When Dean went back into the bedroom, Sam was still sitting up. The covers were pushed into his down off him, and his laptop was resting on his knees. Fingers were flying across the keyboard, typing at a speed Dean could barely comprehend.
“Sammy, it’s nearly midnight, and you have school tomorrow. Time to hit the hay.” His younger brother looked up, long bangs obscuring his hazel eyes. Eyes that were currently open in huge, watery, puppy-dog mode.
“But Dean, this letter is due by this Saturday, and if it’s not finished they won’t accept my application. And I’m really hoping for this one.” He sounded so excited, so full of hope for the future.
“Which is it?”
“Stanford.” He said, a little sheepishly. “I know it’s a long shot, but if I did manage to get in, maybe with those other scholarships I won...” his voice trailed off.
Dean could only sigh. He hated that he couldn’t afford to send Sam to college. Even if he worked everyday, dawn to dusk, it wasn’t enough to get just the tuition, never mind room and board, food. It was just too much. So they’re relying on scholarships, but without Sam playing a sport, a full ride was basically out.
“Go to bed, Sammy. You still have a few days, and don't you have that big test tomorrow?”
His brother sighed, shutting the laptop mournfully and handing it to Dean. “Yeah. Only in AP ethics would we be given a quiz the Tuesday after midterms.”
Dean shook his head. “Yep, only you.” He watched Sam go deep under the covers, and shut off the light. “‘Night, bitch.”
He shut the door gently, before walking back out into the living area. They couldn’t really afford anything bigger than this one bedroom apartment, but it was their home. Along with the Impala, of course. The only downside was that there was only one bed, which meant he was perpetually on couch duty.
Sam used to bitch about it, but enough stern ‘nos’ had seemed to finally get through his head. So he made up the sofa every night. It wasn’t so bad.
He tucked in the bottom sheet, before draping the scratchy blanket on top. He fluffed the pillow and laid down.
Pulling the phone out of his pocket, he checked that the sound was all the way up and the ringer was on. He really needed to wake up if someone called him.
A few seconds later and all the lights were off and Dean finally went to sleep.
His phone's ringing woke him up. He blinked blearily a few times, before fully registering what had awakened him. When he finally heard the loud buzzing, he was sitting bolt upright.
Reaching out, he looked at the number. It was from the night supervisor, and he quickly hit the answer button.
“Man, high risk. You up for it?” The woman answered with no hesitation. Not that he blamed her. The last thing they needed was to take too long and lose the guy.
“Yeah. Yeah, just put him through.” He turned on the light and ran a hand over his face. A quick glance at the TV’s clock showed that it was 3:37 am. Way too early for any reasonable person to be up. But no one who called this number could necessarily be named reasonable. He walked shakily over to the table and sat down.
He didn't understand. He wasn't slated for high risks. Yeah, he was pretty good at this, if he could say so himself, but he'd never been given a high risk case. He was too inexperienced, volunteering for around three months. He was instead given those who just those who wanted someone to talk to or who needed to call him instead of the police because of some issue in their lives. He'd heard beatings, and even had a few unfavorable phone calls despite their screening, but never a high risk.
It was the voice that had made his heart start beating. That low, soft voice. Almost as though he was scared to talk too loud, scared that something might happen. He'd heard that before, where people had to talk in voices so whispered he could barely hear them so no one else would. He'd also heard what had happened when they spoke up just a decibel too much.
But this man, he had a different tone in his voice. An inflection not of fear, but of calm. Something that was terrifying to him, sitting safe at his little dining table in his little apartment. It showed that the man had lost his sense of emotion, lost his sense of feeling and self and everything else that makes us human and vibrant and alive.
It showed this man was already dead.
The way the man had been speaking was as though he didn't know Dean was on the line. Just mutterings of words that sounded foreign to his ears. The man had been doing this since he picked up the call a few seconds before.
Dean took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves and put as much friendship and warmth into his words as he could. "Hello. What's your name?"
The man paused in his murmurs, and the line went silent for a moment. All Dean could hear on the other end was the soft sounds of wind passing by distantly. Somewhere probably outside, he filed away in his mind.
"Castiel." It was so quiet that for a second Dean thought he'd imagined it. Castiel.
"That's a nice name. Unusual. What is it, Arabic?"
"Ancient Canaanite." Dean nearly snorted, but managed to keep his composure. This one sure was odd. It didn't escape his notice how short the man - Castiel, he now knew - kept his sentences. Nor how vacantly they were said. He'd need to try and pull the guy back to reality.
He'd been on the phone with a guy once. He never told him his name, just how he was feeling: like life was a movie. He was watching himself make the call. Dean could do nothing but assure him that it was real and convince him to go to someone he loves. Luckily he had a wife and kids. He wasn't alone. He' sounded like this guy does.
He thought back to the things they'd told him back when he was training. Maybe that month of late nights spent staring at Sam's laptop and having his phone basically glued to his ear was actually worth something. Keep them talking and engaged in conversation. Don't let them slip back into whatever black hole was inside their heads.
"Is anyone around with you at the moment?"
Castiel sighed, his voice growing even more wistful. "There's people around us all the time, going through their lives. But no one I know. Although I guess I don't know anyone, not truly. That seems to be my curse."
God, the guy sounded like a poet. He'd make a great poet. With that deep voice. A thought in the back of his mind nagged him, saying 'if he even lives that long'.
"Ok, that's alright. Could you tell me where you are, Cas?" The nickname slipped out before he could stop it. Castiel was so long, so formal. "Can I call you Cas?"
The man made a slight noise, almost like a hum, that Dean took as approval, but beyond that stayed silent.
"Please, man. I really need to know. If you don't want me to, I won't tell anyone else, but I need to know where you are." There was silence on the other end again, and Dean's terror grew. Why was he given such a high risk case?
"It's so beautiful, you know? The stars in the sky, bright amid all that darkness." He sent a quick prayer that the guy wasn't high because, come on, the guy sounded pretty high. He didn't really know how to deal with that. "I always wished I had wings, to be able fly and look down on everyone below me. To watch and observe without anyone expecting anything. To just be free."
Yep, Dean was going with high. Or, just so overwhelmed his brain had short-circuited. So he guessed the distraction method wasn't going to work, nor the 'just tell me where you are and I totally won't call the police' plan either. He needed to do something different.
"That sounds great, Cas." His mind worked through possible things he could say, but everything seemed to vanish. He was talking to a guy who might kill himself. If he messed up, that could be it. He could be actively responsible for someone else's death.
He tried to keep the strain out of his voice, to keep his careful image of being a nice friend who's just here to talk. But then he just thought 'fuck this'. He was scared out of his mind. Maybe that could be used to his advantage.
"Man, I'm really terrified. You called this number. You know what it means, who I am. Just, please, tell me where you are. I don't have to tell anyone, just, I need to know you're safe." He took a deep breath, pouring all his emotions out into his next sentence. "I'm begging you, Cas."
He didn't care that his voice broke, that he probably sounded like every emotional teenage girl in the history of emotional teenage girls. He couldn't lose this man, not tonight.
This seemed to strike some chord in Castiel, and the man's next words were almost sad, but underlined with stress. "I'm sorry if I caused you any worry-" he paused, as though about to say his name, then realized he didn't know it.
"-Dean, then. If it will make you feel better I can tell you where I am currently located."
He noticed the subtle shift in tone, from how downright dopey and distant Cas had been earlier to this now formal and stiff version. But he didn't dwell on it, too overwhelmed with relief.
"Yes, please, Cas."
The man took a shaky breath, as though steeling himself. It was silent for a another few moments. "Wagner Park, Lebanon, Kansas."
Dean sighed quickly in relief. That was only a few minutes away from the station, and he could've screamed for joy. "Can I go to you?" It slipped out before he could stop it, leaving him stunned by his own words.
"Yes, that's acceptable, but only you. Please, no cops." The man's voice nearly broke on the second sentence, his breathing quickening. Something else Dean shoved into the filing cabinet that permanently hid in his memories. That was the most emotion he'd heard out of the man in the past five minutes.
He did need to call the police. He hated lying to the guy, especially when he sounded so fragile and hurt, but it was protocol for high risk. Once the guy manages to tell you where they’re at, call the police and send them. Keep them on the line until the cops get there, but once that happens, it’s no longer in your hands.
But something was itching him about this. Something that had made him defy protocols and say he was going to meet him. Something about the way the man had reacted to the mention of them made him worried. There was always one thing that pushed them to the edge in cases like this. Maybe whatever it had been for this guy was related to the cops?
He couldn’t just leave him alone, not like that.
He didn’t completely process making the decision, just that his hands were going to grab the Impala’s keys.
“Ok! Ok, it’ll take me about ten minutes to get there. Are you going to be good until then?” He waited apprehensively for the answer, pausing and standing above the kitchen counter.
“Yes, I think.”
He heaved out a huge sigh of relief. That bought him a few minutes. He ran out of the small kitchenette, towards the bedroom.
Sam was sleeping soundly on the bed, his long hair falling over his face. Dean gave him a quick once-over, before running out the front door.
“Where are you in the park?”
It took him less than half a minute to get to the bottom of the stairs taking them two at a time. The footsteps echoed loudly though the stairwell.
“By the lake.”
He pushed the crash bar and the door opened. The night’s air hit him immediately, biting through just his thin jacket. He hoped Cas was wearing more; it was frigid out.
“I’m going to stay on the line while I drive, but I have to put it down for a second while I get into the car. Will you be good?” He paused with his hand hovering above the handle.
He quickly shoved the latch down, and the door spring open. He sat down in the seat and looked at his phone. The call had only been running for five minutes.
He clicked out of the call and entered his mail. He typed out the address and the text of the letter into the box and sent it as quickly has possible. It was to his supervisor, detailing where Cas was and that the police needed to be called.
As he pulled the car out of the lot, he held the phone back to his ear. He could hear the soft crashing of waves, along with the soft muttering again.
“What’re you saying?” He said, before realizing his mistake. He added hastily, “If you want to tell me, I mean.”
Once again the whispering stopped, and that voice answered again. It was still flat, but now it had some inflection. As though the man was happy he was coming.
“It’s a prayer.”
“Are you religious?”
“In a way. My parents were. In fact, my name is from the angel of Thursday. But I personally never was. It just seemed like the right thing to do, given the situation.”
"Your family would never forgive themselves, if you, y'know, went through with it."
Castiel's reaction was immediate, and angry. "How do you know, Dean? You don't. You know nothing about me."
Dean’s head was swirling with questions, but he held his tongue. Shit, he shouldn't have brought up the guy's family. Bad move.
"Sorry for asking, buddy." There was silence for a moment, before he continued. "I was actually named after my grandfather.”
The man hummed again, a sign of acknowledgment.
Dean was unsure what to do next, what to say. Everything seemed forced, or treading way too close to the actual problem. And after what he'd just done, that was something they could avoid right now.
He could hear sirens coming through the phone’s speakers, and breathed a sigh of relief. The professionals were there, and things seemed to be looking a little better.
Except for the low moan that came from the phone.
“Cas? What’s happening? What's wrong?”
“No, no, no, no, no. They can’t be here. He can’t be here.” Suddenly Dean felt like he had made a huge mistake.
“It’s alright, ok? I promise, they’re just here to help you.” Rustling reached his ears, as though the guy was shifting position. He swore loudly, and pushed the car higher above the speed limit.
He’d said he’d come alone. He had heard the change in Cas when he mentioned the police. He shouldn’t have called them, or at least told them to stay back. He shouldn’t have done this.
"Cas, listen to me. I'm almost there. I just need you to go to the cops. I can meet you in a few minutes, and we can all talk together."
Maybe he just wanted to be alone for a while. Maybe he didn’t want anyone to know how close to the edge he’d gone. He kept that thought playing through his mind, pushing the other ones farther away.
He had to be fine.
He had to be.
But then the phone clicked. The call’d been hanged up.
Oh my god.
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
He made it to the park in three minutes. It took him one more to get over to the lakeside. He’d have pine needles in his hair for weeks, but he didn’t care.
He may have just killed somebody.