. He can hear Castiel’s muffled shouts, his pleas for the pain to stop and Dean quickly works his way toward the source of the sounds.

          “Dean Dean Dean, so nice to see you” A slow voice drawls from behind him and Dean’s skin crawls at the too familiar tone. That nasal and condescending cadence is unmistakable and Dean spins to face the man behind that horrible voice.

          “Alastair,” Dean says, tone flat and unimpressed despite the racing of his heart. He narrows his eyes in a glare that he knows is lost behind his gas mask, but the other man is somehow wearing one himself, so Dean can only imagine what lies behind that mask.

          “I am surprised by the efforts you’ve gone through to get your little toy back” Alastair cocks his head. “I didn’t expect…all of this” He gestures around them, to the cloud of tear gas that is slowly dissipating.

          Benny nods to Dean from just outside the door. Alastair has his back to the man and Benny lines up his shot without making a sound, giving Dean the signal to keep that other man talking.

          “What can I say, I thought you’d appreciate the theatrics” Dean shrugs, training his pistol on the center of Alastair's chest.

          “Hmmm” Alastair considers as he pulls a knife from his belt loop.

          Dean’s eyes grow wide and he doesn’t need to see the sickly smile growing over the other man’s face. He knows that knife, too well. He knows he needs to need to move but his racing heart helps keep his feet frozen in place. Alastair draws his arm back, knife ready to throw and the only sound Dean can hear is the pounding in his ears.

          Benny aims, focusing his attention entirely on Alastair and a shot rings out loud and clear in the small space.

          Alastair spins with a curse, glaring at Benny while clutching his bleeding hand. He makes to run past the burly man but even his height gives him no advantage. Benny aims again, holding his fire when he sees Dean flinch out of his frozen trance.

          Dean places a finger against his trigger, drawing his gun up as he steps briskly across the room.

          “Winchester!” Meg shouts, finally having located them and broken free of Sam’s supervision. “Lafitte!” She growls. “Put your guns down!”

          “Back off Meg,” Dean says, tone cold and venomous. He doesn’t care that Meg is the police. He doesn’t care of the entire department is waiting outside. The lack of flashing lights and sirens tells him they likely aren’t, Meg probably came alone.

          Dean’s gaze doesn’t leave Alastair as he approaches. The three of them have the bleeding man surrounded, although Meg doesn’t seem sure who to aim her gun at. “Cas is somewhere back there, go find him” He offers her an out, knowing how fond Alastair is of working alone, Dean is sure that Cas is laying back there somewhere, bleeding, and unsupervised. He needs help.

          “I’m not leaving you to murder him” Meg trains her gun on Dean. “Now, put the gun down, Winchester”

          “I will not” Dean doesn’t bother sparing her a glance as he takes another step toward Alastair.

          “Dean” Meg tries again. “I can’t let you murder someone in cold blood”

          “I’m not letting him go. He’s done enough damage” Dean presses the barrel of his revolver directly to Alastair temple.

          Alastair laughs, but the sound is thin and tinny. He’s worried. “Dean here won’t shoot me. We go way back he and I” He tries to back away from Dean, but he’s worked himself in a corner with nowhere to go.

          “Sometimes you have to put a rabid dog down” Benny gives Dean a nod, stepping closer to Meg in case she tries to stop Dean from pulling the trigger.

          “Dean!” She shouts, Alastair makes a move for the gun just as Dean tightens his finger against the trigger and Alastair drops to the floor in a spray of blood as the pop from the gun ricochets around the small room.

          Dean doesn’t hear the noise or Meg’s frustrated cry and he certainly doesn’t care how Benny quickly disarms the detective and pushes her aside.

          He doesn’t bother stopping to check that Alastair is really dead. Benny can deal with that. He immediately turns and storms through the doorway to the next room, searching for Cas.

          He follows the trail of blood to an old walk-in cooler. He can hear Cas beyond the door and his breath catches in his throat as he pulls open the heavy door, revealing his boyfriend strapped to a table and drenched in blood.

          “Cas!” He gasps, tearing off his mask as terrified blue eyes land on him. “I’m gonna get you out of here baby” He stumbles over his words in their rush to leave his mouth.

          “Dean?” Cas’ voice trembles, his eyes wide and unsure, as if he can’t believe Dean came for him. “Dean?” his wary tone turns into a heavy sob as Dean scrambles to undo the cuffs holding him down.

          “Cas, baby” Dean feels tears welling in his eyes and the heavy knot of tension in his chest slowly releasing. Cas is here. Cas is alive. “Can you walk?” He asks as he helps Cas sit up, noting with nauseating horror all the marks carved into Castiel’s skin. How could he have let this happen to his perfect Angel?

          “Dean” Cas sobs the name, clutching every part of Dean he can reach and pulling the man as close as possible.

          Dean lets Cas cling to him, but he doesn’t know where to touch. He wants to hold Cas, hug him, and promise that he’s going to be okay, but he’s too afraid to touch the other man for fear of hurting him further.

          “You’re here,” Cas says with disbelief laced in his voice. He puts his hands against Dean’s chest, feeling the solid mass behind the black tactical gear and Dean fights back tears.

          “Come on Cas, we gotta get you outta here” Dean takes a risk and wraps an arm over the very top of Castiel’s shoulders, not seeing any injury to that slim stretch of skin.

          “Dean” Cas repeats and Dean’s heart fractures.

          “Come on” Dean urges, coaxing Castiel to his feet but well prepared to catch him if his legs don’t hold. A quick scan of Castiel’s body shows that his injuries appear superficial, but he won’t be certain until a doctor examines the man. “Going to get you home”

          Cas nods dumbly, trying to stand as he clings to Dean but his grip is weak. “Dean?” Cas’ voice takes on a new tone, weak and thready as his legs wobble underneath him. “Can’t see…”

          “Shit” Dean bites as he quickly sweeps an arm around Castiel’s hips as he drops, “Steve!” Dean shouts and the other man takes only seconds to come bursting through the door. “Help me with him”

          “This your boy?” Steve asks as he gently slides a shoulder underneath Castiel’s arm to help Dean carry him to the large SUV waiting a half block away.

          They get Castiel outside and Dean is thankful for the complete lack of police presence. He had suspected Meg came alone, but he lets out a heavy breath at the realization that he was right.

          “Go get the car,” Dean tells Steve once they get Cas outside and shift his weight to Dean just as Benny and Meg emerge from the other entrance.

          “Oh my god, Clarence” Meg breaks into a jog when she sees Castiel’s bloodied form draped over Dean’s shoulder and takes his slack face between her palms to try to wake him.

          “He’s alive” Dean tries to assure but Meg gives him an unconvinced look. “He was awake, but I think he’s in shock. Passed out when I got him up”

          “We need to get him to the hospital. I’m gonna call this in” She reaches for her phone, but Benny snatches the device from her hands.

          “We’re not gonna rot in a jail cell for taking out the trash” He grumbles as he pockets the woman’s phone. “You’re either gonna give us a hand cleaning up, or get the hell out of our way”

          “We’ve got a dead body inside, and a badly injured police officer” Meg rests her hands on her hips and glares. “He needs a hospital!” She protests, stepping into Benny’s space, unintimidated by his much larger size.

          “You can call in Alastair’s body, but not until we get Cas out of here” Dean argues, lifting his chin towards the approaching SUV. “Benny, help me get him inside”

          Benny nods and steps away from Meg, ignoring her huff of protest as he pulls open the back door of the SUV and then turns to help Dean settle Cas inside.

          They lay him across the seat as gently as they can, turning him onto his mostly uninjured side, facing the back of the bench seat and carefully leaning his shoulder forward to prop him against the seat.

          Meg watches with rapidly diminishing protest and barely complains when Dean circles the car and climbs in the other side to take Castiel’s head in his lap.

          Dean looks down, staring at his Angel’s blood-matted hair and the shallow cuts littering his body. So much worse could have happened, but his soul still aches at the sight of these senseless wounds.

          He should have been more careful. He shouldn’t have dragged Cas into his mess of a life.

          Dean gently glides his fingers through Cas’ matted hair, teasing out the knots until he can slide his fingers effortlessly through the mess of dark strands.

          Steve drives, probably a little too quickly, after Benny slides into the passenger seat, leaving Meg to clean up the mess. Dean has no doubts that she’ll figure everything out. The trouble will be explaining what happened to Cas, it would all be so much easier if they had let Meg call him an ambulance.

          But Dean refuses to let the man out of his sight now that he has him safe in his arms. Damn the consequences.

          The drive across the city and to his home outside the city limits has never felt so long. Cas blinks his eyes open once during the drive, quietly groaning as those slivers of blue meet Dean’s worried gaze before falling into a fitful slumber.

          All of the adrenaline of the last day comes crashing down all at once, leaving Castiel exhausted beyond words and Dean urges him to rest. To let himself be taken care of. “Everything is going to be alright” Dean whispers as he continues petting Castiel’s hair, afraid to touch him anywhere else. “You’re safe now”

Chapter Text

The first thing Castiel notices when his eyes blink open is the flood of natural light pouring through the thin white curtains that barely cover giant picture windows. The surface underneath his aching body is soft, letting him forget for a moment just how much everything hurts.

          He turns his head to the side, noting the warmth gripping his hand loosely and smiles when he sees Dean leaning against the edge of the bed, his head resting inches from their clasped hands and a slight trail of drool hanging from his open mouth. The sunlight behind him frames Dean’s shoulders in glowing light, nearly making him appear angelic in his slumber. Cas marvels at his slack and peaceful expression, so different from the fierce and capable man he’s started to know. He gives Dean’s hand a squeeze, urging the man awake, as his gaze travels over the rest of the room.

          The room that most certainly is not a hospital room. Cas blinks in confusion as he takes in the broad expanse of the space, the serene and simple décor. Where is he?

          “Cas?” Dean’s tired voice cracks, rough from sleep, as his hand slips from Castiel’s grasp.

          “Hello, Dean” Cas whispers, not quite trusting his own voice. Memories of the last few days are blurry, but the shooting pain in the hand Dean wasn’t holding tells him that very little of his nightmares were dreams.

          “Cas” Dean breathes the word like a prayer, the relief clear in his tone as he pushes to his feet to fuss with the IV that Castiel only now notices.

          Castiel’s eyes widen as clearer memories flood back to him. He was rescued. Dean rescued him. “What happened?” Cas asks, doubting that he can trust his own memories. “Alastair…” Panic begins to bubble in his chest, his lungs tightening to the point where he can’t breathe, and his heart begins to race.

          “Shit, Cas” Dean gently pushes him back to the mattress when Cas tries to push himself up. “Calm down, Angel. You’re safe” Dean coos as he runs a hand down Castiel’s arm gently. “You’re safe now. You’re home.” He keeps murmuring words of quiet comfort, coaxing Cas out of his anxiety driven panic and eventually, Castiel settles.

          “How?” Castiel feels tears prickle in behind his eyes.

“Sam figured out where he was keeping you” Dean holds tightly to Castiel’s hand, rubbing soothing circles with his thumb wherever he can reach skin instead of a bandage. “I couldn’t let him...” Dean trails off, emotions causing his throat to swell and refuse the passage of words.

“How am I here?” Cas turns to meet Dean’s eyes, holding a steady gaze despite the moisture threatening to fall.

“We brought you here” Dean runs his fingers through Castiel’s hair, much cleaner now, thanks to Dean’s attention and the nurse he hired.

“I should be at a hospital” Cas attempts to push himself into a sitting position once again, but Dean presses him back.

“Take it easy” Dean urges. “I hired a doctor and nurse to look after you. I couldn’t let you out of my sight again”

“Dean...” Cas protests, worry beginning to replace the fear lingering in his eyes.

“You’re safe here”

“But my job” Cas shakes his head. “I could lose my job”

Dean nods with a frown, the knot of dread in his gut tightening. Meg blew their entire relationship out into the open. The police know exactly where Castiel is, and they know exactly what Dean had done to get Cas here.

“Dean, what?” Cas demands, narrowing his eyes with suspicion.

“Meg may have told them about us” Dean frowns, knowing Castiel will quickly come to the conclusion that Dean really would rather not put into words.

Castiel’s eyes blow wide with Dean’s words and he struggles to untangle himself from the IV line. “I need to go”

“You’re not going anywhere. The department knows that you’re here. They know I killed Alastair while rescuing you. They’re calling it justifiable homicide” Dean lets out a dry laugh. “The one time they have proof I committed murder, and they’re letting it slide”

“What are you saying?” Cas questions, swallowing hard.

“I’ve gotta appear in court, make some statements. But according to your partner, I had no choice but to shoot Alastair to prevent him from murdering you” Dean shrugs. “Ergo, justifiable”

“Alastair’s dead” Cas states, wide eyes turning to Dean as his shoulders sag in relief. “I’m fired, aren’t I?” He lifts his hands to cover his face, wincing only a little at the way the movement causes his wounds to pull and stretch.

Dean shrugs. “Not yet. Meg will be by later to talk to you about that” He winces when Castiel’s eyes narrow, sharpening into a scrutinizing gaze. “Just try and rest. Please?”

Cas lets out a deep sigh as the medication pump attached to the IV in his arm beeps, signaling another release of morphine. Dean sags with relief, thankful for the near-perfect timing of the machine. Castiel’s complexion is still too pale and the normally soft lines creasing his forehead are sharp with lingering pain despite his efforts to hide how much he’s hurting. “Wassat?” Cas mumbles, the medication already taking rapid effect.

“Just morphine” Dean strokes through Cas’ hair gently. “For the pain,” He says before leaning in to place a gentle kiss against Cas’ brow as his blue eyes drift closed.

“Donleavme” Cas mutters, his words a strung together slur that brings a twitch of a smile to Dean’s face.

“I’ll be here. Promise”

---

A small handful days pass with Castiel staying mostly asleep, although he finds lucidity for longer periods of time as the days go by and the deep cuts scattered over his body begin to knit together under his doctor’s careful watch.

Dean barely leaves Cas’ bedside, determined to be there every time his boyfriend wakes.

Cas asked him not to leave. So, Dean won’t.

Meg doesn’t come to talk to Cas. She said she would, but she doesn’t. She has too much on her plate trying to keep them both out of trouble.

Eventually, Cas can sit up for long enough periods of time for Dean to crawl in bed with him and let Cas lean on his shoulder as he runs soothing fingers through that soft dark hair.

When Castiel finally gets up, the first thing he wants to see is what Alastair had done to his back.

He stands with his back to Dean’s full-length mirror and his head twisted around over his shoulders to see. The horror that twists in his gut as he takes in the finely carved lines that trail across the back of his shoulders and down his sides and the middle of his back, drawing a path nearly all the way to the swell of his ass.

He has wings.

The most macabre version of wings he’s ever seen.

“I’m sorry, Cas” Dean offers comforting words, but Cas pushes him away.

“I’m hideous” Cas nearly cries, body trembling with the pain of his wounds as he struggles to remain standing. He refuses to reach out to Dean for support. He doesn’t deserve the help.

“You’re not” Dean reaches for him anyway and Cas can’t bring himself to pull back. He leans forward as Dean gathers him to his chest and holds him close. “Everything will heal, you’re going to be ok”

Cas huffs and shakes his head, not wanting to comment on how ugly his scars are going to be when the man holding him is covered with his own reminders of Alastair’s knife.

“The doctor says you’re healing well, and the scars won’t be too bad since you were treated quickly” Dean babbles and Cas squeezes his eyes tightly closed.

“Stop” Cas pulls away. “Dean, stop” He shakes his head and stares, feeling the hopelessness welling in his chest and threatening to spill over into his eyes. Cas winces with the sudden motion. The raw and healing edges of his wounds are tugged painfully, reminding him that he’s due for another dose of pain medicine.

He hates the pills. After the first day, he graduated from a morphine drip to Percocet. Much like the morphine, the Percocet makes him sleep. And sleep traps him deep in his nightmares.

“You need another dose” Dean observes, and Cas opens his mouth to protest but Dean doesn’t give him the opportunity. “I promised Dr. Tran that I would make sure you took your pills on schedule. You’ll heal faster if you keep the pain under control”

“Dean” Cas warns, shaking his head. Despite his verbal reluctance, he’s already letting Dean help him hobble back to the bed. Laying down is uncomfortable no matter how he positions himself and he lets out a heavy groan as Dean helps him sit on the edge of the mattress.

He manages to balance himself and stare out the window as Dean disappears to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. His thoughts circle on Sarah, the girl he watched die, and the young man he had been forced to murder.

Despite everything he’s been through, Alastair isn’t the one haunting his dreams.

“Here you go” Dean says as he pushes the door closed with his foot. Cas turns his head to watch the man’s approach and can’t help the soft smile that blooms over his features at the way Dean holds out the glass of water expectantly and then the small palmful of pills.

“Thank you, Dean” Cas takes water and carefully tucks the small pills between his lips. Tilting his head back still makes him dizzy. Dean settles beside him on the bed, ready to take the glass and set it on the bedside table when Cas is finished.

Cas feels a swell of affection for the man, taking care of him when Dean could have easily dumped him at the hospital. Or not have come to his rescue at all.

They pointedly don’t speak of Castiel’s career. Or Dean’s, for that matter. Dean helps Cas settle in, both of them knowing how quickly the pills make Castiel drowsy. Dean snuggles in against Cas’ side, determined to wait to leave until the man is asleep. Cas is grateful for Dean’s presence, craning his neck to press a kiss into Dean’s sandy brown hair before scooting himself down to tuck his chin against Dean’s shoulder.

“Dean?” Cas finally mutters, half asleep and nearly drooling on Dean’s shirt.

Dean hums his response, urging the other man to continue his thought.

“Would you still run off to Argentina with me?”

Dean isn’t certain whether the exhaustion of healing is putting words in Castiel’s mouth or if the pain medication in his system is. “I thought you didn’t want to run that far?” Dean says, joking.

“Hmmm...Tierra Del Fuego” Cas says with a hum. Medication it is then.

Dean huffs a laugh and shakes his head. “We could start over. Shove all of our failures off the edge of the earth where no one will ever find them”

“Sounds good. Let’s go” Cas mumbles sleepily, the strong painkillers finally pulling him under.

“As soon as you’re better” Dean places a kiss on Castiel’s brow as those blue eyes blink closed, and his features go lax. Cas hums happily at the contact, snuggling closer to Dean’s shoulder.

Another reason Dean doesn’t like to leave Cas alone makes itself apparent as soon as the man tries to extricate himself from Castiel’s grasp. He still has work to do, and Sam’s head poking into the room only serves to remind Dean of the messes he still needs to clean up from the gang members getting arrested.

Cas grumbles and his brow scrunches when Dean pulls away but he’s careful to tuck the sleeping man in snuggly before joining his brother.

Sam showing up out of the blue has turned out to be extremely helpful. The gangly boy he had sent away to college has turned into an accomplished young man that Dean is immensely proud of. Despite his desire to join Dean in his business ventures.

“Sammy” Dean nods, slight warning in his tone when he sees the look of grim determination on his brother’s face.

“The mess with Alastair is getting out of hand. Meg has been trying to put out fires, but the police wanna talk to Cas” Sam hands Dean a printout of Meg’s most recent email. Dean has been trying to keep the goings on with the Austin police department from Cas, choosing instead to give the man time to recover but the police are not making his task easy. “They want to come here” Sam fixes Dean with a helpless look, pulling out his best puppy dog expression.

“Absolutely not” Dean says, tone flat. Castiel is the first police officer he has allowed in his home since their father disappeared, and Meg was the second despite her being uninvited. He has no desire to open his space to their scrutinizing eyes and suspicion. His entire life exists within these walls, and his office holds enough evidence that could see him locked away for the rest of his life if it were to fall into the wrong hands.

“Read the message” Sam folds his arms over his chest and fixes Dean with a stern look.

Dean sighs and stares down at the print out in his hand. “They’re getting a search warrant” He frowns and balls up the paper in his fist.

“They think you have something to do with Alastair taking Cas” Sam elaborates, and Dean fights the urge to rip the wrinkled paper to shreds.

          “Fine” Dean pinches a frown and reaches for his phone. “Benny” He presses the device to his ear. “Grab Adam and get over here. We need to clear out my office” He hangs up without giving his friend a chance to respond. “And you” He directs to Sam. “We gotta talk about Adam”

          Dean’s stomach twists as Sam’s brow wrinkles. “Who’s Adam?”

          Dean forces a deep breath, trying to smooth his features into something that ceases to resemble the panic he feels. “Our brother”

          Sam’s eyebrows embed themselves in his hairline and his jaw drops slightly. “What do you mean, our brother?”

          Dean shrugs. “Half-brother. Whatever. Dad had another kid” Dean says gruffly, wishing Sam would just accept the information and move on.

          “Wait. What?” Sam’s jaw clenches and Dean can already sense the impending bitch fit his brother is about to throw.

          “Adam is 19. His mom died a couple years back, showed up with a picture of him as a toddler and dad” Dean explains.

          “And you believed him?” Sam’s brows arch further, cheeks beginning to flush red.

          “Yes,” Dean snaps. “The name Milligan mean anything to you?” Dean says, knowing full well that Sam will recognize the name.

          “As in Kate Milligan?” Sam’s jaw sets firmly and Dean can see that his brother is remembering the woman they both had driven from their home.

          The only girlfriend their father had dared bring home to his sons.

          Dean nods. “Adam’s mom”

          Sam’s jaw drops slightly before he snaps it shut and clenches his teeth. “You mean that Dad had some bastard with that woman?” Sam’s tone drops into a deadly register that sends a shiver up Dean’s spine. Reconnecting with his brother has shown Dean that Sam isn’t the innocent boy he had always assumed his younger brother to be. “You’re sure?”

Dean hears the unspoken accusation in his brother’s tone. How could John have another kid and never have told them? Sam hatred of their father is never-ending, and he hates that Dean doesn’t hate John almost as much. “Considering how we reacted to him dating Kate, can you really blame him?”

“Still! What else didn’t he tell us?” Sam throws his arms up in exasperation.

“Sammy, I get it. You hate Dad. I know. But please, Adam’s a good kid. He’s helped me a lot these last couple years” Dean pleads and Sam’s expression darkens.

“You’ve known for years?” Sam spits the accusation, clenching his fists at his side. “After all I’ve done for you, and you didn’t bother to tell me that we have a brother?” Sam nearly hisses and Dean recoils.

“What have you done Sam?” Dean breathes, seeing a wild chill in Sam’s gaze. Like the predatory black gaze of a shark about to attack, Sam’s gaze sharpens on Dean as a wicked grin settles over his features. “You were supposed to be at school Sam. What. Did. You. Do?” Dean steps closer, unwilling to be intimidated by his younger brother despite his towering height and thick build.

“I know about Alastair, Dean. I have since you came home with scars all over your body” Sam takes a step toward Dean, bringing the two men toe to toe. “Dad felt so guilty that he drank, even more, when you were gone. The things he did...” Sam pauses to shake his head and Dean’s breath catches in his throat. “The things he did, Dean. I had to protect you”

Dean swallows hard, looking up into a stranger’s eyes. He doesn’t know the young man standing before him. This isn’t the happy kid he raised. This is someone else. “Sammy”

Sam shakes his head and lets out a mirthless chuckle. “I went to school, yes. And I studied just like you wanted me to, but I needed to make sure you were safe before I left. You would never have been safe with John around”

“No” Dean shakes his head, his heart racing as he takes in the almost serene expression on Sam’s features. “Dad ran off. You know that”

Sam rolls his eyes like Dean is an idiot. “Do you really think he would ever have just up and left? That he would have ever done something to help us like that?”

“What are you saying?” Dean asks without asking. Deep in his gut, he knows. “What did you do?” Dean takes a step back and Sam’s wild-eyed gaze suddenly turns spooked and he reaches out for Dean.

“What I had to, Dean. I had to keep you safe before I left”

“Does anyone else know?” Dean isn’t certain how he feels. Sam is responsible for John’s disappearance? “Did you kill him?”

Sam huffs and shakes his head, "N..." but his response is interrupted by a strangled scream coming from the closed door behind them.

“Shit” Dean bites, turning away from his brother and toward the bedroom where Cas is sleeping. “We are not done with this conversation” Dean points toward the floor angrily, the overwhelming sense of betrayal blooming in his gut only overshadowed by his worry for Castiel.

Sam nods and pinches a frown. “Go” He waves toward the door and Dean doesn’t waste another second in rushing to Castiel’s side.

“Cas, baby, wake up” Dean hushes the man as he gathers him into his arms. Cas thrashes, nearly ripping open his healing wounds and Dean struggles to keep him still. “Cas!”

Castiel’s eyes fly open, his chest heaves with the lingering panic of his dream but the warm arms embracing him and the worried green eyes staring down at him have him sinking to the mattress with a groan. He closes his eyes, focusing on his breathing and swallowing down his shame as Dean holds him, not asking anything of him and giving everything in return.

“Hey” Dean whispers, running his fingers through Castiel’s hair as he’s grown so fond of doing. “You’re alright”

Cas turns his head to bury his face in Dean’s side. “M’not” He mutters bitterly, heart finally beginning to slow as the shame settles in.

Dean holds him, thoughts churning in his mind. “You’ve been through a lot” He tries to comfort but his words sound flat even to his own ears. “If you want to talk about it…”

Cas groans, stopping Dean’s words before he can finish speaking them. “I don’wanna” His words are muffled by the soft fabric of Dean’s t-shirt and he wraps an arm around Dean’s waist to hold him closer.

“You don’t have to” Dean presses a kiss into Castiel’s hair, trying to distract himself from looking at the red lines covering Castiel’s bare torso. “I still have nightmares, sometimes, about him” Dean offers, barely baring to breath. He doesn’t need to say the name to know that Cas understands.

Cas shakes his head, rubbing the stray moisture from his eyes onto Dean’s shirt. “Not about him”

Dean cocks his head and looks down, studying the man clinging to him. “Then what?”

Cas lets out a deep sigh and pulls back just a little. “Why are you taking care of me?” He widens the space between them, even going as far as to scoot away from Dean instead of simply leaning away. “I pushed you away, insulted you, and yet you still came when I called,” He says, shaking his head.

Dean frowns, not understanding why Cas is suddenly bringing all that up. “Is it too much to think I care about you?” He pulls back just enough to study the tension in Castiel’s shoulders and the worry in those blue eyes.

Cas shakes his head. “I don’t understand why you’d want anything to do with me”

Dean huffs a dry laugh. “Do you think I don’t wonder the same about you?” He arches a brow.

Cas pinches a frown and scrubs a hand over his face. His stubble is a thick shadow over his jaw and Dean yearns to skip over this conversation and kiss that frown from Castiel’s face. Cas opens his mouth only to close it again wordlessly and strengthen his frown.

“I thought we had established that us being together is a bad idea” Dean tries to joke but the furrow to Castiel’s brow tells him that he missed his mark. “You could ruin my life, everything I’ve worked for.” He pauses to stroke a thumb over Castiel’s jaw. “But you’re worth the risk”

A blush creeps over Castiel’s cheeks but he shakes his head before opening his mouth. Dean presses a finger to Castiel’s lips, effectively silencing him.

“What will it take before you’ll believe me?” Dean says, staring deep into Castiel’s eyes. The haunted look lingering in those deep blue pools causes a twinge in Dean’s chest. They barely know each other and yet Dean knows he would do anything to protect this man. Something about him makes Dean’s heartache with need. “When Alastair took you...” Dean starts but his voice cracks and he shakes his head to give himself a moment to recover.

“When I heard you were taken, I felt like I was going to lose everything. All of this” Dean gestures around them to the house at large, “All of this means so little. Just bad memories and a life I never wanted but felt forced to take” He pauses to gather Castiel’s hands in his own, heart pattering out of control as he forces himself to tell Cas what he feels. Sam would be so proud. He huffs a laugh at the thought and Cas narrows his eyes at him. “I feel like we could start over together. Have something better than all this. Maybe we don’t have to go to Argentina. Maybe we can just pack up my Impala and hit the road, see where we end up”

“Dean,” Cas says, lowering his chin and fixing Dean with a stern expression. “We can’t just walk away from all this. My career...”

“A job you’re not happy with?” Dean arches a brow. “Now, don’t tell me you love what you do. I know we don’t know each other well, but I think I can read you better than that”

Cas lets out a sigh and shifts uncomfortably. Only then does Dean realize the odd angle Cas is leaning on his hip from and Dean shuffles back a little, giving Cas more space. “I’ve never wanted to be anything else”

“But...” Dean knows there’s a but, the word hangs in the air like a bad smell.

Castiel’s shoulders deflate and he shakes his head. “I feel like I can’t do enough” He admits, not meeting Dean’s eyes. “For all of the bad guys I’ve arrested, there are dozens of victims who will never be the same because the police can’t do enough”

“Exactly,” Dean says, nodding as he gives Cas’ hand a squeeze. “Let's find some other way to help people”

Cas chews on his bottom lip, staring at the slowly shrinking space between them. “I’m not like you, Dean” He shakes his head before looking up to meet Dean’s eyes.

“You don’t have to be” Dean’s brow furrows and he shakes his head.

“But what if I want to be?” Cas says and Dean’s eyes widen.

“What do you mean?” Dean swallows hard, sure that Cas can’t possibly mean what his words imply.

Cas pinches a frown but meets Dean’s eyes steadily. “I want to help people, Dean. Really help them. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I thought the police would be the best way to do that. I was wrong”

“Cas” Dean breathes, not knowing what to say. He stares for a moment, mind racing to process what Cas might be saying. “You’re not a killer,” He says, heart constricting with the thought of his Angel becoming like him. A monster made to kill.

Cas shakes his head and a half smile creeps over his face. “No, but I’ve always wanted to do more. Do you know what my predominant thought was when I was getting Azazel’s confession?” He waits for Dean to shake his head. “I wanted him dead. I didn’t want to bother with the justice system. I’ve seen how spectacularly it fails. So many lives damaged and lost because the system doesn’t move fast enough. I want to do better”

Dean stares into Castiel’s earnest and open expression with a sense of amazement. He had never expected Cas to deviate from the carefully drawn lines he walked, nor had Dean sought to change Cas. “If this is because of me…Cas, we can work something out. You don’t have to change for me”

Cas lets out a mirthless laugh and shakes his head. “I’ve wanted a change for a long time, I just didn’t know how to get what I want until I met you. I’m not the goody two shoes you think I am”

“He’s right boss. Man’s got a tiger inside him, waiting to unleash” Benny butts in from the door neither man heard open.

Cas offers Benny a grateful half-smile before turning back to Dean. “Give me a chance, Dean. Let me try things your way”

Dean’s jaw drops open and a protest builds on his lips but a quick glance between Cas and Benny has him holding his silence. Dean gives a faint nod, still searching for the words that have dried up on his tongue. “Yeah” He finally mutters, unsure whether to be excited or terrified by this development. Dean brings one of Castiel’s hands up to place a gentle kiss over his bruised knuckles. “Just…later. We’ve got a problem to deal with first”

Cas gives him a soft smile and a slight nod. His blue eyes look slightly glassy and Dean hopes it’s due to emotion instead of pain medication. “Ok”

“Yeah?” Dean offers a hesitant smile.

“I promise. It’ll be you and me against the world. My career is fucked anyway, might as well go out with a bang” Castiel’s smile spreads into a lazy grin and Dean feels his heart flop with adoration.

Those crinkles around Cas’ eyes when he smiles that gummy grin of his and the way his eyes light up...well, Dean doesn’t think he’ll ever get tired of seeing them. As always when he feels things are going right, a rather unfortunate thought crosses Dean’s mind. “Speaking of career...that problem we need to deal with, the PD wants to come here and talk to you” Dean nearly cringes with the way Castiel’s smile falls.

“I thought Meg was holding them off?” Cas says, tone flat enough to make Dean wince.

“Yeah, I haven’t exactly told you everything” Dean glances down to where their fingers are entwined. “Meg has done everything she can to preserve your reputation, but even she can’t explain away you staying with me”

“What did she do?” Cas sits straighter despite the harsh tug on his healing injuries. Worry causes his forehead to crease and his eyes to widen as he searches Dean’s face for answers. “I thought you were cleared for killing Alastair”

“I was, am” Dean rushes to put Castiel’s mind at ease. “What they don’t understand is why I’m involved in the first place. Meg said someone sent Mills photos of us together, I’m gonna guess that was Alastair and I’m not gonna pretend to understand what he would have to gain from that but she had to give them something to go on to keep you from being charged with aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise”

“But they can’t prove you’ve done anything” Cas shakes his head, staring at Dean wide eyes.

“Right” Dean agrees with a flinch of a smile. “But it was easier for Meg to let them think I was stalking you than try to convince them you weren’t working with me”

Dean's stomach drops in time with the words left unsaid.

“That’s ridiculous!” Cas pushes himself up and turns his body like he’s about to try and get out of bed.

Dean pushes him back gently. “Not really” He shrugs. “Think about it. I pretty much did stalk you. That wasn’t my intent but it’s easy to see how they’d think that”

“So, what? They think you’ve brainwashed me into staying with you? Or that you’re holding me captive?” Cas’ tone is outraged, and his temper is quickly burning the last of his pain medication from his system, the tension in his eyes makes that clear enough.

“Something like that. They’re getting a warrant to come to talk to you. Benny is here to clear out my office, then I’m thinking of just inviting them in. Damn the warrant. Once my office is clean, there’s nothing else here to hide” Dean explains, laying his plan out in the open. Inviting the police in would be a huge risk, but he was serious when he asked Cas to run away with him. He’s ready to leave all this behind.

“You would do that?” Cas says, jaw-dropping with disbelief. “Dean, I can go to them, you don’t have to let them in. If they want me, they can have me” Castiel protests, “I’m feeling better enough”

“No. Cas. I’m not letting you go now that I have you” Dean meets Cas’ eyes and swallows hard, hoping that Cas doesn’t tell him the last few days were a fluke. “Please, trust me”

“He’s not lying, Castiel” Benny snorts and shakes his head. “He’s been damn near insufferable tryin to convince you to give him a chance. I’m of a mind not to let you go just to keep his mopey ass in line”

“I thought you hated me” Cas scoffs at Benny’s words, eyeing the man with thinly veiled distrust.

Benny lets out a huff of amused laughter. “Chief, it’s my job to hate everyone who could bring harm to his idiot”

“Benny…” Dean warns, glaring daggers at his friend.

Cas glances around the room, anywhere but Dean’s face and he licks his lips, nodding to himself. “Then what do you need from me. What should I tell them?” Cas finally looks to Dean and then Benny with determination set across his features.

Dean huffs a laugh. “I’d be fine with the truth, but I’m pretty sure that would tank your career. I think I should be asking you what you want to tell them”

Cas shakes his head. “What if you told them what Alastair did to you?” Cas offers shyly. “No, wait” He reaches for Dean’s hand when the man rears his head back and begins to pull away. “You don’t have to tell them everything...but if you were acting as my informant, we could spin a story they would believe”

“Informant turned lover?” Benny arches a brow. “Pretty sure that’d get you fired for a breach of ethics or some shit”

“Better than aiding and abetting” Castiel shrugs. “Maybe I should just quit, beat them to the punch”

Dean barks a laugh, hardly believing the words coming out of Castiel’s mouth. “Is that you or the pain killers talking?”

“No, seriously, Dean” Cas gives Dean’s hand a squeeze. “Clear out your office, admit to being my informant on the Alastair case and paint yourself as a victim who overcame your fear of your tormentor to save me” Cas stares deep into Dean’s eyes, those bright blue eyes clearer than they’ve been since Dean brought him home. This is him talking, not the Percocet. “Paint yourself as a hero. Me falling in love with the man who saved my life would be perfectly understandable”

Dean’s attention sharpens and his lips part as he stares wide-eyed at Castiel. “You...” His mouth goes dry. There is no way Cas just said what Dean thinks he said. Dean’s heart hammers in his chest and the warmth spreading through his body has him wanting to surge forward and plaster himself to Castiel and never let go.

A slow grin spreads across Cas’ face and he lowers his gaze as his cheeks redden. “I didn’t quite mean to say that” He mutters, shaking his head in embarrassment. “But I am, Dean. I know it’s too soon and our entire situation is crazy...but you’re just as stuck with me as you say I am with you”

“I’ll do it” Dean blurts, leaning forward to place a giddy peck of a kiss on Cas’ lips. “I have proof that Alastair has been stalking me for years, I’ll show them. Explain that police hostility kept me from coming forward, until I met you. You talked me into becoming an informant and along the way, we connected on a personal level”

“You’re not the monster they think you are” Castiel grins, throwing Dean’s words back at him in the best of ways.

Chapter Text

“Got a present for you, Chief” Benny settles at the edge of Castiel’s bed, drawing him out of the hazy twilight of drug-induced sleep. Sunlight streams in through the drawn curtains and Cas squints against the light as he stares grumpily up at the other man.

Cas struggles to sit up, unaccustomed to opening his eyes and seeing Benny looming over him. “Wha…?” Cas blinks, trying to clear away the remnants of sleep and clean up the hazy edges of his consciousness.

The police are set to come today, Dean is just waiting to make the call until Cas wakes up from his nap. He knows he needs to get up, but the overwhelming sense of dread building in his gut makes him want to hide away from the world just a little bit longer.

 

“You said you wanted to try doing things our way” Benny leads in, straightening his spine as he props one knee on the bed to better face Cas. “I got an opportunity for ya”

Cas frowns, glancing around the room for Dean. “What is it?” He asks, narrowly avoiding asking about Dean first. He doesn’t want to seem codependent on the man but facing Benny on his own is still a little out of his comfort zone.

“A drug dealer” Benny informs. “Figured out where the junkie you shot got his fix and it turns out the dealer was cutting his product with some nasty stuff. The kind of stuff that led to the type of behavior that cost him and that girl their lives”

“Sarah. Her name is Sarah” Cas corrects as he pushes himself to sit higher. “I’m listening” He looks to Benny with a gleam of interest. They could turn this information over to the police and have the dealer locked up for a few months, just long enough to learn even worse criminal tricks, or they could put a permanent stop to his activities. The thought that once would have made Cas’ stomach twist in dread now has him tingling with anticipation.

Cas has been hesitant to tell Dean what his nightmares are really about. He’s seen Sarah die in his sleep so many times now, felt her blood soaking through his shirt and felt his gun like a phantom weight on his hands, the barrel still smoking and hot from the single round he fired just a half second too late.

“He’s been working with one of the gangs we got on a leash. Our business partner says they’re getting sick of trying to keep him in line and are prepared to hand him over. If you’re interested” Benny arches a brow, leaving his suggestion with no room for interpretation.

“Yes,” Cas is quick to reply. “I’m interested”

“Good man” Benny claps Cas on his shoulder and gives a gentle squeeze. “I’ll let Dean know you’re in. He wanted to ask you himself, but I thought this might be better”

Cas purses his lips and nods. “So, Dean does know about this proposition?” He forces down the relief he feels with this knowledge. He doesn’t want to keep things from Dean, but he got the distinct feeling that Dean isn’t entirely on board with bringing Cas into the business.

“Aye,” Benny nods and pushes to his feet. “He figured this one might be a good place for you to start, something more personal”

Cas nods but pinches his brows in doubt. He isn’t entirely certain how to take that. Does Dean think something personal might be easier for him? Does he think so little of Castiel’s resolve?

          “Do you really think he doesn’t know what your nightmares are about?” Benny says, pulling Cas out of his spiraling thoughts with arms crossed over his chest and an arched brow. “You do realize that you talk in your sleep, right? Even I have heard you calling out for Jake to put the gun down. Dean just wants to help you find closure. That’s all this is. Don’t overthink it”

          “Closure” Cas repeats as he scrubs a hand over his stubbled face. He needs to shave. Like, yesterday. Not quite a week has passed since his rescue, but the pain in his body has greatly subsided. The brace on his thumb, however, is still making grooming himself rather difficult. He glares down at the injured digit, cursing his failed escape attempt and the injury he gave himself in the process. “Right” He mutters, realizing Benny is still standing there, watching him expectantly.

          Cas turns away from the man and untangles himself from the covers. His favorite loose pajama bottoms need to be washed after yet another day in bed. He wishes for little more than to be up and mobile but the tight stitches in his side and bandages across his back, chest, and stomach make moving on his own quite the challenge.

          He tries anyway, not willing to ask Benny for help. His bare feet hit the rug underneath the bed and he wiggles his toes into the plush pile. He still leans against the soft mattress, testing his legs before he makes the foolish attempt to fully stand and he barely bites back the hiss of pain from the pins and needles shooting through his feet.

          “Hey there” Benny swoops to the rescue, ducking his shoulder to fit underneath Castiel’s arm as Benny wraps one of his own lightly across Cas’ back.

          “I got it” Castiel protests, trying to pull away as Benny’s fingers skim over the bandages under Cas’ t-shirt.

          “No, you don’t” Benny disagrees, giving him a stern look. “How about I help you into the bathroom so you can do your thing and then drag you out to the living room for when your friends get here”

          The idea of getting out of this room is tempting enough to allow Benny to help him. “Fine” He consents, leaning into Benny’s side to better let the man keep him steady. The steps come easier than they had the day before and he could probably manage on his own, but Dean would never let him hear the end of it.

          Benny deposits him in the en-suite bathroom and turns to wait outside when Cas stops him. “Do you think you can grab me a clean shirt? Maybe pants?” Cas looks, hoping that he isn’t asking too much. Benny has been kind to him these last few days, but Cas still isn’t entirely trusting of the man.

          “Sure thing. Jus open the door when you’re done and we’ll get you changed” Benny answers easily, as if helping Cas undress is an everyday occurrence. No big deal.

          “Uh…” Cas starts, beginning to feel heat creeping into his cheeks and confusion settle in his mind.

          Benny arches a brow. “You think you’re the first injured person I’ve taken care of?”

          Cas huffs and shakes his head. “Don’t really know anything about you” He admits, glancing toward the floor.

          Benny flinches a half smile. “Well, I expect that’ll be changing before long,” He says as he pulls the door closed behind him, leaving Cas alone in the small bathroom.

Cas braces his palms against the counter over the sink and stares into the mirror. The haggard man looking back at him almost seems like a stranger. The dark circles that normally take residence under his eyes have nearly vanished, but that is the only improvement he sees. He’s certain he’s slept more in the last week than he had in the entire last month. His hair is unkempt, even for his standards, and is in desperate need of a good wash. He hasn’t been able to shower or bathe properly because of his injuries and he almost itches for a nice hot shower. He hates the way his eyes seem glassy from the constant levels of pain killing narcotics in his system.

He pointedly refuses to think about how those might be affecting his struggle with addiction. He hasn’t wanted a drink at all since Dean came to his rescue, and the absence of that familiar ache makes him very uneasy. He isn’t foolish enough to think his problems have simply vanished and he’s certain the pills are only filling the void left behind by sobriety. Will he be able to stop the pain meds without his body fighting their loss?

He shakes his head at his reflection and reaches for his toothbrush. He can at least clean that much of himself.

He drags the brushing out as long as he can before relieving himself and finding a washcloth to at least give himself a sink bath. The body-wash Dean stocked this bathroom with smells like the breeze off the ocean he had visited as a child. Crisp and clean with a faint undercurrent of something he can’t quite place. He likes it.

He carefully pulls his t-shirt over his head, wincing at the pull on his stitches. The pain in his back is improving quickly, which he assumes to be a good thing but he’s afraid to look at the grotesque red lines and scabs making up the wings Alastair had carved onto his body.

He does his best to clean the exposed skin he can reach and applies a new layer of deodorant. He’s almost proud of himself for managing to wash a little without getting the brace on his thumb completely soaked.

He spares himself another look in the mirror by tossing the washcloth and dirty shirt into the bin by the door and pulling it open before he can change his mind.

Benny is waiting for him as promised, clean clothes held lightly in his grasp. “Thought you might like some real pants for a change” Benny offers a polite smile as his gaze scans Castiel’s bare torso. Well, almost bare. He’s still half wrapped in gauze bandages. “Some of those need changin,” Benny says, relieving Castiel’s worry that the man was judging him with those appraising eyes.

“Nurse is supposed to come later,” Cas says before remembering Benny’s offer. “And real pants sound wonderful” Honestly, they do. Wearing nothing but loose pajama pants for the last week has him feeling unmoored and not part of the real world.

“I can change your bandages if you want, that one's got a little...” Benny trails off as he gestures toward the middle of Cas’ stomach.

Cas looks down and groans at the sight of pale pink seeping through the crisp white gauze. “Dammit” He curses, poking at the offending spot gently. “If you don’t mind” He glances to Benny, somewhat uneasy about having the man get a good look at his injuries but he doesn’t have much of a choice. Dr. Tran has chastised him more than once for letting his bandages sit dirty instead of asking for help.

Benny nods and turns to gather supplies off the side table the nurse has left everything on for when they need to tend to Cas themselves. “Alright, have a seat” Benny gestures toward the chair only a few paces from where Castiel stands.

Cas’ eyes widen as he eyes the distance and his hand automatically drifts toward his stomach, as if his intestines are threating to fall out at the very prospect of taking a few steps unaided.

“You gonna let me do this or stand there like some sort of pansy?” Benny arches a brow, eyeing Cas sternly. “Not gonna baby you, no matter how much the boss likes you”

Cas opens his mouth to protest, not appreciating the slur, but he snaps his jaw closed before harsh words can escape. He can do this. He takes a steadying breath and forces his hands to his sides. Dr. Tran told him that he needs to start getting up more and walking around, lying in bed all day will only slow his healing now that the worst of his cuts have begun to knit together.

He makes it to the chair and carefully lowers himself down, internally preening that he made it without a single whimper. He thinks he’s due for another dose of pain killers but his mind returns to his fears of addiction so he decides not to mention anything to Benny. Cas had asked Dean to keep the bottle of pills in the kitchen where Cas isn’t strong enough to venture unaided. Just to be safe.

Dean, of course, had only nodded and agreed to Cas’ request without question and Cas was glad for his easy acceptance. He thinks that Dean might just have been glad that Cas was trusting enough to allow Dean to care for him.

Cas starts to pry the medical tape from his skin as Benny finishes washing his hands and bringing everything close. Cas can’t tell whether his wince is from the pain of the sticky material releasing or the distaste of the underlying wounds.

Really, they aren’t nearly as bad as Cas had thought they were when Alastair had been carving on him. The sadist was merely toying with Cas, preparing him for long and drawn out torture.

Alastair hadn’t counted on Dean coming for him.

Cas takes a deep breath as the bandage falls away and Benny emerges from the bathroom, donning the latex surgical gloves left by the medical staff for this exact occasion.

“Lookin good, Chief” Benny assesses, carefully prodding the reddened flesh before smearing the antibacterial ointment over the edges of the cuts.

Castiel snorts in derision and shakes his head, looking toward the window with his lower lip tugged between his teeth.

“I got this stuff that works real good on scars. My momma’s recipe from New Orleans. I can bring it by if you’d like, might even make it so you can barely see anything once you’re healed up” Benny says as he redresses Cas with clean bandages.

Cas shakes his head. “I doubt anything could make this better”

Benny raises a brow but lets Castiel’s comment pass unremarked. “Now turn around, gonna take a look at your back”

Cas stiffens and stares long enough for Benny to snap his fingers in front of his nose. He jumps at the sudden sound and fights the urge to apologize. “How’d you learn to play nurse, anyway?” Cas grumbles and carefully stands, turning to straddle the chair before retaking his seat.

“My line of work? Learnin to patch people up comes with the territory” Benny carefully peels the tape from Castiel’s back, much less painfully than Cas had managed with his stomach.

Cas hums in acknowledgment, bracing himself for the inevitable comment about the hideous marks on his back.

“Huh,” Benny says and Cas tenses. “From the way you were talking, I expected these to be a lot worse” Benny comments as he swaps the area.

“It’s pretty fucking terrible” Castiel bites, refusing to accept that maybe he’s overreacting. He’s been permanently scarred by a mad man. And those scars are in the distinct shape of wings. Not like the pattern of random lines crisscrossing his stomach. These ones have a shape.

“I know it seems that way, Chief" Benny actually has the nerve to sound sympathetic and Cas feels his cheeks heating and his vision darken along the edges with sudden anger. “Once everything heals, I know a guy who specializes in covering scars with tattoos. I’m sure he could turn all this into something you could be proud of” Benny continues, oblivious to Castiel’s simmering anger. “I can have him come by if you’d be interested”

Benny’s words manage to sink past the blackened haze of irrational anger edging in on Castiel’s mind and he blinks in confusion. “Tattoos?” Cas questions. He’s never even considered getting a tattoo before. Is that even something he would want?

“Yeah,” Benny says as he carefully applies a new section of bandages. “Here, take a look at my leg” He peels off the gloves and goes to roll up the leg of his jeans. “Got mauled by a pit bull a while back, scarred something terrible”

Cas turns, his anger stunned into submission by the impossible thought of getting inked. He nearly barks a laugh, just imagining how outraged his family would be if they knew what Cas was considering doing to his body. And he is considering, no matter how crazy that should sound.

Castiel’s eyes widen as he takes in the greave tattooed on Benny’s shin. He never would have expected something so magnificent was lurking underneath Benny’s jeans, but there it is. The piece extends from just below his knee, all the way to his ankle. “Hurt like a bitch, but you can barely see the scars”

Cas looks, leans over as far as he can and searches for the scars. He can’t see them through the medieval armor adorned with a roaring dragon stomping over a knight. “Incredible” Castiel’s eyes widen when Benny traces the edges of the scars, pointing them out so that Cas can see just how well the tattoo hides the old injuries.

“I bet Garth could fix you up” Benny pulls away and tugs his pant leg down, hiding the beautiful piece of art once again. “If you want” He shrugs, as if they didn’t just have a moment of connection.

Cas nods. “Yes,” He says, tugging his lower lip between his teeth. “I think I do” He’s already thinking of ideas. Alastair gave him grotesque and hideous wings. But what if Cas gave himself wings on his own terms? Big and fluffy with sleek black feathers. He can almost see them now. He is named for an Angel after all. If he’s going to be forced to have wings, he thinks he should have wings to be proud of.

Benny nods and gives Cas a pleased little smile. “I’ll bring ya his card” He gives Cas a pat on the shoulder before standing to put the old bandages in the trash. Cas waits patiently, only pushing to his feet when Benny picks up the clean shirt and holds it out to him. “Figured a button down might be easiest”

Cas nods and reaches for the shirt, only to have Benny tug it back.

“Turn around, I’ll hold it up for ya” Benny directs, motioning Cas to turn his back to him.

“Thanks,” Cas says, somewhat relieved that Benny isn’t going to make him reach behind himself to sling the shirt around his back. With Benny’s help, the soft and well-worn shirt is on and buttoned in under a minute and Benny hands Cas a pair of slacks that Dean had gathered from Castiel’s apartment. Cas looks down himself at the pair of pajama bottoms he’s wearing and then glances to Benny. He’s not wearing underpants. “Um...could you give me a minute?” Cas blushes, not wanting to take his bottoms off and give Benny an eyeful.

Benny narrows his eyes for a half second before understanding blooms over his features. “Ah, should I get your man?” Benny waggles his brows with a lewd grin.

Cas huffs a laugh. “Very funny” He grumbles, grabbing the slacks from Benny’s hands. “Just give me five minutes before you send in the cavalry”

“Sure thing, Chief” Benny gives him a mock salute. “I’ll leave you to it”

“Thank you, Benny” Cas nods, his words genuine. Maybe the big burly man isn’t as bad as Cas had first feared. He’s been nothing but kind and helpful since Cas has been in Dean’s home, and that has to count for something. Right?

Once the door is firmly closed behind Benny, Cas unfolds the slacks and glares as if they have personally offended him. He’s already dreading wiggling his legs into these unaided. He knows bending over is going to hurt, but he needs to start taking care of himself. Dean has been more than kind this past week and Cas has no idea how he’ll ever pay the man back. He does know, however, that he can’t expect Dean’s charity to last forever.

He eyes the small chest of drawers across the room and decides to take a chance and search for a pair of boxers. With no one to watch him, he doesn’t bother to hide his grimace as he slowly crosses the room. He still fights through the pain, but he allows himself to wear it. He needs this, he thinks. The punishing hurt reminds him that he’s alive. He’s experienced Hell and made it out alive. Alastair is dead and Cas’ body will heal.

The man’s sniveling, nasal voice still echoes in Castiel’s mind no matter how he tries to shut out the putrid words. Those horrible words, twisted praise promising ruination. Castiel’s breath begins to come faster, his chest squeezing and aching as his heart begins to race. He slams his eyes shut and shakes his head. “It’s over” He mumbles, reminding himself. “I’m safe. I’m safe” He repeats to himself like a mantra, struggling to get his breathing under control and stem this panic attack.

Slowly, his racing fear is replaced with trembling anger and he leans against the tall dresser. He shakes his head, cursing his weakness as he forces himself to keep moving. If he pulls open the door and slams it shut harder than he really needs to, no one really needs to know.

He makes his way back to the chair with clean underwear clutched in his hand and his pants under his arm. He eyes the piece of furniture like an enemy to be conquered. And in a sense, it is.

His stitches and bandages tug against his skin as he pushes his sleep pants down his legs, forcing himself to bend over so his hands can reach his knees. After that, it’s easy enough to straighten and lift one foot at a time out of the pants. He kicks them away with purpose, taking out a fraction of his frustration out on the harmless article of clothing.

He holds up the underwear and scowls, grumbling his displeasure under his breath. The only times he’s been able to wallow in his misery are the few moments here and there that Dean has left his side. He appreciates Dean’s diligent care, but he needs a little space. Some breathing room to process what he’s been through.

Dean even suggested Cas speak with a therapist, someone specializing in trauma, but Cas had laughed bitterly and dismissed the idea outright.

He doesn’t need a professional to inform him that he’s never going to be the same.

He seats himself on the chair, guessing pushing each foot into the underwear will be easier this way since he still can’t bend as far as he’d like. He manages one foot, grunting with the effort of reaching as far as he can with his arms without bending his torso and he’s nearly panting by the time he has the underpants half on.

Well, shit. He thinks to himself before shaking his head. “I can do this,” He tells himself, breathing out through his nose in an attempt to brace himself for the inevitable pain.

He pushes to his feet, one hand holding up the loose-fitting boxers and the other braced against the back of the chair.

“Cas?” Dean pokes his head in the door, because of course he does, and Cas lets out a squeak of surprise and hastens to pull the underwear up. Dean’s eyes widen as he takes in the sight before him. “Cas! What are you doing?!” He rushes into the room, barely remembering to close the door before he steps quickly to Castiel’s side to offer support.

“I’m getting dressed” Cas grumbles, sending the other man a grumpy frown.

“You should have had Benny get me” Dean chastises and Cas bristles.

“I can put my own pants on, Dean” Cas pulls away, doing his best to hide his wince.

“Are you sure about that?” Dean arches a brow and Cas glares. “Because you looked like you were about to fall over”

“Looks can be deceiving” Castiel nearly growls as he pulls away from Dean harshly and snatches the slacks off the back of the chair. “I’m not an invalid!”

Dean takes a sharp breath and holds his hands in front of him. “I know that. Fuck, Cas” He shakes his head. “I just want to help you” His voice softens and quiets, cutting through Castiel’s anger with an effectiveness that has his shoulders slumping.

“I know” Cas admits, still clinging to an edge of his irritation but he really is powerless against Dean’s soulful gaze. Cas scrubs a hand over his face. “I just need to do some things for myself” He shakes his head as Dean nods subtly.

“Ok. I’ll just... leave you to it” Dean mutters, giving the back of his own neck a squeeze.

It’s clear to Castiel that Dean wants to help, that he feels uncomfortable watching him in pain, but Cas can’t count on Dean’s charity forever. He needs to do this for himself. “Thank you, Dean” Cas purposefully keeps his tone calm and infuses as much gratitude as he can in hopes that Dean understands.

Dean’s expression falls and he turns to leave but the knot in Castiel’s gut has him reaching out again. “You don’t have to leave” Cas’ hand lands on Dean’s upper arm and Dean freezes under the touch.

“No, Cas, I get it” Dean won’t look at him, choosing instead to look at the floor and Cas suddenly wishes he hadn’t turned down Dean’s assistance. “I shouldn’t just assume...”

Cas hates that tone Dean has taken. Gone is the confident and powerful man that first snagged Castiel’s attention. In his place stands a soft and tender man who is terrified of rejection. Somehow, Dean has decided that Castiel’s opinion matters to him, and Cas isn’t about to take that lightly. “Please stay”

Dean licks his lips and looks as if he’s considering Castiel’s request. “I don’t want to impose...” Dean tries to dismiss, shaking his head.

“You’re not. Please” Cas suddenly knows without a doubt that the last thing he wants is for Dean to leave. His lack of pants be damned, Cas tugs Dean closer to him and tries to draw the man into an embrace. Dean has barely tried to kiss him this last week, despite the numerous gentle touches; he has been nothing but chaste and Cas is beginning to think that might be part of the problem.

Dean goes to him willingly but he’s too hesitant to wrap his arms around Cas. That will never do. Cas presses him closer until Dean has no choice but to let his hands settle around Castiel’s hips and Cas presses his nose into the crook of Dean’s neck.

They stand like that for a moment, both men silent before Castiel pulls his head back and draws Dean into a careful kiss. Dean is gentle but he responds immediately, sinking into their contact with a relieved hum that Cas a smile forming on Castiel’s lips.

Cas deepens the kiss, knowing Dean will be able to feel how his cock is stirring to life inside his thin boxers. He doesn’t care that Dean is entirely dressed, kissing him feels like a missing puzzle piece is finally settling into place. For the first time since Alastair took him, Cas feels a real taste of hope blooming in his chest.

Cas reaches for Dean’s belt, fiddling with the clasp one handed with minor success before Dean covers his hand with his own to stall Castiel’s attempt. “Cas” Dean says roughly, green eyes searching Castiel’s blue ones.

“Please, Dean” Cas whimpers, his other hand moving to join the first in undoing Dean’s belt. “You haven’t touched me since...I...I want you. Need you.”

Dean groans with want but still debates with himself for a moment as Cas opens his belt and starts on the button of his slacks. “Shouldn’t” Dean mumbles when Cas reclaims his lips. “You’re hurt”

Cas hums his agreement. “You’ll be gentle.” Because Cas knows that Dean will. He trusts Dean to not hurt him, at least not intentionally.

“Damn right” Dean breathes, already nudging Cas toward the bed.

“Lock the door” Cas remembers just as Dean pushes him down onto the soft mattress.

Dean nods hurriedly and turns away, giving Cas just enough time to scoot himself onto the bed and spread himself out before Dean is climbing over him to settle between his legs.

Dean is careful to avoid pressing down on Cas, but he still claims his lips in a messy kiss. “Let me take care of you,” Dean whispers against Cas’ lips as he reaches a hand to palm Castiel’s growing erection.

Cas moans his consent, needing Dean’s touch like a man starved. He hadn’t realized, through his days of Dean’s constant company, how much they needed this level of touch. This intimacy. “Dean” Cas gasps, bucking his hips into Dean’s light grip. He can feel Dean smile into the kiss and suddenly, his hand is gone from Cas’ erection.

Dean scoots to straddle Castiel’s hips, still putting the lightest pressure possible on Cas’ body despite him being mostly uninjured from the waist down. Dean sits up and begins to work on the buttons of Castiel’s shirt, effectively undoing all of Castiel’s hard work.

Cas can’t bring himself to care. Not with the hungry way Dean is looking at him. He holds his breath in anticipation, preparing himself for the moment Dean sees his fresh bandages and changes his mind about this entire encounter. Cas needs this in a way he never imagined he would need physical intimacy.

His breath hitches when the sides of his shirt fall away, exposing the bandages underneath but Dean doesn’t pause his attention. “Cas” Dean moans, dipping down to leave a trail of kisses along the thin strip of undamaged skin along Cas’ chest and down to his stomach. “So. Beautiful.” Dean mutters between kisses. “No idea how much I want you”

Cas hisses and tenses, not quite believing Dean’s words even as the man leaves a trail of tender kisses and licks down his body. “Dean” Cas whines for an entirely different reason now.

Dean ignores his half-hearted protest and continues his path down Cas’ body, touching where he deems safe and even going as far as to kiss around the edges of the bandages. Cas buries his fingers in Dean’s hair, a silent plea to continue, no matter how much Cas feels he doesn’t deserve this worship.

Eventually, Dean’s hands are tugging down Cas’ underwear to free his straining erection.

“Dean” Cas whines when Dean pulls too far away for Cas to maintain his hold in Dean’s hair, but Dean only shakes his head as he tugs Cas’ underwear all the way off.

“Let me take care of you,” Dean says, running his palms up and down Cas’ legs, urging them further apart so he can settle between Cas’ knees.

Cas nods weakly, swallowing hard around the lump in his throat as he takes in Dean’s hungry gaze, the man’s green irises nearly eclipsed by the unfettered want in his blown pupils.

Dean takes Cas’ flushed cock in hand, stroking him firmly as he makes himself comfortable. His gaze doesn’t leave Castiel’s and Cas maybe begins to believe that this everything that’s been missing from his life. The desire in Dean’s eyes and his obvious care are real and Cas’ heart swells when he considers that the man currently between his legs is his for as long as he wants him.

 Cas sucks in a breath at the jolt of pleasure at the beginning of the realization. The pain in his back and body fading into the recesses of his mind as he focuses on the man above him. “Too many clothes” He wrangles enough brain cells to form the words, raking his gaze of over Dean’s crisp white shirt, open at the collar, and his deep gray slacks.

Dean takes Cas’ observation to heart and sits up to begin undoing the buttons of his shirt, slowly exposing the toned skin underneath. Cas watches with rapt attention as he rubs his hands up and down Dean’s thighs absently. Soon, the garment is sliding down Dean’s shoulders to be tossed on the floor next to the bed. Dean doesn’t bother with his slacks, opting instead to continue lavishing attention on Castiel. “Better?” Dean hums as Cas’ fingers brush along the skin of his back, nails scratching lightly as Dean’s tongue circles his nipple.

“Yes” Cas gasps. “Please” He whines, bucking his hips against Dean’s thigh, straining for much-needed friction.

“So impatient” Dean chuckles, his lips curling into a smile against Castiel’s skin. He doesn’t waste time in following the lines of Castiel’s muscled stomach down to his hips what lies between. Dean nips lightly at Castiel’s hip before soothing the sting with a caress of his tongue and lips. “Missed this” Dean breathes, despite them only having been here twice before in the handful of weeks they’ve known one another.

Cas whines and tangles his fingers in Dean’s hair, trying to guide the other man where he wants him.

Dean doesn’t disappoint.

His lips close around the head of Castiel’s cock and gives a gentle suck, causing Cas’ back to arch and his mind to forget the lingering pain from his injuries. Castiel’s entire world boils down to this. To Dean and the feeling of lips against his skin and the delicious heat enveloping his cock.

Dean sinks down, swirling his tongue and pressing against the underside of Cas’ cock as he sucks and bobs. Cas whimpers and tries to hold still, not wanting to choke Dean, but Dean reaches a hand to squeeze Castiel’s fingers tighter into his hair, urging Cas to set the pace.

“So good, Dean” Cas mutters, forgetting his worries and his problems for just these few minutes of ecstasy. He knows he isn’t going to last, he can already feel his orgasm settling low in his stomach and his balls begin to tighten. “AH!” He cries out when Dean swallows around him, his throat muscles rippling and tightening to squeeze Cas’ cock in the best possible way. He throws his head back, heart hammering wildly as his fingers tighten and twist in Dean’s hair. “Dean” He whispers, barely getting the word out around his heavy breaths.

Dean keeps slurping and sucking, working Castiel’s dick like they’ve been doing this for years. He works one hand between Cas’ legs and takes his swollen balls in hand, massaging the sensitive area before nudging further down and applying pressure to Cas’ perineum, stimulating his prostate from the outside.

“Fuck!” Cas cries before clamping his mouth shut against his continued litany of pleasured curses and hedonistic moans. “Not gonna last” He warns, giving Dean’s hair a tug to get his point across. He isn’t going to hold Dean down and make him swallow his come.

Dean lowers himself as far as he can, his nose nudges against the skin around the base of Cas’ cock and he swallows repeatedly, humming out a rhythm that has Cas writhing beneath him and crying out his release almost immediately.

Dean suckles him through the aftershocks, careful not to spill a drop as Cas pumps the sticky substance down his throat.

Eventually, Cas lets out a frantic laugh and his body twitches from too much stimulation. Dean pulls off with a grin and snakes himself up Castiel’s body to draw the wrung-out man into a messy kiss.

Cas hums with contentment, tasting himself on Dean’s tongue as he parts his lips to allow Dean entry. They trade lazy kisses for a few minutes before Dean pulls away to help Cas back into his shirt and check his bandages.

Cas stares at the tent in Dean’s pants with a frown. “Dean,” He says, trying to get the other man’s attention as he reaches for the waistband of Dean’s slacks. “I want...” He licks his lips, but Dean pulls away with a roguish smile.

“Don’t worry about me, Angel,” he winks and Cas blushes furiously.

“But you didn’t...” Cas begins to protest but Dean silences him with a finger to his lips. A finger that Cas promptly licks and tries to draw into his mouth.

Dean groans wantonly but pulls away to urge Cas to sit up fully. “You’re going to be the death of me,” Dean shakes his head but amusement colors his tone.

“You didn’t finish,” Cas pouts, still staring the front of Dean’s slacks.

“I can handle it,” Dean dismisses.

“I want to,” Cas counters.

“You’re hurt,” Dean frowns. “I don’t want to push you”.

Cas huffs. “I’m hurt. Not broken. Please, Dean. I want to taste you”. He sits up and scoots forward to make his point. The endorphins flooding his system have dulled the pain and Cas feels clearer headed than he has in a week. He reaches for Dean’s waist again and Dean finally lets him slip his fingers under the band of his slacks.

A firm hand covers his and holds Cas still. Hunger shines in Dean’s green eyes when Cas glances up to meet them and his heart skips a beat in anticipation.

“PD is here guys!” Benny’s booming voice sounds through the door accompanied by loud banging on the solid wood. Both Dean and Cas jump with surprise and Dean lets out a bark of disbelieving laughter.

“Son of a bitch” He shakes his head as he takes a step back from Castiel. “Let's get you dressed. We can play later if you’re still up for it” Dean winks again and Cas finds his request reasonable.

“Fine” He’s still determined to pout. “Guess we shouldn’t keep them waiting”

By the time Cas’ shirt is buttoned and pants are in place, they can hear Meg’s annoyed voice drifting through the door, demanding to see Castiel.

Cas takes a deep breath to help settle his nerves before Dean unlocks the door and reaches for Castiel’s hand. They’ve decided to make their relationship known and play off their meeting as Cas convincing Dean to inform on Alastair.

For the first time, Dean is going to tell the police what Alastair had done to him and Cas is pretty sure that the tight grip of Dean’s hand over his own is just as much for Dean’s comfort as it is Castiel’s.

Dean is stepping through the doorway when a thought crashes through Castiel’s mind like a freight train. Cas freezes, the magnitude of the mistake they’re about to make has his eyes widening and a strangled cry wrenching from his throat. “We can’t. Dean. We can’t tell them” Cas mutters quickly, catching Meg’s interested gaze out of the corner of his eye as Dean turns to face him with a puzzled expression.

Cas yanks Dean back and slams the door in Meg’s face.

“Castiel!” Meg yells through the door, making the handle rattle with her attempts to open the locked handle.

“Cas?” Dean’s brows scrunch in confusion as Cas takes heaving breaths, panic setting in.

Cas squeezes Dean’s hand tighter as his eyes clamped closed. “We can’t tell them,” He says, shaking his head. “If they know you survived Alastair, that’ll only make you a suspect. We…they know there are two killers. They’ll put the pieces together” Castiel’s words come out in a rambling rush. His eyes open to search Dean’s gaze, trying to convince him of the severity of their situation. “They’ll know you’re the other killer. Dean, I can’t lose you to them”

Dean drag Cas against his chest and wraps his arms around the panicking man. “We’ll be out in a minute!” Dean calls over his shoulder and the rattling of the door handle stops.

“You better not be holding him against his will, Winchester!” Meg shouts, giving the door a firm smack that has Cas flinching in surprise.

“I…I just need a minute” Cas tries to shout but his voice wavers too much.

“We’ll tell them the truth then” Dean rests a hand at the back of Castiel’s neck, gently rubbing his thumb in circles. “We’ll tell them how we really met. How we connected. How I pursued you even when you told me not to” Dean doesn’t stop his gentle touch in Cas’ hair as he holds him close.

“They’ll run me up the flagpole” Cas mutters, nearly hiccupping a sob into the crook of Dean’s neck. He tries to pull back, but Dean hushes him.

“Were you serious about quitting?” Dean asks, already knowing the answer.

Cas nods, still trying to match his breathing to Deans to stem his panic. “I’m going to have to quit before we tell them” He leaves it unsaid that he still won’t be free from the police department even once he’s off their payroll. Internal Affairs will still investigate him and probably find something to charge him with.

Cas steadies himself quickly once he comes to that realization. He’ll walk out there and quit and come clean about his relationship with Dean. They won’t be able to arrest him immediately. He should have time to disappear. He needs to keep Dean safe.

Cas huffs a bitter laugh and clings to Dean that much tighter. Barely more than a week ago, Castiel’s goal was to lock Dean behind bars and now he’s willing to do anything to keep him outside of them. “I’m ready” Cas draws back, jaw set with determination. He knows that Meg is out there, probably Donna and Victor too. He wouldn’t even be surprised if Commissioner MacLeod is out there too.

Dean lets Cas pull away, shifting his hands to rest on Castiel’s shoulders and hold in place to search his gaze for some kind of answer. “Everything is going to be ok” Dean lifts his brows and ducks his chin, trying to exude confidence that Cas doesn’t understand. How can Dean be so calm and confident at a time like this?

Cas takes another deep breath and nods, sending Dean to unlock the door once again so they can confront the police gathered in Dean’s living room. Benny stands in the kitchen, facing off with Captain Mills in an uncomfortable battle of wills while Meg paces in front of their door.

Meg freezes and turns to stare the instant Castiel emerges. Dean steps aside and scans the gathered crowd, nodding cordially to Donna and Victor before flashing a sly smile to the Commissioner that does not go unnoticed by Castiel.

Cas doesn’t get the chance to question Dean about his behavior before Meg is dragging him into a tight hug that him stiffening and hissing in pain. “Shit, sorry Clarence” Meg steps back quickly, gently smoothing down Castiel’s shirt in a surreptitious attempt to catalog his injuries.

“It’s ok, Meg” Cas offers her a fond smile before glancing over his shoulder to Dean, who is engaged in conversation with Dr. Tran. “I’m ok”

“He been treating you right?” She asks quietly, but not quietly enough.

“Yes, detective” Commissioner MacLeod steps into their little bubble. “I do hope that Austin’s resident crime lord has been treating you properly?” The shorter man arches a brow, the lilt to his voice even more pronounced in his sarcasm. Thankfully, Dean is too far out of earshot to hear his accusatory remark.

Castiel remembers hearing that the man is originally Scottish but had become a US citizen decades ago and joined the police force not long after. He’s well respected within the precinct, but Cas has yet to really get to know the man.

“Um, about that, Sir” Cas swallows hard, finding the floor suddenly fascinating to look at. “I intend to hand in my resignation as soon as possible” He mutters without looking up. He doesn’t need to see Meg’s angry expression to hear her outraged gasp.

“I suppose that would be for the best,” MacLeod says with a nod, his heavy accent not giving away his true thoughts. “I expect to see your resignation cross my desk by tomorrow, lest I be forced to send Internal Affairs after you”

“Sir!” Meg protests but Castiel hushes her.

“Detective Masters, your partner here has chosen to associate himself with a suspect in too many crimes to keep track of” MacLeod waves his hand dismissively, but his steely gaze is anything but dismissive. “His best option is to resign and save himself the trouble of being under investigation.”

Meg’s jaw snaps shut as Castiel’s jaw drops open. “Sir?” Castiel questions with a slight tilt to his head. Being on his feet for this long is beginning to become painful, having missed his dose of pain killers, but he can’t be bothered to care. Not when his Commissioner is saying what he thinks he’s saying. “Are you saying IA isn’t currently investigating me?”

MacLeod scoffs and shakes his head. “They’ve cleared you on the shooting incident and we all thought it would be poor form to launch another investigation whist you were still bedridden from being kidnapped and tortured.”

Cas stares, taken aback by the casual way MacLeod is speaking of his ordeal. “But, this entire situation is entirely unusual,” Castiel says as he shakes his head, because he apparently doesn’t know when to shut up. “I thought I would be under investigation the instant my relationship with Dean had been revealed” He shoots Meg a cross glare since she was the one to inform the department of his whereabouts. He doesn’t blame her, not really. How would she have explained Dean bundling him away to his home instead of a hospital? How would she have explained Dean leading his rescue in the first place?

MacLeod nods with a smarmy smile just as Dean approaches to wrap and arm around Castiel’s back and guide him to the couch.

“Fergus” Dean nods and Cas doesn’t miss the way the two men’s eyes meet or their matching nods of acknowledgement.

Castiel’s eyes widen as understanding slams through him. His heart freezes before threatening to shatter. “D…Dean” Cas stutters, glancing over his shoulder at the commissioner as Dean guides him to sit. MacLeod gives Cas a knowing smile and dip of his chin before he turns away to speak with the other detectives currently rifling through Dean’s office.

Cas risks a quick glance to Meg, but she appears oblivious to what just transpired and Castiel feels like he could scream. “We’ll talk about it later” Dean leans close to whisper as he sits beside Castiel, their thighs pressed close together and Cas’ hand folded between both of Dean’s.

Cas nods dumbly, not knowing what else he can do at this point and gives Dean’s hands a squeeze as he turns his attention to Meg. He takes a steadying breathe before attempting to speak, hating how he knows his voice is going to tremble when words finally pass his lips.

“You’re really doing ok?” Meg breaks the silence first and Cas lets out a relieved sigh.

He nods, meeting her eyes carefully. “I am”

“And you’re really going to quit?” She prods, her eyes cold and distant.

“I don’t have a choice” Castiel shakes his head and drops his gaze.

“Bullshit” Meg hisses, leaning forward and snatching Castiel’s hand away from Dean. “No offence Winchester,” she sends him a quick glare, offence clearly implied, before continuing “but you’re throwing your career away from someone you barely know. For a criminal,” she bites, squeezing Castiel’s hand painfully.

Cas draws back with a huff as Dean shrugs noncommittally, as if Castiel’s answer means nothing to him. Cas can feel the line of tension pass through Dean where their legs touch, and Cas makes no move to pull away. He shakes his head, eyeing partner sadly. “It’s more than that.” Cas scoots forward to shorten the distance between him and Meg. “I lost faith in the police a long time ago. I moved here to try to get it back, but I can’t do this anymore, Meg. Being with the police isn’t working for me.” He swallows hard, hating the sound of the words leaving his mouth but every single one rings full of truth. Dean is only the icing in the cake. That last straw to send him over the edge.

The person worth falling for.

Dean remains silent next to him and Meg’s expression cycles between anger, disbelief and finally resigned expectance.

“If that’s what you think you want,” Meg says, barely looking at Castiel and sending Dean a blame filled glare.

“It’s what I know I want” Castiel doubles down and is saved from further guilting by Donna finally daring to approach. She looks to Dean with distrust but leans forward to give Cas a half hug regardless.

“Castiel,” she smiles. “We were worried about’cha” Her smile doesn’t reach her eyes and Cas can see that she’s struggling to come to terms with the newest developments in the case.

“I’m quitting, Donna” Castiel decided that he might as well tell her. “I can’t be a cop anymore,” he swallows hard, trying to hold eye contact with her.

Donna nods and pinches a frown. “I suppose you’re right.” She turns to walk away without another word and warning bells begin to chime in Castiel’s mind. Something is wrong here, very wrong.

Castiel barely notices Commissioner MacLeod leaving or Captain Mills circling closer with Victor at her side. Both he and Dean stiffen when several uniformed officers quietly enter the house and Dean’s pushes to his feet, planting himself between the police officers and Castiel.

Captain Mills steps forward as Meg backs away, apology in her gaze. Mills spins Dean around, handcuffs in hand as she guides Dean’s hands behind his back. “Dean Winchester, you are under arrest for the murder of Zachariah Adler. You have the right to remain silent…”

Castiel’s breath catches in his throat and he’s pushing to his feet, ready to intervene but Meg holds him back. Mills drones on with Dean’s Miranda rights despite Cas’ very vocal protest.

“Don’t Cas” Dean warns, standing still and allowing Mills to manhandle him as the uniformed officers surround them. “Don’t” He gives the word as a command and Cas snaps his jaw shut. He doesn’t want to make this worse and he knows he’s a half step away from implicating himself more than he already has. “They’ve tried this before. I’ve done nothing wrong and they’ll discover that soon enough. I’ll be home to you in no time” Dean aims for confident, but Cas can see the worry etched in his green eyes.

“Wouldn’t be so sure of that, Winchester” Victor says with his arms folded over his chest, watching the scene unfolded in front of him. “Always thought something was off about you Novak, now we know what” He shoots Castiel a glare that has Cas’ cheeks heating with anger.

“You don’t know anything, Victor” Cas snaps.

“Cas” Dean says sharply, drawing Castiel’s attention. Cas finally looks to Benny for support, only to see the other man also bound in handcuffs. “Breathe, babe” Dean instructs and only then does Cas realize he’s forgotten to breathe.

“Come on, Castiel. I’ll take you home” Meg offers, taking Cas by the elbow to lead him away.

“You did this” Castiel breathes the accusation, heart already shattering. “You did this” He repeats with a little more confidence.

Meg shrugs with a slow grin spreading over her features. “Turns out your hunch about Bradbury was a good one” She stares at Castiel without remorse for turning his life on its head and leaving him unmoored. “Come on, Clarence. Time to get you out of here. You don’t belong with these thugs”

“Go on, Cas” Dean urges as Mills begins to march him out. “I’ll come back to you,” he says without a sense of desperation, only calm confidence as he gives Cas a subtle nod and flinch of a smile. Cas can tell he’s worried, but he knows that showing as much would only be showing weakness. He can’t afford to be weak.

“I need to get my things,” Cas snaps at Meg, pulling away from her sharply. He doesn’t care how much the sudden motion pulls at his injuries. The rage flowing through him does a good enough job at dulling the painful sensations. He’ll come up with a plan. There must be someone out there outside of Benny who would come to bat for Dean. He needs to find Mick. Cas hasn’t seen the man, but he had heard Mick was released from the hospital with few lingering effects of Alastair’s attack. He needs to speak with Jo and Ellen too. They’re Dean’s friends. They’ll know what to do. And Sam. Sam is still around somewhere

Cas sets off for his bedroom with feigned confidence in his gait. He shrugs off Meg’s attention and sends her a glare to end all glares, giving her an unquestionable warning to stay away from him.

One last glance over his shoulder shows Dean disappearing through the front door, followed closely by the half dozen uniformed officers. He’ll figure this out.

He has to.

Chapter Text

In the four days since Dean and Benny’s arrests, Mick is full of fantastical ideas to come to the rescue, but none of them are particularly helpful. Meg had put together enough evidence based on Alastair’s words to Dean and Dean’s omittance of certain kills from Sam’s map to bring about his arrest. They stripped Dean down during his booking and cataloged his scars, solidifying the suspicion that Dean was Alastair’s victim turned apprentice despite Dean’s adamant denials.

          At this point, it doesn’t matter what Dean has to say about the subject. The Austin Police Department thinks they have enough evidence to bring Dean to trial.

          Which is why Castiel is entering the department for the first time in a week and a half with his resignation letter clasped firmly in hand. Except, he isn’t heading to Captain Mill’s office. He’s going to see Commissioner MacLeod.

          He had taken some time to search his soul, as one might call it. His feelings toward Dean came in quickly and swept him away like a tidal wave, twisting and turning him around in the current until he could barely tell which way was up.

          What he found, is that he’s ready to jump into the deep end for Dean. He and Dean had talked of running away together and leaving their lives behind. But Cas doesn’t think either of them can ever fully leave who they are behind. Still, Cas is convinced they can work. That they would be good for each other.

          If Dean can get out of this mess, and IF Dean will agree to leave all this behind, Cas will gladly go with him.

          Cas pauses and knocks on MacLeod’s door, waiting for permission to enter. Soon enough, the Commissioner’s rough voice calls through the door, telling him to enter.

“Ah, Novak. I was wondering when you’d drag your sorry arse into my office” MacLeod doesn’t hesitate or stand when Castiel tentatively opens his door and steps inside. No. Instead, he leans back in his swiveling leather chair and waits like a king awaiting homage. “I trust you have something for me” He arches a brow and Cas feels anger bubbling in his chest.

MacLeod is far too smarmy for Castiel’s liking, and anything resembling smug right now is enough to stoke Cas’ temper to dangerous levels. Cas tries not to glare but he’s certain he’s failed in that endeavor. “Yes, sir” He steps forward, swallowing his pride and handing the envelope containing his carefully worded letter to the other man.

MacLeod doesn’t respond beyond taking Castiel’s offering and pulling out the resignation letter printed on official department letterhead paper. He takes a moment to read, nodding his head slightly as he does so.

Cas fidgets, unsure whether he should just leave or try to ask the Commissioner what his relationship with Dean is. The looks he saw them exchange had to mean something.

“This all looks in order. I accept your resignation effective immediately. Congratulations, you are no longer an officer of the law” MacLeod says, tone grating on Castiel’s nerves. The man seems overly pleased about something and Cas has no patience for his attitude.

“Sir, please...” Castiel starts, taking a half step forward to rest his hands along the back of the chair in front of him. He’s still sore, despite feeling better every day.

MacLeod sets Castiel’s letter aside and folds his arms on the desk in front of him. “Cut the formalities, Feathers. Please, call me Crowley,” he says through a smirk.

Cas clenches his jaw and lets out a heavy breath, praying for patience. “Crowley” He bites, nodding in acceptance. He’s pretty certain the man’s name is Fergus, but whatever. Castiel doesn’t care. “Before Dean was arrested, I saw the two of you exchange a look. He said he would explain later but never got the chance. I would appreciate if you would explain now” He’s careful to hold steady eye contact and keep his voice level.

A smug little smile flinches across the commissioner’s face before he nods. “Lock the door”.

Castiel’s heart skips a beat. He hadn’t actually expected MacLeod to tell him anything. He hastens to comply, moving a little too fast in the process and wincing when his stitches pull.

“Sit” Crowley points to the chair opposite his own as Cas returns and Castiel doesn’t think about not accepting the demand. Crowley leans forward over his desk, fingers intertwined and stretched before him. “For one. I owe you zero explanations and am only doing so out of the goodness of my heart,” He says with an air of demand that has Cas bristling where he sits. “What I am about to tell you does not leave this room. Understood?” His low and raspy voice sends a bad feeling down Castiel’s spine, but he leans in regardless, ready to agree to almost anything.

“I understand,” Cas says, searching the commissioner’s face with faint hope building in his chest.

“Winchester and I go way back. Believe it or not, he saved my life once. Back when I was a beat cop. We struck up an uneasy understanding” Crowley says, giving Cas a knowing look.

“So, you know about him?” Castiel asks. If Macleod doesn’t know, then he won’t know what Castiel is referring to.

“I know he’s willing to take out the trash that my department can’t quite get to” Crowley nearly growls. “The law is just so confining. I’m sure you understand. Sometimes, no matter what we know, we can’t act. We can’t deliver justice.”

Castiel nods, understanding exactly what the commissioner is saying. “The police aren’t enough,” He says in complete agreement.

“Exactly” Crowley waves a dismissive hand. “So, yes. I know what Dean does. Hell, I’ve spoon fed him a few names over the years. He can be very...helpful.”

Castiel swallows hard, his horror of finding out the police commissioner has his toe in a criminal enterprise is outweighed only by the fact that said criminal is Dean. “Then you’ll help him”

“No,” Crowley says simply as he leans back in his chair.

“NO?!” Cas pushes to his feet. “Why not?” He demands, heart racing.

“Winchester and I made a deal a long time ago. I am not to clean up his messes for him. I am not going to interfere in the due process of law.” Crowley pushes to his feet to face Castiel and leans over his desk, jamming a single finger down onto the hard surface.

Cas feels like the breath has been stolen from his lungs. His anger is punched out of him and he isn’t certain if he’s about to laugh or cry. “You’re in his pocket but you won’t help him. Unbelievable” He mutters, shaking his head with a derisive snort.

“I think you have that backward, Novak” Crowley glowers and Cas swallows hard. “Winchester would be nothing without me.”

“Well, he’s going to be nothing because of you” Castiel spits before he thinks. “If you’re not going to help, I’m done wasting my time” He shakes his head and turns to leave, not waiting for dismissal.

“Wait” Crowley commands, the word firm and clipped enough to have Castiel stop. “My hands are tied here. But, take this. The man this card belongs to will be able to assist in your...situation” Crowley straightens, and slides open a desk drawer, removing a single business to hold out to Castiel.

Cas takes the card with a huff, barely glancing at the name on it before shoving it in his pocket. “Should I be expecting to hear from Internal Affairs?” He arches a brow, needing to know the truth. They blindsided Dean, what's to stop the police from doing the same to him?

Crowley huffs and shakes his head. “Considering LaFitte’s and Bradbury’s arrests are thanks to your insight, I feel that is evidence enough of your dedication. Your resignation shows that your moral compass is in proper working order. I see no reason to investigate your sordid affair. Now scram. I have work to do”

Castiel’s heart sinks. Crowley isn’t wrong. They never would have looked into Charlie if he hadn’t been so determined to bring Dean down. Well, he’s gotten his wish, hasn’t he?

Cas feels numbness growing inside his chest with each step he takes toward the precinct doors. He’s given up his entire career and lost the reason he found the courage to give it up to begin with. He’s lost everything.

Now, he’s determined to take it back.

His fingers curl around the business card in his pocket. He needs to figure something out and fast. Dean is set to be arraigned in two days, and Benny tomorrow. Charlie is at least out on bail with the stipulation she does not touch a computer.

“Cas! Wait!” Meg’s urgent voice echoes down the corridor and people turn to stare.

Cas keeps walking, ignoring the way she’s jogging through the hall to catch up.

He darts into the elevator and tries to get the door closed before Meg can reach him, but he only succeeds in becoming trapped alone with her.

“I have nothing to say to you,” Cas says flatly, refusing to meet her gaze.

“You’re making a mistake” She pleads, grabbing his hand as she tries to get him to look at her. “You’re a good detective, Castiel”

“I’m not a detective anymore. I just handed in my resignation” He responds, keeping his tone even and measure no matter how much he wants to scream. She was supposed to be his friend.

“You didn’t” She breathes, covering her mouth with her hands.

Castiel finally takes a deep enough breath to visibly exhale his frustration. “What choice did I have!” He hisses, crowding into Meg’s space. “Do you really think they would have kept me on the force after finding out I’m in love with Dean Winchester!?”

Meg drops her hands and slams the emergency stop on the elevator. “You’re what?!” She grates through clenched teeth.

Cas deflates. He had been avoiding those three little words since they first settled into his heart. “I love him”

“You love a monster?” Meg places her hands on her hips and glares for all she’s worth. Her words are slightly more a question than a statement.

“He’s a good man, Meg” Castiel bites back, believing his words to be true with everything he has.

Meg scoffs and shakes her head. “A good man who murders people?” She crosses her arms over her chest and dares Cas to disagree. Her steely gaze slowly turns to one of disbelief as understand begins to blossom over her features. “You already knew, didn’t you?” She looks to Castiel like he’s murdered her best friend and replaced him with someone else. Something else.

Cas shakes his head in denial despite knowing the truth is written on his face. He reaches around her to pull the emergency stop back into operation before the fire department shows up.

“How long” Meg places her hands up and shoves against his chest. Cas stumbles back into the wall of the elevator. “HOW LONG?” She nearly yells and Cas shakes his head once again, letting her pin him against the wall.

“He’s a good man,” Cas says again, refusing to admit that he’s known what Dean is nearly since the beginning. The elevator door slides open and Cas slips past Meg to hurry out of the precinct. He has no desire to continue this conversation or be inside the police station any longer than absolutely necessary.

Meg doesn’t follow him to the parking lot and Cas feels a mixture of relief and annoyance as he drops himself into the driver’s seat of his rental and cranks the ignition. The car turns over more faithfully than his continental ever had and Cas slams the growling beast of a car into gear to head to the roadhouse. Sam is supposed to meet him there along with Ellen and Jo.

This entire situation seems surreal. Castiel’s role has been entirely reversed and he’s fallen into everything seamlessly. Working against the law doesn’t feel much different than working with it.

His phone begins to ring, he finally changed his ringtone from “Carry on My Wayward Son, the tone Gabriel has set for him as a joke. Now, “Ramble On” blares from the tiny speaker, courtesy of Dean’s taste in music. To remind him of the lofty task he must now accomplish.

“Hello” He answers, noticing Sam’s name flash on the screen before he hits the button. Talking on the phone while driving is technically illegal, but he’s in the midst of planning a prison break. Who cares about talking on the damn phone?

“Hey Cas, I got a lead. You on the way to Roadhouse?” Sam’s voice comes over the line and Cas can hear the excitement in the younger man’s tone.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” Cas says before hanging up and setting his phone aside. No sense in getting himself a ticket for reckless driving. He shrugs and continues on his way, feeling only a little unsettled by his conversation with Crowley and his confrontation with Meg. He can’t shake the feeling that Crowley wasn’t telling him the entire story. He didn’t care for the man before he knew he dabbled on the other side of the law, and now he only serves as another reason Cas found turning in his resignation more satisfying than his last three years as a Detective.

Cas pulls in front of the roadhouse and lets out a heavy sigh. Hope tingles in his chest from Sam’s phone call, but he knows they have a long road ahead of them to manufacture Dean’s innocence or, if that fails, find a way to break Dean out and skip town.

He fingers the business card in his pocket before finally deciding to pull it out.

Across the front is a neatly typed name. ASH. Across the back is a phone number and only a phone number. Great. Castiel huffs as he shakes his head. Someone or something named Ash and a number for him to cold call. He doesn’t even know what to say. Somehow, he thinks that “Oh, the police commissioner gave me your number so you can help me break my boyfriend out of jail” would go over so well that Cas would be hearing the dial tone before he even finished speaking.

Cas frowns before nodding, deciding on a path. He carefully types the number into his phone and hits dial.

“Hola! Mi amigo!” A far too cheery voice comes on the line after the first ring, seemingly unperturbed at the strange number calling. The voice speaks Spanish, but the speaker does not have an accent to speak of. In fact, the lack of an accent nearly makes Castiel cringe.

“Uh, hello” Castiel mumbles, somewhat taken aback. “My name is Castiel, is Ash available?”

“You got’im, buddy. What can I do ya for?” Ash says, still a little too loud and a little too cheerful.

“Crowley gave me this number, I’m a friend of Dean Winchester’s” Castiel explains, uncertain if calling himself Dean’s boyfriend would be helpful or a hindrance.

“I see” Ash sounds decidedly less cheerful. “I heard Dean got pinched. Already been working on the plan, just been waitin on somebody to call. Gotta say, man, I was expectin to hear from Ellen” His volume drops nearly to whisper and Cas strains to listen.

“I...sorry” Cas doesn’t know what to say. “What do we need to do?” He crosses his fingers that this Ash person can help.

“You’re at the roadhouse” Ash observes, and Cas whips his head around to see who's watching him.

“Uh, just outside,” Cas says around a throat-clearing cough. “How do you know that?”

“I’m a genius, man. A god among men” Ash says, sounding as if he’s in the middle of a stretch.

“Uh huh” Cas is at a loss for words.

“You just go inside and sit tight. I’ll be there with the cavalry in an hour” Ash instructs and Castiel has no choice but to agree. He has no idea who this man is or how he can help.

“Ok. Thank you” Cas says before hanging up. He hangs his head against the steering wheel to collect his thoughts, phone still clutched in his hand.

A harsh knock on his window startles Cas out of his self-pitying stupor and he glares out the window at Sam who is waving far too cheerfully. Cas tucks his phone in his pocket and climbs out of the car. “Hello, Sam,” He says with a nod.

“Cas” Sam dips his head. “So, get this” Sam starts, already beginning to open the slim manila folder in his hand.

“Let's get inside first, Sam” Cas places a hand over the folder to keep it closed before taking a quick glance at their surroundings. Anyone could be watching.

“Yeah. Yeah. Right” Sam nods, swallowing hard and Cas offers him a slight smile.

The two men head inside, heads tilted together in conspiratorial conversation. Sam has found evidence and records to shed doubt on the evidence against Dean and Benny. Turns out, Charlie was not the one bungling the traces. She put them on the lines exactly as the police had instructed.

What Charlie had done, however, is left a back door in the computer code cracked open just enough for someone else to sneak in and make changes.

Sam got information from Dean and Benny’s attorney that the charges against Charlie are being dropped since the police can’t prove she did anything intentional.

Ellen automatically sets matching Dr. Peppers in front of Sam and Cas, giving Sam an arched brow when he opens his mouth to complain that he’d prefer whiskey.

“Boy, you are barely an adult and it’s barely noon” She snaps her towel at the younger Winchester and goes about her business as Cas tries not to smile over his straw.

“I’m 26, Ellen!” Sam whines, turning to Cas for sympathy. Finding none, he takes a sip of soda through his straw with a huff.

“What’d you find?” Cas nudges the younger man and taps the still closed folder.

Sam’s hazel eyes light up and Cas can’t help but appreciate how much better this look is on the young Winchester than when Cas had found him in his living room with a gun. “I’ve been doing some research, and Dean has so many alibis” Sam pauses to shake his head. “The evidence against him is circumstantial at best. With the right pressure, this won’t even go to trial” Sam flips through the pages within the folder as he speaks, pointing out dates and photographic evidence of Dean being elsewhere during the times of death listed on autopsy reports”

Cas nods along but narrows his eyes near the end. “The problem is the last murder,” Cas says, shaking his head. “Meg told me that a photograph of Dean with Zachariah Adler inside this bar was delivered to the police station just after Alastair grabbed me” Cas frowns, trying not to sink into the memory.

“We’ll find a way to prove it was doctored” Sam shrugs like everything is that simple. “Who would have sent them a photo anyway?”

Cas huffs with a frown. “Probably the same person who sent them photographs of Dean walking me home not long after we met. I had assumed Alastair, but turning Dean in doesn’t seem to synch with his motives.”

Sam hums and his brow furrows. “Anyone strange been hanging around lately?” He asks Ellen and glances to Jo with the same question in his eyes.

Jo smirks. “No one any stranger than you,” She says as she snaps her bar rag at Sam. The sign on the front door is turned to closed, so the lack of paying customers means Jo can treat Sam like every bit of the little sister she is to the man. Never mind they’re not actually related.

Cas had been surprised to see how seamlessly Sam fit in with the Harvelle’s. He had assumed their relationship had been mainly with Dean, but it would seem he was wrong.

He had been wrong about himself fitting in as well. In the past week, Dean’s family has embraced him and made him their own. He hasn’t felt such a sense of belonging since his days in the academy with the dozens of other recruits training to become police officers.

“No one out of the usual here till you came in” Ellen agrees with her daughter while giving Cas a pointed look that has him blushing and looking to the bar. “But something tells me that it ain’t you tipping off the police,” Ellen says, giving Cas a wink when he finally lifts his gaze.

“Doesn’t matter who” Mick scoffs, settling onto the stool next to Castiel. Ellen immediately begins to fuss over the man, bringing him water and juice before he has a chance to ask for anything stronger. Ellen has made it perfectly clear to all of them that she will not be serving alcohol to people recovering from concussions, heat stroke or alcoholism and she will not serve anyone else while the two men in question are present.

Sam and Mick have nearly given up asking.

“Ellen, you know I’m fine” Mick says in protest, pushing the juice away. His motion is halted by the sharp look she gives and the way her hands rest on her hips. “Thank you” Mick changes his mind about arguing under her glare and brings the glass of orange juice to his lips.

“Don’t worry guys, she’ll relax when we get Dean back” Jo leans over the bar to whisper conspiratorially.

The door opens, letting in a gust of heat, and everyone turns to look.

“We’re closed” Ellen points to the exit as a tall, lanky man saunters inside wearing a ratty t-shirt and jeans strolls into the bar with the utmost confidence.

The man arches a brow and places his hands on his hips. “I believe someone here named Castiel has an appointment with Dr. Badass. And the doctor is in” He glances around, gaze lingering over each man gathered before he flashes a quick grin to Jo and Ellen.

Ellen rolls her eyes and tosses her towel on the bar. “Ash,” She says, a slight twitch of her lip gives away a small amount of amusement as she scowls.

“You’re Ash?” Cas stands with a wince and moves slowly toward the man.

“In the flesh” The man grins as he reaches a hand toward Castiel. “Now, let's talk about what we can do for your boy”

Cas blushes once again, something it seems he’s been doing a lot of lately, before he eyes Ash skeptically. The man has an honest to god mullet and appears to be a relic of 80s rock. “I’m sorry, but how are you supposed to help?” Cas is more than willing to voice his skepticism.

“I am a god among men, my friend” He reaches for the messenger bag slung over his shoulder and lays it on the bar, barely paying any mind to the others gathered around. “Let me work my magic” He laces his fingers together and pushes his hands away from himself in a stretch before pulling a computer from the bag.

Cas tries to interrupt but is met with a harsh “SHH” and a finger held in front of his face before Ash turns back to his computer, typing furiously.

“You know him?” Cas whispers to Ellen, glancing cautiously toward the man.

“Yeah” Ellen frowns as if a foul taste assaults her palate. “We go way back.” She shrugs and pours Ash a beer. Sam immediately begins to protest but Ellen fixes him with a stern look and goes about her business as Cas settles back onto his barstool, watching the newcomer with a carefully guarded expression.

Ash seems to work for hours, barely looking up from his computer except to toss Ellen absent “thank you” each time she sets a fresh beer in front of him. Cas watches with growing impatience.

“Wait” Cas clears his throat. Ash pauses and looks to him with a raised brow. “What about Benny?” He can’t believe he had forgotten to ask about Benny. The dreaded pit of failure in his gut threatens to open as guilt-ridden thoughts creep into his mind. How could he have not even asked if Ash will try to help Benny too?

Ash huffs and shakes his head. “The big bear is already taken care of. Why do you think it’s taking the police so long to arraign them?” Ash rolls his eyes as if Cas were an idiot and waves at his computer. “I got a notification as soon as your little friend went poking around in Charlie’s web” Ash points to Cas and Cas feels even more guilty. “I’d like to meet the guy, by the way, I think he’s got crazy good potential,” Ash says, pointing to Cas with a grin.

This entire situation is his fault. Cas hangs his head and forces a deep breath. “I should go” He mutters and pushes off his stool, determined not to let anyone convince him otherwise. He just needs to stew a little bit and there is no way he’s going to ask Inias here to meet with Ash. No way.

“Actually, no. You shouldn’t” Mick stands and straightens his smart suit jacket before taking a step toward Castiel. “You have been working on this for days? Why did you not reach out to us?” Mick stops Cas with a firm hand to the center of his chest, but his words are directed to Ash.

“Dean’s entire enterprise is a carefully built house of cards, man. Anyone could betray him” Ash mutters. “I’ve been working, yes. But the protocol is for me to keep to myself until someone trusted enough with my number calls”

“We’ve known you for years, you little shit” Ellen gripes, clearly displeased that she wasn’t trusted immediately.

Ash nods and pinches a frown. “Dean was only gonna bring you in as a last resort. Didn’t want to risk ruining what you’ve got here. The fact that none of you knew what I do for Dean behind the scenes is for good reason” Ash gestures to the bar around them. “Wasn’t expecting this one to be the one to receive my card,” Ash waves toward Cas absently and returns to his computer.

Mick narrows his eyes toward Cas. “Where did you get his card?” He asks, cocking his head slightly in question.

“Crowley?” Cas says, not entirely certain something beyond his knowledge isn’t happening.

“The Demon?” Mick arches a disbelieving brow. “How on earth did you get a meeting with him? I’ve been trying to contact him for days!”

Cas glances around, noticing how Ellen leans forward over the bar and Jo simply looks confused. Sam’s eyes are narrowed but Cas cannot be certain whether the younger man knows who they’re talking about or not. Only Ash looks uninvested. Cas shrugs. Commissioner MacLeod is someone code-named “The Demon”. Perfect. Just perfect. He shakes his head in annoyance, wanting to tell them everything but Crowley had given him the distinct impression that revealing his identity is not an option that would lend favorable results. “He found me” Cas finally settles on.

“He could help” Sam protests and Ash rolls his eyes.

Cas shakes his head. “He won’t,” He says with an air of finality that has Ash giving a firm nod.

“Dean and Benny don’t need his help” Ash interjects with a broad smile. “This time tomorrow, they’ll both be free men with rock-solid alibies” Ash hits a few keys on his computer dramatically. “Just been waiting on the signal before I could hit go”

Sam scoffs. “How are we supposed to do that?” He says with a disbelieving scowl.

“Do not question the ways of the master, young Padawan,” Ash takes on a somber tone and serious expression that has both Cas and Mick rolling their eyes.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Sam grumbles, shaking his head.

Ash turns, long mullet flapping with the sharp motion. “Sit. Stay. Wait” Ash commands with a point toward Sam as if directing a puppy instead of a gargantuan human being.

Sam huffs, blowing air upward through his lips to move his bangs out of his eyes, but he sits himself down on the barstool next to Cas. The tension in the room could be sliced with a knife.

Mick shifts in his seat uncomfortably before dropping his head into his hands and clenches his eyes shut.

“Hey” Ellen snaps her towel at the man, and he peers up at her through his fingers. “You doing ok?”

Mick nods halfheartedly. “Dandy”

“You look a little pale” Jo observes, and Mick shakes his head in denial while staring down at the bar.

“Headache?” Cas says, already knowing the answer. The doctors have barely cleared him from bed rest and yet here he sits, determined to be part of rescuing Dean. Cas moves to stand and rests a hand on Mick’s shoulder. “Come on, you can rest on my couch” He offers, already urging the other man from the stool.

Mick nods with a wince and lets Cas help him to his feet. “Call me if you hear anything,” Cas says as he and Mick step toward the door. A chorus of “sure things” and “yeps” follows them out and onto the street.

They make the short walk to Cas’ apartment slower than usual due to Mick’s exhaustion, but Cas has him settled on his sofa with a tall glass of water and ibuprofen only minutes after they arrive.

Cas hasn’t slept here since the first night after Dean arrest. Sam had collected him and taken him back to the Winchester house that next day, saying he belongs there now, and that Dean would never forgive Sam if he let Cas stay here alone. He directs Mick to lay down and relax while Cas sets to work on the small pile of dishes left abandoned in the sink.

He works in silence, as Mick dozes, until a soft knock on his door has Cas nearly breaking the bowl in his hands.

He draws his gun as Mick pushes into a sitting position, staring toward the door with narrowed eyes. Cas silently urges the man down as he approaches his door just as the gentle knock comes a second time.

Mick ignores Castiel’s direction and gets to his feet. Cas rolls his eyes but approaches his door cautiously to peer through the peephole. His shoulders deflate and he shakes his head in annoyance with his own paranoia. “Inias” He breathes and Mick shrugs, re-settling himself on the couch.

Cas undoes the lock and slowly opens the door. “Inias, what are you doing here?” He says softly.

Inias’ doe-like blue eyes go soft but the lines of worry remain etched in his features. “Castiel. I was concerned…”

“I’m fine” Cas interrupts, not interested in anyone’s pity.

“No, please” Inias holds up a hand and Cas relents. “Please, I would like to speak with you”

“I turned in my resignation ‘Nias, there is nothing more to say” Castiel is ready to shut the man out but his foot catches in the door as Inias steps into his space.

“Castiel” Inias’ tone hardens and gives Castiel’s pause. “Let me help” He demands as he attempts to crowd Castiel into taking a step backward.

Cas narrows his eyes in confusion and Mick stares at the two men. “What do you want from me?” Cas says a little harsher than intended, but he’s really confused right now. He doesn’t need Inias to save him from himself. Cas has made this choice and Inias is not going to change his mind.

“You say Dean is a good man?” Inias places an open palm in the center of Castiel’s chest. No matter how much time passes or what happens between them, Inias’ touch still has a way of slowing Castiel’s thoughts and grounding him. Cas nods, mouth suddenly going dry as he stares into Inias’ pale blue eyes. “Then let me in and let me help you”

Cas steps back to allow Inias entry, barely sparing Mick a glance. “How?” Cas is too befuddled to form any questions more complex than single words.

“What are you doing here?” Mick speaks up, saying the words that Cas is afraid to ask.

Inias looks to Mick as if just now noticing the other man’s presence. Cas takes a moment to notice the scratches on the side of Inias’ face and the tight wrap on his wrist. Signs of the accident that Alastair created to take Castiel.

Cas wasn’t the only one hurt by that madman.

“Are you well?” Castiel finds himself asking as he absently reaches a hand to touch the bruising on Inia’s temple.

Inias takes a step back and turns to close the apartment door behind him. “I am alright,” Inias says with a little too emphatically.

“Again, what are you doing here?” Mick says, a little louder this time.

Inias sucks in a breath and nods. “Meg gave me these” Inias digs in the shoulder bag Castiel hadn’t even noticed and holds out several folders. Police files.

Castiel arches a brow as he reaches for the plain tan folders. “What is this?” Cas flips one open to examine the contents. He swallows hard when he begins to make sense of what he’s been given and looks up with surprise. “Why would she give you these?” His tone is somewhat breathless and Inias gives him a shy smile.

“I trust you, Castiel. If you say Dean Winchester is a good man, I will accept that. You deserve a chance at happiness” Inias says, a little bit cryptically.

Castiel nods just as his phone begins to ring. Inias turns as if about to leave but Cas stops him with a firm grip on the man’s forearm as he answers the phone.

“Novak,” He says as he presses the device to his ear, more out of police habit than anything else. “Uh huh. I see. Who’s going to get him?” Cas says to the person on the other end of the call.

Inias stands and waits patiently, not bothering to tug his arm free of Castiel’s grasp as Mick watches them with narrowed eyes. Inias offers the other man a shrug and Mick arches a brow in response.

“Alright. Keep us updated” Castiel nods as he speaks, carefully dragging Inias further into the apartment before gesturing toward the armchair across from the couch.

Inias gives Cas a questioning look but takes the offered seat without protest, leaving Castiel to his phone call.

“I am aware” Cas rumbles with a scowl into the phone before quickly ending the call.

“What’s that about?” Mick asks, gesturing toward the phone still held tightly in Castiel’s hand.

“They’re cutting Benny loose” Cas says flatly, and Mick’s complexion begins to redden. Cas stays the man by holding up a hand. “Turns out their evidence doesn’t hold enough weight to file charges. A judge ordered his release” Castiel grins as he meets Mick’s widened gaze.

“You think Ash had something to do with this?” Mick asks, barely sparing Inias a glance.

Inias’ eyes grow wide. “Ash? As in ‘Dr. Badass’ Ash?” Inias says the nickname with finger quotes as he looks between Castiel and Mick excitedly.

“Yes?” Cas draws out the word into several syllables and he tilts his head toward Inias.

A nearly blinding grin spreads over Inias’ features and he scoots to sit on the edge of his chair. “Can you introduce me? Please?” He says, not bothering to hide his excitement.

 “Why?” Cas stares down at his friend. He may be a fool, but even after everything, he trusts Inias. “Your career could be ruined if anyone finds out you’re here”

“I do not care,” Inias says bluntly. “A chance to meet with Ash! How could I pass on that opportunity?” He rambles, shaking his head as he pushes to his feet, ignoring Castiel’s urging to sit. “How do you know him, anyway?"

Cas blinks, confusion settling in his expression and refusing to budge. “I don’t. Dean does. How do you know who he is?” Castiel says, tilting his head to the side just enough to consider the excitement in the man before him.

“He’s a genius, Castiel!” Inias exclaims, tossing his hands in the air. “Anyone into coding knows who he is. Or at least his aliases. No one knows his real name” Inias shrugs and Micks raises his brows.

“Huh,” Mick says, shaking his head. “What do you think, Cas? Can we trust this guy?” Mick nods his head toward Inias.

Cas frowns but nods. “You shouldn’t get involved, Inias,” he says as he meets Inias’ stubborn scowl with one of his own. “You do realize we’re planning on breaking the law? Do you want that on your conscious?” Castiel appeals to the mild-mannered boy he grew up with as he stares down the man in front of him.

Inias scoffs and shakes his head. “I wish to help,” he ignores Castiel’s question and looks directly to Mick. “Please”.

 “Excellent” Mick nods with his own smile. “Cas, mind if I stay here a bit longer while you get your friend settled?”

Cas tosses Mick the spare keys to the apartment after digging them out of a drawer and nudges Inias from the room toward the door. They keep quite as they hurry to the roadhouse. Inias visibly trembles with excitement at the thought of meeting Ash and Cas can’t begin to understand why. He doesn’t bother asking either.

This situation is strange and as much as Cas wants to trust his old friend, he has doubts. Introductions go swiftly once they arrive and Inias all but stumbles over himself when he shakes Ash’s hand.

Ash looks overly pleased and happily lets Inias fawn over him with stars in his eyes which everyone else shakes their head in disbelief.

“Who’s going to get Benny?” Cas turns to Sam with a hopeful gleam in his eye. Sam quickly swings his set of keys from his finger and waves Cas to join him with a grin.

“Let’s go” The younger man urges, and Cas happily drops himself into Sam’s sporty new Charger to drive to the jail.

Chapter Text

Castiel does not like Dean’s lawyer. Not. At. All.

Cain is gray-haired and ruthless. A force to be reckoned with who makes Castiel’s skin crawl. His grin is fierce and humorless, more of a threat than an expression of cheer, and his posture is stiff and commanding.

And he absolutely adores bees. Sure, Cas likes bees. He especially loves honey. But not like Cain. No. When Castiel first meets Cain face to face, the man is tending his hives, not even wearing one of those Martian-like beekeeper suits. He’s standing there in his shirtsleeves and bare hands, rummaging for honeycomb while the bees buzz around him.

To make matters more bizarre. Cain waves them forward as if he thinks Castiel, Sam and Benny were going anywhere near that swarming hive without protection.

Cas and Sam both shout their thanks but make it clear they would prefer to wait until Cain is finished before discussing Dean’s impending arraignment.

In two hours.

Cain patiently tends to the bees while the three men wait impatiently.

Cas does not like Cain. Not even a little.

“What the hell is his problem?” Sam huffs to Cas, leaning closer to the man as if Cain could hear them over all the buzzing.

Cas frowns. “Clearly the bees are of import,” He says dryly, unconvinced of his own words.

“The bees are incredibly important” Cain’s deep voice rumbles over Castiel and Sam just as his shadow covers their own. Sam jumps in surprise at the man’s sudden proximity and Cas simply rolls his eyes.

“Sir, we’re due in court in less than two hours” Castiel points out, glancing to his watch for effect.

Cain hums and shrugs. “You said you have new information for me?” He says simply, as if Castiel’s scathing tone and Sam’s unusual height is of no concern. Cain himself is not a small man, he’s slightly taller than Castiel, but Sam towers above them both.

“We do” Sam quickly agrees, handing over the file Inias had delivered the day before.

Cain flips through the contents quickly, jaw set firm as his eyes dance across each page. He nods slightly and Cas shifts from foot to foot. “Gentlemen, you realize this will be of little help today” He closes the file and waves it dramatically.

Cas and Sam breathe twin sighs of disappointment and Benny narrows his eyes into a glare.

“Why not?” Sam hedges, barely meeting Cain’s steely grey eyes. In the sun, they appear almost blue but the grey sweeps in like a storm as he lowers his chin to stare at the folder. He smacks the thin paper against his opposite palm and gives a thinking nod.

“This will help during the trial, but our hopes of charges being released today are nonexistent,” Cain assures but doesn’t meet their eyes as he begins to walk. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to dress. I would prefer if you would kindly leave my property” He waves them away as he strides toward the house, leaving the trio to stare after him with gaping mouths.

Nope. Castiel does not like Cain one little bit.

---

Court goes as Cain expected. The highlight is the way Cas is able to give Dean a brief hug before his boyfriend is formally charged with seven counts of murder and led away by the bailiffs. His plea is not guilty, and the entire affair is over in a matter of minutes.

Victor glares toward Castiel the entire time.

Castiel clings to the feeling of Dean’s arms wrapped tightly around his middle and the faint brush of lips on the shell of Castiel’s ear. Dean’s whispered promise that everything will be ok plays on repeat in Castiel’s mind as Cas scours the files Inias gave him for anything they might have missed.

Dean looks haggard and tired despite his assurances that he is being treated fairly. The guards aren’t his biggest fans, but they recognize that the other inmates hate Dean more than they do. And since Dean has never been accused of harming a member of law enforcement, and his rescue of Detective Novak has become widely known, he’s being kept safely away from the inmates who would do him harm. No matter how far Castiel has fallen from grace, Dean still rescued a cop from a murderer and that counts for a lot in the brotherhood of blue.

Cas wouldn’t be surprised if the guards are being paid for their trouble as well, but Mick won’t say a word either way.

Cas is glad for Benny’s freedom, but the worry clogging his gut over Dean makes his stomach twist into nausea. Something about the pensive expression on Cain’s face when he was looking through the file has Cas feeling uncertain about Dean’s impending trial. He only hopes that Ash did his part flawlessly.

The day drags on even after everyone gathers at the roadhouse to vent their frustrations. Drinks flow freely, much to Sam’s appreciation, and Cas finds himself sitting back from the rest of the party.

“We’ll get him, mate. One way or another, we’ll get your man” Mick settles next to Cas with the single tumbler of Scotch that Ellen was talked into giving him. She promised him one and one only, so the still recovering man is being careful to sip his prize slowly.

Cas nods but draws his lower lip between his teeth. He can’t shake the uneasy doubt coursing through his veins. Cas hopes Dean can do whatever needs to be done to come home to him as quickly as possible. He is under no illusion that Dean is sitting passively in his jail cell while everyone else works to free him.

The bar falls silent when the small chime above the door draws everyone’s attention and Meg looks up to face them. Cas sucks in a breath when he sees her long, dark, curls and Benny is quick to place himself between her and where Castiel sits in the corner.

Mick joins Benny’s blockade as they stare the woman down. Only Sam remains frozen in place, his long since over history with Meg causing him a moment of hesitation.

“I’m here to speak with Castiel,” She says, staring through Benny. “Get out of my way, Lafitte” she grates and even through Mick and Benny, Cas can see her hands firmly planted on her hips as she stares the men down.

“Sorry sugar, bars closed” Ellen cuts in and Cas feels fond warmth blooming in his chest for the woman.

“He’s going to want to hear what I have to say” Meg huffs, voice turning toward the bar standing between the two women. “This is ridiculous” Meg snaps, her hard-soled boots clacking on the wooden floor as she tries to step around Benny.

Benny steps in front of her, blocking her path as he crosses his arms over his chest. “You’ve caused enough problems, Masters”

“Get out of my way” Meg tries to dodge once more, making it so that for Benny to stop her, he would have to put his hands on her. There is no way Benny is stupid enough to lay hands on a police officer who clearly dislikes him.

Benny grunts in irritation and quickly steps to Castiel’s side while Mick blocks her path.

“Now detective, if Castiel wishes to speak with you, we’re not going to stop him. But that’ll be his decision. Not yours” Mick holds up his hands as a request for her to stop.

“He’s my partner!” Meg nearly screeches and Cas has had enough.

“No, Meg. I quit. Remember? Besides, you made it clear where you stand,” Cas folds his arms over his chest as he stands shoulder to shoulder with Benny. Mick steps aside enough to give Cas a clear view of the woman he had considered to be a friend until recently. But, despite their disagreements, he doesn’t hold a grudge against her. He’s the one who turned away from the police. For her to value her career over him is perfectly understandable.

However, that does not change his desire to not see her again.

“Yes, Clarence. You quit. You self-sacrificing moron” She waves her hands in the air. “You made one mistake so you threw away your entire career. For what? Huh?” She rants as she strides toward him. “For this? For pining over some criminal while he sits behind bars?”

“Meg” Castiel warns, drawing out her name as he lays a staying hand on Benny’s arm. “We’ve been over this”

Meg scrubs her face with her hands in frustration, drawing Castiel’s attention to her reddened eyes and unkempt makeup. She’s been crying. Over him? Cas shakes his head, dispelling the thought as impossible. He isn’t going to let himself think he means that much to her.

“I know,” she says, her voice much quieter. “I know” She shakes her head and chews her lip. “Inias brought you the folder?” She looks up through lowered lashes, meeting Castiel’s gaze hesitantly. Cas nods once in confirmation. “Then you know what the charges look like”

Cas pinches a frown but nods. The charges look ridiculous, honestly. Conjecture and assumptions based off one kernel of truth. “They’re reaching” Unfortunately, they are also largely true. Meg is good at her job, she wouldn’t have put anything forward unless she was certain.

Meg arches a brow. “Can we speak in private?” She says through her frown. Clearly, she disagrees with Castiel’s evaluation of the evidence.

“I’m not having this argument again, Meg” Cas crosses his arms over his chest and inches closer to Benny in solidarity. “Dean Winchester is a good man. I will stand by that until there is no longer air in my lungs to speak the words,” he glares, staring down his former partner.

Meg lets out a heavy sigh and shakes her head while tilting her chin downward. “Dammit, Clarence,” she says, the words leaving her lips in a frustrated breath of air.

“Detective...” Mick interjects, coming to stand at Castiel’s other shoulder.

Meg looks between the three men, uncertain and yet somehow hopeful. She frowns and then gives the slightest of nods with a twitch of a smirk and Cas feels something unclench deep in his stomach. “Fine” Meg holds up her hands in surrender. “I have information you’ll be interested to see.”

Mick smiles sweetly but his words hold a slight threat. “In that case, have a seat” Mick gestures toward the table behind them and Cas makes room for Meg to scoot to the inside of the long bench.

“Thank you, Meg,” Cas says softly as he scoots into the booth beside her. Mick and Benny settle opposite of them, Benny still watching Meg with cautious distrust.

“You better have a damn good reason for throwing everything away on this guy,” Meg says, arching a brow as she gathers one of Castiel’s hands in her own. “I worry about you”

“You don’t need to worry ‘bout him,” Benny says flatly, glaring daggers at the point of contact between her and Castiel.

“He’s my friend, dumbass. Of course, I’m going to worry about him,” she snipes, glaring right back at the man.

Mick grins at her bold protectiveness and even Benny flinches an amused smile. “Now, Cas. How far can we trust her?” Mick says, turning to Cas with an earnest expression.

Cas huffs and shakes his head. “Honestly, I’m not sure,” He says and Meg punches him in the arm, hard. Cas hisses at the rough contact, thanking the stars she managed to hit an area that isn’t covered in healing knife wounds.

“Shit!” Meg’s eyes widen when she realizes what she’s done, and she hurries to sooth the hurt. “I’m so sorry!”

“It’s fine” Cas squeaks, deciding to play with her a bit. She’s caused enough problems for him, she can worry for a minute.

“No, it’s not. Are you ok? I didn’t break any stitches, did I?” Meg tugs at the opening of his button down as if she’s about to undress him here in the middle of the bar to examine his wounds.

Cas pulls away with a faint smile. “It’s fine. Really. You didn’t hit any of the cuts”

“Asshole!” She bites, punching the same spot again, although lighter this time and even Benny can’t help but snicker. She huffs and shakes her head. “Alright. I got information, but I want some answers first”

“What do you want to know?” Cas grumbles, looking at her sideways. She may be his friend, but she’s a cop first. They need to be careful.

“First off, I want to know why Cas? Is his dick made of gold or something?” She scowls, pointedly staring at Cas even as Mick lets out a strangled squawk and Benny scrubs a hand over his face.

Cas stares, mouth slightly agape. Her crass way of speaking never fails to catch him off guard. He coughs to clear his throat and shakes his head. “He’s a good man, and my feelings for him have nothing to do with his dick,” Cas says flatly but his mouth keeps moving before he can stop himself. “Well, almost nothing” He shrugs and takes a sip of his soda, pointedly not meeting anyone’s eyes.

“Unbelievable,” Benny huffs and Mick snorts with amusement.

“What makes you think Dean is a good man? He kills people,” Meg purses her lips, clearly not believing him.

“Alright, Masters,” Benny interrupts the words about to leave Castiel’s mouth. His tone is frank and not to be questioned.

“Yes and no” Castiel adds his perspective. “John Winchester left Dean no choice but to protect Sam at all costs” Cas nods toward the younger Winchester across the bar, who is still watching Meg carefully. “Dean didn’t take over for John. He did away with most of his father’s business. All Dean wanted was to protect people.”

“He raised that boy while John was out drinking and hunting for the monster who killed his wife,” Benny says, staring steadily into Meg’s eyes. His calm demeanor and light Cajun accent lends him a trustworthy yet deadly feel and Meg tightens her grip on Cas’ hand.

“Why would Dean have just disappeared in high school then? Why would he have left Sam alone?” Meg questions. “I remember when he left, Sam was distraught. Missed almost two weeks of school.”

“Dean didn’t leave of his own free will. Dad gave him to Alastair to repay a debt” Sam is suddenly standing at the end of the table, staring down at Meg. “He was held captive and tortured for over a year”.

Meg startles at the younger man’s sudden appearance and her complexion pales at his words. Her eyes widen in horror as Sam’s words sink in and Cas gives her hand a squeeze. “Dean got himself arrested on purpose to escape Alastair,” Cas tells her. “That's why his arrest for petty theft made no sense. Alastair forced him to hurt people, Meg. He didn’t have a choice”

“But why did he continue? After he got away? He might have been coerced when Alastair had him, but that doesn’t explain the murders since then,” Meg looks to Benny with pursed lips as if catching his logic in a trap.

“No, it doesn’t. But look at who the victims were,” Cas frees his hand to place them both flat on the table as Sam pulls up a chair.

“Vigilantism is still illegal” Meg folds her arms over her chest and turns to stare at Cas.

Cas nods and shrugs. “Someone has to take out the trash when the police can’t”.

Meg gapes at him in disbelief before shaking her head. “I can’t believe you would say that.”

“Why not? Meg, why?” Cas leans forward, turning just enough to see both Meg and Benny. “You think the police are enough? Do you think we would have caught Adler before he managed to con god knows how many innocent girls into getting on an airplane to be sold into slavery? We didn’t even know he was in Austin until he showed up dead! The police weren’t going to stop him” Cas pauses to shake his head.

“So, you think Dean was doing us a favor?” Meg hisses at Cas, eyes narrowed in contempt.

“Yes,” Cas huffs and sits back.

“Look, we’re not asking you to agree” Mick cuts in, quickly glancing at Sam. “We just want you to understand that Dean isn’t working against the police. He’s protecting people.” Mick says, gesturing to the bar around them and shaking his head.

“Dean is a criminal” Meg glances around to each man individually. “You all are,” She says the words as if finally realizing. “Cas” his name leaves her lips as a heartbroken plea. “Please, Castiel…don’t do this” She whispers in an urgent plea.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is help people,” Cas says, chewing his lip. “This is a better way.”

Meg sucks in a deep breath and lets it out slowly before nodding to herself. “I see,” she says with a frown as she pulls a slip of paper from her jacket pocket. She hands it to Cas without meeting his eyes. “Give this to Dean’s attorney,” She frowns, clearly unhappy but resigned to losing this argument.

“Meg,” Cas gasps, shaking his head as he studies the printout. “This is….” There are no words. Victor’s name is on Dean’s arrest warrant, and the paper in front of him shows definitive evidence that Victor falsified documents leading to the warrant being granted. He hands the paper to Benny with wide eyes before turning back to Meg. “How did you…?”

“I didn’t,” Meg dismisses. “Donna did,” She gives Cas a pointed glance. “The only reason I’m giving you this is because I care about you, Castiel. I do trust your judgment, but this is the only time I’m gonna help any of you,” She glances around the table and her icy gaze is met with understanding nods. “Got it?” She stares them down.

“I understand,” Cas says, swallowing hard. Meg risked her career by giving them this. If the department were to find out, she could face sanctions or even lose her job. “Thank you,” He breathes, feeling tears of gratitude prick in his own eyes as he meets her gaze.

“I’m doing this for the sake of our friendship, but this is the only time,” Meg pinches a smile and gestures for Cas to let her out of the booth.

Cas moves readily and Sam scoots his chair back to give them space. “I’m sorry I’ve let you down,” Cas opens his arms to allow for a hug and Meg goes readily.

“You haven’t let me down, Clarence,” She says as he folds her into his arms. “You’ve just chosen a path that I cannot follow you down.”

Cas huffs. “A path to hell maybe” He can’t help saying the words that have been nagging at the back of his mind. His church instilled morality still fights against the choices his heart has made regardless of the logic behind them.

“Maybe” Meg jokes but the gesture falls flat as Cas rests his chin on her shoulder, still not letting go.

This holds an air of goodbye that settles in Castiel’s stomach like a stone. He doesn’t want to let go.

“Take care of yourself, ok?” Cas mutters as he slowly releases her and takes a step back.

“You know I will,” She says with a wink before she wipes her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket. “Don’t make me arrest you, alright?” She says, clearly trying to joke and Cas gives a watery laugh.

He hopes she’ll never have to arrest him, but he hasn’t planned beyond getting Dean back. Maybe they will run away together as they had half-heartedly talked about when Cas was flying high on pain medication. Maybe they won’t. Maybe nothing will change and they will both live in fear of arrest at every turn. “I’ll do my best,” Cas mumbles.

Meg gives him a sad smile that boldly informs Cas that she hopes he’s being truthful. “There was always something about you” She carefully straightens his jacket and Cas allows her to fuss over him as she turns his tie around the right direction and smooths the silky fabric. She pats his tie and steps around him to walk out the door with her head held high.

Everyone in the Roadhouse stares after her even after the door closes against the burst of heat let in by her leaving. Benny lets out an audible breath as he hands the papers Meg left behind to Cas. “We gotta call Cain, brother”

Cas nods absently before checking his watch. “Yeah. We do”

---

Cas and Sam wander to Ellen’s back room office to make the call and Cain is furious with the news they deliver.

The warrants are faulty because the police lied. Which means everything the department was using to draw these charges should now be inadmissible.

Cas can’t help but wonder if this is Ash’s doing. He has a hard time believing that Victor would fabricate evidence against Dean. He wouldn’t have needed to. Victor may be prickly and difficult, but he’s a good cop. Cas is sure of it. A not so small part of him wants to place a second call to Ash to get some answers, but he can’t bring himself to question their good fortune too deeply.

He only hopes this doesn’t negatively impact Victor.

Once the call is made, there is nothing to do but wait. For what, Castiel isn’t certain. The judge won’t be available until tomorrow, and Cain assures the new developments will get them in before lunch. There is nothing Castiel can do until then besides wear the floor out by pacing. Sleep is out of the question.

He and Sam sit in the office and stare at each other for a moment, not knowing what to say or how to say it.

Finally, Cas can’t take the silence anymore. “I’m sorry about Azazel, Sam,” Cas says, shaking his head as he remembers the fire burning in the younger man’s gaze the night they met. When Sam had held Cas at gunpoint, demanding information about the man who murdered their mother. Now that Castiel is no longer with the police, there is nothing he can do to help the Winchesters find justice.

Sam huffs, shoulders lifting with the motion as he shakes his head. Cas can see the tip of Sam’s tongue dart between his lips as the younger man prepares to speak but Sam looks away before the words can come. “Don’t worry about it,” Sam says, waving a hand. Something in his expression resembled the dangerous young man he first met as if Sam already has a plan to deal with Azazel.

Cas finds himself more curious than unnerved, but he doesn’t want to ask. He sucks his bottom lip between his teeth as silence settles over the two men once more.

Minutes tick by and Cas absently thinks they should rejoin the others, but he’s hesitant to break this quiet bubble of peace they’ve found themselves in. He stares out the window he remembers falling against the night he came demanding to speak with Dean. The memory is fuzzy around the edges, but a faint smile curls the corners of his mouth when he thinks about the sheer amount of patience Dean has shown for him.

“Promise me you’ll take care of him” Sam breaks Castiel’s reverie and Cas turns in his chair to meet the man’s gaze. “Dean, when he gets out. Promise me you’ll take care of him”

Cas’ lips part as if to speak but he quickly closes them and nods. He breathes out slowly, carefully considering his words. “Dean and I talked about moving. Starting over somewhere else, doing something different” Cas doesn’t bother to explain they were jokingly talking about running off to Argentina like Butch and Sundance. They don’t need to go somewhere that extreme.

Sam hums and nods. “Come to California. I’m about to sit for the bar exam and there would be lots of opportunities for the two of you there. Legal ones.” Sam lowers his gaze to look up at Cas through his lashes with a raised brow.

Cas huffs a bitter laugh. “California, huh?” He’ll have to talk to Dean about that one. Entering into a relationship is one thing, but up and moving with each other is entirely another. Doubt begins to creep into his mind, worry that they aren’t ready for such an extreme measure. They’ve only known each other for a few weeks and been together for barely one before their lives were upended.

Cas is half amazed that he hasn’t felt the urge to bury himself in the bottom of a bottle to hide from what his life has become. He’s certain he has Mick, Sam, and Ellen to thank for his sobriety right now. They’ve surrounded him and made him family. He feels less alone now than he had in his parent’s house growing up and he’s honestly frightened of what Ellen might do to him if tried to sneak a drink.

Having people who care has helped him in ways he had never imagined.

“I’ll talk to him” Cas promises. Maybe getting away would be good for them both.

The office door opens with a creak and Benny pokes his head in. “Hey, Chief. Got a minute?” Benny says with a nervous glint in his eyes.

“Yeah. I’m gonna head out” Sam gets to his feet and stretches his arms over his head. Somehow an hour has passed since they locked themselves away to call Cain and the hour has gotten late. “You comin back to the house?” He yawns, looking to both Benny and Cas.

Benny chuckles and shakes his head. “I think Andrea might kill me if I spent another night away from her”

“Fair enough” Sam grins, clapping his hand on Benny’s shoulder as he passes. “Cas?”

Cas dips his head in a nod. He can’t stand the thought of returning to his empty apartment. “I’ll be late” He answers. He can already tell by the glint in Benny’s eye that the man is up to something.

Sam nods and waves before heading back out front and Benny settles into Sam’s vacated seat with a sigh. “So,” Benny says, staring a hole in the wall just behind Castiel’s head.

Cas isn’t certain what to say so he arches a brow in question and waits for Benny to continue. His fingers drum absently on the armrests of his chair and he leans back, trying to feign relaxation.

“That dealer we talked about. You still interested in handling him?” Benny asks casually, like the idea of murdering a man is as mundane as the weather.

Cas gapes for a moment, eyes widening before narrowing in scrutiny. “You just got out of jail,” he draws his head back to give Benny an indignant stare.

Benny shrugs. “No time like the present. Besides, don’t think either of us are gonna be sleeping tonight” He shifts his gaze to meet Castiel’s and Cas fights a shiver at the cold determination he finds deep in Benny’s eyes.

Castiel’s heart begins to patter faster, the adrenaline of what they’re discussing flooding his system with anticipation and excitement. Putting a permanent end to a drug dealer won’t bring Sarah back. It won’t stop another from rising to take his place, but it will stop that one from cutting his stock with things that drive addicts to commit atrocities. The thought holds a certain appeal.

Cas nods and a smile flashes across Benny’s face.

“Got the truck out back. Crowley’s already got the punk detained. Should be quick, in and out” Benny explains as he stands and waits for Cas to follow.

“Crowley?” Cas’ eyebrows nearly hit his hairline. The quickened pattering of his heart turns into a heavy thud as the organ threatens to try to escape. He never imagined he would be seeing Commissioner MacLeod again, let alone under these circumstances.

Benny gives Cas a knowing smile and nods. “Come on, don’t want to keep him waiting.”

A stone sinks in Castiel’s stomach and nervous butterflies are set free by the pressure. Unless he was mistaken, they were just discussing murdering a man. A bad man, but still a human being. Now the police commissioner is involved? Cas swallows hard, trying to calm his nerves. How has this become his life?

“Do you know who Crowley is?” Cas questions and Benny hums an affirmative. “And you trust him?”

“Trust might be a bit of a stretch,” Benny says, barely glancing back as he leads Cas out to the loading dock. “But he’s got too much to lose to double cross us”

Cas nods. Crowley would have a lot to lose. He could turn on Dean and his people, but nothing would prevent them from doing the same. Keeping quiet behooves all involved in their little arrangement. “Where are we going?” Cas asks, sliding into the passenger seat of the same dark SUV that had taken him to Dean’s home for the first time.

“Downtown” Benny answers, flashing Cas a quick grin as he fires up the vehicle and starts driving. The hour is approaching eleven and traffic is sparse since it’s a Monday night. They make the drive in only a few minutes and Benny pulls the lumbering SUV into a brightly lit parking garage. Cas arches a brow in question, but Benny gives him a sharp look that his him holding his silence.

Benny pulls the car into a parking spot amid dozens of other vehicles and climbs from the car as soon as the engine dies. Cas follows, looking to Benny with a question in his gaze. “Roof” Benny gestures upward and Cas groans in resignation as he pushes through the fire door into the stairwell.

“Stairs? Really?” Cas grumbles, already clutching his stomach as they begin to climb.

“Elevators got cameras,” Benny says in response. “The ones in the stairwell are conveniently broken” He gestures toward a camera as they pass and Castiel nearly prays that Benny is right.

Cas lumbers along behind Benny, each flight bringing him just a little bit more pain. His lungs protest and he marvels at how far his fitness has fallen in the past week. He shakes his head at the thought. If not for his still aching back and stomach, he would commit himself to joining Sam on his morning runs. As it is, he knows he isn’t quite ready for that level of activity.

“How far are we going?” Cas tries his best to not sound out of breath, but when Benny turns his head to look over his shoulder in concern, Castiel knows he’s failed.

“The roof. You need a break?” Benny pauses and turns, raking his gaze over Castiel’s form.

Cas straightens and swallows hard before shaking his head. “I’m fine,” He says, voice a deep rumble as he tries to discreetly catch his breath and breathe through the sharp sting caused by his healing cuts.

Benny studies him for a moment, gauging his truthfulness. “I know you’re still hurting, ain’t no shame in admitting to it”

“I’ll be fine” Cas hisses and charges forward, refusing to back down. Refusing to be seen as weak.

“Not disagreein with ya, Chief. Just don’t want Dean on my ass ‘cause you went and hurt yourself” Benny grumbles as he begins climbing the stairs once again, this time behind Castiel.

Cas huffs and rolls his eyes, not missing the fond amusement concealed in Benny’s tone underneath his gruff nonchalance. Benny cares. Maybe only a little, but Cas is still counting that as a win. “Tell me more about this tattoo guy” Cas asks, hoping that the distraction will make their climb go faster.

“Garth?” Benny asks before deciding that must be what Cas is asking about. “He’s an odd fellow, a little too friendly and little too cheerful if you ask me, but he’s the best.”

“How healed do I need to be?” Cas asks, looking straight ahead and absolutely not looking back to Benny. Since the man first planted the idea in Cas’ mind, he’s grown more and more impatient to take matters into his own hands and hide the grotesque lines outlining the wings on his back.

“Very” comes Benny’s response and Cas can’t avoid the way his heart sinks at the notion. “Tattooing over scar tissue hurts like a bitch, you’re looking at probably a year before Garth’ll touch ya”

“A year?!” Cas exclaims, halting his progress on the stairs in favor of turning to gawk at Benny. His eye are wide and disbelieving. A year! He might not even be in Austin in a year! So much can happen in that amount of time. “Why even mention the idea to me if I’d have to wait that long?” Cas grumbles, turning to stomp his way up the next flight of stairs.

Benny sighs and his heavy steps follow Castiel up the stairs. “Thought something to look forward to might lift your spirits. All that wallowing was starting to get the whole house down.”

“Wallowing?” Cas asks with a slight squeak. He had thought he had been doing well in keeping his wayward thoughts to himself. Or between him and Dean at the very least.

“Your eyes say too much,” Benny grumbles and Cas can almost picture the way his head is shaking.

Cas huffs and continues his climb in silence. They’re almost to the top and his lungs burn. The cuts on his stomach hurt the most, closely followed by the center of his wings near his spine where salty sweat collects and beads over his skin. He’s begun to forgo the bandages on the shallower cuts as they’re past the risk of breaking open, but a handful of stitches still pull and tug against his skin.

Finally, Cas shoves his way through the fire door at the top of the staircase and steps onto the roof. The first thing he notices is how the intense heat of Texas summer seems concentrated in this spot. The tar of the roof sucking the heat in like a sink to hold until the end of time.

“Ah, Feathers. So nice of you and your vampire friend to finally join us” Crowley grins and Castiel’s eyes widen when his gaze lands on the masked man. His eyes are solid black and the red of the mask and small horns gives him an absolute demonic appearance. He understands why they call him the Demon.

“Vampire?” Cas cocks his head and glances to Benny with the question in his eyes.

Benny shrugs. “We all have code names” The man’s blue eyes settle on Crowley with a look of expectation. “We’re here. Where is the piece of scum who’s been dealing tainted drugs?”

Crowley jerks his head to the left, drawing attention to the bound and gagged man on his knees with tears streaming down his cheeks. Bruises blossom across his cheekbones and jaw, his nose stands crooked enough that Cas is certain it must be broken.

“What is his name?” Cas questions to anyone willing to answer as he steps toward the man.

Crowley huffs and shakes his head. “Does it matter?” his scratchy and low voice carries over the roof readily.

Cas frowns but turns toward Crowley and nods. “Yes,” He swallows down his trepidation. This man is going to die tonight. Whether by his hand or someone else’s. Cas has imagined this moment since Benny first proposed the idea. He had expected to be filled with trepidation and uncertainty when confronted with taking another life, but his nerves settle as he carefully removes the man’s gag. “What is your name?” Cas questions, arching a brow as he glares at the man.

“Please. Please don’t hurt me” The man begs and Cas narrowly resists the urge to grab him by the back of the neck and shove his face into the dirt.

“Your name” Cas growls, crouching in front of the man.

“David” The man trembles, barely meeting Castiel’s narrowed blue gaze with his own.

“David” Cas sighs, shaking his head. “My friends tell me you deal in amphetamines. Is that true?” Cas keeps his tone soft even as his heart races.

David shakes his head, doing his best to swallow his tears and meet Castiel’s eyes.

“Lying to me will get you nowhere, David” Cas scans the man’s too thin form and the way his limbs tremble with something beyond the fear coursing through his veins. “You sample your own product, don’t you?”

David sucks in a breath when Crowley comes into view.

“Come on Feathers, we don’t play with our food,” Crowley says, tone bored with the entire proceedings. “We don’t have all night”

“I will take as much time as I need to assure myself this is the correct man” Castiel pushes to his feet and nearly growls at the other man while Benny looks on approvingly. “Tell me the truth” Cas demands, finally gripping the back of the man’s neck to force him to meet Castiel’s eyes. “Have you been adulterating the drugs you sell?” Cas nearly yells and then feels Benny’s steadying hand rest on his shoulder.

David flinches but nods, chewing on his lower lip. Tears begin to streak down his cheeks.

“Winchester warned you there would be consequences” Benny states, staring down at the man. David lifts his chin and his terror fills his gaze. “Your desire to make an extra dime cost two people their lives.”

“I’m sorry!” David pleads. “Please, it won’t happen again. I swear”

“Damn right it won’t” Benny grumbles, hauling the man to his feet. “You convinced?” Benny arches a brow toward Castiel in question, waiting for his nod. Cas finally gives his okay and Benny drags the bound man near the edge of the roof. “You wanna do the honors?” Benny looks to Cas and Cas swallows hard, giving his head a minor shake.

Castiel wants the man dead, but he isn’t certain he’s ready to pull the trigger.

“Let me know if you change your mind,” Benny says quietly, tone holding no judgement. For some reason, that surprises Castiel. As far as he knows, Benny is a seasoned killer. Cas would have thought Benny would be pushier about Cas crossing that line.

Cas nods and pinches a frown. He doesn’t imagine himself changing his mind about this. He’s pulled the trigger once, that’s enough for his liking.

Benny shoves David close to the edge of the roof and the man collapses to his knees once again. His hands are bound too tightly for him to break free, he has no choice but to go where Benny puts him. “This is the ugly side of the business, Feathers,” Benny says Castiel’s new nickname with an amused smirk and Cas shakes his head as he swallows hard. “These fuckers make their deals with the Demon, and we get to enforce the consequences when they break those deals”

“Not for much longer from what I hear,” Crowley scoffs, stepping to stand next to Castiel.

“We’ll get him back,” Cas grumbles, turning to shoot Crowley a quick glare.

“A little birdy told me all the evidence against your beau is no longer admissible,” Crowley says, not asking. Castiel can imagine his brow is arched behind his mask so he nods.

“That's the hope,” Cas says, taking care to pop the P without taking his eyes off the scene between Benny and David.

“Well, I think the two of you have this well in hand. Time for me to go. A man in my position can’t be witnessing a murder” Crowley claps his hand down on Castiel’s shoulder and gives a light squeeze before turning and walking away.

Cas decides he’s had enough by the time he hears the steel fire door click shut, announcing Crowley’s departure from the rooftop, so he strides toward Benny with his jaw clenched.

“Let me” Cas grates, holding out his hand to signify his desire to take Benny’s pistol.

Benny arches a brow and the questioning look on his face only serves to bolster Castiel’s resolve. “You sure about that, Chief?”

Cas huffs and nods, holding his hand out further. “I’m tired of not doing enough” He grumbles, glaring at the man still on his knees, still pleading for forgiveness.

Cas is done pretending he doesn’t want this. He swallows hard and grabs the hair at the back of David’s head, wrenching the man’s head back so Cas can glare directly into his widened pupils. “Because of you, I had to kill a man and an innocent girl lost her life” He growls and David tries to shrink back. “Because of you, an elderly couple, tourists, were held at gunpoint and threatened” Cas grips harder and David cries out in pain. “I WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR KIND OF FILTH TO CONTINUE UNCHECKED” Cas yells in David’s face and Benny pulls Cas back by the shoulder.

“Gotta relax, brother” Benny urges, carefully turning Cas away from David and forcing him to make eye contact. “Rule one is to keep calm. Mistakes are too easy to make if you get riled up”

Cas sucks in a breath through his nose and nods. He knows deep down that Benny is right. Hell, part of his police training was to remain calm under pressure. A person functions better in the heat of the moment if they can control both their temper and their panic. He takes a slow, deep, breath and holds it, counting to five before releasing just as slowly. All while Benny watches him. “I’m okay” Cas finally nods and Benny must like what he sees because the next thing Castiel knows, Benny is pressing his pistol into Castiel’s open palm.

Cas wraps his fingers around the gun, carefully turning the weapon to achieve a proper grip. “How do you recommend I...?” Cas trails off, jerking his head toward the bound man.

Benny shrugs. “I was gonna give him a choice. He can jump off the roof on his own or take a bullet to the gut and bleed out slow. Spend some time rotting in the sun before the buzzards find him and alert the tenants of the building that something might be wrong up here” He says casually. As if killing a man like this is nothing, something barely worth mentioning.

Cas hums in consideration, weighing Benny’s proposed options. On one hand, giving the drug dealer a choice has some sort of poetic justice to it, but on the other, both options have room for failure. If they don’t sit up here and watch him die, someone could theoretically find him and come to his rescue. And Cas doesn’t feel like waiting.

“What if we take a page out of Dean’s book? If a body turns up with Alastair’s apprentice’s MO while Dean is in custody, they would have no choice but to consider another suspect” Cas speaks before he fully thinks the idea through.

Benny grunts and shakes his head. “No way I can replicate that shit. Don’t got the stomach for it. You think you could fool the police into thinking it’s the same killer?”

Cas frowns and nods. Benny is right. “Probably not.”

“’sides Brother, I doubt you got the stomach for it either. Not something many people come by naturally” Benny says with a shrug and Cas lets out a heavy sigh.

Benny is right. Of course, he is. “So, what’ll it be, David?” Cas crouches in front of the third man, meeting his eyes with as cold an expression as he can muster. “Jump or a slow and painful death?”

“You guys are sick!” David says, voice panicked but not quite a yell.

“Hmmm,” Cas hums as he nods. “Maybe you’re right,” He says with a shrug as he waves the gun slightly. “But I’ve had a really bad year and I just don’t care anymore”

“I won’t choose,” David spits, staring Cas down with defiance set in his gaze.

“Then we will,” Benny says, sounding almost bored. “Cas, help me drag him to his feet. I think we have a jumper tonight”

Cas swallows hard and his heart pounds in his chest. Either David is going over on his own, or the two of them are going to push him. He flicks on the safety of the pistol and hands it back for Benny to holster.

He and Benny each grab one of the man’s arms and hoist him up just as he starts screaming.

“Oh, shut up” Benny gripes just as he throws a solid right hook that connects with David’s temple, sending him crashing to the ground. David lays unmoving and Benny rolls his eyes. “Guess he’s getting a push”

Cas thinks that this is somehow better. At least unconscious, David won’t be able to watch the ground coming. He’s silently grateful for Benny making the decision, the idea of shooting someone in cold blood was causing bile to rise in Castiel’s throat.

As it is, Cas knows he’ll be haunted by this night for some time to come.

“Let’s get it over with” Cas grumbles, already bending to lift David’s feet. Nausea roils in his gut at the thought of what they’re doing. He isn’t cut out for this. But he’s determined to see it through.

Benny quickly cuts and removes the duct tape from David’s wrists before helping Cas lift him. They lay David’s prone body at the edge of the roof, close enough that one shove and he would go over.

Cas takes a deep breath to quite his mind before lifting his foot and giving David a harsh shove before his thoughts can catch up with him. His heart all but stalls as he watches the man disappear and he narrowly avoids doubling over and emptying his stomach.

Benny steps to the edge and looks down, nodding to himself and Cas can’t bring himself to look. “It’s done. We should go” Benny says solemnly with a nod.

Cas is trembling, each step on the stairs down to the car feels precarious. They’re hurrying quickly as Castiel can manage, trying to beat the inevitable sirens that will be blaring shortly as the police respond to an inevitable frantic 911 call. There is no hope for someone who fell that far. The ambulance will be cleaning up a corpse.

Cas tastes bile in his mouth at the thought.

The trip down the stairs passes in a daze and Benny bodily shoves Cas into the passenger seat of the large SUV.

“What have I done, Benny?” Cas blurts once Benny is pulling out of the parking garage. Sirens can be heard approaching and Benny is careful not to speed or otherwise draw attention to them as they join the evening traffic. He turns to stare with wide eyes toward the other man, panic beginning to set in. He digs his fingertips into his knees, knuckles turning white from the force.

“You helped rid the city of a very bad man,” Benny answers, staring straight ahead so that Cas can have his anxiety attack with a little bit of privacy.

“I’ve never…” Cas starts but Benny cuts him off.

“And you never will again if I or Dean have anything to say about it,” Benny says, tone almost biting. “You needed to scratch that itch, get closure, but you’re not a killer, Castiel.”

Cas huffs and shakes his head, discreetly wiping some stray moisture from his eyes. His hands still tremble, and he feels as if he might be sick, but underneath all of that is a deep sense of satisfaction. Despite the action of ending a life being unfamiliar and uncomfortable, there is a feeling of rightness in their also. “I could be” He admits, voice almost a whisper.

Cas can see Benny shake his head out of the corner of his eye as both men stare straight ahead. “You know, Dean’s been trying to get out for years,” Benny breaks the quiet. “He thinks you might be his best chance,” Benny turns his head just enough to catch Castiel’s gaze with his own.

Castiel’s heart stutters at those words and he shakes his head. “I couldn’t ask that of him,” He says, tone rougher than normal so he clears his throat as discreetly as he can manage.

“You realize the little group of us you’ve gotten to know is only the tip of the iceberg, right? Dean has over a hundred people working for him. Loyal people. When word gets out that he’s with you…well, can’t say it’ll be pretty,” Benny says, tone encroaching on bitter as the words fall from his lips in a broken rhythm.

“Because I’m a man?” Cas questions, his own tone hardening as he turns to glare at Benny.

Benny shrugs. “That’s part of it. Those of us close to Dean don’t give a shit, but this is still Texas and some people haven’t joined the twenty-first century. But the fact that you’re a cop won’t sit too well either” Benny explains with a wave of his hand and anger simmers in Castiel’s gut.

“Not a cop anymore” Cas bites, hating the fact that Benny isn’t wrong. Being gay in a place like Texas isn’t the most ideal situation, and he would hate to see misfortune befall Dean because of his sexuality. No one deserves that bullshit.

“Doesn’t matter. Once a cop, always a cop” Benny says with another shrug. “I know you’re trustworthy, but I doubt the others will accept you so easily” Benny turns on the blinker and pulls onto the road leading to Dean’s house. “Sam’ll give ya a ride back tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll be picking Dean up in the morning” He says by way of explanation while Cas stews over Benny’s words.

“You really think Dean will give all this up?” Cas can’t help but ask as the other man drives him into the middle of nowhere. Cas can barely believe how much has changed since the first time Benny drove him out here. He isn’t the least bit worried this time.

“Brother, he’s been itching to walk away since Sam left for California. Only thing stopping him was his misplaced feeling of responsibility for Alastair still being out there,” Benny says as he brings the car to a stop a red traffic light. “Now Alastair is gone, Sam is back, and he’s got you. Man’s got everything he’s ever wanted and the chance to keep it. If he doesn’t want to walk away, I’ll kick his ass.”

Cas chuckles at Benny’s impassioned words. “I doubt I mean that much to him,” He deflects, shaking his head. He and Dean barely know each other, Cas can’t let himself believe that Dean can possibly be willing to walk away from everything just to be with him.

Benny arches a brow and turns to give Cas a disbelieving look. “Are you really too dumb to see that he’s every bit as smitten with you as you are with him?” Benny’s nearly indignant expression has Cas frowning and turning to look out the window.

Is he really that transparent? Cas can’t help but wonder. Yes, he’s fallen for Dean faster than could ever be considered smart and he’s thrown his career away. He barely knows Dean, but it seems he’s willing to give up everything to be with him. He really is an idiot.

Although, none of Castiel’s own actions mean that Dean feels the same way. Dean hadn’t asked him to quit being a cop. Cas did that all on his own. “You can’t know that,” Cas mutters, shaking his head. He can’t bring himself to meet Benny’s gaze with the doubt swirling through his mind such as it is.

Benny scoffs and Cas can see him shake his head in the reflection on the window. “I’ve known him for years. Never seen him even close to how he is with you.”

Cas chews on the inside of his cheek as Benny pulls into the winding drive leading to the big house. Sam has left the porch lights on for him, and it seems most of the downstairs lights too.

“Get some sleep, Castiel. An don’t dwell on tonight. Everything will look better in the morning,” Benny parks inside the garage and waits for Cas to climb out of the lumbering vehicle. Dean’s beautiful Impala is resting in its proper place in the other half of the cavernous space, and Cas stares at the shiny black paint and sleek lines, waiting for an epiphany that never comes.

Cas lets out a deep sigh and pushes the door open. He pauses for a moment, collecting himself before potentially facing Sam. He doesn’t doubt the younger Winchester knows exactly what he and Benny were up to. Sam is far more involved in the family business than the police have ever suspected. “Thank you, Benny,” Cas says quietly as he slips from the car and shuts the door without giving Benny a chance to respond.

Once inside, he heads directly for the room that has somehow become his and shuts himself inside before Sam can seek him out. The clock reads nearly one AM, but Cas knows that sleep will be hard earned tonight.

He heads directly for the bathroom, leaving a trail of clothes behind him. He’s certain he won’t be able to wear them again without remembering the cold-blooded murder he committed tonight. He’ll throw them away in the morning.

For now, he finds refuge in the near scalding water pounding down on him in the shower. The heat makes his still healing scars sing with pain that he embraces whole-heartedly.

He deserves the pain.

He fights back a pained scream, stress, guilt and shame surging within him and escaping as tears as he smacks a closed fist against the hard tile of the shower.

He stands under the skin reddening spray until his tears stop flowing and the water begins to cool. When he finally steps from the shower and wraps a fluffy clean towel around his waist, he is the picture of stoicism. Never mind his flushed skin and his reddened eyes. He holds his chin high, determined that this is the end of a very trying chapter in his life. Tomorrow, he will get Dean back and then do his best to convince the man to step away from this life.

Cas already has an idea formed in the back of his mind. Dean is his forever and if Cas must continue walking this footpath to hell to have him, then so be it.

But he has a better idea.

One that involves sunshine on a beach, the ocean water lapping at their feet while a garage full of classic cars wait for Dean’s careful hands to bring them back to life and a desk full of files belonging to Castiel’s clients waiting for him to investigate their problems when the police fail.

He climbs into bed, clinging to those thoughts and falls asleep with the hope of better days lingering in his mind. Everything will be okay. Eventually.

Chapter Text

Cas and Sam are dressed and ready for court by eight the next morning. Sam doesn’t ask Castiel what had kept him out so late the night before, or why the dark circles under his eyes have grown.

          Castiel is grateful for Sam’s lack of questions. His stomach feels like it’s been chewed on from the inside out. His regret from the night before is on the verge of all-consuming and he knows, without a single doubt, that he can never do that again.

          He is not cut out to be a killer.

          They wait, huddled around the bar in the kitchen, sipping their coffee with as much patience as they can muster. Cain has yet to call, which means he hasn’t yet secured a meeting with the prosecuting attorney and the judge assigned to Dean’s trial.

          “It’s still early,” Sam mutters, breaking the silence to remind them both that nothing happens this early where the justice system is concerned.

          Cas lets out a deep breath and nods. “I’m going to ask him to leave Austin,” Cas says the words easily but the silence that follows threatens to suck the air from his lungs. If Cas stays in Austin, he might very well implode.

          Sam nods but doesn’t say a word, the hopeful gleam in his eye gives away his nervous curiosity as he sets his coffee mug on the counter carefully.

          Cas stares down, studying the speckled granite countertop as Sam’s scrutinizing gaze burns a hole in his chest. Faint ticking from a wall clock on the other side of the room fills the silence until Sam clears his throat.

          “Are you planning to leave with him?” Sam asks and the doubt in his tone has Castiel’s head snapping upward to meet the younger man’s eyes.

          “You think I’ve left behind the police force just to leave Dean too?” Cas can’t help the accusation in his tone. He can feel irritation bubble in his chest at Sam’s foolish question, but he plows forward. “Of course, I plan on leaving with him,” Cas leaves his coffee abandoned on the countertop and crosses his arms over his chest.

          Sam nods. “Just making sure.”

          “You don’t trust me,” Castiel frowns and lowers his chin to better glare at Sam.

          Sam lets out a deep breath and shakes his head as he leans his elbows on the counter. “It’s not that.”

          “Then what, Sam?” Cas asks, tightening his arms over his chest. “Do you think I’m not good enough for your brother?” He arches a brow, ready to engage in whatever battle of wills Sam is planning. He will not give Dean up without a fight unless the man himself tells him to.

          “Dammit, Cas. Don’t think like that,” Sam leans forward, nearly encroaching on Castiel’s space. “He’s my brother, I want him to be happy, but the two of you seem to be moving very quickly,” Sam waves his hands slightly as he tries to explain.

          Cas rears back and shakes his head. Yes, he knows that. People don’t typically quit their jobs and plan on moving halfway across the country with someone they’ve only known a few weeks…and for most of that time, Cas was busy trying to push Dean away. “Dean and I share a very profound bond,” Castiel says with a frown and Sam looks as if he wants to say something more but is wary of the consequences.

Luckily for him, the sound of Cain finally calling Castiel’s phone interrupts their conversation and Cas’ stomach lodges in his throat as he digs the device from his pocket.

          “Novak,” Cas answers, listening intently for whatever Cain might have to say.

          “Castiel, I have secured a hearing for the new evidence to be presented at eleven o’clock this morning,” Cain’s dry voice drones on through the phone and Cas feels his stomach swoop with excitement. “Do not get your hopes up, however. These types of proceedings take time to analyze. The judge will need to review the warrants and conflicting evidence before making her decision. This might change nothing before the trial,” Cain continues to explain, and Cas feels his hopes of holding Dean in his arms by nightfall dissipating with each syllable.

          “I understand,” Castiel mutters with a dejected frown. “Please, keep us updated,” He offers before hanging up the call and sliding from his stool. He wants to throw his coffee mug against the tiled kitchen wall and growl with frustration.

          “Cas?” Sam’s voice pops Castiel’s bubble of growing rage and he turns to blink at the younger man. “What did Cain say?”

          Cas swallows hard before answering. “The hearing is at eleven. Cain said not to get our hopes up,” Cas says with the taste of bitter disappointment coating his tongue.

          Sam pushes to his feet as well with pinched brows and a heavy frown. “What does he mean, don’t get our hopes up? I thought the evidence against the warrants was open and shut?”

          Cas licks his lips and nods. “He said the evidence will need to be reviewed and that could take time. Dean might still have to face trial.” He wishes he had drilled Cain for more information. but his gut says making demands wouldn’t have done him any good. Cain has been Dean’s attorney for a decade and has served his client well thus far. Cas wants to trust the man will do his job no matter how intimidating he may be.

          Sam nods. “He’s right.” The resignation in his tone is evident as he stares at the wall behind Castiel’s head. His nostrils flare on his harsh inhale at the same time Cas is letting out a deep breath. “Looks like we’ve got some time to kill,” Sam shrugs before collecting his coffee mug and rinsing it in the sink. “Wanna go for a drive?” He flashes a hesitant grin as he tosses his car keys in hand. “There are some things you should see.”

          Cas nods, willing to pass the day with any possible distraction. “Let me get my jacket.”

---

          Dean stretches his arms over his head before tucking them underneath his pillow. The stale and generally wretched stench in the jail has nearly turned him into a mouth breather and his eyes itch with the dust and other filth lurking in this place. He’s been here for a week and he can’t help but have hated every minute of it.

          The fact that he’s been formally charged with murder sits in his stomach like a rock. He had placed all his trust in Ash’s abilities, and they seem to have fallen short. The very real possibility that he’ll be spending the rest of his life behind bars such as these encroaches on his lingering confidence and has him clenching his eyes tightly shut against the horrors of that thought.

          Cas. The name floats through his mind like a prayer. He didn’t try so hard to get into the detective’s good graces, and his bed if he’s going to keep track, just to lose him now.

          Seeing Castiel waiting for him in court had done wonders to lift Dean’s spirits. He had looked well, his naturally tanned complexion returning after his brush with Alastair, and the brief moment Dean had been able to hold Cas in his arms and feel his heart beating against his chest gave Dean something to cling to in this cold and grey world.

          He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. He hasn’t been forced to be this still since the last time he was in jail, over a decade ago. He refuses to let the constant noise, light, and foul odors drive him to pace as he had then.

          He has an army fighting for him. He trusts Ash. He trusts Sam, Ellen, Mick, Cain and everyone else working for him. He trusts Cas.

          Dean lets out a small huff at that thought but he doesn’t bother denying it.

          He trusts Cas. Completely.

          Benny would probably call him a fool and Ellen would probably smack him upside the head, but the thought that scares him the most is maybe not ever being able to spend another night with Castiel by his side.

          “Winchester!” A cold and unfamiliar voice barks, pulling Dean from his circling thoughts. The hard rap of a nightstick against metal bars sends a reverberating clang throughout Dean’s cell and he frowns against the intrusion. “You have a visitor” The voice barks once more, demanding Dean’s attention.

          Dean lets out a sigh carefully disguised as a yawn and pushing himself into a sitting position, quirking a brow at the guard disturbing what little peace he can find in this dump. “A visitor?” Dean asks, confused. Visiting hours don’t start for another hour, and Dean is permitted none beyond his attorney. “Who?”

          “On your feet, Winchester,” The guard ignores Dean’s question and straightens his stance. The nightstick is clenched tightly in the man’s right hand and Dean glares at the offending object. Does this asshole really think Dean is going to fight back? In here?

          Dean frowns but drags himself from his uncomfortable bunk to face the man. The guard ruining his quiet time is shorter than Dean with sandy brown hair buzzed military short. His greyish blue eyes glare at Dean with a coldness that immediately puts Dean on edge and his uniform is rather ill-fitting. The tag on his chest reads McElvin and Dean squints at the name before glance back to the man’s face.

          This isn’t McElvin. Dean shakes his head and forces the confusion from his expression. Something isn’t quite right here but Dean has little choice but to play along.

          His cell door creaks open and both men wince at the grating sound. Would it really break the budget to get some WD-40? Dean shakes his head in disgust but gives the guard a what can you do shrug and steps from his cell.

          The McElvin impersonator prods Dean along toward the front of the cell block but redirects him when they reach the turn for the visitation area. Dean looks over his shoulder at the man with confusion in his eye and his steps falter. “Keep moving” The guard demands, pressing the end of his nightstick into the small of Dean’s back.

Dean glances around and swallows hard at the complete lack of activity around them. Not another guard in sight. Something is wrong here, very wrong, but unless Dean wants to risk adding to his charges, he can’t do a damn thing about it. “Where are you taking me?” Dean asks, trying to sound like warning bells aren’t chiming in his head.

          “Keep moving!” Fake McElvin snaps, prodding Dean’s back that much harder. His pale blue eyes glint angrily and Dean considers raising his voice in hopes of someone else crashing this party.

          “What do you want with me?” Dean spins, demanding but being careful not to touch. “The visitation room is that way” Dean points to the hall behind the other man, in the direction they are not moving. He narrows his eyes in scrutiny of the uniformed guard but the man does not look familiar to him at all. “Is someone paying you?” Dean accuses, shaking his head.

          “I said keep moving!” McElvin barks, striking Dean in the stomach with his stick before bodily shoving him around and down the corridor.

          Dean grunts with the force of the impact and narrowly resists striking back. “I want to go back to my cell” Dean plants his feet and demands, only to be met with another strike to his lower back that nearly has his knees buckling. He spins around angrily. “Who the fuck are you?!” He growls, stepping into the guard’s space menacingly. He’ll submit where he needs to, but this asshole is out of line.

          Instead of responding to Dean’s demand, the guard strikes him firmly in the ribs and Dean feels a telltale crack as the bone in his chest protests the impact. Dean gasps and stumbles to the side, fighting for breath. He doesn’t think his ribs broke that easily, but they’re at least bruised, and Dean is not at all happy about that.

          Dean collects himself quickly and manages to grab the nightstick just before it connects with his stomach. He twists it out of the man’s hand and throws it as hard as he can down the hall where it clatters noisily against the concrete. “Get away from me!” He shouts, hoping the commotion will draw attention.

          Dean’s attacker readies himself for a fight, barely glancing at the path his only weapon took. He sneers at Dean with a sickly smile and a violent glint in his eye. “You are an evil man, Dean Winchester”

          Dean furrows his brows but prepares to defend himself. “So says you” He huffs. “Now, who the fuck are you?” He narrows his eyes into a glare as he attempts to circle around the man. If he can direct this scuffle closer to the general population, certainly someone will notice. Where is everyone?

          “My name is Cole Trenton” The man finally hisses, blocking Dean’s path. “You murdered my father”

          Dean glares at the other man. He has no doubt he can end this pathetic excuse of a person right here and now, but that would not look good on his records. In fact, killing a guard, even an imposter, would probably earn him a lethal injection. “Doesn’t ring a bell” Dean mocks. And really, the name means nothing to him.

          “Edward Trenton. 2012. You came into our home and murdered him in cold blood. I saw you” Cole says, tone nearly a growl as he continues to back Dean into a corner.

          “I’ve never heard that name in my life” Dean lies. He does know that name. Edward Trenton was a monster and Dean took him out like the garbage he was. Preying on young boys, molesting them and then dumping their bodies where no one would ever stumble across them on accident.

          “Don’t lie to me!” Cole snaps, lunging at Dean. Dean narrowly avoids his right hook and he loses his footing on the slippery floor. His prison issue slipper-like shoes are not doing him any favors here.

          “Fine. You wanna know about dear old dad?” Dean spits with a grin, ready to be done with this punk. “He was a monster who abused little boys” Dean throws his own punch and connects solidly with Cole’s stomach. “Do you want to hear about how he raped and tortured them? Or how he would strangle the life from their bodies when he grew tired of their screams?” Dean snarls, readying himself for another strike. His ribs scream with each deep breath he tries to take.

          “You lie!” Cole shouts as he pulls a knife from his belt. Dean’s eyes widen when the steel glints in the fluorescent light of the jail and his heart hammers in his chest.

          “I’m telling the truth” Dean takes a risk and holds up his hands, straitening his stance. He nearly yells the words, still trying to get someone’s, anyone’s, attention, but the jail is silent around them.

          “My father would never hurt anyone!” Cole growls as he lunges and Dean hurriedly dodges the sharp sting of the blade.

          “Maybe you didn’t know him all that well” Dean quips, already dodging the next blow. Dean steps aside and Cole follows.

          “What is going on here!” A voice down the corridor bellows and Dean’s moment of distraction gives Cole the upper hand.

          A sharp sting is all he feels when Cole sinks his blade deep into his ribs, somehow missing the bone and piercing straight into his lung. Dean fights to inhale and his eyes widen as he looks down at the red blooming over his grey jumpsuit and then up into Cole’s crazed eyes.

          “Who the fuck are you?!” The intruding guard barks to Cole as Dean sinks to his knees, knife still buried in his chest. The freshly arrived man takes in the scene with wide eyes and reaches for his taser just as Cole turns and lifts his hands to show he isn’t a threat.

          The asshole shouldn’t have turned his back.

          Dean pulls the knife from his chest with a pained gasp that only serves to choke him as his lung tries to collapse and he uses what strength he has left to plunge the knife into the back of Cole’s chest, aiming for his heart.

          If Dean is going to die, he’s taking this fucker with him.

          Dean collapses to the floor when Cole screams. His knife and the guard’s taser hit him at the same time, sending Dean’s attacker crashing to the ground. Dean knows the floor is cold and hard beneath him and he can faintly feel something warm and wet pooling around him and soaking into his clothes. Blood, he notices absently.

The pain from his stab wound feels hazy and distant Dean’s lips curl in satisfaction as he hears the newly arrived guard curse at the lack of a pulse on Cole’s corpse just as Dean coughs.

Something wet and sticky lodges in Dean’s throat and he groans as he tries to roll onto his back. His chest burns and his head feels light but he’s aware enough to notice rough hands grabbing him and flipping him over.

“Stay with me, Winchester. You’re gonna be fine” The rough voice of a guard, Gordon, Dean remembers, says as he presses down firmly on Dean’s stab wound.

“I’m peachy” Dean groans with another cough. He smiles through the pain, refusing to show weakness. He is no stranger to feeling the sharp sting of a knife and he wants to laugh at the irony of it all, but his chest hurts too much to form the sound. He lets his head drop back onto the concrete as Gordon unzips and spreads open his bloodied jumpsuit to better apply pressure.

Gordon huffs at Dean’s flippancy and pushes down roughly. “Who the hell is he, anyway?” The guard says, gesturing with his chin to Cole’s body.

“Said his name was Cole Trenton. Said I killed his father” Dean mutters, glaring up at the lights. His fingertips and toes feel cold like ice is chilling his veins and spreading closer and closer to his heart.

Gordon hums and reaches for his walkie, “Where the hell are the medics!” He barks into the device before turning back to Dean. “Did you?” He says with an arched brow, looking down at Dean expectantly.

Dean frowns and shakes his head. His thoughts may be fuzzy, but he isn’t stupid. “Never heard of him” Dean responds, trying to meet Gordon’s eyes but darkness edges in on his vision and he shivers. “Cold” Dean mutters, attempting to shake off the encroaching feeling.

A commotion down the hall has Gordon barking orders and suddenly the pressure on Dean’s chest is gone but he’s too tired to open his eyes to look.

“You’re gonna be alright, hot stuff,” A husky and feminine voice says near Dean’s ear and he hums in response. The change in voice is enough for Dean to manage to blink open his eyes enough to take in long dark hair framing a narrow and familiar face.

“Pamela?” Dean rasps as he lifts his head, only to have the woman push him back down with hushing sound.

The woman nods and Dean lets himself relax. “This wasn’t how we had things planned, but it would be a shame to waste the opportunity,” She says, leaning close enough so only Dean can hear.

“Please” Dean rasps, already forcing his body to relax before the sting of a needle in his neck, hidden by Pamela’s long hair, sends him sinking into oblivion.

“Just relax now, sugar. I got you”

---

          “Mary Winchester” Castiel reads the headstone in front of him with Sam standing at his side. The cemetery is green and peaceful, barely a sound to be heard outside the shrieking of the jays that loiter nearby. Cas had wondered why Sam was taking him to the final resting place of so many souls, but now he thinks he understands.

          The downward spiral of John’s life, and therefore Dean’s, began with the death of Mary Winchester.

          Sam nods and tucks his hands into his jean’s pockets. With his shoulders hunched in and his head lowered, Sam almost doesn’t look as tall and forbidding as he is. Cas finds a small measure of comfort in that.

          Here, amongst the grave markers, Sam appears to be the young man he is instead of someone hardened beyond his years.

          “Our Mom” Sam agrees with a nod. “I haven’t been here since the week before I left for California,” he says, almost sounding as if confessing to something.

          “Dean comes here often” Cas states, somehow knowing without ever being told. The well-kept space and carefully pruned gardenia shrub is a testament to someone’s diligent care.

          Sam nods again and takes a deep breath. “The last time I was here, I was saying goodbye. Didn’t think I’d ever be back”

          Cas softens at Sam’s words, seeing the conflict written across the man’s features. The heat of the day beats down on them despite the early hour and Cas fights the urge to wipe the sweat from his brow.

          “Dean told me to never come back” Sam continues, staring straight ahead. “When I told him I was leaving, he was so angry. So was Dad. They thought I was abandoning them”

          Castiel nods. Dean had told him as much. “He doesn’t feel that way anymore” Cas offers with a shrug.

Sam lets out a dry laugh and shakes his head. “No, he thinks I’m better off without him,” Sam says, kicking at an imaginary pebble. “He’s an idiot. Cas, I need my brother. These years without him have been horrible. I can’t... if he goes to trial...I can’t lose him again" Sam’s broken speech pattern gives away the emotion he’s doing his best to choke back and the broken look he gives Castiel nearly breaks the man’s heart.

“That’s not going to happen, Sam” Cas steps forward to rest a hand on Sam’s shoulder. Cas has his own fears regarding Dean’s continued imprisonment. His actions last night have cemented him on this path.

Nothing Castiel will ever do can atone for his actions last night. A not so small part of him wants to call Meg, or even Donna, and confess to his crimes.

The only things staying his hand is the very real possibility that Dean might be released. If Cas goes to jail and Dean walks free…Cas doesn’t think he can handle that.

“The judge could throw out the faulty warrants but let the evidence stand” Sam quips, shaking his head. “They could still choose to move forward if they have enough. Between Meg’s sworn statement and Dean’s scars...” He trails off shaking his head.

“Then we’ll deal with everything one step at a time” Cas levels his gaze at Sam, aiming for calm confidence despite his pounding heart. Sam isn’t wrong. The evidence could still stand. Getting a warrant by any means necessary has been a tried and true police tactic for years. Some of the evidence might be thrown out, but not all of it.

Sam takes a shaky breath and nods before stepping out of Castiel’s space. “Can I have a minute with her?” Sam looks to his mother’s headstone guiltily, as if feeling remorse for asking Cas to go wait in the car.

“Take all the time you need, I’ll be in the car” Cas offers a wry smile and catches the keys Sam tosses to him before he turns to walk away without another word. He has some thinking to do and the phone call he intends to make would be best kept from Sam’s ears.

He makes the walk back to Sam’s charger quickly and gets the car running. It’s barely mid-morning but in Texas, that doesn’t matter. His weather app says the temperature is bordering on ninety already.

He opens the car door and stands back, watching the waves of heat roll by as he squints against the furnace. After a minute, he dares to stick his head in to put the key into the ignition and fire the car up.

Once the car has some time to cool down, he tucks himself inside and pulls out his phone to find the contact he knows might have answers. He can’t decide whether he hopes Donna is willing to talk, or that she ignores his call.

He hits dial and waits, listening to the ringing drone on and on until her voicemail picks up. He lets out a deep sigh and leaves his message, knowing in his gut that he won’t hear back.

His head drops back against the seat and lets his thoughts wander. A month ago, he never would have imagined being in the position. He’s no longer a detective or even employed, he’s been tortured by a mad man, fallen in love with a criminal who was arrested because he dared to rescue Cas from said mad man and committed an atrocity. Now, Dean is possibly looking at life in prison or the death penalty if Cain fails today and the thought of being forever separated from Dean has become absolutely unbearable.

He had meant it when he told Sam that he won’t let that happen. Cas only wishes he knew how to keep that promise.

His ringing phone shatters the silence of the car and Cas hurriedly looks around for Sam, hoping against hope that Donna is calling him back.

Cain.

This cannot be good. Castiel’s heart races as he hits the button to answer.

“Novak” He squawks into the phone. The evidence hearing isn’t for another hour, what could Cain have to tell him now?

“Castiel” Cain’s voice is gruff as ever but he sounds particularly displeased. “The judge has received further evidence and has canceled the hearing”.

“Wait, what?!” Cas nearly shouts into the phone. His stomach feels like it’s being ripped from his body.

Cain takes a deep, audible, breath, giving the impression of having no patience for Castiel’s stupid questions. “The police are covering their bases. They seem to have hard copies of documentation that shows their digital copies have been tampered with,” Cain sounds pissed and his tone is full of blame.

Castiel’s stomach was not ripped from his body, he knows this because now it drops into his shoes. He struggles to take a breath but his lungs fail him. “You mean the warrants being faulty mean nothing?” Cas seethes, not knowing whether to blame Ash, Victor or Cain himself for this unforgivable development.

“I’m saying that the warrants were not faulty to begin with,” Cain barks.

Cas lets the silent continue for a beat, collecting his thoughts. The warrants only appeared bad because of Ash’s work. But if the police are on to him, then they’re sunk. Done. End of sentence. Or the beginning of a life term sentence maybe. He huffs a laugh at the thought. “So, we have nothing” Cas observes, glancing out the window just in time to see Sam taking long strides toward the car.

“We still have the trial,” Cain says in a tone approximating comforting. “I’ve got another call coming in, I will keep you updated of any developments”

“Wait!” Cas hurries to say. “When is the first day of the trial going to be?”

“Monday, eight am,” Cain says before the line goes dead and Sam pulls open his car door roughly.

“Who was that?” Sam asks as he slides behind the wheel, cranking the air conditioning just a little bit higher.

“Cain” Cas grumbles, narrowly avoiding giving in to the urge to punch the dash with all of his strength.

“What’d he have to say?” Sam questions, clearly oblivious to the devastating news Cain just delivered.

Cas takes a deep breath before answering to steady his nerves. “The judge canceled the hearing. The police have proof that the digital evidence has been tampered with. We’re back to square one” Cas delivers the news with as much calm as he can muster. Inside, he’s raging. He wants to, no, needs to break something.

Sam punches the steering wheel for him. The car horn blares under the force of his fist, startling the pigeons gathered nearby and earning an envious glare from Castiel. “Dammit!” Sam growls, turning to Cas with a near-feral glint in his eye that quickly turns to despair. He shakes his head in disbelief. “What are we gonna do?” He turns to Cas, looking up through his lashes and looking every bit the part of a little brother.

Castiel’s heart aches for the man. Aches for himself. “We’ll figure something out” Cas tries to sound hopeful but he’s certain the cutting pain slicing through what little is left of his hope is glaringly obvious. “We should put the word out to for everyone to meet at the Roadhouse”

Sam nods. “Yeah. Yeah.” He repeats, reaching for his phone to send out a group text to all those immediately affected by the news. “They’ll be there within the hour. We should go” Sam mutters, nodding to himself a little too emphatically as he shoves the car into gear.

A dust cloud follows them out of the dirt road the cemetery and a squeal of tires announce their arrival onto the paved road just outside of the Austin city limits. Sam drives aggressively and Cas can almost hear his teeth grinding as he takes each turn a little too fast.

Cas holds on for dear life and does his best to clamp down on each worried sound that threatens to bubble up in his throat.

By the time they arrive outside of the Roadhouse, neither man has said a word and Cas nearly has to pry his fingers from the grab handle above the door. They’ve gone white with tension and Cas finds himself sending thanks skyward for their safe arrival.

Sam storms from the car without a glance to Castiel and heads directly for the front door of the bar.

Cas takes a moment to collect himself and let his heart calm. He lets out a heavy breath, marveling that they managed the half hour drive at breakneck speeds, breaking countless traffic laws and yet somehow managed to avoid a single police sighting.

Winchesters are damn lucky it would seem.

Sam is downing a shot when Cas finally pushes through the door. Ellen leans against the bar and Jo is slouched near the beer taps, staring a hole into the side of Sam’s head with an arched brow.

“So, what's with the call to arms?” Ellen broaches when Cas hefts himself into a stool without lifting his gaze.

Cas sighs and shakes his head. “Can I get a shot of something? Anything?” He asks.

He’s answered by a sharp snap of Ellen’s towel and a fierce scowl. “You damn well know the answer to that question” She snaps and reaches for a glass to pour him a Dr. Pepper.

Cas sighs and slumps his shoulders.

“Tell her, Cas. Tell them what Cain said” Sam demands and Cas sinks further, somehow feeling as if every piece of misfortune that has befallen Dean since they met is his fault.

“The police figured out Ash’s game. They have records to prove the records Ash altered are fake. The file Meg gave us is useless” Cas mutters, not even bothering to nod his thanks when Ellen sets the soda in front of him.

“Screw this” Jo bites, reaching for two shot glasses and a bottle of bourbon.

“Joanna Beth” Ellen warns but Jo ignores her mother’s harsh tone.

Jo continues to pour the shots before handing the bottle off to Sam. She slams one down on the bar in front of Cas and holds hers in hand. “Drink” She orders and Cas looks at her with wide eyes. “One and one only. I know you can control yourself just fine” She narrows her eyes, daring him to prove her wrong.

Cas is flattered enough by her confidence to lift his glass and throw his head back, emptying the burning amber liquid into his throat. He swallows with a grimace and hisses at the burn despite relishing the hint of pain as heat settles in his gut. “Thank you, Jo” Cas mutters, doing his best not to cough as he slides the glass back to the young woman.

They both ignore the scowl from Ellen.

“Now. What are we going to do?” Jo leans her elbows on the bar and stares directly into Castiel’s eyes.

Cas takes a shaky breath and chews on his lip. “We go to trial,” He says, not knowing what else there is to do.

Mick bursts through the door in a flurry of activity. “Turn on the news!” He orders, pointing at the large screen TV in the corner. “Now! Hurry” He snaps, snatching the remote from Ellen and turning the station to the noontime local news station.

The anchor finishes up speaking about some high school football team who is going to the state championships for the hundredth season in a row. Cas is certain that the locals are incredibly proud of their team, but he knows better than to think this is what Mick is trying to show them.

“I heard on the radio coming over,” Mick says by way of explanation as he folds his arms over his chest and glares at the TV. All eyes in the bar stare at the device as the woman on screen holds a hand up to her ear as if receiving a very important transmission.

“We’re receiving reports of a situation at the Austin City jail only an hour ago. Inmate Dean Winchester was attacked by an off-duty police officer,” They flash two photos across the screen. Dean’s mugshot and an academy graduation photo of Cole Trenton. Cas’ heart lodges in his chest. “Both men were declared dead at the scene.”

Cas suddenly cannot breathe and silence fills the bar. At least, he thinks there is silence. His ears ring as the reporter's words fail to process.

“This incident appears to be isolated and not ongoing. Dean Winchester was awaiting trial for the murder of fashion mogul, Zachariah Adler, and is the suspected leader of the Winchester syndicate, formally headed by John Winchester until his mysterious disappearance five years ago,” The woman reads off her teleprompter, voice empty of emotion as she recites the charges against Dean. “Officer Trenton’s motivation for attacking Winchester is unknown...”

Mick clicks the television off and pitches the remote across the room, striking and shattering the large mirror hanging over booths against the wall.

Cas flinches at the sudden outburst but otherwise doesn’t move. This can’t be. Dean can’t be gone. And Cole Trenton? This makes no sense. He slowly turns to face Sam and sees the same shocked confusion written across Sam’s features.

“No” Jo snaps, breaking the silence in the room. “This can’t be true. Where the fuck is Benny?” Jo stomps over to the bottle Sam left abandoned on the counter and pours herself another drink.

“Jo...” Ellen starts, reaching for her daughter.

“No, mom,” Jo bites, stepping away and shaking her head. “No.”

“Jo...” Ellen coos, eyes welling with tears as she grabs hold of the young woman and drags her into a tight hug.

The sight of tears breaks something inside of Castiel and his next inhale is ragged as his eyes burn and vision blurs. He shakes his head, not willing to believe that Dean could be dead. This can’t be happening.

Sam’s jaw clenches and he shakes his head as he reaches for his car keys.

“Boy, don’t you dare think about walking out that door” Ellen barks from over Jo’s shoulder as she rocks her daughter in her arms.

Mick falls onto a bar stool and stares blankly toward the wall where the glass shrapnel lays scattered about.

The front door swings open with a chime and all eyes are drawn to the newcomer, staring in blank recognition as their minds are elsewhere. Adam walks in and quickly takes in the scene greeting him. “What happened? I got the alert saying to meet here...” He trails off, gaze landing on Sam before darting to Castiel.

“Dean’s dead,” Sam says sharply, his tone more angry than anything.

Adam’s eyes widen and he shakes his head, denying the possibility. “What? How?” Adam glances between Castiel and Sam, not knowing who to ask. Sam hasn’t exactly been unwelcoming to his younger half-brother, but the tension has been obvious without Dean to run interference.

“He was attacked in the jail. Does the name Cole Trenton mean anything to you?” Cas manages to explain, almost proud that his voice barely cracks.

Adam shakes his head with a bewildered expression. “No,” He answers, blindly settling into a stool at the bar. “What do we do now?” Adam looks to Mick, the only other member of Dean’s team present. He swallows hard and glances down.

“We wait for Benny,” Mick frowns. “He’s next in command. Where the bloody hell is he, anyway?” Mick grouses, scrubbing his hands over his face.

“He should be here,” Sam agrees with Mick’s unsaid accusation. “He said he would be here,” Sam says as he picks up his phone to check his messages. “Huh,” Sam observes. “He texted a few minutes ago, said something came up but we should all sit tight. Not to worry.” Sam scowls at his phone, cursing Benny’s absence and bullshit message.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Jo pulls away from Ellen and wipes her eyes with the back of her hands.

“Everybody, sit,” Ellen points to the stools lining the bar and reaches under the counter for clean glasses. She waits patiently for everyone to take their places before pulling her finest bourbon from the shelf. “You’re not gonna throw this one, right?” She looks to Mick accusingly as she pours.

“No, Ma’am,” Mick nods solemnly. “I do apologize for that, I’ll clean it up in a moment,” He says with an obvious apology in his tone.

“I understand. Believe me, I understand,” Ellen fixes him with a stern look that softens at the edges. “Tonight, we drink to Dean. Tomorrow we’ll figure out what the hell we’re gonna do next,” Ellen raises her glass before lowering it to consider Cas.

Castiel has yet to reach for a glass, uncertain if he’ll find his hand smacked if he dares to try.

“Think you’ll be ok havin a drink with us?” Ellen arches a brow toward him and Cas swallows hard with a flinch of a frown.

By now, everyone here knows of Castiel’s problem and has made it clear they have his back. There is no shame, only support. He chews his lip, taking stock of himself. He’s upset. Heartbroken. He wants to scream, rage and cry. He wants many things, but underneath everything, his desire to lose himself in a bottle is incredibly small. He nods and Ellen slides him a glass.

“Just one. No more,” Ellen warns as he takes the bourbon in hand and holds it up with everyone else.

Castiel nods and flinches a smile. Somehow feeling cared for instead of treated like a child. Ellen is gruff but she means well and tends to mother everyone with her tough love style of affection. “To Dean,” He says, lifting his glass as his heart crumbles.

Everyone does the same and they take their shots, barely sputtering as the high-quality bourbon goes down smoothly. Mick raises his empty glass for inspection, staring as if impressed.

“You’ve been holding out on us,” Mick says, glancing to Ellen with a raised brow.

“Dean’s favorite,” She mutters and rolls her eyes.

“I must call Cain,” Castiel remembers. He needs answers that only the attorney may provide. “And Sam, the police will be calling you soon, as next of kin. We need a game plan. If their security was negligent, we may be able to sue them for a substantial sum,” Cas shifts his focus forward because if he continues to dwell on the news delivered by the television, he might just break entirely. “That may be the only way to receive justice.” Cas frowns at his words. What kind of justice could there be for something like this? Certainly, nothing the police can give them.

“Later,” Sam shakes his head. “I can’t...I can’t deal with that right now.”

“Sam’s right. All that needs to be done, but it’ll keep,” Mick stands and clasps Castiel’s shoulder. “For now, we drink,” He raises his glass to Ellen once more and she reaches for it with a nod.

Cas shakes his head and makes to stand. “I can’t…” He starts to say but Mick presses him back down. The shot he took with Jo coupled with the one just now has his body humming, paired with his emotional turmoil, he can feel the itch beginning to burn under his skin. He craves more alcohol nearly as much as his body craves oxygen. That urge to bury himself in the bottom of a bottle may have been slight only moments ago, but now the desire has reignited. “Mick…” He warns, heeding the warning bells clanging in his mind.

“Stay,” The Brit demands, setting his glass down to place his free hand on Castiel’s other shoulder to better hold him in place. “You’ve got us now, mate. No need to run away,” He leans forward to mutter in Castiel’s ear, his whiskey breath drifting to Castiel’s nose and causing him to inhale shakily.

“Mick…” Cas starts again after swallowing hard. He sits frozen to the spot with all eyes on him. “I shouldn’t have…” He starts but stops in favor of gesturing to his glass. “I’m sorry,” He shakes his head and tries to shrug Mick off.

Ellen slides his soda closer. “Drink this. Wash the taste out of your mouth,” She fixes Cas with a stare. “You’re not going anywhere alone right now, so get that thought outta your head,” She points sternly as Cas takes swallow after swallow of the soda with Mick still holding him in place. “We take of our own, boy. An that includes you now. Got it?” She clenches her jaw and stares into Castiel’s eyes until he nods weakly. “Good. Now stay,” She points as if commanding a dog and Cas doesn’t dare disobey.

“Good man,” Mick claps his shoulder before releasing him and settling in the stool between Cas and the door.

Two weeks ago, Cas would have felt captive. Being told to stay by the maternal figure in Dean’s life, a woman who is frankly quite terrifying in the best possible way, and one of the men in Dean’s inner circle would not have been a good thing. Now though? Cas settles into his spot with a feeling of warmth blooming in his chest.

He is not ok. Not even a little bit. But he isn’t alone.

They sit for what feels like hours, talking about Dean, talking about anything and nothing all at the same time. Sam and Mick drink. Adam sits beside Cas and sips a soda while Ellen carefully watches over them all like the mother hen she is.

The call from Cain goes unanswered when Sam’s glare flashes to Castiel’s ringing phone and Sam only speaks briefly and angrily with the police when they call. The next call they’re expecting should come from the hospital, but the phones remain silent and no one is willing to make the call themselves. Not yet.

Benny still doesn’t show up.

The sun fades into darkness and the mood inside the bar has traveled from shock and anger to boisterous and now, back to mournfully depressed. Cas doesn’t know how much more he can take. He just wants to crawl away and hide from the world. Sam is far too drunk to drive, so that will fall to Cas despite his body still tingling with the need to join Sam and Mick in their drunkenness.

Cas is about to haul Sam out the door and into his car when the back door of the bar creaks open and everyone turns to look as Benny calmly steps through.

“Where th’fuck you been?” Sam slurs and tries to push to his feet. He sways and clutches at the bar before deciding to give up on the idea of standing.

“Been busy,” Benny frowns, eyeing the younger man with clear disappointment.

“Doing what?” Cas picks up the mantel for Sam, infusing his tone with anger as he pushes to his feet. The fresh and darkening bruising around Benny’s eyes and the new way his nose crooks doesn’t escape his notice, but he can’t be bothered to ask why. “Surely you heard what happened?” Cas growls as he stalks toward Benny. He has no doubt Benny could kick his ass but he’s willing to take his chances.

Benny huffs and shakes his head before stepping away from the open door. Everyone in the bar falls still when they take in the man standing behind him.

“Dean,” Cas breathes, eyes wide with shock.

“Dean.” Sam says the name as if the singular word means everything.

“What the bloody hell?” Mick exclaims, pausing with his glass halfway to his lips.

Ellen gasps and covers her mouth her hand, staring as if she’s seen a ghost.

“Cas,” Dean croaks, flinching a smile. “Sorry about the ruse, guys, I just…plans, you know?” Dean says as Cas rushes toward him.

“Dean,” Cas nearly sobs as he wraps his arms around the man squeezes.

“Shit, Cas. Careful,” Dean winces and tenses.

“Are you hurt?” Cas pulls back and runs his hands over Dean’s body, searching for the source of his pain. On second glance, Dean does seem pale and his eyes tense.

Sam muscles in and drags his brother to his chest. “Dean,” Sam breathes, still clearly not believing Dean is alive and in front of them. He holds Dean close, not letting go and Benny looks on with a smug little smile.

“Sam, please. The bastard really did stab me, lay off,” Dean growls without any real heat but his discomfort is clear in his tone.

“The news said…the police…you bastard!” Sam pulls away angrily and wipes the tears from his eyes. “You let us think you were dead!”

“I’m sorry, Sam,” Dean says quietly, lips quirked downward in a frown. “Faking my death wasn’t exactly planned at this point, but then I was attacked and Pamela showed up. I couldn’t pass up the chance,” Dean says, gaze settling on Castiel. “I couldn’t pass up the chance to be with you in peace.”

“Dean” Cas chokes out, incapable of saying any other word while under the spell of Dean’s tender gaze.

“Shh, Angel” Dean holds out his arms, beckoning Cas to him. Cas goes without a second thought, not caring about the others watching them.

“Not an Angel” Cas protests, voice muffled by Dean’s shirt. Dean holds him close, but Cas pulls back when he feels Dean open his mouth to speak. “Last night, I murd…” Cas starts, prepared to confess his sins and face whatever might come.

Dean quickly shushes him with a finger over Cas’ lips. “I know. Why do you think Benny’s sportin two shiners there?” Dean says, very matter of fact. “I still wanna kick his ass for giving you that choice,” Dean says, the but is clear in his tone as he gestures to his injured chest.

“But, Dean, I…Benny didn’t…” Cas tries to explain, gesturing between Benny and himself.

“I never wanted that for you. I wanted to bring you along, let you see what we do. I never intended for you to take part,” Dean explains slow and steady, green eyes boring into Castiel’s blue ones. “You are not a killer, Cas,” Dean continues, shaking his head sadly. “Forgive me?” Dean’s voice is small, as if he’s terrified that Cas is going to slip through his fingers and disappear after everything they’ve been through.

Cas sniffles, fighting back the swell of conflicting emotions swirling inside him, and nods. “I’m sorry, Dean”.

“Run away with me?” Dean asks just before pressing a chaste kiss to Castiel’s cheek.

Cas nods against the crook of Dean’s neck, careful not to wrap his arms around him too tightly. “Yes,” He rasps, giving in to the tears that have been threatening to spill since he walked through the door.

Dean buries his fingers in Cas’ hair, holding him in place as he meets Sam’s eyes. “I was thinking California.”

Sam inhales audibly and nods frantically. “Palo Alto is beautiful.”

“We can come to visit now and then. Don’t think you’ll ever be getting rid of us, boy,” Ellen finally breaks her silence, regaining her usual crusty demeanor.

“Yeah, jerk,” Jo finally emerges, eyes red and glistening. She smiles tensely and Dean holds an arm out to her without releasing Castiel.

“Come’ere brat,” Dean says just as Cas pulls back.

Jo goes into his arms sobbing. “You ever do that again and I’ll kill you myself,” She grumbles into Dean’s shoulder.

“Get in line,” Cas huffs, wiping his eyes and watching Dean hold his symbolic little sister. “So, California?” He lets himself crack a watery smile and glances to Sam.

Dean nods with a grin. “Benny is taking over here. We just gotta pack and get going. The sooner the better. Can’t have anyone seeing a dead man walking around.”

“Shuttup jerk” Sam snaps, although his tone holds no real ire.

“Come on boys, I’ll drive y’all home,” Benny waves a hand toward the back door. “Cas, you need anything from your place?” Benny glances to Castiel, clearly expecting an answer.

Cas shakes his head. “No, everything I need right now is already at Dean’s. Can get the rest later.”

Jo steps back and nods, wiping her eyes. “So, you were stabbed?” She questions with morbid curiosity.

“Yeah. Wanna see?” Dean waggles his brows and lifts the edge of his shirt to reveal white gauze bandaging covering his ribs.

Benny lets out a long-suffering sigh and Sam rolls his eyes. Clearly, Dean isn’t hurt that badly.

“Come on, Cas,” Dean holds out a hand to Castiel. “Let's get out of here. We got a long drive to get ready for,” He winks and Castiel grins.

Yes, this is fast. Yes, this is crazy, but Cas has never felt more certain he’s making the right decision. He’s learned all too well what wrong decisions feel like, and this is not one of them. They can both start over on a new path and if they end up in hell, at least they’ll be there together.

Chapter Text

Cas trudges through the sand, his feet burning as he hurries along and tries to balance three drinks without spilling the cold liquid all over his bare chest. He grins when he sees his targets. Dean and Sam are lounging down the beach in chairs with ocean waves lapping at their feet. 

A year and a half has passed since Dean’s forged paperwork came through, labeling him as Michael Dean Campbell, and they began a new life in California. 

Sam passed the bar exam six months ago and is officially a lawyer, apprenticed with a very reputable law firm who was willing to overlook his family history. He’s already making more money than Castiel ever had with the police. 

He hurries to escape the burning sand, sighing in relief when he reaches the stretch still damp from the waves. Dean turns to watch him approach with a megawatt grin that has Cas grinning back even wider. 

“Got the drinks,” Cas says happily as he hands Dean and Sam their fancy fruity alcoholic slushies with tiny umbrellas and keeps his non-alcoholic one for himself. Dean takes his, but looks up at Cas expectantly, clearly waiting for the kiss Cas leans down to give him. 

Dean hums happily as Cas settles into the chair beside him. 

“Hold up, Cas. Lemme look at your back. I think you need more lotion” Dean hands his drink off to Sam and scoots forward to sit at the edge of his chair. 

“They’re fine, Dean” Cas rolls his eyes but turns his back to Dean anyway. Garth had just finished the final stage of Castiel’s wings a week ago. Now, instead of jagged scars, Cas has dramatic black wings spread over his back, touching the backs of his arms and extending to the dip of his spine. 

Getting them had hurt. Cas isn’t going to lie. But they were entirely worth the pain. For a tattoo artist without a single tattoo himself, Garth did incredible work. Each feather is carefully outlined and laced with the faintest trace of iridescent blue. When the light catches them just right, the wings seem to come alive.  

Even Cas can’t see the scars underneath. 

Dean had insisted on Garth specifically, despite the man being based in Austin. Cas had even offered to pay extra to have Garth travel so far, but it seems the man owed Dean a favor. 

For what, neither would say, but he refused any payment at all for his work. He had simply been overjoyed to see Dean alive and well. 

Cas has come to expect there are things about Dean’s old life he may never know. His new life though? That, Castiel does know. 

Every morning, Dean drags himself from their bed to tug on well-worn denim and an old rock band tee before firing up the coffee pot and trudging out the door to the garage. 

Little did Cas know when they moved to California, was that an old friend of the Winchester family lived out there as well. Sam had been keeping in contact with the man the brothers call ‘Uncle Bobby’ and the grumpy older man was eager to take Dean on at his salvage yard. 

For the first time in his life, aside from his restaurant investments, Dean has legal employment and he’s still basking in the high of spending his day's elbow deep in classic cars. 

Cas had been worried that Dean would struggle to adjust, but the concern was quickly dispelled the first time he saw Dean at work. The sense of pure contentment rolling off the man was nearly suffocating as he carefully buffed the new paint job on a first run Shelby Mustang GT350. 

Sure, Dean struggles at times. Anyone would struggle with such a drastic change. 

But, Dean comes home every night, grease embedded under his nails and a grin on his face. 

“See, they’re fine” Cas pretends to huff as Dean runs his fingers over Castiel’s spine and the edges of the delicately inked feathers. 

“Still, lemme get some more lotion on them. Just to be safe” Dean insists, already reaching for the bottle of unscented lotion Garth had recommended.  

“Hmm, if you insist” Cas agrees with a purr, leaning back into Dean’s touch. 

“Could you two not?” Sam’s tired tone comes from just out of Cas’ line of sight. 

Dean barks a laugh and Cas shakes his head with a smile. Tormenting Sam has become a favorite past time of Dean’s and Cas loves to watch the brotherly teasing. “Hey, when’s your brother coming again?” Dean asks, hooking his chin on Castiel’s shoulder just to annoy Sam. 

“Next week” Cas responds. “Gabriel is anxious to meet you. Don’t be surprised if he tries to get us to film for him though. No matter what he might promise, just say no” Cas reminds both the Winchester brothers, turning to meet Sam’s eyes to better press his point.  

Dean hadn’t believed Cas when he told him that Gabriel is a porn director. Not until Cas pulled up the video credits of one of Dean’s favorite videos and showed him the “Directed by Gabriel Novak” right along the bottom. Gabe uses his real name just to piss off their conservative family.  

Since then, Dean has been eager to meet the man. 

Dean presses a sloppy kiss to Castiel’s cheek and revels in the fake gagging sounds coming from his brother. “I dunno, babe. I think you’d look good on film” Dean says loud enough for Sam to hear. 

“Ugh, gross!” Sam exclaims and Dean breaks into a snickering laugh when Sam pelts him with his towel. “I’m going for a swim. Please be decent when I get back” Sam’s tone sounds bitter, but Cas looks in time to see the fond smile gracing the man’s face. Sam is happy to see his brother happy, but the little brother in him refuses to admit that fact out loud. 

“Babe?” Cas turns to stare at Dean with a quirked brow. The sun shines brightly, making Dean’s green eyes sparkle vividly. Cas doesn’t think he’ll ever tire of looking into those eyes. 

“Yes. Babe” Dean repeats, emphasizing the B with a playful quirk of his lips. “You’re marrying me in two weeks. I think I’m entitled to a pet name or two” Dean says, goading Cas gently. 

Cas smiles down at his lap, spinning the gleaming gold band on his finger that Dean had put there six months ago. “Fine” Cas huffs, pretending that he’s making a great concession by allowing Dean a simple nickname. 

“You’re my Angel, Babe” Dean quips, rubbing the cooling lotion over Castiel’s back. 

Cas groans and shakes his head, but his smile never dims. “Dean” He whines, drawn out and petulant but he knows the other man can hear the smile in his tone. Dean chuckles and pushes to his feet, standing close enough to Cas to wrap his arms around his shoulders and pull the man against Dean’s firm chest. 

Cas goes with a happy sigh. “Just two more days to wrap up the Fox case. Then you have me all to yourself” Cas mumbles, thinking he really ought to head in from the beach soon and get back to work. 

Since coming to California, he’s started a private investigating service and his clients generally have more money than they know what to do with, so they end up acting foolish and need help sorting out the consequences. 

Someone almost always owes someone else money or is cheating on their spouse. 

The Fox case though, this one is different and Cas is genuinely enjoying the investigation. The family patriarch, Asa, was brutally murdered a year ago but the trail had gone so cold that the local police shoved his case onto the back burner. 

His children had come to Castiel asking for help finding their father’s murderer and some closer looking showed a dozen similar murders stretched over the last decade. The states and jurisdictions have varied widely, so law enforcement hasn’t put together that they likely have a serial killer on their hands. 

Castiel thinks he’s close, and he promised the young twins that the murderer would see justice. 

Dean hums against Castiel’s shoulder. “Let me know if you want my help,” Dean says, making Cas an offer he is sorely tempted to take. More than once, Dean has offered to come out of retirement to put the fear of God into various criminals or remove one or two from the equation entirely. Until this case, Cas has vehemently denied Dean’s offers. 

Cas takes a deep breath and nods. “Maybe,” He says truthfully. Asa Fox’s murder was grisly and in Castiel’s experience as a detective, murderers capable of such mutilation are unlikely to stop once they’ve gotten a taste of blood. The police, probably even the FBI, would jump on this one without a doubt, but that hinges entirely on Castiel finding enough evidence. 

“You have a suspect?” Dean pulls back just enough to let Cas turn to face him. Dean’s eyes are narrowed against the sun and his sandy brown hair has lightened considerably since they settled down next to the beach. If Dean isn’t working, he’s lounging on the beach and developing his tan. 

Castiel could get lost in those bottle green eyes but he has a question to answer. He nods. “Yeah. Should be able to get the evidence tomorrow” He leaves it unsaid that he plans on breaking and entering into his suspect’s home while the woman is at work tomorrow. He’s been watching Abaddon Lockheart for several days now. In the beginning, he had been certain the murderer was a man, but the more he watches the woman the more certain he becomes that she is the killer. 

And Asa Fox was not her most recent victim. 

“Let me go with you?” Dean asks again over the rim of his glass. His brows arch in question and his tone has quickly gone from playful to serious. He’s made no effort to hide his unease over certain aspects of Castiel’s new career. 

Cas shrugs. There is something about this case that has him hesitating more than he normally would. Maybe it's that the Fox twins had asked him not to go to the police. Instead, they had offered him over a hundred thousand dollars to take justice himself on their behalf. He told them no, but he can’t shake the feeling of inherent danger in collecting evidence against Abaddon. “I thought you were finishing up the restoration on that Camaro?” He asks, taking a sip of his own brightly colored slushy. 

Dean sets his drink aside and levels Cas with a serious glare. “I can push it back.” 

Cas nods with a frown. “Alright. I think I could use your assistance,” He says and Dean’s face lights up in a grin. “All evidence goes directly to the police,” Cas warns, arching a brow as his tone drops lower.  

Dean pretends to shiver and gives a put-upon sigh. “Of course.” 

Cas snorts a laugh and playfully bats at Dean’s chest as he shakes his head.  

Sure, Cas works as a private investigator and Dean works on cars. But that doesn’t mean Dean has entirely left his old life behind. He’s still ready and willing to jump back in the saddle if Cas were to ever ask. 

“When are Ellen and Jo flying in?” Cas asks, changing the subject and settling back in his chair to watch the waves lap at the sand. 

“Tuesday” Dean answers, taking another sip of his drink and reaching a hand across the space between them, flexing his fingers as a demand for Cas’ hand that is quickly met. 

Sam shakes the water out of his hair and the two men watch him trudge back from his quick swim.  

“That soon?” Cas asks, quirking a brow. That is only the day after tomorrow.  

Dean hums and nods. “Mick and Benny are driving up near the end of next week” 

“Everyone will be here” Cas turns to Dean with a wide grin.  

Dean flashes Cas an easy smile. “They will. All the more reason for you to wrap up that case and for me to clear out the garage” 

“At least your clients can wait” Cas complains playfully. If a car takes a week longer to restore, no one is going to die over it. The vast majority of Castiel’s cases are simple. Person A is suspicious of Person B for whatever reason, usually infidelity, and Cas is paid to follow them until enough evidence is collected for Person A to take action. Usually divorce. 

Once, Castiel had to prevent a cheated-on spouse from killing his wife and her lover. That was interesting and the police were all too happy to take the man into custody after Castiel shot him in the leg and disarmed him in order to protect the unfaithful spouse.  

Dean had been furious until Castiel realized Dean’s anger was only fear in disguise. Since then, Dean insists on tagging along if the situation might become dangerous or if his particular skills might be needed. 

Like tomorrow. 

“You can get away tomorrow? The last of what I need is a formality, if we can get in and get out clean tomorrow, I’ll be able to deliver my files to the police by the end of the week,” Cas questions and Dean nods so he continues until a loud throat clear from the side interrupts him. Cas turns to look to Sam, squinting against the bright sun behind the younger Winchester. 

“As your attorney…I must insist you don’t have these conversations in front of me,” Sam scowls and stares Castiel down. 

A slow smile spreads across Castiel’s face. Sam’s right. Plausible deniability of Cas’ breaking and entering and all that. “I was just talking about shopping for something to wear on our wedding night,” Cas lies but he achieves the desired effect of Sam gagging and pretending to be sick. 

Sam waves them off. “Alright, you sickos. Now that I’m scarred by that mental image, I have a date to get ready for,” Sam says as he folds up his chair and gathers his things, shaking his head as Cas and Dean both grin at the blush creeping up Sam’s cheeks. 

“Dinner on Tuesday?” Dean asks Sam as the younger man stands and slides his bag over his shoulder. 

“With Ellen and Jo?” Sam grins. “Wouldn’t miss it” 

“Awesome” Dean nods. 

“You two be careful. Now is not the time to be taking risks…” Sam sends Cas a pointed look before turning back to Dean with a hand propped on his hip. 

“We’re just going shopping” Dean protests with a roll of his eyes. They all know he and Cas aren’t going shopping. But, Sam was right. He can’t know the details of what they’re planning. Sam understands that sometimes, the best way to protect people is to break the law a little, but as their attorney, he cannot know the details. Which is fine. 

“Just be safe,” Sam gives them both one more pointed look. “See you Tuesday,” He turns with a wave and trudges back to his car. 

Dean and Cas watch him go for a moment, Dean with a faint smile on his lips and Cas with a furrowed brow. “I’m so glad to have him back,” Dean ventures. “I’m so glad you gave me a chance,” Dean cocks a half smile when he turns to face Cas. 

Cas snorts a derisive laugh and shakes his head. “You ruined my career,” He says with a smile.  

Dean leans toward him with mischief in his eyes. “And you ruined mine,” Dean rumbles as he brushes his nose against the shell of Castiel’s ear before nipping lightly at his earlobe. 

Cas shudders and leans closer. He hums in thought as his eyes slip closed. “This is better.” 

“Damn right it is,” Dean agrees before slowly mouthing his way down Castiel’s throat. 

“We should go home,” Cas suggests as he tilts his head back to give Dean better access. He reaches across their chairs to run his hands over Dean’s bare chest, revealing at the feel of the sun warmed skin beneath his fingers. 

“We should,” Dean agrees but makes no move to get up. 

Cas chuckles and pushes Dean away. “Come on,” He stands, offering his hand to his fiancé. “There are so many horrible things I want you to do to me,” Cas leans forward to whisper in Dean’s ear and the man shivers at Cas’ darkened tone. 

Dean swallows hard and nods, not trusting his voice as he hurriedly begins to pack up their things. Luckily, they live just up the beach. Less than a five-minute walk. 

They make it in three and leave their chairs and towels in a heap on the patio just outside their back door in their haste to reach the bedroom. 

Dean pushes Cas down onto their soft mattress and immediately crawls over him, smothering Castiel’s laughter with a heated kiss. 

Cas groans and pushes up against Dean’s soft touch, wordlessly begging for more. “Dean,” He gasps when the man’s talented fingers begin to tug on Cas’ swim shorts and brush over his erection in the process.  

Cas is certain he will never tire of this. Dean knows his body like no one else ever has, and he proves it on a near-daily basis. “Please,” Cas whines, bucking his hips to help Dean in his task. 

Dean stares down at Cas with adoration sparkling in his mossy green eyes. The crow’s feet gathering at the corners of those eyes when Dean smiles never fail to take Cas’ breath away. 

Dean doesn’t give Castiel long to admire the view, he’s soon swooping down to claim Cas’ lips in a messy and need fueled kiss that seems to drag on for hours. Cas’ entire body tingles, but that doesn’t stop him from reaching to address the problem of Dean’s shorts still being on. Cas tugs and gives an unhappy groan when the offending fabric refuses to budge. 

Dean barks a laugh, making his glorious eye crinkles appear once more for Castiel’s viewing pleasure and Cas grins back as Dean shuffles to rid himself of the shorts. 

They both groan when Dean presses down, their bare erections rubbing together with delicious friction. Nope. Castiel will never tire of this. His hands roam over the broad expanse of Dean’s back, mapping out the lines that their mutual tormentor had left behind.  

There is something to be said about them both bearing similar scars.  

Dean dips forward to draw Cas into another kiss, tongue probing for entrance that Castiel readily grants. Dean tastes of the sunshine and a faint hint of rum from his sugary frozen concoction on the beach. Cas hungers for more of that taste. “Please, Dean,” Cas whines, bucking his hips suggestively. “Want you.” 

Dean smiles against Castiel’s lips. “As you wish,” He murmurs before trailing his kisses downward, sucking a faint mark against Castiel’s shoulder before continuing his trek.  

Cas gasps when Dean closes his teeth around the pert bud of his nipple before soothing the sting with his tongue and then his back arches from the bed when Dean sucks and nips his way down his torso, following the crisscrossing network of fine scars littering Cas’ body. Cas’ marks are still healing, and Dean keeps reminding him that one day most will barely be visible. Dean’s assurances and the man’s own scars are the only reason Cas is brave enough to visit the beach topless on some days. 

That and the magnificent wings covering his back. 

Cas lets his legs fall apart when Dean bumps his knees with his own, the motion has become well practiced between them and the familiarity brings its own sense of comfort. For as frenzied as they had felt on the beach, now that they’re home, in their own bed, Dean seems content to take his time taking Castiel apart. 

Dean nudges slick fingers between Castel’s cheeks, seeking the tight bud of muscle guarding his entrance. Cas gasps at the cool wetness of Dean’s touch but spreads his knees wider to give Dean more room to touch. “Dean,” Cas whines and Dean chuckles, carefully avoiding Castiel’s cock with his mouth. 

“Always so impatient,” Dean remarks warmly before kissing the jut of Cas’ hip. Dean quits teasing him then, opening Cas up quickly and pushing his knees up so Dean can sink in easily. 

Cas sighs happily at the stretch as he watches Dean above him. The other man’s mouth is open slightly and his eyes nearly glaze over with the bliss of Castiel’s body wrapped snugly around his cock. Cas smiles and bucks his hips, urging Dean to move but the green-eyed man only stares. “Come on, Dean,” Cas whines and wraps his fingers around Dean’s forearms. 

Finally, Dean gives a slight rock of his hips that has them both gasping in pleasure. “You want this?” Dean pulls out and pushes back in sharply, jolting Cas up the bed. 

“Please,” Cas squeezes Dean’s arms so he can push down against Dean’s steady rhythm. He rocks his hips as best he can to meet Dean’s thrusts, but his movement is too limited in this position. 

Dean is fine with that. He continues to move inside Castiel, staring down lovingly and being careful to hit that perfect spot inside of Cas as often as he can, until Cas is a writhing mess and begging for more. 

Still, Dean keeps up his slow and steady pace. 

“Dean,” Cas whines as his head drops back, pressing into the pillow and exposing the long column of his throat. Dean takes advantage of the exposed tanned skin and dips down to kiss at the juncture of Cas’ shoulder.  

Cas shudders with the tickling sensation of Dean’s scruff against his throat and barks a laugh just as Dean slams into him, harder than before. His laugh quickly turns into a quick gasp of surprise when Dean manages to hit that spot inside of him that sends the prickle of electricity shooting under his skin while his heart hammers wildly. “More,” Cas manages to gasp, clutching Dean’s arms tight enough to leave marks. 

Dean bites his lower lip and sweat glistens on his brow as he rocks into Cas over and over, as quickly as he can manage. “Almost there,” Dean grunts, letting Cas know how close he is, as if Cas had managed to miss the falter in Dean’s rhythm or the way he tucks his chin to watch his hard length slide in and out of Cas’ body. 

Dean always does that when he’s close.  

Cas clenches around Dean’s hard cock and loosens his hold on Dean’s arms. “Touch me,” Cas demands in a breathy whisper, much preferring Dean’s touch to his own. 

Dean flashes a devilish smile and hastens to comply, shifting his weight to rest mostly on his knees rather than his arms and his strong fingers wrap around Cas’ straining erection. “Like this?” Dean squeezes hard around the base of Cas’ cock and Cas gasps and bucks in Dean’s grip, struggling to get away from the pressure staying his climax. 

“Dean,” Cas whines, the word drawn out and desperate as he tries to bat Dean’s hand away. Dean’s movements have slowed, the man merely rocking into him now and looking down at Cas like he’s the most delicious thing Dean has ever seen. 

“Dean, please,” Cas is more than willing to beg. His climax simmers just below the surface, ready to surge forward at the first opportunity. He narrows his eyes into a squinting glare, trying to pout his way into getting what he wants. He bucks his hips once more, rocking and grinding against where their bodies are connected. 

Dean smiles down at Cas, watching the product of his torment until he decides they’ve both had enough. “Come for me,” Dean urges, loosening his grip and stroking Cas’ length. 

Cas gasps and clenches his eyes closed as his orgasm builds to unbearable levels. When Dean pulls back and snaps back in, keeping up the wonderous friction on his cock, Cas cries out as his cock begins to spurt between them. His spend slicks the way for Dean’s hand, creating a much easier glide for Dean to help him through. 

Dean’s pace quickens and his breath comes in pants as Cas basks in the aftershocks of his own orgasm. “Fuck, Cas,” Dean grates, his own orgasm spurred forth by Cas clenching around him. His motion slows as he presses forward, grinding against Cas his jaw slack and open through the peak of his climax. 

They remain still for a moment, both breathing heavily until Cas lets out a breathy chuckle that turns into a drawn-out moan when Dean rocks forward once again and brings his messy fingers to his lips and sucks them one by one into his mouth until they’re clean of Castiel’s come. 

Dean pulls back gently, letting his softening cock fall free with only a small gasp from Castiel at the sudden feeling of emptiness. Cas pats the mattress next to him, careful to move as little as possible to control the mess. They dispensed with condoms after both of their tests came back clean, and as much as Cas prefers the feeling of skin on skin, the mess afterward leaves everything to be desired. 

Dean drops to the bed with deep exhale and stares up at the ceiling with Cas catching his breath next to him. 

“I love you,” Cas mutters as his hand seeks out Dean’s. They’re both a sweaty mess and need their space, otherwise, Cas would have already plastered himself to Dean’s side. 

“Love you too, babe,” Dean says, turning his head to grin at Cas’ scowl. 

“You’re impossible,” Cas shakes his head with a breathy laugh as he halfheartedly swats at Dean’s stomach with the back of his hand. 

Dean’s grin widens. “But you love me.” 

Cas laughs and shakes his head. “I do.” 

Dean’s eyes go soft at Cas’ words, but his smile remains bright and happy. “I love the sound of those words,” Dean says as he props himself on his side to seek out the gleaming band on Castiel’s finger. Cas lets Dean have his hand, knowing the look on Dean’s face all too well. 

Dean fixates from time to time on the fact that Castiel wears the ring Dean put there. This easy domesticity is something neither of them ever thought they would have, and Cas is more than happy to let Dean have this moment to battle back his doubts. 

They fought hard for this and very nearly lost one another in the process. Life with Dean is nothing like Cas had ever imagined when he first learned who the man is.  

Dean is strong and full of righteous defiance, unafraid to take matters into his own hands no matter what the law might say. He is formidable and dangerous. He is loving and kind, tender and loyal.  

He isn’t perfect. No one is. But Dean Winchester is everything Cas has ever wanted and never knew he needed. 

Dean has irrevocably changed him and redefined Cas’ sense of justice along with what may be right or wrong. The lines aren’t as clear as the law seeks to make them. 

And that is something Cas can live with. 

He realizes now, laying here with Dean, covered in sweat and come, his heart swollen with contentment, that he may have been on a footpath to hell, but he’s found something so much better along the way.