“Take care of your sister.” Those words have been said to him quite a lot throughout the years, his father said those words, his mother did too, and so did Uncle Carver, but those words don’t and haven’t ever needed saying.
Though, no one tells him to take care of himself, well, almost no one, except for Anna, she has always been the exception. She always will be the exception.
He suddenly finds himself in a hallway. “How did I get here?” He wonders aloud, staring down the dark passageway.
He sees a man appear, whom he recognizes immediately as his father, a massive figure looming over him like he’s a small child again. “You let me down, Castiel.” He says, his voice echoing off the walls. “Anna is gone, how could you have let this happen?” He asks, voice dripping with anger that Castiel knows far too well.
“Father, I didn’t do anything wrong! I couldn’t stop her! I tried, but…” He trails off, his eyes hopelessly flicking up to his father’s face, he is, of course, wearing that ever stony expression that he saw every single day after their mother died.
“Useless child! You could never amount to anything, could you? Anna was always the smarter one, the braver one, and I was so much prouder of her, even though she wasn’t my own flesh and blood.” His father spits.
Castiel falls to the floor, his father advancing closer and closer. “You never did anything helpful, for me or for your mother, and that’s why she left on that last hunt!” He yells as Castiel shrinks away from him.
“And now you’re letting Anna do the same damn thing! She’ll die, and the one good thing you had in your life will be gone.” His father's voice echoes in his head, reverberating loudly. “No!” He tries to scream but the words won’t come out, he can’t even breathe.
He feels as if his lungs have disappeared, leaving him without air. “Father, please, help me!” He tries to beg, but the air is simply gone as the darkness swallows him.
He jolts awake, breathing heavily. He sits up, casting a look around the room, a dresser sits against the opposite wall, a table lies in the middle of the room, strewn with papers and an old, slightly cracked mirror is standing next to the dresser.
He sees the bottle on the nightstand and he remembers how he passed out last night, grimacing at the realization.
He suddenly hears a clink, almost as if something fell outside of his room. Eyes fixed on the door as he slowly slips out of his bed, grabbing his revolver from the nightstand and quickly turns the safety off. He sneaks up to the door, quickly pulling it open.
The door opens into the main room, it has a dirty kitchen - which he hasn’t bothered to clean in quite some time - in the left corner of the room, a flight of stairs leading downstairs on the opposite side of the room, plus a couch and a table which sit in the middle of the room.
Sitting on the couch back bent as she leans over, scrambling to pick up pieces of a disassembled revolver, is his sister, Anna, who must have been cleaning her revolver because there is a cloth sitting next to her on the couch. She sits up, triumphantly holding the pieces of the gun in her hands. She sees him, eyes flicking higher to meet his, the light brown color seems to almost light up.
“Cass!” She squeals, jumping up and running to wrap him in a hug. “Freckles!” He says, a tiny bit shocked but he hugs her back, putting a hand on her head and messing up her already fairly disheveled red hair.
She lets go of her death grip, a look of mock irritation spreads over her face. “Don’t call me that!” She says, punching his shoulder. He knows she loves it.
“I didn’t know you were coming back to town, if I did I would have cleaned up.” He says, gesturing vaguely towards the stacks of papers and books that lay forgotten on the table.
Anna laughs, a wide smile crossing her face. “No, you wouldn’t have.” He considers her words for a moment then laughs too, because, of course, she’s correct.
“Besides, this visit was a little… Unplanned.” She says, her smile faltering for a second. “What happened?” Castiel says almost immediately, hearing a worried tone edge into his voice. He feels the familiar protectiveness that comes from being an older brother, however, if anyone asks Anna, she would certainly say that he’s overprotective, but what does she know?
“Don’t be mad.” She says, not quite meeting his eyes. “I’ll make no promises.” He says, trying to catch her eyes.
“I screwed up my bounty.” She says, fidgeting nervously.
“Anna, what exactly happened? You’re being very vague.”
“Well, I was working with this other bounty hunter and were chasing this thief, he had an average bounty but it was still good money, we caught up to him after a few days, he wasn’t hard to subdue, I mean, we scuffled a bit, you know, the usual…” She says, trailing off.
He stays silent, not wanting to push her, he knows how well she responds to that.
“We took the guy in and the other bounty hunter - I think his name was Oscar - said he was gonna grab the bounty then we’d split it, so there I was, just waiting outside and when that Oscar jackass came out he just booked it! I chased after him but, of course, I was the one who actually had to fight the thief and I was bruised up, so I didn’t catch him.”
His first thought is to baby her, ask if she’s okay and to make her stay around so he can help her then promptly track down the asshole who hurt her and toss him in jail, possibly beat him up just a little bit. His second thought is to take her shoulders, shake her wildly and yell at her. Castiel just shakes his head, sighing. “So, you came back because you need money?” He asks, settling on his third thought and finally, she looks up to meet his eyes.
“Well, yeah, but I wanted to see you too!” She says, a little indignant. He pats her on the head. “It’s fine, Anna. I’m simply surprised you forgot the rule.” He says, teasing her a bit.
Immediately her face reddens, as she flops back down on the couch. “Yeah, yeah, I know, never let anyone you work with lay claim to the bounty if you don’t know them.” She says, pulling her knife out and polishing that too, leaving the pieces of her revolver scattered on the table.
“How long has it been since you had anything to eat?” He asks, studying her for a few seconds, he didn’t realize when he first saw her, but she looks exhausted, truly just worn out.
“A few days, I was heading back when I ran out of food and money, so…” She trails off, obviously a little embarrassed.
“Well then, we’re going to Gabriel’s, and we’ll try to find Uncle Carver too, he should be around there.” Her face immediately lights up at his words, bolting up and giving him a quick hug before running to the stairs.
“Hold up, Freckles.” He says, chuckling as she gives him a death stare. “Are you just going to leave your revolver here then?” He asks, gesturing to the pieces of her gun on the table. “It’s fine, I’m using the other one today, that one almost broke on me.” She says, gesturing towards the one on the table. “Fine, but also…” He trails off, gesturing to his bare feet and, of course, she rolls her eyes.
“Hey, wait, did you sleep in your clothes last night?” She asks, apparently just now noticing he’s wearing full clothing, except for his jacket and boots.
He shrugs. “I was working.” It’s not a complete lie, he was working, then he decided a bottle of whiskey was more interesting.
She raises an eyebrow but doesn’t say anything more about it. “I’ll wait downstairs.” She says, hurrying down the stairs. He walks back to his room, searching for his boots, he finds them discarded next to the bed and slides them on.
He also finds his jacket tossed haphazardly over a sketchbook that he doesn’t recognize. He picks it up, examining the dark leather it then quickly realizing it’s Anna’s from when she was little from the scrawl on the front reading. ‘Anna’s no tuching’. He smiles to himself at her spelling, she always had trouble with it.
He opens the sketchbook gently, wondering why it was on his desk… Then he remembers moving in, it must have been in a box with a few of the other things from their childhood. He looks at the different drawings, all of them are adorable, little trees and horses, sheriffs and cowboys, and one of their family, their names are scrawled messily above the heads of their drawn counterparts.
Uncle Carver, Gabriel, Anna, and Cass are all names written on the page, however, Castiel smiles at the fact that there’s a heart right next to his figure on the paper. There’s one more word written above all of them. ‘Family’ His heart melts and he closes the sketchbook, setting it gently on the desk. He’ll give it back to her… Eventually. He makes his way into the main room towards the stairs.
He walks down the stairs. His living area is above where he works, the Sheriff’s station, with the single holding cell that never had anyone in it. They never really had the budget to expand, or the need either.
Anna is sitting in his chair, feet propped up on his desk, papers be damned. She grins and stands up at the sight of him. “You ready?” She asks. He watches as she bounces up and down on the balls of her feet, poorly hiding her excitement, though, he doubts she’s actively trying.
He chuckles. “Yes, Freckles, I’m ready.” Even with his teasing, she still beams at him and bolts out the door. He grabs the saddle and reins which he left on his desk, the lead rope is outside and follows Anna out the door. He is immediately hit by the chill of the early morning air, shivering despite his heavy jacket.
His chestnut Missouri Fox Trotter named Nora is tied up outside the station, pawing at the ground.
He hasn’t taken Nora out for a ride in a while, which he feels a little guilty about but there had really been no need to take her out, though, Castiel knows he really should have. Nora is a quite beautiful mare, he was so grateful when Uncle Carver gave her to him and he still is, maybe one day he’ll repay his Uncle… Even if it is in some tiny way.
Anna’s has a similarly beautiful gray horse, but in a wilder sort of way seeing as her horse is a Mustang, which is a notoriously hard breed to catch yet she had still managed it, forging a bond with this wild horse she named Jack.
Jack is tied next to Nora and as soon as Castiel walks out he sees Anna stroking Jack’s neck gently. Castiel has always been fascinated by Anna’s empathy and understanding towards animals, the bonds she can forge with them, he has never been as good with animals as she is.
He walks over to Nora and begins to put her saddle on. “Where is Uncle Carver anyways?” Anna asks, checking Jack’s saddle which she must have left on before basically breaking into the station. “He’s visiting Gabriel over in Blackwater Ridge,” Castiel says, finishing up checking Nora’s saddle and stirrups, once he’s satisfied with them, he pulls himself up.
“Has Gabriel given up on Blackwater Bar yet?” Anna says, chuckling. “Not quite yet.” He laughs. “Damn, I still owe you money then.” She says with a wink. They had made a bet a few years ago when Gabriel had first opened his bar about how long it would take him to get tired of owning it, Anna had bet a few months, Castiel believed that he wouldn’t give up at all, so after three months they had called it but he told her that if he gave up in the next few years he’d let her out of the bet, however, to his delight, Gabriel is still working hard.
He grins at his sister. “That you do.” Anna also gets on her horse and they start riding. Blackwater Ridge isn’t very far, it only takes about ten minutes to ride there. They talk and joke as they ride, occasionally bringing up a few childhood memories, of course, only things after Uncle Carver took them in, everything before that…
“Do you remember when Gabriel told Uncle Carver that his dream was to own a brothel?” Anna says, laughing. “Yes! I thought he was about to string Gabriel up!” Castiel says, remembering that day, what a vivid memory.
“Glad he settled on bar owning instead,” Anna says, a big grin on her face. “Mm, if he hadn’t, I fear Uncle Carver would have destroyed him,” Castiel says, matching her grin. They talk a little more before they’re in Blackwater.
Blackwater Ride is a relatively busy town, however, it’s not so busy that you couldn’t ride through easily. They tie their horses up outside of Gabriel’s bar and step inside. The inside of the bar is slightly dark, even though the sun shines brightly outside and the bar is, like always, full of people, regardless of the early hour. The bar is on the left side of the tavern, multiple stools sit in front of the bar and almost all of them are full.
Castiel searches the crowd for a moment before he hears a voice calling out his sister’s name. “Anna!” A man with long sandy hair runs up to them and wraps Anna in a hug. “Hey, Gabe.” She says, laughing. Their ‘brother’, Gabriel, releases her and sees Castiel too. “Cass!”
He moves to hug Castiel too and he begrudgingly accepts, smiling a tiny smile to himself, he has missed Gabe despite them being so close. Gabriel is busy and so is Castiel, even though Caelum - the town he is the Sheriff of - is fairly small, he has to handle the constant complaints of the farmers in the area that the local bar gets too rowdy, or that people are terrorizing their cattle when it’s truly just coyotes.
Gabriel lets go of him, still beaming at the pair of them. “Is Uncle Carver here?” Castiel asks, quickly getting to the point so he’s spared another crushing bear hug from Gabriel. “Yep! He’s in the corner playing a quick game and hell if he ain’t drinking his poker buddies under the table.” Gabriel says with a wink.
Castiel chuckles, he knows how much Uncle Carver can drink, his tolerance is almost unearthly. He shrugs off the thought when Anna shoots him a look that says just about the same thing he had been thinking.
Someone calls Gabriel from behind the bar. “Gabe!” The voice calls. “Coming!” Gabriel turns to them with an apologetic look on his face, almost a puppy dog face and, if Castiel is going to be completely honest, it’s not bad, Anna definitely helped him perfect it, one flash of those puppy dog eyes and she could get anyone to do anything.
“Gotta go, apparently bar owning is more stressful than it looks,” Gabriel says, chuckling, he’s said something of the sort almost every time they’ve seen him since he opened Blackwater Bar. “You ain’t leaving until we hang out, Annie.” He says, grinning at her. “You got a deal, but honestly, you may be a bit embarrassed, I’ll drink you under the table.” She says with a wink, positively giddy as Gabriel shakes his head, laughing wildly.
Though she is correct, Anna had somehow, even though she’s not related to Uncle Carver by blood - the pair of them are not related to him in any way, regrettably - had inherited his inhuman tolerance, whereas Castiel had certainly not. He had once passed out after just a few shots of an admittedly questionable beverage, because, of course, Gabriel had mixed it, from that day on he vowed never to take something Gabriel offered him without knowing exactly what it contains.
Gabriel runs off, leaving Anna and Castiel to weave through the mess of tables and chairs to get to Uncle Carver, whom Castiel had spotted in the corner moments earlier. Uncle Carver is sitting at a table with three other men, all looking fairly tipsy, other than Uncle Carver, of course. “Well, I’m out, Edlund.” One of the men says. The man who spoke has brown hair mixed with gray, partially hidden under a hat.
“Another fold? Typical, Barney, typical.” The one sitting to the left of Uncle Carver says to the man who had spoken first, Barney, apparently. “Uncle,” Castiel says, voice a little quiet, he learned years ago to be as quiet as possible when Carver Edlund is in the middle of a game.
Uncle Carver turns around in his chair, a sly smile on his mouth which Castiel returns, seeing the amount of money in front of his uncle, he realizes how badly he must be kicking these men’s asses.
It takes Uncle Carver a few seconds, but he spots Anna behind him, who looks practically giddy, Uncle Carver stands up and is immediately wrapped in a bear hug by Anna, but, to his credit, he seems to be squeezing her just as tightly.
They let go of each other, both looking a little out of breath. Uncle Carver and Anna are both grinning. “Been awhile, kiddo.” Uncle Carver says, ruffling her hair. Castiel smiles despite himself, he loves seeing Anna smile like that, he loves seeing how much this substi- He cuts himself off, not wanting to think about Uncle Carver and Gabriel like a substitute for their real family, but sometimes it’s hard to get that thought out of his head.
He immediately kicks himself for these thoughts. Damn it. He thinks, angry. He knows how much worse Anna has this, she’s had three different families in her life, tossed around like a ball, family to family, even if Castiel has been by her side the entire time it still must hurt like hell, losing two families, losing just the one had almost killed him and he still hasn’t completely recovered. I can’t imagine what it must be like for her…
“How long ya been back?” He asks, his grin never faltering and his game of poker all but forgotten. “Just a few hours,” Anna says, taking no notice of the downright lecherous stares of the men who their uncle had just been playing with, however, Castiel shoots them each a death glare, to his credit, the only one not staring as if he’s undressing her with his eyes, is Barney.
“All right, then. I would come and spend the day with you kids, but I have to pack.” Uncle Carver says, apologetically. “Where are you going?” Castiel asks, finally piping up. “Same old Sheriff gathering but hell if most of ‘em ain’t retired by now.” Uncle Carver says, pulling the hat off his head, revealing his hair, which used to be a light shade of brown but is now streaked with gray.
Uncle Carver trains his blue eyes - eyes that seem to have bottomless wisdom, eyes that truly give away his age and somehow, betray his actual age at the same time - on Castiel. The gathering he’s talking about is the same one he’s been going to since before Castiel and Anna came to live with him.
A bunch of the older Sheriffs who may have worked in neighboring towns or worked/trained together in the past, get together to reminisce, check in with each other and on occasion they would help on the farm they meet at, just a group of old friends drowned in memories and whiskey.
“You kids should make yourselves useful while I get my shit together.” Uncle Carver chuckles, he doesn’t typically curse, ever, but in his increasing age, he’s found occasional swearing to be quite cathartic, apparently. “How can we help?” Anna immediately pipes up, overly enthusiastic.
“I got a buncha wanted posters, just do the old sort and stick.” Uncle Carver says, finding his bag somewhere on the floor, pulling out a stack of dirty papers, a hammer, and a few nails, handing the items to Anna. “Edlund, you still in?” Asks one of the men from the game. “He’s sorry he interrupted your bonding moment.” Barney quickly adds, finishing the other man’s sentence, something tells Castiel that Barney is used to covering the guy in situations like this.
“Yeah, yeah, don’t get your panties in a twist.” Uncle Carver says. Castiel has always found it strange how people refuse to call his uncle by his first name and insist upon calling him ‘Edlund’. He doesn’t get much time to dwell on it before Anna is shoving half of the stack of papers in his hands.
“Nice to see you, Uncle!” Anna says, before shooing Castiel out the door to hang up the wanted posters. “Anna, we do have to hang some of them in the bar-” Castiel is cut off by Anna taking off down the street, practically skipping. “Wait up, Freckles!” He shouts, running after her.
He finally catches up at one of the wanted boards, as she is already hanging up one of the posters, humming happily. “You’re far too overjoyed today.” Castiel mumbles, a little irritated at having to run, despite being a Sheriff, he prefers riding to running any day.
“Is there something wrong with that?” Anna asks, still smiling widely. “Well, actually, now that you mention it…” He grumbles, trailing off. “Aw, you’re just grumpy!” She says, chuckling as she takes another wanted poster from her stack and hanging that one up too. “Are you not looking at them? We do have to sort a few of them.” Castiel says. They usually hang the most important ones in the prominent locations, hanging the less important ones, like petty theft and things like that in the less desirable positions.
“I am! Sort of.” Anna says, looking at the two she just hung up, one of them is a known bank robber and the other is a lecherous man, who, according to the wanted poster, is known for going from town to town stealing articles of women's clothing.
Castiel gives her a knowing look. “Fine, fine!” She says, sitting down on the sidewalk, setting her papers next to her and using the typically ‘sort and stick’ strategy. The sort and stick strategy is exactly what it sounds like, you just sort them, most important to least important and then stick them up on the board.
He goes through his own pile, the typical string of petty thieves, bandits and a few other, stranger crimes which catch his eye, until he lays eyes on a rather large wanted poster, a picture of a rather handsome man beams back at him. When did men who look like they could get anything they want anyway start committing crimes? But wow if the picture does this man any justice at all the crime world is about to be fairly shaken up. He thinks.
His eyes flick down to check what kind of crime he committed and he feels as if his heart stopped. ‘Dean Winchester, found guilty on charges of theft, arson, and murder, taking the lives of dozens in the fire of Lawrence, Kansas.’ The title reads.
No, no, no! This cannot be correct… He feels completely shocked and he guesses he must look as shocked as he feels because, after a few seconds, Anna shakes his shoulder. “Cass, you okay?” She asks, voice full of concern.
“Anna…” He says, voice barely above a whisper. “Cass, you’re really scaring me now! What’s wrong?” She asks, eyes boring into his very soul. He holds up the poster, allowing her to get a better look. He watches her face as she reads, her face seems normal for a few seconds until she finally realizes.
“No, no, no, that’s crazy!” She says, voice barely above a whisper. “Anna, I-” She cuts him off. “No! The fire was an accident, that’s all, an accident, they got it wrong.” She says, standing, eyes hard and hands clenched into fists.
Castiel swallows and nervously stands. “Anna, I don’t think it’s a mistake.” He breathes, trying his hardest to meet her eyes. “Son of a… No!” She says, defiant. “Anna…” He says, his voice sounding quiet and weak, he feels like he is going to punch anyone so much as bumps into him right now.
“It’s not possible!” She says, practically shouting now. He watches as people begin to stare at them. “They told us, Cass, they told us it was an accident!” She yells, eyes filling with tears. Castiel just wraps his arms around her, letting her cry into his shoulder. He strokes her hair, trying to calm her, even if he can’t calm himself.
Lawrence, that was the name of Anna’s town, the one that burned down, the one that led her to stay with him, the one that destroyed both of their families. He feels himself being pulled into his mind, memories of that night.
“Castiel, stay here.” His father had said. “I’ll be back soon, take care of your mother.” Then, he bolted out the door. His mother had only waited for seconds before wrapping his tiny nine-year-old body in a hug, telling him how much she loved him, then running to follow their father, who, obviously, didn’t want her to come with but he supposes he must have allowed it.
Castiel doesn’t know how long he waited there, it felt like eternities but he knows it couldn’t have been more than two hours before his mother was trudging in, looking weak, tired and covered in soot, with a bundle of clothing and soot in her arms, that bundle was actually a very small, weak looking child with bright red hair.
He had looked around for his father, but upon making eye contact with his mother his heart sunk in his chest, a realization that his father may never come back. His mother had set the girl down, helping her to stand.
Castiel had then just offered the young girl, whose eyes had been bright with fear, a hand. “Let’s clean you up, okay?” He had said, it was an offer more than anything else, and after what seemed like hours, she finally took his hand and simply nodded.
He’s jolted back to reality by Samandriel, a young deputy of Blackwater Ridge, clearing his throat. Samandriel wears a very apologetic expression on his young face, gesturing loosely towards the crowd that has formed around them.
Castiel feels anger bloom in his chest, like a fire curling and spreading through his body. These people think our pain is a spectacle, something worth watching, our lives are not entertainment! He thinks, casting a look around the crowd and glaring at every single one that makes eye contact.
“Come on, Castiel.” Samandriel says, jerking his head towards their horses. The wanted poster is still clutched in his fingers. Castiel simply nods in response to Sam’s words, he realizes that Samandriel is still talking, but he can’t be bothered to register his words, because, at that moment, he’s trying desperately to process the fact that the night everything would forever be ruined for his family only happened because of one man.
He backs away from Anna, just enough so that he can look into her eyes, seeing the red puffiness, her cheeks, which are very obviously tear-stained and the fact that he has a wet spot on his vest from where she was crying on his shoulder doesn’t help, however, he can’t be bothered to give a shit.
He simply blocks Anna from the view of the majority of the crowd as they follow Samandriel back to their horses. “Are you two okay?” Sam asks as soon as they get out of the earshot of the mob of people that had surrounded them moments earlier.
Castiel wants to explain how everything they have ever known and trusted had just blown up in their faces, how this man, by the name of Dean Winchester, had ruined their lives and irreparably damaged both of them, but he doesn’t, he doesn’t say a thing, he just simply nods.
“You two should probably leave, we’re having a little issue with some of the farmers and the barflies.” Samandriel says, the sweet look on his innocent, young face is familiar, one that Castiel had once worn himself and one that Anna still wears, even though it’s fading with every passing day.
Samandriel lifts the hat off of his dark brown hair, blue eyes fixed on the pair of them. “Yes, I think we’ll leave,” Castiel says, looking nervously at Anna, who refuses to make eye contact with either of them. “Could you tell Unc- Sheriff Edlund, that we left early? There’s a stack of wanted posters that we left on the ground back there, I could go get them-” Samandriel cuts him off. “No, it’s all right, Castiel, just take off, I can handle things here,” Sam says with a little bit of pride and Castiel simply nods in response.
Samandriel has always been very proud of his position as a deputy, which is well deserved because Sam works hard, always going the extra mile to assist anyone and everyone, a truly kind soul. Castiel has known Samandriel for many years, since Sam was old enough to dream about being a Sheriff, just like Uncle Carver, the man he admires above all others.
“Goodbye, Sam.” He says, mustering up a smile, however insincere it is, while Anna stares at her shoes. He leads his sister down the street, towards their horses, while trying to not attract any unnecessary attention.
They reach their horses and quickly check them before riding out in a hurry. They’ve been riding for about five minutes when Anna finally pipes up. “Hey, Cass?” She asks, turning to stare him in the eyes, her rich brown on his sparkling blue. “Yes?” Castiel asks, eyebrows raised. “We need to find that son of a bitch who ruined our lives and put a bullet in his head,” Anna says, and for once, Castiel agrees with her.
When they finally arrive in Caelum the sun is shining brightly directly over their heads and Castiel realizes that he must’ve gotten up rather late. I should probably be more careful about how much alcohol I consume… He thinks, sighing out loud.
Anna is quiet, uncharacteristically quiet, though, that may just be a side effect of realizing that the fire that destroyed your life and made you an orphan wasn’t an accident and a murderous jackass started it on purpose.
They get off their horses and tie them up in silence, barely looking at each other. This can’t be true… He wants to believe that, so desperately he wants to believe that they simply got it wrong, that it wasn’t Lawrence it was some other tiny town in Kansas, but he simply can’t, because he knows mistakes like those aren’t common enough to justify it.
As soon as they walk into the Sheriff’s station, Castiel realizes that they still haven’t eaten. He rubs the back of his neck, feeling rather foolish. “I just remembered that you still haven’t had anything to eat,” Castiel says, risking a glance at his sister, who, of course, does not meet his eyes.
“Oh, right,” Anna says in a voice so quiet that if he wasn’t right next to her he wouldn’t have been able to hear her. “There may be some food left in the kitchen upstairs.” He offers, knowing it’s a weak invitation, but she just nods and moves towards the stairs. “You coming?” She asks, still quiet, but loud enough for him to hear from his desk.
“I have to work, Freckles.” He says, giving her an insincere smile, however, he knows it probably looks more like a grimace. She laughs, equally as weak as his smile, the insincerity is clear. “Okay.” She says, simply, before heading up the stairs. He goes to the door and steps out into the heat of the early afternoon.
He makes it back to the Sheriff’s station as dusk is falling. He had to settle a dispute between two farmers over a cow, a single cow, it took him two hours before they finally agreed on who would keep the cow and that was only after Castiel had practically screamed at them that it Didn’t. Fucking. Matter.
He arrives at the old ramshackle station that he calls home, quickly dismounts from Nora’s back and holds the reins in his hands, affectionately stroking her head. Her strokes her neck and the space behind her ears, rewarding her for all her hard work.
He eventually pulls his hands away from her ears, slowly taking leading her towards the stables behind the Sheriff’s station. He pulls her into the stall next to Jack’s and removes her saddle, stroking her head once more before bolting the door to the stall and leaving.
By the time he is making his way back towards the Sheriff’s station the sun has set and by now, the wind has picked up, whipping at his clothing while he walks. He can’t wait to get into summer when the air is warm and… Suddenly, he remembers how close the anniversary of his mother’s death is and the realization hits him like a stampede.
He refuses to let himself dwell on it, because, honestly, he’s barely processing the fact that this man, Dean Winchester - and what a fitting name, Winchester, like a gun - is the reason his parents are dead.
He clenches his fists, desperately wanting to release his anger, practically daring any criminal to get in his way, however, none does and he finally steps over the threshold of the station. He casts a look around, noticing Anna is nowhere to be found.
He cautiously makes his way up the stairs as he worries about what she could be doing right now. He knows Anna, she gets reckless and self-destructive at times like these, he knows he’s no better, but hell if he’s going to let Anna repeat his foolish mistakes.
He expects to see her on the couch, passed out with a bottle of whiskey clenched in one hand and a revolver grasped in the other, so the sight of her, pacing, holding papers in her hands and mumbling under her breath, is shocking, to say the least.
There are papers strewn all over the table in front of her - disassembled revolver nowhere to be found - and some of them are even on the couch. He watches as she crumbles up one of the pieces of paper in her hands and tosses it to the wooden floor.
He clears his throat and she turns to face him, stopping her incessant pacing for a moment. “Okay, listen, I may have found something.” She says, jumping directly to the point without preamble. “Anna, what is all of this?” He asks, moving closer to examine the papers.
“Papers!” She says, a little too brightly for someone who just had their world turned upside down just a few hours ago. “I see that, but I meant, why are they here?” He asks, picking one of the papers up and seeing that it’s a wanted poster, a very specific wanted poster with a hauntingly familiar face grinning up at him, mocking him.
She snatches the wanted poster out of his hands, nearly dropping the stack of papers in her hands. “I told you, Cass, we’re going to find this son of a bitch,” Anna says. Her voice is fierce and angry.
He nods. “I know, Anna, but you need time to process everything, I don’t think diving straight into this is really a-” She cuts him off, shouting at him. “Aren’t you angry?!” She fixes him with a glare and he can almost see a blazing fire in her eyes.
“Of course I am, but that doesn’t mean I’ll turn into a fool over it!” Castiel says, his own voice rising in volume. “This bastard is the reason our parents died!” She shouts, stalking up to him, getting so close that he’s worried she might punch him.
“I know, Anna.” He says, voice softening at the desperate look in her eyes. “He… We have to find him, Cass.” She says, voice low as tears fill her eyes, and instead of punching him, she falls against his shoulder and he wraps his arms around her.
“We will. I promise.” He says, kissing the top of her head. “However, not today, or tomorrow even. We need to give it some time and after we have, we’re going to make him pay, Anna.” He says, voice still soft but the utter seriousness that he feels is echoed in it.
“We’ll make that bastard pay, but for now? I say we ignore the paperwork, sit down and imbibe copious amounts of alcohol. Drunkenness is optional.” He says, pulling away just enough to smile down at her, and she smiles back, however, this time, he’s sincere and he thinks, maybe, just maybe, she is too.
“That’s a plan I can get behind.” She says, slowly sliding out of his arms and moves to clear some of the papers off the couch. “What did you find, anyway?” Castiel asks, knowing his curiosity could get him in serious trouble with her, but he really does want to know.
“Not much,” Anna says, still clearing the papers from the table and sofa, stacking them in a pile, it’s not exactly neat, but it’s out of the way. “I found some references to similar fires that have been happening over the past seventeen years, and even a few before that.” She says, glancing over at him.
“That would make him quite old.” Castiel decides to point out, thinking about the fire. “Not that old, assuming he was in his early twenties when he started this whole thing he’d only be thirty-seven.” She says, finally satisfied with her work of clearing the massive amounts of paper from the couch and they are now piled high in multiple stacks on the table.
“This wanted poster image makes him look…” He trails off, gesturing vaguely. “Young.” He finishes unceremoniously. “Cass, the other possibility is ridiculous! If he was any younger than his twenties he would have been a teenager when this started and it goes back nearly twenty-five years.” Anna says, running her fingers through her bright hair.
“You’re correct, however, let’s think about the other option,” Castiel says, moving to sit down on the now paper-free couch. “Twenty-five years, so if he was fifteen when this started…” He says as Anna scoffs loudly.
“He would be forty, or, if he was in his early twenties, forty-five to fifty, now,” Castiel says, picking up the wanted poster and gesturing to it. “Does this man look forty or older?” He asks. “No, but it could be an old sketch.” She says, her voice sounding very reasonable, however, the way her nose is wrinkled in disgust at the sight of the paper makes her anger and distaste for this Dean Winchester clear, which he can’t say he disagrees with.
“It could be, but think about it. We’ve never seen this poster before in all our years of working and helping Uncle Carver, so that suggests the wanted poster is fairly new, meaning that the sketch is probably recent enough that we could still recognize him, therefore only a few years off.” He finishes, tapping the paper with the tip of his finger.
He watches as she simply nods and topples down next to him on the couch. “I need a drink.” She says as she pinches the bridge of her nose, looking exhausted. “I could do with one as well.” He says, chuckling as he stands to get the whiskey.
They sit and drink until everything is warm and fuzzy around them. Castiel grins as Anna talks about an old hunt she went on where an outlaw with a rather sizeable bounty decided to get drunk and walk about the streets, yelling some nonsense about how much money he was worth.
After a while, they both quiet down, drinking slowly in a most likely futile attempt to stay awake. “Do you remember the first time we met Uncle Carver?” Anna asks suddenly. “Yes. Don’t you?” He asks, eyeing her, just sober enough to keep his voice from slurring too much. “Vaguely.” She laughs, the sound is warm but it sounds somewhat bitter.
“What were you, like thirteen?” She asks, turning to her left to meet his eyes. “Mmm.” He takes another swig from his drink. “And you were a mouthy ten-year-old.” He says with a wink. “I was not!” She says, flushing.
He laughs at the red color in her face almost matching her hair. “You most certainly were!” He says, laughing harder than he has in months. Anna could always make him laugh even when she was a child. What a strange ability. He thinks, smiling to himself.
“And do you remember Gabriel?” Castiel asks. “Oh my God, yeah! He was so pissed when he heard that Uncle Carver was adopting us!” Anna says, beaming at him and laughing quite hard.
“He eventually got used to us, though.” He says, fixing his eyes on the ceiling remembering Gabriel’s indignant expression when they had moved in with little other than the clothes on their backs.
“Yeah, I don’t think he wanted to like us… At all.” She says, slowly pulling her legs up onto the couch and leaning her head on Castiel’s shoulder. She pulls her knees to her chest, head still on his shoulder.
“Probably not.” He says, wrapping his arm around his sister. “I’m surprised Uncle Carver even took us in all those years ago, who would want two kids burdened with the loss of their parents?” He asks, however, there’s no good answer.
“I think Uncle Carver was a little broken too, Cass.” She says, her voice barely above a whisper at this point. He nods, remembering how much Uncle Carver used to drink, how much he still drinks.
Silence falls again as they both drink. He allows the quiet to surround him like a blanket as he holds his sister. “I miss them,” Anna whispers. “Who?” He asks, tilting his head and casting a glance at his sister.
“Mom and Dad.” She says, slowly meeting his eyes and hers are shiny, she looks like she’s on the brink of tears. “I know they were only my parents for a year but…” She trails off. “I know, Freckles, I know.” He says, holding her tighter.
“I remember when Mom brought you back. You were all covered in soot, dirt, and grime, yet you didn’t look like you were going to cry, you just looked tired and scared, even back then, you were a tough kid,” Castiel says, feeling the heat of tears slowly welling up in his eyes, he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. I’m not going to cry. He thinks.
“I remember extending a hand to you and for what seemed like forever, you didn’t take it, until, finally, you did. I’ve been thinking about that day a lot recently because truly, that was the day everything changed.” He says and before he even finishes Anna is slipping an arm around him.
He knows it can’t be comfortable, her arm being pressed between his back and the couch, but the small touch reminds him of her support, how much she’s always supported him and that means everything to him. The pair of them stay quiet for a few minutes, just holding each other because they’ve only ever had each other.
“Hey, Cass?” Anna asks, her voice soft and quiet.
“For what?” He asks, truly confused and he looks at her, tilting his head as he meets her light brown eyes.
“For taking care of me after Dad left, I mean, you could have gone with him, or left me to fend for myself, but you didn’t…” She says, trailing off and by her eyes, she looks like she’s about to break down and sob. “Anna, there’s nothing to thank me for.” He says, squeezing her a little tighter.
“Yeah, there is.” She says, finally breaking eye contact. After a few seconds, he can feel her start to cry, her shoulders shaking gently. He feels tears welling up in his own eyes and all he can do is squeeze her tight, making sure she knows she’s not alone.
After that, they sit in silence, arms around each other, and just drink until, eventually, the world fades into a dark blackness all around them.