The parking in front of Dean's office is empty, but tomorrow is Thursday and the street sweeper does his block of Sixth on Thursdays between eight and ten. The last thing the Continental needs is a ticket, so Dean pulls around back. The only cars in the lot are the Impala and the dentist's minivan. The minivan is leaking a greenish snake of antifreeze onto the wet asphalt. After three tries, Dean gets the Continental lined up alongside the dumpster. It's just enough of a boat that its nose kisses the building before its tires bump the parking block.
He kills the engine and grabs his weapons from the glove compartment. The Continental's stale Hawaiian Breeze smell gets stronger as he leans over – strong enough that he wrinkles his nose. He can practically taste it. If he reached under the seat, he'd probably find a cardboard pineapple rotting into the dusty carpet.
He doesn't bother. Instead, he climbs out of the car and into the weather. A slight wind is irritating the drizzle. The sky has been calm since he left Henriksen's office. He doesn't know if that's good or bad. Uncertainty slithers around in his gut as he walks over to the Impala and pops the trunk.
His arsenal is a mess. He usually straightens it out after a hunt, but he'd left Bartlesville in a hurry and he hasn't had time to take a piss since. Knives are shoved in every compartment. A handful of shotgun shells have rattled out of their box. The rustiest of his three salt canisters is spitting salt through a hole in its side. Sighing, he pulls the thirty-two out of his waistband and swaps it for his forty-five. He slides the demon shank into his belt. He isn't sure what to do with the angel blade; he doesn't have a sheath for it, and it's a little too bulky for his inside pocket.
A chill sweeps up the back of his neck before he can decide. He makes himself take a breath. No sudden moves. There are two of them; their shadows are rough patches on the brick wall, tinged brown by the parking lot's buzzing sodium light. Something is scratching inside the dumpster – a raccoon, maybe. Or a possum. Dean shuts the Impala's trunk and pockets his keys. He eases the angel blade into his sleeve, balancing the the tip on the pad of his middle finger. It feels weirdly dull, like he'd need both hands to put it through a piece of paper.
He turns to face them – a blonde woman in her thirties who looks ready to spit nails and a shorter, younger, dark-haired man. His expression is as blank as they come. They're both dressed in drab suits. They aren't bothering with a light show, but Dean doesn't need a formal introduction. He knows they're angels. The air around them is practically humming. A knife-sharp thread of ozone is curling around the stench coming off the dumpster.
Hey, Cas. If you ain't too busy, I'm outside my office and I, uh – I got company. Your kind of company.
The wind tugs at Dean's coat. He says, "Sorry, guys. Office is closed for the night."
"Dean Winchester," the woman sneers. Her voice could cut marble without leaving a mark. "We've come for the Staff of Moses."
Dean's tempted to tell her to get in line. Instead, he shrugs and says, "It ain't here. Sorry you hopped down off your clouds for nothing."
She takes a step toward him and spits out, "Liar."
"Hester," the man says, holding up his hand. Hester bristles slightly; the sodium light flickers. Then she subsides with a soft huff. The man turns his attention back to Dean. "Where is Castiel?"
"Not here," Dean replies. The angel blade bumps the inside of his wrist. He's got no chance – not against two of them. Cas, please. "What d'you dicks want with him?"
"Castiel defied Heaven," Hester says acidly. "He located the Staff but failed to return it. He has killed angels."
Dean shakes his head. "Listen, sister. You got it all wrong. He doesn't have your fucking Staff. He's looking for it so he can take it back upstairs. And he iced those angels in self-defense."
Anger contorts Hester's face. She opens her mouth, but the man is faster. He says, "In defending himself, he further defied Heaven. It was his duty to return for questioning when commanded."
Dean snorts. "Questioning. That's a nice word you guys got for torture." He shifts his weight a little. Attacking them is suicide, but if they come at him he wants to be ready. "Look, I don't know what Theo said to him, but Uriel was –"
The air rips open – a quick flutter beside Dean's shoulder. Cas says, "Dean, it's all right." His hand brushes the small of Dean's back.
Hester's mouth thins. "Castiel."
"Hello, Hester," Cas says. "Hello, Inias." There's something off about his voice. When Jonah and Efram zapped into the loft, he'd sounded like he was chewing on barbed wire. Now he just sounds tired. Or resigned. Maybe sad. "We should talk."
Hester starts to speak, but Inias holds up his hand again. His expression is reasonable for something that's carved from stone. He probably thinks he's the good cop. He says, "There is nothing to discuss, Castiel. You will return to Heaven and answer for your disobedience."
A train horn blares in the distance. After a tight pause, Cas nods and says, "Fine. Let Dean go and I will... come quietly."
"What? No way." Dean grabs Cas' sleeve. "I ain't leaving you with these dicks."
Hester narrows her eyes. They glint silver as she asks, "Do you presume to interfere? You? A human?"
Cas steps in front of Dean. "Leave him alone. He means no offense." Dean huffs – he absolutely means offense – but Cas just continues, "I saved his life once. You know how humans can be. He believes he owes me a debt."
"Saving his life was your ruin," Hester snaps. The sodium light flickers again. "The moment you laid a hand on him, you were lost."
"Dean," Cas murmurs. Leaning back slightly, he turns his head until his breath puffs against Dean's jaw. It's warmer than the wind. "Go."
"No," Inias says, easing an angel blade from his jacket. "Dean Winchester will accompany us to Heaven. Your concern for his safety could prove useful when you are questioned."
Cas pauses again. Then he sighs and says, "Inias, please. I don't want to fight you."
Inias starts to reply, but Hester cuts him off by snarling under her breath and lunging for Cas. Dean doesn't see her pull her blade – one moment her hand is empty; in the next, a silver streak is jabbing toward Cas' throat. He takes a step back so Cas has room to work and fumbles for his blade. It catches in his sleeve and thumps against the ball of his thumb. Before he really gets it in his hand, something cold and bright slams into his chest, knocking into him with enough force that he reels back against the Impala's trunk.
Gravel crunches under Dean's shuffling feet. Just as he finds his balance, the same weird, chilly light slams into Dean again. He hits the ground, landing hard on his elbow and hip. Pain flares in his leg as he scrambles to his knees and heaves himself to his feet. His blade has rolled under of the Impala's rear tires. He kicks at it until it jerks free and skids across the asphalt. He pauses as he crouches for it, looking for an opening. His heart feels like it's hammering against a scar.
Cas blocks a blow from Inias; he catches Inias by the wrist and wrenches his arm down. He shoves Inias away with a grunt, then turns sideways to dodge Hester's swinging blade. It misses him by an inch. She charges at him. Instead of stabbing her, he punches her in the sternum. The sound of bone cracking whips around the parking lot like a gunshot.
"Dean," Cas hisses. He has blood at the corner of his mouth. "Go."
And – no. No way. Dean's not leaving him. He's not letting Cas get dragged back to Heaven. Not if it's just to save his sorry ass. Terror is clawing at his gut, but he tightens his grip on his blade and takes a run at Inias, jabbing up and in as he shoulders into Inias' chest. Inias hurls Dean away with half a gesture, but Dean's blade connects with Inias' arm. Inias grates out a noise. Grace-light winks at Dean through a hole in his sleeve as he reaches down and punches Dean in the jaw.
It feels like getting smacked with a lead pipe. Dean's head whips back. His vision swims. Before he can blink it clear, something knocks him onto his back. He sprawls into a puddle, gasping as icy-cold water seeps into his slacks. He gropes around for his blade, but a sudden, searing pain explodes in his chest, something that stabs up underneath his ribs and squeezes like a fist. It must still be Inias; Hester has Cas around the throat.
"You're a disgrace," Hester spits, smashing her fist into Cas' cheek. "You have fallen in every way imaginable."
She punches Cas again. And again. The third time, her knuckles come away bloody. Cas doesn't move a muscle. He doesn't speak. Anger flushes Hester face, a dark fever-burn that crawls between her jaw and her hairline. She rears back for another blow, but Inias reaches for her and says, "Hester, enough."
"He is corrupt, Inias," Hester insists. She clenches her fist but doesn't swing. Her other hand is clawed in Cas' collar. "He's practically human."
"Yes, he is. But our superiors want him alive."
Inias turns as he says it, and Dean spots a short, red-haired woman standing right behind him. He tries to wave her away – the last thing this shitshow needs is a witness, or another victim – but whatever Inias did to him has made him clumsy and slow. His chest aches. His scar is throbbing. His legs weigh a hundred pounds, and a pins-and-needles feeling is chasing up and down his arms.
Ginger tucks something into Inias' collar and says, "Impetus bestiarum."
Inias' face twists. He hunches over and growls.
"Dele malum hoc."
Growling again, Inias spins and rams his blade into Hester's back. Her eyes flash. She flares out with a scream and a crest of blue-white light that crackles and throbs. The Impala's windows rattle. A solid wave of heat Dean like the swelter from a blast furnace. His next few breaths burn his lungs and taste like lightning. The ozone in the air is thick enough to chew.
Gray sparks cloud Dean's vision for a beat or two. He rubs his eyes with the back of his wrist because his hands are gritty and wet from crawling around on the ground. When he can see again, he finds Cas standing over Hester's body. Her right wing is lost in the shadows on the asphalt. Her left is curving toward the parking spots facing the dentist's office. Sooty streaks crisscross the painted lines. Her hand is resting on Cas' foot – palm up, fingers curled. The drizzle is slowly washing the blood from her knuckles.
Cas looks up at Ginger. He slides his blade out of his sleeve and asks, "Who are you?"
Ginger raises her eyebrows. "You know, you could thank me. I just saved your life."
"You killed her."
"Someone had to."
Dean plants his hand on the Impala's trunk and pushes himself to his feet. His legs feel like water, so he braces his hip against the car as he eases his forty-five out of his slacks. The magazine is nearly full. Regular bullets won't kill a witch, but Dean figures they'll still hurt like hell going in.
He lines her up and snaps, "He asked you a question, lady."
"My name is Rowena," she says. Beside her, Inias whines softly – a restless, animal noise. "I have a proposition for you."
"All right." Dean doesn't lower his gun. "Lay it on me."
Rowena scoffs. "Out here? This weather's no good for my old bones." She spares Hester's corpse a dispassionate glance. "I'll just wait inside while you tidy this up."
Dean grits his teeth as he sinks into his chair. He's pretty sure he bruised a rib during the fight. Once the spike of pain passes, he opens his desk's top drawer and grabs the nine-millimeter hidden under a stack of take-out menus. It's loaded with hollow-points filled with witch-killing poison – aconite, mistletoe, chicken feet, ground malachite. Dean's never had the chance to test them out, but Charlie swears they'll drop a witch like a stone. He lays the gun on the desk and gives Rowena a once-over.
She's a tiny thing, just two or three inches over five feet. She looks somewhere in her thirties, but the smart money is on her being a lot older – witches usually are. Her long, curly hair is pulled over her shoulders in twin waterfalls. Out in the parking lot it had seemed a deep auburn; in decent light it's coppery and bright. She's wearing a cocktail dress, a green lace-over-satin number that's clearly expensive. Too expensive for a dusty pit-stop like Lawrence.
A car coughs to life out on the street. Inias lumbers in from the front office, carrying a mug Rowena asked him to fill at the water cooler. She coos, "Thank you, dear," as he hands it over; he perks up slightly at the praise. Rowena cradles the mug in between her palms and murmurs something under her breath. A moment later, the water starts to steam. She sets the mug on Dean's desk and pulls a small packet from her silver purse.
"Hex bag?" Dean asks. He inches his hand closer to the gun. The safety isn't on; he could probably get a shot off before she throws it in his face.
"It's just tea," Rowena replies airly. "I find talking shop goes best over a good, strong cuppa."
Cas stops pacing and stands behind Dean. He grips the back of Dean's chair with boths hands, hard enough to make it creak. His knuckles graze Dean's shirt as he says, "Release Inias."
Rowena slips the teabag into the mug. She toys with the string for a few moments before saying, "Sorry, no. I don't think I will." A thick Scottish accent plucks at each word. "Having a pet angel might come in handy before the night's out."
Inias makes a noise – something halfway between Rowena's name and a growl. The whites of his eyes are both yellow and bloodshot, and his sweaty face is a sickly, ashy gray. His hands are twitching. He keeps clenching and unclenching his fists.
Dean asks, "What'd you do to him?"
"It's an attack dog spell – one of my own designs. I find it dead useful when I'm in a tight spot."
"It compels him to protect me. Sadly, it's a right strain on the body. Most humans die within a day." Rowena glances up at Inias. Then she narrows her eyes at Dean and says, "Angels are tougher to kill; I suppose he could hang on a full week."
"So this is blackmail?" Dean asks, sliding his angel blade into his lap. It would be faster and easier to kill Inias and call Rowena's bluff. But Dean doesn't think Cas would be game. "You're just gonna leave him like that if we don't buy what you're selling?"
"Hardly. Inias is protection. I assume that –" Rowena frowns at the gun "– isn't loaded with sweets."
Dean shows her some teeth. "Hardly."
"If you refuse my offer, I can find someone else. But I intend to leave here with my skin." Rowena glances at Inias again, giving him a smile that makes him snuffle and preen. "I'll release him once I'm free and clear."
"What makes you think I'd even be interested?" Dean asks.
"Please," Rowena says, rolling her eyes. "Spare me your shining armor. I know what you do for a living. I wouldn't be the worst thing you’ve ever made a deal with. Not by half."
"I'm a hunter."
"I was talking about your other line of work."
That one stings a little, but it isn't worth going to the mat. Dean's never taken a job that didn't smell right, and he's ducked a few that felt dirty once he was in them up to his elbows. Most PIs won't. His dad had worked every case that walked through the door. Money had been tight after Mary died, and John had figured integrity didn't pay the bills. He'd figured it didn't kill monsters, either.
"Listen, Winnie. You –"
"What do you want?" Cas asks. He drums his fingers on the back of Dean's chair.
"I believe you know the demon Crowley?" Rowena asks. Behind her, Inias whines. A sharp, animal smell is scratching at the air – a mix of wood-rot and wet fur. "He calls himself the King of the Crossroads."
"Yeah," Dean grumbles. "We – yeah. We know him. What's he to you?"
Rowena pauses behind a sip of tea. Then she says, "Crowley's my son. I want you to kill him."
Dean blinks at her. "He... what?"
"I know, I know. I scarcely look old enough to be a grown demon's mother." A smug smile tugs at Rowena's mouth. "What can I say? Good genes."
"Witchcraft doesn't hurt."
"It does have its perks."
"I don't understand," Cas says, moving to stand beside Dean's desk. The black eye Hester gave him has started to fade, but he still has a purplish knot on his jaw. Blood is smeared on his chin and lower lip. "Demon or not – why would you want your son dead?"
"Because he's a despicable little toad," Rowena says. Anger flushes her face, burning brightest in her cheeks. "Controlling the crossroads has made him insufferable. He's so full of himself his eyes ought to be brown. He – because of this."
She tips her head back and points to her necklace – three or four strips of leather braided tightly around her throat. Dean hadn't noticed it before; she's wearing it up high, and her hair hides the sides of her neck. It's cheap and ugly and rough. It doesn't fit with a dress that probably cost a couple grand.
Cas frowns. "Is that a binding?"
"A partial one, yes." Someone walks past the window – wet footsteps and a shadow that peeks above the café curtain. Rowena sighs into her tea. "I'm free to do as I please, unless His Highness needs me."
"And then – well, I can't refuse him, can I?" She huffs out a shrill, irritated noise. "If he summons me, I have to drop what I'm doing and hop to! If he asks me to cast a spell, I can't tell him to piss off!" Her hand shakes slightly as she brushes lint off her sleeve. "Three years now, he's had me under his thumb. It's been a nightmare."
Dean's cranky rib twinges. Wincing a little, he says, "Lemme guess... he's got it fixed so you can't ice him yourself."
"Yes," Rowena says tartly. Her cheeks redden again. "He – it shields him from direct harm."
Dean sighs and rubs his hand over his face. Witches have never been his favorite, and he's never met one that didn't tell lies out of both sides of their mouth. He has no idea if Rowena's sob story is true – even if it is, it isn't exactly breaking his heart. But leaving a ringer in Crowley's pocket is just asking for trouble.
He glances at Cas. "What d'you think?"
"I'm not sure." Cas studies Rowena for a few seconds. Then he walks around Dean's desk. Inias watches him warily, growling low in the back of his throat. It gets louder and more menacing the closer Cas moves. Cas holds up his hands and murmurs, "Inias, please," but Inias just bares his teeth. He shifts his weight like he's getting ready to pounce.
Rowena pats his arm. "It's all right, dear."
Inias looks at Rowena and barks out a short, frustrated noise. He bares his teeth again.
"Calce, Inias," Rowena says gently. "Calce."
Inias whines and edges back. Once he settles, Cas crouches beside Rowena's chair. The blood staining his mouth is almost gone. He brushes her hair to the side and carefully touches the necklace. Light flares from his fingertips; it's barely a spark compared to the kind of fireworks Dean's seen in the last couple of days, but it's enough to make Rowena shiver. Cas murmurs under his breath – something that sounds like a spell. He touches the necklace again. Then he shakes his head and stands.
"I can't remove it. It's keyed to Crowley specifically."
"So she's stuck with it until he kicks?"
"Or until his power is severely dampened."
"Dampened," Dean repeats slowly. He drums his fingers on his desk. "Devil's trap?"
Cas considers this for a moment. Then he shakes his head again and says, "Severely dampened. A devil's trap wouldn't be strong enough. We'd need a Key of Solomon."
"Great," Dean mutters. A Key of Solomon has to be carved into wood – preferably elder or palo santo – and it has to be exactly to scale. Otherwise, it's just an ugly picture of a scorpion. "Well, killing that ashy bastard was on my to-do list anyway."
Rowena smiles at him. "Is that so?"
Dean's rib twinges again. "Yeah, but it's pretty far down there. I mean, it's nearly at the bottom. If you want me to bump it up the line, you gotta put something on the table."
"What do you want?"
"That's not –" Dean cuts off, frowning. "I'm asking what you've got."
"I'm a witch, Winchester. I can get you anything – money, power, longevity, love." Rowena smooths a hand through her hair, readjusting it to cover the necklace. "If you kill Crowley, I'll cast one spell for you. Any spell. No questions, no conditions."
Dean gives her an eyebrow. "No conditions?"
"Save my own safety."
Dean nods at Cas. "There's two of us. Seems like there should be two spells."
"You're only killing one demon," Rowena counters. She drains her tea and sets the mug on Dean's desk. "Besides, I don't think Feathers needs me to give him eternal life."
"God already beat you to it," Cas says flatly.
Dean snorts. "Yeah, I think I'm gonna pass on the Fountain of Youth for right now. We'll call it a favor." He slides a pen and notepad across the desk. "Write your number down. I'll let you know when Crowley's out of the picture."
Rowena opens her purse and pulls out a business card. It's pearl-white with embossed, silver lettering – a single "R" above a Chicago phone number. She drops it on top of the notepad and says, "It's been a pleasure, Winchester," with zero sincerity.
As she stands, Dean asks, "What've you done for Crowley recently?"
Rowena barely hesitates. "Just yesterday, he had me make some hex bags. He wanted to hide a room from angelic sight."
"Anything before that?"
"Yes. About a month ago, he asked me to locate a celestial weapon. Some kind of stick."
Rowena shakes her head. "No. Tracking objects can be tricky, even for someone with my strength. It's here –"
"Here?" Cas cuts in. His voice is sharper than glass. "Here in Lawrence?"
"No. Here on earth. That's as close as I could get. Wherever this thing is, whoever has it – it's heavily warded. Very heavily warded." Rowena turns toward the door, adding, "I've never seen anything like it."
"Hey," Dean snaps, reaching for the gun. "Inias."
"Yes, yes. All right." Rowena lifts her hand, aiming her palm at Inias' chest. "Desiste." With her free hand, she reaches behind her and opens the door. She takes a quick step back. "Adlevo onus tuum."
Inias shivers from head to toe. His eyes roll up in his head and he collapses to the floor. Cas just watches him lie there for a few seconds. Then he pricks his finger with a thumbtack and paints an angel-banishing sigil on Dean's desk. It's lopsided and about the size of a grapefruit. The blood glints darkly in the yellow glare of Alastair's floor lamp.
Slowly, Inias leans up on his elbows. He blinks a few times. Then he coughs out a two-pack-a-day noise and mumbles, "Castiel?"
"Hello, brother," Cas says tonelessly. His finger has already healed; he pricks himself again and touches the sigil. "Goodbye." As Inias is blazing out, he looks over at Dean and asks, "Are you sure that was wise? Letting Rowena go?"
Dean shrugs. "Probably not. But we don't really have a way to hold her. And we've got enough on our plate without adding a babysitting gig." A barb of ozone hooks his nose. He rubs it and asks, "You didn't wanna talk to him?"
"No," Cas says, shaking his head. That doesn't make sense – at this rate, they need all the information they can get – but Cas continues before Dean can push it. "We shouldn't stay here. It isn't safe."
"Right, yeah. We can grab a motel. Just lemme throw some stuff into a bag."
Dean had forgotten about his rib, but it reminds him who's boss when he tries to stand. Pain flares in his side, so searing and sudden that he hunches over the desk and groans. It knocks the air out of him; he sucks in a few ragged breaths before opening his eyes. He clenches his hands into fists and thumps them on the desk.
Cas hand skims across the small of his back. "You're hurt."
Dean starts to say, "Yeah," but it jerks into a yelp as a sweep of grace pulses through him. It's hot and cold and bright; Dean shivers and sucks in a breath. A long wave of goose-pimples ripples down both his arms. Cas strokes his hand up Dean's back as it ebbs away. He palms the scar on Dean's shoulder and turns Dean around.
Dean kisses the corner of his mouth, right where all the blood had been earlier. "Yeah. Thanks."
Cas smiles. Then he flattens his other hand on Dean's chest and says, "I'm sorry."
Another sweep of grace, but this one hurts. Jesus Christ, it hurts. It feels like getting stabbed with a hundred icicles. The pain thrums through Dean's chest, constant and needle-sharp; he grates out Cas' name and claws at Cas' wrist. He tries to squirm away, but Cas pulls him closer and kisses his temple. His breath puffs against Dean's skin.
"I'm sorry," he says again.
It fades as quickly as it came, but it leaves Dean winded and weak. His legs feel watery, and he has to cough a few times before he can speak. "What – what the hell was that?"
"I carved a sigil into your ribs – something similar to my tattoo. It hides you from angelic sight."
"Mine too. I'll still hear your prayers, but you'll have to tell me where you are." Cas kisses his temple again. And again. "Come on. We really shouldn't stay here."
"Yeah, okay. Gimme ten minutes."
The Sleep-EZ is a narrow horseshoe of twelve rooms curved tightly around a shabby office and a tiny, kidney-shaped pool. It's crouched on the west side of US 59 – north of the turnpike, past the last stretch of highway still considered Second Street – and it's close enough to the river that a stale, boiled-water smell hangs over it in the summer. It was built in the seventies and it shows; the flat roof is scattered with white gravel and chipped rock-siding lurks underneath the windows. The parking lot is nearly empty when Dean pulls in. It's a little after eight; ships don't start passing in the night around here until sometime after ten.
He asks for a king. He usually puts motels on a dummy credit card so he can forget about the bill, but running that scam four miles from his office feels too close to home. Instead, he pays with one of the c-notes he lifted from Crowley. He needs the change; the pizza and beer waiting in the car ate the last of his twenties. He writes the name and address from his fake ID on the check-in card. He fills in the Impala's real license plate number, but he smudges the ink with his thumb as he hands it over.
Room five doesn't have much going for it aside from a short walk to the vending machines. Wood paneling covers three of the four walls from floor to ceiling, and it's discolored with age and warped where it's cut to frame the heating vents. Gold shag carpet seethes across the floor. If someone bothered to vacuum it, it might match the gold curtains and the gold and brown bedspread. Dean tosses his bags on a table that wobbles under the weight. Its speckled Formica top makes sticky sounds when the pizza box touches it.
Cas heads straight for the bed. He zaps his clothes off piece by piece on the way; by the time he gets there, he's down to his slacks and his white shirt. He grabs the remote and points it at the TV. After crackling for a second, it pops on to local news. Dean starts on a slice of pizza as he strips out of his damp, dirty suit. He's still chewing when he climbs into the shower. The tiles look a little dingy, and the gold-flecked door has a long, spidery crack. The water comes out of the shower-head fast and hot.
Dean walks back out wearing clean boxer-briefs and scrubbing his wet hair with a towel. Cas is still on the bed. He has Dean's bathroom kit in his lap and he's browsing the motel's handful of channels with a tired, irritated look on his face. He pauses on HBO long enough to blink at last Sunday's Game of Thrones. Then he flips back to the local news and lays the remote on the bed. He unzips Dean's bathroom kit and pokes at the stuff inside.
"You looking for something?" Dean asks.
"No," Cas says. He pulls his hand out of the kit and frowns at what he's holding – tweezers, nail clippers, a disposable razor, a stick of Old Spice deodorant. "I'm just curious. This vessel maintains itself; I've never given much thought to human grooming."
"You've never taken a shower?"
"I've never needed one."
Dean shakes his head. "Dude, try it sometime. You won't regret it."
"Maybe." Cas fiddles with the razor for a few seconds – releasing the cartridge, refitting it on the handle, releasing it, refitting it again. He barely glances up as he asks, "How was your meeting with the police?"
"Not good," Dean admits, grimacing. He grabs a beer and kills the neck in a couple of swallows. The six-pack never made it into the fridge; the bottle is sweaty from sitting out. "I know you said you're gonna take care of it, but –"
"Dean, I will."
"Hey, I believe you." Dean gives his hair a final scrub and lobs the towel toward the bathroom. "I'm just – I'm kinda running outta time here."
"What would you need done? Clearing you completely... what would it take?"
Dean pauses to work on his beer. Then he says, "Well, uh. We gotta get rid of the bodies. And all the paperwork. And you'd have to Windex some brains. Not just Henriksen's. All the cops at the scene, and the guys who tossed my office, and the judge that signed the warrant. The coroner, too."
"Disposing of the bodies isn't a problem."
"What about the other stuff?"
Cas gives the tweezers a few clicks. Then he drops them back into the kit and sighs. "Finding the documents would be easiest if I froze time while we searched, but altering existence is incredibly taxing. So is modifying memories on a large scale. I'd be weakened for several hours afterward, and I –" He sighs again. "I can't risk it."
"Yeah, I guess not. Not if your family's gonna keep dropping in."
It's the wrong thing to say; Cas' face slams shut faster than a hurricane door. He shifts on the bed, making the headboard snap against the wall. Dean opens his mouth. Closes it. Then he washes down his foot with a couple of pulls from his beer. A slow chill is seeping into the room, pushing in through the gap under the door. Dean walks over to the window unit and flips on the heater. After a clunk and a whine, it starts moving the stale cigarette smell around.
On his way over to the bed, Dean rescues the pizza box and snags a spare beer. The headboard smacks the wall again as he sits down across from Cas. The TV's volume is down low – low enough that it's just a dull, crawling buzz. It's still showing the local news; Dean works his way through two more slices of pizza while watching live coverage of a car chase in Topeka. Cas toys with the nail clippers – unfolding the tiny file, testing its point against the tip of his finger, running its rough edge along the pad of his thumb.
Eventually, Dean clears his throat and asks, "You okay?"
Cas just gives Dean half a shrug. He gathers up the stuff spread out on the bed and starts packing it into the kit. He pauses at the deodorant, turning it over to read the label on the back.
Dean tugs it out of his hand and tucks it away. "Hey. Talk to me."
"I – I don't know where to start."
"From the top." Dean nudges the pizza box out of his lap so he can roll on his side and face Cas. He pops a piece of crust into his mouth and wipes his greasy fingers on the bedspread. Chewing, he says, "You left my office 'cause your spidey-sense went off. Angels, right?"
"Hester and Inias?"
Cas shakes his head. "No. Different angels. They – Daniel and Adina."
"All right." Dean leans back enough to grab his beer. After a drink, he says, "Rough fight? You were gone a coupla hours."
"I was chasing them." Cas zips the kit closed and sets it on the nightstand. It jostles the boxy, old-school telephone, making it chirp softly. "They evaded me several times before I finally caught them."
Out in the parking lot, a horn honks three or four times – quick and impatient, like the driver is waiting for someone. Dean asks, "Why'd they run? I mean, when we bump into these guys, they're always gunning for you."
"They were hoping to find you." Cas tips his head back and sighs at the ceiling. "They thought holding you would force me to cooperate."
"Right, yeah." A hot, uncomfortable feeling squirms under Dean's ribs. "You kill 'em?"
Quietly, Cas says, "Only Daniel. I managed to disarm and corner Adina; I offered to return her to Heaven if she'd talk to me."
"What'd she tell you?"
"Nothing I didn't already suspect." Cas sighs again. He sounds tired – so fucking tired. "Heaven has followed Hell's lead by putting a bounty on the Staff. Glory and exaltation to any angel who finds it. And they don't care how it's found."
"Great," Dean mutters. A demon free-for-all was bad enough; having angels all over the place is going to turn things into a shitshow. "That why you didn't talk to Inias?"
"Yes. I didn't see the point. He would've been here on the same... directive."
Directive. Jesus Christ. Dean rubs his face and asks, "So... what was up with those two? I mean, no offense, but you weren't exactly shooting to kill out there." Cas bristles slightly; Dean reaches out and slides his hand down Cas' arm. "Were they – I don't know. Like Uriel? Friends of yours?"
Cas hesitates for a moment. Then he nods and says, "Yes. Hester and Inias – we were in the same garrison. We lived together and fought together." He looks away. "We sang together."
"You guys sing? Like – like what? Hymns?"
Cas almost smiles. "Not the hymns known on earth, but yes. The idea is the same. We praise God. We thank him for creation. For granting us his grace."
"Sounds like a blast." That makes Cas huff, so Dean strokes his wrist and the back of his hand. He says, "You miss it." It isn't a question.
"I – yes. Yes, I miss it."
That uncomfortable feeling is back. It's burning and thick and trying to claw its way into Dean's throat. He breathes through it and says, "Well, maybe this ain't all bad. If Heaven ain't asking about who or how or why, if you find it first, you'll get back into the clubhouse. And that – that's what you want, right?"
Cas hesitates again. "Yes. I – I should go back. If I –" He cuts off at looks at Dean. Really looks. After a long, terrible moment, he says, "You want me to stay." It isn't a question, either.
Denial is easiest – easiest and safest. Probably kindest. Dean's chest is aching, but he makes himself shrug and say, "I ain't a long-haul kinda guy. I just take what comes. We've had a fun coupla days. I figure we can swing a couple more before you head back upstairs."
Dean just waves him off. The knife is already in; talking about it won't make it hurt any less. He sets his beer on the nightstand and kicks the pizza box to the floor. He gives Cas a smile. Then he grabs the front of Cas' shirt and says, "C'mere."
He should keep it easy and playful, maybe let it get a little rough. He should catch Cas' jaw in his hand and dig his thumb in right at the hinge. He should nip Cas' lips a few times before pushing his tongue into Cas' mouth. But Cas breathes out a low noise as Dean leans in, and he skims his fingers across Dean's cheek. His eyes slide closed. He murmurs Dean's name, and Dean freezes, leaving them forehead to forehead and nose to nose.
Cas tips his head slightly, and their mouths brush, soft. He pulls Dean closer and threads his fingers into Dean's hair. Their mouths touch again. And again and again and again. Slow kisses that drag Dean under like a riptide. His blood rushes in his ears. Cas palms the side of Dean's neck and strokes his thumb under Dean's jaw. Dean turns into it, his lips bumping the heel of Cas' hand, the inside of Cas' wrist. He tugs at Cas' shirt. A beat later they're naked. Dean huffs out a laugh against Cas' chin.
He tips Cas back into the pillows and shifts on top of him. His dick catches in the crease of Cas' hip, and he rubs it there, moaning as heat wraps around his spine. He slides his hands under Cas' back. The bedspread is sandpaper-rough against his knuckles and Cas' skin is warm against his palms. He noses at Cas' jaw, at the side of Cas' neck, but when he finds Cas' throat he doesn't bite like he should. He kisses a mark there, just lips and tongue. He knows it won't last, but it looks good there in the few seconds before it fades.
Dean kisses another mark into the curve of Cas' shoulder, and another at the flare of Cas' collarbone. He follows the sweep of it with his mouth – down, down, down. Cas arches up, hooking his leg around Dean's hip. He murmurs Dean's name again. Dean kisses Cas' nipple, then sucks it into his mouth. He works at it until it peaks under his tongue, until Cas grabs at the bedspread and twists his fingers in Dean's hair. His dick is digging into Dean's belly, hard and damp at the tip. Dean wraps his hand around it. Strokes Cas slow.
He should push his fingers into Cas' mouth and tell him to make them wet. He should open Cas up quick. Get in, get off. Fist Cas' dick as he thrusts. Instead, he brings his hands down to Cas' hips and holds them there. He thumbs Cas' skin. The mark he left on Cas' throat is gone, but a slow flush is burning in his cheeks and jaw. His eyes are dark. He looks – fuck.
"Turn over," Dean says.
Cas has a handful of freckles on his back – one low on his nape, one at the top of his shoulder, two more on his shoulder blade, another at the dip of his spine. Dean touches them with his fingers, with his mouth. He kisses another mark at the back of Cas' neck, rubbing himself against the swell of Cas' ass as he sucks at Cas' skin, then nosing at the red-bright bruise as it fades. Cas curves into it, turning his face into the pillows and gasping out a noise. His foot bumps Dean's shin, toes curling. Dean runs his hands down Cas' sides. Palms the span of Cas' ribs. Feels Cas breathe as he mouths his way down, down, down.
He pauses at Cas' tailbone, laying a slow kiss there. Then another, and another. He nips at Cas' skin and skims his fingers into Cas' cleft. Cas stills. He leans up on his elbows and looks at Dean over his shoulder.
"Let me," Dean says quietly. He shouldn't – it's too close, too intimate – but it's been a long time since he's wanted to. Since he's even had the chance. Bar hook-ups aren't worth the risk. "Let me."
"Dean," Cas says again. He drops his head. Rolls his hips a little, like he's rubbing himself against the bed. "You – yes."
Dean teases Cas with his fingers again. Then he spreads Cas open and leans in. He gives Cas the flat of his tongue – long strokes that start low and slick up over his hole. The first pass makes Cas shiver; the second makes him clutch at the bedspread. On the third, Cas chokes out a moan. It's incendiary – desperate and raw, torn out of his throat. He arches back, pushing himself against Dean's mouth. Dean slides his hands down Cas' thighs and nudges, urging Cas to bend his knees and open himself up.
The headboard thunks against the wall. Dean licks Cas slow and easy, dragging his tongue up and up until everything is wet, until spit is running down his chin. Heat pools deep in his gut. The bedspread feels like a rasp, but Dean grinds against it anyway, too wound up to care. He rolls his hips. Shudders. Pants out thin, desperate noises against Cas' skin.
Cas reaches back, his fingers slipping through Dean's hair. He's loosened up a little, so Dean gives him the tip of his tongue, fucking it in and in and in. He works his arms under Cas' thighs, sliding one hand up Cas' side and wrapping the other around Cas' dick. Cas moans again – a shapeless thing that curls up at the end like it started out as Dean's name. He jerks his hips, rocking between Dean's mouth and Dean's fist.
It only takes a few strokes. The lamp on the nightstand flickers. The window rattles with something that isn't the wind. Cas' dick pulses in Dean's hand, and then he's shaking, coming. He buries his face in the pillow and heaves out a breath. The lamp flickers again, guttering in and out with a quiet buzz.
Dean leans up and looks. Cas' skin is stubble-pink, and his hole – fuck. Dean rubs his thumb over it, barely dipping inside. He wants in there – badly – but his lube is in his bag, and he's already pretty close. Slowly, he crawls up Cas' body. He presses a kiss to the back of Cas' neck, then hides another one behind Cas' ear. Then he slicks his dick with Cas' come and tucks himself between Cas' thighs.
The first thrust rips a moan out of him. Arousal jolts through him like lightning, so fast and hot and sharp that it leaves him feeling sucker-punched. He ends up hunched over Cas' back, gasping, his elbows digging into Cas' sides and his hands fisted in the ugly bedspread. Cas is gorgeous underneath him, his hair sweat-damp at the back of his neck and his spine a long curve. Dean thrusts again and again and again, everything tight and hot, all slow pressure and come-slick skin.
He drops his forehead to the warm stretch between Cas' shoulder blades. Looks down and watches himself fuck Cas' thighs. His legs shake. He breathes out against Cas' skin. He hadn't lied when he told Cas he takes what comes – that's pretty much been the story of his life. When Cas goes back to Heaven, he'll deal with it. He'll head out to the bar and have a drink. He'll pick someone up and take them back to a shit motel. But it won't be like this. It won't feel like something's arcing inside his chest, like the electric-bright spark from a live wire.
Cas shifts underneath him, grinding down against the bed. A soft noise catches in his throat. Dean kisses the back of his neck and asks, "You hard again?" It should be impossible – would be if Cas was human.
Cas nods into the pillow. "Yes. I – Dean."
Leaning back, Dean urges Cas to sit up on his knees. He shuffles them closer to the wall – close enough for Cas to plant his hands on the headboard. Dean spoons himself against Cas' back and works his dick under Cas' ass. Back between his perfect thighs. The angle is different, not quite as tight, but Dean's been dancing on the edge for what feels like hours. He kisses the curve of Cas' shoulder. He gets his hand around Cas' dick and rolls his hips.
The lamp's lightbulb shatters, plunging them into near darkness. The window rattles again, and Cas comes with a shudder and a moan. He grips the headboard so hard that the tired wood cracks. He pants, "Dean, Dean," in a voice like thunder and the tension in Dean's gut finally snaps. He digs his nails into Cas' hip. Comes hard and fast all over Cas' thighs.
He tucks his sweaty face against Cas' shoulder and closes his eyes. His legs are still shaking. Cas is the only thing holding him up.