Actions

Work Header

The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell

Chapter Text

Finish him!

Dean’s over-exaggerated imitation of the announcer from Mortal Kombat isn’t up to his usual standard, but he’s blaming that on the crazy amount of purple nurples currently sloshing their way through his system.

Like a washing machine.

Or a cement mixer.

Or one of those Slurpee machines.

The point is that he’s pretty fucking wasted, but he’s entitled to be. He’s a high school graduate now and technically an adult. In true adult-type fashion, he’s celebrating his new found freedom and responsibilities by hosting a party for the members of his graduating class that he doesn’t totally hate and – by proxy – encouraging underage drinking.

Not that any encouragement has been needed.

He slings an arm around the slim shoulders of his best friend under the pretense of camaraderie, when really it’s a preventative measure to stop himself from face-planting the floor, which is looking more and more likely with each passing second.

Cas barely notices; too busy with his current task, which involves downing shots like there’s no tomorrow – and there actually might not be if he carries on at this rate, ‘cause his blood-alcohol concentration must be at ‘holy-fuck-alcohol-poisoning-isn’t-just-a-scare-tactic’ levels, but he still seems sturdier on his feet than Dean.

The pair of them have already dominated at beer pong and Gonzo, and now Cas is well on his way to another victory as Benny – a quarterback, who is the only non-douche on the school team – struggles to keep up with the little nerdy dude who is a good fifty pounds lighter and deceptively fragile looking.

Cas is not fragile. Cas is a wolf in an argyle sweater.

And yeah, so admittedly, neither of them are the quintessential version of high school royalty – Dean plays up to his aloof, bad boy, rebel-without-a-cause reputation with utter abandon and Cas, well Cas is a nerd, but they’re Dean-and-Cas. Best of friends and they’re about as close as it gets without being blood.

Plain and simple.

Except there’s nothing plain or simple about Castiel Novak. Nothing from his perpetually messed up sex hair down to his ability to rattle off the capital cities of all fifty states without even pausing for breath.

He’s straight-laced and efficient, with a badass streak that totally didn’t (and still doesn’t) have Dean questioning his sexuality within seconds of their first encounter five years ago, when Cas put some asshole senior in his place with nothing more than words, spoken so casually and with such surgical-fucking-precision that Dean could do nothing but stare open-mouthed like a barely functioning moron.

Which is why it’s bittersweet that Cas is leaving for college to go be brilliant in California, whilst Dean is staying in Lawrence to become a full-time mechanic at Bobby’s place. Of course, Dean is proud of his best friend and wants him to be all that he can be, but there’s a worryingly large part of Dean that wants Cas to be all he can be right here with him. And he’s not just talking academically.

Still. Tonight is not about that. Tonight is about acting stupid and kicking back with people who they’ve struggled through adolescence with and Dean refuses to let anything get in the way of the victory that he can almost taste through his current mouthful of disgustingly cheap beer.

A crowd of twenty or so has gathered in a semi-circle around them; a pretty even-split cheering for each competitor over the dull thud of some pop song that Dean can’t even begin to care about. He suspects Jo is involved in the removal of his Warrant tape.

She’s never had much musical taste. REO Speedwagon, really? He’s pretty sure he heard Bobby mention that the first ever ‘compact disc’ (point proven right fuckin’ there) he bought was by REO Speedwagon.

Say no more.

Dean snorts in amusement just as Cas slams his upturned shot glass down onto the ornate mantelpiece – the final in a row of fourteen – and turns to look at Dean with cloudy blue eyes and a sloppy grin on his face.

Cas’s voice is already eerily similar to that of a lifetime smoker, so his Mortal Kombat impression is much nearer the mark and Dean can’t help his strangled laugh when his best friend growls out, “Fatality!

Chapter Text

 

It’s 2014 and there’s still no way to do that zooming-in-on-the-perp’s-face thing that they do in movies by creating pixels out of thin air. The future is nothing like Blade Runner promised and they barely have five years left to make replicants a real thing.

Suffice it to say, Castiel is frustrated. Six consecutive hours of grainy-CCTV-footage watching has yielded precisely fuck all results. It’s largely thanks to the criminals in question – a gang of bank robbers – being slick as Hell. So far he’s scrutinized eight out of the twelve robberies and there’s just no dead air, no pause for breath and absolutely nothing but pure professionalism between the four masked men.

It’s maddeningly impressive.

Which is not something he ever envisaged thinking about anyone in a KISS mask, let alone a group of criminals who seem far too smart to be endorsing a band that mostly sings about getting laid.

Castiel leans back in the chair, plastic creaking under his weight as he kicks his feet up on the desk and scrubs a hand over the rough stubble covering his chin and cheeks.  He desperately needs a shower, shave and most importantly a good, long sleep. He’s been in San Francisco for nearly twelve hours on the back of an eight hour trip and he’s yet to actually see what the inside of his hotel room looks like.

Though it doesn’t take a lot of imagination. It’s not like the FBI are believers in providing their agents with luxury whilst they work ridiculously grueling hours.

He tilts his head back and closes his eyes, aiming to get at least thirty seconds of peace before his partner Balthazar gets back from his coffee run. Though fate seems to have other plans and the very instant he relaxes, the door is banging open and Balthazar is barging into the stuffy box room, coffee and food in hand.

Castiel startles and then fumbles to right himself, sending the antiquated remote that he’d balanced on his chest, crashing to the floor and he watches uselessly as one of the batteries rolls away under the desk.

“Smooth, Cassie, smooth.” Balthazar laughs as he drops down into the fold-out chair next to Castiel’s, “With reflexes like that, it’s no wonder you’re one of America’s top agents.”

Castiel snatches one of the coffee cups out of the holder and sends a scowl in his partner’s direction, but doesn’t deign to say anything. He’s too tired for the inevitable bickering match that would ensue; his comebacks would be relatively weak and he’d never hear the end of it.

Balthazar opens the already-dark-with-yummy-yummy-grease paper bag and Castiel is hit with the delicious aroma of cheeseburgers, making his stomach grumble in anticipation. He gulps his latte down like it’s liquid gold, needing the caffeine to remain upright.

“Any progress?” Balthazar asks, his words muffled around a large mouthful of meat and bread.

Castiel just stares blankly for a few minutes, wondering – and not for the first time – how someone with the sophistication of a sponge has managed to survive this long in a profession that calls for, well, professionalism. “You are truly disgusting.”

Balthazar has the sagacity to swallow before answering this time. He knows that a tired Castiel is a temperamental Castiel, but that still doesn’t stop him from poking the bear, just a little. “Half a decade partnered together and you’re only just realizing that? And there was me thinking that your intuition was dead in the water.”

“I mostly try to ignore the fact that the bureau has seen it fit to partner me with someone who makes Stig of the Dump look like Cary Grant, but there are times when it just cannot be overlooked. You eating like that within fifty feet of me is one of those times.”

Balthazar shoves the bag into Castiel’s lap with an amused expression. “Eat your burger, cranky knickers.”

Despite the smooth British accent, Balthazar is certainly no James Bond.

Castiel acquiesces without hesitation or comment and for the few minutes it takes them both to polish off their food, the room is blissfully quiet, save for Balthazar’s occasional deliberate lip-smack.

Castiel takes the time to work through and mentally catalogue what he’s seen of the robberies so far.

Number one:  They’re in and out with a minimum amount of fuss and always a good sixty seconds before the cops show. Which indicates that they’ve done their research; most likely timing the quickest route from the nearest police station beforehand to give themselves enough time.

Number two: There’s no set pattern to the robberies; each one is unique. Which is unusual to say the least. In Castiel’s experience, it’s rare to see a change in M.O. If there is one, it’s typically to the criminals’ detriment or because something hasn’t gone to plan somewhere. There’s none of that in any of the tapes though. Each move is painstakingly deliberate.

Number three: It’s speculation, but Castiel is certain that the group are close friends – possibly relatives – rather than just business partners. There’s a sense of unity and familiarity between them that is hard to achieve without them giving a shit about one another.

And number four: There is undoubtedly something that Castiel is missing. Something glaringly obvious and although he’s so tired that he could sleep for a week, he just knows that his brain won’t fully rest until he figures it out.

He relays all of this to Balthazar, who – now sated with food – slips into ‘I’m-an-FBI-agent-I-swear’ mode and nods in solemn agreement. “I think you’re right about the relationship that the four of them have.” He gestures to the paused monitor, depicting a scene where the two – the ones in the Starchild and The Demon masks, who look as ridiculous as their names suggest – on camera are leaning in close, caught up in some kind of exchange, semi-automatic rifles in their hands. They’re both righties, well-built and from this angle, they look like they’re both over six feet tall.

“Especially those two. Siblings perhaps?”

 

******************************************************

 

Downtime between jobs is important. Vital really, because not only does it allow the dust to settle in regards to the cops and media, but it also gives all five of them a chance to breathe, recharge and relax for a little while before gearing up for the next robbery.

Of course, video games aren’t always the least stressful way of winding down. Especially not when Sam is so easy to wind up and Benny – the notorious cheater – enjoys being the one to push and push until Sam is wound tighter than a ball of rubber bands and just as likely to take your eye out.

It doesn’t take much for them all to regress back to their teenage years, but video games really seem to expedite the process.

Case in point: right fucking now. Sam and Benny have been playing Street Fighter for less than five minutes and already the shoving has begun.

“Benny, stop button mashing, you cheap fucking asshole!” Sam is a traditionalist. He believes in learning all the moves, memorizing exactly what needs to be done to win. Which translates across into their day job rather well.

Dean might be the brains – hah! – behind their little operation, but Sam is definitely the architect; he’s the one responsible for keeping things running as they should be, making sure everybody knows what they’re doing and when. He’s damned good at it too.

Benny is the brawn, the brute strength, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Not that anyone in their little group is, but there’s a darker edge to Benny that neither of the Winchester’s can pull off in quite the same way. It’s just a vibe he seems to give off – despite actually being a giant softie – and because of that it’s rare that they have any issues with stupid/brave hostages.

Dean gulps down the last of his beer and watches his bratty brother’s hissy fit with a lazy smile. He’s got a pleasant buzz going, a steadily spreading warmth throughout his entire body and it’s easier to just melt back into the cushions of the tatty couch than to engage in any kind of refereeing.

He’d undoubtedly make the situation worse any way, because there’s just no chance of him not taking full advantage of being a big brother cliché and annoying Sam further.

Instead, he reaches into the front pocket of his jeans and pulls out a battered packet of smokes. He taps out a cigarette and slides the filtered end between his lips before realizing that his zippo is all the way in the kitchen.

“Either of you got a light?”

Sam makes a disgusted sound, but pauses the game and in a flurry of movement and several exasperated sighs later, a disposable neon colored lighter hits Dean square in the chest.

Benny doesn’t look away from the TV during the entire exchange, but Dean can see the knowing smile that spreads across his friend’s face in the glow of the screen as Sam thumps back down into his seat; a rickety dining chair that has long since lost its companions.

All the furniture in this rental place is a mismatch of 70s beige and 80s flair, but Dean actually kinda likes it. It gives the apartment a bizarre kind of character that most of the other dives they’ve stayed in over the last six months have lacked. The fact that it’s relatively cheap doesn’t hurt either.

The apartment door is suddenly flung open, banging off the plastered wall and Ash is there, a crate of beer balanced on one arm. He boots the door shut behind Charlie who has her hands full with far too many clinking bags. “The beer fairies are back!”

“Dude, did you just out yourself?” Dean chuckles on an exhale of smoke, letting his head drop against the back of the couch to watch his two friends disappear into the kitchen.

“Ha ha. Dean, your jokes always slay me.” Ash calls out from beyond the partition wall. “Believe me, if I ever decide to abandon the ladies, you’ll be the first to know my man.”

From the first moment he’d met Ash through a mutual friend back in Kansas, Dean had liked him. There’s no denying that the guy looks more like a standard Lynyrd Skynyrd roadie with his mullet and tattoos than a master criminal, but Ash is smart as fuck and excellent with all things technological. Plus he has some damn fine taste in music.

The fact that it’s the exact same as Dean’s/a fifteen year old boy’s is irrelevant.

Dean’s about to reply, but before he can, a folded newspaper is slapped down onto the coffee table and Charlie drops gracefully into the nearest vacant chair which happens to be a love seat in a shade of pink that makes Dean’s retinas burn just a little. “Looks like we’ve made the headlines again, boss. Maybe I should start a scrapbook?”

Dean leans forward, taps some ash off his cigarette into an empty beer bottle and picks up the paper, scanning over the writing, hazily picking out phrases here and there. “’Professional Criminals’, ‘Experts at evasion’ –“ He looks up at Charlie, eyebrow cocked, “Jesus Christ, whoever wrote this article sounds like they’re torn between calling for our heads and wanting to fuck us.”

Charlie cracks a smile. “Did you get to the part where one of the teller’s discusses the ‘green of ‘The Demon’s  eyes’ or ‘the beautiful calming lilt of his voice’ as we robbed the bank blind? There’s no doubt that she’d be up for the latter.”

Dean snorts a laugh and tosses the paper back onto the table. Benny seems content with his five victories against Sam’s two and therefore has handed his controller off to Ash in exchange for a couple of beers, one of which he passes to Charlie, before cracking open his own.

“You’re shitting me, right?”

“I wish I was,” Charlie nods her thanks in Benny’s direction, before turning her attention back to Dean, “seems even a KISS mask can’t diminish your animal magnetism, Winchester.” She may sound unimpressed, but really she’s just jealous.

Dean shrugs unapologetically, “There’s a reason they’re called cock rock.”

“Yeah and it has nothing to do with pussy and everything to do with sweaty spandex, too much make-up and long hours spent on a tour bus.”

Which… well, there’s just no arguing with that logic, really. As usual, Charlie is right.

It happens far too often and it only serves as a reminder that Charlie is like the annoying little sister that Dean never knew he wanted, and whilst she may be a more recent addition to their quirky little family, she’s family nonetheless and she’s also just a tiny bit brilliant. She’s a technical whizz; always collaborating with Ash on some new way of making their lives – and jobs – easier, but more importantly, she’s a fucking excellent getaway driver.

She makes Jason Statham look pretty fucking tame. And she probably gets laid more often too.

“I’m thinking that we move on the Wells Fargo in Berkeley soon.” Benny says, apropos of nothing as he produces a plastic baggie of weed and some Rizla papers out of his jacket, which is draped over the back of Ash’s chair. He sits down cross-legged on the floor in front of the coffee table and begins rolling a joint, thick fingers surprisingly deft.

“That the one near Lincoln Highway?” Charlie asks.

Dean nods as Benny finishes rolling and lights the joint, cupping his hands around the flame. “Yep. It’s within a few miles of the I-80. We get on that and we’re back here in less than thirty minutes. You really think it’s time for another job already though, Benny? It’s been – what – a couple of days?”

As if on cue, Sam swears and throws his controller down in a fit of rage just as Ash cries, “Yoga flame, bitches!” with far too much glee for someone who was supposedly accepted into MIT.

Benny flashes a wry smile and exhales a lungful of smoke, “I think it’s safe to say that cabin fever may be already starting to set in.”

Chapter Text

11 years ago.

 

“So what are you gonna do once you’ve got your doctorate, Mr. Smartass?” The question is posed with the usual nonchalance and devil-may-care attitude that Dean Winchester seems to intrinsically exude, but Castiel doesn’t miss the nervous crack that splinters the whiskey gruff voice of his best friend. Dean tilts his head back and tosses another peanut into his open mouth.

It’s an innocent enough sounding question, and for any other eighteen-year-old Castiel would take it at face value, but Dean – as Castiel has spent the last few years of his life learning – isn’t like anyone else. Dean isn’t asking to compare career choices, Dean is asking because he wants to live vicariously through Cas. Because he doesn’t think about his own future; doesn’t think he’s got one, so he has to commandeer Castiel’s.

Dean is smart. Smarter than his crippling self-esteem issues – which he spends most of his time covering up with the aforementioned devil-may-care attitude and apparent effortless aloofness – allow him to believe.

Castiel has had a couple of beers tonight at The Roadhouse, which means not only are his inhibitions lowered, but so is his tolerance for Dean’s self-deprecating bullshit. A change of subject seems appropriate.

“There are over twenty seven types of urine on those peanuts.”

Dean freezes then slowly turns to look at Castiel, one eyebrow cocked. “I guess they should be called pee-nuts then,” he grins, before slamming the whole handful into his mouth.

Infuriating? Yes. Self-loathing? Most definitely. Pretty much the sole reason why virtually none of the girls of age in their town are virgins? Sadly yes. And therein lies another problem that Castiel isn’t quite sure how to address. As Dean chews – with his mouth open, and he really needs to question the sanity of anyone who finds such behavior attractive – several girls have congregated near the pool table, vying for Dean’s attention, each one trying to outdo the others, all short skirts and flashes of red lipstick.

The issue isn’t the lack of self-esteem on the part of the girls – Dean clearly has just as many issues on that front – nor is it Dean’s seeming unwillingness to recognize his own intelligence for what it is and join Castiel at college; at any college for fucks’ sake. No, it’s the fact that Castiel finds himself jealous of the heated looks that Dean sends the girls, the way he’s almost certainly gearing up for a visit to the bathroom that will result in Castiel sitting alone in the booth for twenty minutes, waiting for Dean to show up disheveled and stinking of cheap flowery perfume, with a stupid sloppy grin on his handsome face.

Just for once, Castiel would like to be the one for making Dean smile like that.

He’s leaving for college in less than a month, after graduation – and more importantly, after Dean’s party which they came down to the Roadhouse to discuss with the owner, Ellen and her daughter, Jo – and he’s not entirely sure how he’s supposed to tell Dean how he feels, when his best friend is so unaware.

If ignorance is bliss then Dean must be in Paradise.

It hurts. It hurts in a way that Castiel isn’t good at dealing with and so he’s running away to California. He doesn’t want to leave Dean behind, but as he’s discovered, you can show a Winchester love and kindness, but you can’t make him see that he deserves it.

“I’m not sure where my studies will lead,” Castiel admits, slightly miserable, “but I’m sure I will enjoy the journey.”

“I’m pleased for you Cas, y’know.” Dean says, green eyes filled with sincerity. “You can totally do this; be anything you want, do anything you want.” He downs his drink and sweeps his gaze over the cluster of women again; his attention snagging on a pretty dark-haired girl who smiles demurely in Dean’s direction.

“So can you,” Castiel mutters, half-hoping that Dean is too distracted to hear him.

No such luck. “Yeah?” Dean asks, flicking his gaze back to Castiel briefly before it’s on Lisa again. “And what if I wanna be a bank robber?”

It’s typical Dean Winchester flippancy and Castiel huffs at the ridiculousness of his best friend. “Then I’m sure you’d excel at it.”

 

************************************************

Present Day (2014)

 

“Everybody down on the ground! Now!”

Benny’s southern lilt is lost in a hoarse gruff as he grabs the shoulder of a man in a pinstriped suit and shoves him to the floor. The women next to pinstripes – a wife or girlfriend probably – lets out a high pitched shriek before dropping down next to him and covering her head with her hands, curling up into a protective ball.

They’re two of eleven customers in the bank this morning. The others – no heroes, Dean is pleased to see – are huddled together next to the mortgage consultation desk.

Dean turns his attention to Sam and Ash who are demanding that the tellers lay the money out on the counter so they can check for dye packs – that had been a colorful (literally) lesson to learn – before tossing them into the duffel on the floor.

In his ear, Charlie says, “Sixty seconds and counting guys.”

 

 

***********************************************

 

When Castiel jerks awake, he’s still fully clothed, cotton-mouthed and crumpled awkwardly into a patterned chair that wouldn’t look out of place in a stately home somewhere. His phone buzzes on the files spread out on the little mahogany coffee table in front of him. It sounds vaguely like an aggravated wasp through the thick layers of papers.

“Agent Novak speaking.” He’s impressed with his articulacy, not so much with his movement though as his knee cracks as he tries to stretch himself out of the knot his body has somehow tied itself in during sleep.

“Err, Agent Novak, this is Ada—“ the young sounding voice hesitates, then corrects, “—Detective Milligan. Some of our officers have just been called out to the Wells Fargo in Berkeley. A robbery in progress. Thought you and your partner should be informed as the Feds in charge of the case.”

Well, shit.

“Is it definitely them?” He croaks, “The guys in the KISS masks?”

There’s a small pause, then, “We think so. The call came in from one of the robbers themselves, which doesn’t usually happen, right?”

Castiel stifles the hysterical laugh that threatens to bubble out of his throat. It’s almost too ridiculous to be true.

It’s nearly as ridiculous as some guys in KISS masks being the most efficient robbers the Bureau has ever seen.

“Wonders never cease,” murmurs Castiel.

 

***

 

Castiel rubs at his eyes with the heels of his palms. He hasn’t worried about potentially losing his vision this much since his older brother told him in the eighth grade that masturbation causes blindness. The grainy footage is still giving away nothing and the latest tape is just another anomaly to add to the damn pile of anomalies.

The 911 phone call has had more effects on it than a Kanye West album (Balthazar’s words; Castiel isn’t entirely sure what a Kanye West is precisely, but it sounds painful) having been played forwards, backwards, rewound, slowed down, sped up… but it has still produced no real results other than a small lead in the form of a 99 cents voice changer from a joke shop being used to make the call.

Castiel isn’t sure what it all means, but it’s fucking frustrating.

He hasn’t been this frustrated with his own inability to figure shit out since… Since he left Kansas.

Over a damn decade ago, and –

Kansas. 

“Holy fuck. What if it’s a Kansas City Shuffle?” It’s a ridiculous thought, a crazy idea. But for this case? Ridiculous and crazy seem to be the order of the day.

“A what?”

Castiel turns to look at his partner, who undoubtedly mirrors Castiel’s own rumpled appearance. “You know where Kansas City is, right?”

Balthazar shoots him an unimpressed look, “Of course I do. It’s in –“ He cuts himself off, narrowing his blue eyes at Castiel, then tries again. “Are you expecting me to say Kansas? That would be the obvious answer; it probably catches a lot of people out.” He puffs out his chest, apparently already proud of himself, “But I happen to know that Kansas City is in Missouri.”

Which is a great answer that perfectly accentuates his point.

“Largest city in the state,” Castiel grins, excitement threatening to bubble over, “And that’s the fucking beauty of it, Balth. You figured out that I was trying to trick you. So now if I tell you that there is a Kansas City in Kansas? And that it’s right across the river from the one in Missouri?”

His partner just blinks three times. Twice fast and then once nice and slowly, as if he’s struggling to process.

Castiel continues in the face of stony silence, trying to figure out a better way to explain it to his partner’s tired mind. “The Kansas City Shuffle is one of the oldest tricks in the con book. It’s all about misdirection and assumption. Boiled down the basics, it’s a double bluff. It revolves around someone being tricked by thinking that they’re being tricked.” He searches through the labelled DVD cases piled next to the screens, ejects the latest one and inserts the fourth robbery from Portland. “Here. Look at the difference. It’s like it’s not even the same group of people, even though it has to be. Their whole point is to create a clusterfuck; a diversion so that we won’t see it coming– “

“See what coming?” Balthazar interrupts, brow furrowed, voice thick with annoyance, “and you say ‘tricking someone by thinking they’re being tricked.’ Just who are they trying to trick? They’re committing a robbery for fucks’ sake. They’re hardly that David Blaine bloke.”

Us.” Castiel says with an impatient sigh. He gets that Balthazar is tired; fuck they both are, but sometimes he wonders if his partner is deliberately obtuse, just to wind him up. “They know exactly what they’re doing. They know that we’ll be watching.”

Balthazar snorts, disbelief clear. “Okay, supposing you’re right and there’s more going on than just the robberies and they’re trying to distract us from it by committing said robbery. To what end?”

Castiel shakes his head, a small smile on his lips, “Well, we figure that out and we’ve probably solved the whole damn case.”