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The Angel of Notre Dame

Chapter Text

Prologue

(Castiel is 4 Years Old)

“Come on Cassie!” Gabriel called from the river. Castiel eyed the rushing water skeptically and scrunched up his nose. To his left, a cold hand rested on his shoulder.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.  Just do what Gabe and I showed you,” Anna smiled openly, miming swimming arms. “It isn’t all that difficult.  You’re strong Castiel and it’s lots of fun!”

Castiel always believed Anna, Gabe not so much, but Anna was honest.  At nearly five years old, Castiel knew that much.  If Anna thought Castiel could swim then it was a done deal. Castiel approached the river, little white peaks cresting the surface.  He shivered when the dark frigid water soaked his socked feet. 

“Castiel!” A panicked voice called from the bank.  

“Always the party pooper!” Gabe exclaimed.

Castiel turned to see his eldest brother Michael running toward him, the movement unbalancing Castiel’s numb feet.  He slipped on fell hard into the icy water.

Castiel surfaced a half second later, his mind blanked by the sudden shocking cold of the water.  The sound of heavy leather boots splashed across the shallows.   Michael charged into the river and pulled Castiel’s small frame to his body.  Fear melted from him as he was carried by his brother to the river’s bank.  Winded, Michael held Castiel close and asked short of breath, “Why were you in the river Castiel? It’s November!”

“Gabe’n Anna were teaching me s-s-swimmin’.  Today was gonna b-b-b-be my b-b-b-big t-t-test.” Castiel tried his hardest to speak clearly but he was shaking all over and he was so cold that he hurt all over too.  Pressing his face into Michael’s coat, Castiel tried unsuccessfully to keep from crying. Gabe would laugh at him now. Crying was for babies.

Michael’s pace quickened, they were on land now. “You still see Gabe and Anna? Is there anyone else you see?”

Castiel shook his head no, “Lucy left us.  She m-m-missed Raphael and M-M-M-momma t-t-t-too much so sh-sh-sh-she left.  Anna and G-G-Gabe, they p-promised to s-stay though.” Castiel felt his eyelids droop, he was cold and tired. Michael’s fast heartbeat drummed close to his ear.

“Castiel, stay awake here buddy, hey, kiddo, Cassie! We’re almost back home okay, I’ll make a fire and we’ll get you warmed up!” Castiel thought that sounded nice.  Maybe Michael would let him sit on his lap in front of a big crackling fire. And Papa could tell a story like he used to! Castiel wanted to do as Michael asked, he was a good boy, a good listener, better than Gabe or Lucy ever were.  The shivering was tiring though and his eyes slipped closed.

*****

 

A softly hummed yet familiar melody eased Castiel awake.  He still ached some but he was warmer now and burrowed closer to the person holding him in a cocoon of blankets.

“How is he?” Castiel recognized Papa’s voice.

“I think he’ll be alright now.” That was Michael talking.  He sounded closer than Papa, right above Castiel's head. “We need to do something soon Father.  I’m worried.  What if they were trying to kill him?”

Castiel heard a wooden chair dragged across the floor and a bony hand carded gently through his dark wavy hair.

“Michael, I can’t imagine they were trying to hurt him.  They’re children, his siblings, and they don’t feel the cold any longer. To them, today is like any other sunny day when you took them swimming.”

“He could have drowned! He almost froze!”

“You’re not like Castiel and I, you don’t see them, hear them.  Dammit Michael! It’s like they never died for us! Gabe and Anna are his brother and sister, my children!” Papa’s hand stopped its soothing motion and his voice pitched with anger soured by grief.

“And they are dead!” Michael said, his voice firm as he pulled Castiel tightly toward his chest.  Castiel let out a whimper and clenched his eyes closed tightly. Papa and Michael fought too much.  It always made his heart beat harder inside him and his knees get shaky. Why did they always fight? Had they fought so much before mama and the others left?

Michael rocked Castiel gently, whispering softly, “Shhh, it’s alright Castiel.  I’m sorry. You’re safe. Go back to sleep.”

After a few minutes Castiel heard Michael speak in a low timber, “I may not have the Sight like you and Castiel, but surely you recognize we have to salt and burn them.  We agreed to give all of them two years to find peace.  Gabe and Anna still haven’t.  It’s time that they were put to rest.”

“They are children.  My babies.  My little boy and girl.” Papa’s voice cracked and Castiel sleepily wondered if daddies cried.  Gabe said only babies cried. 

“I know Dad.  But we can’t lose Castiel too.” Michael’s tone was resolute. 

Papa’s reply sounded tired, so tired that Castiel nearly yawned in sympathy, “Let me try to talk with them first, Michael.” 

Castiel didn’t hear Michael’s response.  Between the heat radiating from the fire at his back and the warmth of his big brother holding him tight, sleep drew Castiel away for the second time that evening. 

*****

“Cassie! Cassie! Wake up lazy bones! We gotta chat.”

“Give him a moment Gabe!”

Castiel blinked to see Anna and Gabe hovering over him.  The early morning light streaming in through the window gave the ghost children a pale and transparent appearance. 

“Good! You’re awake, come on little bro, follow us.” Gabe took off towards the door of their little one room house.

“Oh, and don’t forget a coat!” Anna chided before following Gabe.

Castiel carefully untangled himself from Michael’s arms, leaving his eldest brother asleep on their rope bed.  Castiel’s coat was hanging on a high hook, too far for him to reach so he grabbed a blanket from the foot of the bed and trudged out into the chilly November morning. 

“Cassie, we’re really sorry!” Anna started speaking very quickly, worried lines scrunching up between her brows.  “We didn’t think about the temperature of the water, it’s different for us. We wanted to stay after… after we didn’t get better… we wanted to make sure you weren’t alone, to keep you safe while Michael worked and Papa mourned.  Gabe and I thought we were helping you, but we hurt you yesterday, really really hurt you!”

Gabe rested a hand on Anna’s shoulder as diamond tear drops made their way down her cheeks.  “What she’s saying, Cassie, is that we stayed around to help but Papa pointed out that we, well, we don’t want to make you join us anytime soon Cassie.  So it’s time for us to go.”

“When will yous be back?” Castiel knew that Michael had left sometimes before everyone got sick but he always came back.

Anna made to hold Castiel’s hand but stopped midway.  Her hand would be nothing but cold air on Castiel’s skin.  “We’ll see you hopefully many years from now after you’ve lived a good long life.”

“Good bye Cassie, we’ll miss you baby bro.” Gabe put on a brave face and waggled his eyebrows.  Holding Anna’s hand tightly they disappeared on the next wind. What they had said sunk in very suddenly for Castiel and he dropped the blanket, taking off after the wind which stole his brother and sister.  Screaming and crying Castiel raced down the dirt path as fast as his short legs could pump. He stumbled on a pebble and fell, skinning his knees and scraping his hands.  The pain didn't register as he was awash in fear and loss.  

Anna and Gabe were gone.  They went to join Momma, Raphael, and Lucy in Heaven, a wonderful place that Michael and Papa refused to take him to. It was evening when Michael and Papa found him, bundled him up and carried him back home.

*****

Castiel was lost without Anna and Gabe.  Papa was lost without Momma. Michael was lost in his job, too busy working in town trying to make ends meet.  The entire country had been hit hard by a deadly plague two years back and the region had yet to rebound. Resources were scarce, people were hungry, and charity was rare.

Castiel didn’t say much.  He didn’t play or ask for stories like he had before.  He did however run away in the night and search the woods for his lost family members, convinced that if he looked hard enough he’d find’em, like some extra super difficult game of hide-and-seek.  Michael would scold his baby brother out of fear. The young man searched each morning, his heart in his throat as he combed the dangerous and snowy woods surrounding their tiny farm in search of his silent toddling brother.

It was mid-January when the sound of horses startled Michael from his sleep.  He registered movement from his father behind him but Castiel was nowhere to be found.  Fear brought Michael to wakefulness but not quite quick enough. Thumps sounded on their wood shingled roof and cruel laughter rang outside.  Horses made fearful sounds and Michael rushed to the door only to find it barred.

“Michael! The Roof!” his father called, but the heat told Michael all he needed to know without looking.  Their home was on fire; the men outside were trying to kill them.

*****

Castiel woke up shivering in a hollowed log.  This was one of his usual places, Michael should have been able to find him.  It felt good to be found. It proved that Michael still wanted him around.  Michael wouldn’t leave him. But this time no one had come. Castiel’s shivers deepened, his shaking grew more violent.  He decided to wait, give Michael some more time to come.

Michael didn’t come.

When the sun was high in the sky, Castiel was very hungry and chilled to the bone.  Trudging home through old snow, Castiel smelled the smoke. He ran from there, cold and hunger forgotten as he approached a black smear on the ground, the smoking embers of his house stark against the white of the snowy ground.  Two figures lay out front: Papa and Michael. Castiel slowed to a walk. His breathing was hard, hands shaking. Papa looked like he was sleeping, but not Michael. Michael was painted in red. 

“The smoke got to Dad before I could get him out.  I’m so sorry Castiel.” Michael’s spectral form came up behind Castiel as they both stared down as his lifeless body.  Michael came to stand between his brother and his own body, kneeling down to look Castiel in the eye. 

“Look at me Cassie.  I’ll stay with you until someone finds you, okay.”

“But you’re gonna leave too.” Castiel spoke in a low detached monotone.  Sniffling, he rubbed his sore nose.

“I can’t stay Cassie.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t stay.”

Castiel wanted to yell, wanted to scream that, yes Michael could stay.  Gabe and Anna had stayed for two whole years, surely Michael didn’t have to go right away.  But Castiel couldn’t find his voice any longer and fell back into old patterns.  Lying beside his dead brother, Castiel pressed in as close has he could and cried into his brother’s nightshirt as fresh snow began to fall.

*****

It took hours before anyone made it up to the Novak’s farm.  The mounted men had burned many farms that night and the death count was high.  Rufus Turner’s gut churned as they approached what remained of a well loved one room log house.  Everyone knew the tragic story of the Novaks, they had nearly lost the whole family to the plague, the father of the family, Chuck Novak, lost his mind after the death of his wife and all but two of his children.  The eldest was a good lad, hardworking and loyal. Michael had been the very pride of the village, moving to Paris to study law in the years before the plague. Following the plague however, he’d given up his promising future to return home and support his living family members.

Then there was the youngest son. A quiet boy with a strange name who bore a haunted expression and intense blue eyes that seem to cut right through even the hardest of men.  That child always seemed to know more than was possible to know, secrets men had died with somehow made their way past the little boy’s lips.  While the boy gave Rufus the willies, he certainly didn’t want the child to have died in the night. 

The party of villages approached and Rufus made out two figures lying on the ground, covered in a light dusting of snow.  As the men drew closer, Rufus’ heart plummeted to his stomach. The shape of a little boy was pressed to Michael’s still figure.  Rufus dismounted and slowly approached the still forms on the ground.

He felt his breath catch for a second when he spied a slight shiver which caused a single tear to run down the tiny boy’s face. 

“Bring a saddle blanket!” Rufus called to the other men as he dropped to the ground and pried the small cold boy away from his brother’s body.  Swiftly Castiel’s blood soaked clothing was removed and Rufus tightly swaddled the boy’s thin form before picking him up and carrying him to his horse.  Through it all, the boy was unresponsive.  Another man held the child while Rufus mounted and passed the boy up to him. The rest of the party members were loading the deceased Novaks onto a cart with the other charred bodies from neighboring farms. 

“What will become of him?” A young man asked, riding alongside Rufus.

“Only the Lord knows, but I pray better days ahead.” And with that, Rufus spurred his horse onward. 

*****

It seemed as if Castiel was always cold.  The stones beneath his feet: cold. The bench he sat on: cold.  The air around him: cold. The eyes that assessed him and the hands that passed him about: cold.   Castiel had been so cold for so long that he jumped when a warm hand rested gently on his shoulder.

“How you doin’ baby?” A woman in black and white robes with dark skin and a round rosy face filled Castiel’s vision.  He wanted to look away, to let himself grow cold and numb again, but the lady smiled at him and Castiel found himself enraptured.  “I’m Sister Missouri. You stay right here now, alright? I have to help get the service started but right after I’ll come back for you.  I’m sure you could use a hot meal.” She hummed a confirmation to herself before giving Castiel’s shoulder a pat and standing to speak with a priest. 

Bishop Jim Murphy could hardly believe the reports that had filtered into Paris.  Nearly a hundred of farms burned, entire families murdered, and the dead, all brought here to Paris in a somber parade of carts to be interred in the crypts beneath Notre Dame.  Why the dead were not buried in their villages with their kin Pastor Jim (as he preferred to be called – fond of his humble roots) could not say, but the city and outlying areas were terrified of the mounted men who came suddenly in the night and disappeared without a trace.

While all of that seemed rather suspect to Pastor Jim, he was too busy finding places to bury folks and writing a sermon to soothe his flock.  He made sure, however, to speak with the first responders, the men from all the villages who found survivors and investigated the burned homes.  This group was led by a rough but kind hearted man by the name of Rufus Turner.

“I am sorry Mr. Turner, but Notre Dame does not just take in orphans.  I can refer you to some of Paris’ orphanages if you like.”

“Thanks for the offer Bishop, but there’s a darkness in this one.  His whole family’s died and against all odds, this boy lives.”

Sister Missouri pressed heatedly into the conversation, “You can’t honestly be blaming a boy of four years for circumstances outside his control.  Many families have been hard hit.”

Rufus stood gaping some at the woman’s boldness, “Forgive me sister, I do not blame the boy for anything.  But I worry for him. Some of the men have heard him talking to the air, and he’ll say things, things he’s got no rights to know.”

The nun stood straighter and looked Rufus Turner in the eyes, “Plenty of children are imaginative and hold conversations with figures only they can fathom. Surely you had an imaginary friend when you were knee high. It should also be noted that the boy is quiet and people do tend to say things around quiet folk without even realizing it.”

Rufus took a breath before drawing closer to say in a whisper, “The boy knows secrets of dead men.  Whether it’s a gift or devil’s curse, I wager that boy speaks to them that've past. His eyes unsettled all the families I tried to place him with.  Even now the seats around the boy are left empty while the cathedral is packed everywhere else. Everyone gives that boy a wide berth. He has an aura around him I'd say, something powerful.  The boy needs to be protected, that’s all I’m trying to tell ya.”

Pastor Jim had the urge to laugh at Rufus Turner’s assessment of the tiny boy.  However, when he turned to see the child’s steely gaze laser trained on the air just over Jim’s shoulder, the Bishop had the uncanny feeling of a presence behind him.  Turning to Sister Missouri, her stony expression spoke volumes. The boy was not ‘normal’, however the Church’s role in his upbringing had yet to be determined. 

Rufus left to sit next to the boy while the others started the service.

A mere five minutes into the proceedings, the doors of Notre Dame flew open.  With great fanfare a procession of guards and over-acting paid ‘mourners’ flooded in, all lead by the honorable Judge Zachariah.  If Bishop Murphey was upset by the Judge’s disruptive macabre parade, he gave no indication as he patiently waited for the Judge’s crowd to settle into the cathedral’s pews.  With so many dead, the pews were all already filled except for the first few rows all around the child Castiel, as Rufus had pointed out only minutes earlier. The Judge seemed oblivious to any supposed aura around the boy and made for the very front row of pews as if they had intentionally been left for him.   Rufus noted the small pale boy sat up ramrod straight, rigid as the Judge took the seat right in front of him. The dark-haired head cocked to the left as if listening.  The child focused intently on the air just above the Judge.

Much to Bishop Murphey’s great relief, the rest of the two hour service proceeded without interruption.  The good Bishop had briefly noted that Rufus Turner was attempting to hold the strange orphaned boy still about an hour into the service but had given up when an outburst seemed imminent should he continue to restrain the child.  Glancing at the boy from the pulpit, the child appeared to be vibrating, his entire body shaking, tension in every line of his body, and his eyes still intent on the Judge. The choir prepared to launch into the service’s final hymn when a shrill voice cut through the monetary transitional silence, ringing through the cathedral’s crowded sanctuary and drawing every eye.

“WHY?!” The pitchy voice cried out.  It was Castiel, the little boy with jet black waves and piercing eyes, now standing on the pew, hands clenched into tiny fists and tremors running through his small frame.  “WHY DO THEY SAY YOU KILLED THEM?”

The Bishop quickly realized by the direction of the boy’s gaze, the question was not rhetorical or directed to a higher heavenly body. No, the child’s question was addressed to the judge.

It took Judge Zachariah only a second more to come to the same realization as the Bishop.  He turned slowly and shot the boy a trademark grin before calling out, “Are the parents of this precious child present? This unruly behavior should be dealt with firmly.  All children of France should be taught how to behave in this sacred space.”

But poor orphaned Castiel had no parents nor family left to claim him.  The angry burnt and bloody ghosts he saw filling every inch of the cathedral pointed fingers silently at the judge and whispered accusations in Castiel’s mind.  Tears streaming down the child’s face he continued to yell out, “THEY SAY YOU SENT MEN, YOU SENT SWORDS! THEY SAY YOU KILLED THEM FOR MONEY! FOR POWER! FOR GREED!”

Zachariah flinched almost imperceptibly at the boy’s accusation, but it was there and Sister Missouri had seen it.  The judge waved a hand and sent his guardsmen to clear out the cathedral, loudly suggesting that the boy was lost in his grief and knew not what he was saying.

Castiel however had not relented.  Eyes clamped shut in agony and hands pressed to the sides of his head, nose bleeding sluggishly, Castiel screamed at the Judge through choking sobs, “WHY? WHY DO THEY STARE AT YOU WITH HATE? WHY DID YOU HAVE THE BAD MEN KILL MICHAEL AND PAPA?” 

The items on the altar began to shake.  All present caught the movement of spectral figures in the corners of their eyes and felt the oppressive presence of a thousand angry souls, arms reaching outwards towards the judge.

As soon as the cathedral finally cleared of curious eyes the Judge grabbed Castiel by his arms and shook the boy vigorously. “Shut up brat, SHUT UP!” 

Rufus intervened, taking an anguished Castiel away from Zachariah’s grasp with the care one handles explosives.  The child breathed out a sob before falling limp and the ghosts flickered out of view.

Jim Murphy and Sister Missouri rushed over. Standing in a way to block the boy from Zachariah’s view.

The Bishop addressed the Judge, “Lord of the Palace of Justice, whatever do you think you are doing to that child?”

Judge Zachariah straightened his clothing and wiped a hand across his perspiring brow, his eyes scanning the now quiet and empty cathedral. 

“The boy clearly speaks unholy thoughts and calls forth evil forces into a place of worship. He is either the spawn of Satan or possessed by a demon.  In any case, I volunteer to do us all a favor and send him back to hell.  Give the boy here.” Zachariah held out a hand, his expression expectant.

Astonished, Jim took a defensive half step back towards the child, “You plot against the boy here of all places Judge Zachariah?”

“Plot?!” the Judge scoffed, “Don’t tell me you believe the words of a raving brat!  We just felt the evil he brought here! My conscience is clear!”

Assuming his full height, the Bishop loomed over the Judge, anger darkening his often genial expression, “You may be able to lie to yourself and your minions but that boy can see you for what you are.  You claim he brought evil here but I remain unconvinced he is the one present to whom that guilt belongs. You cannot hide from him nor from the eyes of Notre Dame what you have done, Judge Zachariah. The eyes of Notre Dame see beyond your pious pageantry and you cannot deceive He who sees all sin.”

By the minute widening at the edges of the judge’s eyes, the Bishop could tell that for once in his life Judge Zachariah feared for his immortal soul.  He knew the boy was innocent of all save for speaking truth; truths that should have been lost with the lives that those the horrible truths had taken.  

“Fine,” the Judge spoke after a moment of deliberation, “As an orphan, that boy is a ward of the state.  I will see personally to his upbringing.  However, as I am positive he is something unholy, the boy will stay here, hidden.  He is not to leave hallowed ground.  I do this for the safety of Paris and for the betterment of all France!”

Jim shortly nodded his assent as the Judge turned sharply to leave, flanked by his guardsmen.  Pastor Jim sagged a bit when the cathedral’s doors bang shut. He may have saved the child’s life, however now the boy could never leave the cathedral, not while the Judge spoke for Lady Justice.  In a moment Notre Dame became both a sanctuary and a prison. 

*****

The child was awake now, quivering slightly with silent tears dripping down his cheeks in the quiet of the sacristy.  His hands were tightly gripping his messy dark curls and Rufus was worried the kid he held in his lap would soon pull out clumps of hair.  Thank God for Sister Missouri who moved about the sacristy with purpose.  Rufus was a man of action but when it came to inconsolable children found among the bodies of their only remaining family, he now knew he was rather useless.  

“Rufus was it?” Missouri pulled up a chair next to the man and child.  Rufus nodded his confirmation before she continued, “Right. Go ahead and see if you can free his hands from that mane of his.  Boy’s a powerful psychic if I’ve ever seen one and he surely has one monster of a headache after that little display. All that hair pulling can’t be helping.”

Numbly, Rufus ran his hand over the boy’s forehead and tried to pry small fingers from wispy dark locks, “What was that out there? You said he’s a psychic?”

Missouri hummed in agreement as she used a wet rag to dab away dried blood from beneath Castiel’s nose. 

Her eyes fixed on the boy in front of her, she spoke with a soft voice, “Best I can tell, he pulled the spirits he could see from some kind of in-between space into our own plane.  Some travelling mystics are known for being strong enough to do it for one or two spirits, during seances and the like, but hundreds… and he’s a child at that.”

Rufus heard awe in Missouri’s voice and he couldn’t decide if he too should feel in awe or terror of the little kid curled up on his lap.  Rufus continued to run his hands through the boy’s hair as it seemed to be having the desired calming effect.

Castiel was beginning to drift between consciousness and sleep when the Bishop rushed into the sacristy, a couple of angry ghosts on his heels.  Castiel recognized a difference in this type of anger though, less fury over murder and more like Michael’s scared anger before Anna and Gabe left.  The Bishop knelt before Castiel and placed a warm hand on his cheek, turning Castiel to look him in the eye.

“I’m am so sorry to ask my child, but all those things you said about the Judge, were they true?”

Castiel stared back sleepily for a moment. He didn’t want to answer, his throat hurt from screaming and his head throbbed after all the shouting of the many murdered souls.  He almost turned away to seek the solace of sleep when he caught the encouraging gaze of a spectral blond lady sitting to the Bishop’s right.

She smiled kindly at him and spoke in a voice no other living body could hear, “Go ahead dear, tell the good Bishop what he needs to know.  Then you can get some food and rest.” 

Pastor Jim watched Castiel’s gaze sidle slightly to the right of his shoulder and focus there.  Once more, Jim got the feeling of a presence, but not the furious ones he felt earlier during the service.  He watched with interest as the little boy seemed to listen and eventually nodded, concluding a conversation only he could be a part of.  Castiel’s eyes found Pastor Jim’s eyes once more before responding softly.

“I don know if it true or no.  They jus kept on yelling and was anger-y.  They wann’ed me t’a speak for ‘em so I did.  What they wann’ed said was real enouf to ‘em though.” Castiel sniffed at the end and Missouri brought an arm forward to wipe his face with a clean damp cloth.  Jim took a breath to speak again and received a warning glare from Missouri which spoke volumes: The child is tired, keep it short .

Pastor Jim decided to chance the nun’s patience and asked, “But Castiel, you are certain that they were angry at the Judge, not someone else?”

Castiel didn’t hesitate when he responded with a matter of fact, “Yes. They all watched him, followed him aroun the room, pointed at'im like this.”  The tiny boy lifted one hand from his hair and pointed at Jim with a tiny shaking finger.

A scared sounding Rufus interjected “And did they all leave with him?”

Castiel sat quiet for a moment, pondering how to answer the man’s question.  He swept his eyes over the small room they were in. The many angry souls were not in this space but they were close by.  Castiel wanted to give a good answer, the right answer, but he was confused and scared he'd say the wrong thing.

The kindly ghost lady spoke up once more, “Castiel, that’s your name right? I heard Bishop Murphy say it.  My name is Mary. Could you please tell them this.”  

Pastor Jim watched in fascination as the pale child allowed his gaze to dance about the room and once more settle on the space behind Jim’s right shoulder.  Tilting his small head, the child seemed to be listening once more. Finally, the boy spoke, “Them anger ghosts can’t leave t’follow the juj. They’re stuck here where’s their bodies are at.  They can’t stay though. They’re all real angery and that makes ‘em danger-house.”

“Looks like you’ve got yourself a haunted cathedral Bishop.” Rufus tried for a chuckle to lighten the mood but it came out far shakier than he’d intended.

Shifting to look at Missouri, the Bishop thought out loud, “How do you cleanse a house of God and help hundreds of lost souls find peace?”

Missouri was saved from having to admit she hadn’t the faintest idea when the boy with strange blue eyes answered for her, “Salt and fire.”

“Salt and fire?” Jim asked Castiel, the child’s ice blue eyes still fixed on the space to his right.

Castiel rubbed his forehead and dropped eye contact.  He mumbled out “It's like Michael said for Anna and Gabe."  He gestured weakly to the space beside the bishop, "She sayed you got to put salt on the body and burn it t’ash.  Leave nothing to fix the spirit ‘ere.”

“She?” The Bishop burned to know who it was that haunted the air behind him.  Before he could ask further Sister Missouri stood and gathered the child in her arms and rubbed his back soothingly.  

“I’d say that we’ve had enough questions for tonight.  Let’s get a few bites of supper in you and then off to bed.” 

Jim watched Missouri exit the room with a droopy eyed Castiel and felt the presence from behind his right shoulder leave with them.  He resisted the urge to rub his shoulder, only now noticing how chilled that skin was beneath his priestly robes.   

Rufus stood, breaking Jim from his thoughts. “I’ll be off now Bishop.  I’m a man of old beliefs and none too fond of the supernatural. I plan on drinking my way back home and forgetting I ever found that Novak boy.”

Jim stayed seated as the other man left, rubbing warmth back into his shoulder.  He would never admit it but a part of him wished he could do the same. Burning the bodies would solve his lack of grave sites problem, however cremation wasn’t exactly church practice.  Perhaps a letter to the Vatican was in order.

And then there was the child.  A boy who could see and speak with ghosts. When had life become so complicated?

*****

~Roughly Eleven Years Later~

(Castiel is 15 Years Old)

Castiel had explored every inch of the great cathedral.  It had taken him years to do so but he had some help from Notre Dame’s other inhabitants, both living and ethereal.  There was Sister Missouri who saw to the majority of his needs and to his schooling. She never directly addressed his ability to speak with the dead, however Castiel believed she knew his secret based on a vague memory of his first night in the cathedral.  Then there was Bishop Murphy, a kind and positive figure in Castiel’s life, yet far too busy to truly help raise the boy.

When Castiel was nearing nine years old Sister Missouri had introduced him to Sister Megan, a young woman with dark brown hair and a smug pull to her lips.  She was supposedly a nun sent to help an aging Sister Missouri with tasks around the cathedral, however Sister Meg didn’t act very virtuously. Once Castiel had found her drunk on sanctified wine and blaspheming with passion.  Since then, Castiel had resolved to avoid Sister Meg at all costs.

Avoidance within Notre Dame proved a relatively easy task.  Much of Castiel’s time was spent in the high bell tower.  It was in there that Castiel could be himself, away from the chores and lessons Sister Missouri assigned, the arrogant sinful activities of Sister Meg, or the curious prying stares of patrons coming to the cathedral for enlightenment. 

There were three other reasons that Castiel preferred the bell tower. Their names were Balthazar, Samandriel, and Mary. All three were spirits but they were also the closest Castiel had to a family. Smart mouthed Balthazar was the oldest, a roman centurion who had died in a skirmish on the land Notre Dame was built upon.  Samandriel had been only seventeen, at Notre Dame as an acolyte studying to take the cloth when the plague had hit, killing the teenager only two years before Castiel’s arrival. And then there was Mary, whose remains were buried in Notre Dame’s crypts. She had been a young mother living in Paris with her family. To think she had survived being pregnant during the plague’s spread only to perish in a house fire a little over a year and a half before Castiel’s arrival.  Sometimes Castiel would catch her gazing out of Notre Dame’s bell tower into the square below where she hoped for a glimpse of her sons. To Castiel, these three were all the family he needed. Samandriel was like a brother, Balthazar an uncle, and Mary, well Castiel like to think of Mary like a mother. 

*****

The bell tower was freezing but Castiel didn’t mind too much.  Cold was numbing. 

“Castiel!” An impatient voice called from the stairwell, “Come on Castiel, the doctor’s left now and Sister Missouri wants to see you.”  Sister Megan came into view of Castiel’s little alcove, her breath coming a bit short after having ascended so many stairs. “Fuck it’s cold up here! You’d better be alive Clarence!”

“My name’s not ‘Clarence’ and you should not swear.  We live in a church.”

“Damn it Clarence, do you really think I give a flying fuck about swearing, naw, you should fucking know by now I don’t give two shits from the bishop's holy arse about language.  If God didn’t want us to say something then he wouldn’t of let us come up with the words in the first place. Now let’s get your bony ass to Sister Missouri before she-”

“You’re a terrible nun”, Castiel spoke, cutting Sister Meg off.  Before she could answer, Castiel was headed for the stairs. 

Sister Missouri’s chambers were dim and musty.  Castiel missed the bright and airy space these chambers had been in seasons past.  But the nun no longer had the energy to leave her bed, much less tend to the state of her humble room. 

Castiel made his way over to Missouri’s bedside and took a seat in a chair beside the dozing elder.  Missouri stirred and looked blearily at Castiel before smiling and reaching out weakly to take his hand.

“Child, your hands are like ice! What did I tell you about the dangers of the cold?  Go stoke my fire will you, just thinking about you in that belltower puts a chill to my bones.”

Castiel did as he was asked under the Sister’s assessing gaze.  She spoke when he returned to her side, “You’ve been avoiding me boy.” It wasn’t a question.  

They both knew she was right.  After a beat, Missouri continued, “Is that your way of coping? Hmm Castiel? Act like I never existed? Does that make it hurt less when I’m gone?”

The teen shifted in his seat.  He was certain that Sister Missouri knew about his abilities, even if they’d never spoken about it after the night he’d arrived at Notre Dame.  Just above a whisper, Castiel attempted to explain, “It’ll all be back to normal soon, I won’t ignore you. I just don’t like to see the dying bit.  The others though, I feel for them. They’re gonna lose you.”

A sadness flooded into Missouri’s eyes, “What makes you think you won’t be losing me?”

Confused, Castiel looked Sister Missouri in the eye and said even more softly, “You know why.” 

“Hun, I’ve lived my life.  I’ve done my best to do the Lord’s work.  I’m old now and worn too. When it comes my time, I’m going with the Angels.  Sweet Castiel, I’m gonna move on.”

For a moment it felt to Castiel as if all the air was stolen from the room.  Sister Missouri might be demanding but she always had time for him. Missouri was one of the few living humans he could talk to, who knew him.  She could meet his eyes without shivering and letting her gaze slip to the side.  It seemed as if all Castiel could do was lose those he loved.

“But,” He managed to choke out before dry swallowing and trying again, “But you can’t leave! You’re a part of this place, just like me!”

With a gentle hand and warm smile, Missouri quickly calmed Castiel, “The dead may be bound to one place or another, but God grants the living freedom to move as they please.  Neither of us is bound to this cathedral Castiel, we live here but are not a part of the stones or foundation.”

Castiel felt tears well up and he turned to stare at the floor rather than let Missouri see his sadness.

Missouri ached to pull the teen close as she had when he was very small and new to Notre Dame.  As a nun she had no children of her own body, but as far as she was concerned, Castiel was the closest she’d ever come to having a son.  Age however had stolen her strength and all she could manage was to trace small comforting circles on the back of Castiel’s cold hand with her thumb. 

“Castiel, I have a question to ask you.  Look at me boy.” Castiel raised his head up; her dark brown eyes met his unsettling blue ones.  “I know it’s a strange question, but tell me, who do you consider to be your mother?”

Without hesitation, Castiel replied, “Mary”.  Missouri knew Castiel wasn’t referring to the virgin Mother, but rather the phantom in the bell tower.  The question had been asked from a sinful vain corner of her heart, and while it stung to not have her own name spoken, Missouri understood.  All the same, she was relieved Castiel would not be alone once she passed. The wisen old nun knew, however, that spirits could be dangerous. 

Turning toward her would be son, Missouri held his hand tightly, “Castiel, promise me you’ll take care of Mary and the other spirits.  Remember, spirits that stay too long are vulnerable to evil forces which twist them and inspire violence. Protect the spirits of Notre Dame and help them pass on if you are able.”

Castiel nodded and Missouri smiled before drifting off to sleep one last time. 

*****

Meg found Castiel outside Missouri’s door.  The doctor had just left with Bishop Murphy.  Sister Missouri was in God’s hands now. Meg let out a weighty sigh.  She’d promised Missouri to look after the squirt and not even Meg in all her sinful ways was willing to break a promise made to a dying nun. 

She pulled a seemingly catatonic Castiel up and lead the gangly teen to the chapel.  Meg pulled a bottle of wine from the tabernacle and turned to Castiel. 

“Well Clarence, you look like you could really use a drink.”

To her surprise, Castiel answered, “You’re not supposed to drink that.  It’s sacramental.”

“Hey, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine, I’d say the Good Shepherd would approve.” Meg shrugged before taking a hearty swig from the bottle.

Despite himself, Castiel huffed out a laugh, “You seriously have to be the absolute worst nun of all time, why do you even bother?”

“Clarence, I am not nearly drunk enough to have this conversation with you,” She took another deep drink from the bottle, “But, seeing as you asked, I’ll tell ya the short and simple of it.  I didn’t want to sell my body so I turned to the church who pimped me out to God. I was faced with selling my body or my soul, you can see which one I picked.”

While Sister Megan was sinking deeper into her bottle, Castiel quietly let himself out of the chapel.  He hoped that Sister Megan was a rarity, that most nuns were not bitter and angry as she was. All the same, Castiel was beginning to realize that for the nun, the cathedral was as much her home as it was her prison.

Castiel shook himself as he passed silently down flagstone corridors, refusing to allow his mind to consider too deeply the parallels between himself and Sister Megan.  The cathedral was his home , where his found-family of ghosts cared for him enough to stay while the living  insisted on abandoning him for the Kingdom of Heaven. Besides, Notre Dame was all he'd ever known, where was home if not these stone walls and vaulting Gothic arches?

Castiel was about to seek cold solace in his bell tower alcove when he heard a commotion from the cathedral’s main hall. It had taken the Judge nearly ten years to return, but now that Missouri was no longer around to protect Castiel, Zachariah had plans for the gifted boy. 

 

~ Roughly Seven (More) Years Later ~

(Castiel is 22 Years Old)

“Left! Right! Left! Lunge! Yes! That a’boy!” Balthazar called out, waving his translucent rapier in the air while Castiel panted from exertion. 

"The stakes aren't anywhere near even, Balthazar."  Castiel jabbed his broomstick through the ghost's immaterial form.  "If I didn’t enjoy the exercise, this would be the definition of an 'effort in futility'."  

“Enough of your excuses squire!”  The long dead centurion baited, drawing a flicker of a smile to Castiel’s lips before the young man took up a fighting stance once more.

After a few more sets, Castiel took a breather and spotted Mary gazing out of the bell tower into the square below.

“Castiel come look,” she beckoned him over.  Obediently, he set aside the broomstick and walked to stand beside her.  She pointed down into the busy masses of Parisians milling about, “There, do you see him? That’s my Sammy, you know, my youngest. He was only only a baby when I passed but look at him now! The youngest captain of the guard Paris has ever seen! He’ll be Twenty-one in November.” Pride shone in Mary’s eyes.

Castiel nodded with false enthusiasm.  He loved Mary and did not want to ruin the moment for her.  Yet, Castiel wished Mary’s expression had been directed towards him. Being an orphan and ward of the state, cursed with unholy purpose and mandated to stay on hallowed ground provided Castiel with little opportunity to be high achieving.  Castiel decided - not for the first time - that he didn’t very much care for Samuel Winchester . 

From the corner of his eye Castiel spotted strange movement interrupting the chaotic yet seemingly choreographed flow of the crowd.  Judge Zachariah’s carriage was causing the people to part as they avoided being crushed beneath hooves and polished black wheels.

Castiel sprang into action, tidying the bell tower and making the space suitable for his Master.

“The tower is clean m’boy!” Balthazar bellowed from where he sharpened his spectral sword in the corner.

“Master says cleanliness is next to godliness.” Castiel murmured, eyes searching for any thread out of place in the nearly barren bell tower. Firelight glinting off the table caught his eye.

“You've set the table just fine,” Samandriel reached out one transparent hand to still Castiel’s shaking fingers as they straightened the gleaming silverware in imperceptible amounts.  

“I mustn’t displease Master.”

“Castiel,” Mary's clear voice pierced through the drumming of his heartbeat filling the young man's ears, “Breathe. You are good, you have done nothing to displease the judge.”  Castiel couldn't help but notice the concern in Mary’s gaze, gone was the maternal pride from moments before - not that it had been meant for him anyway.

Taking a stuttered breath, Castiel went over the judge's rules in his mind, ensuring he hadn't accidentally broken any.

Stay in the tower. Ring the bells on time. Speak only when spoken to. Eat only what is given to you. And for the love of all Blessed France, tell no one of your devil powers!

Balthazar scornful drawl broke Castiel’s focus, “I don't know why you bother with that angry ingrown hair on a swine cock anyway! What’s he ever done for you eh’lad?” Balthazar grunted under the weight of Mary and Samandriel’s glares. Castiel was simply glad when the ancient ghost didn't press him further. No matter how many times the young man tried to explain, the elder ghost never understood why Castiel needed his Master.

Castiel knew it wasn't ideal, but Master had saved Castiel at a great expense to himself and all the souls of Paris. While the Judge, his Master, forbade Castiel to ever leave the bell tower, his Master was so kind to bring Castiel a meal every three days.  His Master taught Castiel about the outside world. His Master was to the only living soul with the courage and selflessness to visit Castiel and speak to him despite the dangers Castiel posed. His Master provided Castiel with companionship. His Master gave Castiel a purpose.

Finishing his preparations, Castiel whispered, “The living always leave me Balthazar. I mustn't displease Master.” 

Or he will leave me too , went unsaid.

Castiel knelt beside his Master’s chair and bowed his head just as Zachariah entered the top of the bell tower.  Without acknowledging Castiel, his Master took a seat at the table’s only chair and laid out their lunch slowly.  Castiel could feel his stomach cramping when the scent of fresh bread wafted towards him. He made sure however to stay still.  His Master would let him have some if he was good.

Silence was considered good. After lighting a candle for the center of the table, the Judge at last turned to Castiel.

“Hold out your hand.”

Castiel repressed a shudder.  Six years ago he’d told his Master about his ability, he’d had to, he couldn’t keep any secrets from his Master. He had been a fool when he tried to deny his Master in those first few years after Sister Missouri’s death.  Now that his Master was aware of Castiel’s unique affliction, Judge Zachariah was helping him use the curse for good.

Castiel flinched when the cool round metal dropped into his hand.  

Zachariah’s words came oily as Castiel turned the broken pocket watch over slowly, “It’s just the one this week.  Foolish rebels, with your curse my poor afflicted Castiel, not even death is a sure way for them to keep their secrets.”

Castiel focused on the timepiece, calling to the spirit of the person it had recently belonged to.  When a ghostly man appeared in the bell tower Castiel gave a nod to his Master.

“Well done Pet,” his Master carded a gloved hand through Castiel’s hair once.  Castiel leaned slightly into the warm touch, all other thoughts - his hunger, the cold, the hunters - all of it fled his mind while the warm leather pressed against his scalp.

Zachariah untangled his fingers far too soon and moved to stand. He began pacing the stone floor, fingers linked behind his back.

“I know you worked for the Hunter King.  Tell me, where is the Court of Miracles?”

Castiel kept his eyes focused on the spectral man, praying for this one to speak, for this one to tell the Master what it was he wanted to know.  But like all the Huntsmen before him, this Hunter held the Judge with a stony glare and locked lips. 

The Judge, having no way of knowing where the ghost was, turned and repeated his question angrily at Castiel.  The ghost remained silent.

His frustration mounting, Judge Zachariah cuffed Castiel, hard at the back of his head, and delivered a strong swift slap across his cheeks.  Castiel’s lip split and blood dribbled down his chin, but he did not move his gaze from the dead huntsman.  

Again, the Judge asked for the location of the Court of Miracles.  Again the ghost was without a response but Castiel could see the sorrow in the stranger’s eyes.  Castiel wanted to yell and spit at the phantom, to curse him and all the Hunters. The Judge had made many things clear in the past few years.  It was Hunters that killed his family. It was their fault the Judge had to beat him.  Castiel didn’t need the dead man’s pity, he needed answers!

His Master, having lost patience with this particular apparition, pulled out a small canister of salt and snatched the watch from where it was clutched in Castiel’s hand.  Once treated with salt, the pocket watch was lowered closer and closer into the flame of the candle.  Castiel watched as the ghost-man fidgeted and grimaced in pain.  

When the man's agony, the flames consuming the yet another soul,  became too much to watch, Castiel slowly tried to turn his eyes to the cold stones beneath him. Strong warm hands gripped Castiel’s chin and forced his eyes back up, the dead man's pain now impossible to miss.

“You'll watch Pet,” Master's voice was soft and sure but so so cold, Castiel fought the urge to pull back out of his Master's grip.  “You must watch.”

His Master could not see the souls as they burn but at times like this, Castiel wondered if the ways the tortured souls screamed and writhed was reflected in Castiel’s own eyes.  And although Castiel wanted nothing more than to tear his gaze away from the dead before their souls disappeared in a burst of agonizing heat, these were the only times his Master would smile.  He smiled a real living smile at Castiel.

So Castiel would watch as the salt and fire consumed the huntsman’s soul, just as his Master asked him to.  

Is this what hell will look like when I get there .  The thought tumbled in Castiel’s mind as the burning soul began to fade.  Master wiped a single tear from Castiel’s cheek almost tenderly before leaving down the flagstone steps, only a stale loaf of bread left behind to show he had been there at all. 

Castiel stayed on his knees a long while after his Master's last steps echoed into oblivion.  He knelt and he prayed.

Master had taught Castiel all about hell.  Cursed people, monsters like Castiel go to hell.  Not even in his prayers could Castiel admit the true reason he hated to watch souls burn, how he hated to be reminded that he would one day burn as all monsters must.  

*****

“I won’t do it!” Castiel tried for a third time to convince the three spirits in front of him.

“Castiel, the festival happens just once a year,” Samandriel reminded.

“And there will be displays of strength, ladies to dance with, and a bounty of liquors to sample,” Balthazar added.

“My Master forbade me to leave the tower.  My place is here... with the bells… and- The festival is a ‘cesspool of immorality’,  why would I want to go anyway?” Castiel crossed his arms tightly, hugging himself.

Mary could see the longing yet hesitancy in Castiel’s eyes as he continued to gaze out of the bell tower window to see the preparations for the festival below. 

Stepping forward she reasoned, “Zachariah will be too busy judging the competitions to realize you’ve left the tower.  It is his opinion that the festival is immoral, many prefer to see the event as good fun.  You have a right to your own opinion Dear.”

Castiel bit his lip and continued to watch the square before Notre Dame.  The bright banners and booths, the crowd, the music, and festivities were all so enticing yet Castiel knew better.

“My Master has always been clear: If I leave hallowed ground then the evil within me will take over and spread to innocents. I refuse to be the cause of anyone’s suffering.”

“Anyone but yourself, you mean.” Balthazar cut in sharply.  The ancient ghost lost all fire however when he saw the hurt burn in Castiel’s eyes.

Mary laid a gentle hand on Balthazar’s shoulder, “Castiel has decided to stay put and watch the festival from afar for another year.  The choice is his to make.  However, hallowed ground does not mean ‘only the bell tower’. With all of Paris at the festival, it should be safe to roam the cathedral, perhaps visit some of your favorite childhood haunts?”

Castiel nodded appreciatively at Mary.  There was a rule to never leave the belltower, and the rules were there to protect innocents from Castiel...

“I suppose if everyone is at the festival…”  Castiel clasped his shaking hands together, “I’ll just take a peak around, back within the half hour.” 

Samandriel cheered and Balthazar clapped a cold hand on his shoulder while Mary brought a blanket out from Castiel’s alcove to lay across his shoulders.

“Of course Dear, have fun.”  Castiel felt radiant under Mary’s smile.

The soft worn leather of Castiel’s shoes made no sound as he descended to the main sanctuary of Notre Dame.  Castiel had no great love for the large and grand area of worship.  While impressive, the space was often packed with nosy parishioners and pilgrims all too interested in the pale young bell ringer.  Over the years Castiel had caught wind of the stories Parisians told about him. Some thought him to be deformed, clamoring about the bell tower with a hunched back and disfigured face. Others would insist Castiel was a half-wit too dull to participate in society.  A third common tale, one which Castiel detested the most, was that he was the bastard son of the Bishop. Castiel was however thankful that the masses had no inkling of his true unholy nature, a mercy the young man attributed fully to the goodwill of his Master. In many ways, Castiel reflected as he approached the ground level of the cathedral, he was grateful his Master forbade him to leave the bell tower.  He had not been subjected to the prying eyes of Parisians for many years now.

The sanctuary was quiet despite the dull roar of merrymakers coming from the square outside.  A handful of candles burned low from yesterday’s service and lines of smoke swirled about the pillars and vaulted ceiling of the cathedral.  Keeping close to the wall, Castiel silently made his way towards the altar where the colored light of the rose window played across the marble flooring.  It had been so long since Castiel last bathed himself in light and color which others took for granted. He’d nearly reached the transept when hushed voices spoke ahead of him.  Castiel threw his body against the wall so that he was positioned in a shadowy alcove.  

If the judge finds out I selfishly left the bell tower!  Castiel clamped down on that thought before he could begin to tremble and pressed his eyes shut.  If he crept back now, no one would see him, no harm would be done.

“...the Huntsmen will-”

Castiel’s eyes shot open.  These men were talking about the group his Master was seeking.  Maybe if he could bring helpful information to his Master, then the Judge would forget to punish Castiel for leaving the tower.  Steadying himself, Castiel crept closer to the source of the voices.

From what he could make out, there were two of them, young men from the sound of their voices, familiar with one another.  

“I don’t want to talk about the life.  What have you been up to? and please leave out anything illegal.”

“Yeah yeah, wouldn’t want to implicate you in anything nerd boy.  Life’s been good - I’m working at Ellen’s now.  Stop by sometime, I’d like to see you more than once a year.”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Whatever, you’re welcome to come have a drink like any other Parisian.  That’s all I’m saying. Don’t worry, I won’t invite you on a hunt and it’s not like-”

“HEY! What do you think you’re doing?!”

In his effort to inch closer, Castiel’s shadow had entered one of the men’s line of sight.  Both men were standing and headed to where Castiel was pressed to the brick and mortar of the cathedral wall.  Held fast by panic, Castiel willed his legs to run. Before he’d turned and made it two steps however, Castiel felt the brick wall pressed into his back again, this time not on his own accord. The larger man had one arm pressed firmly across Castiel’s chest, pinning him in place.

“Who are you? Why are watching us?” Castiel hazarded a look at the man’s face and was shocked to see the soft brunette locks of Sammy Winchester, Mary’s son, Captain of the Guards, his captor. As captain of the guards, Captain Winchester reported directly to his Master.  Castiel dropped his gaze to the ground and felt his body begin to shake. If not for the pressure on his chest supporting him up against the wall, Castiel would have crumpled.  

“Sammy, let him down, you’re terrifying the poor guy.”  This was the voice of the second man, softer and deeper than Captain Winchesters.  

“He saw us, we can’t just let him go.” Castiel felt the Captain’s hot words brush past his ear and he shook harder. 

“And what exactly did he see? Two men praying in church, no harm there.” The arm was pulled from Castiel’s person suddenly and in his terror, Castiel did not move to soften his fall as the ground rose to meet him.  

“Shit! You okay man?” Castiel made out in the dim lighting the boots of the second man approaching him.  Strong yet gentle hands took hold of Castiel’s shoulders and propped him up against the cold wall.  Castiel willed the cold and numb to enter his body, to cool his fear and, to turn his terror shakes into warranted shivering.  One of the hands left Castiel’s shoulder and he selfishly mourned the loss of contact.

“Hey, can you look at me man?” His voice was soft. After a moment of unresponsive silence, the man placed a warm calloused hand on Castiel’s cheek and began to turn Castiel’s face up toward his own.  Castiel trained his eyes on the marble floor but it took enormous effort not to lean heavily into the stranger’s warm palm. Such a gentle touch was different from his Master’s grasp and foreign after seven years of isolation. Mary would sometimes hold his face like this man did but her ethereal hands were cold and insubstantial.  The man’s hands were strength and heat and alive and safe .

Castiel sprung up at that thought.  He was putting this stranger and the Captain of the Guards at risk. Castiel was dangerous, cursed!  Had his Master taught him nothing?! Nearly knocking the kind man over in his haste to create distance between them, Castiel turned to run for the bell tower staircase.  Surprisingly, he was not followed.

*****

Sam was about to give chase after the waif who had spied on them when Dean reached out and stopped him. 

“He saw us Dean!”

“Yeah and, did you catch a look at him Sammy? That guy’s stick thin, cold as an iceberg, and terrified out of his mind.  Not exactly out for world domination your Captainliness. Let him go.”

“If he tells anyone, if anyone links us”

“Sam, we grew up together, we have the same last name for Christ's sake! If anyone was going to link us, they’d have done it by now, skinny bell ringer or not.”

“Bell ringer?! Him?”

Dean gazed toward the staircase where the smaller man had fled. “Makes sense don’t it? Damn! I own Caleb a chicken dinner! I was betting hunchback all the way! ”

“You’re an idiot!”

“Yeah well you’re a Bitch”

“Jerk”

“Catch you later Sammy, I was serious about that drink.”

“It’s Sam. And yeah… I'll think about it.  See you around Dean.”

*****

Castiel clutched a hand to where his heart still felt like it was trying to escape his chest.  Desperately he gazed down at the square situated beneath the great stone facade of Notre Dame.  Captain Winchester had left hours ago, the second man waited half an hour before leaving out a side door into the fray of the festival.  Castiel had stood in the cold open window of the bell tower the rest of the day.  He did not feel the chilling wind or snowflakes which began to settle on his eyelashes nor did he notice when the sun began to set.  Castiel was awash in thoughts. 

Would the Captain report him to his Master? Would the huntsman come for him? Should he tell his Master about what he heard when he next sees his Master? That would mean admitting he'd left the tower, and what had he really heard? Aside from the Captain, Castiel had no idea who the other man was or even what he looked like, having fled before he could see the kind man’s face.  Did he even want to report the men for discussing Hunter activities? The villainous underground gang was responsible for an uncountable number of murders including his own family, or so his Master had told him. But Captain Winchester was Mary’s son and reporting the captain would be like betraying his surrogate mother. And then there was the kind man.  Castiel could not bare the thought of watching his Master interrogate the kind man’s ghost. To think of those warm hands turned cold and immaterial.  

“Castiel” A gentle voice broke the young man from his whirling thoughts.  Castiel turned stiffly to see Mary, all soft concern and compassion. Noting his confusion, she prompted him, “It’s nearly time to ring the evening bells and you look to be frozen through.  Come this way, I’ve started a fire.”

Castiel shivered violently, realizing how close he had come to missing the evening bells.  No one noticed when the bells rang, not really. The bells were another layer of a Parisian symphony which played daily.  But if he’d missed his cue, the lack of bells would throw off the whole orchestra. It would be the talk of the town, and his Master… Castiel shook once more, thanks to Mary he would not have to find out what his Master would do to him should the bells not ring on time.  

The bells played out right on schedule.  Castiel fulfilled his role to the people of Paris as he had for years.  Worn, cold, and working to ignore his gnawing hunger, Castiel turned in early to bed.  Mary, Balthazar, and Samandriel followed him to his small alcove, worry etched on each of their faces.  Castiel wanted to apologize for putting that worry there but words would not come. Instead, Castiel pulled his threadbare blanket tightly around his shoulders, laid with his back towards his spectral family, and prayed for a better tomorrow which he did not truly believe he deserved.