41, 42, 43, 44. Dean pushed through his second set of push-ups that morning. Being in the Empty meant he didn’t get enough space to be able to do this outside where he usually worked out. The cubic space he got to stand in for half an hour a day he could stretch out his arms and touch either side easily. No room in there to actually break a sweat. He refused to lose his strength in the Empty, especially as he was supposed to be going back into Purgatory, into gen pop today, if the warden kept his promise that was.
The Empty was solitary confinement. Twenty-three and a half hour days locked inside a concrete cell that had a window up too high you couldn’t even see out of it. Your bed was on the floor, no desk, no nothing. A mattress, a toilet and a sink. That was it. Prisoners got sent there for breaking the rules. Dean liked to run his mouth, had an attitude problem and some of the other prisoners weren’t a fan of it. Gordon in particular wasn’t a fan of it. They had come to blows more than once, this time it was not different. Gordon shoving Dean in the yard, muttering something about being a white pussy and Dean couldn’t let that slide. Not in here, in here you can’t let anything slide.
45, 46, 47, 48. There was movement outside of his cell, the sound of keys rattling.
“On your feet Winchester,” The guard called out. Dean stood up. “Back to the wall, hands behind your back, you know the drill.” Dean followed the orders. The cell door unlocked with a resounding clang. Metal slammed onto metal as the lock moved that echoed into his room. He was getting out, finally. Four days was enough, he was starting to go crazy down in there. The guard cuffed him to lead him out.
“Let’s go Winchester.” The guard tugged on the cuffs, on hand on Dean’s shoulders to guide him out. He went willingly. The urge to make some snarky comment about how he was more than capable to walk himself back to Purgatory was there on the tip of his tongue. He held it. The warden was out in the hall, arms crossed over his chest giving Dean a stern look.
“Next time you land yourself down here Dean, I’ll forget you even exist and let you rot till your decomposing body is smelled all the way in gen pop. Do I make myself clear?” Shurley, the warden, man who ran the whole prison from his ivory heavenly tower warned.
Shurley nodded to the guard who pushed Dean towards the direction of the exit door. He opened it. The sun hit his face like a blinding light, the fresh air filled his lungs and the sound of the other prisoners weren’t far off in the distance.
“Damn, it’s good to be alive.” He let the heat wash over him. Four days he’d been down there.
“Keep moving Winchester, I don’t gots all day.” Another shove from the guard.
Thing was, Dean had all day. He was one year into his sentence, a whole lot more to go. Dean had so many days in here he wasn’t even gonna try counting. For now, he was just gonna try to not get sent back to Empty.
Dean had been released from his cuffs and back into the wild of Purgatory he went. Its 8am, yard time. It gave the prisoners time to stretch their legs, get out in the open, or at least more open than the concrete walls they were confined before their work detail. Not that Dean needed it, his work detail was outside, but he enjoyed yard time.
He spotted Sam and Charlie leaning against one of the fences chatting. They kept to themselves, not wanting to draw too much attention. Charlie saw Dean first, hit Sam’s chest with the back of his hand and Sam turned. His lurch of a brother smiled at him as he crossed the yard.
“You’re out!” Sam said. He took his hands from his pocket to embrace his brother in a hug. Dean was glad his brother was still in one piece, no bruises, no cuts, nothing. A relief. He hated being down in the Empty, meant he didn’t get to keep an eye on his little brother, not that he probably needed much minding, towering over most of the people in here.
“Break it up, no touching.” A guard said. Dean let go and didn’t complain, no back talk, no attitude which was unlike him. That got a curious brow from his brother.
“Someone being on their best behaviour?” Charlie asked nudging Dean with his shoulder.
Charlie, small guy, red fired hair about as long as Sam’s in Purgatory for something involving hacking people he wasn’t supposed to, online terrorism. Dean couldn’t keep up with the technicalities of it all. A whizz with computers, and it landed him a 4-year stint. He was only 6 months in. He was a good kid, smart witted once he opened up to the rest of them. Kids like him would get eaten up around here. Kids like him needed friends like Sam and Dean to survive.
“Shurley paid me a personal visit, basically told me to keep my mouth shut or else.”
“I give it a week.” Charlie said. Sam nodded in agreement. He wanted to shove them but yeah, he needed to be on his best behaviour, so he gave a glare instead. Can’t get sent to the Empty for glaring and Dean could do a mean glare. Charlie handed him a smoke and the three of them leaned against the fence to begin watching the yard. It was what they did in morning yard time, keeping tabs on others helped them stay ahead of the game. Who to avoid, who was in a bad mood, who was eyeing up who etc.
“So, what’s been happening since I was in the Empty?” Dean took a long drag of his cigarette. No smokes in the Empty, he missed that burn. It took him three months to get hooked on them. Needed three a day at least to keep that itch away.
“Aside from the usual Folk Nation and Aryan turf wars?” Sam questioned.
“Yeah, anything new?” Dean casted his eyes around the yard. The Folk Nation by the gym equipment, the Aryan on the bleachers keeping an eye on each other but remaining distant. They were always at each other’s throats, race wars. Gordon, the guy who landed him in the Empty in the first place was working up a sweat with some barbells. He needed to stay away from Gordon for as long as humanly possible from now on, needed to keep off his radar.
In the farthest point from him Dean could see the Russian’s on a bench, playing cards. They kept to themselves unless provoked, no one fucked with the Russians, ever. People who came up against them, didn’t last very long in Purgatory.
There was someone new at their table, someone new sitting in the center of the table more importantly. Uriel, the usual center of the Russian gang nowhere to be seen. This guy was younger, about Dean’s age, hair as dark as the Empty got in the nighttime.
“He came down from Hell yesterday, Uriel’s nowhere to be seen.” Charlie informed him.
The new guy, Russian, had to be if he was sitting at the table and also the tattoos were a giveaway. Too distant for Dean to see them clearly though which was a shame, Dean had a curiosity about the Russian gang tattoos. He never got himself close enough except maybe in the showers to get a decent look at them and he had to extra careful where his eyes landed in there for obvious reasons.
It was easy enough to tell who belonged where. Folk Nation, an all-black prison gang, aggressive, intimating by their stature usually in for drugs and weapons. Aryan Brotherhood, white as fuck usually skinheads with a Nazi symbol or five plastered on their bodies, most of them meth heads and bat shit crazy tended to be in for human trafficking or drugs. The Bratva, Russian gang, cold, collected, ruthless when provoked, tattoos etching their bodies too but less obvious than the Aryan. People speculated what their sentences were for, not that they’d ever say for certain. Dean had his money on them being in Purgatory for money laundering or racketeering, though chances were their list of illegal activity was endless. The Russians were next level bad news.
And if this guy came from Hell, max security down the road, he was some bad news, next level, do not fuck with me kind of dude. Not that anyone here was particularly good news, hell even Dean was a bad guy but max security? Serial killers, psychopaths, sociopaths, all the paths under the sun were kept down in Hell.
Dean deduced he must have replaced Uriel, the last head of the Russian gang in Purgatory. The way the others reacted to him, drawn to him, waiting on his every move before they make theirs. Like he was the engine and the other inmates worked around him.
“Looks important.” Dean noted.
“Looks terrifying.” Sam replied.
As if the guy knew they were talking about him he lifted his head towards them. Dean met his cold blue eyes from across the yard. He didn’t break the stare from the Russian. He should have, he knew he should, but he’d been in the Empty for the past 4 days and his internal guide book for surviving in Purgatory hadn’t kicked back into full gear yet. Sam was right, the guy was terrifying but also, he had this dark and mysterious thing going for him that Dean found oddly alluring though he’d never admit it. The Russian tilted his head almost amused that Dean was still looking over at him.
The others lifted their heads too, the entire table now staring at Dean.
“Dean, what the hell?” Sam shoved his brother making him break his stare.
“You trying to get yourself killed?” his brother was unimpressed with him. He wasn’t trying to get himself killed, the last thing he wanted was for Sam to be alone in here without him. Shurley’s threat still on his mind. Dean needed to kick his prison guide book back in fast. He smoked the rest of his cigarette, careful not to look back over though he could swear the Russian was still looking at him with those cold blues.
Benny told him during lunch that Garth, his old celly, topped himself when Dean was in the Empty meaning chances were, he had a new celly to go back to once lunch was over.
He and Benny worked together on the compound. The manager of grounds in Purgatory paired them together most of the time because they weren’t at each other’s throats every two minutes. Dean originally met Benny at intake, they shared a bunk for a month before going into gen pop. He was in on assault and battery, doing 9 years.
“Did he leave a note or summin’?” Dean asked through a mouth full of food. The food here was garbabe, the food in the Empty was worse. He’d chow down on pretty much anything after the meals he had down there. Benny leaned over the table careful of eaves droppers.
“Word is, he got jumped in the showers by the AB.”
“Shit.” Dean’s nightmare.
“Yeah, it was real bad apparently. Someone I know who works janitor detail had to clean up the blood.” Benny told him.
Dean looked over to the AB, all huddled up together on their table cracking jokes and cat calling anything that had a pulse and wasn’t built for fighting. People like Garth.
“Those fucking Nazis, why can’t they just fuck each other? There’s enough of them to go around.” he kept his voice low. His tone tensed.
“It’s a power game brother, aint all about getting off.”
“I know, just…” Dean lost his appetite. He dropped his spork into his tray.
“You gonna eat that?” Benny pointed to Dean’s tray. He shoved it into his friend’s space. His jaw was set tight. Garth talked too much, was a pain in his ass most days and cried himself to sleep most nights. If anything, Dean should be glad he’s getting a new celly but the way it went down, what happened to Garth, he didn’t deserve that. It left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Alright inmates, back to your cells for count! Let’s go! Let’s go!” the guards shouted banging their batons on the rails they were standing near. Dean dropped his tray off and walked back with Benny to their block in anticipation of who was going to be there waiting for him.
When he climbed the stairs to his cell there was someone outside of it. A Russian. The count wasn’t called yet. Dean walked up, hands in his pockets taking a deep breath as he went. Last thing he wanted was to bunk with a Russian.
“You my new celly?” he questioned the guy. The guy didn’t respond. Dean wondered if they even spoke a word of English sometimes. All they did was speak in Russian to each other and rarely spoke to anyone else. He spotted a dagger tattooed through the guy’s neck under his orange uniform.
“He isn’t,” a Russian accent came from inside his cell. Dean looked over the guy’s shoulder, seeing that Russian from the yard lying on the bottom bunk. He was reading a book. The one with those cold blue eyes. The one who was in Hell not two days ago for who the fuck knows was now Dean’s new celly. That’s just what he needed to make sure he wasn't going to get sent back to the Empty, a psychopath in his sleeping quarters.
“Ostav’ nas.” He said in Russian Dean presumed and the guy outside left without another word. Now that was some power. Dean might have been impressed if he wasn’t slightly shitting himself on the inside.
Dean stepped into his cell. He was hesitant, it had been his cell for almost a year and he suddenly felt like this wasn’t his space anymore. Not with what just happened. That little display had been for a reason. The guy outside the cell, waiting for Dean to come back a power display of what kind of person Dean was about to be sharing his cell with. Not that Dean needed any more convincing how terrifying this Russian could be. Even relaxing on his bunk, reading a novel he had a presence.
Before Dean had a chance to introduce himself, they were called for count.
He stood outside, leaned against the rails and the Russian followed leaning against the rails with him. Dean shifted an inch further away to avoid brushing his shoulders with the guy.
“I saw you, earlier in the yard looking at me.” the guy said. That deep voice rang through Dean’s body like a gong, vibrations making the hair of his skin stand on edge. Dean was surprised he remembered, that Dean had been someone this guy could recall in a yard full of inmates. That gave an uneasy feeling in his gut. He didn’t want to be one this guy’s radar.
“Yeah, I was in the Empty for a few days, so didn’t recognise you was all.” Dean replied trying to keep his voice neutral. Don’t show weakness, don’t show anything other than neutral and angry.
The guard, Zachariah, did the count, passing them clicking the clicker in his hand and eyeing them up.
“You going to cause me anymore trouble Winchester?” the guard asked. Dean shook his head, making a point to not even look at the guard as he spoke. Zachariah was a dick to Dean, liked pushing his buttons. Seemed this time would be no different. He liked making a spectacle out of him.
“What? No smart comments out of that pretty mouth of yours?” he taunted Dean. He said it loud enough some of the AB could hear and wolf whistled. Dean kept his head down, don’t react.
“The Empty cut out your tongue Dean?” he kept pressing. Dean inhaled sharp. Don’t react.
Zachariah chuckled enjoying this mute Dean that wasn’t going to react to being provoked even if his blood was starting to boil.
The guard looked the Russian up and down next but didn’t say a word. He saw his new celly bring up his right hand like he was showing Zachariah something. It made the guard tense, made him take a step back from the Russian. He even managed to put fear in the prison guards.
Dean and the Russian went back inside, another guard sealed them up for the hour till yard time.
Dean’s fist was so tight he gave himself white knuckles. He hopped up onto his bed and tried to calm himself down. He dug the heel of his palms into his eyes trying to get the words “pretty mouth” out of his brain, trying to get those looks the AB were giving him out of his brain. Trying to not let Zachariah rile him up any more than he already had.
The bottom bunk moved. The guy back lying on his bed reading his book probably. He didn’t need his new celly seeing those looks either, getting ideas that it was something Dean did or something that he could take from Dean. They were similar build but if he was like any of the other Russians in here, he could take on someone twice his size and still win. Dean couldn’t take that chance. He hopped off the bed needing to set some house rules.
“Can we talk?” Dean asked. He pulled up the chair from the desk, turned it around to straddle it. Now a bit closer to the guy he can see some of his tattoos. A rose wrapped in barbed wire was the nearest one too him. The hand he lifted up to Zachariah had a skull on it with sharp canines. Prison tattoos.
“Are you part of the Aryan?” The guy didn’t look up from his book as he asked.
“What?” Dean took his eyes off the tattoos, missing the question. “Am I…?”
The guy sighed, closed his book and turned his head to look at Dean square in the eye.
“You look Aryan, are you part of the brotherhood?” he spoke slower, like Dean couldn’t understand him. That ticked him off.
“I can understand you, no need to slow down your words. I’m not an idiot.”
"And yet you have not answered my simple question.”
Dean ran his hands through his hair. Don’t fight, don’t provoke, don’t piss off the new head of the Russian gang on day one.
“No, I’m not with any gangs.” He replied. The guy sat up on the bed, swung his feet around to plant them on the ground in one swift movement. His elbows resting on his kneecaps. There were more tattoos on his other hand, symbols and letters. Dean spotted something creeping out under his sleeve, the end of feathers maybe.
“Not a wise move for someone like you.” He looked back to the guy, trying not to get distracted again by the tattoos.
“Someone like me?” Dean raised a brow not really paying much attention to the words, more focused on how his eyes shifted around Dean’s face subtly, the tiniest darts like he was trying to join up Dean’s freckles.
The guy dropped his eyes to Dean’s mouth.
“Someone with a pretty mouth.” He said matter of fact. It made Dean suddenly aware of how dry they were, that they were slightly parted which happened sometimes to Dean when he was distracted. He licked them on impulse. The guy’s brow raised slightly, watching Dean’s tongue coat his bottom lip. He was more conscious of himself now. That stare made him feel like he was on show. He shuffled in the seat, why in the hell did he choose to straddle it.
Don’t appear weak Dean.
“I can handle myself.” Was what Dean decided to answer with. The guy took the opportunity to drag his eyes down the length of Dean’s body. They were in the same hideous orange uniform. The heat meant they didn’t have to wear the orange V neck top at least, both of them in white round neck t-shirts and the polyester orange trousers with white trainers. Somehow Dean felt he wasn’t just looking at his clothes, the guy stopping to look at how Dean’s arms stretched over the fabric in his sleeve and the same on his thighs.
“I’m sure you can.” The guy lifted the side of his mouth an inch. Enough for Dean to notice. The heat rose up the back of Dean’s neck. He couldn’t tell if the dude was flirting or admiring him or whatever, either way Dean needed to get back on track. Dean wasn’t a complete idiot. He knew what he looked like. Enough people outside of Purgatory wanted him and that was the same for inside of it.
“We need to set some ground rules.”
“You want to give me rules?” his tone had changed. It was grittier, a ‘you don’t want to fuck with me today or any day’ tone. The somewhat interest he had in Dean vanished in a second. Dean felt his heart rate pick up, a deer in head lights. His instinct was to back down, but he couldn’t.
Dean challenged it. He had to.
“You say that like I’m supposed to know who you are.”
“Not someone you give rules to Dean.” The guy had been sitting on his name the whole time and never mentioned it. Another power play, a damn good one too seeing as Dean knew next to none about this guy except, he thought Dean had a pretty mouth, whether objectively or subjectively was yet to be decided and most likely part of the Russian gang if not the head of it.
Dean got up out of his chair, stiffened himself up.
“Just don’t touch my stuff, or me without asking. Got it?”
The guy rolled his eyes and nodded reluctantly. He needed a verbal confirmation.
“Yes, I understand,” his voice lost its grit. He took his book back and lay back down. Dean took that as their conversation was over. He hopped back onto the top bunk, trying to get his breath back. He survived that, not too bad.
“Castiel.” He called out from the bottom bunk. Was that Russian?
“I don’t speak Russian.”
“It’s my name Dean, my name is Castiel.”